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The Great Outdoors

March 7, 2011

When I was younger I used to go camping every summer with my abuelita. Each trip lasted at least a week and our campsite was always located somewhere different — nestled in the California mountains, along lakes and freshwater streams, backpacking on the beach down the coastline… This past summer we took a trip to the Sierra Mountains and camped out for a week, just like old times. The days were filled with fishing and swimming in the lake, while the nights were filled with infinite stars and coyote howls. Good times! People who know me are always surprised to find out that I am quite the nature-lover. From pitching my own tent to carrying a 40lb pack for more than 20 miles to even using the great outdoors as my personal commode, I definitely know how to “rough it.” I may like pink, but I’m definitely not your average girly-girl. 🙂

Anyway, I digress. All these outdoorsy thoughts were brought on after finishing Rivertime, my second read ‘n review for RT Book Reviews. Rivertime was written by first-time author Rae Renzi, and ever since reading it, I’ve been reminiscing about my past camping trips and have been seriously itching to get away again. If I could take another trip, I wouldn’t expect to meet and fall for a mystery man, but eating an ooey-gooey s’mores is a must!

Bailey + Baileys = Happy Hour

February 17, 2011

*note the eager tongue-licking

Sweet Reviews

February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day! ♥

For those looking for  something sweet (and a little naughty) to read on this red-hot holiday, indulge yourself in Sweet as Sin by Inez Kelley (Carina Press). This is my first book by Kelley, and let me just say, the woman can WRITE! This book is honestly one of the best books I’ve read in a while and I seriously couldn’t put it down. It was also the first non-series romance I’ve read in a while, so there were more pages and plot for me to consume — always a good thing in the eyes of a bibliophile.

This is usually where I would post the book’s synopsis and my thoughts, but let me first segue into a bit of related good news (for me): as of this month I’ll be reviewing books for RT Book Reviews! I lucked out by getting Sweet as Sin as my first review, which only makes me more excited for future books to come. In honor of my first review — and in place of a written out review — a screen shot of the review on the RT website will be shown instead … because I’m too giddy not to post it 🙂 Enjoy!

Drivers, Start Your Engines

February 12, 2011

Woah, talk about long time, no see. It’s definitely been longer than I’d like to admit since I’ve posted, but I’m alive and all is well! In the past few months I have:

  • Graduated & received my Master’s degree in Journalism (woo hoo!)
  • Moved >800 mi. from New York back to Atlanta … by car (Oh, Waffle House & Chick-fil-a, how I’ve missed thee!)
  • Saw Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1, and teared up more than once (sue me!)
  • Adopted a chihuahua puppy, who I named Bailey, after her Bailey’s Irish Cream coloring
  • Celebrated a slew of holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, & New Year’s/my birthday (one in the same), plus a freakish snowpocalypse/icecapade that shut the city down for over a week

That being said, despite my lack of posts (and book reviews) I’ve still been reading, reading, reading! I actually decided to read the Harry Potter series (rereading books 1-3, newly reading 4-7), which I must say, consumed me for over a month. I became obsessed; reading instead of doing last-minute school work (no surprise there), dreaming about Hogwarts, and even watching movie marathons every weekend — did I mention that I ordered all six movies from Amazon? Like I said, obsessed. Anyway, the craziness did eventually die down. As of now, I am only about 50 pp. into book 7, but decided to put it down (for now) because I wasn’t ready for it to end. I figure I’ll pick it back up before part two of the movie comes out. Makes me sad to think about …

Moving on — The first post-Harry Potter book I read was a Harlequin freebie I downloaded from Amazon called Speed Dating. The book comes from their NASCAR line, which I was originally leery about (since I’m not particularly interested in race car driving as a sport), but was willing to give it a try because it was free. I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t like free?

SYNOPSIS: Kendall Clarke calculates risk for a living, but never takes any. She likes her drab suits and trite fiance, and has no complaints about either, since her safe and steadfast attitude earns her Actuary of the Year and the prestigious Sharpened Pencil Award. Hours before receiving the award, however, Kendall’s fiance tells her that he’s leaving her for a co-worker … and unborn child. In the midst of trying to keep calm and carry on, Kendall runs into celebrity NASCAR driver Dylan Hargreave. For the first time in her life, Kendall decides to throw caution to the wind and joins Dylan on his racing tour.

