Book Review: The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes

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It was the survival-in-the-woods story that pulled me in. Some days it seems like every other young adult book is either a quirky romance or a dark, probably psychological, “problem” novel.  Actually I love both the romances and the dark tales, but the synopsis of this book was some of neither.

Hallelujah (yes that is actually the protagonist’s name) doesn’t want to go on the retreat in the woods with the youth group she’s alienated herself from. Or have they alienated her? It’s hard to tell after the incident six months ago, when one event turned her social status on its head. Either way, the tortuously awkward hiking retreat in the Smoky Mountains becomes even worse when Hal and two others become separated from the group and lost in a storm, in the woods.  It’s a classic: “will they make it out again…and become best friends in the process…?” *insert cliffhanger music here.*

As stated before, props to Kathryn Holmes for creating a  novel that is readable and entertaining, and one that strays from the typical backdrops for YA novels of the 21st century. Unfortunately, for me as a reader, I found many of the plot turns formulaic. Of course I enjoyed a break from my typical genre, but the lost-in-the-woods story line is not original enough to render it a real page-turner.  The most predictable, and slightly annoying plot point is the incident.  Why does Hallelujah have no friends? Hinted at in the synopsis, all the details are finally revealed in the second half of the book, but at that point I had pretty much guessed what was going to happen anyway. No spoilers here, however, overall the backstory felt forced and frankly a little cheesy.  Holmes intrigued me with the ideas in this survival tale, but, in my opinion, failed to deliver the story in a realistic or original way.

All that being said, I can’t entirely discredit the novel. It did keep my interest, and a few slices of dialogue toward the end were particularly resonant.  As Hal and her friends are trekking through the wilderness, they bring up whether they’ve ever “felt God” and if that’s even hypocritical to talk about. At another point, they discuss whether cursing is justifiable in certain contexts. As a church kid, I can relate asking those same questions with my own friends, but you almost never find topics like that explored in writing that doesn’t also try to shove the gospel down your throat.

While not substantial enough to stay in your head and haunt you for days, I enjoyed the journey with The Distance Between Lost and Found enough to check out another Kathryn Holmes, How It Feels To Fly…second time’s a charm?

As always, if you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Recommended to: YA readers looking for a quick read, people who enjoyed the tv show Lost, My Side of the Mountain, and Hatchet (wilderness survival type books)

 

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thankful | volume 5

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{previously…}

  • The new friends I made this summer when I worked as an overnight camp counselor for eight weeks. Lesson learned: the best friends are the ones who can make even cleaning the dining hall seem like pretty much the most fun job in existence.
  • The opportunity to visit Italy and Austria with my family a few weeks ago. I still can’t get over the experience of merely existing in another culture – hearing Italian spoken all the time, walking everywhere instead of driving, seeing yet another 400-year-old cathedral.

{currently…}

  • Thankful for whoever invented the Common App so I’m filling out all of the paperwork involved in applying to colleges only once instead of 5+ times.
  • For plums and peanut butter and pesto and having access to good tasting food in general. And spicy zoodles!
  • For metronomes for making practicing an almost mindless activity for this rhythm-deaf pianist.

{potentially…}

  • Cheering on the Falcons on Sunday afternoons
  • Taking the test to get belay-certified at the rock climbing gym near my house
  • Drinking loads of tea and coffee while conquering Calculus. BOOM.
  • Getting to wear all the lovely giant sweaters in the near future
  • Reading my growing stack of library books…book review time maybe??

Have a good Wednesday, guys.

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thankful | volume 4

thankful again

  • Libraries.  Gotta love a place that will let me take home an armful of books for free. I love that now school is slowing down I have time to read again!
  • Tea. I used to hate tea, but I started drinking it last fall. It’s gotten me through a lot of school stress this semester.
  • That I had the opportunity to stage manage a show this semester. I learned a lot from working backstage, and I’m so thankful my “drama friends” as I call them were there for me.
  • Spotify. All the free music and organizing it into playlists!!! I’m sensing a theme with the free stuff though…
  • My friends.  Some of them are graduating on Saturday, and it’s gotten me reeeeally sentimental.   Those of you reading this – I’m so happy for you guys and am 100% positive that you’re going to do great things!

