Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009: A Year in Review

January:

I was living at Mike's house in Rexburg and started my final semester at BYU-Idaho. During this month I began reading The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde for my senior capstone English class. Also, on the 16th, my sister gave birth to two beautiful twin boys named Morgan Rico and Wyatt Bruce Chacon. They are an awesome addition to the family.

February:

Still plowing away at the last semester of school. Another Valentine's Day without a significant other to profess my love with flowers and chocolates to. Oh well.

March:

This was a great month. We had Giselle (Gigi) sealed to my parents and also did Brittany's temple work. It was a very special and spiritual experience that I will not forget. It was after this that I finally felt at peace about the whole thing. We have also continued the tradition of going out to eat as a family on birthdays, so we went out for Britt's birthday.

April:

We celebrated Kate's 27th birthday on the 8th. And I graduated from BYU-Idaho FINALLY! My degree was in English, professional writing, with a minor in public relations. The world was my oyster and I was ready to hit the road running!

May:

This month found me moving out of Mike's house and back in with my parents and Gigi. It has been a good move because I have been able to save up money while looking for a big-kid job.

June:

Gigi had her second birthday. On her birthday we took family pictures which would eventually be the motivation for me to lose weight.

July:

I started a workout regimen using my parents' Bowflex and their elliptical machine and saw immediate results. Also, this was the month I went to Tori Amos' concert in Salt Lake City. She was AMAZING and by far the best concert I've ever been to. Somewhere either in June or July we had a big Art Taylor family reunion up here. We had a big bbq and then the next day we caravan'ed up to West Yellowstone and other hot spots. It was great to be with the clan again.

August:

I turned 26 on the 4th which puts me closer to 30 than 20. It's hard to think of that simply because I thought I would be in a different place in my life at this point, but what can ya do? It has been hard for me to get out of a jaded funk about girls and dating.

September:

Still plugging away at work at Deseret Book. They were starting construction on the remodel. We added a distribution center to the store which was a big undertaking for all involved.

October:

We moved the store out into a tent for a week while they finished up the store's remodel. I went down to St. George for Jeremy and Megan Young's baby boy's blessing. They named him Hadley Taylor Young. It was great to get away and to see my friends there, so much so I really didn't want to leave. I even toyed with the idea of moving down there. It is still a possibility.

As soon as I got back I pulled a 14-hour day at work putting the store back together. What a mess!

November:

I officially lost 20 lbs. this month. What a great feeling to be in shape. I forgot what it was like not to cringe whenever I looked in the mirror. :)

We celebrated Thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle's house near Rexburg. I was good and didn't overindulge even with all the yummy-yummy food to eat.

December:

Insanity! Deseret Book became my second home because I was there so much. Tension was high the last couple weeks but we survived the Christmas rush. Now we get to take a sigh of relief as January comes and gives us some time to think and recover from the madness.

Also, I finished the rough draft of my novel! What an awesome thing to have that done. I have already started the rewrite and am very happy with the results thus far.

I am in a much different place in my life now. Much more at ease and comfortable with where I'm at. It's not that I'm getting complacent. I just know that I'm not going to sit around and wait for life to happen to me anymore. 2010 will be a year of changes, travels, and LIFE!

Friday, December 25, 2009

MERRY CHRISTMAS!




Hope your Christmas is merry and bright! I know mine has been. I love you all.

(I will post pictures and detailed summary of my Christmas soon, so stay tuned!)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

DONE!

The rough draft of Soul Burner is FINISHED!

Official Word Count: 72,984

Estimated Page Count: 290

FYI: Soul Burner is what I am calling the rough draft. The new working title is The Shepherd of the Damned.

Now I get to do a complete rewrite. Thank you, everyone, for your support and motivation in this project. s

Saturday, December 19, 2009

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare



I remember seeing this book at Barnes and Noble and not being all that interested. Then my aunt mentioned it to me so I decided to give it a try. I'm very glad I did because it is quite enjoyable.

The writing is very good. Cassandra Clare has a flare for precise detail and very raw imagery with her use of metaphor and simile. I loved the dialogue because it was realistic and I could picture teens actually talking that way. They weren't teens that sounded like adults or like children; they were teens.

Clare uses Dante's Inferno to create her world of Shadowhunters, demons, warlocks, witches, vampires, werewolfs, fairies, and other magical creatures. I like this because it exposes teens (her target audience) to a classical piece of literature that they, otherwise, would not know about.

I do have some qualms with the story though. (Warning: Spoilers ahead!) Why would Clare go through the trouble of creating this romance between Jace and Clary only to have the big twist at the end revealing that they are brother and sister? I'll admit I actually knew it was coming because I had read the synopsis of the next book, City of Ashes. So while Clare was building up this romance, I kept thinking, Sick, I know they're going to find out they're related. Why is she doing this to me (the reader)? I'm sure she has a good explanation for it, but it saddens me because I really liked the chemistry between Jace and Clary.

That brings me to my other complaint. This might be because I am not the target audience. I don't think the target audience for this book is a 26 year old white male, English major, and an aspiring writer. That being said, for her target audience I don't think this is the case. I just think that some of it was too predictable. Not just the relationship between Clary and Jace, but also some of the big "revelations." Granted, it is a nice tool to have the characters be oblivious to things the reader is all-too aware of, but sometimes that can be overdone. While I love Clary, she is not exactly smart sometimes. But I think that could also be simply because she's a teenage girl. It is also a nice payoff for the reader to be right sometimes when they predict what is going to happen. That being said, even though a good portion of the book is predictable, there are a few things that Clare throws in that are pleasant surprises. It is moments like these that you realize you are in the hands of a true storyteller with pure talent. And, no matter how predictable it is, you can't help but enjoy the ride.

I am really excited to read the next book in the trilogy. I've been on a teen fiction kick lately for some reason, and this is definitely a good read in that genre.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Insanity

Will the insanity ever end?

I know Christmas is next week but, wow, I just can't believe how many people keep coming in to Deseret Book to buy Christmas stuff. I didn't even know there were this many people in Idaho Falls. Where are they all coming from? Seriously!

Today was a "slow day" and we did nearly $13,000 in revenue.

I've actually been really good this year, despite the insanity at work, at being in the Christmas spirit. The First Presidency devotional this year seemed to have the main message of focusing on the reason for the season rather than the hubbub of the commercial side of it. I am determined to keep my feet firmly planted and fight against the "commerciality" of the season.

Onward and upward, my friends!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Be Strong

I just received news that my really good friend lost her newborn baby due to heart complications. Please keep the Cederstrom family in your prayers throughout this difficult time.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christmas Time!



I've worked retail for forever it seems. Okay. That was an exaggeration. I have worked retail the last five years not counting the summer I worked at K-Mart. That is besides the point. Man, I get off-track so easily. The point is retail is horrible during Christmas time. It has a way of sucking the Christmas spirit right out of you. I worked at Wal-mart for three of the last five years and, let me tell you, the big, happy, smiley face is a big ol' lie.

Now, there are other reasons I've been a Scrooge during Christmas seasons. Snow is a huge one of those reasons. I'm perfectly content with having a warm Christmas. Call me crazy. I've seen what it's like to have a sunny Christmas and it's not all that bad. White Christmases are overrated thanks to Bing Crosby's song.

All of that aside, I have found myself in total Christmas mode this year. I am stoked about Christmas! Not only about the gifts and all that mumbo-jumbo, but also about the true meaning behind it. I have gotten most of my Christmas shopping done already so that I can focus on the birth of the Savior. In one of Tori Amos' songs on her new Christmas album (which is fantastic) she calls the Savior's birth "our salvation's hour." Angels, I'm sure we were among their number, rejoiced at the birth of Christ as it marked the beginning of our redemption.

At Deseret Book I see the commercialized side of the Savior's birth. Nothing against the book store. We sell good stuff that do good for people. It just tends to make the Nativity scene less special when you are surrounded by it all the time. So I am making a greater effort to be more awed by them and to concentrate on the true meaning of Christmas. It will be no easy task with customers who are stressed out about Christmas, grumpy coworkers who need to take chill pills, and hearing the same Christmas songs over and over and over...and over...and over...and...oh...You get the picture.

