Saint Anything

Hello, World.

About two years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah Dessen, the young adult author. I read all her novels in high school, starting with her [then] latest, Along for the Ride. No matter how old I get, I always have a soft spot for Dessen’s novels. I have a soft spot for all young adult authors. When I was younger, I really wanted to be a young adult novelist (HAH!). Anyway, long story short, her new novel was released in May, and I of course bought it right away. It took me a while to get through, but it was actually a good novel by the end.
Saint Anything
To be totally honest, I was having trouble getting into Dessen’s storyline structure with the last few novels I read by her. I started feeling like the story arc was predictable, and that the characters, though great, were limited by said arc. However, this book was supposed to be different than her others (something she said pre-release), and for that reason I was excited. As I read through it, I enjoyed the development of the characters, and I loved the protagonists’ relationships with the Chathams. Mac and Layla are great! The one character that TOTALLY drove me nuts the entire time I was reading, and didn’t even get super redeemed by the end, was the Sydney’s mother. I’m sure you’ll understand if you read it, and I don’t want to give too much away, but she’s just a bother because she never really treats Sydney as an individual, someone separate from her sibling.

Overall, though, I ended up really liking it, and really craving pizza (this’ll make sense if you read it). While Along for the Ride may always be my favorite Sarah Dessen novel because I identified so strongly with the main character, I will add Saint Anything to the list of successes from Dessen. Though this book got some harsh reviews, I think it’s a solid novel. Definitely a great beach read, even though some of the material is heavy.

What are you currently reading?

Truly,
Callie leigh

Easy Summer Reading

Hello, World.

You know what I don’t like? Rigid summer reading lists. Every summer since my junior year of high school, I’ve made a list in early May of books I wanted to read over the summer. While making the list is fun, once actual summer arrives, I feel super limited in what I can read. Sometimes I’m just NOT in the mood for what’s on my list, but I feel like I have to get through the list. This often leads me to read less because I’m avoiding starting the next book on the list. This summer, I decided to have a fun, easy summer. Though I have to read two novels for my thesis project, the rest of my list is, well, nonexistent. I bought a ton of great books before summer started, and now I”m going to pick what to read to next based on what I’m in the mood for, not based on a stipulated list. So, I wanted to share some of my top picks for summer reading! Some of the novels I’ve read personally, and some are on my to-read list, but regardless, from what I’ve experienced or heard, I know all these novels are pretty light and quick reads.
Summer Reading
Me Before You | Leave Your Mark | Saint Anything (Currently Reading!) | Big Sur | Looking For Alaska | Americanah

Looking for Alaska by John Green inspired my institution of the life library in my own life. I buy tons of books, and add them to my shelves, hoping I’ll get to them eventually. I love reading, and I have so many things I want to read, so I just keep adding to my library. I’m also definitely one of those people that will have an in-house library in my home. Anyway, the above books are great reads that’ll make you think, but are also light enough to be enjoyable summer reads. Happy reading!

Truly,
Callie leigh

My Favorite 2013 Moments

Hello, World.

