December 31, 2010

The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson

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Date Started: December 2010
Date Finished: December 31, 2011

Summary: Sophie Hunter is an average young 15 year living in the 1930's Scotland. She goes to boarding school, but comes home on the weekend to live with her Great Aunt Tabitha. Sophie gets a rather startling message from a medium that has come to her great aunt's house. When this medium winds up dead, Sophie and her friend, Mikael, decide to conduct their own investigation that leads them into the dark political works of an alternate history Europe.

Likes: This novel is similar to taking a Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray and combined it with the dieselpunk nature of Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, yet it thrives as it's own story. I like the alternate history aspect of the story. What if... is always the greatest question a writer can ask and this story definitely answers the author's question of what would happen if the England had actually lost at Waterloo. The world would be a very different landscape and I like the author's reimaging of the world. I also like that the world wasn't an info dump either. The world starts off like an other world, but as a reader you realize that something is not quite right. Finally you learn what makes this world different. I always liked that the worldbuilding was done in a classroom where characters can discuss and critique some of the aspects of their world.

Sophie's character was well-written and very like 15 year old girl. Sometimes she wondered why she was being treated like a five year old when she sometimes acted like a child. She hated being teased, threw fits, got depressed, but she also fought against the constraints of society. When she realized her feelings for a certain character, I thought it was hilarious and I'm curious to know what becomes of their relationship in the other books.

Some of the paranormal aspects were crazy cool, I like the idea of the Dictaphone and typewriter being used as spiritual items that contained thoughts of the dead on a different wavelength. The spiritual photography was pretty awesome too.

Dislikes: The paranormal aspects felt a little like plot devices at some points and I think the remedy for that would have been for Sophie not to always get it right. These aspects made it a little too easy for Sophie to succeed and I can't imagine that they'd be that easy, even for her. Granted the story is already long enough as it is, it's just something I noticed. I'm curious to see what role it plays in the subsequent books.
Overall: Like Matched, the story reads like the first a series. It has to set up the rules of the world. It's not what I thought it was going to be. It's not a steampunk and it's not Victorian. It's a genre bender mixing in paranormal elements with dieselpunk but ultimately it's an alternate history. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Recommended by: I was looking for a steampunk reading challenge and failed to find one, but I found some intriguing websites. Finding Wonderland had a steampunk week and recommended this book. . This book was highly recommended, so I decided I had to check it out. I'm glad that I did.

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Matched by Ally Condie

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Date Started: December 24, 2010
Date Finished: December 25, 2010

Summary: Cassia lives a pretty normal life. She works as a data sorter, goes to second school, and has recently been Matched to her best friend, Xander. When she goes to look at her Match's profile on her card, the screen shows someone else, Ky Markham, an adopted boy from the Outer Provinces. Cassia now must decide to follow along with The Society's wishes or fight for the one she truly loves.

Likes: I love the worldbuilding. It's one of the things that attracts me to dystopian literature in the first place. I like the idea of a society trying to be a utopia, but cracking at the seems. This novel reminds me of bits and pieces of The Giver and The Hunger Games, but has it's own uniqueness. It's a bit like reading Hunger Games from the point of view of another district. I also like that most of the book deals with the aesthetic side of what a utopia/dystopia decides to keep. How can someone narrow it down to just 100 of everything? How do they choose? It definitely raises a lot of more thought provoking questions as far as The Society is concerned.

The story is more about having the power to choose more so than love itself, though it centered around a romantic relationship, it is interesting how the overall fight is just to have the power to choose something small to something large. I like the overall theme of decisions and choices. The twist at the end was something I didn't see coming. I also like that her family tried to find ways to help Cassia within the constraints of their world. I also thought Cassia's grandfather was awesome and I wish more old people would show up in YA (only if they're as awesome as this grandfather who basically set the whole story in motion, though it would have been nice to have Cassia take some more agency with this decision as well).
Dislikes: For most of the book, to me, it seems like there's a lack of urgency. It picks up in the last fourth of the book. I think the book could have benefited from showing more of the contrast between Cassia's love interests, Ky and Xander. I wanted to see the tension between the two lives, because she is essentially living a double life. I never got the sense of just how hard it was for Cassia to choose between the two of them. The guys didn't really seem to become fully realized as characters and perhaps they would have been if there was a tension between Cassia's life.

Overall: I'm excited to see where this series is going. (not Mockingjay excited, but still) I want to know what happens to Cassia and Ky and the Society. There were still some minor glitches in the story and it still reads a bit like a debut, but it's obvious that this series is going to take us somewhere awesome and I'm curious to see what happens to these characters. .