The next few weeks are a whirlwind, filled with pre-race kissing rituals, adrenaline-pumping laps and intensified chemistry between Kendall and Dylan. Kendall’s having the time of her life, but knows that eventually all good things must come to an end. When the season is over, she plans to resume her normal ho-hum life. But can Dylan convince her that their pre-race kisses span beyond racing superstitions?

Despite having zero knowledge of and interest in race cars, this book was a speed read (I will not apologize for the pun!). The author paints an elaborate picture of tread-marked race tracks and sweaty, screaming fans that puts the reader right alongside the pit crew. Dylan’s modesty is endearing, while Kendall’s snap judgment spirals into hilarious and awkward situations that make this book a riot to read.

The intimacy between Dylan and Kenall was definitely a slow and steady build-up. I actually enjoyed the fact that the tension between them held up through the majority of the book, because it made their unity that much sweeter and realistic. I’m not sure if a NASCAR story would be the first Harlequin I flocked to, but if it’s anywhere near as entertaining as Speed Dating, it would definitely be worth a try.

Quidditch for Muggles

November 13, 2010

Muggles, rejoice! The sport once reserved only for witches and wizards is now being played in the non-magical world — our world. This weekend is the fourth annual Quidditch World Cup, and this year it’s being held in our own back yards . . . well, New York City, at least. From Nov. 13 — Nov. 14, 46 teams from across the country will gather at DeWitt Clinton Park and compete for the title of Quidditch Champion.

For all you muggles (non-magical people) who are out of the loop, Quidditch is a game that was first introduced in the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. In the magical version, each team is comprised of seven players, who fly around on broomsticks and try to score points by throwing balls (Quaffles) through large, elevated hoops, worth 10 points each. To keep the opposing team from scoring, heavy balls called Bludgers are thrown at players to slow them down. The main goal of the game, however, is to catch the Snitch — a small golden ball with wings that rapidly flies around to keep from being caught — a job that is reserved only for the Seeker. Each team has one Seeker, and whoever catches the Snitch first scores 150 points for their team, a score so high that it usually wins the game. You can learn more about Quidditch — in detail — in Quidditch Through the Ages, a supplemental book penned by J.K. Rowling under the pseudonym Kennilworthy Whisp.

“Muggle Quidditch,” as it’s been dubbed, was created in 2005, and started off as an intramural league at Middlebury College in Vermont. Since then it has gained the attention of sports enthusiasts and Harry Potter fans alike, with more than 400 colleges and 300 high schools in the U.S. participating. Since Muggle teams have no magic, the game is altered to compensate for non-magical components; instead of flying around on brooms, teams must carry a broom between their legs at all times during the game. Also, instead of a winged ball, a person dressed in all yellow (or gold) runs around as the Snitch. It’s still tricky, though, as the Snitch is usually a cross country runner who hides and runs around within set boundaries, evading the Seekers.

From the day the first book hit shelves 12 years ago, the Harry Potter series has become one of the most famous and well-known series on the market to date. So far six of the seven books have already been adapted for film and the seventh movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part one of two) premieres in the U.S. this Friday. The creation of Muggle Quidditch is yet another part of the Harry Potter brand, which is currently worth approximately $15 billion. Harry Potter fans are devoted, to say the least, with imaginations that long to be in the Hogwarts world. Luck for them, there is endless paraphernalia that caters to wizard wanna-bes, from broomsticks and wands, to Hogwarts uniforms and accessories.

For all your Harry Potter lovers out there, check out the International Quidditch site for more info about this weekend’s tournament, as well as upcoming regular season games. And for those who aren’t as enthusiastic . . . I suggest buying Harry Potter stock, since this is a trend that won’t be going anywhere for a long, long time.

*Originally written for Cultural Literacy class blog

The Best Rappers Alive: Highbrow? Lowbrow? You Decide

November 3, 2010


The highbrow, lowbrow debate strikes again! This time, in the form of an exhibit at the New Museum. More specifically, a piece entitled “Status Symbols #31” by artist Rashaad Newsome.