So I challenge you, dear reader, to focus on the beautiful story of a virgin mother who gave birth to a Son who would grow up to be our Salvation. Focus on the intricacies of the story: how Joseph must have felt when he found out his betrothed was pregnant, how Mary must have felt when she first received the visit from the angel, and how both of them felt when they first laid eyes on the baby Jesus.

One last thing before I close this monstrous rambling post.

This last Sunday I woke up to Sounds of Sunday. Glen Rawson was talking about the story of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. At first it was a nice little Christmas story, and I was half-asleep so I was just barely listening. Then he started talking about when Christ died, there was only Mary there. Glen Rawson said it really well. He said that the absence of Joseph shows that Christ can empathize with us in EVERY aspect of our lives including the loss of loved ones. This, of course, made me think about my sister and I got kinda weepy, but that is besides the point.

I refuse to get too caught up in the retail side of Christmas this year. Instead, I want this to be about my Savior who I know empathizes with me in all my trials and heartaches.

This won't be the last post this month but I just want to say:

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!



I just wanted to take a moment to list some things I am grateful for. I did this last year and had fun with it so I might just make it an annual thing to add to my blog. Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and also take a moment to consider your many blessings.

These are in no particular order. I am grateful for:

Indoor plumbing
Food (especially today where there will be lots of it)
Family, I have such an awesome family. Even my extended family is cool.
Books, where would I be without them?
Sunny days
The Gospel of Jesus Christ
Friends who put up with me even when I'm grouchy
My talents
Clothes
Technology
Cell phones (sometimes I hate them but today must be a good day)
My job (even though I hate my job right now because it's so insane and everyone's stressed)
Music that makes me happy or inspires me to write
Music in general I guess
Chocolate
Ice cream (seldom in winter. what is wrong with people who eat ice cream in winter?)
Hot chocolate
Barnes and Noble for being my sanity sometimes
School and being able to go to it and get a degree
Lazy days
Advil
Weight loss! I'm down four pant sizes!
Girls
Babies' laughter (it's the best thing in the world)
Hawaii
Our founding Fathers who helped create this great nation
The things I take for granted (the fact that I have things I take for granted means I am very blessed)
Great movies
Awesome tv shows (The Closer, Charmed, Medium, Bones, Heroes, Criminal Minds, etc.)
Art throughout history
Literature
Luxury
Family vacations
Sweet memories of my beautiful sister, Brittany
My car
My life

Yeah that about covers it for this year. I am sure I missed some somewhere but...I am off to feast! Have a happy Thanksgiving, friends and kindred. :) Love you all!

Monday, November 23, 2009

20 lbs. Later!

I will do a before and after pic thing later but I was too excited.

Since June I have lost (drum roll please)

20 LBS!!!!!!!

My pants hang off me now. Guess I need to go get some new ones.

I'm still planning on losing another 5 or 10 lbs.

Booyeah!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Hunger Games



I wanted to put a hundred exclamation points after I typed in the title of this book for the title of this post. What a wild ride this book was and I am playing it cool and trying to pretend that the next book is not begging to be read right now so I can quickly write this review.

Brief plot summary: The book takes place in a future in which the land that used to be called North America is now Panem: a country divided into twelve districts each of which are controlled by the Capitol. Each year they perform what is called the reaping in which contestants from each district are drawn from a lottery. These tributes, as they are called, are to be placed in an arena to take part in The Hunger Games, a battle for life and death that is aired on television. Katniss is from District Twelve. She takes the place of her little sister as tribute. Then she is swept into a world of high society and fashion as they prepare her to enter the arena.

I have to say this book had me from the get-go. The writing is very direct. Collins manages to show a depth to a young adult story that is hard to find. It is a very physical book. I became very aware of how blessed we are in this country with all the things we have at our fingertips when Katniss and those in her district have to scrounge for every bit of food they can get. The things we take for granted today are luxuries in this future society.

There is also romance in this book but it's played differently than your average heartthrob romance (Twilight anyone?). Katniss is forced to pretend that she is in love with fellow District Twelve tribute Peeta who is also known as the boy with the bread. In order to survive she has to make this love look believable and sometimes that is harder than you'd think. For Peeta, however, it is not hard to pretend because he seems to actually be infatuated with her as he tells of how he's been in love with her since they were little kids.

I don't want to spoil anything for you if you have not read the book so I am going to make one more quick comment about the characters. I loved that the descriptions of each character was sparse enough to let my imagination do the rest but there was enough there that I was not led astray. On YouTube you can find several fans who have cast their opinions as to who should play whom in a movie (they are actually in talks of a movie that is supposed to come out in 2011).

After reading the book I disagree with just about all the choices I saw. Hands down everyone has this scrawny pretty-boy playing Peeta. Wrong-o. Peeta is supposed to be big and able to throw around big bags of flour. For Katniss they usually have some dainty looking girl (most people have gone with Emily Browning). Umm...This girl kicks serious butt and she never describes herself as dainty. Most of the choices just suck. I really think the actors who play the characters cannot be too pretty and perfect. They need to have a somewhat savage look to them and they cannot be incredibly scrawny looking. Hopefully Hollywood doesn't screw that up. I actually picture Katniss to have a gymnast's build from all her climbing trees, hiking, and hunting.

There you have it. Go read the book if you haven't already! I'm off to start the second book, Catching Fire!!!! (There are my exclamation points)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Mock Cover

I had to share this. I'm thinking this is one of my favorite mock covers for my novel to date. :)


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Water for Elephants



I just finished Sara Gruen's contemporary classic Water for Elephants. It was recommended to me by my good friend Kelli Buttars. She's an avid reader and has good taste in books so I thought I'd give it a shot. I'd seen the book on the shelves at Barnes and Noble and, at one time, almost bought it, but for some reason or another I always put it back down, promising myself I would buy it the next time I came in.

Well, I am glad I finally gave in and purchased this book. It has romance, comedy, action, intrigue, dark secrets, and a charming elephant named Rosie. What more could you ask for?

When I finished The Greatest Knight I wanted a book that would just grab me and take me for a ride. Oddly enough I tried to plow through Atlas Shrugged. Wrong choice. When I started reading Water for Elephants I was immediately hooked. The main character, Jacob, is a veterinary student. At the beginning of the story his parents are killed in an accident which leaves him devastated. He leaves school, right in the middle of taking his final exam, and ends up on a circus train. Thus begins the adventure.

Intermingled in the narrative about Jacob's time with the circus, is an ninety-three year old Jacob in an old-folk's home. Gruen masterfully entwines the two stories together with parallels. I saw parallels, for obvious reasons, between old Jacob and Camel, the old and drunk cripple who befriends the young Jacob, and not so obviously between Rosie and Old Jacob. There are other parallels that I saw but they might be spoilers so I better not put them in the review.

The love between Jacob and Marlena is very believable. August and Uncle Al, as antagonists, are very easy to hate. I truly think, however, that the true star of the story is Rosie the elephant. I will just say this in order not to spoil the fun: She makes it possible for Jacob and Marlena to be together. I love how Gruen gave each animal a personality. Rosie is a sweet creature with a cute little personality.

The character development in this book is fantastic. Each character becomes realistic. I really enjoyed the relationship between Walter, a circus clown, and Jacob. At first Walter hates Jacob but, by the end of the story, they become true friends.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants an enjoyable adventure story that will stay with you.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Soul Burner Update Pt. 2

Yeah so you know how I was trying to finish the rough draft of my novel by Halloween? That's not going to happen obviously. I have now set my goal to have the rough draft done by New Year's Eve so I can start the revision process in January. Whew! Who knew writing a novel would be such an arduous task? Seriously. If you knew and didn't tell me, I will hunt you down. ;)

The book is going great actually. I've had some epiphanies about how to rework the whole thing which I am actually really excited for. I've had some really great feedback and help from some friends of mine, especially Kelli.

I also had an awesome idea for a cover to the book that I am going to try to create. It might be too complicated for the software I have. I will keep you posted on that.

So there you go. I will share the latest mock cover. Oh by the way...I am probably changing the title to The Shepherd of the Damned. It fits better than Soul Burner.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Autumn and Stuff

I am so anti-winter but I have to admit I do sorta like autumn. The leaves are changing and whatnot...yeah everything looks dead and nasty after awhile, but there is a different feeling in the air when fall comes around. Everyone seems to be holding their breath for the first snowfall and the impending doom of winter. More than that, though, there is a joy in the harvesting of gardens and as families and friends draw closer for the coming holidays.

