Books

Day 21-26: Catch UP

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I know, I know. I’m behind. Luckily for you all, I’m very good at catching up. This will be a whirlwind of information that will leave you feeling like you’ve only seen snapshots of my life instead of reading my autobiography. It is what it is.

Day 21: Write about your most embarrassing moments.

In the same way that it is difficult to make me angry, it is also difficult to embarrass me. I think I am most embarrassed when I think that I am right, only to be proven wrong. When I was young, I was always right. Now that I’m a little bit older, I rarely ever take a side on anything because I realize that right and wrong aren’t always exclusive.

Day 22: What is your style?

If you had asked me this question in high school, I would have had to answer punk/goth. It’s kind of funny that I thought I was so “hardcore” when now I’m just normal. I really love the hipster look, so I would probably associate myself with that.

Day 23: Write about one of your guilty pleasures.

Chips and Salsa. Hands down. I could almost eat chips and salsa for breakfast. You all know that I am fairly healthy. I eat clean most of the time (excluding holidays, I am from the South remember). I love salty chips paired with super hot salsa. It is what it is. Another guilty pleasure is the movie Legally Blonde, but we’ve already talked about that.

Day 24: Write about your day.

Christmas Eve was a whirlwind of packing to go to Orlando. For Christmas this year my mother and father-in-law  purchased the entire family a trip to Universal Studios in Florida. That’s right, I got to go to Harry Potter Land.
PicCollageI almost cried when I walked into HP Land. It was like coming home. I know you think I’m being dramatic, but I cannot explain to you how much Harry Potter meant to me growing up and how much it means to me now as an adult. We had butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks and rode a couple of dragons. I decided that Slytherin should be my house, even though I don’t like my house’s bad name. I got a Slytherin mug and Nathan got a Ravenclaw mug, we both got scarves for our house, and we got a Hogwart’s crest blanket. It was amazing and I loved every minute of it.

Day 25: If you could meet one fictional character, whom would it be?

This is the post that will be most difficult for me, mainly because I have no idea how to choose just one. If I said Dumbledore, I would want to say McGonagall; if I said Harry, I would need to include Ron, Hermione, and Ginny. So I’m going to exclude Harry Potter from my list of characters. Doing that makes it a smaller list, but still huge. Would I meet Tom Sawyer and ask him about growing up? Or Kendra and Seth in the Fablehaven Series? There are all the characters in The Great Tree of Avalon series that I fell in love with growing up, as well as Ben and Sorrel and Firedrake in Dragon Rider by Funke. Most recently, there is Alba in The House at the End of Hope Street, so much like me and so different all at once. I just can’t decide. I have read too many books and had too many characters help me find my way to choose just one.

Day 26:Explain why you chose your username.

When I become a published author, I will still teach. I am Mrs. Bazyk at school and as an author I will be C.C. Riley.

This is where I will stop for today. Tomorrow I will catch up the rest of the way. Again, I’m sorry for all the posts all at once, but a family emergency caused me to need to leave town unexpectedly. I will happily tell you all that all is well. Happy Christmas, and any other holiday that you may find yourself celebrating.

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Day 18: A List of Likes

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Day 18 is a day of favorites, but the problem is that I have a lot of favorites, especially in these categories. For example, if you were to ask me what my favorite animal was, I would ask you, “domestic or wild?”  See, there are a lot of different components of favorites to consider. I will do my best, as I am sure Madi will also, but know that in no way is this list exhaustive, nor will it be true tomorrow. 

Me-Button.pngBook: This will be the hardest. I am an avid reader I read usually four-five books a month, and that is a slow month, during the school year. During summer I don’t know how many books I read because there are so many. Right now, I’m asking myself if I should start with my favorite of all time or choose a classic. I can tell you that one of my favorite themes in literature is “things aren’t always what they seem.” My favorite YA book would be Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban which is all about the way things appear versus what they actually are. I also loved The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia. I believe in magic because of books like these. Jane Austen inspires me as a woman, and Sarah Addison Allen helps me to keep my belief in magic, even as an adult. John Green and Sarah Dessen help me stay in touch with my inner teenager so that I can more easily relate to my learners. I’m stopping here now, or I won’t have room for the rest of my favorites. 

