January 28, 2016

Book Review of the Month: Cinder

First, a quick overview of how this is going to work. Like my classic book review, this will go for at least a year. Only this one will be at the end of the month. I plan on telling you a little about the book, then my opinion of it. Each book will also receive a rating, from one to four stars. So let's dive in.


From the sound of the title, you might think this was a story of fire and destruction. But if you take a look at the cover it reveals its true nature. A shoe, the name Cinder- the facts begin to click. If you guessed this was a Cinderella spin-off, you're right. If you didn't, now you know.

Our tale's setting is the future after World War 4 where the world has divided itself into empires and alliances which are basically the same places as they are now, except with different names. The moon has also been colonized and the people who live there have evolved to have special powers. They are generally hated by the people of Earth.

Cinder is a cyborg, a fact which is also hinted at by the cover. She lives in New Beijing, which is an interesting twist. The classic pieces are all there- the evil stepmother, two stepsisters, no father, a handsome prince, and a royal ball. But one of the stepsisters is nice and, due to story telling law, dies. Cinder can't tell the prince she's a cyborg because there is a lot of prejudice against her kind. She's adopted into her family, if you can even call it that. There's even the famous fallen off shoe- only it's not a shoe, it's a foot.

The plot goes something like this. Once upon a time, Cinder meets the prince at the market, where he asks her to fix his android. When she does, Cinder discovers interesting information the android was collecting. She has to decide what to do about that and the fact that she is in love with Prince Kai. When her stepmother becomes angry at Cinder for "killing her sister" after she catches the plague, which was no fault of hers, she gives her over to the plague research. Cyborgs have little rights in the future, think African Americans from the early 20th century except in the future. A doctor there finds she is immune to the plague and so leads to research about Cinder. In the end Cinder must go to the royal ball to warn Prince Kai about the evil queen. This isn't your easy fairy tale where the hero must overcome a few obstacles to gain the prince and eternal happiness. There is depth, multiple plot lines, and answers that don't get answered until other books in the series (there are three others and an e-book).

Thought about Cinder
This is a masterpiece of a book. Marissa Meyer is an excellent story teller. Her plot is well-woven and her characters feel real. She expertly brings you into Cinder's thought and emotions and keeps you there, even though she is a cyborg and has different abilities than you or me. But even being a cyborg doesn't mean she can do anything, which is also nice. Her world is well developed and even though I don't think we could evolve bio-electricity manipulation powers from living on the moon, she makes it feel plausible. I also enjoy how she takes the story of Cinderella and twists it just enough that you can still see what it was. My favorite twist are probably how she's a cyborg and it takes place in China. There are many versions of the Cinderella tale from all around the world and so it's nice to see one in a different setting besides the US. It's original and we need more stories like it.

Do I have any complaints about this book? Maybe, if I read it again and looked hard enough. I might say her stepmother seems to mean to Cinder for no reason but that changes when you read through the rest of the series. As I said, special powers don't seem like a possibility, but this a different world. Besides, I like special abilities. Basically, I think it's a nice, quick read. Quick, because you can't put it down to do anything else. And then you go and get the rest of the series and read straight through them too. A few months later you'll get them out again and read them for a second time. But this is only a guess. I've only read it once myself- for now.

This is counted as a YA novel so I would recommend it for anyone 13 and up. It is geared towards girls but I'm sure there are some boys who would love it too. Wikipedia counts it as YA, romance, science fiction, and dystopian. I only agree with the first and third one. Dystopian normally implies a darker book and horrible society. Yes, there are some dark elements, but I wouldn't say it was a true dystopian novel. As for the romance, that's only a small part.

Fans of rewritten fairy tales, twisted fairy tales, a rough and tumble heroine, and futuristic fiction will enjoy this book.

January 25, 2016

Dressing Inspired

I love cosplay. It is so fun to make a costume from your favorite character. But I don't always have to time or money to create costumes like that. Also, how many places can you actually get away with wearing something like that? If you don't mind, that's great for you, but I wouldn't want to wander around in armor and carrying a battle ax on a normal day. However, there is another option between going full out and not doing it at all. It is: wearing clothes inspired by a character! I'm going to show you two methods of doing this. Let's get into it.

How to Do It
Dressing inspired by a character is extremely easy. What you do is- first, find a picture of the character you want to imitate. Study the colors, the types of clothing used, jewelry, hair, and make-up (if it's a girl). Then you're going to figure out how to take their look and imitate it with what you have in your closet, although this is an excellent excuse to pick up some new clothing or accessories if you don't have them. Allow me to show you.