With that said, I really, really miss summer. For those of you who don't know me, I want to live somewhere that has summer/spring weather all year round. That, to me, would be the ideal.

This Halloween sneaked up on me. I think I was so caught up in the remodel of the store, the trip to St. George, and other things that Halloween never caught my attention. I did decorate my parents' house for Halloween and it was quite a hit. I strung fake spiderwebs over the hutch in the living room and put orange lights on top of it to give it a creepy glow effect. I did have fun with that.

Today I took down the Halloween decor (I should have taken pictures. Oops.) and put up Thanksgiving stuff. I had fun with this yet again. I'm finding I can use my artistic eye for just about anything. I have to admit, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. What other day do you get the excuse to be a glutton? No one looks at you like you're a pig either because they're pigging out just as much as you! It's remarkable. However, this year I am going to exercise a little more control than in previous years. I'm losing weight and that would just put me way behind.

My parents and Gigi were in Utah for the weekend of Halloween. My sister's family came over to avoid trick-or-treaters. I invited my friends, Mike and Lacey, to come over as well. I got a pizza from Papa Murphy's after work. When Kate pre-heated the oven some meatloaf juices that had dripped into the oven from a previous meal lit up. My brother in law had to use baking soda and everything to get the fire out. Scary.

I got home and the house was all smokey. We cleaned the oven, opened doors and windows to clear the air, and then got the party started. Morgan was dressed as a monkey and Wyatt was a lion. They were adorable in their little outfits (again I wish I had pictures).

Kate and her crew left before the pizza was done. Mike and Lacey and I watched The Proposal while we consumed the delicious pizza. That movie is very well done. I didn't think I would like seeing Sandra Bullock as a mean, beasty woman but she managed to still be funny even as a beeotch.

So there's the rundown of my Halloween night and my feelings about the changing seasons. Stay tuned for more!

Oh, hey, btw...I have officially 17 lbs. since I started working out in June. Boo. Yeah.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Greatest Knight



I just finished Elizabeth Chadwick's The Greatest Knight. It's a story about William Marshal, a relatively unknown knight who lived during the era of King Richard I.

It started out great. In fact, I could not get enough of it for the first 300 pages. After awhile, though, I got to the point where I could not stand how perfect William Marshal was. I think there are very few people in history who actually were this perfect. If Marshal really was this perfect, I'm certain we would all know his name better. That is really my only gripe about the book, except that it dragged on a little too long. By the time William met his wife, Isabelle, I was tired of the book. Granted, Chadwick had a lot of years to condense into a book, but there were scenes she could have done without. The whole thing with Clara seemed a little pointless to me (although it was entertaining). In the back of the book Chadwick explains that Clara represents all the women in Marshal's life because it is understood that he probably had mistresses and concubines but it is also true that Marshal respected women so she took the liberty of fictionalizing all of his women into one. Chadwick could have taken out the Clara thing and then focused more on things that were more exciting like the wars and the relationship he has with his older brother John. This relationship becomes important at the end of the book and John is one of the better characters in the book because he has flaws.

Prince John (yes, the same Prince John from the Robin Hood legend) is a little snake in the book. Chadwick characterized him well. For a moment there I thought she was trying to make it seem as though William Marshal was the real-life Robin Hood. I guess, in a sense, he was, but that is not the direction Chadwick went, thankfully.

With all that said, Chadwick's writing is magnificent. She has deft prose and an eye for detail. I could picture everything she wrote because she obviously has a keen perception and a great knowledge of the time period. All in all this is a great historical fiction despite my own misgivings.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Namesake



This weekend was amazing! I got to go to St. George, Utah to see some really good friends of mine and meet my namesake. His name is Hadley Taylor Young. He's an awesome little baby. I am so used to my niece and nephews who are now getting so big that I was stunned at how tiny Hadley was. He's a beautiful baby with a great head of hair thanks to both his parents who both had full heads of hair when they were born as well.

I left for St. George on Friday, but I stayed in Sandy with my mom, sister, niece, and nephews that night. It was nice to split up the long trip into two days, but I totally could/should have just gone all the way on Friday. Oh well. Live and learn. Besides, I did have fun with my family that night. We just went out to lunch, shopped for a bit, then ordered pizza in at the hotel.

The next day I drove down to St. George where it was sunny and beautiful weather. I have completely fallen in love with this city. It's a great place to be.

Once I arrived, I called Jeremy (Hadley's father) and then we went to lunch at Arby's. At Arby's we met some interesting people including a pregnant girl who was not shy to tell Jeremy how great he smelled, a guy who told us the history of vampires, and an odd but friendly employee at the fast food joint. I began to question the sanity of St. George residents, but Jeremy assured me they're not all like that.

After lunch, we went to another lunch (not because we're pigs but because we weren't sure about the plans) at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. This was my first time at the new chain. We do have one in Idaho Falls. I was not too impressed. They don't even have milkshakes. What kind of burger joint doesn't do milkshakes? And, while there, I randomly saw an old friend, Chelsea, who was working there. It's a small world.

Also, at Five Guys I met my namesake. Pictures don't do the little guy justice. He's awesome. Maybe I'm just biased.

The rest of that night we just hung out at Megan's parents' house (Megan is Hadley's mommy) with her parents, siblings, and nieces and nephew. Somewhere in there we watched the BYU game. By the end of the night I was so very tired.

On Sunday we had the baby blessing. It was a great experience and Jeremy did an excellent job as voice in the blessing. After that they had a great testimony meeting in which I got to hear both Jeremy and Megan's testimonies, both of which were very powerful and spiritual.

We had lunch at Megan's parents' house that afternoon. I got to meet Megan's grandparents and Jeremy's mission president.

That night I went to Matt and Meree Hadley's house for a great Italian dinner and then we just hung out. Matt's mom made some amazing pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. My head was spinning during dinner because of all the different conversations going on. It reminded me of the dinner scene in While You Were Sleeping.

The next day we had lunch at Cafe Rio and then I hit the road with abandon. The miles were a blur to me, but I clocked them. It was 518.5 miles from St. George to Rigby, so I did 1027 miles (approximately) in one weekend. It was all worth it. What amazing friends I have in St. George! Jeremy, Megan, Matt, Meree, and crew I love you all. Thanks for everything!

(Note: Jeremy Young is an amazing guy. Matt and I taught and baptized him in Bradenton, Florida nearly 8 years ago. In those short years he has become a solid convert to the church, proclaimed the gospel in the Idaho Pocatello mission, married an awesome girl in the St. George temple, and bore a beautiful son whom he named after Matt and me. What a great honor to have a child named after me.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sick

Another reason to hate winter time: flu season.

Last week my house got hit with some sickness. My dad got it first and actually stayed home from work one day because of it. It was a cold/flu/nasty thing.

The next day my mom and I were hit. We both complained of feeling achy and tired. We took medicine and I had a couple of bad nights of feverish sleeping. I progressively got better and better, though, because I was determined not to let it get me down. That and I took lots of medicine to kick it.

My Dad is also nearly 100% better. And my Mom, on the other hand, has lost her voice because she strained it when she went to work on Monday. She's missed two days of work so far and probably won't be able to go back the rest of the week. We are hoping and praying that she will be better in time for the weekend because she and my sister were going to go to my cousin's baby shower in Utah. I hope they don't miss out on it because they were both looking forward to it and planning on going for a really long time.

I have been hoping to be 100% better (which it is looking likely that will happen) so that I can go to St. George this weekend for a baby blessing.

Keep us in your prayers!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dear Agony



I have been a fan of Breaking Benjamin for a long time now and they never cease to create great music. Their last album Phobia is on my list of favorite albums ever. Critics say that Phobia had a darker sound than their previous albums. Were they listening to the other albums? I think there are darker themes in Phobia, but the sound is pure Breaking Benjamin.

In their new album, they return with their signature heavy sound and lead singer Benjamin Burnley's raspy vocals. Their lead single "I Will Not Bow" is on the soundtrack of Bruce Willis' new flick, Surrogates, and seems to be their biggest hit of their career. Woohoo!

