Monthly Archives: February 2015

Watchmen

Technically, it’s still Thursday in Honolulu for another twenty minutes, so…Book Club Thursday!

I JUST finished Watchmen by Alan Moore, and I’m kind of reeling.  It’s very dark and very gritty, and it’s…a weird ending.  I mean technically, I guess that counts as happy.

Watchmen is a graphic novel about a universe mirroring ours, exploring what would happen if superheros were real.  The story itself mainly follows Rorshach as he investigates someone trying to kill “masked adventurers,” most of which were his old friends.  Of course, all of the living superheros are drawn in for the same reason.  Most of them are just ordinary men in masks, but one is the equivalent of a god, knowing the future, able to teleport, and able to control other substances.  He is America’s ultimate weapon, and when he leaves, war threatens to break out of the entire world.  Between that and the “Masked Killer,” two other old adventurers realize something bigger is happening and tries to save humanity.  The story is intertwined with a pirate adventure story of a man who goes mad trying to save his town from a damned ship and her ghostly-esque crew.

Since this is a graphic novel, some mention should be made of the art (illustrated by Dave Gibbons), but…I don’t know that much about art.  It’s very clear, clarifying and enhancing the words at every angle, and very ominous.  The colors and sharp angles match the grittiness of the story.  Actually, the colors begin bright and become more muted as the story gets darker and more hopeless.

Overall, it’s a warning about handing too much power to an individual and story about the miracle of everyday life.

My most favorite thing about this book: There’s a scene where Laurie and Dan save some tenants of a burning building, and then have sex.  Laurie starts talking about how she hopes it’s “started his appetite,” and Dan says it has.  When she asks what he wants to do, his answer is hilarious.  Possibly my favorite scene in the book.

My least favorite thing about this book: Who Laurie’s father turns out to be.

Who I would most like to recommend this book to: If you like graphic novels, or if you are looking to try one, this is a good one.  You don’t sacrifice story for the format.

Where this book sits on my bookshelf:  After Miss Piggy’s Rules and before Lamb by Christopher Moore.

Book Challenge

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Random thoughts about this week.

  • I finally saw Jurassic Park last night.  For me, this counts as an accomplishment: 1, I read the book in 2013 for the express purpose of finally watching the movie and that’s only just now happened.  And 2, I got the movie from the library and it’s kind of overdue.
  • It’s been snowing this morning, so I cancelled my dentist appointment but I still have to go to work.  Which is fine, I guess, considering I’m being very expensive this week and really need the hours.
  • This is how I’m being expensive: tonight, dinner and drinks with a friend while we watch the Carolina/State game (which reminds me, must find a Carolina shirt to wear…), Saturday driving up to Chapel Hill and going to be eating out up there practically all weekend, so gas and food money.  Plus, I am buying this, you can’t talk me out of it, I’m ordering it as soon as I publish this post.
  • I have however continued to refrain from buying books.  It’s been two months, and I’m kinda proud of myself.  Also feel like I’m finally making some progress as far as getting books I already own read.  Working on Watchmen now, stay tuned for Book Club Thursday this week.
  • Tonight is my first tutoring “job.”  I decided to volunteer and at first I just said I’d babysit.  Then I thought, what the heck, and put down tutoring too.  Then she actually asked me to do tutoring and I realized I made a horrible mistake and now I’m going to be helping a kindergartener get ready for first grade.  Wish us both luck.
  • Because of that and the game, I won’t be able to watch the final Agent Carter or Parks and Rec live, which I’m both sad and relieved about.
  • The month of May is going to kill me.  It’s when the first draft of my book is supposed to be finished, plus Sarah Dessen’s new book and Pitch Perfect 2 are coming out, plus the Brad Paisley concert is happening.  I’m going to put in for meet and greet again, maybe this time I’ll actually get it.
  • How do you keep yourself accountable for imaginary deadlines you made up?
  • …It’s cold, and my laptop needs to be plugged in.  Carry on with your day.
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Gone Girl

I finally gave into the hype and read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  Initially I was going to use it as my “Book that was turned into a movie.”  Instead, I will use it as my Thriller, because I probably won’t read another and I have several other books that were turned into movies.  As always, spoilers ahead.

Lately, books have been taking me longer to read.  The ones I read quickly are because I force myself to finish them quickly.  But Gone Girl I read in three days simply because I couldn’t stop.  It’s not much of a mystery, especially with movie spoilers all over the place.  The reader pretty much knows who did it from the outset.  And yet…there are still questions.

The book takes a while to get a hold of.  First, the reader is subjected to Amy’s diary as her side of the story.  It leaves it pretty cut and dry that Nick is the bad guy and she’s the victim.  Especially since, even though Nick’s section is also written in first person, it continuously feels like he’s holding back information.  Amy’s diary is so convincing that, even when we see who she really is, it’s hard to shake the feeling that she’s the good guy.

