Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In the News- Sea Turtles...UNITE!

Girl gets shirt from favorite player only to have it stolen. 

Melissa Cook, 14, had front row seat to a game that Novak Djokovic was playing at on Sunday. The world's No 1 (tennis player?) beat Rafaek Nadal after five hours, 53 minutes (Holy...that's a long game!) and while he was changing, Cook managed to get his attention while he was changing clothes. So he walked over to Cook and tossed her a spare shirt, but it was grabbed by a woman two seats away. Yeal Rothschild, a mother of three, has been identified as the woman who grabbed the shirt. And she's not giving it back to Melissa either. She insists it was fair game for any of the first row people.

But for Melissa, its a heartbreak, as Novak is her favorite player. She wanted the shirt to put on her "Novak wall". And from the video provided in the article, it clearly does look like the shirt was intended for her. Read the whole story and watch the video here.

Unnecessary Math Questions

A while ago, third graders in Gwinnett County, Ga., were given homework questions about slavery and beatings. One parent couldn't believe the assignment his 8-year-old son brough home from of Beaver Ridge Elementary school in Norcross.
The question read, "Each tree had 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?"
Another math problem read, "If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week?"
Another question asked how many baskets of cotton Frederick filled.
"Something like that shouldn't be imbedded into a kid of the third, fourth, fifth, any grade," parent Terrance Barnett told WSB-TV. "I'm having to explain to my 8-year-old why slavery or slaves or beatings are in a math problem. That hurts."
The spokeswoman for the school explained to the outrage parents that the teachers were trying to put social studies into math problems. She also agrees that the questions are not appropriate. To read the whole story click here.

Sea Turtles, UNITE!
Jan Lempfrid went to the Phi Phi Islands off of western Thailand to a dive site called Malong where a video of sea turtles were giving each other high fives. I thought it was so cute, I just had to share it with you. The cute actions is at 0:13.

Aren't they adorable? I remember back in like, third grade I think, I was OBSESSED with sea turtles. I had a ton of books on them and I loved everything I could get my hands on about them. I was crushed when I learned I couldn't get one for a pet, and even more when my mom wouldn't let me have a just plain turtle.

So I moved onto hamsters (Hamtaro anyone?) I was also OBSESSED with these things for the longest time ever. I still kinda am. I had the little toys with their doll house sets and stuff, movies, stuff animals, coloring books, posters, board games, the two gameboy game I could find (heartbreak and the Olympic one), and books.

And when that didn't work, rabbits.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Writing Prompts- Using Music.

So using music is often used as a way to gain new ideas. So today, we'll take a look at some songs and see what we can come up with.

If you like romance...
Real Life Fairytale by Plumb
I've always liked this song because it seemed so sweet. And the perfect music to write a romance with.

Great for fantasy or whatever...
I have a Story (a) by Epic Score

& This is our Land by Epic Score

If you need some to fight to, or rock out to...
Hero by Skillet

Indestructible by Britt Nicole

If you want something in something other than English...
Leis an Lurgainn by Rankin Family
I think this song is really cool. I'm not a big fan of their other songs, but I like this one. 
Baba Yetu by Christopher Tin
One of the things I really like about this song is that not only is it an awesome song in Swahili, but its on a major video game. My most favorite part about it is that its actually the Lord's Prayer. But even if you're not Christian, listen to it because its one of my favorite songs ever. My choir sang it last year too. 

Extra songs I couldn't help but to share...
Siren's Call by Epic Score

Call for Heroes by Shockwave Sound

Rain Dance by Adiemus

The Nanowrimo Song by All Caps (updated)
I LOVE this song. Plus the new version of the music video is cool. I'm jealous I didn't think of something like this first...


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Some Quick Announcements...

Okay guys, I've been some small changes to the blog.

  1. The Archive page has finally been updated. Yeah, I forgot to update it all month. Epic fail. 
  2. Another Epic Fail: I haven't changed the "What I'm reading now" & "Upcoming book" widgets in forever. I've read three books this month. 
  3. (Okay not really a change, but...) I'm halfway through The Cursing! Last week I finally reached 50k and I got to the second part. Yay! So since I'm on a roll, Night Lies and The Prophecy are being put on the side until I either am done or I've been hit with writer's block for The Cursing. Also, I've come up with a new book idea, its called Wayru. Its historical fiction and has something to do with the Incas. But that's all I'll say for now. I'm not sure where I'll go with it...
  4. I've added a "upcoming books" section which is  a To-Read part on the "Upcoming Posts" section. They're in no order and they're a list of books I'm planning to read. 
  5. I've changed the Schedule again. This time, I'm adding extra Writing Tips on Thursdays instead of Book Reviews because I think we need more writing tips since this is a writer's blog after all. 
  6. I will no longer doing four book reviews a week. I'm focusing more on school, blogging more, and writing more, so I am not able to read as much as I'd like. 
  7. (Again, not really changes, but while I'm talking here) What would you like to see me to a vlog (Video Blog) of? I would make a poll, but I feel I need to hear your opinions instead of what I'd like to do. So what do you think?
So that's really all. I'm not sure how totally important these are, but I thought I'd let you know. Thanks!