Recommended by: I saw reviews floating around the internet about this and was unsure. I've been let down by books before in the past. I saw one negative review and was a little less skeptical about the hype and was able to seriously consider reading it. My friend T (who really needs to get a book blog) recommended it to me because it was dystopian. It's not exactly what I want our dystopian to be like in terms of story, but it definitely gives some good ideas for worldbuilding. 

 
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Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

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Date Started: December 22, 2010
Date Finished: December 24, 2010

Summary: Anna is shipped off to a boarding school at 17 away from her friends and her family. On top of that she's in a foreign country, granted that it's Paris, but she still doesn't speak the language. Anna settles into things and makes friends and meets Etienne St. Clair, who is hot and British, and has a girlfriend. She can't help but feel attracted to him, even if he's technically off limits.

Likes: I loved this book. I'm surprised I did, because when reading the summary, it doesn't sound like a book I would ever read. I mean boarding school stories aren't really my thing, reading about teenagers in other countries makes me a bit jealous (even though I went to London for a week when I was 15, that hardly counts, but it's more than a lot of people), and romantic relationships? Ugh... not for me. But when I read the book, I was pleasantly surprised.

I really liked Anna's character and how accessible and easy to relate her character was. I could understand her frustration at being shipped off to boarding school. I think I connect to this story so much because when I was 17, I started college and I was on my own. Granted it was my choice, but still I felt the apprehension and trepidation Anna felt when she was alone for the first time.

The romance, though cheesy (see warning below) was probably one of the best in terms of natural progression. It starts off slowly, as friends, then good friends, then so and so forth. It doesn't start with mind blowing OMG I'm totally in love type of things that has saturated YA in recent years and turned me off from that aspect in general. The voice is fresh which saves it from being melodramatic when dramatic things happen.

Dislikes: The story starts off kind of slow, but it takes off when the big event happens. I thought it was going to go one way, but it took another direction. I mean, when I figured out where it was going, it was still predictable after that point and the romance was a little cheesy at times (but that's coming from someone who doesn't like romance that much anyway, so your mileage will vary), but it's bearable. Maybe it was just me rushing to find out what happened in the end, but I felt like some parts were rushed and/or glossed over. It didn't hurt the book, but it still would have been interesting to read (or at least humorous).

Overall: I didn't really think I'd enjoy this book as much as I did. I mean, Anna and the French Kiss... ugh... what can I expect from a book title like that? But I was pleasantly surprised. This book reminded me why I love reading YA. I love getting nostalgic about the good times and the bad times of high school. When I think about it, I had a lot of good times in high school. It's not nearly as bad as I make it out to seem. At any rate, this book was just adorable.

Recommended by: John Green! (and a bunch of people on the internet, but mainly him) How could I dismiss a book who has been endorsed by John Green? It really is like if he and Maureen Johnson had a book baby with John Green's voice and Maureen Johnson's style.

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Mistwood by Leah Cypess

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Date Started: December 2010
Date finished: December 22, 2010

Summary: Isabel is a shifter and she has been "captured" by the Prince to protect him. Isabel has to struggle to relearn her fading powers and deal with a shocking secret that tests her loyalties.

Likes: I liked the concept of the novel. An all powerful Shifter from legend, learning to adapt and re-learn her skills and protect a Prince. I also like the idea of someone who has a duty to two people, like a servant with two masters. I was curious to see who Isabel's allegiances belonged to and how she going to justify her decisions. I have to say my favorite character was Clarisse. She stood out to me because she was the one with the most personality. She was bitter, cold, and calculating. I liked her and I think she was the most dynamic character in the story. The story and folklore surrounding the Shifter was pretty cool as well. I like the fact that she didn't really live up to the legend in the way that people were expecting and maybe even hoping for.

Dislikes: I liked this novel well enough, but it felt like something was missing that I can't exactly pinpoint. I just wanted more. More battles, more political intrigue, more betrayal, and even more romance (which is weird because I'm not a fan of romance) Perhaps it was the POV too, the third person omniscient felt a little distancing in my opinion and could have possibly worked better in first person. I also felt that there wasn't enough hints dropped early on to justify the plot twists at the end and the twists come a little too late for me. I know that the twists serve to help the reader and Isabel understand her problem, but I think the story suffered a bit because we don't get enough of how Isabel reacts to that problem. What if she had learned these important things early on? It would definitely have heightened the tension even more. The stakes weren't high enough because Isabel was pretty distant and it was hard to connect to the characters.