Right now, I’m also thankful to anyone reading this. Life happens, and school hasn’t given me a lot of leeway to pursue more creative things (hence no blogging since last JANUARY), but I enjoy getting to use this text box as an outlet when I can.

Happy Thursday!  Book review coming soon…

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Living the Homeschooler Life

This post really should be titled “Living the High Schooler Life.” Despite being educated at home my whole life, besides kindergarten which doesn’t really count anyway, I don’t believe identifying as “homeschooled” is such a big deal.

However, I get a ton of questions whenever one of those people who actually go to school (in a building! everyday!) find out that I’m a homeschooler. So here I am to interpret this label for you guys!

1. We’re pretty unsocialized. (;

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I have friends. Even more mind-blowing, I met most of them through school! Whether it be those people who I met through co-ops that I did in middle school and we still get together every few months, or the ones that I see multiple times a week for class and drama club, my friends are actual [really awesome] people.

2. We’re also pretty sheltered.  

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Observe, our family Christmas card! Not really…

I get the vibe that the non-homeschool crowd thinks that homeschooler is synonymous with with weirdo.  And I sorta get where that’s coming from.  I have noticed that at least in my Christian homeschooler group of friends we can definitely make a whole lot of drama over any little thing, but that might not have to do with being sheltered as much as being teenage girls. (:

Not all homeschoolers wear long skirts, do side hugs Duggar-style, and think Harry Potter is evil.  Most of them don’t wear crop tops and aren’t fluent in rap music either.  It’s a spectrum. I will say that I’ve met people in the second category before, but have yet to come in contact with the first group…

3. We have a lot of things in common with “normal” schools.

We have prom.  I go to high school football games as often as I can drag my friends along with me. I don’t wear pajamas to do school work.  There are a few cliques. I have tests, teachers, grades, and a high school transcript (basically that means that I do in fact have to take 4 years of English and P.E. class to graduate).  I take summer vacation.  Oh, and study hall is a thing too.

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A friend demonstrates how we all feel about study hall. (:

4. I’m in some classes.

There are many different kinds of homeschooling that you can do.  Contrary to popular opinion though, my mom isn’t the one who teaches me physics.  But I do actually “do” physics.  What happens is I physically go to class for a few hours once or twice a week per subject.  Then the majority of the school is homework that we get to work on for the rest of the week, and then is graded by our teachers.  The homework gets done either in study hall, or in my living room table/sofa in between driving all over the place for classes.

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Imagine this with a ton more books and papers laying around, and it’s “school”

So Mondays, I go to a homeschool co-op and take economics with other homeschool students (there are other classes happening at the same time as well). Tuesdays and Wednesdays I go to a French class somewhere else and we meet in a community center type building.  Wednesdays are also for Health and P.E., which meets at someone’s house.  Thursdays, I take physics, study hall, then AP Literature at another co-op that meets at a church. And then Thursday nights and Friday morning I’m in an AP psychology class that meets online through gmail chatting and a skype (sort of) meeting.

My largest classes are the AP ones (psych has over 40 students, AP Lit has 20ish I think). Smallest is French, which only has 4.

5. I’m going to college!  

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visiting a very, very large college with a very, very large bulldog

It’s really hard for me to think about college since it seems ages away, except really I have to start thinking about applying in the next few months (SCARY), but yes, I am actually going away to an actual college! That exclamation point was sarcastic…I’ve always known that my homeschooling will definitely not be continued past high school graduation, and it kind of weirds me out whenever someone asks if it will.  My parents are my guidance counselors, the ones encouraging me to go on college visits and working on my transcript.

There’s still a lot of options I’m considering. Large university or liberal arts college, for example…I don’t know for sure, yet. Nowadays it’s always in the back of my mind as I’m wading through precalculus homework.