Book Review- The Candidates

(From Goodreads) Dancia Lewis is far from popular. And that's not just because of her average grades or her less-than-glamorous wardrobe. In fact, Dancia's mediocrity is a welcome cover for her secret: whenever she sees a person threatening someone she cares about, things just...happen. Cars skid. Structures collapse. Usually someone gets hurt. So Dancia does everything possible to avoid getting close to anyone, belieiving this way she can supress her powers and keep them hidden.
But when recruiters from the prestigious Delcroix Academy show up in her living room to offer her a full scholarship, Dancia's days of living under the radar may be over. Only, Delcroix is a school for diplomats' kids and child geniuses--not B students with uncontrollable telekinetic tendencies. So why are they treating Dancia like she's special? Even the hottest guy on campus seems to be going out of his way to make Dancia feel welcome.
And then there's her mysterious new friend Jack, who can't stay out of trouble. He suspects something dangerous is going on at the Academy and wants Dancia to help him figure out what. But Dancia isn't convinced. She hopes that maybe the recruiters know more about her "gift" than they're letting on. Maybe they can help her understand how to use it...But not even Dancia could have imagined what awaits her behind the gates of Delcroix Academy.
I found this at my library a long time ago and while waiting to be picked up, I sat down and started to read this book. Well I didn't get to finish the book and so the next time I went, I borrowed it. 
After recently reading Legacies, I found this book not very original. I've seen this theme a lot. Orphan somehow gets to go to a mysterious selective academy which turns out to be a school where all the students have some kind of power. It's getting old. 
Anyways, the book was pretty interesting. I didn't like the characters all that much, they annoyed the crap out of me most of the time. Especially Jack which according to other reviews, most people like him the most. And then there's Cam, the hottie and I'm-so-perfect dude. He was okay, but he annoyed me sometimes too. 
To me, Danica wasn't all that great of a heroine. Oh yes, we could relate to her, but after a while she bugged me. One of the things that bugged me most was her relationship with Jack. She basically ignores him because she has this crush on Cam and he thinks that Jack isn't a good person. But then Jack starts to follow her and stuff. And in the end, he gets really scary. 
All of the girls in this story were either really shallow or those annoying chatterbox girls. 
The plot itself was good, it had mystery in it and the story ends with enough loose strings that you may want to read the next book. I'm curious to see what this academy is really like, if there is something dangerous about it, and what happens to Jack. 
But even so, I don't think I'll read the next book. It was a good book, but I'm just not really excited to read the next one. I'm more willing to read A Million Suns by Beth Revis or Truth by Julia Karr. 
Goodreads: The Candidates
Website: Inara Scott

Book Review- Avielle of Rhia

(From Goodreads) Since the blood of her great-great-grandmother, Dolvoka, had sprung up in Princess Avielle-because she looked Dredonian-would Dolvoka's evil magic spring up in her, too? 
With her silver skin and silver hair, fifteen-year-old Princess Avielle of Rhia resembles her Dredonian great-great grandmother who practiced evil magic. Everyone in Rhia expects Avielle to turn evil, too. Shunned by those around her, she feels unloved and unable to love others. In addition, Rhia is on the verge of war with Dredonia, which suffers under the rule of evil wizard-priests: the Brethren of the Black Cloaks. They have placed impossible demands upon Rhia, but the king and queen have refused to acquiesce.
One terrible night, the Brethren attack, killing the royal family and hundreds of others. Only Avielle escapes. She must keep her identity secret to avoid death from the enemy. While hiding among the common people, she learns that she has a magical gift for weaving. But will this gift, rooted in her Dredonian blood, lead Avielle to the same evil that possessed her great-great grandmother? Or will it help her free her people from further attacks?
So I found this in my library one Saturday when I went to go to my writer's group. Only I found out that there wasn't writer's group that day and decided to browse the shelves for books. I got way too many books. 

Anyways, I happened across this book and I loved it! I could barely put it down, even when there was a demonstration about how the CSI solves crimes and stuff. 