1. Fade Away: Signature BB sound with heavy guitar and drums.

2. I will Not Bow: Fantastic song paired with an amazing video. I love how the chorus is slower than the rest of the song and feels epic.

3. Crawl: This has a little more screaming than the other songs, but it's not disturbingly so. I actually didn't notice it until after I listened to it a couple times. I love the repetition of "Holding On."

4. Give Me a Sign: A rock ballad with fantastic lyrics. There are little gems in this song like "Shepherd of the damned" and "Forever and ever the stars will remain."

5. Hopeless: Excellent song.

6. What Lies Beneath: A mellower sound. The title makes me think of the movie of the same title. It would be interesting to see if the band made the correlation on purpose. Great song.

7. Anthem of the Angels: Great title! Kind of a sad song. Sounds like he's letting someone die. Depressing, yes, but the anthem of the angels seems to be a saving grace.

8. Lights Out: Hardcore Breaking Benjamin at their best.

9. Dear Agony: The title track of the album is a plea for release from life's agonies. Anyone can relate to this song at some point in their lives.

10. Into the Nothing: Fantastic!

11. Without You: An epic song that seems like a love song. "I can't face the dark without you."

Just a side note: I owe a lot, creatively, to Breaking Benjamin. I listen to their music when writing and it helps me think and create. My novel has enjoyed a lot of progress because of them. I look forward to more from this band. If you have not discovered Breaking Benjamin before this album, take a listen at all their other albums. I'm certain you will not be disappointed.

Brand New Eyes



I just purchased two new albums yesterday. Big deal, right? Well, it is a big deal! These albums just so happen to be from two of my favorite bands right up there with Tori Amos herself.

I will do two different posts for the albums.

Paramore's Brand New Eyes is a great album. They have not changed their sound a whole lot which is fine. The only real difference is that these songs seem a little darker, moodier, and angrier. The lead single off the album "Ignorance" is, essentially, about how the band was about to break up. According to lead singer Hayley Williams this song was the catalyst into allowing the band members to finally speak to each other again and really let out their feelings. I'm not sure about the details, but the band was about to break up. "Ignorance" is not only about a band near breaking point but it is also about relationships changing in general and how we sometimes treat those we know the best in the worst ways possible. It is also easy to see, in this album, the influence that No Doubt has had on the band. In one of the tracks Williams sounds a lot like Gwen Stefani.

There are a lot more acoustic songs on this album such as "Misguided Ghosts." I was also astounded by Williams' pipes in the final track "All I Wanted" where she belts out some amazing notes. It's also nice to hear the boys from the band lend their voices to some of the tracks.

1. Careful: Classic Paramore with a catchy beat and oodles of attitude.

2. Ignorance: Has an edgier sound coupled with the claustrophobic video this song is destined to be a classic.

3. Playing God: A song about someone who thinks very highly of themselves. "Next time you point the finger, I'll point you to the mirror." Great lyrics.

4. Brick by Boring Brick: Excellent title. Love it. And I dig the attitude in the "ba-da-buh-ba-dah-buh-bah."

5. Turn It Off: It might just be me. But this is the song that recalls, to me, No Doubt. I'm sure Paramore would take this as a compliment so I have no reservations of making the comparisons.

6. The Only Exception: A great acoustic sound and a love song that shows the softer side of the band.

7. Feeling Sorry: "Got no time for feeling sorry." Need I say more?

8. Looking Up: This seems to be a celebration of Paramore's success and wondering why they were willing to "hang it up." Their dreams have come true with their current success and this song is evidence that they are willing to stick through all the downs in order to enjoy the ups. "We're just getting started." Can I just say...YES!

9. Where the Lines Overlap: One of my favorite tracks from the album. A nice little ditty.

10. Misguided Ghosts: A very pretty song that shows that Paramore is a very diverse band that can rock it out with the best of them and then go soft with perfect clarity.

11. All I Wanted: I love that this one starts out so soft and sober then come in the drums. This is possibly my favorite track on the album. It laments the loss of love and highlights the loneliness after it. Another bonus is Hayley Williams' incredible voice which sounds better than ever in this track. There's a part where the music stops and she just belts out "All I wanted was you" and my first thought was "Wow." And then I smiled.

I applaud you, Paramore, on another great album. You never cease to please and amaze.

5.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Crazy Dreams



I've been watching the first season of Heroes with my parents. What a great show! This is the first time we've been able to watch the series because we missed it when it first came out and were never able to catch up with it. It's not one of those shows you can just drop in and know exactly what's going on.

So one night I was watching Heroes and couldn't stop watching it. I stayed up til about 2 am watching it! That night I had a really vivid dream of me being able to fly (one of the characters in Heroes can fly). One of the really scary parts of my dream was when I was running from this huge tornado that looked so real. Not only that, the tornado was going right through Rigby and heading for my parents' house.

Dreams are so interesting, aren't they?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Daisy




Here's my quick review of the latest album release from one of my favorite bands, Brand New.

Album Title: Daisy

Track 1. "Vices" Wow. It starts out with a soft, mellow recording of a woman singing in a very vibrato voice. This goes on for nearly two minutes so you get all used to the softness then Brand New freaks you out with a loud intro to the song. Holy cow. I seriously jumped and my heart began to race the first two times I heard the song. The third time I was prepared for it. It's a little too screamy for my tastes, but still a good song.

Track 2. "Bed" Love it. It's a little darker, mellower sound than "Vices" but this is the sound I grew to love from their The Devil and God is Raging Inside of Me album.

Track 3. "At the Bottom" A little harder. Has a catchy sound to it.

Track 4. "Gasoline" Love the drums in this one.

Track 5. "You Stole" Slower and mellow but full of hate. This is classic Brand New.

Track 6. "Be Gone" Love the background to this song. There's a guitar and a sweet beat to it, but the words are muffled to the point that you can't understand what they're saying. This was done on purpose, but it's my least favorite song on the album because of it.

Track 7. "Sink" Groovy beat that reminds me a little of The White Stripes. Great song. I even like it despite the screamo chorus.

Track 8. "Bought a Bride" Love it.

Track 9. "Daisy" One of my favorite tracks on the album mostly because of the lyrics. Stuff like "I'm a mountain that's been moved...I'm an ocean nothing floats on...I'm a sky nothing wants to fly in..." Good stuff.

Track 10. "In a Jar" Yep. Love it.

Track 11. "Noro" Great song. Starts all slow and then gives a nice buildup to a rockin' tune. Love the drums.

All in all I give this album two enthusiastic thumbs way, way up. Great holiday fun. :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dang Knee

So a couple years ago I hurt my knee. My dad said that I tore a ligament or something. It swelled up like a balloon and I could not put very much pressure on my foot after it happened.

Just a few days ago I did something to agitate the injury and it has swelled up again and it feels like I just injured it all over again.

My workout routine has suffered because of this. But today I decided I would try to do the workout with a knee brace. I was able to do the workout but there were some exercises that hurt more than usual (not enough to make me stop, though).

Yesterday I worked 9 hours and spent most of those on my feet on concrete floors. By the end of the day my back, hips, and legs were aching. I felt like I was twice my age because of it. I've got to get this stupid knee working right again.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Latest Obsessions

These are a few of my latest obsessions:

1. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Hilarious (somewhat crude) show about 4 friends who run the worst bar in Philadelphia. It is reminiscent of Seinfeld only more immature, arrogant, and crass. But it is so funny! Watch it; you'll love it!



2. Criminal Minds: I could never pinpoint when this show was on so when I would catch an episode it was always exciting. I just purchased the first season because I was sick of not knowing what was going on in it when I would watch it. It's about a special team (Behavior Analysis Unit) of profilers in the FBI. The cases are especially dark and insane and the characters are all really smart. Love it.



3. Brand New: Great band. I bought their album "The Devil and God are Raging Inside of Me" when it first came out because I had heard of them. I'd never actually heard their music before. Truth be told I liked it but it wasn't my favorite. For some reason, on a trip to Seattle almost two years ago we were listening to this album and I couldn't get enough of it. Now I have it on my iPod and they are amazing. In fact, their music helps me when I write my novel. Their new album "Daisy" is coming out at the end of this month. I am stoked for it!



