Wednesday, February 29, 2012

365 Day Photo challenge: Days 41-44

(Day 41 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-12-2012) 

The day before this photo was taken the temperature was in the comfortable 50's, and then the sky decided to have a sense of humor, thinking it would be awfully fun to snow on us mere mortals.  I don't know who did this, but sometime that morning a group of people got 3 giant cube ice-blocks, a little off the side of this picture, and pushed them every which way.

 (Random bonus 02-12-2012 photo)

There's something about the birds in this area I don't get, why do they always come out, in mass herds, when it's cold and snowing?? But they were everywhere, enjoying the cold, chirping in a chorus of chatter.

 (Day 42 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-13-2012)

One thing I've been doing to connect with other sellers on Etsy is build treasury lists.  It's working, and I'm finding it a lot of fun.  I've made six lists thus far, and if you want to see them you can find the link Here.

(Day 43 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-14-2012) 

Can someone please explain this photo to me?  The pink bottle has pink lettering, with a picture of a man, and at the bottom it reads "woman."  The blue bottle has blue lettering, with a picture of a woman, and at the bottom of that it reads "men."  So are girls supposed to get the pink bottle to attract men?  Or are men supposed to get the pink bottle to attract women?  I don't get it.

 (Day 44 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-15-2012)

This is the day I posted "Two Quarreling Knights," and these are the scrap papers I used to write the poem. 

Have a great day!!
Sarah  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Glitz and the Glam

(Public Domain image of of the great Georges Méliès, the film maker featured in the movie Hugo)

For me the Oscars is my yearly Superbowl, and what was nice about this year was the fact that I had either seen, or heard, about the movies that were featured.  

I'm not surprised at all that The Artist won big picture.  With the theme of the Oscars this year, returning to a love of the movies, it would be a major upset if the movie hadn't won.

What I was surprised with was the fact that Meryl Streep from the Iron Lady won Best Actress over Viola Davis from The Help.  Viola was amazing in her role, and I love The Help, fabulous movie, but I saw the Iron Lady and was amazed by Meryl's performance.  She's a brilliant actress, and I can't believe that after 17 nominations the last Oscar she won before last Sunday was back in 1982.  So this Oscar was well deserved.

But I've realized a pattern.  In 2006 Helen Mirren played Queen Elizabeth and won Best Actress.  Colin Firth won last year for The Kings Speech.  And then Meryl wins by playing Margaret Thatcher.  Now I don't know how many people are aware, but there are a couple Princess Diana movies that are in various stages of progress, and Naomi Watts was recently cast to play Princess Di in Caught in Flight.  Maybe if she's spot on she could be headed to the Oscars as well, but then no one was nominated this year for Madonna's produced movie W.E.  

Another movie I loved that got a whole lot of wins was Hugo.  It came out the same weekend as The Muppets and Arthur Christmas, so it was buried.  I read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the book Hugo is based on, many years ago and found it absolutely brilliant.  The book is half words and half pictures, telling the story through images, like a silent film.  The movie was enchanting.  The 3D the best I've ever seen, right next to Avatar on IMAX.  So I'm glad Hugo was recognized.

But I'm amazed that, once again, Harry Potter was dissed at the Oscars.  8 movies, 7 billion+ earned global, fantastic acting, fantastic music, fantastic directing, visual effects, everything, and not a single Oscar win in any category for any movie.  The Academy, what are you thinking?  Couldn't you even give the Potter movie franchise at least one award?  No, apparently not.  Well, the Harry Potter movies will live on, in the same way The Wizard of Oz has.

Another gripe I have this year with the Oscars is the Original Song category.  There were 9 movies nominated for best picture, and only 2, yes two, songs nominated for best original song.  "Man or Muppet" from The Muppets and "Real in Rio" from Rio.  And not one of those songs got a performance.  Don't get me wrong, the Cirque de Soleil was amazing, but I always look forward to the musical performances.

Now, on the subject of Cirque de Soleil, I did find it adorable seeing Miss Piggy and Kermit announce the act, but with their bickering, wouldn't it have been hilarious if they choose Statler and Waldorf to do the skit instead?  That would have been awesome!!