I LOVED the characters, they were my favorite part and you could clearly see how Avielle grew and developed at the end of the story. I was so happy to see her finally get rid of her grief and come out of her great-grandmother's shadow. Avie was very realistic, she dealt with her grief and struggled with it. She had flaws and good things about her. You wanted to her to win, and to know where her gift of weaving would take her. In the end she struggled and won. It wasn't one of those I'm-so-awesome-so-this-ending-struggle-won't-be-hard, it was the final struggle that she had to work to overcome. 
There wasn't really any romance in this story although there was clearly the possibility for it. But then, the novel isn't about romance and I feel like I'm happy that the author didn't put romance into it because so many YA novels include it. 
The rest of the characters were awesome too. I was so sad when her family died although I wasn't so sad when her eldest brother died. I just wished we could have seen more of her siblings. They were only mentioned once and then never touched on again. I was sad when the lady (I can't remember her name) she stayed with died, and when all the other bad things happened to her. 
Another thing I loved about this book was how rich the culture was. It was so explored and didn't leave much to desire or many questions unanswered. Another thing that was dealt with very nicely was the topic of race and prejudice. It was very prevalent in the story and the author handled it with grace so that it left me with a good message. 
As for the plot, it was very good. I enjoyed seeing her struggle between good and evil and then eventually over coming her fears and embracing who she really was. And eventually saving her kingdom. I like how Avie learns eventually that its not what's on the outside that counts, but what's on the inside. I also enjoyed seeing Avie learn that she wasn't unlovable and seeing her return that love and kindness. 
I would enjoy seeing a sqeul to this. Unfortantly the author has never written one, although I think there certainly could be one. But the novel is fine on its own as it is. One thing I wish seeing a little more of was learning more about the other countries in the book. We learn a little about Dredonians about not really a lot. And I remember other countries being mentioned too. 
Overall it was a fantastic book and I'm happy to give it five out of five stars. 
On Goodreads: Avielle of Rhia
Website: Dia Calhoun

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Writing a Complex or Hard Novel.

When I first began writing The Cursing, my  dark fantasy-horror novel, I has one main fear.

Would reader find this interesting enough?

It wasn't the plot that bugged me. It was how I was telling the story. Not pov but the way I was telling it.

You see, Tatiana, my protagonist, spends about half the novel locked up in one place with only usually three people to talk to. Sometimes another character appears or more than one. I was terrified that there wouldn't be enough things interesting to pull the novel along, that Tatiana would end up with too many scenes where it was just her thinking. That there wouldn't be enough action or dialogue.

But now, having written almost half the novel and getting to the part where Tatiana will finally be allowed to talk to more people besides her best friend, her aunt, and her aunt's Representative, I'm finally seeing that there is (hopefully) enough action and dialouge.

I'm going to state the obvoius here. In most books, the MC usually goes to more than one place (school, home, friend's houses, the castle, the etc) and usually talks to more than three people thoughout the book. There's probably been at least...six characters other than her aunt, her aunt's Representative, and her best friend that she's been able to talk to. That's not a lot.

And so today, I'm going to hopefully give some good advice about writing difficult books.

What is a "difficult" novel?
To me, personally, a novel that's difficult to write is,

  1. Any novel that requires large amounts of research, interviews, etc to write. 
  2. A novel that doesn't give you large enough room to properly develop characters, plot, setting, etc without some major hard work. 
  3. A novel that's personally stressful to you to write. 
  4. A novel that is very complex with many characters, subplots, etc. 
Of course, you could argue that any novel is difficult to write, but you could also argue that there is some novels that are harder than most. 

Writing a difficult novel with large amounts of research.
One of these days I'll give a more indepth look on researching, but for tonight, we'll take the condensed version. 

Researching for your novel can be hard and we must remember to not just research and not write anything because we may fear that there's always more research todo. For people who research too much, I advise this: remember that eventually you won't be able to find what you're looking for be research, you'll have to create it yourself. 

Anyways, if you're doing lots of research, narrow down what exactly you're looking for. Start with something board, like the 1400s in China or whatever and narrow it down from there. Remember that you don't have to use everything you find and sometimes its nice to take these facts and add our own twists to them. If you're writing fiction that is.

Try looking in libraries, different sites on the internet, videos, and interview people about things if you are looking for things. And remember to look for more than one source. 

A novel that doesn't give you much room.
Like in my novel and other stories, writing a novel that has a limited amount of setting and characters can be hard to write a full-length novel from. In The Cursing, I had to make sure that Tatiana was usually talking to someone. Either her aunt, her best friend, or someone else. But not too many people could just appear. And I couldn't have her just talking to one person. 

To add some action, I couldn't write what her normal life would be like and go from there, I had to start with a life-changing event and make sure that from this stemmed enough events that she would eventually do other things. I'm not sure how to explain that part, but hopefully you understand. I had to make sure there was enough things going on that was different than what she was going prior when the novel started. 

Another hard novel I'm writing involves short-term memory loss. The protag, Anastasia has her memory easered basically every night and when she wakes, she can't remember who she is or who other people are. She can remember concepts and ideas, but not events. I've only seen a book, Forgotten by Cat Pactrick, and the movie Fifty-first dates cover short-term memory loss. Bascially my worry here, will I repeat things too many times? In this kind of novel, the difficult part is figuring out how much you can repeat things and what to change. 

In this point, I think the main key is tackling the hardest point(s) by using your critical thinking skills. Basically, determine the key elements that won't have the most room and focus on those. 

A personally stressful novel.
I've never actually written something that was very stressful to me. So I guess I can't give much advice on this only other than that I'm reading a book where the main character does this. Anyways, work on it if you want to and if you need, take breaks from the novel. Don't over-stress yourself. 

Complex novels.
Personally, I think one of the biggest problems in a really complex novels would be keep track of who is who and making sure your readers will know this too. I read this one article a while back where this novel written in China or maybe it was about China...I can't remember, anyways, it focused on more than 4.5 million people! That's gotta be tough.