Overall: This is another case in which I liked the writing more than the story itself.(i.e. Graceling, which I actually like a bit more) It was reminiscent of a fairytale, which can be whimsical but runs the risk of telling too much and not showing enough and distancing us from the characters. Maybe I just don't like YA fantasy as much as I think/want to because every time I read it, I'm a bit disappointed. I'm always in love with the writing because it is the classic fairytale/fable type of writing, but maybe since that's a standard of the genre, I'm expecting something to just blow me out of the water with characters I can connect too. Unfortunately, this book didn't do it for me either.

Recommend by: My friend, U, got this book at the library and the cover was pretty so I wanted to read it. My other friend, T, read it as well. I think the consensus is that it was all right, but not great. It treads lightly and it kind of reads like a polished draft, but definitely could have used some expansion. That being said, I'm interested in what other works this author puts out. I'm always trying to convince myself that I like YA fantasy, this book hasn't convinced me, but I'm willing to give this author another try simply because I like her style. 

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December 23, 2010

Blog Plans for 2011

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Next quarter is my last quarter of school and coincidentally, it also my least busiest as far as classes are concerned. My job is seasonal, which is alright, but the problem is finding another job to cover the rent when the financial aid runs out. That being said, I will have a lot of time on my hands and I want to take my blogging to the next level. I enjoy blogging and connecting with other people. I notice that I jump from community to community, whether it be book bloggers and struggling writers etc... I've met a lot of really cool people from all over the world. Now that I presumably have a lot of time on my hands, I want to be more consistent with posts, subjects, and overall have a more coherent blog. I don't want to set a definite schedule, but I'd definitely like to update more not just with book reviews, but other things as well.

I want to narrow the focus of this blog a bit more to just YA fiction and web fiction. I will most likely read literary books just for the sake of reading them or whether I have to read them for class (like for my thesis and special studies), but I'll most likely say less about them than I have in the past or at least try to get more active on goodreads. 

Books
I think I might open my blog up to accepting ARCs and things of that nature. I'll will research the idea further. I definitely will try to read more books during the week.

Book Challenges
  1. Take part of 100+ challenge again.
  2. Take part in the 2011 Debut Author Challenge.
  3. Take part in the Contemps Challenge
  4. Take part in the Steampunkery Book Challenge.
  5. Find a Dystopian Book Challenge.
  6. A PoC book challenge is just a given. Probably need to read more about cultures that I'm unfamiliar with. 
Writing
It would be cool to write more flash fiction on here. Originally, I wanted my senior thesis to be a single starting of a novel, but I think it might be best to work with several short stories that I can send out and build my publishing cred.

I don't know if this is cool or not, but I also would like to post first drafts on here as well, (after the quarter is over so I don't get in trouble for possible self-plagiarism), the revision process, and hopefully a link to a polished piece in some fancy literary magazine. (one can dream right). At the very least, I'd like to chronicle my thesis and special studies classes.

Personal Posts
I've moved my personal posts to a tumblr (I gave in, I'm sorry), so if you would still like to read about my personal life such as school, love, and life after graduating college, then jump aboard and join the Adventures of a Twenty-Something.

I'm going on hiatus on this blog (I'll probably be posting sparingly at Adventures of a Twenty-Something), but I'll be back Jan 1, maybe with a giveaway (and reviews), so have fun and stay safe over the holidays.



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December 7, 2010

PoC Debut/PoC Challenge

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PoC Debuts
  1. The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
  2. The Trouble With Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante
  3. Illegal by Bettina Restrepo
  4. What Can't Wait by Ashley Hope Perez
  5. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
  6. Teenie by Christopher Grant
  7. Wildefire by Karsten Knight
PoC
  1. Jazz in Love by Neesha Meminger
  2. Huntress by Malinda Lo
  3. Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon
  4.  
    Updated continuously. 
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        December 6, 2010

        Debut Author Challenge 2011

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        Here are (some) of books that I plan to read for the Debut Author Challenge 2011
        1. Across the Universe by Beth Revis (Jan)
        2. Vesper by Jeff Sampsen (Jan)
        3.  Choker by Elizabeth Woods (Jan)
        4. Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton (Feb)
        5. Memento Nora by Angie Smibert (April)
        6. Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton (Feb)
        7. The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney (Feb)
        8. The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver (Feb)
        9. I am J by Cris Beam (March)
        10. Wither by Lauren DeStefano (March)
        11. Those that Wake by Jesse Karp (March)
        12. Unlocked by Ryan G. Van Cleave (March)
        13. Enclave by Ann Aguirre (April)
        14. Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton (April)
        15. Bumped by Megan McCafferty (April)
        16. Future Imperfect by K. Ryer Breese
        17. Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier (May)
        18. I'll be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan (May)
        19. Divergent by Veronica Roth (May)  
        20. Possession by Elana Johnson (July)
        I think that's enough for now. I'll add more around May. 








