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natl-book-fest-20151So this year I was very lucky and got the opportunity to attend the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.  A friend of mine was already going for her job and offered to let me tag along.

I have some pretty awesome friends.

So first of all we got to hang out in D.C.  Which I love.  Seriously, one of my favorite cities I’ve ever been to.  So much history and culture and gorgeousness!

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I mean, check out that amazing D.C. architecture!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  First of all there was the plane ride…

20150904_070105Where it looked like the plane was being held together with duct tape (special plane tape I know, I know, but still.  not super comforting.)

Which is why it was a good thing that I had my traveling snacks!

20150904_103634Just the essentials.

So we got to D.C. and hit the hotel.  Which, it turned out, was smack in the middle of Chinatown.

20150905_230458Can you tell?

Then it was off for a quick stop at National Mall where we strolled through the sculpture garden:

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And hit the Natural Museum of Natural History:

Rawr!

Rawr!

Older rawr!

Older rawr!

You can actually watch real life scientists working inside the museum which I think is wicked cool!!!

You can actually watch real life scientists working inside the museum which I think is wicked cool!!!

Indoor beehive that lets out into the mall so the bees can come and go and help keep the nearby flower gardens going!

Indoor beehive that lets out into the mall so the bees can come and go and help keep the nearby flower gardens going!

It's a blob of rock!

It’s a blob of rock!

That? Oh that's just the Hope diamond. No big whoop...

That? Oh that’s just the Hope diamond. No big whoop…

And then there was this guy:

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Neat, fun, nerdy story about the elephant.  Saw the Smithsonian tweeting about him earlier that day because he’d been off display for a while getting a new base to stand on.  He’d just gone up that day!  Even going to D.C. I never actually thought I’d be there, seeing him in person.  Or tweeting about it and having the Smithsonian tweet back at me!!! How cool is that?!?

Okay, so I’m a huge nerd, but at least I know and accept that.

Then we took a stop at the art museum (for like 30 minutes…)

Hmmm......

Hmmm……

Why do almost all women in old artwork constantly have to have their boob hanging out? Surely this is not how women of the past used to read....

Why do almost all women in old artwork constantly have to have their boob hanging out? Surely this is not how women of the past used to read….

Totally studied this portrait of Marie Antoinette in British Art at UTA! Go Mavs!

Totally studied this portrait of Marie Antoinette in British Art at UTA! Go Mavs!

So really, how many times have you seen this statue of Romulus and Remus? I mean, it's pretty much the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the story and now here it is! Right there in person!

So really, how many times have you seen this statue of Romulus and Remus? I mean, it’s pretty much the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the story and now here it is! Right there in person!

Then it was off to the hotel to get cute for the night, but first, a quick stop in Canada!

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I have a friend from Canada so when we were passing right next to the embassy and had the chance to send a selfie from Canadian soil, how could I pass up the chance?!  Eh?

More next time on the gala event (which was so awesome!) and the festival itself.  See you then!!!

I really need to learn how to take selfies...

I really need to learn how to take selfies…

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So last time I left you Miss Pony had been cleaned up, gotten her hair curled and colored (at least half of it), and her new paint job started.

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So here she is after a completed paint job.  I realized after I’d already done her tail that I should maybe wait on the hair until after the painting.

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Thus the bags.  Also had a problem with the paint. It scratches off duper easily.   Not great for playtime.  So I tried a few (like 5) coats of Mod Podge, but that left Miss Pony feeling all sticky.  Also not good for play.
So I slapped on the sandwich baggies to protect her hair and added several coats of clear spray paint.

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Tadaaaaaa!  The paint stays in place and now it’s time for more hair!

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I decided that in doing the tail I’d made things harder by not making sure my stripe of hair went around the outside of the curl.

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Made sure to do better on that this time!

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And here she is all completed!  I may not be the world’s foremost horse-painting artist, but my niece loved it and thats all that counts, right?!

I know, I know, I’m late on this and I haven’t posted anything in a while.  Sorry about that.  But today I feel productive and like getting on top of things so here it goes.  In not any too particular of an order…

1.VAMPIRES!!!!!!!!!

