Notes to my younger self…

To Amanda at the age of 5: You’re not sneaky, and you’re a bad liar. Don’t even think about those cookies. Also, don’t get distracted by that boy. Learn to block soccer balls from hitting you in the face instead.

To Amanda at the age of 6: Congratulations, you’ve found your calling. Have fun thinking it’s not a viable option for the next 20-odd years.

To Amanda at the age of 8: The world is not ending because you’re moving, and you have a lifetime of friends to make. Just Breathe.

To Amanda at the age of 9: I realize you’re totally freaking out about puberty, but trust me, it’s not that awful.

To Amanda at the age of 11: Be friendly! Don’t moon over that boy too hard, he’s not the one. Have fun.

To Amanda at the age of 12: Not all middle school girls are this awful, trust me. Be strong. If you try, the worst that can happen is you fail. If you don’t try, you’ve already failed.

To Amanda at the age of 14: Chill, girl. Stop judging people based on the high school movies you’ve seen. You don’t know their history.

To Amanda at the age of 15: Don’t wait until the last minute to write those history papers. Don’t wave to that boy, you’re going to – congratulations, you tripped. It won’t be the only time today. You forgot to bring that note to school for a reason. Let It Goooo. In fact, just let ALL the boys go this year. Let them goooo.

To Amanda at the age of 16: I know you love history, but didn’t I tell you at six that you found your calling? This isn’t it. Also this is the best prom.

To Amanda at the age of 17: Fall down ten times, get up eleven. God won’t give you a situation you can’t handle with his help. Don’t let others dictate your actions. Peer pressure is an illusion. Be kind, and don’t ask stupid questions that you know will piss people off. Don’t moon over that boy too hard, he’s not the one. Communication is key. Also, your parents are totally not going to let you move to Colorado, but apply anyway.

To Amanda at the age of 18: You’re not missing anything, so focus on your schoolwork. Also, science is not your calling. Also, you’re going to have your favorite job while you’re here. Also, 36 hours at THON is not good for your ankles.

To Amanda at the age of 20: You’re making the right decision. There are so many good things waiting for you.

To Amanda at the age of 22: That friendship is not worth the drama. Let it gooooooooo. Just say no.

To Amanda at the age of 24: You won’t BeLIEVE where you’ll be living and what you’ll be doing this time next year. Oh… you guessed right. Okay then.


To Amanda at the age of 25: Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway. Chase your dreams ferociously. Don’t give away your shot.

The Dark is Rising (The Dark is Rising, #2) – Susan Cooper

 

The-Dark-Is-Rising-The-Dark-Is-Rising-Susan-Cooper
Photo by Amanda_HHC

 

 

All Will Stanton wants for his birthday is snow; something that never arrives in time for Christmas or his birthday, just three days before, in the south of England. Until it does. But the freak snowstorm isn’t the only thing that’s arrived in the Thames Valley. A homeless wanderer, a dark rider, and a man with a very distinctive white beard are all laying in wait for Will’s birthday. With Christmas fast approaching there isn’t much time to worry about the forces of evil, and that’s fine because Will has another mission to worry about: he must combine the six ancient signs for the Light before the Dark rises to power forever.

 

In this second installment of The Dark is Rising sequence, we head to a new part of the British Isles, with new characters and old (pun intended), and new mission.  Will Stanton is tasked with finding the second of the ‘things of the Light’, the first being the grail found by the Drew children in the first book. To complete his quest, Will has to gather the six signs, all made from different natural elements, to complete something called ‘the circle’. Along the way, the Dark seeks to trick and distract Will in many ways and test his loyalty to the Light. The danger factor in this book is definitely taken up a notch from the previous installment. Where the Drew children were chased by scary people with guns, Will is attacked by ravens, tortured with the simulated screams of his family among other emotional attacks, and chased down by horses and tornadoes. Oh, and everything takes place over the course of about two weeks, from Will’s birthday to Twelfth Night.

I’m still unsure if I like the time jumps in these books – days when nothing exciting happens are just skipped, but you don’t usually know there’s been a time jump for a few paragraphs – but the short time-spans of the novels is quite interesting. Most YA and MG books that are coming out today like to wrap everything up at the end of every book in a series, and leave the overarching storyline to be mostly a mystery. In this series, however, everything seems like tiny little steps towards facing the BIG BAD DARK ‘someday’. They finally explain in this one that there are four ‘things of the light’, and since there are five books, I assume we’ll find the other two things in Greenwitch and The Grey King, and then we’ll have our big fight scenes in Silver on the Tree. Just saying. It’s a lot more information than we had after Over Sea, Under Stone, which gave away nothing about the plot of the series except at the very very end when Barney is all like, ‘You know, I think Uncle Merry is a lot older than we think he is,” because Barney rules.

