November Wrap-Up!

november wrap up

One month closer to the holiday season…and to finals.

In My Life


School is…school. Yeah, nothing really good or bad happened. I had another Speech and Debate competition, which went well. I got a whole week off for Thanksgiving break, which was great. I definitely ate too much pie.

On a happy note, I got my drivers permit! Technically, I could have gotten it a year and a half ago, but I procrastinated. Anyway, I can now drive (and it’s a little terrifying).

On This Blog

This month was bad for my blog. 😦

I only had 13 posts, and I ended my record of having at least three posts a week (TWICE). In the beginning of the month, I just wasn’t motivated to blog and I needed a little break, but by the end of the month, when I was ready to get back into it, I didn’t have time. Hopefully December will be better!

I took part in two Top Ten Tuesdays:

  1. TV Shows I Want to Read as Books
  2. Books I’m Thankful For

I also had two discussion posts! I talked about the need for diversity in entertainment and the seven writing styles of YA. I got a ton of positive feedback for the second one–thank you to everyone who liked and commented! It meant a lot. 🙂

I also threw out some random thoughts about Thanksgiving and took part in the first Guest of the Month Club.

In Reading and Reviewing

I only read five books this month (and one was for school). *cries* I should have done a ton of reading over break but instead I did other things and ended up reading NOTHING. Seriously, I didn’t open a book for a week. It was weird.

Anyway, here are the books I read (links to reviews if they exist)

  1. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
  2. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
  3. Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
  4. Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between by Jennifer E. Smith
  5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (for school)

In Writing


November was BAD for me for writing. I added 312 words to my WIP. That’s IT. (*sobbing*) And I only published one poem, A Moment of Silence.

Okay, so November was rough for me. But I had a pretty good time overall (in all that time I wasn’t reading/writing/blogging). I have big plans for December.

How was November for you guys? What are your plans for December?

Guest of the Month: Beyond the Blog

I am super excited to introduce a new series of posts that you guys will see on my blog each month: Guest of the Month Club, hosted by Emily @ Emily Reads Everything! This is a great program that connects different bloggers each month to guest post on each other’s blogs. You can find more details and sign up here.

This month I’m paired up with Michael @ Your Own Pay. He’s a really inspiring guy, and you should check out his blog and podcasts!

This month’s topic is Beyond the Blog. Here is Michael’s post discussing what his life looks like when he isn’t blogging.

You can see my post—a semi-rambling depiction of my clueless high school existence—on his blog here.

“The alarm goes off promptly at 6:30 AM, isn’t it interesting how that thing’s never late! I drowsily feel for my phone, and when I find it I hit one of the volume keys to silence it and give me another 10 minutes of blissful sleep. I know however that I won’t take advantage of those 10 minutes; I need to get up and get my brother ready for school. So I disconnect my phone from its charger and tap the lock button to display the lock screen. Flicking through I noticed that one of my clients paid me via PayPal, that’s always nice; 3 new followers on Twitter, and my wife commented on last night’s Facebook status I posted. After I’ve reviewed all of the notifications on the lock screen, I quickly brush my thumb against the thumbprint raider at the bottom of my phone to unlock it and roll out of bed.

Drowsily I stumble into the kitchen and opened the cupboard above the coffee maker. Feeling around I find that the coffee can is about in the same spot I remember it last being. So I take it out and place it on the counter. Then I recall that yesterday I did not empty the coffee filter in the K cup machine. So I deposit the already used grounds into the garbage, and fill up the filter with fresh grounds. Reaching over, I grab my coffee cup off the counter where I left it last night, put it under the receiver for the brood coffee, and fill up the back of the K cup machine. As I smell my poison brewing, I turn to the cereal sitting next to the microwave and grab a bowl out of the cupboard. Pouring some cereal into the bowl, I remember that yesterday my brother asked if he could have bananas with the cereal in the morning. Grabbing a banana out of the fruit bowl on the counter, I peal it and break it up into small chunks mixing it in with the cereal. Adding some milk I place the bowl on the table and call out, “Benjamin!”

Benjamin comes into the kitchen and asks, “Can I turn the light on?”

Chuckling to myself as I walk over to the coffee machine to grab my cup I say, “Of course you can”!

I pull my phone out and ask my personal assistant Siri what’s on my calendar for today, and while he is reading that information to me I will introduce myself and thank Jocelyn for letting me post on her blog. This is a guest posting inspired by Emily and her Guest of the Month blog group. I’m very excited to be part of this like-minded group of bloggers so I can share what it’s like when I’m not blogging, and connect with those who truly want to learn more about the environment of bloggers.