4. Breaking Benjamin: I've really, really loved Phobia (BB's last release). There were some bad reviews on it because of the darker sound and such, but I really like it when artists try different things. To me it shows they are not scared of their creativity and don't wish to conform. I've been a fan of Breaking Benjamin since their album "We are not Alone" came out, but "Phobia" is my favorite album of theirs. They also have a new album coming out this month. The first single from that album is "I Will Not Bow" which is on the soundtrack for the new Bruce Willis flick Surrogates. It seems BB is finally getting the break they deserve. This band is another one that inspires me while writing.



So, take a listen, grab a seat...let me know what you think of these shows and the music! Promise you won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Yet another book review!




I was feeling brave and philosophical, so I read Annie Dillard's masterpiece Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

In high school I absolutely loathed reading Thoreau, so it is surprising that I liked Annie Dillard's book. She has been dubbed a modern-day Thoreau, a naturalist, a philosopher, and an essayist. From what I remember of Thoreau, he was really inaccessible, wordy, and boring. After reading Dillard, I've actually wanted to take another stab at Thoreau to see if I can actually get something out of it. Dillard quotes Mr. Thoreau a few times in her book and the quotes she used were really great. Then again, she may have snatched the only really good quotes from him. I can't remember him well enough.

That being said...

Annie Dillard's book is fantastic! I was first exposed to her writing in a creative writing class where we read an excerpt from Pilgrim and also watched/listened to a reading she did at BYU back in the 80s. From that point I was changed. Her style is very descriptive and beautiful. In an afterword to her book, she says that her writing has been cut down since, but she left it the way it was simply because it shows her progress as a writer. Wow. If she sees this book as amateur-ish then I have a long way to go with my own writing.

Every chapter covers a different part of nature (i.e. reproduction, locusts and parasites, stalking, etc.). I think my favorite part was when she talks about stalking. She becomes obsessed with seeing muskrats which are, apparently, very elusive creatures. So much so that she basically becomes a stalker of muskrats. After very lengthy descriptions of the animals, of her surroundings, and of her stalking tactics, she begins to tie this in with Moses. You would not think that Moses and muskrats would have anything in common. Well, they don't. Annie likens herself to Moses and the muskrats are Jehovah. If you remember, in the Old Testament, how Moses could only see the "back parts" of Jehovah and he only got to look from the outside in at the promised land that he would never be able to enter. Such is how she felt while stalking the muskrats.

It's gems like these (and I can't do them justice by explaining them) that make the book worth reading. I am also reading The Hidden Christ by James L. Ferrell. It was interesting to see some correlations between Ferrell's book and Dillard's. Synthesis is one of the greatest and most fun things about reading and analyzing literature.

So, if you, too, are feeling brave and philosophical give this one a read. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

All About Steve



Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Last night, my friend Mike and I saw the new Sandra Bullock flick called All About Steve. I had read some reviews about the movie. There was a huge gap between those who loved the movie and thought it was hilarious and the people who thought it was a complete waste of time and money. I fall in the group that loved it.

Just a brief plot summary. Sandra Bullock plays Mary Horowitz, a quirky crossword puzzle creator. Right from the get-go you can see the childlike, odd behavior of this woman and her devotion to words. Mary is setup, by her parents, on a blind date with Steven (Bradley Cooper) who she instantly gets infatuated and obsessed with. Steven, a news camera man, gets freaked out and makes up a quick lie to get rid of her, telling her that he has to go on the road and he wishes she could come along. Mary takes him seriously especially after she gets fired from her job for making a crossword puzzle that is All About Steve (quite humorous, I thought). And so Mary takes off on the road, following the news because "where the news is, Steve will be there." Steve, obviously, thinks Mary is a freaky stalker and his fear gets worse and worse throughout the movie. Mary's infatuation is only enhanced by Hartman Hughes (Thomas Hayden Church)who sees in Mary a chance to get his job as a news anchor.

There are some good laughs and some really great insightful moments. There's a part of the movie where they are covering the story of a three-legged baby and, somehow, Mary ends up on the pro-keep-the-leg-side. From a writer's standpoint, this was brilliant. The baby is an echo of Mary's quirkiness because of its leg. Everyone wants Mary to be "normal" and she sees Steven as her ticket to normalcy. By getting rid of the leg, the three-legged baby will be normal and just another person. But, by keeping it, the baby will be able to embrace the thing that makes her unique which is, essentially, what Mary must try to do: embrace her quirky personality.

Some reviews complained about the climax of the movie, but I really liked it. Mary is put in a dire situation (although the danger never really feels too dangerous) in which she comes to realize that she doesn't want to be normal.

Another complaint some reviewers had was that Steve and Mary don't end up together. Here is my defense for that. Steve grew up by the end of the movie. He realized that he had led Mary on and made her think that he was interested. Thus, he became a better person and he saw Mary as a woman who is beautiful in her own way. While I wish they would have had him ask her out or something...I still find that I was satisfied that he didn't get Mary because, in the end, he doesn't deserve her. Also, Mary has come to embrace and understand who she is and not care what people think about it. She gains some friends who are also just as quirky as her. So, in the end, Mary ends up happier and better off than before as does Steve.

I really think there was a good message in this movie. There aren't a whole lot of movies out there that are willing to teach a lesson. Those that hated the movie were expecting a lovey-gushy ending so they missed the entire point of the movie. I think it helped, too, that I related to a lot of the parts in the movie. Honestly, a lot of people could relate to this movie because there is a little Mary Horowitz in all of us.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Law of Nines




I just finished Terry Goodkind's new book, the Law of Nines. Before I go on, I will warn there are spoilers in this review.

I loved Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. Finally, some fantasy with depth and vision. What made that series so incredible was the way he mixed in philosophy (the objectivism found in Ayn Rand's books) with a really great and entertaining fantasy tale. Richard and Kahlan, the two main characters in that series, were believable as lovers and as heroes. They both progressed and developed in very natural ways that made the reader get really attached to them. He had created a world that did not seem irrational because it mirrored our own so well except it had magic. The ending of the series was particularly interesting because it was unexpected. Lord Rahl, Richard, ends up sending those who are against his philosophy (the bad guys) to our world. What a cool commentary. Goodkind essentially said, in the end, that those bad people live in our world and they are trying to push the same philosophies here as they were there.

I needed to tell you all that information for you to understand my review of the new book. Now, I had heard that Terry Goodkind was going to write in the thriller genre. I was ecstatic because I don't think that authors should always have to write in one genre. Certainly, if you are a good enough writer, you should be able to write in several genres.

It was a little weird, at first, to realize I was reading Goodkind when all that was happening was on our world and in a modern time. Not only that, the writing quality was nowhere near the quality of the Sword of Truth series. I read a review that called the writing "blocky and strained." I was willing, however, to overlook the lower quality of writing because I believed in Mr. Goodkind.

Then he started throwing in all these hints about the world from his other series. I was shocked and a little excited because it was unexpected. But then I found that the fact that he tied in this book with the other world made no sense. We get 1,000 years worth of history between the end of Sword of Truth to this book in just a chapter. I felt like someone had taken a beautiful painting and written all over it with marker. Oh wait, that's what happens in The Law of Nines not only once, but twice, a detail which was confusing because somehow the bad guy, Radell Cain, had been watching Alex Rahl the whole time.

That brings another point. Alex Rahl. Rahl is Richard's last name. How the hell did a Rahl get to our world? This is a detail Goodkind never addresses. Then, not only that, his love interest is Jax Amnell which is the same last name as Kahlan in the other series. Correct me if I'm wrong but, if Richard and Kahlan got married (which it's not outlandish to think that they did), Kahlan would no longer be Kahlan Amnell. She would be Kahlan Rahl. So...in that case...wouldn't this relationship between Jax and Alex be a form of incest? I was really confused. Her last name was supposed to be some big revelation, but I found myself wrinkling my nose in distaste because of the implications. Whether or not that was intended, I know not.

