Friday, June 29, 2018

Reading a Loved Book for a School Assignment

There is nothing that can compare to the joy one feels when they realize they get to read a book they have not only already read, but also love, in school. Unfortunately, that happiness comes crashing down after realizing that your classmates do not share your love, and how difficult it is to stop fangirling and start annotating. Well, I might be exaggerating a little, but still, it sucks to have to take a book you just want to relax with, and have to spend the whole time thinking about its deeper meaning! This is also weird for me, because I actually enjoy thinking about the deeper meaning in books, and I love writing English papers (I know, I might actually be crazy). Currently, I am reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (one of my favorite books of all time) for a school project and I can't help but notice how different my reading habits are. I look forward to reading it, but my annotating is essentially pointing out irony and sarcasm and then writing LOL next to every other line. I mean, I can't help it! That book is just so dang funny! I think it is interesting how we want to think about some books and others, we just want to entertain us. Luckily, absolutely nothing could ruin Jane Austen for me, and I am actually enjoying my project, but I can't help but wonder why we don't want to think academically about the books we love the most. Maybe it is because we are all too busy fantasizing about Mr. Darcy! Happy Reading! -Becca 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Books to Read When You Are Super Busy

Being busy is great until you realize that you have no time to read. And even when you do have time to read, you don't want to start a new book, only to have to put it back down. For me, throughout the school year is usually when I reread books because that way I am easily able to put it down. I also have some books that I just always read when I am busy because they calm me down. I hope that my recommendations help all of you busy people out and for those of you who aren't busy (I hate you) then these are just great books in general!

1. Basically My Only Reason To Live

Ah The Selection. What can I say, I really freaking love this book. Just glancing at the cover will calm me down. The other day, I was talking with one my friends in English class who loves this book and the feeling of just needing to reread The Selection crashed over me. I have this little ritual where I read books before bed and I usually rotate between easy, comforting rereads. So for about two weeks I read The Selection before bed every night and it was amazing. The Selection fits on so many of my book recommendation lists and I feel like I am cheating you guys out of new recommendations. Oh well, no one has complained yet, so I am just going to keep on including it. Back on topic, The Selection is great for when you are busy because while you will get sucked in, it is also very easy to put down and pick back up again. Also, it isn't scary or action pack, so you can easily fit in small portions of reading it before bed and in between work or classes. I would however recommend getting a hard cover copy because my soft cover is totally destroyed from reading it so many times! 
Fun Fact:
This is one of the first pictures I ever
took of books!
The Selection by Kiera Cass
My rating: ❤❤❤❤❤
Other Posts Related To This Book: They Say the Sequel is Never as Good as the First 
Similar Books: Shatter Me (a girl with crazy powers fights against a crazy government and somehow finds the time to fall in love) Matched (Girl matched with her true love fights against yet another crazy government. Click here for spoiler free review!  )
Spoiler Free Review:
Kiera Cass brings a whole new story full of romance and fierce competition set in a dystopian world that readers won't be able to get enough of in The Selection. America is happy with her meager life as a five. She has her family, her music, and her secret boyfriend Aspen, who it seems might pop the question soon. So when an application for the selection shows up on her doorstep, there is no way she is going to jeopardize her happiness for the tiny chance of becoming the uptight Prince Maxon's plaything and the Princess of her country. When a course of events causes her to sign up, America is astonished to find she has been selected. Upon arriving at the castle, America has her heart set on going home, but the palace and the people in it, are not what she expects and she soon finds comfort in the arms of the last person she would have ever thought to look to. The Selection is one of my all time favorite books. I love the world that Kiera Cass has built and the characters she has brought to life. America Singer may be one of my least favorite characters in all the books I have read, but I love her for it! The romance in this book is so agonizing, as what is very obvious to the readers takes its time to appear to America. The plot in this book is very well done and works really well throughout the whole series. The character development is just so fantastic as we get growth from both major and minor characters that feels realistic and relatable. While the world is a little confusing at first, it is well explained and all questions are answered. An added bonus to Kiera Cass's writing is the witty humor she weaves throughout her stories! I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves romance and science fiction!