 

Movies: So, I’m not a huge movie buff. I want to be, but I get al fidgety. It’s weird, but I can sit and read for hours, but try to get me to sit for an extended period of time for anything else and I start to get all antsy in my pantsy. So, I loved The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and I’ve loved both Hobbit movies so far. I loved all the HP movies. My secret, which is about to no longer be a secret, movie guilty pleasure is Legally Blonde. I watch that movie when I need a girl power or motivation. That’s a pretty huge secret, so don’t tell anyone.

Song: Right now, my favorite song is  easily “Begging You Not To Go” by Tired Pony. First of all, the lyrics are beautiful. I can just imagine these two people who are at the cusp of being in love; it’s the time when moments are both shorter and longer, when every word is poetry and love has never felt so close. There is this line, and it took me a while to interpret it. He says, “We’re the last to fall all around us sleeping bodies Drunken satellites in the orbit of our earth,” and I remember this feeling with Nathan. Your surrounded by people but the gravity between you and the person is so strong it seems to disrupt everything else. The satellites look drunk because of the pull between the two of you. This song, in only eight lines, captures so much about love. 

Food: Easy. Chips and Salsa. Love.

Color: Depends on my mood and the weather. In the winter my color is typically black because I’m solar powered and I start feeling a little bit melancholy. In the summer my favorite color is the color of sunflowers.  

Animal: Domestically speaking it would have to be dogs. I mean, look at these two. They are precious. 

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Wild, I don’t know. Wolves are cool. Nathan likes bears, so I think that’s pretty awesome. Owls are cool, too. And Ravens. I like birds for all the things that they can symbolize, but I would never keep one. Otters are cute. Obviously, I don’t know. 

 

There you go. What are your favorites? 

Day 5: What are your obsessions?

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Another day, another blog post. Madi and I have been writing up a storm the past five days, and you will never guess what happened yesterday! She posted twice, once from the challenge, and once just for me! I was pretty flattered! So, if you’re following me through this journey of life, you should consider following her, too!

Today’s post is all about obsessions. Now, this may come as a surprise to some of you, and for others you’ll just nod your head and smile. My obsessions are wide and varied, but I’m going to share six of them with you.

1. I am obsessed with cleanliness. I think I could probably be diagnosed with OCD. Every night before I go to sleep, really before sleep will ever come to visit me, I have to clean the kitchen. When I clean the kitchen, I have a mental list that I have to follow in order. My office and master bedroom are also part of that list. Surprisingly, I’m not even a little bit weird about the master bathroom. I kind of wish I were.

2. Coffee. I love coffee. I don’t know if coffe should fall under obsession or addiction. I love going to new coffee shops and trying new things. I always go to bed at night-after the kitchen is clean, of course- thinking about the coffee I will get to drink the next morning.

3. Books, books, and more books. This is another obsession that might be better classified as an addiction. I love books. I like being around them and reading them and thinking about them and sharing them with others. I also love pairing books with people. I have this very serious belief that those who don’t like books or hate reading simply haven’t read the right book yet. One book can change ALL of that. You all know what book that was for me!

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4. Smells. I have a really sensitive sniffer, so I’m obsessed with things that smell good. My mom dallied in selling Scentsy, so naturally I have a few burners hanging around the house. At Hobby Lobby there are some great scents, but I especially love the pumpkin one. It pretty much scents up my house year around.

5. When I was in college in my first creative writing course, we did an activity where we had to describe a day at the beach in as much detail as possible. We wrote for a little while, then we tallied up how many times we used the five different senses: taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound. My list was definitely dominated by smell and touch. The professor, one of those life-changing individuals for me, then broke it down. The touch people are the ones you see walking around Wal-Mart with their arm sticking out touching everything they pass. That is me. I like to know how things feel, and I’m weird about clothes and how close people get to me. I think that there is a connection between the way things feel and how things make me feel.

6. I think Harry Potter should probably make this list. If you search for most frequently blogged about topics, you would probably get a top three list that included books, writing, and Harry potter. I can’t even begin to say how much that series and those characters changed the shape of my world.