The Coldest Girl In Coldtown by Holly Black

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In case you don’t know already, I LOVE me some Holly Black.  Actually got to meet her at the Austin Teen Book Festival in 2013 when she was promoting this book.  I figured, Holly Black plus vampires?  How can a girl resist? 🙂 Imagine a zombie apocalypse, but replace the zombies with vampires.  Unlike zombies, however, vampires can think and hunt and now that everyone knows about them the government has set up coldtowns where the infected (and anyone that chooses to go) can live.  Oh, and once inside, you can never leave.  Why would anyone choose to live there?  Well Tana decides after she attends a  party and wakes up the next morning to find everyone else has been slaughtered by vampires.  Well, everyone except a super-hot vampire chained to a bed and her twit of an ex-boyfriend who may or may not have been infected.  Oh fun. Great cast of characters, interesting, different look at a world full of vampires.  Only Holly Black can write a book like this one. 2.Favorite conclusion to a series? The One by Kiera Cass the one If you haven’t started this series you totally need to get started NOW!  I got hooked on this one by a friend of mine.   The best description I’ve heard of it is it’s like the Hunger Games (minus the bloodshed) meets The Bachelor (minus the bloodshed).  Fun, smart characters, and finally a love-triangle series where going into the 3rd book you’re 100% sure who the main character (America Singer) should pick, but you don’t actually know if he will pick her.  Great conclusion to a wonderful series.  And another author I got to meet on a Dark Days tour where I got this book and had her sign it to one of my best friends who gets home from her mission in 4 weeks!!!!  But shhhhh, don’t tell! It’s a surprise!) And if you haven’t checked out EpicReads’ videos with Kiera, you totally should!  She’s adorable and hilarious! 3. Favorite middle grade series? The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppet by Tom Angleberger jabba Okay, so this is not the first one in the series, or even the only one I read last year.  Also read Darth Paper and Fortune Wookie last year, but this one was the most recent so I’m using it.  Deal. These books are great; some of the best middle school characters I’ve come across in a while (not that I read a ton of middle grade).  Plus they’re all tied together in an epic battle against cheesy, bad learning programs sent in by a dominating administration that’s surely been aligned to the Dark side for years.  And the only way to rebel?  With origami Star Wars puppets of course!  Duh!

4. Contemporary book that hit me the hardest

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

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We’re all familiar with school shootings, especially if you went to high school in the late 90s like I did.  (I did actually have to explain “Columbine” to a confused 15 yr old the other day.)  But this story is told from the perspective of the girlfriend of the (late) shooter in the aftermath of the attack.  She stopped the killings.  The killings she now has to come to terms with because how much of a role did she play in encouraging Nick?  That Hate List they made that’s all over the news, it was just talk, right?  She’s not at fault…right?  And if all the horrible things everyone tells Valerie about her dead boyfriend are true, if he was never any good as a human being, then what does that say about her?  Can you ever really move on from something like this? Really fascinating character study of Valerie and the people she has to deal with in the wake of a tragedy.  Kept me reading well into the wee hours.  Finished it in like a day I think.

5. Favorite book I loved that everyone else seemed to hate?  (or at least throw across the room?) Allegiant by Veronica Roth

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Now don’t get me wrong.  I get why people were upset with this one.  But after avoiding all the online freakouts it was still hard not to guess that something bad was going to happen.  All the responses were either “I cried ALL NIGHT LONG” or “I threw this book across the room!!!”  So yeah.  But I feel it was an appropriate ending for all the characters and totally in keeping with their personalities.

Well, I say that, but really there’s one twit that really should have been shot in the head.  Not the one that got a fresh start, but yeah…that other one?  *chic chic*…POW!  Right in the face.  I hate that kid.

But either way, I still love this series and this book!

6.The most intense dystopian I’ve read in a long while

The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

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The murder rate in town is higher than the birth rate.  How crazy is that??  And there’s no leaving town and if you don’t get a solid job on your first try you’re done and have to scrounge for everything you get.  Meadow is wicked intense–the kind of girl that makes you think you could actually have a chance of surviving and intense, bloody, violent dystopian society if you train like freaking crazy for it.  I like it.  It makes me feel proactive.  I hate all the female characters that have all this time to deal with the terrible circumstances they live in or are about to face and then don’t do anything about it.  At least Meadow doesn’t just sit around waiting for someone to kill her.  She acts out.  Good for her.

