Sunday, March 11, 2018

Childhood Book Tag (Let the Nostalgia Begin!)

I got tagged to do this forever ago by Engie at "Musings From Neville's Navel." But, in typical Kate fashion, I forgot about it until months later, so it was like discovering a brand new tag all over again! #ProcrastinationWorks(Sorta)

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

I'm pretty sure my first "big book" was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Whenever my parents would read one of the Harry Potter books to me, I'd pick up the book and reread it on my own. I was probably somewhere around five or six when I started reading them by myself.

But, because I'm predicting that Harry Potter is going to end up being the answer for many of these questions, I'll provide an alternate. I was thoroughly obsessed with the Magic Tree House series and reread them constantly. Once Merlin Missions became a thing in the series, I was even more obsessed. I'd snatch them up from the library shelves as soon as the new ones came out.

What is the first book you remember having your parents read to you?

There were many books we read together, but I'm pretty sure the first one I remember. (I think this came before Harry Potter? I could be wrong, though.) I also remember being sooo upset by some of the events in the book.

What is a book you read on the recommendation of your parents or a friend?

If I remember correctly, my mom recommended these books to me. This series is one of the many I read by flashlight late into the night so as not to wake up my brother, who slept on the bunk above me.

What was your favorite book in elementary school?

Besides Harry Potter, American Girl books! I read so many of these series, but Samantha was my favorite. If you asked me why, though, I wouldn't be able to tell you. All I remember is that I had the box set for the Samantha series and read them over and over again. I also liked the Kit, Julie, and Molly books.

I also remember eating up books by Andrew Clements like they were going out of style. They definitely influenced my childhood, because every time I read one of his books, I tried to recreate something that happened in the story or allowed myself to be quite literally inspired by the characters. School Story was one of my favorites because the twelve-year-old girl in the book submits a novel under a pen name and gets published without anyone discovering she's not an adult. I basically got to live out my fantasy in the story. And the girl's pen name, Cassandra Day, ended up being the name of my protagonist for one of my NaNoWriMo novels. After reading The Landry News, I wrote my own "newspaper for a while." No Talking made me challenge myself to not speak for an entire day (pretty sure I failed that one) and Lunch Money made me want to make a little pocket change myself by selling trinkets to friends or setting up "yard sales" in the backyard (even though no one ever came by).

Calvin and Hobbes was another obsession of mine, so much so that my grandparents got me the complete treasury for Christmas when I was six (it was so heavy I couldn't lift it and I can barely lift it now). I never went on a road trip without arming myself with a flashlight and one of the paperback collections. They could keep me busy for hours.

What was your favorite book in middle school?

Hmm. Again, besides Harry Potter, it's really hard to narrow down. I had a ton of favorite books around this time. My first inclination was to say the W.I.T.C.H. books. I don't remember how I learned about them, but I do remember immersing myself in its magical world. I also remember that I asked Santa for the books one year and learning later that I'd made my parents sweat about that gift because the books were all out of print and nearly impossible to find. I ended up getting a few in my stocking along with a note that Santa was trying really hard to look for the others and that they'd be coming in the mail from the north pole soon. I eventually got the whole collection, though, and I loved getting the packages in the mail, so it all worked out.

I remember very little from this series, but I know that I loved it. They were the first big books I devoured in no time at all, reading one or even two books a night. I lost a lot of sleep over them, but I didn't care in the slightest. They were action-packed, exciting, and addictive.

Another beloved series that I read and then reread and then reread some more. It's what made me fall in love with medieval fantasies so much so, I wrote my own, which was basically the same exact plot disguised as my own story.

These were two huge series for me as a kid, too. I read The Lightning Thief in mostly one sitting and waited impatiently to get my hands on the sequels and though the Fablehaven books were huge, I barely stopped to eat before I'd finished those, too.

I should also give special shout outs to Ella Enchanted and Princess Academy, a couple of my favorite books at the time that satisfied my fairy tale needs.

What was your favorite book in high school?

Considering I'm still in high school, there are some of my top favorites. I couldn't fit every favorite into the collage, but it gives you a pretty good idea of what my bookshelf looks like.

What book did you check out of the library most often as a child?

Oh my gosh, it wasn't a single book, but books in a series. I went nuts for the Thoroughbred series, so much so that when I'd read every single book in the library system, I started buying used copies of the sequels and donating them to the library. I would ride my bike and pretend it was one of the horses from the books, I took horse riding lessons, I drew horses (mostly attempted to draw them--they were never very good), I bought stuffed horses, etc. I was horse crazy.

What book did you make all your friends read?

The first one that came to mind was The Hunger Games. It was probably my first big book obsession after Harry Potter. You know, the kind of obsession that influences what games you play in the backyard and the playground. My friends and I all made fake bows and arrows out of sticks and jump ropes and played Hunger Games, complete with temporary alliances and dramatic death scenes. I went to the midnight releases for all the movies and I bought a Mockingjay pin that I wore for days on end, no matter the occasion. If somebody in my friend group hadn't read it, those of us who had would gasp and demand they read it immediately.

What is the book that made you love reading?

Yeah, I can't give a better answer than this.

What is your favorite middle-grade read now?

Wonder by R.J. Palacio! Young or old, I haven't met a person who read this book and didn't like it yet. It made me laugh and cry so many times.

What is your favorite YA read now?

See above for many, many answers to that!

What was the first long series you read as a child?

Let's get the obvious out of the way first.

