May 30, 2016

Using Goodreads


If you remember, I recently did a review of Goodreads. This the second part to that post. It is dedicated to using Goodreads, whether as a reader or a writer.

How Goodreads Works

Goodreads is a site that is designed to help people find things to read. You can make friends with people and see what they're reading, and look at Goodreads recommendations (more on this in a moment). Using it, you can look up whatever book(s) you're currently reading and add it to your shelves. Once you finish it you can rate the book from one to five stars and add a review if you want. It can then use the books you've read to suggest books you might like to read.

Using Goodreads as a Reader

If you're always looking for new books to read, Goodreads is certainly for you. Let's start with finding books to read.

Pretend you just added a book as a currently reading- for this example I'll go with The Selection. If you look on the right side of the page, there is a spot called "Readers Also Enjoyed" that you can look through. You can also check out the lists with this book, which can be found below the questions.

The second option to find books is to look through the recommendations. It's under browse and is organized by your shelves and favorite genres. I found the recommendations quite good. If you don't like one of the books they suggest, just hit "not interested" and they'll revise what they show you. Simple.

Lastly, there's just browsing. You can search for a genre you're interested in, mark your favorites, and look at new and/or popular books. Say your on a fantasy kick. Click on the "All Genres" button under browse. From there you can find the genre you're looking for. It can get very specific, such as high fantasy or YA fantasy.

Note: Never read the reviews. I don't find them helpful at all. Most of the top reviews are ones that tear the book you loved apart. Not that there aren't good reviews. I won't say that. But it's best not to look.

Using Goodreads as a Writer

Goodreads is also helpful to writers. First of all, it's a great way to find new books on writing. They have a whole genre on it, plus you can look at related books to the one you just finished. You can't read too many books on writing, right?

Second, you can use Goodreads to find books similar to your WIP. This can be great if you're trying to find out what genre your book is in, what people think of books like yours, and just to read similar books. First, you either find a book that is similar to yours and click on "Readers Also Enjoyed" or lists, or you can search for similar books. It's all up to you.

Last, Goodreads also has an author program. I can't claim to know much about this, so you'll have to look it up yourself if you want details. Here's a post on setting up a Goodreads author profile and the reason's you should. I personally want to learn more about this as I continue looking into publishing.

A Note About the App

Yes, of course Goodreads has an app. Everything has an app, or so it seems. I have it, and here are my thoughts.

Pros to the app-
It's a quick and easy way to add books on the go
While it loads, it shows you a quote from a book
It's fairly simple to navigate
You can scan your book's bar-code, which can be easier than searching for it (does not work on library books as they cover the bar-code)

Cons to the app-
It's hard to rate books and add a review, which is why this is easier on the computer
Not all of the same features are available on the app as on the computer
It can be slow

Personally, I prefer the computer, but if the app works better for you, great.

Was this post helpful to you? Is there anything you don't understand or want to know? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear from you.

May 26, 2016

Book of the Month: The Selection


The Selection



As soon as I read this book, I loved it. For starters, just look at that dress. It's amazing. Going by the dress, the font, and the tiara on the cover, you might guess this a story about a princess.

You'd be close. Our story takes place in the kingdom of Illea, which is America in the future. After World War Three, there was a war with China, who took over the United States, then Russia tried to take over. The people fought back and gained their freedom. The man who led that war, Gregory Illea, named the country after himself and set it up as a kingdom. He divided everyone into eight castes based on how much money they had (bad idea).

All right, with that history lesson out of the way, let's move on to the synopsis. America Singer is a Five living in Caroline. Fives are musicians and artists. The young prince, Maxon, is ready to find a wife. Thus, the Selection. Any girl of a certain age range can sign up for the chance to be one of the 35 girls that will be picked for him to date. The whole country will be watching it on television. America reluctantly signs up. She's picked. She thinks she'll hate the prince, but actually comes to like him. Will America make it to the Elite, the ten finalists? Will she fall in love with Maxon? You'll have to read it to see.

My Thoughts

I love so much about this book. Let's start with it's setting. Doesn't the history of Illea sound like something that could actually happen? The Chinese invade the US to reclaim their debt. The caste system is an original idea and adds a lot of debate and depth to the story.