Finale thought.  I enjoyed Billy Crystal doing the hosting this year.  A mark up from the James Franco and Anne Hathaway debacle from last year.  And I know I would prefer him over Eddie Murphy, who bowed out of the job.  Here's my prediction for next years Oscars, I wouldn't be surprised if they get Emma Stone to host.  They might not, I just wouldn't be surprised if they do.         

Have a great day!
Sarah       

Thursday, February 23, 2012

365 Day Photo challenge: Days 37-40

(Day 37 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-08-2012) 

This is the very first Dummies book I've gotten, though I do have to add that I got it with my Mom.  We've had an Etsy shop since November, and not a whole lot of sales sense.  There are those that sale big, those that are well established, but for newcomers it's hard to get noticed.  So we got this book to help us see through the murky waters.  There's a lot of information, good information, though I'm still pouring over it.  Mainly networking is the key, and we're still learning how that works.  No one said it would be easy.

     (Day 38 of the 365 day photo challenge)

There was a former post I made about my postcrossing habit.  A few weeks ago I discovered that the post office raised prices again.  Instead of international postage costing $0.98, it now costs $1.05, and they don't have a stamp yet that matching the change.  So for fun, and because I love getting stamps myself, a $0.20+$0.45+$0.45 stamp=$1.10, only 5 cents over.  Not that bad.  I went to the USPS website and discovered all these amazing stamps, and that first day issue envelopes are not that expensive.  Back in High School I used to collect stamps, and it's something I've missed, so I got a nice little selection of canceled stamps.  This is one of the new Year of the Dragon stamp, which I think is incredibly cool. 

  (Day 39 of the 365 day photo challenge)

Admittedly, my last few pictures haven't been that exciting, so on this day I took my camera everywhere.  Here I was in the Walmart parking lot, not the most thrilling of locations, but then I saw this cute bird on the shopping cart, and had to take the shot.

(Day 40 of the 365 day photo challenge)

When I first took this picture, I totally know why I was taking it, but now it's nothing but torture!!  I'm on a no sugar diet with my sister-in-law, but we've allowed ourselves treats we can have on occasions to help with our cravings.  One of my allowances is frozen yogurt, and nobody makes it better then Red Mango.  The nice thing is that they're constantly getting new flavors to replace old ones.  The bad thing is that they're constantly losing great flavors for new ones.  Right now they have a Caribbean Cocoanut yogurt that's simply Epic.  Okay, I'm driving myself crazy.  You can find out how my sister-in-law is dealing with this goal of ours on her blog at k.stuff.

Hope you guys are having a great day!
Sarah
  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Reviewing The Secret World of Arrietty


Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

"Barrowng," he said after a while.  "Is that what you call it?"

"What else could you call it?" asked Arrietty.

"I'd call it stealing."

Arrietty laughed.  She really laughed.  "But we are Borrowers," she explained, "like you're a--a human bean or whatever it's called.  We're part of the house.  You might as well say that the fire grate steals the coal from the coal scuttle."

~The Borrowers by Mary Norton

In preparation for "The Secret World of Arrietty," a Studio Ghibli/Miyazaki film, I quickly read Mary Norton's 1952's book The Borrowers to see how the two compare.  Typically I don't like doing this, knowing full well that liberties must be taken for a books plot to work well on the screen.  There are several movies I'm glad I read the book after, such as Ella Enchanted (loved the movie, but if I had read the book first, I would have hated it.  Now I can see the two as separate entities).

And I'm glad I read Diana Wynne Jones Howl's Moving Castle after watching Miyazaki's adaptation.  Great liberties were taken there, and one of my favorite scenes in the book, where Howl takes Sophie and Michael to Wales, our World, never made the movie.  Actually, the fact that Howl is from our world, wrote a doctoral thesis and played rugby at University never made it either.  Kinda inconsequential information, but interesting and thoroughly amusing just the same.

