Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Book Review: A Future for Tomorrow by Haley Hatch Freeman

Status: Thoughtful
Song: "Arcus" by Amythestium

A few weeks ago I was asked to participate in a blog tour for a non-fiction book, A Future for Tomorrow by Haley Hatch Freeman. I was happy to agree, but when the book arrived I hesitated a little to start reading it. A Future for Tomorrow is the true story of the author’s struggles with Anorexia, the eating disorder that very nearly killed her. It is a story that I think should be shared, but it is often painful to read. Sometimes I had to put it down and go do other things, just because I was caught up too emotionally.

I am grateful that I’ve never suffered from an eating disorder, although as a dance major for a few years in college, I regularly met with faculty who were concerned about eating disorders among dancers. And I have had girls close to me suffer with anorexia. Fortunately, none of them lost weight to the point of the author, but it was frightening nonetheless.

As an author myself, I know how scary it is to bare pieces of your soul to whatever stranger reads your book. I must commend Haley Hatch Freeman for her courage in laying open her heart and soul to her readers. She doesn’t hold back, and on every page you can feel her desire to help others through her own experience. She even includes pictures in the back of the book so that others can see her close to her lowest point of under 100 pounds, and how much better she looks after recovery.

The messages of hope, and how Haley leaned on her faith and what she knew of the Savior are uplifting and priceless. But perhaps what I most appreciate about the book is the insight I now have into the mindset of an eating disorder. I have been told that eating disorders are usually not about food, but about other issues like control and self-esteem. Through this book, you really begin to see what that means. I truly think that Haley’s honest sharing of how she viewed food—what she thought and felt in association with it—will be invaluable knowledge for me, even though I do not struggle with the disease.

Sometime in the future, I may need to lean on my new understanding with some girl. And I have no doubt that many more girls than we realize will struggle with this, especially with a society so obsessed with a beauty that isn’t even really attainable, because it isn’t real. (Click here for a rant on that subject.) Armed with more knowledge, I feel more prepared to keep an eye out with my own daughter. For that, I want to thank Haley Hatch Freeman.

A Future For Tomorrow is a book I would highly recommend to parents, youth leaders, teachers, and teenagers themselves. It is very much an LDS book, but I would give it to others not of the LDS faith in a heartbeat, because of the in-depth look into the eating disorder.

You can find out more about Haley Hatch Freeman and A Future for Tomorrow (and even buy an autographed copy. How great is that?!) at her blog or her website. You can also order the book at Amazon (but it won't be signed).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Word of the Week #26

otiose - [oh-shee-ohs] - adjective

1. Ineffective; futile.
2. Being at leisure; lazy; indolent; idle.
3. Of no use.

Usage: I didn't get much written last Saturday, it was a pretty otiose day.

Status: Taking a deep breath
Song: "Send Me an Angel" by Sleepthief

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

In the Mood For a Little Vampire?

Status: Almost finished making grape juice. Yea!
Song: "Let Down" by Another Cynthia

My kids are so excited that it's almost Halloween. I haven't figured out any of our costumes yet, but that's another story. The stores are sporting Halloween decorations, Halloween costumes, and Halloween candy. So, I'm going to jump onto the Halloween bandwagon. What says Halloween more than Vampires? And, because I'm addicted to books, let's talk about some vampire books out there. And there are lots trying to ride the coattails of the Twilight phenomenon.

**Note: I will mostly talk about YA vampire books, because my experience with adult vampire books has not been fantastic. They run the gamut from gag-me gross to soft-porn with fangs. So--we're avoiding those. But if you have read some good adult vampire books that you're willing to recommend, then by all means, go ahead!

Here we go! Let's start with the big one:

1. Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer

These books are vampire romances--heavy on the romance. I like them, but not necessarily because of the romance part, which sometimes smacks of a Harlequin paperback. I still devoured the books in a short period of time. Twilight is by far the best of the 4 book series (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn).

The story is based around Bella Swan, who falls in love with hundred year old vampire Edward Cullen (in a 17 year old body). The series goes through their relationship, as well as a feud with other vampires and werewolves. These are like literature junk food, but who doesn't love some potato chips and Nutty Bars once in a while? The movie based on Twilight will be out in November.

You can find out more about the series and Stephenie Meyer on her website.

2. Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead

These books boast a strong, female protagonist with excellent voice. Add a cast of well-rounded characters, good writing, and some new twists to the vampire idea, and you have a breath of fresh air on the vampire scene. The books in the series are: Vampire Academy, Frostbite, and Shadow Kiss (available this November).