Say I want to do an outfit inspired by Alice from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. On a side note, all of her outfits are awesome. Anyway, I'll type it into a search engine and pick which outfit I want to mimic. She has several outfits- two or three blue dresses, a black, white, and red ensemble from the Red Queen's court, a Turkish-like outfit from the White Queen's court, her armor, and a traveling outfit at the end. I'm going to choose the court dress, just to do something different. Here are a couple pictures.

This dress is beautiful, even if the Red Queen gave it to her. As you can see, it's mostly red, with black and white, heart printed material on top. Alice wears her hair loose and has no visible makeup on. In the full length picture, you can see that she wears a belt that appears to made of a curtain pull and strapped shoes.

Now I'll look in my closet and try to replicate it. I don't have any red skirts, but that would be a good piece for this dress. Instead, I'm going to use a black one. I'll add a red tank top, a red, white, and black button up shirt, and red flats. My hair isn't curly, but I'll leave it loose. If I wanted to replicate her belt, I might use a scarf or ribbon.

See, easy peasy. (Thanks to Cheshire, our cat, for being my replica rabbit.) It's not exact and most people might not be able to tell what it is. But if you like what you created, who cares. Don't be afraid to tell people who you're dressing as or you can make them guess. That's always fun. It would be a good idea for a party too. Have everyone dress as a character, but only allow them to do an inspired outfit. Then have a game at the beginning to guess who each other is.

The Alternative
If you don't have an eye for replicating things yourself, or don't have the time, here's a second, easier method. Open up Pinterest or a search engine. Type in "-character's name here- inspired outfit". Tons of suggestions will pop up. Look through them until you find one you like or you know you can replicate. If you don't have all the pieces they used, improvise. I get inspired just by looking at all the creative outfits others have put together. Here's a cute one I could easily pull off. P.S. All outfits by Disney Bound are adorable. She's always a good one to go with.

That wraps up dressing inspired. Remember, the most important part of doing inspired outfits is being creative. Do your own twist on outfits. Go out and have fun.

January 21, 2016

Writing Partners: The What and Why

A writing partner, or someone you can write with, is a great idea for any writer. But what is that exactly? Should you have one? What are they good for? Today I am writing about those questions.

What Is a Writing Partner?
A writing partner is another writer that you are friends with. The two (or more) of you talk to each other about writing and your stories and encourage one another. A famous pair would be J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, who were both part of the Inklings.

What Are They Good For?
My writing partner is my sister. I think she is a great one. A partner helps you with your writing. We talk about plots, give each other things to read over, and help each other with characters. That's only a small part. We discuss various things we've read (like should you only use "said" or can you use other words like "whispered" or "yelled"). We tell each other about great books we've read or terrible ones and what we'd do better. It is fun and helpful. While talking, both she and I have gotten cool new ideas for stories. One we even turned into a story that we are currently writing together.

Should I Have One?
I would definitely recommend finding a writing partner. As I said, it's a good idea for any writer. Writing is often a lonely process and having someone to talk reduces that alone feeling. But how can you find a person to write with? It's not hard. Do you have a friend that writes? Ask if they would like to get together and talk about writing once in a while. Maybe you can have weekly meetings. Or sometimes you can connect with people online, like through the NaNoWriMo website and become friends that way.

I hope this helps you and that you can find someone to write with.

January 18, 2016

How to Make Simple Earrings

Many people wear earrings these days and you can get all sorts of types. Dangles, studs, chandelier, and more. But why not try to make a pair? It's not that hard, plus you can make them to match a certain outfit. Awesome, right?
Today I will show you how to make a simple, easy pair of dangles. Clear a work space and let's get started. These instructions are for a right handed person, so just reverse them if you're a lefty.

Beads of your choice (at least two types)
2 head pins
2 fishhook earring hook
Needle nose pliers
Wire cutters

Step 1: Choose what pattern you want for your beads. This may take a while, so don't worry. I often put together and take apart an earring several times to find the way I like it best. Two tips- try a cool bead in the middle. And two- remember the rule of odds. Three or five beads are more pleasing to the eye than two or four.

Step 2: If you haven't already, string your beads on the head pin.

Step 3: Take the head pin in your left hand and the pliers in your right. Fold the top of the head pin over at a 90 degree angle right above your beads.

Step 4: Place your finger next to the bent part, side up. (Sorry for the crappy picture. I was having problems with the self timer.)

Step 5: Cut the head pin next to your finger, without cutting your finger off hopefully. You may have to score the pin with your wire cutters, then hold the head pin and cut it.