Moving on. Alex is a nice guy, right? He's your average Joe at the beginning of the novel when he saves Jax from a van that's about to run her over. Somehow, in the midst of all this, Alex goes from regular Joe to a killing machine. There is a gruesome description of Alex strangling a nurse at the psych ward where his mother is being taken care of. The nurse is a bad lady, but this is one of the first acts of violence in the book. It makes me less sympathetic to Alex simply because we have not seen the bad guys do anything really terrible up to that point.

Another thing. The action scenes drag on forever. And I found myself skimming a lot toward the end because I wanted to get to the main point of the story. It took forever for the climax to come around and it was disappointing. It all felt like a rehash of The Wizard's First Rule. Well, more like a cheap imitation of it because WFR is fantastic. This book is just mediocre.

I guess I could sit and nitpick at the book all day long. Kudos to Goodkind for trying to get out of the fantasy realm. I've been trying to figure out if it is best to read this book without having read the other series, or if you should read SoT and then read this book. I don't know. This book relies so heavily on you understanding what happened in SoT that it would be even more confusing if you had not read them.

So...I would only recommend this book if you're a die-hard Terry Goodkind fan. I am still a fan because he was able to produce an amazing series, but I hope his next book is not as hard to get through as this one was. It was entertaining, but not worth getting excited over. I kind of hope he returns to fantasy. We shall see.

Here are the links to some other reviews on this same book:

Entertainment Weekly

The Sword of Truth.com

The Book Reporter

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Soul Burner Update



I am writing a novel. The working title, right now, is Soul Burner. There are other titles floating around in my brain, but I've yet to come across something that I like as much as SB.

Call me nerdy or trendy or whatever but...it's about vampires. I'm trying to make the story less about the vampire aspect and more about the relationships within the story and how even vampires have human foibles. I want it to have more depth than your average vampire novel. We'll see how that goes. Judge me all you want, I like vampires. I'm not some goth. I just like the idea of them in a literary sense.

Right now I am at about 46,000 words which roughly translates into approximately 184 published pages. This project has been about two years in the making so it's not really all that good that I've only been able to do that much in so long. For a first novel, though, this is quite an accomplishment for me. My goal is to have the rough manuscript done by Halloween then spend November and December fixing stuff and getting it ready to send off to publishers in January. Cross your fingers. I worry that I'm doing all this work for nothing even though I really have faith in this story. I love the story and want to share it with everyone.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Woohoo!

So I've found that I am addicted to working out lately. I've been lifting weights consistently for the last couple months. I actually started closer to the beginning of the summer but I didn't get into the swing of it until about mid-June.

Anyway, my good news is that I've lost 8 lbs since I started working out. I am adding more cardio to my routine so I'm hoping that will make the process of losing some weight even quicker.

A brief history:

I have always been short and stocky so any weight I gain is really noticeable. That was never a problem because I have never had a problem with gaining weight. I have a relatively quick metabolism and I was always really active.

During my mission in Florida I gained the most weight I'd ever gained but then I lost the most weight I'd ever lost by the end of it. You look at pictures of me at the end of my mission and you'd think I was anorexic. In one of my areas I reached 180 which was a high for me. I quickly lost that in my next area which was full-bike which was how the rest of my mission was.

I got home and kept in shape. Somehow I managed to keep the weight off.

Then in August 2007 I tore a ligament in my left knee. It has taken until just recently for it to get strong again. The recent weightlifting has helped it immensely. I had done the same thing to my right knee in 2000 while doing a ballroom dancing lift, but, for some reason, that injury was not as extensive as the other knee.

I missed running and working out but every time I tried to get back into it, my knee would protest. So I just relied on my walks around campus to help me get the exercise I needed. That didn't help, though, because my knee was weak and I found that it slowed me down a lot. Especially during the winters.

And then, in 2008, when my sister passed away I had no, absolutely no, desire to exercise. Seriously, in the last year and a half I have weighed the most I've ever weighed which was close to 200 lbs! Ouch.

I'm still not where I want to be, but I'm well on my way. This summer I have had a big desire to get back in shape and to lose weight. There are a few reasons I'm doing this.

1. For myself. I found that I was really hard on myself. We're all our own worst critic, but I would look in the mirror and just think "You're letting yourself go. Your double chin is getting a double chin." While that's an exaggeration...the point is that my self-esteem was down the drain. I want to prove to myself that I can do this.

2. For my future wife. Along with the lack of desire to exercise this last year and a half, it has also been really hard for me to get back in the search for a wife. Much to my parents' dismay, I have been pretty reclusive and reluctant to go on dates. My friend, Mike, calls this sorta thing a LGN, Look Good Naked diet. It really isn't. Now that I'm finally getting to where I can date again, I think I should get myself looking my best.

3. For my future. I want to be healthy. I'm cutting down on the sweets, cutting out the soda, and I'm trying to eat more veggies and fruits. So far I've been pretty good. I have my bad days and my good days. I don't think I was heading for obesity or anything, but I was definitely not eating very good stuff for me which would only lead to health problems later on in life.

So yeah...this 8 lbs may seem like nothing. But it is huge to me. I will keep you posted, periodically on my progress.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Gargoyle

((I know you would probably rather hear about what's going on in my life, but there really isn't much to report on other than the books I'm reading. So, that being said, here's another book review!))



I just finished Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle. It was not just reading a book. It was an experience.

Just a quick look at the premise. The story follows a man who becomes a burn victim. He was once perfectly handsome and the object of women's desires. He knew it though. While he was beautiful on the outside, there was nothing redeeming on the inside. He was hideous inside. One night he careens off the edge of a cliff in his car. The car goes up in flames with him trapped inside.

He is now scarred and, to him, ugly on the outside. In the burn unit he meets a psych patient named Marianne Engel. She claims that they were lovers before and that this was not the first time they had met. She continues to meet with him and tell him stories about lovers in the past as well as their own medieval story of their love.

Essentially the man, who remains nameless throughout the novel, is pulled out of his misery through the love of Marianne Engel.

Marianne is a sculptor. She makes gargoyles. One of the cool things in the novel is how she describes the way she creates these creatures. She lays on a slab of stone and listens to the gargoyle yelling to be set free. It then becomes her duty to chisel the gargoyle free from its stone prison. The narrator describes it as loving it out of the stone which is, in essence, what she is doing with the narrator but in a different way. She is loving him out of his personal hell.

I won't give too much away because I had no idea what I was getting into when I read the book which made it more enjoyable. This story is a story about the redemptive power of love. Davidson weaves the stories of past lovers with the present in such a charming way. Part of what drew me to this book was that it was supposed to be a modern spin on Dante's Inferno. There is a section in the book where it echoes Dante almost perfectly.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a book that is entertaining but thought-provoking. It has stuck with me since reading it and I think it's because it's not your typical book. Rarely these days does a book come along that is so literary in its depth and commentary on the human experience.

And I have Andrew Davidson as a friend on my Facebook. He's a really nice guy and actually responds to questions and comments. I love that.

With all that being said, I must add a disclaimer. If you do read this book, be warned, there are some vivid descriptions of the process of recovering a burn victim which can be somewhat disconcerting. Also, the narrator, before the accident, was a porn star, so there are some passages that, while necessary to the story, are not for young readers. There is nothing explicit and it never feels trashy, but it is there and I feel like I should warn you.

If you do end up reading this great book, let me know and we can discuss it!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Ice Queen



I just read this really great book by Alice Hoffman. It's titled The Ice Queen.

From the get-go I was hooked. Hoffman has the knack for creating a narrative that is compelling. The main character, who remains nameless through the whole book, is a woman obsessed with death. As a young girl, she gets mad at her mom as she is driving away. In a moment of fury, she wishes her mom dead. It is the dead of winter and the next day, the young girl wakes up to find that her mom was killed in a car accident. Her wish had come true.

Later in the story, the girl moves to Florida with her brother. Florida is the lightning capital of the world. The woman is fascinated by lightning. So fascinated she wonders what it would be like to be struck by it. So she wishes, out loud, that she would be struck by lightning.

It happens.

Hoffman describes the effects of lightning strikes on people. The narrator, for instance, can no longer see red after she is struck. She is also constantly cold and she begins to refer to herself as an ice queen because she can no longer feel.

Then she meets Lazarus. A man who was struck by lightning, died, and then came back to life. She is fascinated by him because he could be someone that would not be affected by her death wishes. An odd romance ensues between the narrator and Lazarus.