          Now, I self imposed my own rules because I've been known to cheat at these things. I'm only using one book per challenge and for the Debut Author Challenge, I'm going to make sure there's no overlap so that I am maximizing my reading potential




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          #Reverb10: December 6: Make

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          December 6: Make.
          What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

          The last thing I made was a bunk bed fort with the kid that I was babysitting. It says Merry Christmas and The Elf's Workshop and it was made out of construction paper. I also spent about half an hour cutting out Christmas Holly Leaves (twenty six) and all that christmas stuff. It was actually quite fun, but I'm always reserved when meeting new people, so up until the end I was a little shy. I also felt bad for leaving the house a bit of a mess and leaving dishes in the sink. Hopefully they won't mind that too much, but other than that it was pretty fun.

          Something I want to make? I really wish I had the time and the energy to make scarves from my friends, but I don't have the time. Actually, I probably do, but they'd be the crappiest scarves ever made. Last year or perhaps the year before, I don't remember when, I learned how to knit. It was an a volunteer event in which we made blankets and scarves for people who lived on the streets. Unfortunately, I didn't learn how to knit at the actual event, but a few weeks afterward. I feel that I'm okay at it, but I never learned how to correct mistakes so now I have a scarf that started out really small and has at least several extra rows of stitching on it. So if I can figure out how to fix mistakes, I'd be in business. I will attempt to do it though, when I get better at it. I'll make all my friends Ravenclaw scarves (if we're still into HP by the time that happens) and if worse comes to worse, I'll be able to knit something for my kids, like little baby booties or something. (That's least 5-10 years down the road.) So the short answer is knitting and/or sewing.





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          December 5, 2010

          Busting the Newbie Blues Blogfest

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          I have been blogging for a while now, so I suppose I would say that I'm somewhat established, but then again, I have not set schedule and have been too busy to read. That being said, I want to try to get better at blogging because it's fun.

          At Small Review, there is an Event being hosted called "Busting the Newbie Blues" which helps established bloggers and newbie bloggers connect and have fun with each other. It runs from Dec 3 to Dec 31, so jump on board and meet some new book blogger.


          I chose the questions for the established bloggers, but they are generally the same thing for both newer bloggers too. I've been blogging for a long time, even though I just got serious this past year or so. At any rate, here are the questions and my answers.
          1.  When did you start your blog?
            I started a blog just keeping track of the books I read, but it wasn't a "book blog" until about last year and perhaps this year, even more so with giveaways and such.
          2. Why did you start your blog?
            I started my blog because my friends were passing books back and forth and keeping a journal about it. Since I don't want to pay for postage and the person I would pass books back and forth with has the same taste as mine, it wouldn't make sense to do. I kept forgetting what books I read
          3. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far? Did you make any mistakes new bloggers can learn from?
            I guess my biggest challenge is to find the time to blog. I work several jobs, go to school, and have several volunteer and internships that I do and then I need to find the time to do homework, study, read the actual books that I want to review, and then find the time to review them on the blog. The biggest mistake that I've made is not having a consistent update schedule.
          4. What did you find most discouraging about being a new blogger? How did you deal with this?
            The thing I find a bit of a downer is working hard on a post and getting no response. This doesn't happen as often now because the stats show that people are reading and if there are anything like me, they just read, but have nothing to say at that point in time. I've learned, especially from my web fiction writing days, comments aren't everything. Just keep writing and the people will come.
          5. What do you find most encouraging?
            Having a meaningful conversation with other bloggers either on my blog or on other blogs. I think it's awesome to discuss a book that we've liked.
          6. What do you like best about the blogs you read? Have you tried to replicate this in your blog?
            I like blogs that have people who engage with their commenters. I know that some blogs get so much traffic that they can't engage with everyone, but it's clear that they do make the effort to do so. I would like to guess that they've always done this whether they had a lot of followers or not. I like some special blog designs as well that are really unique and pretty.
          7. What do you dislike about blogs you’ve read? Do you try to avoid this?
            I dislike blogs that have too many buttons and banners and little widgets. They take a really long time to load and they are kind of annoying, especially if they play music. If they have good content, I'll suffer through it but honestly, there's nothing like having a simple, clean, and pretty template design.
          8. Do you have any advice for new bloggers?
            Blog about what makes you happy and don't stress yourself out trying to get posts up when you have a schedule. If you have a scheduled post feature, use it. Most of all just have fun.
          9. How did you bring your blog to the attention of so many people?
            Marketing via giveaways, blog hops, and blogfests. That being said, I think the greatest thing that has helped me is trying to develop relationships with other bloggers. When I do a blog hop, I really try to read a few posts of people that week and try to be consistent. I do follow a lot of blogs because of these blog hops and it takes a lot of effort to keep track of them all. If a blog has an interesting post, I'll read it and I probably need to be better at leaving comments.
          10. Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience?
            Looking forward to meeting some new bloggers. 


