31 March 2016

Monthly Update // March

Welcome back! . . . or, maybe I should say that to myself instead of to you. I've fallen behind on the blog recently in order to keep up with schoolwork, so I deeply apologise. My blog activity should pick up in summertime, after the academic year is over.

Over the past month, I've thought of a few interesting blog posts I'd like to write. That should keep this blog active during April. But if you're wondering what I've been up to (and make sure to leave me a comment telling me about what you've been up to!) . . .

The Good, The Bad, The Bookish

First things first: I finished Moby Dick this month. (Expect a review soon!) It was one of those books that I didn't appreciate until literally the last page. I'm a little frustrated that Moby Dick was never captured, but Ahab's death was, for me, one of those "reader moments" when you feel overwhelmed because every plot detail has come together in an intricate way.

One thing I dislike about my experience with Moby Dick is that my English teacher had us read an adapted version of the novel (written by herself) instead of the original book. Some of her students -- past and present -- have complained that it's like reading fanfiction instead of the actual, authentic novel. I see their point in saying that, but the adapted version that I read was shorter in length and more comprehensible with fewer irrelevant details and chapters. Besides, if I ever feel unsatisfied and want the whole story, I can always rent the original book from the library.

On that note, I've still been volunteering at the local libary! (I did have to skip two weeks because of standardised tests and a family outing.) My poetry club is trying to plan a poetry slam-slash-poetry café for the end of April, since it's National Poetry Month (in the U.S.). And on that note, I'll link you to this blog's celebration from last year, the 2015 National Poetry Month Extravaganza, which you can find under the label "npme2015."

Up Close And Personal

Spring! Spring! Spring! (That's basically been my internal monologue for the last week.) Where I live in Pennsylvania, the temperatures have reached as high as 78 degrees Fahrenheit. It's so nice. I won't even mind the April showers, since I adore rain.

(A-hem.) Other than that, I presented my graduation project last week. It went well and I needed to do it in order to graduate from high school next year, so I'm glad that I got that out of the way so I can focus on other academic responsibilities I need to get through. That presentation kicked off my spring break, which was over by last Monday. This part of the school year is sometimes difficult for me because there aren't many days off from school and these weeks are filled with standardised tests.

Speaking of which, I took the SAT at the beginning of this month, and I will take the ACT next weekend. After that I have a number of cumulative psychology exams and two AP exams. Then, it's prom! (Yes, I got my dress already! I may decide to post photos in May's monthly update, so keep an eye out for that, too.)

Finally, this month I found out that I can take my driving exam in mid-May, which is earlier than I previously expected. I'm so excited. It seems that all of April and May will be filled with standardised tests and exams, and then after those are over I won't know what to do with my life because all of my responsibilities will have run out! (Not that I'm complaining! I'm really looking forward to summer.)

I'm glad that the academic year's winding down, but there are still a few more goals for me to reach by June. How will you spend your spring?

- Kira

29 February 2016

Monthly Update // February

I know you don't want to hear it, but first I have to apologise for not writing frequently. This is mainly because of my schoolwork and other stress (there's better explanation below), and truth be told, I may not be posting as often until the academic year comes to a close in June. What I mean to say is that I'll keep contributing to this blog, but not as frequently as I'd like -- maybe a few times per month -- until my stress slows down a little.

But anyway, here's what I've been up to (it's a lot):

The Good, The Bad, The Bookish

Today -- on the last day of the month, no less -- we started reading Moby Dick in my English class. Over the past month we've been studying literature of the Romantic period, and I loved our units about Edgar Allan Poe and Louisa May Alcott. I've also continued to do my term paper about John Steinbeck, but it isn't due until April, so that's a real work in progress. (Don't worry, I'll keep you posted.)

I've also continued to make progress in reading Anatomy 101, and I'm about a third of the way through the book. I'm finding it pretty interesting, but hey, that book is longer than it looks!

Yes, the Doctor Who reference was fully and completely necessary.
Image courtesy of Head Over Feels.

In addition to attending meetings for my spoken work poetry club, I'm still volunteering at the public library, which I love. I've stumbled across quite a few fiction novels and a couple of poetry books that have caught my interest. I plan to look into reading most of them in the future. One of my favourite pastimes, to be honest, is finding new books -- it's much easier and almost more addictive than actually reading (but don't get me wrong, I adore reading).