Another thing I enjoy is that it's in the future, but it's different than the tons of others out there. It's not in present tense, it's in past; it's not first person, it's in third. I like the change. Also, this is not a dark book with giant world problems. It's nice to once in a while have a lighter read.

America is a nice heroine. She's feisty, and a red head. Unlike most of the candidates, she isn't in it for the prince. She stays so her family can have the money they need. I love her spirit.

Recommendations

The Selection is fairly light, so it would be good for most teenagers just starting into YA. If you like a strong female character, royalty, and are looking for a different futuristic novel to read, this book is perfect.

And if you like this one, be sure to read the rest of the series. There are four more books, two with America and two with her daughter. Movie wise, I'd love to see one. Warner Bros. has the film rights, so I can hope, right?

May 23, 2016

A White Queen Inspired Outfit


If you keep up with the movies, you may know that the next Alice in Wonderland film-Through the Looking Glass- will be coming out later this week. I'm looking forward to it. In honor of that, I'll be showing you know to dress inspired by the White Queen, played by the awesome Anne Hathaway.

You'll Need-

White clothing (or something close to white)
Dark red lipstick
Dark red or black nail polish
Eyeliner
Pearl jewelry
Bobby pins



We'll start with the outfit. Mirana (the White Queen's name) wears only white. If you have a white dress, that would be perfect. If not, a white shirt and skirt will work. Add white or black shoes. For an extra touch, white fingerless gloves would give extra flair.



The hair is simple. Separate a strand of hair on each side of your head. Pin in the back of your head with the bobby pins.


Now, the make-up. Line your upper lid with eyeliner. If you use mascara (I'm too afraid of losing an eye to use it), apply that as well. Put on the lipstick and paint your nails. I didn't have time to do this, but it does add a lot.


Don't forget the jewelry. Mirana wears a pearl necklace, so if you have one, add it. White earrings of any type will finish it off.


And you're done. Don't forget to move very gracefully all day long.

May 19, 2016

3 Spring Outfits


It's spring, although it doesn't look like it here in Maryland. With rain almost every day this month, I'm starting to get a bit tired of it. (Actually, I was tired of it about eleven days ago.) So today I'm going to give you three spring outfit ideas, even if you can't wear them for another two weeks.


Candy Colored
For a cheerful colored outfit, find a skirt in a candy color like pink, orange, or purple. Or go striped, like mine. Add a plain white top, sandals, and some bright colored jewelry to go with it. Sweet!


Athletic Beauty
This outfit is perfect for any springtime activities that might make you sweat. A pair of culottes or jeans paired with a casual tee shirt is simple and ready to go. Put on your sneakers, braid your hair, wear a bandanna, and you're prepared for anything.


Simple Scarf
Adding a scarf to an outfit can take it from normal to fancy. Grab a denim skirt and a collarless shirt and pop the scarf on top. Pair it with flats, a cute hairstyle, and some bracelets. This outfit is nice enough you could wear it to church or out and about.

Hopefully the rain will let up so you can wear one of these without worrying about getting wet. If you liked this article, also check out this one on 6 Ways to Wear Denim.

Which outfit is your favorite?

May 15, 2016

3 Act Structure for Beginners


You may have heard writers talk about three act structure or read about it in a book. Did it confuse you? It's really quite simple, despite what some people might say. I'm going to break it down for you and walk you through using it.

Three Acts?

Three act structure, which I will abbreviate to TAS for this post, is the basic form of your novel. Each act correspond with the three parts of your novel- the beginning, the middle, and the end. They all include things that need to happen in it to move the story along.

TAS is vital to a well structured novel. It's also very simple to add to your story. Without it, unless you know what you're doing, you're story will end up a muddled mess.

The Parts

The first part is called, obviously, act one, and corresponds with the beginning of your novel. It sets up your whole story. In act one you need to introduce the protagonist and antagonist, most of the main characters, the setting, and the problem. It includes the hook and the inciting incident.

Act two is your middle, and the biggest part. Most of the action happens in the middle, but it also must help build towards the end. The middle is where most writers have problems because you know how the story starts and ends, but face it, you don't know so much how it will get between the two. Act two most often includes the protagonist hitting they're lowest point. It's full of problems for the hero that make the goal harder to achieve.