In light of the New Year, I’m doing some posts about 2013, and what I have planned for 2014. Although, if I’m being totally honest, I have no plans and no expectations for the New Year, and I’m completely and utterly content with that. If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s having expectations kill the organic feeling of life. If we expect too much, we’re bound to be disappointed. If we expect too little, we’re more surprised than we should be. But anyway, I’m going to wrap up 2013 by sharing my biggest moments of the year. These include milestones, but some are just small moments that affected my life in one way or another.  Image First, I went to the aquarium in Monterey with my residence hall, which was awesome. Mostly. Aside from some petty, first-year-of-college drama, it was a great experience. I’d never been to an aquarium, and it was really cool! I got to spend the day with some of my favorite people, and got to see jellyfish and sharks and penguins!
ImageThe Gonzaga versus Saint Mary’s basketball game was intense, and my school may have lost, but it was still such a great experience, and a must for my first year of college. The crowd was SO loud, and so invested in the game, and our boys played their best. I also made it on TV, which was my goal for my first SMC basketball game.
ImageThe Giants’ games. Yes, I got to go to two this year. The first was in the beginning of the year with two of my closest friends. The other in August, with my lovely parents and my uncle. I’d never been to a professional baseball game before, and it was awesome! I loved it, and I’m hoping to go again next season with my friends.
Image I stayed in San Francisco for a week during the month of May, and it was honestly my favorite time period in all of 2013. I really fell in love with the City in that week, and I found out so many things about myself. It was also the first time I really enjoyed the City. Before that, visiting the City always felt a little stressful, because it was a day away from everything, but then I would return, and all the things that were bothering me previously came rushing back into my head the minute I stepped foot on Bart. But this week, this one week, changed things. Everything felt secure, and happy, and easy, and real…at least for a little while. In the words of Elena Gilbert, “But then the sun came up, and reality set in.”
ImageI took a little road trip from school to surprise my mom for Mother’s Day. It was the first time I drove home, and I got to visit home the weekend before finals, and really enjoy being around my family before things got crazy. I’m so thankful my best friend decided to go with me because the drive would have sucked by myself. Also, we made a bomb playlist, so that helped.
Image Moving out of Saint Mary’s, and my first dorm room was so sad! My first year flew by, but I loved every minute of it, even the bad moments. Sometimes I feel nostalgic about moving out, wishing I could back to this room, and repeat some of the moments of my first year. Everything felt so easy, and everything was so new and exciting. I have some beautiful memories in this room, with people I will never forget, despite that many things are now so different than just a few months ago, when I was packing up this room, and closing it’s door for the very last time.
ImageMeeting Sarah Dessen was probably one of the coolest things to happen all year. I read all of her books, and I hope that no matter what career I end up in, one day I can write novels that matter, and be half as successful as her. She was just as sweet and amazing as you would think, and I’m so grateful my mom accompanied me to the Bay Area this summer to let me meet Sarah!
ImageBeing a WOWie was an amazing experience as well. I know I’ve said that about every moment so far, but there were a few great gems this year, and this was one of the big ones. I got to meet so many new people, and really connect with Saint Mary’s, and what it means to be a part of such a unique community. Although the experience was different than I thought it was going to be (in a few ways), I felt honored to be a part of the experience. I hope the first year students loved their weekend!
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ImageMoving back into Saint Mary’s. I love love love my new room, and my roommate is pretty awesome. Moving in was a bit like moving out, bittersweet to say the least. I was thankful to be back on campus, but I could also feel just how different things this year would be. But alas, I love my school, and I’m happiest when I’m walking through this campus.
Image I became good friends with this amazing gal. I will admit, I can be hard to get close to, I have a lot of trust issues, and I don’t really let people in, but this girl is like my kindred spirit. We just get each other. She’s been there for me so much this semester, and is always willing to listen to me rant, rave, cry, and laugh, and I’m thankful for that! I also appreciate that she is a great photographer, and is willing to take hundreds of pictures for me so I can keep this blog interesting.
ImageI went across the Golden Gate for the first time. This may seem silly, but I thought it was cool, and an important part of living in the Bay. Thank God for great friends, who go way out of their way just so you can accomplish this.

There you have my biggest moments of 2013. It was a rough year toward the end, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t absolutely hate moments of the year, but looking back, even the painful memories are important because they helped shape me into who I am as I write this. Even the memories that are painful to remember now were pretty beautiful once. So, here’s to the people in my life right now, and the people who aren’t anymore, but who were part of some of the most important moments of 2013. You’re all equally important to me.

Truly,
Callie Leigh

What’s On My Nightstand

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Hello, World.

People who know me really well know that my ‘dream occupation’—or at least the one I would write down in elementary school when the teacher asked what I wanted to be when I grow up—is being an author of young adult fiction. I’m always trying to improve as a writer, and most of the advice that published authors offer to aspiring writers is to read as much if not more than you write. So, while I do read classics, I also continue to read young adult fiction. For a long time my favorite two authors of young adult were Sarah Dessen and Kate Brian (pseudonym for Kieran Scott). About my junior year of high school, I become a true fan of only Sarah Dessen. But in the last year or so, I’ve added John Green to my “top YA fiction writers” list. Today, or should I say yesterday, I added Gayle Forman to the third line of my list.

When I met Sarah Dessen, she was handing out novels for correct answers to trivia questions, and the girl sitting next to me won Just One Day by Gayle Forman. The girl, Julie, told me that she had already read the novel, and loved it, but she had the hardcover edition, and thought the paperback edition would be easier to take to school with her or just carry around should she choose to reread the novel. So, I wrote down Gayle Forman on a slip of paper, stuck it in my newly autographed This Lullaby, and totally forgot about the book. But then one day, I was browsing Barnes and Noble, and there it was, sitting one row up from John Green, and one row down from Sarah Dessen: Just One Day. I had recently received a gift card from aunt, and so despite my already determined summer reading list, I grabbed if off the shelf and bought it, all 369 pages. I usually don’t like going against my reading list, but I felt like this book was one I needed to read immediately. So I did.

The novel is very interesting, and although the storyline isn’t completely original, the characters are likable, which, I think, is a vital component to a good book. The back of the book reads:

“When sheltered American good girl Allyson first encounters laid-back Dutch actor Willem at an underground performance of Twelfth Night, there’s an undeniable spark. So when fate brings them together a second time, Allyson takes an uncharacteristic leap, changes course, and follows Willem to Paris. After just one day together, the spark bursts into a flame…until Allyson wakes up after a whirlwind day shocked to discover that Willem is gone. A life upended in one day turns into a year of self-discovery as Allyson embarks on a journey to break free from a lifetime of limits in order to find her true passions, and maybe even true love.”