Speaking of which, I should probably go do.

Stay strong! It’s almost summer (oh yeah)!

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Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

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This might be a first for me…I actually saw the movie before I read the book, and I ended up reading the book because I enjoyed the movie so much!!!  That probably seems normal for most people, but it felt really odd for me.  I’m so used to the unwritten “you-can’t-watch-the-movie-until-you-read-the-book” rule I guess (#rebel).

Mark Watney’s crew shouldn’t be held responsible for leaving him on Mars.  When the Ares 3 mission is forced to abort because of a 175 kph storm, and the communications antenna falls and impales you, piercing your body systems monitor on your suit so your heart rate appears to go flat, it’s a sad but safe bet to assume you’re dead.  But Mark isn’t dead.  With an insane amount of pluck and science-y know-how, he’ll do whatever it takes to get back home.

I so enjoyed The Martian, which is mostly made up of Mark’s logbook entries but also includes narrative from Ares 3 NASA team and Mark’s crewmates.  For a fairly fat novel, the prose is conversational, so it was easy to read.  On the other hand though, the entries were smattered with a bunch of extremely nerdy science explanations: fixing the water filter, rigging the mars rover, figuring out a way to grow plants on dead Martian dirt.  I’ve heard that all the finagling could hypothetically work though…random cool trivia about the book.

The movie probably helped my speed through the book, because I could picture what scene in the movie went with what part of the book (the movie followed Weir’s novel pretty closely, if you were wondering!).  If I didn’t have that visual to match it up, a lot of the more technical logbook entries probably would have gone over my head.  The author’s/Mark’s voice is down to earth, so that helped too.  The movie also helped me keep track of the different characters. Many of the minor characters I couldn’t differentiate until the end of the novel.  I wanted to go back at the end and re-read some of the Ares 3 crew sections after I finally figured out the difference in personalities between Beck and Martinez!

However, what set this book apart as a favorite from my 2015 reading list was an overall vibe.  Mars threw a lot on one man’s shoulders, albeit that the one man is a sassy, nerdy, optimistic botanist/mechanical engineer.  But there was no trace of self-pity in the story!  The tone was suspenseful without making you go insane; it had a good feel…

It’s hard to describe without comparing it to a movie from this year, Inside Out.  The film has similar upbeat adventure elements, but instead of being about space, Inside Out chronicles cute animated emotions, inside of a brain. But wasn’t that movie S-T-R-E-S-S-F-U-L to watch?! Everything that could go wrong did. I can’t figure out exactly why Martian was inspiring but Inside Out was taxing, but it was.  Weir created a hilarious (although a lot of language could have been deleted and it still be funny, just saying), smart, and well-paced novel.

I could probably ramble on a bunch more, but at the end of the day, The Martian entertained this happy reader.

And that’s what’s important when picking up a book to read for fun. (:

Recommended to: Nerds/science-lovers, people who enjoy a feasible yet inspiring book, anyone old enough to handle excessive language


 

Have a great week back from break (2016, we got this!!)

 

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Hello, 2016.

I’ve had a blog for 145 days now. 145 days!

So with this milestone and the fact it’s a new year, I guess now is as good a time as any to recap where this blog ride has taken me so far.  Some of my favorite posts:

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headband tutorial finished 1Headband tutorial…still my favorite sewing tutorial. (:

Picture1If you made me choose a book review that was my favorite, it would have to be 13 Reasons Why or Hope Was Here.

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And my very favorite (and coincidentally the top-performing) post was Living the Teenager Life.  It was just a random post I wrote one day…probably when I was feeling a bit angst-y.  But I liked that it resonated with people!

According to dozens of articles I’ve read on blogging, the number 1 way to grow your audience is by blogging consistently. While I’d love to be able to make that my New Year’s Resolution, I can’t make a promise I can’t keep. Schoolwork will always take priority, and junior year is hard!!  So it means a lot that my few followers have stuck around through these past few sparse blog-post-wise months.