So, what do you think is a difficult novel? What's the hardest thing you've ever written and why?


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Historical Facts- John Tyler

I briefly talked about John Tyler once before I think. Anyways, he was president during 1845, born 221 years ago and died 150 years ago. He still has two living grandchildren. Yep, you read that right, two living grandchildren. 

Harrison Ruffin Tyler
Here's how it works: he was born in 1790. Then he became the 10th president in 1841 after William Henry Harrison died. At 63, Tyler had Lyon Gardiner Tyler in 1853 and Lyon had Lyon Gardiner Tyler jr. in 1924 at 71 years old. Four years later Lyron Senior had Harrison Ruffin Tyler at the age of 75. Both Lyon Gardiner Tyler jr. and Harrison Ruffin Tyler are still alive. 

Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. 
John Tyler had two wives, Letita who died in 1842 from a stroke, and Julia Gardiner who was thirty years younger than him. He had eight children by Letita and seven by Julia- more than fifteen in all. His eldest daughter was five years older than her stepmother who married Tyler when she was 23. He had been born when George Washington was president, and his youngest daughter, Mary (born when Tyler was 70), died during Harry Truman's presidency. That's more than 32 presidents and 150 years! 
Julia Gardiner
Another random fact about John Tyler:
Shortly before he died, he join's the Confederates and even elected to their House of Representatives. Because of this, he is the only president who's death is not offically mourned.

John Tyler's Grandchildren Still Alive
Secret Lives of the US Presidents by Cormac O'Brien


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In the News- Another Collapsing Building...

Player gives big gift to grateful fan.
Warm-hearted soccer player, Eric Abidal, who is a Carcelonda defender, gave his Rolex watch to 15-year-old Jaun Garcia. Jaun has a brain tumor while last year, Abidal had a cancerous tumor in his liver. Abidal refused all attemps to give the watch back and told Jaun's father that his son's happiness was worth more than the watch. The soccer player went on to tell Jaun that,

‘Come, come, brother, I am here to give you courage. I am also fighting against this disease and will set up a foundation that gives joy and helps all the sick children.’

To read the whole story, click here.

Another roof fail...
Richard Zednik, a former NHL player, was in Námestovo, Slovakia on Sunday whe ice pieces from the roof began to fall as the training session was going on. As Zednik and the children present escaped, the roof od the ice skating building collpsed under the weight of ice and snow. Thankfully no one was hurt. Zednik probably best known for surviving a slashed throat in 2008 while playing for the Florida Panthers.

Read the whole thing here.

And watch it here:

This also reminds me of the story when Minnesota's Vikings' stadium's roof collapsed a year or two ago.

And yes it was an epic fail. Apparently this is not the first time it is happened to the Vikings, its happened five times before. Maybe its a sign... Also, they still haven't found the site of their new stadium.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Writing Prompt- Road Trips!

My other dream besides getting published is traveling the world. If you know me personally, you might know that I plan to travel the world after college (providing I have enough money and stuff). Anyways, a fun writing prompt might be to have your character do just that.

Get out your camera...
If your characters don't travel much, here's a chance to get them to do just that. Make a list of all the places your character wants to visit or doesn't want to. Then answer these questions as they travel there.

  • Who will they meet? 
  • How will the interact with the different people they come across? 
  • Will they take anyone with them?
  • What happens if they run out of money?
  • Where will they stay? 
  • How will they travel? By car, plane, boat, etc?
  • What will the bring along?
  • Will they try something new? Like a new food or go skydiving?
If your character lives in a fictional world, do the same thing, but in that world. Or have them visit this world. Whatever strikes your fancy. 


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book Review- Renegade (The Lost Books #3)

(From Goodreads) One of the chosen has gone renegade.
Turning his back on all that he once believed, Billos enters the forbidden book and lands in a reality that is as foreign to him as water is to oil. A place called Paradise, Colorado, where he discovers he has strange new powers given to him courtesy of a mysterious figure known as Marsuvees Black.
The chosen four have survived the desert, escaped the Black Forest, battled the Horde, and added a spirited refugee to their number. But nothing has prepared them for the showdown that Billos, the renegade, will lure them into.
This book was better than the last two. I enjoyed seeing the characters grow and learn the truth about their world. I especially love the Christian themes in these books.

One of the other things that I love/hate is when the author ties in stuff from other series and you have to read all the other books to get the full picture. And while you don't have to read the other books to understand these books, you can still read the other books to understand the whole thing.