“Free,” an exhibit at the New Museum, opened recently and explores the notion of how the internet has transformed the way information is used and obtained. Of all the pieces, what most caught my eye was Newsome’s “Status Symbols #31.” One of two pieces on display, “Status Symbols #31” is a framed collage on paper and part of his “Coat of Arms” series, which the New Museum says “blends eighteenth-century heraldry with today’s pop culture and bling.”

"Status Symbol #31" features a collage of rappers Jay-Z and Lil' Wayne, surrounded by gaudy jewels and set in an ornate gilded frame.

What does this mean? Well, basically Newsome creates a collage filled with rap icons and decadent jewelry and mounts it into a large and substantial gilded frame.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am in no way questioning Mr. Newsome’s artistic talent, but I when I saw this piece, I couldn’t help wondering where it would fall in the “highbrow, lowbrow” spectrum. I mean, cutouts of Jay-Z and Lil Wayne — that can’t be “art”. . . can it?

Well, art it is, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s currently hanging in a museum. But, if it weren’t in a museum, and if it wasn’t created by a well-established artist, would people still take it seriously?

I, myself tend to get more of a visceral response from “traditional” art, where paint and canvases are involved, but that doesn’t mean “Status Symbols #31” is any less credible or artistic. So I turn the tables around to you, dear reader — What do you think? Art or just another magazine cutout project? And, if it is art, is it highbrow, lowbrow, or hi-lowbrow (confusing, I know, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles…)? 

*Originally written for Cultural Literacy class blog

Ready, Set, Write!

November 1, 2010

The first of November is usually marked as the day people do one of the following:
A. Nurse a mean hangover from that wild and crazy Halloween party they attended the night before.
B. Consume whatever candy they have left that didn’t get eaten by trick-or-treaters.
C. Begrudgingly head to the bank to get this month’s rent check.

However, there is also one option that is often looked over: D. The start of NaNoWriMo.

This elaborate acronym is short for National Novel Writing Month, an 11 year old tradition in which participants have 30 days to crank out a 50,000 word (175 page) full-length novel from scratch. The project first began in 1999 with barely 20 participants, and has since grown to include more than 150,000 people of all ages, totaling nearly 2.5 billion words.

NaNoWriMo is a perfect excuse for a budding novelist to test his or her skills, as well as a chance for those with no writing background to finally churn out that novel that has been in the back of their mind for years. To join, participants register on the NaNoWriMo website and create a profile, which lists summaries, word count and sometimes excerpts of their novel-in-progress.

“No plot? No problem!” The goal of NaNoWriMo is to just get people writing, and to throw caution to the wind. This is one case where quantity reigns supreme over quality.

In the online book community, there are multiple books, websites and writing programs shared between writers and bloggers that cater to those participating in NaNoWriMo.

Looking for inspiration? Check out the NaNoWriMo handbooks, which feature tips, tricks and inspiration for getting through the next 30 days.

In search of a writing software program to keep your soon-to-be masterpiece in order? StoryBook is available for download. Good news: the software is free. Bad news: it’s for PC users only. Sorry, Macs. But there’s plenty of other great writing software out there designed specifically with Mac in mind.

Need someone to crack the whip to keep you from getting distracted? Download Write or Die, a computer program that “puts the prod in productivity.” Settings vary from friendly pop-up reminders when you stop writing, to deadly kamikaze mode, where the program begins deleting words you’ve already written until you begin writing again.

Want to publish a paperback of your month-long hard work? CreateSpace, a vanity press, provides winning participants (those who reach the word count by Nov. 30) with a free paperback copy of their completed novel — plus the option to sell the book on Amazon.com.

For those who aspire to one day become novelists, NaNoWriMo is a great way to get your feet wet. Many participants have actually gone on to publish a manuscript that spawned from the month long event, some even landing on the New York Times Bestseller list! Sara Gruen originally wrote Water For Elephants as part of NaNoWriMo and not only did her book get published, but it became #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list after its 2006 release.

So, what are you waiting for? Everyone has a story inside them that’s begging to be told, and now is your chance to finally become the writer you’ve always dreamed about. If anything, participating in NaNoWriMo gives you have a legit reason to procrastinate your normal responsibilities for the next 30 days. Ready, set, write!

*Originally written for Cultural Literacy class blog