Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Jennavier Recommends: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

http://www.blackholly.com/thecoldestgirlincoldtown.htmlHolly Black isn't your average teen/tween writer. She does gritty and creepy in a way that is awesome instead of exhausting. Her characters are deep and their problems are real. I was introduced to her through her Curse Workers series but you probably know her as one of the writing duo behind The Spiderwick Chronicles. I have to say that when I came to Coldest Girl in Coldtown it was with a bad case of book burnout. Reading one this good made me glad I’m still reading.

Black writes a lot of short stories. I discovered the original Coldest Girl on a long day snuggled in a B&N couch and hated leaving the world behind. Sadly the book, while sharing the title and a world, doesn’t share main characters. Madeline’s story was over by the end of the short so it’s up to Tana to reveal hers.

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

Tana is a fascinating character. The game she’s playing is rigged against her and she still manages to win. She fights so hard to hold onto her humanity in a world that feels like it’s losing it’s own. The love that she feels for the people that matter to her, even the ones who’ve hurt her, is strong enough to overcome her challenges.

So what’s the reason I’m so surprised that this book worked for me? Admit it, you were waiting for it. This time it’s monsters. Me+vampires= nausea. I really, really don’t like vampires. Including them is a great way to dampen my interest. That being said I learned to be more tolerant of them in the recent craze. At this point YA vampires resemble household cats more then they do the tragic monsters of my teenage years, much less the creeptastic beings from before Ann Rice. Holly Black pulls off the creepy factor while asking fascinating questions about what it means to be human.

Warnings: First off, the ending is a little up in the air. I liked it that way and felt if fit the story better. If it’s something you can’t stand no matter what you might want to steer clear. Second, this is a dark book so there’s everything that entails.

This isn’t a perfect book. It’s an original, exhilarating, and thought provoking book. I hope if you read it you get the same joy out of it that I did.
P.S. Don't want to take my word for it? Here's another review that talks about how awesome the book is.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Jonathon Got a Job!

Jonathon's office will be in the top right hand corner

Happy News! My husband got a job. He’s been unemployed and ‘underemployed’ for the last two and a half years. Considering my health is bad so I can’t work that’s put a lot of strain on this little family. Luckily we’ve had plenty of help, blessings, and luck to get us through. Now we don’t have to worry about getting through- we’re there!

Jonathon’s going to be working for Judge Glenn Bronson as his law clerk. Judge Bronson is one of the ten judges in Philadelphia that focuses on murders. Yes, Philly has murder judges. Don’t worry, we’re not going to die tomorrow. It’s just a really big city.

You might be curious what he’s going to be doing. Wonder no more! This job means that he drafts opinions for the judge, conducts legal research, and drafts appellate decisions. It’s a cool opportunity because it gives him the chance to learn more about the law and to watch cases in action. It also means that he gets more chances to make contacts throughout the legal community, so hopefully he’ll be able to get another awesome job when this one ends. Yes, sadly, clerks are not permanent positions. Although the judge would probably keep him if Jonathon wanted to stay he’s expected to move on in two years or so.

You might be thinking this all sounds familiar. After all, hasn’t Jonathon been doing the same thing for the past two years? Since we moved here Jonathon has worked as a judicial fellow for Judge Minehart. The only big difference in his duties is that he’ll have more of them (quantity, not variety) and he’ll be paid. I’m pretty grateful for that last one! He’s also very qualified for this job. He’s already started training as- you guessed it- a judicial fellow until the position officially comes available on June 30th.

I can barely believe that this time in our life is over. I’ve very ready for the start of our next adventure!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

When Good Intentions Backfire: The Truth About My Wordcount Goals

It wasn’t too long ago that I wrote a whole blog post on my system for accountability in my writing. In case you thought I was really together, think again. Turns out that my goals were keeping me from writing, or at least from writing well.

I can’t even remember how long it’s been since I started doing daily word count goals. I’m thinking a minimum of six years. I remember putting them all out on a calendar and being so happy thinking about how I would finish my book in a month/six weeks/three weeks/ two weeks/you get the picture. As you may have guessed I was a little *cough* overzealous with my word count goals. Given, I am a fast writer and when I’m really going I can get 5-8 K in a day. Sadly those days aren't the norm, especially when I have weeks of poor health. The pressure of a high word count goal on top of dizziness and exhaustion really stifled my creative drive.