The Borrowers was charming, and how did Miyazaki translate it to animation?  I feel he actually improved upon the written word into an enchanting film.  There are some changes, but I rather prefer them.  In the beginning of the movie Arrietty is allowed a bit of freedom outside the house, which she never has in the book.  And the cat, there is no cat in the book, dangerous creatures they are, but in the film one of the main characters is a cat, who has an important rule to play in the plot, but not what you would think.  And the path the borrowers must take to get into the main house is a visual splendor of climbing, walking on nails, and flying up with the aid of pulleys; in the book the path they took was simple and uneventful. 

The animation, as always, is gorgeous.  I love the attention to detail Studio Ghibli pays to background art.  And even though there isn't magic, which is a trait typically found in their films, you can't help but still feel the magic in the story telling and visuals.  Cecile Corbel, a French musician, did the music for the film.  Though the movie takes the story to Japan, away from the original England, the musical score has a celtic feel that is quite fitting.

I would put "The Secret World of Arrietty" in the same camp as Miyazaki's "Kiki's Delivery Service" and "Whisper of the Heart," which are actually two of my favorite movies from him, and I'm sure Arrietty will quickly become my absolute favorite.  It's hard to choose with so many great Studio Ghibli films.

Now I just need to see the movie in the original Japanese, which I'm looking forward to.

Have a great day!
Sarah 
 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lizzie's Last Run

(My Great Grandfather, Forrest Emerson)

I thought it would be fun every Sunday to share some of the things I'm finding in my families genealogy.  Below is a poem my Great Grandfather wrote about a trip he took.  He even got it published in the newspaper around 1926.  Below was what was published:

Lizzie's Last Run

(Forest Emerson, who went to California two months ago with Ray Ebersole, Charles Walker, and Burton Whalin in a Ford, gives his version of a perlious trip--no they were in the Ford, but he tells about it in poetry.)

Coming down the mountain, there is lots to be told,

About a Ford with brakes that wouldn't hold.

And this is what I want to tell thee--
Razz ran her up against a big tree.  
Lizzie sure did look awfully sad.  
With the front end smashed up pretty bad.

We took all five tires,
Spark plugs and even the wires.

We took the lights, I'd hope to shout,
But not the connecting rods, because they were burned out.

Then some other things we didn't want anybody to steal,
Were the radiator and guide wheel.
So, we brought everything with us,
In the back of Clifford's bus.
So now she lays with a broken heart,
You can crank but she will never start.

Because we never left a single coil,
Not even gas, but all the oil.
If we only had a car with brakes that would hold,

This story to you would never have been told.

~Forrest Emerson.

  (Picture of the Ford)

He was 18 when he traveled from Toledo Iowa to California with three of his friends, and this story is of a random side trip he was talked into up to Oregon and back.  The Ford crashed on the way back.

Hope you had a great Sunday,
Sarah

Saturday, February 18, 2012

365 Day Photo challenge: Days 33-36

(Day 33 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-04-2012)

This restaurant is next to the dollar theater, and has been through many incarnations.  When we first moved here it was a fabulous Mexican restaurant, hence the style of the building, but now it's a Japanese and Chinese buffet.  It's quite funny how the theme and look of the place doesn't match, but I did go with my Dad and brother when they first opened and the food was really quite good.

(Day 34 of the 365 day photo challenge) 

My two Grandma's!!  I love them so!  I took this the day my little niece got her baby blessing.  She was absolutely adorable, but unfortunately I wasn't able to get her in her beautiful dress.   

 (Day 35 of the 365 day photo challenge) 

For fun I started working on piano versions of songs I like, as an ear training practice.  All those dreaded days I spent in music dictation; that subject was nearly the death of me, literally.  I think at BYU I experienced every single emotion in that class, in the dreaded E wing of the HFAC.  You're either good at it or your not, and I'm not, but with some help and coaching I survived.  This song is "All About Your Heart" by Mindy Gledhill, and I'm in love with it, mainly because someone did a Hunger Games fanvideo, where I discovered the song, and I can't help but think of Peeta when I listen to it.  The song fits him perfectly.

(Day 36 of the 365 day photo challenge) 

My cousin Heather gave this to me.  She got it the very last week Roberts Crafts closed, getting a few as a fun cousin token.  I love the style.  Very girlie chic.     