The story is set in the wilderness of Montana, where young vampire aristocrats and their bodyguards go to a boarding school (to quote a review, it's the bloodsucking equivalent of Hogwart's). The main character is Rose Hathaway, bodyguard to vampire and best friend Lissa.

You can find out more about the books and the author at her website.

3. The Morganville Vampires by Rachel Caine.

Brainiac Claire has to attend a community college before her parents will let her go to an Ivy League school far away. Unfortunately, she doesn't realize until too late that the small college town is really run by vampires. This is another interesting premise, and a real easy read. I enjoyed the books, but be aware that there is some swearing.

The books in the series are: Glass Houses, The Dead Girls' Dance, Midnight Alley, Feast of Fools, and Lord of Misrule (will be out this January). I've only read the first two books of the series, but will probably read the rest.

You can find out more about the books and author at her website.

4. Vampirates by Justin Stomper

This series may have to take the cake for unique idea. It combines Vampires and Pirates in a brilliant smushed word: Vampirates. Grace and her brother Connnor are suddenly orphans, and decide to brave the sea rather than be adopted by a detested family in their hometown. They are separated and rescued after hitting a huge storm, and enter the world of pirates and vampires, who happen to be pirates, too. Besides a fun idea and unique characters, I found the books surprisingly well-written. (Why it was a surprise to me, I don't know.)

The series starts with Demons of the Ocean, followed by Tide of Terror and Blood Captain. You can find out more at the Vampirates website.

5. Den of Shadows Series by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

For those who may be tired of wussy, good-guy vampires, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes goes back to vampires who prey on humans with little remorse. I've only read one of these, Demon in My View, but have the others stacked up on my nightstand. These books are really short, so can be finished in just hours. These may be good starter books into the YA vampire scene. The books in the series are Demon in My View, Shattered Mirror, In the Forests of the Night, and Midnight Predator.

You can find out more about the books and the author at her publisher's website.

5. The Mortal Instruments Trilogy by Cassandra Claire

These aren't vampire books, but they do have vampires in them. They mostly involve demons and demon hunters. I'm just including the books here because I really, really like them. Sometimes when you read as much as I do you start getting tired of the same sort of thing. Well, these books are not the same sort of thing. And they are very well-written.

Teenager Clary discovers she can see supernatural beings that no one else can and gets drawn into the world of the Shadowhunters (teens who kill demons and monsters). It's creepy, thrilling, and leaves you eagerly reaching for the next one. City of Bones is the first, followed by City of Ashes, and ending with City of Glass (will be out March 2009).

You can find out more about the books and the author at her website.

There are a few books that really suck (ha ha) for your Halloween season. I know there are many more out there, like the Vampire Diaries (couldn't finish - I'd pass), Vampire Kisses Series (haven't read), and Cirque Du Freak Series (haven't read). Here's a site with more of a list.

Happy Reading!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Word of the Week #25

*This comes from reader Deborah. Thanks for the suggestion!

inimitable - [i-nim-i-tuh-buhl] - adjective

Definition: incapable of being imitated or copied; surpassing imitation; matchless.

Usage: What a great word for the Silver Anniversary of the inimitable Jaime Theler's Word of the Week.

**Doesn't this sound like an ominous, slightly creepy word? So not what you think it means :)

Status: Trying to think of activities for the last day of Fall Break
Song: "Bye Bye Beautiful" by Nightwish

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pet Peeves I Have as a Reader

Status: Determined to push through
Song: "When Doves Cry" by Prince (or is it just "sign" or the "artist formerly known as Prince"?)

I have a little bit of residual snarkiness from last week, so I decided to do a snarky post about pet peeves that I have as a reader, because, after all, my opinion is the only one that matters, right? (In case you can't tell, I love the word snarky. It ranks up there in my list of favorite words. I like twit, too. And the French way of pronouncing psychiatrist. Hmmm. I feel a future blog idea coming on.)

Drum roll.... Jaime's pet peeves as an avid reader:

1. When the author can't think of another way to show the hero as sensitive and loving except to make him cry all the time. Or mist up, or get choked up, etc. I like a man to appreciate a sunset, but if he starts blubbering, I'm leaving. If I want someone to cry at the drop of a hat, I have a 5 year old daughter for that. These books not only get put down, but thrown across the room. If only the hero was there in person, then I could forgive tears at being hit by a book in the face.

