Why I love Sarah Dessen: The Moon and More Review

the_moon_and_more__span When I was in my senior year of high school, I picked up a book titled This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen. I loved the cover of it, and I loved music. I was actively playing bass and writing emo-sap lyrics in one of my since shredded journals and figured it would make for great summer reading. Soon after completing it, I needed more. I purchased all of her books that were available to me at the time, and continued purchasing them as I would anxiously await the next release. Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors. She helped me get reluctant students to read (just ask my former juniors at HHS–Dreamland was a hit!), and I developed numerous unit plans on her novels during my undergrad studies when I was still working with high school and middle school students. Now, years later, in a completely different work and teaching environment, I still come back to her books for the sense of nostalgia and fond memories that her writing provides to me. Her newest release The Moon and More is no exception!

I loved how the protagonist, Emaline grapples with so many changes and new developments in her life. Going to college, changing relationships, and forming new ones, left me with a feeling of comfort as I read. Keith and I are currently moving and making new decisions, and I could relate to Emaline’s conflicts, and, I’m sure, so could many younger readers. Clyde, a local artist, Luke, Emaline’s boyfriend, and the others she interacts with are real and raw. But what affects me the most in Dessen’s novels are her settings.

Many of her texts take place in beach towns which bring me back to a time of innocence and fun. My family used to rent a beach house in Westerly, R.I. each summer and I have so many fond memories that tug at my heartstrings and remind me to be thankful and to always reflect back on the gifts we are given. Each summer, we would pack the car and I would spend time with my cousins, Aunts, Uncles, and run into the ocean fearless. The sand would tickle my feet and kick up my shorts as I ran directly to the waves with my parents watching from the deck. As I got older, I would bring a friend, or boyfriend, and eventually the guest of honor was always Keith. When we talk about some of the best times we’ve shared together, we always go back to that house and those great, carefree, sand and salt-filled vacations where we were barefoot all week and drank wine coolers with breakfast.

Why mention all of that? Because Dessen brings me back to that place in The Moon and More. She brings me back to sitting on the beach the summer before my undergrad career. She takes me to a place where I can remember feeling truly free, and she does this with her ability to weave words that pull you in and don’t let go until that last page. This amazing summer read is great for getting back to what matters and what’s important. As I turned that last page of The Moon and More, I felt bittersweet emotions. Saying goodbye to Emaline (or to any character for a true reader) is hard, but knowing that I am blessed to have a relationship with an author who can bring me back to such a wonderful time in my life keeps me waiting for the next journey Dessen will take me on.

Live and Learn: My Tips After 12 Years of Blogging

When I first started blogging I was a girl at the peak of awkward adolescence: thirteen years old with a whole lot to say! Every day I logged on to my dinosaur of a computer and would dial-up the Internet so I could update the world on my day as a middle-schooler. Slowly, as I began to realize that blogs were separated into categories, I began focusing my writing on subject specific articles and daily happenings. I always wanted my blog to have a personal twist! Now, a lot of my colleagues have asked me how to blog, how to start, and if I have any tips for breaking into the blogosphere. A lot of people don’t realize that blogging takes WORK if you really want to gain a following and meet new people! For me, blogging is a balance of the right tools and the right attitude. Let me know what you would add to this blogging list, too!

  • The proper tools are imperative for blogging! The first thing I recommend is having a computer that is ALL YOURS and a good computer safety program. As a young blogger it was all too often that I would end up opening e-mails that I thought were from “fans” and turned out to be something else. So, protect yourself and your computer with something from us.norton.com/antivirus, especially if you are going to allow fans and readers to e-mail you. Try using e-mail forms and remember to scan your computer regularly if you’re a link clicker.
  • Next up, images! If you’re going to start blogging, remember that we live in a visual culture. Usually, I like to include images to go with my blogs, especially if I’m blogging about somewhere I’ve been or something delicious I’ve eaten. Make sure that you take your own photos for these posts. It lets your readers look into your life a little more. Plus, it’s always nice to have a face to place to the blogger.
  • Choosing your niche: Now, I’m torn on this topic a little bit because while I DO consider my blog a niche blog, I don’t only stick to one particular niche. You might want to have a loose niche for your blog when you begin, but remember to branch out, too. For example, my blog focuses on health and beauty, but I also write about being a teacher, being a partner, and I talk about Shakespeare, too. Just look at blogs that have already chosen a niche and see what interests you the most. Of course, you can always try and create your own niche, too.
  • Conversation: Reply to your comments and carefully read others’ blogs. If someone is coming to your blog and offering comments, feedback, and compliments then you should do the same. No, it’s not easy and, yes, it takes work–but the point of blogging isn’t just to broadcast yourself, it’s to connect with others and share information as well.

After over a decade of blogging (I’m dating myself here!), I’ve learned some very important things about materials and rules when it comes to connecting with others and living online. Bloggers who make it look easy often have an arsenal of tools that they have tested and tried throughout their careers that have helped them come to where they are now in the blogosphere.

Smart Cars = Smart Savings

Most of my friends own giant SUVs and trucks that drain their gas mileage and cost an arm and a leg to upkeep and to purchase from the beginning. I own a very tiny little car that I have had for over seven years and it’s been good to me from the start. I think in our giant, super-sized world we tend to think that size is what makes a product good, but from my experience it’s been the opposite which is why I love when I see others who enjoy a small car just as much as I do. I’ve seen different types of new Smart Cars and Hybrids, but the smart cabrio offers features that make this car not only a purchase, but an investment. Having a tiny car also means that you’ll pay less in the long run in terms of a down payment and a monthly payment which makes a smart car a great option for college students who are usually on the tightest of budgets. A monthly payment for a cabrio can be as low as 137.00USD a month, which doesn’t break the bank of even a part-time worker. Economically sound and stylish? You bet.

Since I live near a busy city, a lot of my time going to and from work means parking can be a challenge. With a smaller car you can fit into the ever popular compact only spaces. I’ve taken advantage of that myself. I’ve found, too, that with more gas miles to the gallon I can save money as a commuter rather than constantly losing money because of lengthy travels and traffic jams. When you’re stuck in traffic the fumes and exhaust can really wreak havoc on the environment, too. So future studies are being made to see if electric smart cars will provide a solution to that problem.

So remember, size can pay off, especially if it happens to be small.

Book Review: Hogwild’s “You’re as Sweet as 3.14159265”

When I looked in my inbox weeks ago and saw the subject line, “Hello fellow Healthy Eater Christine,” I knew I was in for a treat. Now, most of my e-mail subject lines consist of “Miss! My thesis statement is bad!” or, “Prof G Proofread my Draft,” so my eye was immediately drawn in and my finger moved the mouse gently to the “open” icon. As many of you know, I’m a Fratire enthusiast (and currently researching the topic for my M.A) so when I was asked to review Hogwild’s new book I was both flattered and excited. For those of you who don’t know him,Hogwild is a stand-up comedian who offers the most helpful and hilarious dating advice.

As someone who spends a lot of time reading for my classes and for my students, “3.14” provided me with a relaxing oasis of hilarity that is real, raw, and true. If you’ve ever THOUGHT it, Hogwild has most likely written it in his new book. Relationship truths such as, “A Woman’s Fake Orgasm sounds exactly like a Man’s Fake Listening: “Oh.Oh. That’s good. Uh-huh. Wow. Uh-huh,” and “Dear Shirtless Guy in his Profile Picture, you REALLY want to impress girls? Get a job and pose in front of your cubicle,” deliver a certain amount of snark and silliness in one balanced equation. FYI: we haven’t even gotten to the meat of the text yet! So if you’re already laughing, make sure your bladder is empty as we progress…

I read through the thoughts of how to properly name your daughter so she doesn’t become a stripper, (Let’s watch Toyota Corrola shake it?) and what guys REALLY think about that butterfly tattoo on your ankle, I was most amused by the question from a Hogwild advisee, “Can you explain women to me?” Ho offers a cut and dry distinction between how ladies want a good listener, and how men never say, “That girl can listen her ASS off!” He’s got a point. I know that my nine year partnership is based on his good listening skills! I tell him what to do–he listens and does it. Success. Girls don’t need to listen–we just want to make YOU listen (or at least pretend that you are–after all listening on the date means listening in the bedroom–and that’s where you want to be, right?)

For the wide age range that visits my site, I’ll just say that the sex tips and the obliviousness of both women and men in the intercourse department are both hilarious and real. Throughout my read, I found myself saying, “Wow…we ask these same questions–and have these very same thoughts (Not to mention the concept of hate as a form of Female Solidarity! Yeah, we all hate that bitch in Cubicle 22 and enjoy hating together). But what is different about Hog is the genre of the writing and the woman’s voice he includes.

He might be answering questions from men stating, “How can I get with a woman?” but his answers and notes always echo a tone of respect mixed in with the Fratire humor we have come to know and love from writers of the genre. Hit mention of the “stupid test”  lets the male readers in on the fact that we women always have the upper hand despite the raunchy humor he includes in his responses. Balance is key, he suggests, in relationships, but Hog also manages to balance the bromance and romance. As a feminist who also loves Fratire, it’s well-done. He says above all, “make your girlfriend respect you by doing the things that gain her respect. Be courageous and bold. Treat her kindly. Be a leader. Take care of your family,” which unlike other writers gives some advocacy to the lady, but also speaks the truth. Afterall, if we respect you, and you treat us with the care and compassion we deserve, we’re most likely going to let you get a little freaky when no one else is around. (Which may or may not involve French toast…I hope you’re intrigued…)

So, are you a guy who realized that he needs to step up the game? A woman who is sick of the sugarcoated dating advice ala Dr. Drew? A graduate student who hasn’t read a fun book since the dawn of your dissertation? Never fear: Hogwild’s e-book is currently avaliable on Amazon and can be read on your mobile devices for on the go giggles and sarcastic realism. Want some Hogwild in 40 character doses too? Follow him on Twitter too, he follows back and engages with readers on the regular, which not only makes him a hilarious writer and comedian, but also makes him a down to earth guy who is a pleasure to talk to.

Little Girl Glossies: Magazines from My Youth

I can always remember being a reader of all things print even when I was a little girl. I read my first chapter book, Charlotte’s Web, when I was six but I remember magazines being one of my favorites. Reading my magazines made me feel like a grown-up, watching my Mom pore over her Glamour or her People, and I wanted to do the same thing. Strange how we imitate our parents, huh? Here are some of my favorite magazines from my youth and why I loved them so much. What were some of the magazines you read when you were little?

The one I remember most was American Girl Magazine. I was very much obsessed with American Girl dolls from Pleasant Company at the time, and their magazine was just as fun! I loved that they had advice about friends and school, and they had awesome recipes and crafts. Since my Mom worked from home until I was in middle school, we were able to do many of the activities together. I remember painting wooden spoons, making musical instruments out of household materials, and even making my own lip gloss out of Vaseline and blush! If I have a daughter, I would encourage her to read this magazine because it’s empowering, fun, and is age appropriate. I think the most difficult thing for parents is trying to find out which magazines and books are age appropriate, not because of ability level, but because of emotional development. This magazine acknowledges challenges that girls from the ages of 8-12 go through, but doesn’t include the information that can form questions or confusion. I loved this magazine when I was a kid and always had one in the car or in my “purse” that I carried with me.

When I hit middle school, I started reading Girl’s Life. Since I wasn’t yet allowed to read Teen, this was a happy medium for me. To me, Girl’s Life was like a transition from young girl to tween. It had some of the issues I wanted to read about (body changes, boys, makeup) but it kept it tasteful and it also kept parents in the know with a philosophy of “talk to your parents when you have questions.” In addition, Girl’s Life featured recipes, entertainment gossip (which I loved!), and makeup tips. I haven’t read it since I was about 14, but I do remember how much I enjoyed it!

Last, but not least, Tiger Beat was my favorite celeb magazine on the shelves of our local Stop and Shop. Everytime my Mom and I would go grocery shopping I would beg for the newest issue so I could read up on the lives on Johnathon Taylor Thomas and Devon Sawa! DREAMY! My 12 year old heart would flutter, and I would sticky-tack the pin-ups all over my room and bedroom door. Looking back, I can smile at my “boy-crazy” mindset–but it will always have a special place in my heart! On the more recent issues of Tiger Beat, I have no idea who anyone is. Way to feel old!

These magazines instantly bring me back to the humid summer vacation days of yore sitting on my deck with a Popsicle and my heart shaped sunglasses catching up on all of my important reads. It’s nostalgic and hopefully one day I’ll share these magazines with my daughter like my Mom did with me.