The end is act three. Everything comes to a head and is wrapped up, sometimes nicely sometimes not. The climax is in act three; the major battle between the hero and the villain. Make sure it's a good one that satisfies your readers. It also has the conclusion.

Now that you know all this, pick up some of you're favorite books or movies and see if you can identify TAS in it. I'll use The Lightning Thief as an example (warning, spoilers for anyone who hasn't read the book).

The hook happens on page one, as Percy warns you about being a demigod and exciting questions. The inciting incident is when Mrs. Dodds attacks him. Act one ends as they prepare to start their quest. Act two is basically their quest, which is what you'll find in a lot of heroic quest stories. The climax comes as Percy races to return the lightning bolt before his time runs out. Then the wrap up can begin.

Using Three Act Structure

Now for the important part. Applying what you've learned to your novel. Get out your story notes, a pencil, and some paper and let's get started.

First, identify your story's beginning, middle, and end. What happens at each of those points? Then add a point partway between the beginning and the middle and the middle and the end. So you now have five points- the hook, or beginning, the inciting incident, the mid point, the forth point, where the hero is at their lowest, and the climax.

Next, write your outline. If it helps, write out each act, so you can make sure you have it all. Or if you're not an outline person, you can go with just the plot points.

If you were to draw this structure as a line, the line would start out straight and start to go up. Then it would really start to climb, which is called the rising action. The top of your mountain is the climax. Then it starts to go back down until you reach the resolution.

I hope this helps you in your writing process. Is there something you didn't understand, or want more help with? Let me know in the comments.

May 12, 2016

The Diverse Book Dilemma


Diverse books are all the rage right now. There is even a whole campaign called We Need Diverse Books. Unfortunately, people are using diverse books in bad ways as well as good. Today we are going to talk about diverse books and how diverse they should, or should not, be.

Diverse Books

First, what is a diverse book? It is generally defined as a book that has characters or situations which are not stereotypical or well represented. Cultures, religions, race, and disabilities are some of the main things people want to see more of. Sadly, so are all gay, lesbian, trans-gender, and all that trash.

You have to be very careful when you read diverse books. The idea is good, but, like most things in this world, has been twisted for the use of evil. I do enjoy a book with a good, different protagonist or situation. Like Percy Jackson, who has ADHD and dyslexia. Or many characters in the Earthsea Cycle.

Writing Diverse Books

As a Christian and a writer, I believe we need to have many different books. Our world has so many wonderful people and cultures in it, and we should write about them all. But we should not advocate bad things.

These days, in many books there is a minor gay character. All the other people in the book are quick to reassure them that it's okay. They understand. THIS IS WRONG. Sorry, had to get that out there. But it is. It annoys me so much to watch people accept them without a problem.

The same goes for sex. It seems to show up in everything these days, whether it advances the story or not. A sensuous sex scene is one of the top things that turn me off to a book. That and cussing on practically every page.

We face a dilemma with all these things. What sort of characters should we portray in our books? Where do we draw about things like sex, even if the characters are married?

You should go by the Bible first. Words and stories have power, and our stories should match what's found in our guide book, the Word of God. After that, it's mostly a personally decision. Do what you think is right. Different people have different lines.

What is your opinion on diverse books and characters? Tell me what you think, I'd love to know.

May 9, 2016

A Simple Guide to Earrings


Often when I'm talking about earrings, people don't know all the names I use. So I put together this quick guide for you. At the end I've included a chart you can pin or print to use.

The Earring Guide


Stud earrings are a basic earring. They have a post and a shape on the front that can vary from a simple ball to whole animals and other fun shapes.



Dangles can range from a single hanging strand to more complex ones with multiple pieces. They're called this because they hang down, anywhere from a few inches to touching the shoulders.



Chandelier earrings are similar to dangles, but are fancy and look somewhat like the light fixture. They normally have a main body with many little dangles hanging off it.



Hoops are a classic earring. They are just a big circle of metal, ranging from tiny to huge. They can be made of many types of metal or strung with beads. There are also half hoops, which come in a C shape (see the bottom pair).



Clip-on earrings are specially made for people who don't have ear piercings. They can either clip on either side of your ear or magnetize. These can come in many of the above styles.