There is more but I will not spoil it for you. Go find it and read it. It is really a story about the redemptive power of love.

I loved how Hoffman made the surreal and the real entwine. It felt like a magical book but there really was no magic in it. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading Jodi Picoult or other authors like her.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

My Ode to the Bard

So if I wasn't aware of my nerdiness before I was made completely aware of it the other day at work. I was just having a nice little chat with my co-worker and buddy, Adam, when he said something random and offhand about Shakespeare. As in William Shakespeare. The Bard. The man we practically worship as English majors.

I had no idea how heated I would get about someone saying something negative about Shakespeare (Note: I don't recall what Adam said but I do remember it being something about him not being very useful or something like that).

Just picture this with me for a second. Adam was reading a children's book when he made his remark. I reached over and shut the book and said "William Shakespeare changed the face of English literature. He is responsible for what literature is today." Ok so maybe that was an exaggeration, but I'm not far off the mark. C'mon, the guy was a genius. And his work has lasted for centuries.

All right, and I'm reading a book called How to Read Literature Like a Professor. This book is fantastic. I've been devouring it because it has some amazing stuff in it. He has a whole section dedicated to Shakespeare. In it, he says that, basically, if it's an allusion, it is alluding to either the Bible or to Shakespeare. No other writer, or playwright for that matter, can claim that. None.

This seems like a silly argument to get into. You're probably thinking "Yeah, Jay, we all know that Shakespeare was a brilliant man."

Thomas C. Foster, the author of How to Read Literature Like a Professor says that sometimes we quote Shakespeare without even knowing it. That is how ingrained into our culture his work has become.

I even brought up with Adam how, despite the sometimes archaic language, Shakespeare's plays talk about issues we deal with in our modern day. Shakespeare understood the human psyche in ways that belies his time.

A big part of our argument was about Romeo and Juliet. Foster talks about irony in his book and it struck me that perhaps the play that we think is about tragic love is not really about tragic love. What if it was meant to show an ironic and jaded look at love? The ill-fated lovers do not, in fact, overcome all. The feud between their families, in the end, wins and, in turn, destroys two lives. True, they had a strong love. They died for each other. I mean...come on...But just think about it for a second. What if Shakespeare was pointing out the foibles of love? It seems that over the years we have twisted Shakespeare's play to be something more like a fairy tale than what it really, potentially, could be: a story about love being unable to conquer all.

On that note...

I hate that when we think of Shakespeare we automatically think of Romeo and Juliet. That is, by far, one of his lesser plays. Much Ado About Nothing, Taming of the Shrew, King Lear... I could go on and on and on.

But I will spare you.

For now.

I was considering reading all of his plays and then blogging about them. We'll see how ambitious I get.

I know what you're thinking. Get a life.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Just a quick post cuz I have to go to work in a few minutes.

Yesterday I celebrated my 26th birthday. My, how time flies! I got my birthday present early. My parents got me a pair of Keen sandals. They're like the hardcore, waterproof, hiking/walking-ready shoes of the outdoorsy type. We are planning a family trip to Hawaii next year so I figure this is a perfect purchase to get ready for that.

We had a chill morning and then we took Gigi to Kate's. She watched her twins and Giselle while my mom and I went to the new Harry Potter movie. I have not read the sixth book so I have nothing to judge the movie against, but I really liked this installment. It is probably my favorite Harry Potter movie.

After that we did some quick shopping. We had to kill some time and ended up at Barnes and Noble. That place is always a good idea. I got a couple new books (The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman and For the Time Being by Annie Dillard). So some light reading and then some heavy reading. Annie Dillard's book, on the back cover, starts out by asking "Why do we exist?"

We then went to dinner at Texas Roadhouse. It was delicious. Then we came home and had some of my mom's coconut cake that is fantastic. All the working out I've been doing has been negated though.

So here's to another year of life and a year closer to enlightenment.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Bestest Concert Ever!

Ok, so some would disagree with me about the Tori Amos concert being the bestest concert ever. I, however, could argue the point. But if you're not a Tori fanatic, you probably wouldn't enjoy the concert very much. That goes with any artist though, really, if you think about it.

I went to Salt Lake City to see Tori live at the Abravanel Hall (just kiddy-corner from the SLC Temple, I had no idea it existed). I took a fellow Tori freak, Heather, to the concert with me. We left in the morning, drove down to Layton where we killed time at the Layton Hills mall. I got some items at a bargain at Anchor Blue because they were going out of business.

A highlight of our mall trip was when we got sidetracked by a salesman. He had a thick Hebrew accent so we couldn't understand him very well. I was actually laughing and couldn't stop because he was talking as if we understood him. He was selling this cool Dead Sea stuff that exfoliates your skin. It was really impressive, but I hated the feeling that I was being played. He actually started writing up a receipt and I couldn't recall ever telling him that I was going to buy some. So, somehow we managed to escape, but we left with a great story to tell.

After the mall we went to Olive Garden for some delightful Italian cuisine. Once we were stuffed, we realized we still had a couple hours to kill, so we decided to scope out the Abravanel Hall. I knew it was near Temple Square so I figured we'd be able to find something to do in the meantime.

So as we were driving to downtown Salt Lake, we decided we'd go to IKEA, but neither of us knew where it was. I knew it was right off the freeway so I just kept driving in hopes that we'd see it. Heather's GPS couldn't find it, for some reason, until about a minute before we saw it on the right hand side. Really can't miss that big bright blue and yellow building.

IKEA made me absolutely dizzy there were so many colors and sensations. I really liked it, but for some reason my head was spinning as we walked around.

We left IKEA and headed back to SLC.

We arrived with perfect timing at the concert. Our seats were a mere 13 rows back from the stage and in the center. Couldn't ask for better seats. The opening act was a group from England called One eskimO. They were really good, but the lead singer did this almost comical bobbing dance move the whole time that was hard to watch.

At 8:30, approximately, Tori Amos came on stage. The whole audience jumped to their feet when she came out. She was wearing this grey smock dress thingie with red leggings and a red belt and these incredibly high heels.

She did not stop for more than a few seconds between each song which was amazing. She kept the energy up throughout the whole concert. I recognized every single song except for two of them.

Highlights: The crazy old man in the front row dancing like a freak which distracted me from Miss Amos' performance. The encore when she sang "Big Wheel" and got us all clapping. When she sang "Strong Black Vine", really got into it, and you could tell. Her performance of "China" was fantastic.

Heather and I were both sad when it ended. By the time we got out of the hall and bought t-shirt souvenirs, it was about 11pm. I had Heather home by 2:45 am and I was home at 3:00 am. It was well worth it though, and I would love to see Tori in concert again.

I'm such a freak.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tahoe and Freedom

My parents and Gigi went to Lake Tahoe this last week. They were gone for almost 9 days, and I was left here. I was invited to go, but the idea of having some really good me time was more appealing. C'mon, don't judge me. I'm young, single, and I live with my parents. Can you blame me? I mean...really...

Anyways...

They had lots of fun from what they said. They went to church there, went to the lake (the water was freezing...go figure...it's an alpine lake. I had no idea), went to the Reno LDS temple, and other such things. Gigi had a good time too. She got to go swimming (or as she says "wimming!"). My souvenir from there was a picture of Gigi all dressed up like an old Western saloon girl, holding a gun, with her little chubby hand on the neck of a Jack Daniels bottle. It is so cute. (Never mind the connotations of the picture...it's all good fun...)

For my "me" time, I did just about nothing. It was AMAZING! Sometimes you just need those days where you just hang out. I did that for my days off. It was awesome. I got to catch up on some reading, sleep in, work out a little bit...yeah...I was in heaven.

Don't get me wrong. It's great to have my parents and Gigi back. I missed them. But it was wonderful to have some freedom for a little while.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

My Graduation Pictures! (Finally!)

Hey, so, here are my graduation pictures. I actually just barely got these from my sister, so I had to be just as patient as you to see them.











There are more, but you can check either my Facebook profile for those or you can email me and ask me to send you some.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

LG enV Touch

I just got a new toy!

It's pretty awesome.