So it looks like I have a conference call at 8 AM, then an online seminar I’m attending related to acquiring new followers on Twitter at 10:15 AM. I’ve also got a doctors appointment this afternoon, and it sounds like I’ve even got a paid coaching call at 2 PM. Finishing up listening to my calendar events, I check the reminders I have as well thanks to my amazing personal assistant. Siri lets me know that I have set a reminder to contact a blind advertising site to market my WordPress training from a blindness point of view. In addition, I’ve also got a reminder set that Benjamin needs to have his shots done for school by the end of the month so I need to set an appointment for that to be done. It sounds like I’ve got a busy day, and then I remembered that it’s Tuesday so I need to speak with the team about the marketing objectives I gave them last week to see where they are with them.

Benjamin has finished his cereal and bananas now, so after prompting him to brush his teeth and get dressed so we can catch the bus I begin pondering the idea I want to Podcast about today. It’s my objective to release one podcast per day through the end of the year, and sometimes coming up with podcast topics can be a little bit difficult especially since I’m pretty sure I’ve covered quite a bit of stuff already. As  Benjamin finishes up brushing his teeth, andgetting his clothes on we walk out the door at 7:20 in the morning. After Benjamin gets on the bus, I start my day when it comes to not blogging.

This is just a quick glimpse into the morning of a stay-at-home digital marketer who is completely blind. I like to not let my blindness hold me back, and am always encouraged to step out of my comfort zone and connect with people who might not understand that it’s possible for someone even with a “disability” to be able to do anything he puts his mind to. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Blab, Periscope, YouTube, and more have made it so much easier for me to connect with other like-minded individuals off of my blog, and bring them back to my blog to share the content I’ve got with them.

When I’m not blogging I’m connecting with people on other social media sites and doing stuff around the house while my more than amazing wife is working! I won’t admit it publicly to my wife, but I also enjoy spending some time with our two cats and just hanging out. If I’m not doing work related stuff, I’m typically reading some sort of marketing or personal development book to help better myself personally and the businesses I work with. (Thanks Audible and Youtube!)

What about you? What does your day look like when you’re not on the Internet? Or, maybe you are on the Internet all day, what types of things do you enjoy doing?

Leave me a comment and I look forward to connecting with you. Once again Jocelyn, thanks a lot for allowing me to share my message with your readers!

Thank you, Michael, for sharing this amazing guest post! And thank you Emily for making this possible!

You guys can listen to his podcasts and get to know him at his blog or on Twitter @PayOwn.

Weekend Words #10

weekend words picWeekend Words showcases inspiring quotes from books, about writing, and about life. This feature will happen every weekend, either on Saturday or Sunday, depending on my schedule. While this is a reading/writing centric blog, this feature doesn’t have to be focused on those areas–it is intentionally open-ended to give bloggers a chance to say what’s on their mind.

Everyone should feel free to take part–it would honestly make my day! Complete instructions can be found on the feature’s page. 

1. A Powerful Quote From a Recent Read

quote full of signs

“Maybe the world isn’t  full of signs so much as it’s full of people trying to use whatever evidence they can find to convince themselves of what they hope to be true.” — Jennifer E. Smith, Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between

2. A Quote that Inspired or Influenced Me This Week

quote leave yourself behind

“Be there for others, but never leave yourself behind.” — Dodinsky

3. Something I’ve Been Wanting to Say

I kind of already said this here, but Thanksgiving is simultaneously screwed up and really important. We should all try to be thankful for little things more often in our lives, but we should also take some time out of our busy lives to educate ourselves about the darker parts of America’s history.

I hope you’re all having a great weekend! What quotes have inspired you recently?

In Which I Throw Out Some Random Thoughts About Thanksgiving

Today’s Thanksgiving, and, like a lot of American families, I’ll be doing the whole shabang: a big family get-together, complete with a massive turkey, tons of side dishes, and lots of pie. I’ve had this week off from school in honor of the holiday. It’s moderately cold (I live in southern California), the leaves are turning red, and the holiday season is beginning.

But for a holiday that brings so much positivity into my life, Thanksgiving is a morally complicated holiday.

On one hand…

Thanksgiving is exactly the holiday that America needs. It is a day that forces families to come together, take a break from their hectic lives, and be thankful for the little things. (At least in theory, this is what Thanksgiving does.) At the door to the most materialistic portion of the calendar–Black Friday through New Years–we all pause and eat some food with family. We look back on the year we’ve had and see it in a positive light–what are we thankful has happened to us?