While the middle of the book lagged a little, the beginning and ending were strong. There is an element of urgency and mystery within the story that I really enjoyed, and Allyson shows that sometimes you have to lose yourself to find who you really want to be. Throughout the novel, I struggled about whether or not I wanted Allyson to find Willem, since they were only together one day, and maybe her image of him is different than what he is in reality. As I was reading, though, I could relate to Allyson wanting to find him because after only one day with him, she was different, she was the person she wanted to be and someone who she actually liked, unlike what she thought she should be to please those around her. Willem, as most foreign men appear, is beautiful, warm, fun, and spontaneous, and as I reader I immediately fell in love with him.

Allyson was a little too self-pitying for my taste through the middle of the novel, but she grows stronger as the novel progresses, which is good as far as character development. One thing that really bothered me about this novel was the number of typos I found. I’m usually forgiving about typos simply because I know it’s hard to catch every little thing, but this book had so many errors that it became distracting. Maybe a closer final edit for One More Year will solve this typo dilemma. The ending is a cliffhanger, so I am looking forward to One More Year to get answers to the questions I have from the ending of this novel!

Some quotes I found particularly striking were:

“Sometimes the best way to find out what you’re supposed to do is by doing the thing you’re not supposed to do.”

“Stains are even worse when you’re the only one who can see them.”

“I think everything is happening all the time, but if you don’t put yourself in the path of it, you miss it.”

“You’re just trying on different identities, like everyone in those Shakespeare plays. And the people we pretend at, they’re already in us. That’s why we pretend them in the first place.”

“But what if Shakespeare― and Hamlet― were asking the wrong question? What if the real question is not whether to be, but how to be?”

“This next kiss is the kind that breaks open the sky. It steals my breath and gives it back. It shows me that every other kiss I’ve had in my life has been wrong.”

“Sometimes you can only feel something by its absence. By the empty spaces it leaves behind.”

“There is a world of difference, Lulu, between falling in love and being in love.”

The amount of Shakespeare in this novel is ridiculous, but in a wonderful way. It seems a lot of story lines can somehow be compared to all of Shakespeare’s works, so I loved seeing this modern novel connect to Shakespeare, and all the identities and lovers he created. If you enjoy young adult fiction, or want to visit Europe (namely, Paris), but can’t afford a plane ticket, or perhaps if you want to have a love affair with an exotic Dutch guy, then I suggest you go pick up a copy of One More Day. The novel is a quick read, and keeps you turning the page until there are none left.

Truly,

Callie Leigh

Judgment Day

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Hello, World.

The other night I was curled up with a cup of tea, listening to the Mumford and Sons Pandora station, and perusing Pinterest. I know there a lot of people who use Pinterest, and I know there are a lot of people who don’t, but seriously, if you ever need a little inspiration or words of wisdom about anything (and I do mean anything) you should really think about opening a new window (after you finish reading this, of course), and browsing the pages and pages of…stuff on that site.

Anyway, while going through the quotes page, I stumbled across a little gem that read, “Just remember that sometimes, the way you think about a person isn’t the way they actually are.” At first I read this quote, then kept scrolling, but about ten seconds later, I was scrolling back up, re-reading the seventeen or so words beautifully written by John Green (naturally).

Initially, a bunch of people rushed into my mind. People that I could easily show this quote to, and say, “you shouldn’t judge me.” But then, as I continued to stare at the quote, I started thinking about the people I’ve thought things about before actually knowing them. Judgment is part of everyday life, and even though we learn to “not judge a book by its cover” when we’re little, I’m pretty sure everyone eventually learns that is just an ideal. Honestly, we make presumptions about people within five minutes of knowing them. Actually, we make presumptions about people within five seconds of just seeing them. Just take a moment to think about the people who hadn’t even spoken to you, but that you had ‘all figured out’ right away. You may look at someone wearing expensive clothing, chatting on his or her iPhone, and think that he or she is a pretentious person that can’t possibly be compassionate. You may see someone who you deem unattractive, and assume he or she is just an idiot who doesn’t deserve your time. Sure, these are nasty assumptions, but human nature has a funny way of putting a dark spin on our immediate reactions to people.

People can say that they never judge people, and they’re the kindest being in the world besides Mother Teresa, but maybe those people just aren’t very vocal about their judgments because judgmental thoughts cross their mind at some point, some how, some way. The thoughts may not even be considered judgmental, maybe they seem more like ‘observations,’ but let’s get real; that’s just a culturally sensitive way of admitting to thinking judgmental things. While I admit that I judge people, and that it is wrong, I feel people probably think I judge others a lot more than I actually do. For years, I’ve battled what I call “the disinterested face syndrome.” With this ailment, I often come across aloof or disinterested in people, especially because I don’t really have a super inviting face. Usually, though, I am interested in people, I just take a while to warm up (maybe because I’m an introvert?).