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          #Reverb10: December 5: Let Go

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          December 5- Let Go
          What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

          I let go of a lot of things this year, mostly it was fear of the unknown. I also let go of the anger I felt about my past, especially in school. I made a lot of mistakes and I entered in a major that I enjoyed, but my heart wasn't in it. I'm still getting over the fact that my advisors didn't tell me any other options. I'm where I want to be now and even though I'm taking more classes, I'm less stressed and I feel that this is my passion. I really feel that I can do something with the things that I'm majoring in which is Psychology and Creative Writing.

          I also let go of my contention for feeling some of the things that I feel. I'm more selective in what I'm going to say to people and some times I say things that I don't feel that I need to apologize for, but sometimes I just need to vent from time to time and say things that I don't necessarily feel all the time, just at that point of time. I let go of feeling bad for saying the things that are on my mind. It's liberating in a way.




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          December 4, 2010

          #Reverb10: December 4: Wonder

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          December 4 – Wonder. 
          How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)

          I cultivate a sense of wonder by always letting myself be surprised with what life hands to me. I am a notoriously bad planner, but I'm always open to just going with the flow. It makes things a lot less complicated. Of course, there are times where I need to take the reigns and take control, but overall, I just let life guide me where I need to go. How does this cultivate a sense of wonder? For me, when I try to control things that are beyond my scope of power, things don't work out well and I'm stressed out because I'm trying too hard to do something the hard way instead of slowing down and stopping to smell the roses. I cultivate a sense of wonder by trying to learn everything that I can and letting myself be surprised. 




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          December 3, 2010

          #Reverb10: Moment

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          December 3 – Moment
          Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)

          There are so many moments I can pick that happened this year, but I'm going to pick something that happened recently.

          I'm going to choose when I had my play read out loud. It was an amazing experience and a wonderful feeling to have people "perform" your work the way you intended it. At first I was a little iffy on playwriting, but when I heard my readers read my work out loud and people respond to it the way I wanted them to, being told that I was a good writer during the time I needed to hear it the most. It was just a wonderful experience. It was such a fun, but challenging experience that I'm taking the next series in the playwriting classes. I can't wait!

          This experience just uplifted the whole week for me. I had a great day at work the next day, a wonderful and hilarious workshop the next day, and a great lunch with new friends.


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          December 2, 2010

          #Reverb10: Writing

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          December 2 – Writing.
          What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it? (Author: Leo Babauta)

          My biggest vices are reading blogs, web comics, and going on facebook. I can minimize these activities, but I don't think it would be worth it to eliminate them. The blogs I read are agent and publishing blogs and my friend's blogs. I keep in contact with all my friends through facebook and web comics are just fun to read. I also watch a lot of television, travel channel and food network mostly. Granted the only things I do outside of these things are reading, going to class, doing homework, I don't think it's all that bad. I will try to limit it more, especially since I have to work now. I should spend majority of my time writing, but I need a break at some points in time. I will make more time to write and read for sure, but I also want to have a life outside of that. 



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          December 1, 2010

          #Reverb10: One Word

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          The prompt:  
          December 1 - One Word.
          Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
          (Author: Gwen Bell)

           One word that encapsulates the year 2010 for me is Amazing. This has been a great year for me. School has been so much better and less stressful. I changed my major last year and decided to go for creative writing because there were no jobs and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do just yet. I decided that since I've been trying to at least minor in creative writing, I had enough classes to just do a double major in creative writing and psychology. It has been the best choice I have ever made and I don't regret it for a second.

          Now I'm about to graduate next quarter and go on to grad school and for the next year, I want the word to be Fulfilling. I chose this word because I will have completed another phase in my life and moved on to a new phase. By this time next year, I'll be two semesters into graduate school and working somewhere and writing and just enjoying life..






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