2. Building up to an awesome climax, only to have the PC ending of everyone talking it out and walking away. Whhaat?! Where's the smackdown?

I like action movies. I like the ending of Sahara where Matthew McConaughey shoots a cannon into the windshield of the bad guy's helicoptor. (And it only has a little bit to do with the fact that it's Matthew McConaughey doing it :) We get a thrill of vicarious justification in the Knockout ending. It doesn't mean I'd like to see someone get hit by a cannonball in real life, but don't hype it up, then let it fizzle out on me like a can of opened pop left on the counter all day. That's just sugary sweet with no punch. Ick!

3. Large sections of nothing but contemplation, followed by some more thinking, some philosophizing, and maybe a cup of tea. I'd also rank up there wandering around for months in a tent, hanging out forever in a cave, and just mooning into someone's eyes for three chapters. And yes, those are specific references to specific books.

If it's a thinking book, then fine. But I've read some great books that make you think while the characters are doing something--other than chatting at a coffee shop.

4. Fantasy kick-butt female characters that wear next to no clothing. I don't care how good she is with a sword, or axe, or staff, or 15 daggers, if she's wearing a fur bikini, she's not going to fare well in a fight. Sorry. And it's a dead giveaway a man wrote it. I doubt he's ever tried doing anything remotely physical in a bikini. She'd be too distracted by trying not to pop out.

5. A book that has to use more than 3 pages to list the characters. Unless it's War and Peace, (which I must admit I haven't read, but it sounded good) I don't want to have to refer to a spreadsheet to keep everyone straight. Maybe it's just lazy of me, or maybe it's the fact that everything else in my life is complicated and I don't want my few minutes of spare time to be just as stressful as juggling my family's schedule.

6. Bad guys who are bad... just because. Just because we all know bad guys are e-vil, the fru-its of the de-vil. (So I Married an Ax Murderer reference) Although I could see a really fun humorous book about a bad guy who is just bad because he is supposed to be. Maybe he's a really bad, bad guy. Or maybe he wants to buck the system. Maybe a villian coming of age story...

Hold on just a second. I'm going to go write that down.

*Okay, I'm back.

7. Books that take forever to get into the story. I might give them to chapter three, but if I'm still thinking "So what?" I'm moving on. The time of Moby Dick is gone, people. To quote my brother, "If it's not instant, it's not worth it." Of course, he was talking as a bachelor about food preparation, but I think it sums up the Instant Generation.

8. Characters who change out of the blue. In real life people don't change like that. Of course, if one of the other characters says/thinks something like, "Hmmm. Where did that come from? I wonder what made him change out of the blue?" then that's okay.

So there are some of my pet peeves. I'm sure that I can think of more pet peeves in the future, but the snarky feeling is wearing off. I guess I'll go do dishes. That should bring it back.

Happy reading!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Word of the Week #24

Status: So close to finishing my WIP, if I could just get my main character through this stupid door
Today's Song: "What If I" by Kristy Thirsk

morass - [muh-ras] - noun

1. any confusing or troublesome situation, esp. one from which it is difficult to free oneself; entanglement.
2. a marsh or bog.

Jaime beat her head against the top of her computer desk, thinking that soon there would be a forehead-shaped groove. The action didn't jump start her brain cells--it never did--but she couldn't help but hope for a burst of inspiration to drag her out of the current plot morass. Ah, the glorious life of the writer.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Recommended Reading: The Richest Man in Babylon

Status: It's cold outside
Today's Song: "Just Dance" by Lady Ga Ga

Many of us have had finances on the brain the last couple weeks as the world's markets take a hit, stocks drop, and we are in the middle of what the media calls a "credit crisis." I think that now may be a good time for individuals, families, businesses, and countries to go back to some sound finance basics. In fact, a year ago would have been a better time to go back to the basics, but until someone figures out how to rewind time, we're stuck with the present. :)

A book that is great at getting down to the basics in an easy-to-read way is the classic book, The Richest man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason. It first appeared in 1926 as a series of informational pamphlets on basic financial management, which were then compiled into a book.

If the idea of reading a book on money and finances makes you break out in a cold sweat and your head spin, don't worry. This is an easy one. The Richest Man in Babylon gives financial advice through a collection of parables, kind of like Aesop's fables, set in ancient Babylon. Each story presents basic tenets of how to get ahead financially in any time. It reads a bit like a collection of short stories.