I’m going to try to finish the series and reviews for the books by the end of the year, despite the fact that I totally missed posting this last week. Grad school is hard, okay? I’m also starting to get sick and I’m starting a new job (more on that in the October Update post on Thursday), so there’s been a lot going on. Who knows if I’ll get to NaNoWriMo this year. So, this has been your chatty book review for the week. I’m going to go finish a rough draft of a paper now before getting five hours of sleep and then going to work training for eight hours before my four-hour class where said rough draft is due. You’ll find out on Thursday if I’ve survived. Until then, leave me a comment about your favorite use of timelines in a book series!

 

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Over Sea, Under Stone
Book #3 – Greenwitch (Review Available 10/31)
Book #4 – The Grey King (Review Available 11/21)
Book #5 – Silver on the Tree (Review Available 12/12)

TV Review – The Vampire Diaries, Season #2

The-vampire-diaries-season-2-

Source: Wikipedia

 

Season two is just as action packed as season one was, but with a whole new level of danger and some serious plot twists. The 22 episodes feel as though they are 122 because there is just so much plot. The continued love triangle between Stefan, Elena, and Damon is strengthened by the appearance of Katherine and her scorn of Damon’s love. Katherine’s love for Stefan, however, threatens to ruin his relationship with Elena. Add to that a lot of werewolves and even more vampires than season one, and you’ve got yourself the makings of an apocalypse. Kind of a heavy subject for season two, but it is handled very well, and the tensions are at an all-time high for literally every character. If there is something that can go wrong in someone’s relationship, it does, often with interesting consequences. I was overall very impressed with where the story went, and how the characters developed (especially Caroline, who really came into her own this season!) and I can’t wait to see how it continues! See below for a more spoiler-filled recap.

 

***SPOILERS AHEAD***

Season two picks up where season one left off, with Katherine making her first appearance in Mystic Fall with a splash, turning Caroline into a vampire and telling Damon that Stefan’s the one she’s always loved. Throughout the season, Damon tries to hide how wounded he is by this fact, though it often rears its head in unexpected ways and leads to a few surprise deaths. Mason Lockwood is exposed as a werewolf after Tyler has to scare him off from nearly killing Caroline while she is making out with Matt in the woods, and Caroline and Matt’s relationship hits an all-time low.

We eventually find out that Katherine is in Mystic Falls because she needs a rock that she has been trying to hide from someone for over five hundred years and that she is using Mason to get it for her. Elena and Stefan pretend to be hitting a rocky patch in their relationship in an attempt to keep Katherine from killing anyone else, but it backfires. Elena finds out that she and Katherine are doppelgangers, and that one of them needs to die in a ritual sacrifice to either free the vampires to walk during the day, or to free the werewolves to change (or not change) whenever they choose. Jeremy tries to get Tyler to tell him about the werewolves and this rock that Katherine is looking for.

Everyone decides that Katherine is no good and needs to die, but instead, they end up locking her in the tomb with her special rock to rot. After getting kidnapped and introduced to someone referred to as an ‘original’ vampire, Elena is rescued by Stefan and Damon. She later visits Katherine to get the whole story about the doppelgangers and tries to find out if the ‘original’ vampire is who Katherine was running from.

 

Bonnie makes a new witchy friend, who fakes helping her destroy the special rock after Bonnie, Stefan, and Jeremy go to great lengths to get it back from Katherine in the tomb because he needs it to get his sister back from one of the original vampires.

Tyler accidentally kills someone and becomes a werewolf, and gets close to Caroline as she tries to help him through his first full moon. Mason disappears, but his friends Jules shows up in town with a group of werewolves who want the special rock to free themselves. Tyler initially goes along with their plan until he finds out that they plan to kill Elena.

The original vampires show up and take over everyone’s lives, the eldest, Klaus, deciding they should do the ritual sacrifice. It turns out that it won’t free vampires or werewolves, only himself. Klaus was cursed by a witch and the ritual will set him free. He planted the sun and moon curse story so everyone in the world would search for the special rock he needed. Caroline, Tyler, and Matt nearly die. Aunt Jenna, Jules, and Bonnie’s witchy friend’s sister die. Elena nearly becomes a vampire, but her birth father saves her. Damon is bitten by a werewolf. Stefan makes the decision to join Klaus and leave Mystic Falls behind. Elijah disappears. Alaric moves in, to act as legal guardian for Elena and Jeremy after Jenna’s death. Elena kisses Damon because he is dying.