But the truth is, nobody is innocent in this book.  Amy’s a psychopath, Nick’s a cheater, even Desi is emotionally manipulative and possessive.  It’s not even that they’re all human, it’s that they’re all, to some degree, bad people, which is not something that books often explore.

The ending is a new strange twist.  With what we know of Amy, it makes perfect sense, even though you’d never see it coming.  Some people I’ve discussed the book with don’t find the ending satisfying.  I, on the other hand, think everybody ended up pretty much where they could have expected.  Amy’s too smart to get caught and Nick’s too caught up in her to go anywhere.

Quick word on the movie: I didn’t like it nearly as much.  It didn’t feel like we got to see the insides of their minds as much

My most favorite thing about this book: The fact that Nick didn’t kill his wife, but he’s still shown to be a bad guy.  Not all bad guys are abusers and murderers.

My least favorite thing about this book: I really hated the scene where Amy gets her money stolen because, when I read it, I was still in “Amy as victim” mode and it makes me feel very sorry for her.  However, my absolute least favorite thing is that she accused someone of raping her and was shown to be lying in order to get revenge.  I hate when anyone in fiction claims rape and is then proved to be lying because that is such a statistical minority compared to those who were raped and aren’t believed.

Who I would most like to recommend this book to: Anyone who likes a thriller, I guess.  That isn’t usually me, but the fact that this one was written by a woman made me very happy.

Where this book sits on my bookshelf:  After Beastly by Alex Flinn and before J. Smith.

Book Challenge

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I kept putting this post off because it felt like a lot of work

Ladies and gentlemen…Traditional and Roth IRAs.

A few weeks ago, I had a meeting with a financial adviser to discuss opening a retirement account.  “But you’re only 22!” you might say.  Yes I am only 22, but apparently you’re never too young to start planning for retirement.  However, the meeting was less than helpful, so I thought I would try to find some things out for myself.  I used to write articles about financial issues based on a few keywords and internet research, so I thought I would try it again.

What is an IRA?

An IRA is a type of retirement account.  It stands for Individual Retirement Arrangements.  It’s different from a 401K because a person does this on their own instead of through their place of employment.  If you qualify for a 401K, you most likely want to use that because your employer will often match a certain amount of your contributions.  However, if you’re like me and are only employed part-time, or are self-employed for instance, you can make your own IRA so that you still have something.

What’s the difference between traditional and Roth?

The Internal Revenue Service has a chart here, but a lot of the difference is about when it’s taxed.  With a Traditional IRA, you can put your annual contribution as a deduction on your taxes, but then the money is taxed as income when you withdraw it.  If you have the Roth IRA, you don’t get a deduction, but then it isn’t taxed when you withdraw it.  Unless, that is, you withdraw it early.

When am I supposed to withdraw it?

You have to wait until you’re 59 and a half years old before you should withdraw from either IRA.  While you can withdraw at any time, withdrawing before that time (except in certain situations) could result in a 10% tax.  Plus, with the Roth, you’d have to pay the income tax.  Also, with traditional IRAs, you have to take out a certain amount every year once you reach 70 and half years old.  (What’s up with all this “and a half” stuff?  Is the government 9?)

So which one do I pick?

…I don’t know.  I think it depends on if you think you’re making more money now than you will in 40 years or if you think you’ll be making more money then.  Not that there’s really a way to know that.  All I present to you here is the difference.  All of my information comes from irs.gov.  Oh, one more thing…

Why open and IRA account instead of just a savings account?

Because the IRA account is likely to make more money.  It’s also a little more risk, but it can build more.  And you should always save for retirement, unless you want to continue working until you die.  Or you plan to hit the jackpot.

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Shadow Cabinet

Before Book Club Thursday, I just want to say…I love Chapel Hill.  I’m thinking about all of my friends who are still there right now, but mostly the family’s of Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammed Abu-Salha, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.  I am so, so sorry for your loss.

I wish I had more words, but I don’t.  I’m saddened and angry (but mostly saddened).  And since I have no words on the subject, I’m not going to try to make sense of it here.  From here, I’m going to try to write my normal BCT post.


The last time I was in Chapel Hill, I pre-ordered Maureen Johnson’s The Shadow Cabinet from one of my favorite independent bookstores, Flyleaf Books.  It arrived this week and I read it in less than 24 hours.  I couldn’t stop reading it.  I kept wanting to know what was going to happen next.  As usual, there will be spoilers.

This is the third book in the Shades of London series.  I thought it was the last, but it’s not which makes me SUPER GRATEFUL that Maureen Johnson wrapped up last book’s cliffhanger in this book instead of leaving it to the next.  This book shows Rory’s transition from student to government agent while she tries to reconcile her old and new lives together.  Meanwhile, Rory still has to find Charlotte and she still wants to find Stephen.  But when protecting him leads to a crisis involving the very barrier between London and the spirit world, the team has to find a way to stop it.