Up Close And Personal

So, about that stress I mentioned earlier. Two weeks ago I became eligible for my driving exam, but because I'm taking a behind-the-wheel course right now, I won't be able to take the exam until June -- June! I'm a little frustrated and fairly impatient, but I'll get through it. At least the school year is moving forward, too.

But, jeez, is school complicated too! This weekend I have to take my SAT, so I'm quite nervous and I've been on-edge recently. I took a midterm exam today, and I have a few other tests coming up soon, but the good news is that I got my report card back last week. My marks are extremely good! I'm very proud of my grade point average, but it might be hard to maintain or exceed over the next semester.

Valentine's Day was lovely, though. My boyfriend gave me chocolates, flowers, and a big teddy bear. I gave him gifts, too, but his were totally superior. Luckily, his birthday is next month, so I'll use that as an opportunity to compensate for the inferior presents I got him for Valentine's Day.

The upside is that I've discovered a lot of interesting new music this month! I've also been performing very well at work recently. I'm a waitress, and the past several shifts, I received compliments for my good service. I'm excited to keep that up!

Winter's almost over! What are you looking forward to next month? Tell me in a comment below!

- Kira

14 February 2016

Cute YA Romance Novels: My Faves

It's that time of year again! (I love writing holiday-themed blog posts.)

I actually haven't enjoyed Valentine's Day until recently. I suppose it's because, up until the past few years, the only ways I celebrated Valentine's Day were by exchanging valentines with schoolmates and receiving some Hershey's Kisses. I think I enjoy the holiday more now because other people celebrate it with me. (Today I got chocolate, a floral bouquet, a stuffed teddy bear, and some money as gifts. So, yes, I'm enjoying Valentine's Day more than ever.)

So let's get this conversation rolling! Here (in no particular order) are the cutesy YA romance novels that give me warm fuzzy feels:

1. the The Hunger Games series (Suzanne Collins)

Here's the tricky thing about modern YA romances -- some of them tend to distract from the plot. Which launches us into why The Hunger Games is one of my favourite YA romance series.

It's because I respect it. Specifically, I respect how Suzanne Collins wrote developed character relationships (like Katniss/Peeta, Annie/Finnick, and my personal favourite, Katniss/Gale) without distracting from the central plot and the main conflicts. That is, Katniss was fighting corruption and saving her country while kissing boys in the meantime, and her pursuit of romance never interfered with her corruption-fighting and country-saving efforts.

As I writer, I understand the struggle: Sometimes it's so easy to get caught up in writing cute romantic scenes for our ships, and we end up neglecting the rest of the plot. But in my perspective, part of fanfiction's purpose is to hash out all of the cute romantic scenes that can't be included in the book, because if they were included in the book, then there would be no actual book with an actual plot that involved anything besides the ship. And that's why I respect The Hunger Games as a series that has romance as well as conflict.

2. The Fault in Our Stars (John Green)

Hey, don't groan yet.

This book sort of set a new standard for romantic relationships in YA romance, and maybe not because of Hazel and Gus's actual relationship. Instead, I think it's because of how the book became so popular so quickly -- plus, readers fell even farther in love with the ship because both characters had cancer and it's just so romantic!

But anyway, the main reason why this novel is one of my YA romance faves (aside from the fact that, I mean, Hazel and Gus's relationship gives me all the feels) is because it really did set a new standard for the genre. I think that, in the near future, a lot of readers will continue to compare other YA ships to Hazel and Gus. And good luck to John Green -- if he doesn't keep writing romances like Hazel and Gus's, the literary critics and his many fangirls probably will never let him hear the end of it.

3. the Harry Potter series (J. K. Rowling)

Okay. To be honest, this series is like one big love story. I mean, isn't one of the overall themes that love conquers all and love is the strongest force in existence and love, love, love . . .

Every Potterhead, I think, has their own dearest ships within this series. It's something personal and subjective. I, for example, will ship Ron/Hermione and Harry/Hermione until I can no longer. (I know, aren't those ships sort of contradictory? You can read here for more details.)

But, still. I find the fact that J. K. Rowling was able to interweave so many love stories within one huge cast of characters pretty amazing. And these aren't just boring, flat, empty relationships, either -- all of them are developed and deeply rounded. Even minor ships, in my opinion, have substance and purpose -- for example, Ron and Lavender's short-lived relationship was still important to the plot, because it affected the development of Ron and Hermione's relationship. All of the Harry Potter ships are incredibly well thought-out.