Step 6: Hold the end of your shortened head pin in the pliers. Turn it back towards your left hand.

Step 7: Continue to roll it until it forms a loop. Use the pliers to adjust the loop so when you hold it in your fingers, it hangs straight.

Step 8: Open the loop up again by twisting the loop away from the beads. Never pull apart your loop. (Click the picture if you need to see it larger.)

Step 9: Insert your earring hook and twist the loop shut. Repeat for the other one.

Now go enjoy your new earrings. Wear them proudly. Don't worry if your loops aren't very good the first few times, it takes practice to get them right. Mine don't always come out right every time either.

Was there anything I wasn't clear about or you didn't understand? Please comment and ask me. I'm happy to help.

January 14, 2016

Why DIY?

DIY (do it yourself) is a popular thing right now. People always are giving you ideas to do ahem*pinterest*ahem, but why should you take the time to do it? There are so many excuses not to. Here are 5 reasons you should anyway.

1. DIY is fun. It's great to be able to take some time and make something. Even if it doesn't work out right, you'll still have a good time.

2. It gives you the opportunity to do something with your hands. With all the ready made things available, we rarely bother to make things ourselves. But there is nothing like the feeling you get looking at what you just made. It feels awesome.

3. It helps with problem solving. I've often run into a problem when trying to make a project. We don't have the right materials, the design I tried didn't work, or things like that. You've got to learn to roll with the punches and find a way around the problem.

4. It helps you learn new skills. I've learned to do a lot of things through trying things myself. With a good tutorial, learning a new skill can be easy-peasy.

5. Compliments! When you wear a piece of clothing or jewelry you made yourself and a friend says, "I love 'insert item here'", there's nothing cooler than being able to say, "I made it". People will be totally impressed.

Despite all these good reasons to do it, many people often make excuses anyway. Here are several and my response to them. 1. It might not work. If it doesn't, at least you tried. Maybe you can find away around what's stopping you. 2.  I'm not creative enough. You don't have to be. That's why people make tutorials and how to's, so the less creative people can make things. 3. It's too hard. If you never try you never know. Start small and work your way up.

So all that being said, go out there and make something. Have fun!

January 11, 2016

Classic of the Month

Welcome to classic of the month. This will be a once a month talk about a classic I like. It's going to run for a year to start, after that we'll see. I'll start with a quick overview of the book, then tell what I like about it. I may also mention my favorite movie versions and books based off of it that I like, depending. So- on to Wonderland!

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
This is the first book in Lewis Carroll's wonderful adventures of a girl called Alice. In the book, she is out one day with her sister, listening to a boring history lesson, when she sees a white rabbit go by. Since he is wearing a waistcoat and pocket watch, she obviously follows him. She falls down a rabbit hole and her adventures begin. Throughout the book she encounters creatures of all types, shrinks and grows multiple times, and barely escapes having her head chopped off. In the end, she discovers it was just a dream, although anything is possible with one's imagination.

Through the Looking Glass
This is the second book about Alice. As the title suggests, she reaches Wonderland this time through a looking glass above the mantle. She finds herself in a world where many things are backwards. The books as an example. That is where she reads the poem, the Jabberwocky. You can't go straight to places and running only keeps you in one spot. Only this time, the land is a giant chess board. Alice wants to be a queen so she travels across the board, meeting the red and white queens and kings along the way. At the end she does manage to become a queen but finds it's not as much fun as she thought. Alice wakes to find it was all a dream again.

What I Like About Them
These books have fascinated me ever since I read them the first time. The thought that a strange and wonderful world could be just down a rabbit hole or through a mirror is fun. Carroll's world is a fanciful one. If you can imagine it, it's probably there. His word play is also hilarious. Bread and butterfly. Rocking horse fly. Nobody as a person. How much better can it get?

Alice is also an excellent protagonist. She is not a normal little girl, content to sit and listen to her lessons. She'd prefer to imagine that she's a hyena or make up a world of her own. Her commentary is what gives the book some of its charm.

Carroll wrote these books in a tone that people don't use any more. It has that old fashioned charm rarely achieved by writers in the 21st century. I love that style and most books written in it. He also filled them with poems, many of which made fun of the moralistic poems children learned back then. At the time he wrote them- the 1860's- this type of literature for children was unheard of. Books for children always had morals or a lesson to be learned. And here was little girl learning no lessons, simply enjoying herself in a strange place. Children loved them.