The story seemed to be mainly about Billos who happens to come into this "in-between" reality and comes across this man who makes Billos do evil things and lies to him. I forgot what the man's full name was but I know it ended in Black. So...I'll just call him black. 
In near the beginning, Billos decides that he needs to find out what is so special about the Books. So he does what he was warned not to do- he puts his blood on the book and opens it. Because they only have like three or four of the books in their possession, the books transport Billos to this weird reality that I mentioned before. Here he meets Black to seems to be good but really we all know he isn't.  And the whole time I kept screaming in my head "don't listen to him!". But thankfully, in the end Billos sees the truth. 
So then, he sends his friends into a frenzy to try and find a way to get to him since the books disappeared with him. They eventually do, in which they try to save the books and Billos. I'm kinda happy with the outcome because I feel that's what he deserved but then, in the end, I don't...I don't know. 
The characters were all really good even though I didn't agree with their choices. They were all pretty real and it gave you a more in depth look at their world. I liked seeing what they did when faced with hard choices. 
Anyways, it was really interesting. I enjoyed this book a lot more than the last one. I didn't really like Billos and everything that he was doing, but it made things more interesting and it just fit. Plus I could understand why he was doing what he was doing because he was listening to the devil in this story (Black). 
On Goodreads: Renegade
Website: Ted Dekker

Book Review- Infidel (The Lost Books #2)

(From Goodreads) From Chosen to Traitor?
After being stretched to their limits, the four heroic young Forest Guard recruits--Johnis, Silvie, Billos, and Darsal--are pulled into deeper danger on their mission to secure the seven lost Books of History.
Celebrated as a hero, Johnis's world is shattered when he learns that his mother may not be dead as presumed but could be living as a slave to the Horde. Throwing caution to the wind, he rushes to her rescue.
But this is precisely what the Horde has planned. Now he will face a choice between Silvie, whom he is quickly falling for, and his sworn duty to protect the Forest Dwellers. How can he save those he loves without betraying his own people?
In the end, one will be revealed as the Infidel. And nothing will be the same for the remaining Chosen.
Honestly, I read this at least a month ago and I can't exactly remember what happened. But I think I remember it enough to give you all a decent review. I might review the book tomorrow and then edit this post with a more through review. 
Anyways, I wasn't really thrilled with this story. In fact, I almost wanted to put it down. The first 100 pages are very...stupid. Sorry, but just in the light that Johnis, after discovering that there's a chance that his mother is still alive, he rushes into this great battle with little experience. He takes Silvie and a group of soldiers, throws them into battle against over a ton of Horde and expects to win. Then he suddenly realizes how stupid he was. 
Personally, that was a huge turn off for me because he was just so... insensible. Sure, teenagers rush into things that are bigger than us without thinking but it just seemed..so...stupid of Johnis. But on the other hand, it does show how sometimes teenagers can get over our heads without thinking things thoroughly. It also showed that our hero isn't perfect and that he's human. 
Anyways, after that Johnis and Silvie go into the Horde city. And this was my favorite part, not only do we get to learn about the Horde people, but we get to see that they aren't mindless people. They're just different. In this story, we see that Elyon (who represents God) loves the Horde (I think they represent people who either don't know God or have fallen away, I'm not sure) even though they've fallen prey to the scab illness. 
We also meet several new characters. Karas was my favorite. She was so cute! I loved how Johnis was like a big older brother to her in the end and risked his life to save her. It was adorable. Also I loved the little romance parts in it. Yay romance! 
Other than what I mentioned before, I really liked this book. It could have been better, but it was good. And I went on to read the rest (although I haven't read the very last book. I'm going to finish that after I finish Black).
On Goodreads: Infidel
Website: Ted Dekker

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

National, National...Interesting Facts.

So I saw a recent news broadcast about national holidays in the USA. It answered a good question, what exactly is a national holiday and how many do we have?

So I've decided to share that with you. 

What is a national holiday?
What makes a national holiday one when a national government proclaims a day one. These days are when federal employees get off plus they are very expensive for the government. Most states observe these but all states are allowed to choose how these are celebrated. For example, in one state, you may get school off, but for another you don't. Plus most businesses don't let you have the day off. 

How many is there?
In total, we have 10 national holidays. 
  1. New Year's Day-  January 1
  2. Martin Luther King Day-  third Monday in January
  3. President's Day-  third Monday in February
  4. Memorial Day-  last Monday in May
  5. Independence Day-  July 4
  6. Labor Day-  first Monday in September
  7. Columbus Day-  second Monday in October
  8. Veterans Day-  November 11
  9. Thanksgiving Day-  fourth Thursday in November
  10. Christmas Day-  December 25
Around the World.
In short, most major holidays around the world are the country's founding day/independence day/constitution day. But here are some ones that are not. Note: If I got any wrong, I am very sorry and just let me know and I'll change them right away!
  • Andorra- Our Lady of Meritxell Day (September 8 [1278])
  • Belgium- Ascension to the Throne of King Leopold I (July 21 [1831])
  • Hungry- Saint Stephen's Day (August 20)
  • Ireland- Saint Patrick's Day (March 17)
  • Isle of Man- Tynwald Day (July 5)
  • Japan- Birthday of Emperor Akihito (December 23 [1933])
  • Luxembourg- National Day (Birthday of Grand Duchess Charlotte) (June 23)
  • Morocco- Throne Day (Accession of King Mohamed VI to the throne) (July 30 [1999])
  • Nertherlands- Queen's Day (Birthday of Queen-Mother Juliana and accession to the throne of her oldest daughter Beatrix) (April 30 [1909 & 1980)
  • New Zealand/Niue/Tokelau- Waitangi Day (Treaty of Waitangi established British sovereignty over New Zealand) (February 6 [1840])
  • Norfolk Island- Bounty Day (commemorates the arrival od Pitcairn Islanders) (June 8 [1856])
  • Oman- Birthday of Sultan Qaboos (November 18 [1940])
  • Thailand- Birthday of King Phumiphon (Bhumibol) (December 5 [1927])

So do you have a favorite holiday? What is it and why?