Hope your week was awesome,
Sarah

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Be Careful What You Read

(nerdquirks.tumblr.com)

I wish I can claim this photo, but I can't.  This image was floating around Facebook, and it tickled my funny bone in the most wonderful way.  Brilliant.  I asked around, and with some help I was able to find the website this photo was found: Nerd Quirks. It's a wonderfully amusing blog and worth a check.

So talking about Harry Potter, has anyone been to the Potter More website that was all over the news last year, but hasn't really been heard of sense?  Back in July registration began for beta testers.  I went to the site then, but it was so overloaded it didn't seem to want my email address, so I figured I'd wait for October when Potter More would open for the public, only it didn't open, staying beta only, and the site even now is still in beta.

I've been checking the Potter More Insider to see the progress, and they seem to be taking the betas through the whole book, and are now on chapter 9 of the first book, The Midnight Duel.  Since the beta opened last August, and they're only half way through the book, I'm thinking the site won't fully open until Summer.  If you visit the Insider you can view user submitted drawings.  It's disappointing.  I understand the need to fully test the site, but I wish more news would come out.  And I wonder if they plan on taking the betas through the entirety of the Sorcerers Stone.  And if so, will they then begin Chamber of Secrets while the rest of us start in the beginning?  This pattern could last through the third book, but the length of Goblet of Fire would cause problems.  It'll be interesting. 

All I know is that I'm quite excited to get the ebooks, as I'm having a love affair with my Kindle.  Hopefully the price will be reasonable, considering the amount of money the books have already brought in, and with e-readers you don't have printing costs.  I've found some great deals in the Kindle store, but it's crazy how expensive a lot of books still are.  How I wish I can take my vast book collection and get a discount on the ebook versions.  Not going to happen, but a girl can dream!   

Patients is a virtue.
Sarah   

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Two Quarreling Knights, an Original Poem

(wikimedia.org)

Two Quarreling Knights

"The Maiden is mine!"  A White Knight's decree
He patted the sword by his side
His smirk was apparent
His stature quite gallant
The maiden was no where to be

The Black Knight detest, "No, Sir, I protest!
You can't take my true love from me
She's fairer then night
My lifes one delight
To my heart her love is the key"

The first Knight did laugh, "For when was your chance
to know her the way she knows me?
You've never stood guard
You don't know her heart
There's more then you ever can see"

For days they did banter and bicker
Comparing their marits and strife's
They jostled and teased
relentlessly
Forgetting all measures of time

And lo, far up in her tower
The maiden, a princess to be
Escaped from the palace
Away from the malace
To meet her Green Knight by the tree

~Sarah Stufflebeam

I wrote this yesterday for Valentines day.  Hope you enjoyed :0)

Monday, February 13, 2012

365 Day Photo challenge: Days 29 -32


(Day 29 of the 365 day photo challenge 01-31-2012) 

I can't remember when I got this, but my Mom picked it up for me once, as a nice reminder to believe.  It's so easy to doubt, especially when chasing dreams that feel impossible at times, so this is my daily reminder of hope and faith.   

(Day 30 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-01-2012) 

This is me Au Natural.  No make up or glasses.  It's how I see myself when I look in the mirror, and one of the reasons I don't like seeing myself in photos.  It's interesting how we never see ourselves the way others do, because, besides photos and video, we see ourselves 2D and flipped.  When I was first looking into doing a 365 day photo challenge, they recommended taking a picture of yourself once a month to see the changes a year can bring.  I kinda procrastinated. 

(Day 31 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-02-2012) 

This is my moto!  It's how I'm surviving all the Valentine goodness that is abundant and everywhere!  I heard it once at ward prayer one Sunday night, and found it so brilliant that I chanted it through my mind until I got home and was able to write it down.  Now, whenever I'm wanting something other then 70%+ Dark chocolate or frozen yogurt, I still chant this through my mind.  I want to be strong and healthy.

    (Day 32 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-03-2012)

It's Dio!  Several years ago I discovered a super fun anime called "Last Exile."  It's the first anime my Dad willingly sat through, probably because of all the air battles and flying, and several months after that he snuck my copy of the series to watch it again.  A few months ago I found out they're doing a second series called "Last Exile: Fam of the Silver Wing."  It's on Hulu, and showing immediately after it's broadcasted in Japan.  I'm all caught up now, and loving it, though sad because, when it comes to anime, I'm used to getting the complete season box sets, and I've never had to wait week by week to find out what happens.  I'm eager for the next episode to come out. 