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This is a small list of my obsessions. There are more, I promise. What are you obsessed with? Feel free to join in the December blog challenge and let us know what your obsessions are too!

December Blog Challenge Day 1: Ten Facts About Myself

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Today marks the first day of a December blog challenge that I am participating in. That means for the next 31 days, you can expect one post a day from me. If I fall behind, I apologize, but I will try my best not to.

 

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So, for day 1, ten things you may or may not know about me:

1. My office was the first completely decorated room in my house. Our house is just right for us. It has a huge backyard with old trees and even a goat in the neighbor’s yard. There are three bedrooms and two bathrooms and the whole place needs updated. When we moved in, everything smelled like smoke, so we had to deep clean, shampoo, and paint everything. We didn’t have a whole lot of money to decorate, but Nathan knew how important the office was to me, so he helped make it happen. We converted the closet to a bookshelf, bought crates to make more bookshelves- I have a lot of books- and found an old library table to use as a desk. It was the first room to be done, and it is still the only complete room in the house.

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2. When I was young and had finally found a passion for reading through Harry Potter, I attended a small private school. I wasn’t supposed to read Harry Potter at school, so I hid Harry in the jacket of another book and read it anyway. It was my first “Banned Book” experience and I think it is one reason that I am so passionate about books now.

3. I have written two novel length works, but I threw out the first one because it was so bad. The characters are still in my head, the story line is still there, but if I ever wanted to revisit that world that I created, I would have to start over. Sometimes starting over is the only option, even though it sucks.

4. I have a weakness for coffee and candles. As I’m writing this, I have a coffee cup full of my new favorite brew from Onyx and a candle burning. For some reason, writing with a candle burning makes me feel closer to all the greats. It’s my version of the football team lovers who do weird things to ensure a win. It’s only weird if it doesn’t work, right?

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5. One of my favorite things in the world is running and exercising. There is this weird stigma that comes with being smart that says you can’t be athletic and vice-versa. My goal is to prove that stigma is wrong to my students and eventually to my own children. Society can have all the stigmas that they want, but I can and will be whomever I want to be.

6. As a freshman in college I was a double major in math and English. I ended up dropping math because my brain had a hard time switching between the two subjects. The real truth behind that is I got a B in trigonometry and thought that a B meant that I didn’t know enough to move forward.

7. My perfect, but average, day would go like this:

Wake up early and write while drinking coffee.

Clean house.

Lunch

Workout, attend Yoga or run

Go to the bookstore and buy a new book to read

Read the book and write some more

Cook and eat dinner with Nathan

Read more

Bed.

8. One of the hardest things for me to write are book reviews. For some reason I always feel like I’m not doing the book justice and it takes me forever. I’ve also seen first hand how writing strong reviews has gotten me into contact with some fantastic writers. So, even thought I struggle with them, I keep on writing them to expand my horizons and do things that don’t always come easy to me.

9. Second to my office, my favorite place to be is in a bookstore. I love being surrounded by so many words. It is a feeling that is at once humbling and inspiring. I don’t have super nice clothes or a perfectly decorated house because I spend a significant portion of my budget on new books. My co-facilitator explained books in a way that really clicked for me. He said that in order to gain wisdom, one must have experience. The only substitute for experience is reading books.

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10. I am a total introvert. The only person that I can handle being around all the time is Nathan, mainly because he is perfect. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time alone reading. I played sports and was active at school, so by the time I got home, I was done. Now, I pair the reading and writing with running. Even with as perfect as Nathan is, I still require a significant amount of time by myself. That’s why I get up so early to write; it fulfills two purposes. It is also why I work out right after school. I don’t know how I would make it otherwise.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson- John Green and David Levithan

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I’m staring hard at my copy of Will Grayson, Will Grayson waiting on some from of genius to strike. Every once in a while you’ll read a book and it will be exactly what your heart and soul needed. It will speak to a part of yourself that you have bottled up, a part that you force into silence. Not every book can have this effect on you; if it did you would be the tattered remains of yourself instad of the whole that you are. Every once in a while there will be a book that will ever so gently force you into seeing the world a little bit differently. Will Grayson, Will Grayson was that book for me.