And if you're looking for Harry Potter fanfiction (with plenty of fluff!), here are some pieces that I've written.

4. the Maximum Ride series (James Patterson)

You never forget your first valentine, and as far as novels go, this series was definitely the first for me. The Max/Fang ship was my first OTP, and I shipped it so hard back in the day. (I still adore it. I read fanfiction once in a while.)

Love stories will be love stories, and for years, this series had some of my favourite love stories. If you haven't noticed yet, this post has a certain trend: Most of my favourite ships are between characters who are friends before they are romantic partners. I personally like the idea of romantic relationships having the foundation of trust and respect that is developed in friendships, and this is definitely seen in Maximum Ride.

Plus -- and I don't know why -- I'm also drawn to books wherein the love stories are slowly developed over the course of a long series. (See also: Ron and Hermione. Seven books, and all leading up to one single freaking kiss? Why was I okay with waiting that long?) This is the case in Maximum Ride -- Max and Fang's first kiss was in the first book, but it took them, like, five or six novels to DTR.

(Seriously, though? Just one kiss? Come on, Jo, we stuck around to read ten years' worth of books. We earned more than just one kiss.)

Happy Valentine's Day! Tell me in the comments: What are your OTPs?

31 January 2016

Monthly Update // January

Well, I think a monthly update is rather necessary right now, seeing as how I haven't written any other blog posts this month.

First I'd like to apologize for that. Part of the reason why I haven't been writing is because the Blog-Post-Idea Bug hasn't been biting me recently. Other than that, school has become increasingly stressful as I approach standardised test season, and I'm a little emotionally drained right now. So please forgive me for this unintentional semi-hiatus. (I think it was Alan Rickman's passing earlier this month that knocked me off-balance.)

The good news is that I'm getting back to where I need to be, in terms of this whole blogging thing . . .

The Good, The Bad, The Bookish

Like, even though I haven't been very productive in writing posts, I've still been active in the bookish realm. For instance, last month I wrote about an upcoming term paper for my English class, for which I have to read and analyse a novel by John Steinbeck. Ultimately, I decided on Tortilla Flat. It was a quick and easy read and it wasn't half-bad, so you can expect a more detailed book review in the next few weeks. (I promise I'll write it!)

I've continued to read the Anatomy 101 book that I got as a gift on Christmas, and yesterday I returned to volunteer work at my local public library again, which I stopped doing last April. (I forgot how much I enjoyed it!) In fact, I already stumbled upon some intriguing books. The one I'm most likely to check out next is called Girl at War by Sara Nović.

Lastly, I've kept writing poetry. I've also become more and more interested in book photography, and I'm posting many of these photos to my Instagram profile, so you can check them out there. My personal favourites are this one, this one, and definitely this one.

P.S.: You might want to check out these two cool bookish posts I came across online! The first is a slideshow of sketches of book characters based on their literary descriptions, and how those descriptions compare to the physical appearances of the actors and actresses who play the characters in film adaptations. Secondly, here's a long list (written by Lincoln Thompson for BuzzFeed Books) of life-changing novels.

Up Close And Personal

Well, like I said, I've been pretty stressed recently. Along with some little things in my personal life, I'm applying for a super-selective medical programme and I'm registering for a few standardised tests. Also, I'm trying to sign up for a course so that I can finally earn my driver's licence, and like always, I'm working part-time and getting my homework done.

The silver lining is that the academic year is halfway over. And after that, all I'll need to worry about are submitting university applications, taking the UKCAT, and finishing summer schoolwork. I'm so looking forward to the smooth sailing that will come after that.

But anyway, happy new year! I hope your 2016 has been off to a great start. Let's make February a good one, too.

- Kira

31 December 2015

Monthly Update // December: Year-End Reflection

Is it that time already?

Honestly, I feel as if it's still October. November and December have passed so quickly that I'm pretty sure they lasted for, like, maybe a week each.

The Good, The Bad, The Bookish

I'm so into anatomy, physiology, and medicine, so for Christmas this year my mother bought me a book called Anatomy 101 by Kevin Langford. It's pretty neat and makes rough subjects like chemistry and cellular biology easy to understand.

In English class, I was recently assigned a term paper about an American author. I was assigned the author John Steinbeck. As part of the term paper, I'm required to read one of his novels and discuss my thoughts about him and his work. I'm considering reading either The Grapes of Wrath or East of Eden, but I haven't decided yet.