Since I’m not the friendliest person right away—unless I’m completely alone and am forced to be outgoing—a lot of people assume I dislike them or just don’t care to get to know them. These assumptions are judgments, and they are things that people think about me, but aren’t how I actually am. It is a little ironic, though, because if I meet someone who is reserved or closed off toward me, I assume the same thing. Judgments exist in a vicious cycle, where people judge each other, one judgment gets vocalized, and the other person judges again even more harshly.

I’ve made silent judgments that have turned out to be completely untrue once I got to know someone, but that’s the thing: you have to try to get to know someone in order to be proven wrong. I’ve encountered a lot of people who make an assumption about someone, and then don’t care to get to know that person because they’ve already made up their mind. This isn’t fair, though, because people really should be more open minded, and have a desire to get to know new people. Everyone, including me, should aspire to live a life that is as close to judgment-free as possible. To borrow a quote from Sarah Dessen, the next time you meet someone, “Don’t think or judge, just listen.”

What are your thoughts on judgment? How can we become less judgmental?

Truly,

Callie Leigh 

Summertime Reads

MOON AND MORE

Hello, World.

I’ve been reading The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen for the past few days, and just finished it this morning. This is Sarah’s eleventh novel, and chronicles the summer of Emaline, a local to Colby (the beach town regular readers will recognize from Keeping the Moon, Along for the Ride, and others). Emaline is working for her family’s realty business, and since this is a classic Sarah Dessen summer novel, her entire life path and outlook is morphed by events within the novel. Unlike Sarah Dessen’s other novels, however, the book begins with Emaline already in a relationship, and follows how that relationship is affected by Theo’s entrance, an aspiring filmmaker from New York who is assisting a woman making a film about one of Colby’s own (hint: we’ve seen this character in many of the Colby-based novels).

The Moon and More was a fantastic read, and readers of Sarah Dessen will not be disappointed. For those of you who are used to Sarah’s usual “skeleton” setup, be ready for a bit of a change. Personally, I was excited to see that Sarah’s normal pattern of how events play out in the novels was a little different in this book. A very refreshing read. However, one thing that bothered me was that one of the beach rentals that Emaline manages is named Sand Dollars, but there are a few moments in the book when she refers to this mansion as Sand Castles. I’m pretty sure this is due to a name change that occurred somewhere in the writing or editing process, but was for some reason unnoticed in final edits. Other than that name, though, all of the other relationships and names had consistency. The most intriguing relationships, in my opinion, are between Emaline and her father, Emaline and her mother, and Emaline and her sister Margo.

Not to give anything away, but the mother-daughter relationship in this novel is slightly unusual compared to other Dessen novels, but again, this was a welcomed change. Emaline also had a bit of a different personality from other protagonists, as she is a local to Colby, which this detail in itself is unusual, and she has an outlook that is different from Auden in Along for the Ride, who is an outsider looking into the Colby lifestyle. We get a sense of the feelings of those who have grown up in Colby have about outsiders, summer, the beach, and Colby. I liked Emaline as a protagonist, and she seemed slightly surer of herself than other Dessen leads. In true Sarah Dessen fashion, The Moon and More focuses on how certain choices and events lead to a crossroads, and how in the summertime anything is possible. She also shows that people can just go along, thinking nothing is changing in their lives, until that moment when everything changes all at once.

As far as style, Sarah Dessen is witty, sarcastic, humorous, reflective, and thought provoking. She always has little gems thrown into her stories, making a grander statement about society, family, or just about loving yourself. The thing with Sarah Dessen is this: I started reading her in the seventh grade when I felt alone, insecure, and distraught about fitting in. I may be much more confident today as an 18, almost 19-year-old girl, but she will always have a place in my heart, and I will continue to read whatever book she releases. She always has knockout quotes, and here are a few from The Moon and More that stuck with me:

“…Trying to break it down this way, to minor and major offenses, maybes and what-ifs, was like arguing over the origin of cracks in a broken egg. It was done. How it happened didn’t matter anymore.”

“That was the problem, though. When you’ve never gotten love from someone, you don’t know what it might look like if it ever does appear. You look for it in everything: any bright light overhead could be a star.”

“The thing is, you can’t always have the best of everything.”

My takeaway from this novel: Be thankful for what you have, admire where you come from, accept that not everyone will see things your way, and accept that change can be for the better.

That’s it, folks. A small summary/review of The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen. Go pick up a copy if you haven’t already, and have a great weekend (although in summer, every day feels like the weekend).

Truly,

Callie Leigh