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This book is the story of two teenage boys, both named Will Grayson, and how they cross paths one cold night in Chicago. The two Will Grayson’s lives are then linked, as they end up sharing in the story of one very large, very gay teenager named Tiny Cooper. This book, this story of lives and how they become intertwined, is the story of what it means to grow up. It is the story of loving yourself and loving others, for exactly who they are.

My book club of three read Will Grayson, Will Grayson kind of on a whim, and it is now in my top three books that we have read. I just messaged my friends in book club and asked them to share one truth that they learned from Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and this is our list:

1. “When things break, it’s not the actual breaking that prevents them from getting back together again. It’s because a little piece gets lost- the two remaining ends couldn’t fit together even if they wanted to. The whole shape has changed.”
2. Sometimes, the only way to heal is to accept how you’re feeling, and accept that it’s okay. You can’t wish away your problems.
3. Your best friend may be completely opposite of you.
4. Being open-minded is important, otherwise you might miss the opportunity of a great friendship.
5. Sometimes, you have to work hard to get what you want, but you should NEVER change who you are to get it.

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I could keep going. I could flip through the pages of Will Grayson, Will Grayson and find nuggets of truth hidden between lines of perfectly wrought teen angst. Instead, I’m going to talk to you about characters. They were so real. When I finished the book, I hugged it to my chest because there was this feeling, like a “the show must go on” feeling that told me those characters and their lives would continue, even though I closed the book.

Will Grayson 1: “Caring doesn’t sometimes lead to misery. It always does.”

Will Grayson 2: “i am constantly torn between killing myself and killing everyone around me.”

Jane: “Some people have lives; some people have music.”

Tiny Cooper: “Nothing’s wrong. Every thing’s right. Things couldn’t be righter. Things could be less tired. They could be less busy. They could be less caffeinated. But they couldn’t be righter.”

I’m sitting here, still staring at my copy of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, still trying to do this book justice, and I just don’t know if it is possible. Here is what I can say about Will Grayson (one and two), about Tiny Cooper and Jane and Gideon, about loving yourself and not being afraid to love others:

This book is one of those books that I would call life-changing. It’s the type of book that causes you to see the world a little bit differently. It’s the kind of book you walk away from changed. Now, go buy it from your local bookstore, or a Barnes and Noble, or even on amazon. Just go buy it.

This Is Not a Writing Manual: Notes for the Young Writer in the Real World

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I’m walking around Barnes and Noble, tall pumpkin spice soy latte in hand, the weight of the journal in my purse weighing down my arm. You see, I’m actually at that point in my writing career where I feel like a real writer. I’m not published and I don’t have an agent, but I get up everyday with writing on my mind. I go to bed every night with thoughts of my work in progress in the forefront of my mind. Every night I go to sleep hoping that I will dream something that will work for this character or a plot twist that will liven up my scenes. Writing is really on my mind all the time.

So, back to the story. I’m wandering around Barnes and Noble, trying to decide what I want to purchase with my book allowance that week. I’ve been struggling with some parts of writing, so I go to the writing section. I sit my bag down, grab several books on writing off the shelf, and sit in the middle of the aisle to flip through the pages of books with titles that promise to help me sell my novel.

But that’s not what I’m looking for. Do I want to eventually sell my novel? Duh. Don’t ask me stupid questions like that. Of course I want to sell my novel, but it’s so much more than that. I want to be a writer. I want to eat, sleep, and breath writing and the writing life. When I saw This Is Not a Writing Manual by Kerri Majors, I’m not going to lie, the first thing that attracted me was the cover. It’s kind of creepy, but I love it. The second thing was the title. Finally, something that just wrote about writing, not how to get published or how to sell. I wanted -needed- a book to tell me that all writers go through the same struggles. This book is exactly what I needed.

In the introduction, Majors states that the book “is not a manual, textbook, guidebook, or handbook…” Good, because I definitely wasn’t looking for any of those things. She goes on to say that she likes to think of the book as “therapy for writers.” Yes. I had found exactly what I was looking for.