And speaking of followers and blog posts.

Writing this stuff is definitely a learning process.  Some people like words, some prefer pretty pictures.  Some people who read this are reading because they’re my friends, some because they wanted to read book reviews and WordPress told them to jump here, and some because a random google search brought them here by accident.  Some people like the “cute” stuff like fonts and quirky punctuation, and for some people it really bothers them to see a sentence fragment and a non-capitalized sentence.

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See, I’m dedicated. My dad stole (sorta) me a road sign with my blog name on it.

Obviously the only person that truly enjoys every topic I post about here is me (although some I do like more than others. Book reviews are super relaxing to write, but Start the Camp posts are more tedious. I’m only still writing them for my future self who might forget [/end tangent].)

So thank you everyone who stuck around!  What was your favorite post of the year?  Certain categories you’d like to see more of in the future?

Let me know in the comments!!

 

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DIY Custom Phrase T-Shirt Tutorial

You know those funny shirts that you see on pinterest? (You know the ones I’m talking about). You can definitely make them yourself at home…no sewing skills required!

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I mean, you could always order a custom shirt, but that can get really expensive. This works also for those inside jokes that you want on a t-shirt! Speaking of which…I should probably explain this shirt that I’m using for the pictures in the tutorial. Yes, it does say “Brahms is bae,” and it was a moving-away gift for my amazing friend who is also a classical music nerd. You can read her blog and the post that inspired this shirt here.

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Let’s get started!

Materials: 

  • A solid color t-shirt
  • Freezer paper (find it at the grocery store in with the tin foil and plastic wraps)
  • Acrylic paint
  • Fabric medium (can use regular fabric paint instead).
  • A foam spongy brush
  • Access to a printer
  • Masking tape

Instructions

1.) First, print out what you want to put on your shirt.  I used a text box in Microsoft publisher to print this out, nothing fancy. Whatever you print will be the actual size, so make sure it is big enough!  You’re going to have to cut all the letters out, so keep it fairly simple if you want this to be a quick project.  step1

 

2.) Freezer paper has two sides: a shiny side that you’ll eventually iron to the shirt, and a matte side.  Tape the words face down to the shiny side, oriented like you want them to appear on the front of the shirt.

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3.) Flip it over to the dull side and trace all the letters/pictures.

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When you’re done, you can peel off the printer paper. You won’t need it anymore!

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4.) Now, carefully cut out every letter.  You’re essentially making a stencil, so the inside of the block letters can be as messy as you want.  To start each letter, poke the scissors through the middle of the letter. Don’t cut through the white space around the letters!

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Also be sure to keep the inside “holes” of the letters, like inside the B and A. This is the most tedious part of the project. I’m sure if you had some exacto-knife skills it could go a lot faster, but scissors work for me!

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Ta daa, one custom t-shirt stencil. The rest is a breeze!

 

5.) Take your shirt and put paper in the middle to keep the paint from seeping through to the back.  Then iron the stencil right on the front (or back if that’s what you want) of the shirt, shiny side down.

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Be sure to add back your middles-of-letters!

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6.) Mix your fabric medium and acrylic paint based on the instructions on the bottle.  This stops the from cracking when you wash it.  If you are using fabric paint, you can skip this step.

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7.) And sponge the paint on the shirt stencil! This is the fun part.

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You can see in this weird looking picture how it’s starting to dry.  If your shirt is a dark color you may need to do two or three layers, drying between.  Make sure it is completely dry before removing the stencil.

8.) Peeling it all away is oddly satisfying.

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9.) Set the paint by ironing over it, per the directions on the fabric medium bottle.  Your shirt will be machine washable and dryable…and I love how it fades softer after washing it over and over!

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Done! Enjoy your super unique shirt…last minute gift idea maybe?

Have an amazing Christmas break, whether you spend it DIY-ing, listening to classical music, or spending time with family and friends!

P. S. Thanks, Eden for letting me try on your present for about five minutes! (:

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