7.Favorite new (to me) author discovery

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

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So oh my goodness I loved this book so much.  Now it does contain some bad language and there are some sexual encounters and a variety of sexual preferences addressed in the book, so if that’s not your thing, be forewarned.

BUT!  This book was hilarious.  I listened to it on audiobook and Libba Bray read it herself and it was like crack.  I hated to get out of the car when I had to be places because that would mean I’d have to stop listening.  No fair!

How to describe this book?  Beauty queens, dessert island, Sarah Palin knock off, reality show pirates, secret government plots, exploding face cream, commercial inserts, loss of sanity, self-discovery, and communist dictators with a stuffed lemur as their 2nd in command.  Yep.  All that.  Crazy, fun, twisting ride.  Loved it!

8.Can’t bring myself to read the last one yet because then it will be over!

Hell Week by Rosemary Clement-Moore

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I love this whole series.  It’s Veronica Mars meets Buffy meets Nancy Drew.  Maggie Quinn is fun and snarky and nosy and fights demon spawn from hell.  What’s not to love?  Plus, gotta respect the love story.  Sure, her and the boy basically got together by the end of the last book, but does that mean they stay together automatically?  Life still has to go on, people are busy, and boys are confusing.  Really…I need to just read the last one already.  I forget how much I love these until I start talking about them…Next on my TBR list!!!!

9. Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

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So funny story, true story… I’d seen this book on Tea Time with EpicReads.  It’s a girl dying of cancer, but not in the sad way.  Oh no, she first needs to get revenge on everyone she feels has wronged her.  Grrrrr…

Except, oh wait.  Now the cancer’s in remission.  Frick.

(Though she uses another word 😛 )

So I was telling my writing club kids all about it and how it sounded so good and then somewhere in it I realized, “Hey!  I know that girl!”  Yep.  Met Julie at a writing conference and she helped me with my pitch before I met with my agent!  So yeah, I have a bond with this book.  Can’t wait for Dumplin to come out next!  (Not in the same storyline.  Just Julie’s next book…)

10. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

5th wave

So. Freaking. Good.  They’re already making it a movie and the series is done yet!  I love stories where it’s like “Oh no, the aliens…have already invaded and taken over just about everything.  You’re screwed.”

All of the characters were appealing, all had an interesting story to tell.  And can I tell you how much I have a crush on this cover?!?  Seriously, if you haven’t yet, find it in hard cover and just feel how soft it is.  Sometimes I pull it off my shelf just to feel it.  It’s that soft.

Don’t judge me.

11.  Because like a good amp, I too go to 11. Sort of.  Both of these books had a similar theme, and I couldn’t pick between them so they get to share the #11 spot together.

Gated by Amy Christine Parker                   and               The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

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So both of these books are about girls living in religious cult compounds and their exposure to the outside world.  In Gated Lyla follows Pioneer, a captivating leader who will protect them all from the upcoming apocalypse–when the rest of the world will all die.  In The Chosen One Kyra (they even have similar names) lives in what is clearly a FLDS-type of community (not that hard to recognize when you’re Mormon) with a family that must follow their religious leaders no matter what.  Both face arranged marriages, Lyla to a friend she has no attraction towards and Kyra to her 60+ yr old UNCLE.  Talk about your gross!  Both girls face similar circumstances with different results and both are compelling reads.  How do I separate them???

And my bonus books.

Favorite Non-fiction

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

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This girl is like the rock star of education and women’s rights.  I tear up just thinking about how awesome she is.  Don’t ever forget the blessing it is to live in countries where girls can do crazy things like own property and read a book without getting shot in the face.  Never take it for granted.  Be your own rock star.  Live without fear.  Stand up for others and for yourself.  You are amazing.  Remember that always.

Favorite rereads Here I’m picking 3 very different books.

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

love that dog

You.  Will. Cry.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

life as we knew it

Are you prepared for the apocalypse?

and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Do I even have to mention who wrote it or even show the cover or tell you why I love it??  No, but I’ll do at least 2 out of 3 of those.

by J.K. Rowling

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So what were your favorite books last year?  Or recently?  You read any of these?  Let me know in the comments below!!!

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A little white paint and now I have two custom ornaments to match my dogs!