On the other hand…

Thanksgiving has the misfortune (not sure that’s the right word for it) of being tied to one of the darkest chapters in America’s history: the systematic destruction of Native Americans and their culture. Starting with the very pilgrims that children will be playfully dressing up as this week, straight through Andrew Jackson’s Trail of Tears, to the current day, where Native Americans are stuck on dwindling reservations, America’s disregard for the people who came before Jamestown and Plymouth is as obvious as it is ignored.

In fact, as a child, Thanksgiving was essentially the only time that Native Americans were discussed in school, and always with (I now realize) false positivity. Native Americans were semi-legendary, appearing to help the pilgrims plant corn and them mysteriously vanishing somewhere between the idealistic first Thanksgiving and the Revolutionary War, never to be heard from again.

And that’s a problem.

Thanksgiving currently ties together two incredibly important issues in society: the need to be thankful and the ridiculous inaccuracies prevalent in the way we view our history.

We need to take a day to be joyous with family and eat delicious food and be thankful for our lots in life.

But we also need to stop acting like the “first Thanksgiving” is the only thing children—heck, even adults—need to know about Native Americans.

We need to talk about the horrific moments themes running throughout American history. And we need to stop acting as though pointing out that (a) racism existed and still exists, and that (b) Americans have made horrific decisions in the past, is unAmerican. It isn’t America-bashing to shine light into the dark corners of our history.

It is, however, disrespectful to the Native Americans who hold onto their cultures—despite the trials they’ve continuously faced—to continue to whitewash their history with this myth of Thanksgiving.

So what are we supposed to do?

I’m not going to stand here and act like I have all the answers. I don’t even have, like, half an answer. But here’s my take on it:

For today, spread some positivity. Be thankful. Tell people you love them. Eat some food and try to be happy and let real life start again tomorrow.

But don’t let the story end. Make sure that you at least think about the trials Native Americans have faced. If you have kids, make sure they know that there is more to the story. (I’m not advocating traumatic specificity, but the broad strokes are important.) Maybe do a Google search and try to learn something about America’s history that you didn’t know yesterday. Most of all, never let yourself hide a historical issue because it is easier to ignore it.

Okay, that’s it.

Go eat some pie.

Book Review: Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between by Jennifer E. Smith

This book was surprisingly bittersweet–definitely more than the fluffy contemporary read I took it for.

3.5/5 stars

cover hello goodbye and everything in between

Amazon Description

On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan only have one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night leads them to family and friends, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever?

My Review

Looking back on the premise of this book, it shouldn’t have been surprising that this book tugged at my heart-strings. I had assumed that it would be a lighthearted contemporary story, but it ended up being melancholy throughout and even brutally sad at times. That’s not to say that it isn’t an overall positive story–or that it doesn’t have its cute moments, which it does–I was just surprised.

Clare and Aidan have been together for nearly two years by the time they leave for college–Aidan heading for the west coast and Clare for the east coast. They are the ultimate high school couple–never apart, head-over-heels for each other–and neither of them wants to break up, but they also don’t want to ruin their relationship with long-distance.

Though the plot has a simple premise, it allowed for a complicated story. There were lots of flashbacks–effortlessly woven into the narrative–that gave the reader a clear sense of Clare and Aidan’s relationship. The “scavenger hunt” that Clare takes Aidan on brings other characters into the plot and ensures that the story is more than a pragmatic conversation between the two characters. I appreciated the emphasis Jennifer E. Smith put on showcasing the different stresses teens face–parental pressures, strained friendships, and of course, the massive change that is leaving for college.

Even so, this book ends up being 90% focused on Clare and Aidan’s relationship. I was expecting this, so it wasn’t exactly disappointing, but I did feel like the plot was missing something at times to make it more complex. Yes, friendship and parental issues were worked into the plot, but they always seemed to have easy resolutions to “get out of the way” of the main plot.

The characterization of Clare and Aidan was weak, in my opinion. Both of them remained fairly one-dimensional throughout the story. There was a lot of “telling” instead of “showing” as to both of their personalities–Clare being the pragmatic, controlling type, with Aidan being more laid-back and impulsive. For a book that was inherently character-based, I wish that Clare and Aidan had broken the “YA love interest” mold more.