2. I Really Shouldn't Have to Remind you About This Book

Um yeah. Harry Potter rocks. Enough said. Just kidding, I could never be that brief about books! Harry Potter is great for when you are busy because most of us already know the story, so we can pick it up or put it down as needed. Also, there is a crap ton of Harry Potter fanfiction, so once you finish reading it, just hit up the fanfiction and continue the story. The only issue with Harry Potter is if I read it before bed it gives me really weird dreams, but that might just be me!
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
My rating:❤❤❤❤❤
Other Posts Related to this Book: Middle Grade Must Reads
Similar Books: Umm the rest of the series?
Spoiler Free Review:
If you haven't heard about Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling yet then you must be living under a rock! Harry Potter is miserable living at his Aunt and Uncle's house, where they treat him like a second class citizen. All he wishes is for his parents to have never died in the car crash that left him an orphan with a horrible lightning shaped scar. When unexplained things start to happen around Harry and a bunch of very resilient owls carrying letters arrive, Harry learns that he, and his family, are not quite as normal they seem. Harry is not only a wizard, but an extremely famous one at that, and before he knows it, he is being shipped off to Hogwarts, the magical boarding school for wizards. But when trouble starts to brew at Hogwarts, Harry must rely on his newly made friends to help him save the whole magical world. I love this book, which places me in the majority of readers! Harry Potter was a large part in starting the YA movement and genre, which is something I am extremely grateful for! The best part of these books is of course, the interesting plotline and the fantastic world that has been built. The writing itself is not difficult to read and the idea of good versus evil is nothing new, but the way the books are written is so entertaining that it makes you want to place it in the genius category. Perfect for readers of all ages, but I would recommend starting it when you are younger so you can be the same age as Harry. I never got that experience, but people who did said it made the books even better!

3. Everyone who hated this book now spend their time hating 50 Shades of Grey

It is amazing to me how many people hate Twilight without having ever read it. I really enjoyed Twilight just because it was very entertaining. Sometimes, we need a light read that is enjoyable, not complicated, and has a little bit of everything. For this reason Twilight, and the whole series, is great to read for when you are busy. You could easily pick it up, and put it back down, and just read it for 15 minutes a day. It is a great book for reading right before bed because the chapters tend to have nice ending points that work in around 15 to 20 minutes of reading. If you are a first time reader of Twilight, chances are you think you already know everything about the book due to spoilers, and I can tell you, it is a pleasant surprise to read it and find there are things the haters have left out. If you are a constant rereader, like myself, it is so easy to just pick this up and read it for a short while and then put it down and pick it up a month later. And if you find yourself hating it, then stop reading it and pick up one of the many other books on this list!
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
My rating: ❤❤❤❤❤
Similar Books: Vampire Academy (Hot vampires and badass women fight the evil vampires) Bloodlines (Hot alchemists and badass women fight the evil vampires and other assorted evil beings. Click here for my spoiler free review!
Spoiler Free Review:
Love, hate, blood, vampires, hot people, a tiny, rainy town in Washington, and a perpetual klutz, what more could you want in a romance novel? Bella Swan has elected to leave her sunny home in Arizona for the rain and cold of Forks, Washington, to live with her father. The transition is just as horrible as she had imagined, made even worse by the mean, frightening, and stunningly beautiful Edward Cullen. As much as she tries to avoid him, Bella is drawn to Edward and his secrets-secrets that might just kill her. Lets face it, this book is not profound and it is not going to teach you anything. People like to scream how worthless it is at the top of their lungs. Well guess what? Twilight is not supposed to be profound, it is supposed to be entertaining. And oh boy is it entertaining! I first read Twilight in 7th grade and I could not put it down. I am being literal, I was in a play at the time and I would say my lines and sit on stage reading, which drove my teacher nuts! The plot is engaging and while slightly predictable (especially if you don't live under rock and have heard what happens), it doesn't make it any less interesting. The writing itself is not bad actually and the descriptive imagery is great. If you like vampires and you want something fun, pick this up!

4. And You Thought I Wouldn't have a Cassandra Clare Book on this List?

Honestly you can substitute any book in the Mortal Instruments series on this list. While I usually try and read them all in one sitting, I have found it is pretty easy to read them in small increments whenever you need a pick me up. I also love to put on the audiobook version of City of Glass or any of the Infernal Devices books while I am cleaning, because all of the fighting and action makes me appreciate the fact that all I have to do is clean instead of fight demons!
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
My rating: ❤❤❤❤❤
Other Posts Related to this Book: Jace the Perpetual Damsel in distress , Spoiler Free Reviews for the Whole Mortal Instruments Series!
Similar Books: Other Cassandra Clare books! (and yes, you should read them all!)
Spoiler Free Review:
Readers will be whisked away into a new world of good vs evil in City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. 15 year old Clary Fray has had as typical of a life as you can ask for. Her overprotective mother makes her life difficult and her best friend Simon makes it easier. Then all in one fatefull night; she witnesses a murder she can't explain, her mother goes missing and she is thrown into the world of Shadowhunters, the mysterious guardians of humans from demons. With the help of an inscrutable and gorgeous shadowhunter named Jace and his gaggle of friends, Clary starts the adventure of a lifetime that will uncover all kinds of things about her past. Cassandra Clare takes old mythology to a new level in this book, creating a very interesting read. The characters in this book have great dimension and connections that keep readers intrigued and guessing for the whole novel. The plot of this novel and the foreshadowing into the past is so wonderfully confusing that it makes for such an amazing read. One of the best things about Cassandra Clare's writing is the easy going humor that so many fantasy and romance novels are lacking. I would say that Cassandra Clare is my favorite author of all time and the Mortal Instruments series is so fantastic! I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone! If you find that City of Bones is a little slow, stick with it! The books get much, much better as they progress. Happy reading.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Fanfiction, the reason why my imagination no longer has a purpose