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

In the News- Making a Cardboard Monkey is Harder than it Seems.

Its for International Week at my school. We're making pinatas. Its going to be a blue monkey and I shall take a picture of it for you when I am done. Anyways, I haven't blogged in the past four days because I've been busy sleeping and getting rested from finals.

Popular Websites Shut Down
Starting tonight or tomorrow, if you have a question or need to look something up, you'll have to wait till Thursday or just do it tonight. Wikipedia, Reddit, Minecraft, Craigslist, and other sites will be shutting down four 24 hours to protest two bills in Congress. Although Twitter will be up still. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and the PIPA (Protect I-P Act) are suppose to crack down on illegial sharing of content on the Web. But some people say that these new laws will be forcing sites to protal the online world.

Read the full article here.

British Airways cause panic acciddently among passengers. 

Traveling three hours into their flight, passengers flying from Miami to London on British Airways Flight 206, were shocked to hear that their plane was going to go down. The cabin went into panic mode as some started to cry and scream. But a minute later, another announcement told them to ignore the message. The flight then continued saftely to London where upon disembarking, the passengers were handed letters apologizing.

It is unclear whether the pre-recorded message resulted from human error or a computer malfunction. In any way, it is not the first time this has happened. In August 2010, 275 passengers were faced with a similar sitiuation while flying from London to Hong Kong.

To me, a simple letter is not enough. If that happened to me, I'd be terrified out of my wits. Although there's not much else the service can do expect a refund...and I doubt they'd do that considering the flight went well.

Read the whole thing here.

Its raining apples by Job!

On Dec 12, (and yes I'm just getting to this), more than 100 apples mysteriously rained upon a small British town. The apples covered 20 yards of city streets and windsheilds of the cars stuck in rush hour traffic. Upon hearing the news, many people compared it to the Bibical stories of raining frogs. But it was not anything otherworldly as some people believe, at least in this case, it was due to the fact that strong winds have been known to pick up objects and transport them many distances.

For example:
The BBC offers a roster of pertinent examples:
Frog falls were recorded in Llanddewi, Powys, in 1996 and two years later in Croydon, south London. In 2000, hundreds of dead silver sprats fell out of the sky during a rainstorm in the seaside resort of Great Yarmouth.
There have also been maggot downpours--in Acapulco in 1967 and during a yachting event at the 1976 Olympic Games.

Does anyone remember the occurrences last year when flocks of birds fell form the sky twice? Or how about this, in the 1800s, it was reported that millions of grasshoppers would seem to "fly" across the Midwest US and eat everything in sight. Apparently, these grasshoppers would get caught up in storms and end up other places. Read the whole article here.

Missing teen wrongfully deported. 

Jakadrien Turner, a Dallas teen, ran away from home in the fall od 2010 when she was fourteen. Now a year later, she's been found living in Colombia. Apparenlty she was arrested in Houston when she gave the police a false name. But this name just so happened to be the same name as a 22-year-old Colombian who had been living in the US illegally. And to make it worse, Colombia had a warrent out for the woman's arrest.

And so without furthering checking her identy, the fourteen-year-old was deported wrongfully in April 2011. Her grandmother is very angry and had been searching every night for her granddaughter on her computer. Jakadrien is now waiting for more information on her case in Colombia. And all I can say is maybe she'll learn its best not to run away from home. Read the full article here.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Book Review- The Gathering

Sixteen-year-old Maya is just an ordinary teen in an ordinary town. Sure, she doesn't know much about her background - the only thing she really has to cling to is an odd paw-print birthmark on her hip - but she never really put much thought into who her parents were or how she ended up with her adopted parents in this tiny medical-research community on Vancouver Island. 

Until now

Strange things have been happening in this claustrophobic town - from the mountain lions that have been approaching Maya to her best friend's hidden talent for "feeling" out people and situations, to the sexy new bad boy who makes Maya feel . . . . different. Combine that with a few unexplained deaths and a mystery involving Maya's biological parents and it's easy to suspect that this town might have more than its share of skeletons in its closet. 

I'm just going to say it here. As much as I love the color blue, I don't like book covers with just one color scheme. It's...kinda boring. While I do like the cover its just kinda...not so interesting. A note to publishers, be a little more creative and using more than one/two colors and a girl's face. 

This is another Kelly Armstrong book and I'll say I enjoyed this book much much better than I did with the Darkest Power series. I enjoyed the characters better, the mystery, and the plot. 