Books and Movies
I can't finish without mentioning these, as there are several good ones. The old Disney one, made in 1951, is always a classic. With its great voice cast and fun songs, it is a great one to first introduce kids to. For fans of Wonderland and Johnny Depp, try the new version, also by Disney. With another excellent cast, a great story line, and wonderful computer generated world, it is a fun one for fans of the book. In this one, a grown up Alice returns to the world she thought was a dream. She must slay the Jabberwocky and learns that she can do anything. The sequel to it, Through the Looking Glass, comes out this year. I'm excited for it.

For books, one I enjoyed was The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor. It takes the characters you know and love and expands on them and on Wonderland. There's Alyss, the princess who got trapped in the human world for a long time, where she told her story to Charles Dodgeson. He hurt her feelings by twisting it all up. We have Hatter Madigan, a warrior; Redd Heart, the villain; Bibwit Harte, a tutor; and the Cat, an assassin. If you like a retelling, this is a good choice.

I hope you liked my thoughts on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. If you are also a lover of the books or movies, comment and tell me what you like about them.

January 7, 2016

My NaNoWriMo Experience

In November, I participated in an event called NaNoWriMo. That's an abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month. During the course of the month, you try to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. The aim is to get people writing and creating. Anyone who reached 50,000 words is considered a winner.
I found it really fun. It took a lot of time, several hours a day, and a lot of focus. And when you have a hard time concentrating, that can be hard. But I made it through and won with a draft of 50,283 words. My whole family was very supportive of my endeavor.
Today I'd like to share with you my thoughts about NaNoWriMo's pros and cons, and what things I'd like to do differently.

Pros and Cons

1:It helps you make something and gives you a good feeling. No matter whether you win or not, you still managed to accomplish something.
2: There are fun badges to win. They give them to you for various accomplishments like reaching 10,000 words or filling out your profile.
3: There's a great forum that can answer any question you have. And most of the people are nice.
4: They send you encouraging emails all month. It helps you keep going. They also have authors write pep talks throughout the month.
5: The site is easy to navigate. You can sign up for an account, completely for free. (NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organization. They live off donations and sponsors.)
6: If you win, you get great offers from people who sponsored NaNoWriMo.

1: It takes time and commitment. The slower you write, the more time it takes.
2: It can be hard to sit down every day. But that's why they send you emails.
3: If you write by hand, like I do, you have to type it all into the computer before the end of the month, which can be hard to accomplish if you fall behind.
4: You can get discouraged by people who write 10,000 words a day and finish in a week. Ignore those people. Work at your own pace.

What I'd Like to Do Next Time
Although I liked what I did last time, there are some changes I'd like to make this year, and yes, I do want to do it again this year. First, I need to start writing earlier. I waited until later and the day and often had a hard time getting done. Second, I need to be more consistent in typing it up. Last time I got behind on typing and that's what took me so long to finish. I had written it all by two days before the deadline, but I had to finish typing it in before I could win. Ideally, I want to type each day's writing in on that day. Third, I need someone to write with. Writing is a lonely process and a buddy would have been great. I plan on convincing a friend or relation to join me in my endeavor this time. Hopefully my sister, but if not her, then someone else.

If you're thinking about trying NaNoWriMo, I say go for it. Even if you don't win, you have the fun of writing something and trying. I think positive thinking is key in winning. The whole month I told myself, "You will win." I never let doubt get the slightest hold even on my worst days. I enjoyed it a lot and it gave me a great feeling to know I could do it.

January 4, 2016

Welcome to R's Loft

Hi, and welcome to R's Loft. My name is Rachel. I'm 18 years old and this is my first blog. (If you want to know more about me, check out my about page.)

I've thought about starting a blog for a long time. I often thought it would be great fun to have a place to express myself, share my interests, and make tutorials and how to's. Then I actually looked into starting a blog. Because I'm a planner, I must read several books and articles before actually doing something. I'm weird that way. The more I read, the harder it seemed. There was all this talk of niche blogging, but I didn't want to write on only one subject. I wanted to write on a variety of topics that I enjoy. Choosing a name alone took me weeks.

But then I realized that this was my blog. I can do what I want. I don't have to do what other people suggest. It's a suggestion, which means it's optional. Yes, I'd like to have an audience some day, but I'm gonna do it my way.

So, my blog will be about a lot of things. Things I like, of course. I know I am not an expert, but I want to share what I do know with you. There will probably be a lot about writing, jewelry, clothing, and DIY. I may also throw other odds and ends in there.

I plan on posting twice a week, hopefully on Monday and Thursday. Things may change a bit as I figure out what I want to do. I'll try to let you know if I decide to do any major changes. 

I'm finishing this post with a quote I keep above my desk. "The expert in anything was once a beginner"-Helen Hayes. Totally true.