Fanfiction is a hotly debated topic nowadays. Is it good? Is it bad? Does it constitute plagiarism? Honestly, these are hard questions to answer. I love fanfiction. It gets hard waiting for that next Cassandra Clare book and sometimes I just want Clary and Jace to go on an adventure that may have never been written! Of course you lose the amazing writing of the author, but the characters still get to live on. But what happens when you read fanfiction for a series that you assumed was finished, but then another book gets published years later? This happened to me on two occasions. First with the Alienated series which I love to pieces. Melissa Landers had told her fans there was more coming, but she only had a book deal for the first two in the series. I didn't know how long I would have to wait before the next book would come out so I read a lot of fanfiction about it. Then the lovely United was published. While the book was still great, I felt kind of let down and I never ended up finishing it. I think this was in part due to the fanfiction I read. I don't regret reading fanfiction because a couple of them were really good, but  I wish it hadn't altered my reading experience. Now flashforeward to today, or I guess last week. I'm currently reading Restore Me, the amazing and totally unexpected fourth book in the Shatter Me series. Tahereh Mafi is one of my favorite authors and her writing is so unique and original and explores important topics without losing any quality in entertainment and writing style. She is also one of the best YA authors at incorporating humor into her Dystopian world. The last book in the series (or so I thought) came out in 2014. Ignite me still stands as one of my all time favorite books that I can continue to reread and never get tired of. It is really only beat by The Selection, Eclipse, and the entire Harry Potter series. Restore Me came out this year (2018). After four years and an ending that was honestly perfectly done, readers had no reason to assume another book (and two others after this!) were coming. I have read all of the good (and plenty of the bad too) Shatter Me fanfiction. This has had absolutely no effect on my reading experience with Restore Me. Now, why did fanfiction effect one book, but not the other? Its all about ambiguity my friends. Not only is ambiguity a great literary device to include during the reading experience, its also prefect to keep readers guessing for the next book. While I couldn't predict the exact plot of United, the generic plot arc and characters feelings were very easy to guess. Sure it was satisfying to have the characters do exactly what we want them too, but it wasn't enough and that is why I couldn't finish the book. I essentially already know how it ends because all of the other books have a race against the clock plot line as well. Now Tahereh Mafi knows how to keep readers on their toes. I have only been able to predict one thing in her books, which is that (cover eyes for spoilers!!!!) Warner would also be able to touch Juliette. Everything else is a complete surprise. I have not finished Restore me yet, but it is nothing like the fanfiction or my imagination, but all in a very good way. It is so much better to still be excited by the book because you can't already guess the story. No matter how predictable the bad jokes Kenji makes are, the rest of the book isn't something some random fanfiction writer could easily predict. So what does all of this mean? If you want to read fanfiction, go for it, but think about this warning first. Does the author of the book tend to write predictable stories? Are more books coming out soon? Do you hate reading about characters when the writing style is not similar to the author? If you answered yes to these questions then I would suggest passing on fanfiction for that book and picking up some good Harry Potter or Twilight fanfiction. Here is a link to Buzfeed's compilation of the best Harry Potter fanfiction (which I totally agree with. I have read a bunch of them and they were all really good!) Or even better? Just pick up a different book. I tend to read fanfiction when I am in a reading slump and I can't find the motivation to pick up another book. Instead of fanfiction maybe try reading something varied and super short like webcomics (try the app line webtoon, it is really great I promise!) or try listening to an audiobook or a podcast (remember to check out After School Club Podcast, link in About Me!). Overall, fanfiction is definitely a personal decision. The most important thing is to never compare the  author to the fanfiction, they have to be separate things.
Happy Reading!

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Becca's Crazemazing No Bake Dairy Free Chocolate Cheese Cake!