For the characters, I thought that Maya was a great character, Daniel was a little too perfect, but Rafe was a good character too. He and Maya both had their faults and their strong points. They were well rounded although at times I thought that Maya could be a little bit too uncaring. 

The plot was very good and I was excited to see that this book had something to do with shape shifters. Although I noticed that in this series and in the Darkest power series, they both have something to do with experiments, mad scientists, parents leaving children either by choice or not by choice, and a guy named Samuel Lyle was both mentioned in both books. I've always wanted to do that- mention something from another book series into a different one. I've thought that was cool. 

And while we're on that topic, I wondered if Chloe and Maya are living at the same time period as when Chloe is running away from the mad scientists and if her path and Maya's will ever cross? 

Anyways, there was another character, Annie, I liked her. She was sweet. She's Rafe's sister and who happens to be older than him and has mental issues. And well, I'd say why (yes she wasn't born that way) but I think its a major plot point that I don't want to give away. 

Throughout the book, I'm happy to say that I finally liked the characters in one of Kelly Armstrong's books. In the Darkest Power series I don't really like any of the characters, but in this one I liked them. I think she got Maya's grief for her best friend good. I can't remember her name at the moment. 

Overall I really enjoyed this book. There wasn't much I didn't like about it although I was kinda disappointed to see that the same themes (experiements, mad scientists, etc) in it as with the Darkest Powers. I was hoping for something different when it came to those lines. While it is different, its still there and bugs me. 

Goodreads: The Gathering
Website: Kelley Armstrong


Book Review- The Awakening

(From Goodreads) If you had met me a few weeks ago, you probably would have described me as an average teenage girl—someone normal. Now my life has changed forever and I'm as far away from normal as it gets. A living science experiment—not only can I see ghosts, but I was genetically altered by a sinister organization called the Edison Group. What does that mean? For starters, I'm a teenage necromancer whose powers are out of control; I raise the dead without even trying. Trust me, that is not a power you want to have. Ever.
Now I'm running for my life with three of my supernatural friends—a charming sorcerer, a cynical werewolf, and a disgruntled witch—and we have to find someone who can help us before the Edison Group finds us first. Or die trying.
I read the first book a couple months ago and I thought it was pretty good. Now as for this one, it was still good but the thing that still bugged me the most was the characters.

I thought that the plot was good. It was interesting to see where they went and how their powers would affect them and others. Would they get captured? Would anyone else they're close to get hurt?

As for the characters, I thought that Chloe was a better character this time although I thought that she was still really stubborn. I thought that she could have been less of a damsel in distress all the time and have Derek come and save her. I liked Liz still although she too was really stubborn. I was surprised by Rae's betrayal and I didn't like her much anymore but I still felt sorry for her. I still didn't like Tory but I loved Chloe's aunt and seeing how she changed and stuff. I still don't know how I feel about Chloe's dad though. 
I didn't like Derek in this book. In fact, I've never really liked him in the first place. 

I liked to see how they moved around a lot and how they evaded their capture. I thought the ghosts Chole kept seeing were interesting. I didn't like the parts with the dead body in the storehouse, the bats, and the girl's murder. Those creeped me out. 

Also, I liked finding out the part about where they were genetically mutated, that was interesting. But I feel like that's a plot idea that's been done one too many times. Human-experiment goes wrong, or before experiment/just after experiment, so and so escapes and now must find safety and run away from the group before they catch them...blah, blah, blah. 

It was interesting. I don't think I'll read the next one. As good as it was, I just wasn't all that impressed. 

On Goodreads: The Awakening
WebsiteKelley Armstrong


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Get Published! (Another writing contest alert)

Amazon's 2012 Breakthrough Novel Award is happening! Or, going to. The contest opens for submission in the General Fiction (novels intended for 17 and older) and the YA categories on Jan. 23 midnight to Feb. 5. They are only open to 5,000 entries each.

To enter you must have

  1.  A completed novel (50k words to 150k)
  2. A pitch up to 300 words
  3. An excerpt of your novel up to 5k but no less than 3k (excluding table of contents, prefaces, etc)
  4. personal information on the entry form. 
You must be at least 13 to enter and if you are not yet 18 you must have your parents or a guardian's permission to enter. To read more click RULES (caps for you should go read this) and official contest rules. (bold for you should go read this). 

Grand prizes includes:
  1. A free publishing contract with Penguin publishing house
  2. a $15,000 dollar advance. 
And there's some other prizes but they are not as cool as that. I told my mom and she was like, "you could pay for college with that money!" Yeah mom, that's exactly what I want to use that money for. (note the sarcasm). But she has a point, if I spent it on college, I could go to a decent college. Or pay off most of my debt. 

I'm going to enter whatever book I get done first. Either Night Lies or The Cursing. And I'm going to need help editing it. Maybe my friends and teachers can help?

ANYWAYS. That's all I got for tonight. Finals week people. Shoot. I hate finals. HATE IT. (But secretly love it cause no homework and half days!)


Friday, January 6, 2012

Do Religious Schools Give Better Educations?