Cuff earrings are super cool, and fairly new. They wrap around the ear, sometimes all the way to the top. Some require more than one piercing or on top of the ear, but you can get them for a normal hole.

Here's the chart for you.



I hope this helps you in your jewelry collection. What is your favorite type of earring? I'd love to know.

May 5, 2016

5 Reasons You Should Watch the Peanuts Movie


Perhaps you've heard of the Peanuts Movie, the animated 3-D movie that came out this past November. I was a bit nervous when it came out, but after I watched it, I was in love. Maybe you heard about it and thought it would be awful. Or maybe you haven't even heard of it. Either way, here are five reasons you should watch it.


1. It's beautifully done in the style of Charles Schulz. It looks like they took the comics and turned them into 3-D animation. The animators went through a whole school to learn to draw just like he did. Also, his son and grandson were heavily involved in making the film.


2. The movie has a great message. Through the whole movie, all Charlie Brown wants is to impress the Little Red Haired Girl. But everything he tries ends in failure. What he doesn't realize is that the Little Red Haired Girl actually sees him doing kind things for others. The point is to not give and keep trying.


3. It's hilarious. There are many jokes, old and new, that keep you laughing, unless you're crying because it's so sweet.


4. It's reminiscent of the old comics and films. Snoopy still pretends he is a WWII flying ace. Lucy still has her famous speech about nickles. If you ever watched the old movies, you'll love this one too. The actors they got to play the kids are also well done. They sound like kids, but also like the old characters. (Hint, keep watching through the whole credits.)


5. It's perfect for everyone. Anyone who ever like Peanuts will like this. It's also a great way to introduce kids to Charlie Brown and the gang. Even older people would probably like this amazing film.

And also, there is the song, Better When I'm Dancing, in it. Any time you're feeling down or just need a peppy song, this is the way to go.


What do you think of the Peanuts Movie? Will you watch it or have you already?

May 2, 2016

Classic of the Month: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


This is a classic children's book. Everyone loves this whimsical book, full of unrealistic candies we all wish we could eat. No matter who old you get, you can't outgrow it's charm.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie is a poor little boy. So poor his whole family lives in a tiny little house and eats mostly cabbage. Every day he has to walk past Willy Wonka's wonderful chocolate factory, where he loves to breath in the lovely chocolate smell. When he learns that Mr. Wonka is holding a contest to let five lucky children into his factory, he is excited. Charlie knows that he has next to no chance of winning, but he tries several times anyway. Through a set of lucky circumstances, he finds the last golden ticket.
He and the other children arrive at the factory. Beside him there is Augustus Gloop, a greedy pig, Violet Beauregarde, a gum-smacker, Veruca Salt, a first class brat, and Mike Teavee, a TV obsessed kid. They travel through the factory, learning about Willy Wonka's awesome creations. One by one they are tempted and give in, thus being eliminated from the contest. In the end only Charlie is left. Mr. Wonka tells him he won the contest and is the successor to his factory. (If you want to know what happens after that, read Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.)

What I Like About It

Charlie is a remarkable hero. Life gave him it's worst, and yet Charlie never gave up. He resisted all temptations presented him at the factory. So he was rewarded for it. Grandpa Joe is also a great grandfather, trying to keep Charlie going.

The factory and Willy Wonka are two of the best part of the book. Wonka is so funny, with his Oompa Loompas that sing carefully pointed songs. But the factory is even better. Fudge Mountain, Square Candies that Look Round, Lickable Wallpaper, a chocolate river- so many delicious sounding candies. I always wished I could go into the factory and explore the whole thing. And try a treat, or several.

Dahl made some excellent points through his writing too. He talked about a lot of problems that existed now and then, which is what makes it timeless. Each child, except Charlie, represents a problem. Each one gets dealt with, in not so nice ways.

Film Adaptations

There are two popular films made from this book. The first is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder. It was made in 1971. For many years, this was the only film based on the book. I have never liked it. The songs were fine, but I found many of the elements weird and untrue to the book. But it wasn't terrible either.

Then there's the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory made in 2005 by Tim Burton. It starred Johnny Depp and Freddie Highmore as Willy Wonka and Charlie, respectively. I love this version. It is pretty close to the book and done with great casting. Besides, who could resist Johnny?

What do you think of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? When did you first read it? Do you like either of the movies? Let me know.