DECEMBER
16 Jimmy Dugan: Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There’s no crying! THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!
Doris Murphy: Why don’t you give her a break, Jimmy?
Jimmy: Oh, you zip it, Doris! Rogers Hornsby was my manager, and he called me a talking pile of pig shit. And that was when my parents drove all the way down from Michigan to see me play the game. And did I cry?
Evelyn Gardner: No, no, no.
Jimmy: Yeah! NO. And do you know why?
Evelyn: No.…
Jimmy: Because there’s no crying in baseball. THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL! No crying!
A League of Their Own

16 league fo their own
DECEMBER
17 These are bagpipes. I understand the inventor of the bagpipes was inspired when he saw a man carrying an indignant, asthmatic pig under his arm. Unfortunately, the man-made sound never equaled the purity of the sound achieved by the pig.
Alfred Hitchcock

alfred
DECEMBER
18 If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music.
Gustav Mahler

16 Gustav-Mahler
DECEMBER
19 Sheldon: I made tea.
Leonard: I don’t want tea.
Sheldon: I didn’t make tea for you. This is my tea.
Leonard: Then why are you telling me?
Sheldon: It’s a conversation starter.
Leonard: That’s a lousy conversation starter.
Sheldon: Oh, is it? We’re conversing. Checkmate.
The Big Bang Theory

30 big bang theory
DECEMBER
20 A single conversation across the table with a wise person is worth a month’s study of books.
Chinese Proverb
DECEMBER
21-22 Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.
Michael Crichton

16 michael crichton
DECEMBER
23 The first draft of anything is shit.
Earnest Hemmingway

16 ernest hemmingway
DECEMBER
24 Narrator: A philosopher once asked, “Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?” Pointless, really… “Do the stars gaze back?” Now that’s a question.
Stardust

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DECEMBER
25 It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live.
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

16 Harry_Potter_and_the_Sorcerer's_Stone
DECEMBER
26 Now I existed solely thanks to the quantum paradox, my brain a collection of cubits in quantum superposition, encoding truths and memories, imagination and irrationality in opposing, contradictory states that existed and didn’t exist, all at the same time.”
Robin Wasserman, Crashed

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DECEMBER
27     “Why does it say she has three hundred and twenty friends?” Josh asks. “Who has that many friends?”
Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler, The Future of Us

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DECEMBER
28-29 So long ago, I don’t remember when
That’s when they say I lost my only friend
Well they said she died easy of a broken heart disease
As I listened through the cemetery trees
The Wallflowers, “One Headlight”

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo it’s the first snow of the year here, which really means it’s an accumulation of ice pellets from the freezing rain, but who cares?  We’ll take it!  I’ll post more pics and a longer video later, but for now, this is what it looks like when you tell your 8 month old puppy she can’t go outside and play in the snow she was once so terrified of…

Chinese food

Okay, I’m sorry, but I HAVE to share this!!!  Seriously!!!! I have found the next Rebecca Black “Friday”!!!!!!!!!  You HAVE to check this out!!!!!!!  (It even has a random black guy that pops out of NOWHERE to rap!!!!)

Also, is this girl the most awkward walker ever?   Seriously, just watch…

This girl is amazing. Not to mention…When I used to see people like this – redonkulously successful at such a young age, it used to make me feel bad about myself. I am (however old at the time) and I haven’t created ANYTHING like that myself. And yet now that I’ve done it – stopped contemplating my dream and actually gone after it – I feel nothing but inspired by people like this. You CAN do most anything you want to. True, maybe you can’t become an Olympic ice skater at age 75, but that’s why you reach for things BEFORE you hit 75. So you don’t look back and wonder “What If?” No regrets.