It’s a great book.  The writing is both clear and suspenseful at the same time.  It’s mostly written in first person and Rory’s voice is fantastic.  She shares about her grief, about her determination to work around it, even jokes as she tells her story.  Also, the characters are developed well enough that they’re very consistent from book to book even as they grow and develop.

…ok, I think that’s all I can say this morning.  The first book is called The Name of the Star and you should definitely pick it up.

My most favorite thing about this book: Probably the scenes with Rory and Stephen in the…spirit world, I guess it’s called.  Watching Stephen become himself again and seeing how they work their way out of it, as well as how the world itself adapts and changes, is fascinating.

My least favorite thing about this book: I’m very sad for Charlotte.  I mean, it makes sense, and it was a good story choice, but I’m very sad for what became of her.

Who I would most like to recommend this book to: Anyone who likes ghost stories, especially shows like Ghost Whisperer.

Where I read this book: In a little town called Pawnee, Indiana, 2017.

Where this book sits on my bookshelf:  After The Madness Underneath, which is book two of the same series and before The Faerie Path by Frewin Jones.

Book Challenge

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The Bucket List

Face it: Everybody has one.  Even if that isn’t what they call it, everyone has a bucket list.  It’s the things they would like to do, the things they would regret not doing if they knew they would die tomorrow.  Mine currently has 107 items.  I know.  Lots of things.  These 107 items include career items, like finish writing a novel, hear a song I wrote on the radio, and work on a Disney princess movie (by the way Disney, I already have a story in mind and I am totally available).  There are also some experiences I’d like to have like seeing the Grand Canyon and the Northern Lights and having lunch with Sarah Dessen.  There are some items that are going to take a little more time, like learn to play guitar, take a cross-country road trip, visit every Major League Baseball stadium in America.  And there are the growing up ones, where I want to get married and have and adopt kids.

I wrote them all down.  I came across them the other day, and it’s serving as a really nice reminder.  See, I’m currently living with my mom and working part-time at my local library.  Sometimes I worry that nothing is changing, that on December 31, 2015, I will look back and say, “I am in exactly the same place I was last year.”

But looking over my list, I accomplished several things in 2014.  I drank Irish coffee (in Ireland, of all places), I walked across the London Bridge, I studied at Oxford, and worked at Disney World.  But these were all big things that I mostly only managed because I was still in school.  But I also managed to drink a beer at a Brad Paisley concert while he sang “Alcohol,” which has been kind of a huge dream of mine since I was 18.

I’m currently working on the “finish a novel” thing.  The waltzing, guitar playing, and two-stepping I could learn, if I would just, you know, get started.  Having lunch with Sarah Dessen is going to be a little trickier, but maybe once I’m a published novelist, we can bond over being Tar Heel girls. (In case you haven’t noticed, Sarah Dessen is my favorite writer of all time.  It’s why she gets so many mentions.)  Some of the items are big and are going to take more resources than I have right now.  But some of them aren’t and I could do before the end of 2015.

And I think, if I didn’t finish them, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  The “traveling to every MLB stadium in America” one was my dad’s, and I want to do it because he didn’t get to.  So maybe, when I’m gone, someone who loves me will find my list and start working on the rest.

The point is to take advance of every opportunity you’ve got, but also to work towards what you have to make happen yourself.  It’s a balance.

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Long Story Short, Continued.

I did finish the short story book this week, but that was it as far as books go. And I finished it Tuesday, so I have no excuse.

Everything I said last week still applies.  Short story books are hard to read in a few sittings.  All of the stories were very well written (I knew they would be; Marianne Gingher doesn’t take poor quality writing) but they were not all my cup of tea.  Since this book is different than many of the books I’ve talked about, I’m going to write this post differently.  Instead of an overall review, I’m going to share a little bit about my three favorite stories from the collection.

“Registry” by Sarah Dessen: this is the first story I actually read out of the collection, because Sarah Dessen is my favorite author of all time.  Her novels are all young adult, but the characters in registry are a little older and the situation a little more mature.  She uses the perfect amounts of subtlety and sensory descriptions to tell an amazing story.

“In New York” by Doug Marlette: I think my favorites in this collection were stories that were both realistic and things I would never do in a million years.  Being Southern, I loved how the main character reacted in this story.  Marlette perfectly balanced the attempt to live in a world while still belong in another.

“Devil’s Island” by Margaret Maron: this one actually isn’t realistic, and it’s one of the shorter stories in the collection, but at the end of the page my jaw dropped.  It’s so subtle and clever that you have to consider what she’s telling you very carefully but the payoff is incredible.

You might not love every story in the collection, but you can definitely find something that speaks to you, especially if you love North Carolina writers.

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