The ending of this book surprised me. Up until the last pages, I wasn’t sure what would happen, and I was extremely emotionally stricken over which option they should choose. On one hand, going to college with a long-distance SO sounds pretty miserable, but on the other hand, they were an adorable couple, something that had been drilled into me by the book’s end. Trying to avoid spoilers, I’ll just say that I loved the ending, and that it was exactly what the book needed.

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between was filled with simple but important messages for teens. As a junior starting to think about college, this book was a rude awakening: I hadn’t really considered how emotional leaving for college was going to be. The writing style was just poetic enough to give the story a contemplative feeling, and though the plot had its melodramatic moments, for the most part, it felt realistic.

I would recommend this book to fans of bittersweet and romance-based contemporary books, especially for teens who are about to leave for college.

Top Ten Books I’m Thankful For

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. 

This week’s topic is a Thanksgiving freebie, so I’m going through ten books I’m thankful for. These books helped me become the reader I am today.

1. The Best Book of Mummies by Philip Steele— For being the first book I clearly remember reading–and loving.

cover best book of mummies

2. The Sister’s Grimm series by Michael Buckley— For being exactly what I needed in elementary school: darker MG than most books my school offered, while being less intense than the YA world.

cover sisters grimm

3. Graceling and Fire by Kristen Cashore— For being some of the first YA books I picked up. For helping me fall in love with YA and for teaching me the beauty of good writing.

4. The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner— For creating a story I never want to stop rereading.

cover queens thief covers

5. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern— For the incredible magic of the Night Circus. For proving the magic of books.

cover night circus

6. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray— For being the first book that hit me over the head with the power of diversity in books.

cover beauty queens

7. The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter— For teaching me that books can have stupid covers and still contain amazing and uplifting stories.

series galagher girls carter

8. Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson— For having a MC that I intensely relate to.

cover since youve been gone

9. The Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson— For proving that world building has no limits.

series mistborn sanderson

10. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein— For creating a friendship so true it reduces me to tears.

cover code name verity

What books are you thankful for? What are your Thanksgiving plans? Have you read any of these books?

Happy Tuesday!


Why We Need Diverse Entertainment

I wrote this piece for my school’s newspaper about the need for diverse entertainment. It is more formal than most of things I post on this blog, but I wanted to share it, because this is definitely a discussion being had in the bookish world, and the current push for diverse literature is a movement I fully support.

Diversity has become the buzzword of the entertainment industry. Sexually, racially, and physically diverse characters are taking center stage in new movies, TV shows, and especially in young adult books. This sudden uptick in wide-ranging representation poses an important question: do we really need this much diversity in our entertainment?

Advocates of diverse entertainment argue that the answer to this question is an obvious YES. By creating storylines that feature characters that break the normal straight, white, and physically enviable mold, writers offer their readers a unique chance: to read their own story.

LGBTQ+ people should be able to read love stories that are not solely heterosexual. People struggling with body image should be able to recognize their figures on television, instead of watching a parade of golden ratio women take leading roles. Non-white people should be able to see members of their culture as protagonists instead of token background characters. People suffering from mental illnesses or living with disabilities should be included in fictional narratives as more than inspiration for the “more able” main character.

The simple answer is yes, we need to push for diversity, because it is not yet a reality in the entertainment industry.

Moreover, we need diversity in entertainment because the current landscape is a myth. The world is not made up of straight, white size-two women and muscled men with all other races and identities crammed in the background. In a tweet on Oct. 11, children’s book author Laura Ruby eloquently illustrated this point.

“If books are here to teach kids about the world, what does it mean when books don’t reflect the world?” she asked.

It is the twenty-first century, a time of rising social movements advocating equality of all types. How many Black Lives Matter protests must we see before we realize that the sentiment extends beyond cop-related violence? How many Pride parades have to dominate cities before we realize that the LGBTQ+ movement is not a niche issue? How many body-positive ad campaigns have to spread like wildfire across social media platforms before we realize that people are tired of the size-zero ideal?

We need diversity in entertainment because without it, social equality will forever be handicapped. The entertainment we consume is a reflection of who we are—and one of the most potentially powerful forces of change in our lives. Until the entertainment industry pushes the exclusive boundaries that they have imposed on themselves, consumers remain trapped in an unrealistic world. There is immense potential to change minds in entertainment, because seeing diversity brought to life directly contradicts the hatred and fear of ignorant masses.

We need diversity in entertainment because we live in a time of change, and diverse art is both the cause and effect of this movement.