 

***END OF SPOILERS***

 

 

I am still totally team Damon. Stefan is just too possessive and restricting. He judges Elena really hard for wanting to put her life before those for whom she cares, calling her a coward. Basically, Stefan fights until the last minute and then gives up, while Damon lets Elena do what she wants until he feels he must do what he must to keep her save and mostly alive.

Favorite Episode: Episode 01 – The Return

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

 

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit-451-Ray-Bradbury

Source: Goodreads

Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to set fires and burn all of the illegal books in the city. He loves his job, even takes pride in the lingering smell of kerosene, until the night he meets Clarissa. The self-proclaimed insane seventeen-year-old changes Montag’s life in an instant, and once his brain starts turning over all she has said it cannot stop. But thinking is almost as dangerous as reading in Montag’s world, and the consequences are more than he could have imagined.

 

As we follow Guy Montag through his life post meeting Clarissa, we are given a small glimpse into the world in which he lives. Just a taste, but enough to be absolutely terrified. Highspeed hovercars, fireproof houses, talking walls, banned books, incessant advertising on every hyperspeed subway car, and the loss of all free speech and free thought. If that wasn’t bad enough, the firehouse dog will chill you to your bones.

This book has been on my list to read for more than half of my life. I wanted to read it because it was about books. I didn’t want to read it because they were going to burn all of the books. And back, and forth, and so on. If I had actually read Fahrenheit 451 at twelve or thirteen, it probably would have had much less of an impact on me. I wouldn’t be familiar with the majority of the works mentioned. I wouldn’t know what was being burned. Reading it at twenty-five, I was extremely aware of how influential the books were. Plato, Shakespeare, The Holy Bible, and millions of others. It is easy to believe that people would have rather died in the flames than be forced to live in a world with no working logic, a world that is enslaved to media through seashell earpieces.

Fahrenheit 451 is the first thing I’ve ever read by Bradbury, but his words have a liveliness to them, even in the slow and quiet parts, that many writers lack. It makes everything interesting, from the chattering of a seashell earpiece to the read and yellow flames licking up the side of a formerly fireproof building. I can’t wait to dive into more of Bradbury’s stories to see what secrets they hold.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Rise of a Hero (Farsala, #2) – Hilari Bell

Farsala-Rise-Of-A-Hero-Hilari-Bell

Source: Goodreads

Kavi, Jiaan, and Soraya are struggling to find their places in the new world they have been thrust into since the arrival of the Hrum army. Soraya faces never seeing her family again, Jiaan inherits a role he was never prepared for, and Kavi attempts to play both sides to save his people. As the Hrum swarm the countryside, only one person could possibly bring Farsala’s people together in its time of greatest need: Sorahb. But has the hero of legend really been returned by the gods? Or is he the spirit inside all people that unites them as one entity?

 

The second book in The Farsala Trilogy moves slightly faster than the first, but very little actually happens. Rather than world-building, it focuses more on character-building. Kavi’s past is revealed, along with his deep-seated motivations. Jiaan, thrust into a leadership role despite the presence of full-blooded deghans who survived the battle of the Sendar Wall, matures into his own skin, no longer the scared page-boy from Fall of a Kingdom. Soraya learns to survive on her own, to drop her pride and accept the people around her on their own merit rather than the circumstances of their birth.

The character development is truly what kept me reading this time around. I hope the final book wraps everything up because at this pace we could go for another three books and still have months left on the Hrum’s timeline. I get the feeling that this series would sell best as an omnibus. If I didn’t already own all three volumes, I don’t know that I would continue with the series.

 

HHC Rating:  3 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Fall of a Kingdom
Book #3 – Forging the Sword (Review Available 10/17)

September Update & Goals Check-In

Update - 9 - September

This post is going up a little late this month. Mostly because I was completely unmotivated to write it until today, but also because I have kind of a lot going on at the moment.

I’ve moved! I’m still settling into my new home, but I promise to share pictures of my space once my bed arrives. Until then I’m sleeping on an air mattress, which is not ideal, but still better than I thought it would be.