I liked the tale "Seven Cures for a Lean Purse" where Arkad, the richest man in Babylon gives a class teaching how he rose from an ordinary Joe-Schmoe (not a Babylonian term) to being so wealthy.

The Seven Cures are:
1) Start thy purse to fattening - take 1/10 of what you earn and save it for the future.
2) Control thy expenditures - don't buy frivolous things even if you have the money for them.
3) Make thy gold multiply - once you build up some savings invest it.
4) Guard thy treasure from loss - invest in things where your principal is safe.
5) Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment - own rather than rent (I don't think he means the outrageous home purchases that have us in trouble right now)
6) Insure a future income - Save for retirement and for family after your passing.
7) Increase thy ability to earn - work hard, look for opportunities, and better yourself.

That wasn't so scary, was it?

We could all use some better money sense. I'm not encouraging you to run out and buy a copy of the book (although if you want to you can probably find a copy at any secondhand store), but for sure check it out from your library.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Writing Non-fiction Part 3

Status: Ecstatic I finally finished sealing the cement in my driveway - and yes, it was as bad as I thought it would be.
Today's Song: "I Don't Care" by Apocalyptico

I'm sorry for taking so long to get to this part. I had family in town, and you know how sometimes when you have company other things get pushed back. But I'm back in the saddle (or computer chair) again and, as promised, here are some steps to writing any sort of non-fiction. This works for shorter pieces like articles, and even for something as long as a book.

So... drum roll... 5 Fast and Easy Steps to Writing Non-fiction.
(I have to admit I found these steps from this article, but I'm not sure who the author is.)

1. Brainstorm on your topic
2. Group your material
3. Check for more needed information
4. Order your groups
5. Write each section

That doesn't look like much when you just list them, but let's try this out, shall we? For our little exercise I'm going to pick "Triathlons for Beginners." I want you to know that I just pulled this off the top of my head, so I don't have anything prepared. (I also raced in my first Triathlon a couple months ago. Yea!)

Step 1 - Brainstorm
Don't limit yourself in this part. Even random thoughts could lead somewhere. So, here goes. (Remember I'm doing this as I write this post)

* types of triathlons
* how to train
* what to eat
* how to start
* music to keep you going
* do you need special clothing?
* good training program
* finding a triathlon to enter
* open water vs. swimming pool
* avoiding injury
* how long to train
* some famous triathletes
* is time important on your first one?
* the next step
* personal triathlon experiences
* swimming tips
* biking tips
* running tips
* how to not look like a drowning rat in the water
* passing etiquette
* what are those ankle things they wear?
* race day - what to expect
* how to stay motivated
* avoiding "bonking"
* spandex

I could just keep going, but that should be enough to get the point across.

Step 2 - Group your material
Take your brainstorming and start grouping things that may go good together.

Group 1- famous triathletes, types of triathlons (or basically, what is a triathlon?), open water vs. swimming pool

Group 2 - personal triathlon experiences, the next step

Group 3 - good training program, what to eat, how to stay motivated, music to keep you going, avoiding injury, swimming tips, how to not look like a drowning rat in the water, biking tips, running tips, avoiding "bonking"

Group 4 - finding a triathlon to enter, how to start, how to train, how long to train

Group 5 - what to expect on race day, do you need special clothing, spandex, is time important on your first one, what are those ankle things they wear, passing etiquette

Step 3 - Check for more needed information
This is the time for research. Go find what you will need to flesh out your topic. As you research, you will probably also find more things to add to your list. Just plug them in the right grouping or make new groups if you need to.

Step 4 - Order your groups

Introduction - Group 1
Getting started - Group 4
Training (and more training) - Group 3
Race Day - Group 5
Conclusion - Group 2

Step 5 - Write each section
Do I really need to explain this one? The sections in an article may only be a few paragraphs, and the sections in a book may be as long as a chapter or several chapters.

There! That wasn't so bad, was it? You can write non-fiction, just take it a step at a time. And don't forget, non-fiction does not equal boring! Happy writing...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Word of the Week #23

Status: Already feeling those muscles after a million lunges
Song: "Black Gloves" by TS Hartley

genius loci - [gen-i-oos loh-kee] - noun

Definition: the distinctive character or atmosphere of a place with reference to the impression that it makes on the mind.

In a small way, jello, large church activities, and dozens of kids underfoot contribute to the genius loci of Utah.