Up Close And Personal

This month I continued to work in school and at my job. I visited my great-aunt and -uncle, and found a new hobby: book photographyOne of my relationships ended, but I've started a new one since then, and I've been spending more time with my friends recently.

I've also been spending more time with cute animals, which is always fun. I've been to the pet store once or twice this month (just to visit the animals, not to adopt them). My friend raises service animals and seeing-eye dogs, so once in a while I get to spend time with her German shepherd, her cat, and her turtles, alpacas, and chickens. My boyfriend has a dachshund and two cats, so I'm able to see those animals too. I really wish I had pets of my own!

I've been on a break from school for about a week now. I've been doing very well in my classes -- even in maths, which is surprising -- since the academic year started. I registered for the SAT, which I plan to take in March. And, I'll finally be eligible for my driver's exam in February! All I have left to do is to complete an on-line course, a behind-the-wheel training course, and fifteen more hours behind the wheel outside of that course. It's pretty exciting, and I'm looking forward to finally getting my driver's licence. :)

Year-End Reflection

Some of the best books I read this year were MargotBurnt MountainMaximum Ride ForeverNight, and I Am the Messenger.

This past April, I created the "npme2015" label to celebrate National Poetry Month in the United States. You can check out all the posts within that label here.

Plus, this year I added a pretty cool accessory to the blog: a soundtrack playlist! In case you haven't noticed, I change the songs on the playlist every so often, to reflect my favourite songs of the moment. It's just something that I think adds some personal flair to The Book Club.

That's just about the gist of things, so happy new year! I hope your celebrations with family and friends are fantastic. Stay happy and healthy next year!

- Kira

25 December 2015

4 Books You Should Get Me for Christmas!

Sure, Christmas may have visited and is currently preparing for departure, but I'm already looking forward to next holiday season. I'm so, so ready to give and receive books as presents.

This year, I got a book about anatomy, which is super interesting and helpful, since I want to go to medical school in the future. And giving is fun, too: I gave my Nerdfighter friends a personalised crafty Paper Towns-themed gift that I made myself.

And, yeah, 2015 has been pretty great to me. But regardless, here's what I'm ho-ho-hoping to see on my shelves in 2016 (just in case you'd like to buy me a Christmas present next year!):

Image via Amazon.
1. Burn Baby Burn (Meg Medina) - 8 March, 2016
I'm going to be honest: I hadn't heard of this book until this past week. It's a little bit of modern historical fiction mixed with suspense, which appeals to me mainly because I don't often read that combination of genres. And there's murder involved, which (as all we readers are aware) thickens a plot like nothing else.

Image via Amazon.
2. This Is Where the World Ends (Amy Zhang) - 22 March, 2016

This is one of those stories for which I've seen advertisements for quite a while. And there's more to it than simply advertising: it's all about friendship and heartbreak and intimacy and trust, so I think I would like it. I tend to be interested in a novel that can wriggle its way into my heart, play my heartstrings, and then break my heart without warning. (Hence, the popularity of John Green's books.)

Image via Gurl.com.
3. The Rose & the Dagger (Renée Ahdieh) - 3 May, 2016

This is another novel I'm anticipating. While I haven't read any of Renée Ahdieh's books, I recently discovered The Wrath & the Dawn, which has since been on my reading wishlist for a while. This is the sequel to that book, and based on the conclusions I've drawn from summaries of this series, this plotline is unique compared to other things I've read before, so I'm enthusiastic about this book for sure!

Image via Gurl.com.
4. The Last Star (Rick Yancey) - 24 May, 2016

This is the final instalment of the series that includes The 5th Wave, which, if you'll recall, I bought fairly recently. I haven't read it yet, but I'm looking forward to it because I've heard that it's quite popular and has a film adaptation. Sci-fi is a genre that I usually like, so I have a good feeling about this series.

P.S.: Today I learned about this awesome book recommendation website! It's called Whichbook. The way it works is, you specify what you like and dislike in a book (think: length of book, comedy versus seriousness, tearjerkers versus feel-good stories, etc.). Based on your specifications, Whichbook recommends books you might like. I've already tried it for myself and added a few intriguing stories to my reading wishlist!

Anyway, happy holidays to you and your loved ones! Here's looking forward to the new year.

- Kira