Grad school is going well so far! I’m only two weeks in, but I’m loving my classes and the professors are great. There aren’t a huge number of opportunities to socialize, but I’m working on that. I’ve signed up to be a fiction reader for the graduate-student-run literary journal on campus, Redivider, and I’m hoping to get some opportunities to gain more copyediting experience as well.

There has been nothing but radio silence on the actual paying job front. I don’t understand why companies can’t at the very least have an automatic e-mail sent to anyone they throw into the ‘no’ pile. No answer is just plain rude. Even places that I’ve been able to go into in person and talk to a manager about hiring opportunities just redirect me to online applications that are then met with silence. Thank goodness it’s autumn again. Most retail places are looking to hire for the holidays now, so I should be able to get a position at someplace like Target or Macy’s. I’m sending out those applications today or Sunday.

Right before my nannying job ended, I wrote a cool post about the top 10 board books I read as a nanny. Did your childhood favorite make the list?

Tomorrow, I am attending Boston Teen Author Festival (BTAF) at the Cambridge Public Library and Cambridge Rindge and Latin School! Over 40 YA authors will be there, and while I’m pretty sure I haven’t read any of their books, I can’t wait to learn more about their work and get excited to read it! Best of all, the event is totally free!! I am most excited to meet Lindsay Cummings and Sasha Alsberg. Lindsay and Sasha have written a space opera called Zenith that is due out in January, and I preordered it months ago. Sasha is also one of the reasons I am where I am today. If I had never watched her videos about Emerson and their publishing program, I wouldn’t have looked into graduate school here, and I would probably still be living in New Jersey and trying to get a job in Public Relations while I attempted to write my book and actually working in retail. Instead, I’m chasing my dreams in a city I adore. So thank you, Sasha, and welcome back to Boston! Lindsay is also one of the reasons The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova was on my TBR that day I walked into B&N to find Elise doing a signing. She was so nice and gave some really amazing advice about writing and publishing that further convinced me that working in publishing is what I want to do with my life. So thank you, Lindsay, for sort-of introducing me to Elise. Once I get a job I can’t wait to pick up the sequel in the Loom saga, The Dragons of Nova! I was thrilled to participate in the cover reveal for this book!

Next week I’m seeing Patti Smith at an event for Harvard Bookstore, and I am so so excited. After reading her book M Train this summer (twice!) I am psyched to hear her speak and to pick up a copy of her new book, Devotion, which is supposedly about writing. You might only know her for her Springsteen-co-written hit “Because the Night”, or because of her marriage to Fred Sonic Smith, but believe me, her writing is something downright magical.

When I’m not working on homework, filling out job applications, or making multiple trips to the store to buy apartment necessities, I’ve been reading voraciously and re-reading my WIP. It’s amazing how many things I didn’t need during undergrad that I need now (like a teakettle). I haven’t read my manuscript in its entirety since I wrote it last November. Reading it again is like greeting an old friend. It’s a relief to know that I still love it and that the story is still solidly in my head as well as my heart.

I know I’ve been pretty terrible so far with the Friday Files posts, but I think they’ll pick up soon. I just needed to take a beat and figure out how to incorporate them into my life. Expect one on time management next week that should help explain my process. In the meantime, if you haven’t read my first Friday Files post, check it out here. It’s all about building a grown-up wardrobe without breaking the bank.

That’s what’s going on with me this month. Let’s check and see how I did on my goals in August.

August Goals:

Walk over 40 miles: My total for August was 43.45!

Read 8 Books:
River Secrets
Someone to Hold
Forest Born
The Diviners
Carry On
Fall of a Kingdom
A Man Called Ove
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

What I’ve actually read: A lot of romances.
River Secrets
A Knight to Remember
Getting Out of Hand
Forest Born
Knocking Boots
The Princess Saves Herself in This One
Fahrenheit 451
The Diviners

Review 7 Books:
River Secrets
Forest Born
Someone to Love (Review available in 2018)
Carry On
Fall of a Kingdom
Getting Rid of Bradley
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

The Diviners (Review Available in 2018)

Secure an Apartment: CHECK!!

Secure a Job: Search in progress.

 

September Goals:

Walk over 50 Miles: As of yesterday, I’ve passed the 50-mile mark!