The book is broken into three parts: The Writing Process, The Writing Life, and Looking Ahead: Supporting Yourself, Getting Published, and Not Getting Published. Awesome, I thought. Those are all important topics to me. Throughout the book, she outlines things that worked for her and things that didn’t work for her. The prose is conversational. I felt like the entire time I was reading, I was listening to Majors talk to me about the craft and life of a writer. I felt like she and I could be sitting in my favorite coffee shop sharing stories and me, being the obvious fan girl that I am, taking in all of her advice like it was a life saving medicine.

Here is a list of quality pieces of advice that I got from this wonderful, amazing, enlightening novel:

1. Protect your writing time (10)

2. Read, and don’t feel guilty about it (15)

3. It’s totally legit to eavesdrop (16)

4. Be brave, and leave the ego elsewhere (54)

5. Writing is difficult, and it should be (98)

6. And the last tidbit I’m sharing here (I’m not telling you all the good stuff, you really have to read it all!) is this: “If you’re writing just to get published, you won’t be writing for ver long, and you almost certainly won’t get published. You have to write for pleasure.” (145).

Now, I must tell you, this isn’t a comprehensive list. I enjoyed reading this novel so much that at the end of each chapter I found myself writing my own thoughts about what she had said and how it had affected me.

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So, needless to say, I really loved this book. I loved it so much that I’m trying to miraculously find enough money to purchase a copy for all of my learners who participate in Writer’s Block Writing Club. I want them to read this at the age that I wish I could have read it. I loved it so much I went to the author’s website and left her a comment!

So, if you are writerly, go buy this book! You won’t regret it!

The Witch of Little Italy

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“Regular people have such a hard time listening to the low hum of instinct.”

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Well, Suzanne, here’s what my instinct says: I don’t care what I have to do, where I have to go, or what kind of crazy schemes or fraternity style hazing I have to go through. I want to be a Lost Witch, too.

There, I’ve said it. I loved this book so much I wanted to be a character in it.

I feel like I’m one of those lucky people because I get to be friends with some of the most inspiring people in my world. Now, I’m not friends with Suzanne Palmieri, yet, but I am friends with one of my very favorite creative writing professors from college, and any book that she recommends quickly makes it to the top of my “To Read” pile.

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This book did not disappoint! There are so many things that I loved: the characters, the setting, the ending, the relationships, the mystery, the love, the MAGIC! See, I told you, so many things…

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So, a quick synopsis that doesn’t even begin to cover the true essence of the story is that it is about a girl who finds herself. But it is so much more.

When Eleanor Amore finds herself young, pregnant, and alone, she sneaks out to the Bronx where her grandmother and two great aunts live, along with some other individuals that they have adopted. But there is a part of her past that she can’t remember, a part that involves her family. When she was younger she stayed with them, but she can’t remember anything before the day that she left them that summer when she was ten years old.

Called to her family by “The Sight,” something that all the Amore women have and something that grows stronger in Eleanor everyday, she goes and lives with them. Facing a pregnancy and a history that she can’t remember, Eleanor becomes Elli, putting down roots in an unlikely place that she comes to call home.

In my adult life, I have spent a lot of time reading YA and middle grade literature because I have a longing for magic. I need it. Sometimes the reality of the world feels crushing and overwhelming and I need that spark of fantasy to keep me going. The Witch of Little Italy has that magical spark in an adult book. Are there dragons? No, but there are people who are often the worst kind of dragons. Is there magic? Yes, but not the kind that requires a wand. And most importantly, there is love. Family love, new child love, garden love, the love of something new and the love of re-finding something lost.

I know, I know. I sound so sappy! I just can’t help it. This book started a book-lution for me! I had no idea that there were adult books that had that spark of magic that I was looking for. Suzanne Palmieri captures a lot of human emotion and seamlessly interweaves the magical with reality.

So, visit her newly redesigned website: www.suzannepalmieri.com. When you’re done, go to Barnes and Noble or your favorite local bookstore and buy The Witch of Little Italy. I can’t imagine a world where you would be disappointed.

Other Books by Suzanne Palmieri:

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I’ve read this one, too. I’m kind of an author fanatic, so I obsessively read everything by that author when I find words that I love and can’t get out of my head. This novel is historical fiction, so a different genre all together. Either way, I felt the same connection to the characters and loved the entire story.

Coming Soon by Suzanne Palmieri:
The Witch of Belladonna Bay and I’m really looking forward to this one!