I figured I might as well document my thoughts on the day. I know everyone does it, but it feels only appropriate to do it.
The week before 9/11 I had just gotten out of the shower when my college roommate at the time came banging on my door to tell me that the campus police had just left another message on the answering machine and that my car had been broken into. I called them back and went downstairs and sure enough, my car, along with about 11 others had been broken into the night before. So when my roommate came banging on my door again, exactly a week later, I was thinking, “What now? It’s not like I have a stereo to steal anymore…”
My roommate shouted through the door, “They’re f-ing bombing us!”
I asked her who, and she said, “I don’t know, dude, but somebody is!”
By the time I came out both towers were already in flames. We watched together as the towers burned and America tried to figure out what the heck was going on. I heard stories later from friends who were in class at NYU, saying they knew something was going on, but class went on pretty much as normal. Here in Texas, classes were a bit more up in the air. First they were cancelled, then they weren’t, then they were again… My roommate and I decided we weren’t going. If anyone said anything later, we would just say we never got the message.
I remember watching the south tower fall. We’d been sitting there for about 20 minutes, watching the top of the building swaying back and forth. I remember telling my roommate, “That thing’s going to collapse. It’s going to fall over.” She said, “Nah, those things are built to stand up for things like this.” I remembered in elementary school when the towers were bombed from the bottom. They stood up then. Maybe she was right, but I didn’t think so.
The towers fell, and we watched in horror with the rest of the world. My roommate began cursing at the top of her lungs saying, “Those f-ing sand n***s got us!” In our dorms we were the minority being white. She said it while our Asian suite-mate was in the bathroom. Later she said that’s why she never tried to make friends with us until my roommate moved out at Christmas. I was honestly scared someone might have overheard in the hallway and tried to come through the door. Keep in mind we weren’t really friends. More of a roommate grab bag ordeal.
By the time 1:00 rolled around classes had been put back on for the rest of the day, and I only went to mine because it was the lecture before the lab the next day. I remember walking to class – the campus was mostly empty. Except I did notice that the only people out did seem to be the Arab-American students. I remembered being both a little disturbed and a little in awe of them. We’d all seen the scenes of people across the ocean jumping for joy and cheering at the news. People were pissed. I have to say, it took a lot of guts for those kids to walk out to class that day – you’d like to believe we’re all above prejudice, but in reality you know we’re not. Anything could have happened to them that day, but they still went to class. Heck, most people used it as an excuse to stay home. Goodness knows I did.
I think I remember going home, if not that night then the next. My mom’s a teacher, so I couldn’t call her in the middle of the day. They’d told the teachers not to tell students what was going on. It’s an elementary school, and they wanted to leave that to the parents. It was up to them if they wanted to pick their kids up early, or just wait til the end of the day. I can’t imagine being locked in the classroom, aware but unable to share. The kids had to know something was up. Way too many people were going home that day…
I remember my roommate freaking out because there is a world trade center in Dallas. She wanted to go home or get out of the Metroplex. I couldn’t seem to convince her how far down the target list we would have to be.
I think one of the weirdest moments I remember afterwards is standing at my parents house and hearing a plane fly overhead. It was a couple of days after, and the only planes going anywhere were those carrying medical supplies and the like. I remember it being weird to hear a plane, and then feeling even more disturbed by the fact that so normal a sound should feel out of place. That’s what it did to us in the end, I think. It changed our definition of “normal’.
I’ve seen Ground Zero. I’ve taken pictures there. I’ve also seen the Pentagon, and snapped an ill-advised picture there.* With each special I watch I keep wondering what it will be like to take my own children there one day. Of trying to explain to them what life was like before, and what it was like just after. Of how you can feel helpless, and upset and angry, and wonder if you’re wrong to cry knowing that you didn’t know anyone or lose anyone, but that you only lost the same way as the rest of America did.
For those serving in the Armed Forces, we say thank-you. For those who put their lives on the line in jobs like police officer, firefighter, EMS…we say thank-you. And for those that work in the less conspicuous jobs – FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Homeland Security – we say thank-you. Thanks for doing what you do, and for keeping us safer each and every day. God bless and good night.

So I’m trying out this whole writing a blog business. I’ve considered it for a while, but never really gotten around to doing it. A little bit about me, I’m writing my first Young Adult Fiction novel, and it’s a lot of work. I work over the phones in customer service to pay the bills in the meantime…man would it be good to get out of there 🙂
The reason I choose to write in the YAF genre is that I feel like so many children love to read, and to hear stories, but somewhere along the line lots of them loose it. What’s “it”? That thing inside of you that wants to escape out of your world and into someone else’s, to know what they know, hear the way they think, and consider life from a new angle. Studies show that children and teenagers that read, especially for boys, are more likely to be understanding and empathetic towards others and their problems. Isn’t that something we could all use a little more of?

 

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