Read 5 Books:
Fall of a Kingdom
Over Sea, Under Stone
Rise of a Hero
Voyager
The Dark is Rising

What I’ve actually read:
Fall of a Kingdom
Someone to Hold

In Other Lands
Over Sea, Under Stone

Review 6 Books:
Fall of a Kingdom
Someone to Hold (Review Available in 2018)
In Other Lands
Over Sea, Under Stone
Rise of a Hero
Fahrenheit 451

 

Get a job: Apparently, I am not the only graduate student struggling with this. Thankfully the holiday season is fast approaching and all of the retail stores are hiring. Who would have thought that two years out of college I would still be struggling to find a job? Not me. I’m also looking into how I can work as a virtual assistant or freelance copyeditor (once my copyediting class is over). I think this whole financial situation will get a lot easier if I can learn to diversify my income and pull from many places rather than one.

 

How are you doing on your goals? Are you still struggling to find a job? Do you have any advice about diversifying your income? Let me know in the comments, or shoot me an email at Amanda@highlightsandhotchocolate.com.

Until next time,

Amanda

TV Review – The Vampire Diaries, Season #1

The-Vampire-Diaries-Season-1

Source: Wikipedia

 

Seventeen-year-old Elena Gilbert is still reeling from the loss of her parents in a car accident four months prior to the beginning of the show. She lives in the small town of Mystic Falls in Virginia with her younger brother Jeremy and their aunt and guardian, Jenna. The new school year starts and Elena and her two best friends, Bonnie and Caroline, meet the new boy at school, Stefan, who turns out to be a vampire. The storyline mostly follows Elena, Stefan, and Stefan’s mysterious older brother Damon, as well as a secret town council, made up the founding families, that somehow knows about vampires and seeks to rid Mystic Falls of them.

 

This television series is based on the book series of the same name written by L. J. Smith. I will readily admit I have not read them. Because everyone told me the writing was really terrible. Also, I had already seen the first season of the show at that point and knowing it wasn’t going to be as good made me just not want to go there and potentially ruin something beautiful. Because I consider what the writer has written to be cannon and any adaptations secondary, and I really want this TV show to be my cannon for this series.

This is a rewatch for me, but since I binged it the first time, I couldn’t remember where the first season ended and the second season began. This, my friends, is an excellent show and probably not appropriate for teenagers with the amount of illegal substances, underage drinking, and hooking up going on without anyone’s parents seeming to care overly much as long as they don’t see it personally. Not that that stopped me from watching it in 2009 when it premiered and I was a seventeen-year-old senior in high school. That said, Elena and pals are juniors, not seniors.

Being that this season takes place from 2009-2010, the music is super nostalgic for me. A lot of it is what I listened to during that time, and the tunes I didn’t recognize the first watch through I noticed now because they were songs I loved in college that hadn’t quite found me yet in high school. I also quite enjoyed the references to TwilightThe X-Files, and How I Met Your Mother, amongst others. The CW, like MTV, has a habit of picking attractive actors and actresses to fill their roles, though the CW doesn’t usually go over the top like MTV tends to. In this case, they played it right down the line and it worked out exceptionally well. While we had quite a few one-off characters, the season felt really full.

My favorite parts of the season might be the flashback scenes. Because we’re dealing with the eternally dead-yet-alive, the writers were able to jump into the past and show us bits of American history through the eyes of Stefan and Damon. I happen to know from experience that the flashbacks only get even better from here.

We got 22 45-minute episodes, and the first 6-7 mostly deal with getting to know the characters and setting up the layout of the town for the rest of the show. This was done really quite well. The remaining 15 episodes are composed of a mix of plots, furthering the basic character back story bits while also allowing room for a ‘big bad’. In this case, a bunch of scary vampires from the past show up and try to murder everyone. The season ends by wrapping up the season one big bad and hinting at the bad things to come in season two. If season one could be called “Let’s get to know everyone and hope not too many people close to our characters die”, then season two will probably end up being called “Feelings suck”.

 

Since this is season one, I won’t share any spoilers. Starting with season two, however, I’ll be referencing things from previous seasons, so don’t read them if you don’t want the plot spoiled!

 

And since this is of the utmost importance, I’m going to keep a tally of which team I’m on as far as ‘ships’ go in this series (Only the obvious one this time, though. No spoilers!):

The first time I watched this show, I was hardcore Team Stefan. Having watched other seasons I am now biased, obviously, but rewatching this season allowed me to see all the little manipulative things Stefan is doing while not actually realizing he is doing them. You would think that after 150+ years on this Earth he would know better, but, alas, he does not. So, this time around, I am wholeheartedly Team Damon. And I have no regrets.

 

Favorite Episode: Episode 19 – Miss Mystic Falls

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars