Saturday, December 28, 2013

Shadow and Bone Review

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)

Now I know that I'm a little late to get into this series but if you're like me and need some fantasy to fill the spaces between the numerous dystopian novels this could be your book.  To be completely honest I bought Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo because of the hype.  I had seen it's cover on so many blogs it was hard to not pick it up.  I have to say that I'm happy I gave into the urge to buy this book.  While it was this book will probably not be on one of my reread lists it was certainly good. (Especially considering the fact that it only took me a few days to finish). 

The development of Alina is what sets Bardugo's heroine apart.

At first I was afraid that Bardugo was going to write the same female heroine that I've read over and over in just about every new young adult book ever.  You know the girl that's so sullen and sulky the pages are dripping in the stinky smell of teen angst.  Not to say that there wasn't a fair amount of sulking but what made this different is that Alina changed.  There was a distinct growth in her character by the end of the book.  In my head, at least, her voice changed from the confused and self depreciating teenage girl to something a little stronger.  I hope she becomes more able to see her self worth with the next book.  

I also enjoyed the other characters within the story.  Darkling was an amazingly manipulative character.  The kind of person you know you shouldn't trust yet something inside you says to give him a chance.  He's got the whole tall, dark and handsome thing going on.  Oh and let's not forget his immense power. 

Now there were a few things that I did not particularly like throughout this novel.  For one, it was very similar to Kristen Cashore's, Graceling.  Not to say that there is any plagiarizing here because there isn't but if you are writing in the same market as someone else there is pressure to make it better.  This book just wasn't as good as Graceling, in my opinion.  Katsa is a much better character than Alina and the world of Graceling is more developed than Shadow and Bone.  

And that's the thing. I wish Bardugo had spent more time describing her world.  

I felt like I didn't really know anything about it other than the dark shadow fold.  Just because you have a map at the beginning of your book does not mean that you don't have to enlighten the reader a little bit on the politics and geography of your world.  Fantasy is a genre built on worlds.  Sure you can have deep, impeccably flawed and relatable characters written into intriguingly twisting plots but without the world motives are lost and there are no rules.  Bardugo let her world slide away and that, for me, is the worst mistake in fantasy because fantasy world stick with the reader.  We might forget characters names or subtle plot lines but we never forget the truly magnificent worlds.  I didn't want to be apart of Bardugo's world because I didn't feel like it was much different from my own. 

So should you give Shadow and Bone a try?  Yes I think you should.  It might not be your favorite reading experience and there are many flaws in the writing but this book definitely captivated me.  I will be reading the next book in the series as soon as I get my hands on it in hopes for an even more fantastic experience. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Why Veronica Roth is Dauntless

Divergent (Divergent, #1)  Insurgent (Divergent, #2)  Allegiant (Divergent, #3)
Its been almost three weeks since I've been home and I have steadily been reading through my boredom as best as I can.  One of the books I decided to catch up on was Veronica Roth's, Allegiant.  Now I'm not going to do a traditional review because let's face it there are plenty of amazing reviews already out there.  Rather I am going to talk about why this series has shown Veronica Roth is a dauntless writer.  This being said, there are going to be major spoilers on this page so if you haven't read any of her books and plan on doing so turn away now.

I repeat get off this page now!

Okay now that you've been sufficiently warned I'm going to continue onward by saying that Veronica Roth is a bad ass writer.  Her series is well written and her characters and relationships are about as realistic as it gets.  

The first reason I wanted to post this was after finishing Allegiant I was completely stunned.  She killed off her heroine.  Like bang dead!  Authors find it difficult to kill off characters to begin with, let alone kill of the one person that they have placed at the forefront of their story (unless, of course, you are George R.R. Martin).  However hard it was to kill of Tris, though, I commend Roth on her ability to finish her character's journey.  She completed the character development of Tris fully and thus created on of the most whole and realistic characters I have read.  Sure Roth may have been able to get around killing off Tris but would that have made her character truly whole?  Maybe, maybe not, but I think that in the end Roth did the right thing even though it was truly heartbreaking to read the last few chapters of the book. 

It is strange when a character that you liked so much dies.  You say to yourself 'no this won't happen.  Someone will save them' and then they die.  It was a little like the way I felt when Ned Stark dies in Game of Thrones (wow there are spoilers all over this post, sorry).  I felt like it wasn't happening and by some miracle someone would save him and everything would be okay.  Instead it made for a more realistic story line because in real life odds are they would die.  I don't like to say that life doesn't have happy endings because great things happen every day but I will say that sometimes things happen for reasons we don't know.  To have a book end the way the Roth ended Allegiant makes it more realistic.  Tris had to die. 

The second reason that Veronica Roth is a beast of a writer is her ability to create realistically imperfect relationships.  I feel like too often books are filled with perfect relationships that always work out when in reality relationships aren't like this.  Tris and Tobias' relationship is filled with flaws.  They lie to each other, they feel betrayed sometimes, they bring huge amounts of baggage that only people who live in a post apocalyptic society could ever imagine, but they make it work.  I love the way that this allows people to connect to characters simply because they can empathize with the relationship on the page.  

The final reason that Veronica Roth is a great writer is that she make statements about life and society.  I believe that every good book makes a statement about something.  I think one of the statements she makes over the course of her series is that people should be judged on their personality and not the groups society places them in.  While it may seem as though she is criticizing the factions I think that she does a good job of highlighting the good in each faction.  She equalizes both the good and bad by having both good and bad characters represent each faction showing that individuality is what makes a person not a label.  

It is obvious that I enjoyed reading and watching the characters evolve as the stories went on and while the last book felt somewhat hard to get through I have immense respect for Roth's ability to create a realistic story.  I look forward to seeing what else she creates in the future. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

10 Fun Facts About Australia and New Zealand

Its official, I once again have my feet firmly planted on U.S. soil.  I landed in Boston two days ago after the longest Friday of my life (literally the longest because of the time difference).  I don't think it will really hit me that I'm home until I get back home and enter the infinite stretch of boredom that is known as winter break.  To help keep the magic of my trip alive a little longer, though, I thought it would be fun to type out a list of things that were different or fun about Australia and New Zealand. 

1. Australians don't eat peanut butter and jelly. In fact many think it is totally weird. 

2. Tim Tams are by far one of the best cookies ever! 

3. It is normal to become aware of the fact that you now have a funny accent. 

4. The Great Barrier Reef is dying.  I am so happy I got to see it before it was too late.

5. Food is super expensive and portions are smaller.  

6. Aussies like to shorten everything.  For example, the city of Brisbane and affectionately called Brissie. 

7. New Zealanders are called Kiwi's.  Don't worry they don't mind. 

8. If you have the chance to see a glacier in New Zealand. DO IT. No matter the cost. 

9. New Zealand farms deer.  As a girl from the Northeastern U.S. this seemed so strange to me. 

10. Australians and New Zealanders are some of the nicest people I have ever met.  

In the end Australia and New Zealand are some of the most unique places in the world.  Seeing kangaroos never got old and the beautiful scenery of the South Island of New Zealand is truly spectacular.  If you ever have the chance to visit I say go.  My time down under was one of the best experiences of my life.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

To the South of Middle Earth

If you ever have the chance to visit New Zealand, do it.

I don't really like making list of my favorite places I've been because really every place is so different and fun how can you compare them, but if I had such a list New Zealand would be pretty close to the top.  Right now I am touring around the South Island from Christchurch down to Queenstown and back up the Christchurch through the Kiwi Experience bus tour.  This tour was a little expensive but definitely worth it if you don't want to worry about driving yourself during your vacation.

The South Island has so far been one of the most beautiful places I've been to in a long time.  I would definitely recommend taking the train through the alps.  I did this on my first day from Christchurch to Greymouth and while Greymouth is not that great of a city the views of some of the most beautiful landscape is well worth it.

by Caitlin Maloney
After staying the Greymouth I slowly made my way down to Queenstown stopping along the way in small towns.  In Wanaka I took a helicopter ride up to a glacier which was quite possibly the most incredible moment of my life.  The glacier is one of only three in the world that goes right down into a rainforest.  It is slowly receding and it is sad to know that it may not be there when my children are grown.

By Caitlin Maloney

Franz Josef Glacier By Caitlin Maloney

Fox Glacier By Caitlin Maloney

Queenstown was my final destination.  Its a lovely little tourist town tucked deep in the mountains looking over a beautiful lake.  If you are in any way interested in adventure sports this is the place to get your adrenaline running. Whether it be bungy jumping, sky diving, or extreme biking this is the place for you.  It's also the place for you if you like looking at beautiful scenery, eating wicked good burgers, hiking mountains, and having a relaxing vacation in New Zealand.

Queenstown Warf by Caitlin Maloney 
Queenstown Warf by Caitlin Maloney

So really if you are looking for your next international adventure I would seriously consider jetting off to New Zealand.  In my opinion it is one of the most unique places on Earth.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Day in the life of...

My 16th birthday remains my favorite birthday by far.  No, I wasn't one of those spoiled girls with a giant birthday bash costing more than a wedding or a small house.  In fact I would hate being at one of those parties let alone be the center of one.  Too many people.  My 16th birthday was my favorite because my parents took my sister and I along with two friends to New York City for a weekend.  One of my dad's friends had a house in New Jersey at the time so we all stayed with him and caught the train into the city every day.  The best part of the trip was being in the car with my friends. Throughout the eight hour drive we passed the time by making up stories about the people we passed.

Fast forward to this past week and I found myself bored on the long bus ride home, stuck in rush hour traffic in Brisbane.  In my boredom I found myself making up stories for the people around me.  One particular guy was especially interesting probably due to the tattoos all over his body.  Here is a snippet of a story/description I made up for him.

There is a boy on the Brisbane 345 bus, no not a boy but not a man either.  He's at the in between where he's trying to be a man but not quite fitting the mold yet.  Tattoos crawl across his body and gages stretch his earlobes twice their original size.  His body is an echasketch of rebellion.  He doesn't like rules, even though he knows they're in place for a reason.  Across his knuckles "live free" is scrawled in old type print and I can't help but think to myself, 'maybe he should visit New Hampshire'.  

There it is.  A little taste of my bus ride.  I'm sure this will not be the last time I will make up these stories.  I think their good writing exercises and it passes the time during a long commute alone.  Maybe I will make this a thing.  Who knows.  It was definitely fun.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lamington's in Lamington and Other Updates

It's about time I updated on what I've been up to Down Under.  Last time I wrote about going to the Gold Coast and briefly mentioned Lamington National park.  Well Lamington was amazing.  The rainforest is so different from anything you will ever experience if you spend your entire life in the Northeastern United States.  There are so many sounds, smells, and everything is so unbelievably green, compared to the current state of my wintery Maine home.  When we first arrived I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy myself.  This was probably due to the down-pouring rain that soaked me through within the first ten minutes of being in the park.  That would dampen anyones day (no pun intended).  However, I soon realized that if you are going to see the rainforest, and I mean properly see the rainforest, it is best to do it in the rain.  You cannot imagine how beautiful the fog is as it filters out the distant trees of the undergrowth but here are a few pictures that will give you an idea.

The weeks after that were pretty crazy.  They included three exams and a paper, hence the reason I am just now getting around to this post.  After those crazy weeks I took a flight to Tasmania which was unexpected to say the least.  We landed in Launceston on a friday to fresh fall like weather, which was a relief after the 100 plus degree days in Brisbane.  Shortly after getting to Launceston, though, we learned that the place has no public transportation on the weekend.  None.  Then we attempted to rent a car and failed miserably.  (Do you know how difficult it is for under 21 year olds to rent a vehicle?  I thought I had escaped the problem of being underage when I left the states).  So in the end we spent two full days in Launceston going to a gorgeous gorge and a weird little zoo.  It wasn't what we planned but still fun.  (One more day, though, and I probably would have gone crazy).

Then I was off to Girraween National Park for another excursion.  Unlike Lamington, Girraween is getting frighteningly close to the desert in the middle of Australia.  You can literally feel all the moisture get sucked out of the air as you travel west over the mountains and away from the shiny coast.  That being said it was beautiful and we did have plenty of slightly brown water to drink.  I also faced my fear of heights and climbed up possibly the steepest and scariest mountain ever, the Pyramid.  It's basically like climbing up and down a 45 degree angle of pure granite.  I only felt like throwing up once during the whole climb!  After that we piled on the bus to head back to Brisbane and back to mountains of homework but somehow I don't mind.  After all I have less than two weeks left in this beautiful city.  I want to enjoy it as much as I can.


Also if you haven't had a lamington you should really try them.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Brisbane and the Gold Coast

Its amazing how fast time can pass by without us even knowing until after the fact.  Four weeks of my study abroad trip has already come to an end and here I am starting week five.  Anyway here is what has been happening.

I now call a lovely townhouse in a suburb of Brisbane home and I have two amazing host parents who have kindly shown me around the city.  Oh and I must mention my furry host cat Mac who is currently sitting on my lap as I write this post.

My second weekend here I took the train down to the Gold Coast, which is exactly how it sounds, miles of beaches with silky sand and many skyscrapers.  If you are picturing Miami, Florida you have the right idea but I was in luck because it was less crowded.  It turns out people don't frequent the beaches at the end of winter despite the eighty degree weather.  Why? I have no idea. It was beautiful.

During my third week living in Brisbane my classes were in full swing and the homework was piling on but I still found time to enjoy myself.  I visited Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary which is a must see if you happen to be anywhere near Brisbane.  The koalas were all over the place just chilling there like koalas do and I got to hang out with some pretty awesome kangaroos.  You should never try to approach a kangaroos in the wild but the guys at the sanctuary were perfectly happy to have a little pat from the tourists (and I'm sure they didn't mind the kangaroo food given out by the visitors).  It was definitely worth the money to see this little guy up close...
...and this guy

 ...and this one too.

Finally, this past week I was living without the comforts of home and the addicting drag of the internet while staying at Lamington National Park.  Let's just say that it was an amazing experience that deserves its own post...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Australia Day 1?

Okay so it's been more than the first day, or even the third day for that matter, but today is the first day that I've felt awake enough to actually write/remember what has happened.  After four plane rides (including a rather stressful layover in Huston) I get to wake up to the the view above.

After a early morning bird watch I ate some breakfast and morning tea, which is an amazing thing.  We should really make it a habit in the states.  Later in the day I spent time at a beautiful beach collecting cool shells and doing other Biology related things.  I also spent a great deal of time staring out at the ocean watching humpback whales playing around.  I couldn't believe that was class.

Oh and did I mention I saw a Koala.  My very first Koala in the wild.  I would post a picture but the only ones I have are horribly blurry so I leave you with this beautiful view instead.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Muse in Music

I know that almost everyone listens to music and has there favorite genres and artists but I thought I would post a few of my favorites.  Music is such a big part of my life whether I'm writing, reading, or cooking I'm usually also listening to something in the background.  Music helps me cope with life.

I don't know about other people but I love finding new music.  I love the chase.  Some days I will listen to fifty or so new songs until I find one that I like.  I will sift through all the okay stuff just to find that one song that I can star in Spotify and listen to for weeks.  For me listening to an amazing new song is a little like reading one of my favorite books for the first time.  With each there is a sense of novelty that you can never regain no matter how many times you listen/read the music or book again.  I love that feeling!  I guess you could say I'm a bit of a music junkie.

So a little about my taste in music.  As of the past couple years my love for indie music has grown.  For me indie has a sound that other genres don't tap into.  I also like it when the instrumental bits are nice and authentic.  Don't get me wrong, I jam out to the lastest pop songs just as much as the next girl, but there is something amazing about knowing that an artist can actually play the instruments in the background.  Maybe this is why I tend to listen to a dash of folk music.  Gotta love a little banjo, am I right?

This being said my favorite band is The Killers and I will always have a special place in my heart for the Cranberries who I grew up hearing.  I also play the piano and have always loved a little bit of classical music between my Indie songs and popular favorites.  This love has branched into a love of soundtracks, consisting mainly of Alexandre Desplat, Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard, and Murray Gould of course (this man is a genius).

During the past few months one of my favorite indie artists, Daughter, put out a new album.  I love her soft sad lyrics that are filled with such emotion that it makes you forget about any problems you may be having.  Here is a little taste of what she sounds like.  Happy listening! Oh and I am always looking for new music so if you have something you really enjoy leave a comment and I'll give it a listen too!

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Alright so I am in the midst of the last two weeks of craziness before summer so naturally I am procrastinating and posting about things that are arguably not that important.  Who cares though?  A little procrastination isn't a bad thing right?  So as I was saying, I have just over two weeks of real classes and followed by three days of study and three days of finals.  It's exciting and a little scary.

This summer marks halftime people!  The halfway point between being a full time student and the real world. It's nothing if not a little daunting and a bit sad.  I love school but I technically I only have three semesters left.  In August I will be jumping on a plane to Australia.  Yep that's right I will be in Australia for an entire semester doing all things Biology related (and hopefully seeing all kinds of unique animals).  I'm so pumped!  But I also know that this coming semester will only go by faster than all the previous ones.

I have been desperately trying to find the pause button for life but somehow it has been kept hidden and time continues to slip through my fingers.  I guess this is how life is right?  As I get older time will go faster and faster until it runs out....

Wow that just got really depressing WAY too quickly.  Next time I will try to make it a little more upbeat, or at the very least interesting.  In the mean time however, here is a slightly grainy picture of the crazy weather here in upstate New York.

Monday, April 15, 2013

It's Been A While

...and I was thinking about posting something about music or writing or what I'm reading.  Something fun but then the bombs went off in Boston and those things no longer seemed as relevant today.

While I was walking to dinner it kind of hit me that we live in a tumultuous world filled with killing and anger.  I shouldn't have been thinking this.  It was 60 degrees and sunnier than it had been in nearly a week.  I had every reason to be happy my friends and relatives were all safe and my room mate's were fine as well, but I still felt a strange feeling in my heart.

I felt a kind of angry pity.  Why did people do this to each other?  Every day humans kill other humans.  We can try to define a reason why.  They're crazy, they want attention, they're religious nuts but I think it is much more simple.  I think that people are unhappy.  They are unhappy with their relationships, social standing, the world and the only way they know how to feel better is to make others more miserable than themselves.

Unhappiness has become an epidemic fueled by failed economies, a widening class gap, and a overall lack of voice.  For many people the world is spinning out of control.  They can no longer take care of themselves let alone their families and many feel that their lives have been ripped out from underneath them by powers beyond their control.  All of this breeds unhappiness.  It creates people that are angry and frustrated with nothing to lose and even less to gain.

This is why our world rumbles with the blasts of bombs and smells of blood.  This is why we hear more cries than laughter and tears spill more frequently than rain from the heavens.  This is why there are people who have fallen so low that their existence is measured by the fear and pain they inflict on others.  The bombs in Boston today are just another reminder of where our world is headed if we don't cure the disease of unhappiness that has infected humanity.

Let's choose happiness so that someday, maybe, no one has to feel the pain or sadness that was felt today.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A New Look a New Year

Well its a new year and I if you haven't noticed I have given things a little bit of an update.  New colors mostly just to freshen the blog up.  I have also been busy planning out some new things for the New Year after my Holiday hiatus. (Ok I guess it has lasted more than just the holidays). I hope to have a lot more posts coming up.  I am also excited for a new semester coming up in about a week.  It will be nice to get back into the swing of school and working.

Other than that I have been doing something rather surprising.  Outlining.  I know right?  Most of the time I am a pantser.  I have a difficult time outlining a research paper let alone a story that could become a novel.  It's really strange for me.

First it started with character.  You know, one of those pesky characters that sit inside your brain antagonizing you until you eventually have to write their story.  So just to apease him, and myself, I gave him a bio and some history.  With his history came the development of the characters around him.  Then I plopped him into a world I have been thinking about for a while and VOILA!  Well maybe not quite like that.  There is still a ton of things that need to go into the story.  I mean he isn't even the main character.  But at least I have something more coherent than a few pages of rambling and a bunch of half digested stories.

I think that this break I have written more than I have in the past semester alone (excluding papers.  They don't count). I am really proud of what I have done and hope I can continue it throughout the semester.  It has been a fun break filled with a lot of writing.