Now that that's out of the way, I'd also like to mention the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. I think a thirteen-book series is pretty long for a kid, but I loved those books. It was the first series I can remember buying with my own money, too. The library always had a rack of used books out by the entrance that cost no more than a couple dollars per copy. They usually had a book from the Series of Unfortunate Events out there, so after many weeks, I managed to get a complete set, even if some were paperback and others were hardback.

Tag, you're it! Feel free to answer any/all of these questions in the comments and/or on your own blog. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

February Wrap-Up

In addition to everything I have listed below, I'd also like to report that I completed one of my New Year's Resolutions for 2018, which was to eat a vegetarian diet for an entire month! It was actually way easier than I thought and I had very few moments when I missed eating meat (and that meat was usually fish, because I love sushi). Although I did have to eat more snacks throughout the day (some dried fruit, a handful of nuts, etc.) to keep up my energy, I wasn't as hungry as I thought I would be. I really enjoyed the challenge and I'm sure I'll eat vegetarian meals more often in the future.

Books I Read

Artemis by Andy Weir


I really enjoyed The Martian, so I was expecting to like this one way more than I did. Artemis has basically everything The Martian has (super sarcastic humor, high-stakes survival situations, in-depth description of science-y stuff that's still interesting, sci-fi that feels realistic, etc.), except The Martian did it better. I felt like Jazz, our protagonist, was the perfect example of a female protagonist written by a man who's never written a female protagonist before. I didn't connect with her. I didn't even realize she was an adult until her age was mentioned because she read as being really immature. If you haven't read Andy Weir before, though, start with this one. Every Martian fan I've talked to said they would have liked Artemis better if they'd read it first.

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway


I LOVED THIS. Every since the book was recommended for fans of This Is Us, I knew I had to pick it up. It made me tear up so many times and the writing was gorgeous and full of voice. I loved all the characters and their storylines, so when we switched from one perspective to the next, I never had that "oh no, now I need to read about this person now" moment that happens sometimes in books with multiple POVs. It focuses on families and siblings and the intricacies of adoption and every topic was covered so well. If you're in the mood for a contemporary, make this one your next read.

Dancing Skeletons by Katherine A. Dettwyler


I had to read this for my Intro to Anthropology class and it surpassed my expectations. It's always nice when you can actually enjoy an assigned book rather than trudging through it just to finish the homework. Though I wasn't a fan of the writing at all (it had a nice storytelling quality, I guess, but it read as being super simplistic), the experience the author had were fascinating. I was especially interested by the reasons why certain cultures did genital mutilation since the reasons varied even from one town to the next.

On Writing by Stephen King


I really should have read this years ago considering how many writers sing its praises, but I only got around to it now. I really enjoyed it! It was funny, had a ton of great and applicable advice (not just for writing, but for life, too), and taught me a lot about Stephen King I hadn't known about before. It took me a while to get through the beginning, though. The snippets from his life seemed to be all over the place and not too connected. I didn't get what he was trying to do until the end. But the middle was a gold mine of wisdom.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown


The best part about this book was by far the symbols and hidden meanings in various works of art. You would think that the action-packed adventure storylines would be the most entertaining, but I actually liked the chapters that dealt with deciphering codes and analyzing paintings most. The adventure became something more like a nice bonus. Overall, the plot was what made it worth reading, because otherwise, the book didn't have much going for it. The characters were flat, the writing was awful (not even just okay--it was truly terrible), and the foreshadowing wasn't so much foreshadowing as it was the author hitting you over the head with a random piece of information you knew was bound to show up later. The book as a whole could've benefited from a lot more editing, too, since cutting several thousand words would have tightened the novel up and made it read faster.

Movies I Watched

"Roman Holiday"


I'd only ever seen Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady," so I really liked getting to see her in a role that's pretty much the opposite of Eliza Doolittle (Eliza is a common girl learning how to be a high society lady and Ann is a princess learning how to let loose and live a common life). Though the acting in this movie tended to be a little over the top, the characters were enjoyable and entertaining. The story is fairly simple, but there was a lot of humor, which I wasn't necessarily expecting, so it was a nice bonus. I won't give anything away, but the ending went in a direction I didn't anticipate. I'm glad it did, though, since my guess at what the conclusion would be wasn't nearly as interesting as what it actually was. Some may not find it satisfying, but personally, I liked it.



The characters were quirky and lovable, the soundtrack was great, and the story was largely driven by a simple plot. It had all the makings of a great Indie movie, even if parts of it were predictable in a more mainstream way.

"Black Panther"


Oh man, this did not disappoint. Marvel has struggled recently to put out movies with a lot of heart, well-developed characters, and a fantastic story, but "Black Panther" turned all of that around. Not only was it racially diverse, but the positions the women held were diverse, too. They all had their own sets of morals, goals, and personalities. It tackled a lot of important ethical dilemmas we face nowadays and didn't provide a clear answer, which I appreciated, since there's some gray area in those issues. The cast killed it, too. I loved it.

Quotes I Wrote

I'm in that editing stage now where everything I rewrite seems to be even worse than was I'd written before, so . . . nothing to report.

Obsessions I Acquired

The "Anastasia" soundtrack -  My current favorite song from "Anastasia" is "In a Crowd of Thousands (although I also really like "Learn to Do It," "We'll Go From There," and "Crossing a Bridge").

Pictures of the Month 

Our family went to see Paula Poundstone do stand-up and she spent time doing autographs and taking pictures with the fans. She was hilarious.
A celebratory dinner after I got inducted into my community college's honor society.

The obligatory Scout picture.

How was your February?