It's the LG enV Touch. At first I was hesitant about the whole touch screen on the front. Now I just absolutely love it. It has a really nice camera on it (3 megapixels) as well as the internet and VCast Videos so I can watch tv shows on it if I wanted to. I've already watched some clips of shows just because I was bored. That and I was experimenting with it. Oh and it also has GPS and basically a YellowPages built right in which will come in handy when I'm on vacation and whatnot.

Anyways, that's my latest obsession.

Gigi's 2nd Birthday!


Ok so I'm just going to post about this even though I don't have any pictures of it. My camera decided to die. We didn't go picture-less for it though. My parents' camera worked fine.

So we had a good day for Giselle's birthday. It was more fun this year because she had a little more of an idea of what was going on. During the day we didn't do a whole lot out of the ordinary. That evening, though, we went up to Kelly Canyon and took family photos. We had Lavinda take them. She did Katie and Rico's wedding photos and did an amazing job. It will be good to see what comes out of this photo shoot. We wore navy blue and a bright green which went really well with the scenery. We chose a spot next to the South Fork of the Snake River. It was absolutely gorgeous up there and all three little ones did surprisingly well. The only problem we had was getting them all to look at the camera at the same time.

Our photos went a little long so we had a late dinner and opened Gigi's presents. She got a baby doll stroller that was actually a Christmas present that we never gave her cause she wasn't old enough for it then. And she got a baby doll to go with the stroller, some building blocks, a PlaySkool house, a Book of Mormon (kiddie size) with her name on it, some pom-poms, a scarf, a purse to carry her Book of Mormon in (or whatever suits her fancy, and a random magnifying glass.

Gigi had an awesome birthday! After presents we had some chocolate cake, talked for a bit, then went to bed because it was almost 11 by the time we got done with everything.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GISELLE TAYLOR!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Slacker

So I have things I want to blog about but I wanted to wait til I could get the pictures. Here's just a little preview of what I need to tell ya'all about.

The Art Taylor Family Reunion 2009. We took a trip up near Ashton, ID to the Mesa Falls and Big Springs then went into West Yellowstone. I will give details later.

Gigi's 2nd Birthday! Oh my goodness, Gigi Bottoms is 2 years old today! I can't believe it!

And finally,

My new toy I just got yesterday. It's a LG enV Touch. So far I love it!

So keep holding your breath. I'm going to blog about all this jazz when I have pictures. Yay!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Long Week

Holy cow. I just finished a really long week with work. For some, 46 hours a week is nothing. For me...it's been a long time since I worked that much so it made for a really long week. We had inventory so, that day, I worked for just over 12 hours that day. And today we had our annual sidewalk sale in Blackfoot (btw, Blackfoot, ID is an odd little town). I woke up at 5:30 and was in Blackfoot by 7:00. I stayed for the sale until 1:30 then went back to Idaho Falls and worked at the store until almost 8:00 pm. Needless to say, I'm exhausted.

And, also needless to say, I am going to sleep very, very well tonight.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Up! And Away on a Date!



So. I've never been a fan of blind dates. Well, I take that back. I like them. Ok. I don't mind them. I groan a little before the fact, but it usually ends up being decent. Besides, it's a good way to see how well your friend or family member (whoever is playing Cupid) knows you. If they know you really well then your date should go well. Theoretically.

For example, I was set up by my dad on a date with a girl in his ward up at the college. She was nice, but it was one of the worst dates I've been on. The whole night was awkward. I could tell she didn't want to be there and I wasn't sure why which only made me more frustrated. I spent loads of money on this girl, too. She is now engaged to a guy she started dating not long after our hellish date.

I've only had a handful of good blind dates. So maybe I'm masochistic because I still agree to go on these excursions. My good friend, Jeremy, wanted to set me up with a girl who was a sister missionary on his mission. I surprised even myself and agreed to go. It took me awhile to finally call her up and set up a date.

We did a classic dinner and a movie date. The dinner was at Winger's. I had not known there were still people in Rexburg who had not been to Winger's, but my date was one of the dying breed that hadn't. So it was a treat. And she enjoyed it. We had good, easy conversation throughout the whole date.

My original plan was to do dinner and a walk around the park, but we were waylayed by some unexpected rain. So I made a quick backup plan and figured we could go to a movie. We ended up going to Disney-Pixar's new flick: UP! It was a fun movie that had consistent laughs and a few sad moments. All in all it was a good pick.

I had a really good time. It's dates like these that make me realize that blind dates aren't always such a bad thing. :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Alzheimer's

I went to my sister and brother-in-law's house the other night and hung out for awhile. I brought brownie bites and cashew clusters to them and, in return, they fed me dinner. We fed the twins and put them to bed and watched Ice Road Truckers. Somewhere along the way we got talking about Alzheimer's. Kate, my sister, had a great definition of it which still cracks me up:

"Like you're a guy who cuts wood. And you still think you cut wood. Only you're in an alzheimer's unit. Locked down."

It might have been one of those things you had to be there for, but it had me laughing for like five minutes afterward. I still chuckle about it. What would I do without my Farfig?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shutter Island


I just finished another Dennis Lehane novel. Lehane is a master at suspense and mystery, but he is quite graphic. This novel was Shutter Island.

In this book, Teddy Daniels, a US Marshal, is assigned to go to Shutter Island where there is a hospital for the criminally insane. A female patient/prisoner has escaped and Daniels and his partner have been sent to track her down. But things aren't what they seem. The doctors are shady people and there are terrible secrets lurking beneath the exterior.

To top it off, a hurricane rushes in and the power goes out, causing all sorts of havoc on the island.

I won't give away the ending because I hate spoilers, but there is a huge twist at the end. While this wasn't my favorite Lehane novel, I was still impressed with his writing and his ability to create a psychological thriller.

Oh, and there's a movie of Shutter Island coming out this year starring Leonardo Dicaprio (I don't agree with that casting but oh well), Michelle Williams, and Mark Ruffalo.

Friday, May 22, 2009

So.

I've felt bad that all I've done lately on here is give unnecessary reviews to movies and an album. Figured I probably should give a rundown of what I've been up to lately. So here goes:

1. I've been working at Deseret Book still. My boss has been kind enough to give me some really good hours. Yesterday was grouchy customer day though, so I came home and had a really bad headache. I don't get headaches often, so when I get them I am not the most pleasant person to be around. It might have been a combination of sinuses and frustration with people because even Advil didn't kick it. At any rate, it's been a great job thus far, but I'm about ready to do some hardcore job-searching for something else.

2. I've been writing away at my novel. It's been slowly coming along nicely. Currently I am just starting Chapter Nine. I am at about 33,000 words with a goal of 90,000. Not too shabby, yeah?

3. Finally went and saw the two movies I had been dying to see: Wolverine and Star Trek.

4. Went on a date this week with Heather Olson. She's a cool girl. It was our second date, and it was very chill.

5. Jeremy is setting me up with a girl named Sandra. She was a sister missionary on his mission who is now going to BYU-Idaho. I just got her number a couple days ago.

6. I am now attending the Rigby East Stake Singles branch. Scary. I told myself I wouldn't ever go back to that branch, but here I am. It's not too bad so far because there are a lot more people going. Never mind the fact that they are all really young and I feel like an old fogie there.

7. Other than all the above, I've just been playing with Gigi and Hadjii, sleeping in whenever I can, and helping out around the house.

All in all, things are going great!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Star Trek Movie


Wow. That's all I have to say.

I don't know much about the original Star Trek. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen a full episode of the original television show. But I do remember the old movies so I had a little bit of background to go off of. However, I found that with this new movie, you really don't need to know much about Star Trek because it basically stands on its own. They are showing how the characters became who they were in the show. They did an amazing job.

The graphics were amazing. I noticed that, rather than trying to make the ships look modern, they kept the original designs of everything. The little escape pods still look like they did in the original show. I loved that they kept that instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.

The storyline was believable as far as sci-fi can be believable. With an antagonist that just feels like the classic Star Trek nemesis, it was not disappointing in the least. Speaking of storyline, there is humor all throughout. I loved that they never took themselves too seriously. The actors play off each other seamlessly. There was not a single moment where I didn't believe that they were really who they portrayed.

I've been on a winning streak in movies lately. I would highly recommend anyone to see Star Trek or Wolverine. Both are really well-done movies.

Peace out, yo.