I recently read a post last night or the other night, about how more and more religious colleges have to lower their tuition to draw in more students or close. 

While I enjoyed the article, it was the comments that gave me pause. Some of the people commented that they wouldn't hire someone simply because they came from a relioious school. Another type of comments sparked the question, do religious schools (or another one, private vs public as most religious schools are private) give you a better education than non-religious?

Religious, private = better education?
 In my opinion, without doing any actual research to influence my opinion, 1) private schools do give you a better higher education and 2) religious schools do seem to be better. My reason is that (while this is somewhat unfair) the public, non-religious school I went to in elementary was far behind the elementary private, religious school I went to when I moved. When I was in fifth grade my teacher told us that we wouldn't be learning about exponents until ninth grade. 

But when I went to the private school, the fourth graders were already starting to learn about it. And math wasn't just it, in all of the other areas they were more advanced. While the rest of my classmates knew cursive by sixth grade, having been taught it since third grade, I only learned three letters in cursive in third grade and never knew the rest until sixth grade. I had to do some extra work to get up to where they were. 

Granted, the public school I went to was in a state that's known for its not-so-great educational system, and the one I'm in now has a higher level, but I thought it was still so shocking. The extra-level classes my brother took at the public school, designed for those for those who were smarter than us average kids, were no more difficult than the regular lessons at the private school. 

Now onto the research! Having spent time doing some research, I've found what I was expecting. Religious education isn't really any better than secular, since it depends on the person's background and if they're committed to learning as much as they can. (Okay, its an opinion, but it gets the same point across). From this article:
 I think this topic really demonstrates the fact that everyone is different, which causes people to make different decisions.  For this reason, all students should learn to respect other people’s religions and understand them in a multicultural, educational environment.
Although several articles state that those who go to a religious school are less likely to cheat on a test or do drugs. Namely because the religious school may give them higher morals or get them things to do other than doing bad stuff. Like this one:
On the other hand, Guttmann (1984) found that children who attended religious schools had higher levels of moral reasoning and more resistance to cheat on a paper-and-pencil test than children who attended secular schools.  In addition, Donaldson et. al (1995) found that students attending public schools experienced an inefficient strategy, a resistance training only condition, for preventing the onset of alcohol use compared to students in private catholic schools. 
 But they also pointed out that a secular school may give them the same opportunities to do other things, just different from a religious school. (From Religion and Higher Education: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly)
 Religious participation and personal religiosity can help lower rates of substance abuse, and limit activities that undermine college careers (Regnerus 2000).
While we should applaud organizations which provide a positive influence on students, it is notable that other types of extra-curricular activities can have similar positive effects (Pascarella et al, 2004)
Reading an article about how religous schools are drawing Chinese students to them, it states that:
Guan Yuntian, a 15-year-old from Beijing, was interviewed by three schools, including Northland.
“Religious school is fine for me,” she said. “The school will be better disciplined than other schools,” and the tuition lower. “It’s not bad to have a religion as it may help me to be stronger.”
Zhang Shaoxuan, the father of another girl at the fair, would gladly send her to a Christian school, he said.
“Both religious school and private schools are fine, the public schools are what you don’t want to be in,” he said. “Because there will be all kinds of odd students there.”
“Relying on recruiters who do not emphasize their schools’ religious focus, Chinese parents perceive these schools as ’safe’ and ‘family-oriented’ places where their children will get a typical American experience,” she said in an e-mail.
Of course, you'll find that all schools can be just as dangerous as other ones and you'll find odd people no matter where you go. You may just find a smaller number at certain schools depending on background, the areas from which the students come from, the cost, and other factors. But I do agree that religious schools tend to be stricter. Although due to some bomb threats and other issues, one of my friend's public, secular school seems to be much stricter than mine. Religious schools also tend to be smaller since the tuition may be higher and well, its a religious school. 

 One article pointed out that the downsides of religious schools may be:
For example, there is discrimination, different ways of teaching, and lack of multicultural awareness. 
Although in my religious, private school, we get a large viewpoint of different cultures. We have a religious class that examines different religions, our world history class examines different cultures and viewpoints greedily, and several of our students are not Christian or are not Lutheran (its a Lutheran school).  

Another point was made that some religious schools tend to be more choosy on who they let in. My school is one of the highest ranking schools in my state and  a college prep school so we're suppose to be harder than other schools. We also don't let in mentally-handicap people, while we have nothing against them, we just don't have classes or programs for them. 

But I'm getting off topic, way off, and so I'm come to the conclusion that just because the school is religious and private does not make it any better than other schools. It all depends on so many factors. 

Next week I shall discuss if secular colleges vs religious colleges really do effect your chances of getting hired or if that is merely the opinions of anti-religious peoples. 

Want cheaper tuition? Find religion
Religion and Higher Education: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Religion in Schools: The Negative.
Faith Schools- Why Not? (Okay so I didn't really use this article but it kinda pertains to the topic).
Are Religious Schools bad for Society?
Chinese Atheists Lured to Find Jesus at U.S. Christian Schools

So what do you think?



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