The other day I was having a very stressful week and I had been watching a lot of Golden Girls and I was craving some cheese cake. I unfortunately had not had cheesecake in over a year due to my severe lactose intolerance. I looked in the fridge and it hit me, why not make my own no bake dairy free cheese cake? I had an abundance of dairy free sour cream and cream cheese from making dairy free blintzes and I have to have watched over a 100 no bake cheese cake videos from Tastemade and Tasty so I thought I would give it a shot. I just threw together some ingredients and went for it and boy was I surprised when it actually tasted like cheese cake. And no, not the horrible vegan cheesecake that vegans have deluded themselves into thinking is good, but actually tastes good! (Probably because of my secret ingredient) Fair warning, this recipe is an approximation of what I made and you will probably need to adjust the amount of ingredients to your taste. I like my cheesecake really sweet, some don't. Also, I like my graham cracker crust almost falling apart so you will probably want to add more butter than I do. Finally, most dairy free cream cheese and sour cream brands suck and taste absolutely horrible. I would use the brands I recommend or ones you already know taste good (or at least good with a crap ton of sugar added to them). I can in no way guarantee that this will taste good with other brands, so proceed with caution. So without further ado, here is the recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz dairy free sour cream (I use Tofutti better than sour cream) 
  • 8 oz dairy free cream cheese (I use follow your heart)
  • around 2 cups dairy free semi sweet chocolate chips, melted (I like chocolate dream, but enjoy life is also good)
  • 1 Tbs vanilla extract (or accidentally dump in half the bottle and then have to dump out most of it like I do) 
  • 2 packets Knox unflavored gelatin (I am guessing around 3-4 tablespoons)
  • around a cup of water, hot (This is just to mix with the gelatin, so as little as possible to still fully dissolve the gelatin is best)
  •  3/4 cup sugar (I would start with 1/2 cup and then add more to taste)
  • 1/2 cup Hershey chocolate syrup (my secret ingredient! I would say this is more to taste depending on how chocolaty you like your cheesecake) 
  • 1 sleeve of graham crackers, crushed 
  • 4 Tbs vegan butter, melted (I love earth balance, it is by far the best vegan butter) 

Directions:

  1. Melt your butter and crush your graham crackers. You can use a food processor and then add the butter to the crushed crackers and mix them together in that. I happen to love smashing the crackers with a rolling pin. Either way you want a wet sand texture that will hold together. Press this mixture into your pan. I used a pie tin, you can use whatever you want. 
  2. Whip together your sour cream and cream cheese until well combined.
  3. Heat up your water and add the gelatin. Try and get it as dissolved as possible. If parts are not mixing then either add more water or don't add those parts. Add this to the mixing bowl
  4. Melt your chocolate and add it to the mixing bowl. Add in vanilla extract and a pinch of salt if you desire.
  5. Mix until well combined. Taste your mixture. Add in your sugar until it is the sweetness level you like. Don't over sweeten because the Hershey's syrup will be sweet as well.
  6. Mix in the sugar and add in Hershey's syrup, tasting to get the desired chocolatyness. Mix until everything is combined. 
  7. Put in the pie tin and spread evenly. Add shaved chocolate, chocolate ganache, or maybe some crushed Oreos. Get creative with it! I have a feeling whipped cream would probably taste good. 
  8. Let set for at least 30 min in the fridge. mine set really quickly, but just wait long enough to get that delicious cheesecake texture.
  9. Grab your book and piece of cheesecake and enjoy! 

Recommended Reading to Pair with Recipe 

Now I know most people don't just sit down and read the Great Gatsby, but they really should. While it isn't an easy read, this cheesecake will give you a taste of the decadence and high life of Gatsby's parties. Just don't get caught up in the book and eat the whole cake!

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My rating: ❤❤❤❤

The Great Gatsby explores a world of money, love, drama, and mystery. Nick Carraway has moved to New York to pursue being a stock broker when he moves in next door to the mysterious Jay Gatsby. Everything about Gatsby seems fake, yet Nick can't stay away. When he finds out there is a history between Gatsby and his cousin Daisy, Nick is pulled into a crazy affair and a course of events that leave you asking why. I read this book in English class (not surprising) and I loved it! The imagery and metaphors are fantastic and the plot is some how slow and fast at the same time. The irony and sarcasm are amazing. This book is a classic and I think that a lot of teenagers have a hard time relating to it. I find that the story itself can be a little confusing as the writing is complex. This book definitely inspires deep thought and immerses you in the story. This is not a fast read, but it is an enjoyable one. I would highly recommend this book to everyone, though I think adults get a lot more out of it than teenagers.