So a few weeks ago I stopped. Just like that. I was addicted to the adrenaline rush that came from a goal I just had to complete. Somewhere along the way it went too far. I was exhausted by the struggle, not exhilarated. I’m still using my calendar idea but instead of setting certain expectations I just put a sticker on the day if I've managed to write.

It’s not just lowered expectations that I’ve benefited from. Since word count goals were so important my world building was really weak. In the first week away from word count goals I found myself going deep into the fabric of my world. Considering it’s a first novel in what I hope will be a long series it’s important for me to build a foundation. Sadly even a month ago I wouldn’t have bothered. I just couldn’t take the time away from new words to figure out what the house looked like, what the history was, or even how long my characters had known each other for.

I don’t know how long this is going to last for. I like being organized and having goals. Hopefully if my health improves or I sell a book I can find a way to set reasonable goals that I’m likely to complete. For now it’s just about writing.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

‘No Poo, No Problems

You may have heard that recently I decided to try the ‘no poo method. The idea is that shampoo is bad for your hair, that the harsh chemicals strip away your natural grease. Now, I’m not too attached to my personal hair grease but I liked the idea of taking care of my hair. My hair is strait, thick and fine. It’s also ridiculously greasy and my scalp is sensitive. Anything that promised to lighten the grease load without adding dandruff is welcome. On top of that I’m poor. I’m looking to save money any way I can and hair care products are expensive. I’d seen the ‘no poo method floating around the internet for a while and finally decided to finally give it a shot.

Here’s how it works: Baking soda replaces shampoo, apple cider vinegar replaces conditioner. Hypothetically they get everything just as clean and even glossier then their chemical counterparts. Sounds great.

So how’d it really work? Well, first off I just want to say that all of these are just my experiences with the method. I know plenty of people who have had different experiences. Now that my lawyer bit is done I’ll tell you what I experienced. I have to break it down into two parts.

The Baking soda. Oh my gosh, did this not work out well for me. It got my hair clean but never completely so. I couldn’t build up a lather to get spots that I missed with the baking soda. If I missed a spot with my baking soda mixture that spot just didn’t get clean. No amount scrubbing could fix it. On top of that the amount of baking soda to water is pretty finicky and I just don’t have the patience to measure it out every day. So some days it would be clean with just a few greasy spots and other days it would be greasy all over because I didn’t have the right ratio. I also noticed that I went from occasional dandruff to near constant flakes. At first I just thought it was the weather but when I stopped using baking soda it cleared up. Apparently the soda is too hard on my scalp. Needless to say that after two months I am very, very done. I’m back regular shampoo again and I couldn’t be more relieved.

I had a much better experience with the vinegar. I’ll confess that I cheated a little. I have really nasty split ends that I haven’t been able to do anything for. The conditioner I was using was great for making them look like healthy hair. The vinegar wasn’t as effective in that department soI’ve still been putting regular conditioner on my ends. When that blessed day appears where I get to trim my hair we’ll see if I can use vinegar alone.

To sum up I’m pretty sure I got what I wanted. I liked the vinegar but hated the baking soda. For the past few weeks I’ve been mixing regular shampooing with the vinegar as conditioner and it seems to be working. I get the benefits of both without the negatives of either. My biggest concern- cost- worked out well. Baking soda in the amount I was using might actually be more expensive then shampoo. Instead I cut out the real expense- conditioner- for something that’s less than a quarter of the price. I’m not sure if my hair is healthier or not. My roots look less greasy but that could be for cosmetic vs health reasons. I’ve read on the internet that the people with the most success with this method are those with coarse, curly hair. Overall I would recommend it for most people to try, just don’t feel bad if it doesn’t work.

Up next on the au natural experiments is olive oil as face wash. I’ll keep you posted!

P.S. Does anyone know where to get free stock photos? I searched all over the place and couldn't find anything. I'd love to break up the text on my blog a bit but can't afford to pay a premium for it.