Sarah

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Postcrossings: The Amazingly Addictive Hobby

 (Day 28 of the 365 day photo challenge)

On January 30, 2012 I received my 20th postcrossing postcard.  What is Postcrossing?  It's a website that allows International postcard exchanges with random users on the site, and the amount of users is vast.  Just last week the site reached 10 million sent postcards.  Only 13% of the users are from the USA.  10% are from Russia.  8% from China.  7% from the Netherlands and Taiwan.  6% from Germany.  5% from Poland and so on.


I found out about the site 5 months ago when I was searching through 101 goal ideas from the Day Zero Project website, a website where people list 101 goals they want to achieve in 1001 days.  It seems simple coming up with 101 goals, but after only 30 or so I was stumped, and on the website I saw some users wanted to receive 20 postcards through postcrossing.com from 20 different countries.


The amount of postcards you can send in the beginning is only 5 at a time, and when someone receives your postcard, someone random will then send you one.  In short, only people who send postcards get postcards, and the system has worked really well so far.



The postcards are so popular in the Netherlands that they even have an official postcrossing stamp.  



Thus far I've sent postcards to: 3 Belarus, 1 Belgium, 1 Bulgaria, 2 China, 4 Finland, 3 Germany, 1 Japan, 6 Netherlands, 1 Poland, 1 Romania, 4 Russia, 1 Spain, and 1Tawain.


I've received postcards from: 1 Australia, 1 Belarus, 1 Canada, 1 China, 3 Germany, 4 Netherlands, 2 Poland, 1 Portugal, 1 Russia, 1 Switzerland, 2 Taiwan, 2 Ukraine, and 1 United Kingdom.

I've sent more then received, because I have 4 postcards that were recently registered that I haven't gotten yet, and 3 that are still traveling.  There are a couple postcards that expired because they either got lost, or the user didn't bother to register it, but in most cases that's rare.

I'm really loving this, and it really is quite fun.  It's always a surprise when a postcard arrives in the mail.

Happy Postcrossings!
Sarah 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What's in a Name? How Cerulean Jade came to be.


What's in a name?  A whole lot actually.

When my brother Steven and I decided to form a musical duo we realized that we needed to find a name that symbolized us.  It seemed simple at first, but it quickly became quite difficult.

We love the Carpenters, who we grew up listening to, but calling ourselves The Stufflebeam's sounded too Osmond-ish.  The Osmonds are amazing, but with us being Mormon as well, it was just a little too close for comfort.  Though Stufflebeam really is a cool name.

Then there was a period where we were seriously considering Kit and Caboodle.  We just thought the name fit us and was really fun.  It was kinda quirky.  Some family members were against it, but Steven and I stayed with the idea, doing research.  An amazon search later found us a group called Kit and Kaboodle, so that name, now to my hindsight relief, went out the window.  So we were back to the drawing board.  I whipped out a Thesaurus (how I love that book) to find unique and interesting words, but everything we plugged into iTunes and Amazon had already been used.  Then Steven and I began finding words that represent us.  I don't know who came up with it, but someone mentioned "Cerulean Jade," and in that moment we knew we found it, and another search later proved it was original!

Cerulean represents Steven.  He's an artist (and as you can see in the picture above I still have a bit of improving to do) and with him being an artist, his favorite color couldn't simply be blue.  No, that would be too easy, he has to have a favorite hue.  Cerulean.  We played a game once several years ago to see how well we knew each other, picking really hard questions, and he asked me what his favorite color was, thinking I'd say blue.  Nope, didn't fall for it, I totally knew it was Cerulean, though I didn't tell him how I remembered that.

Now this is where I get to embarrass him.  I remembered his favorite hue thanks to Pokemon.  My brothers were the biggest fans!  Of course, I should admit that I watched the show too, and still have some collectables.  It was fun, but he was really into it, and the character Misty came from Cerulean Gym.  And I think that's where his love for the shade began, though he might have a different opinion.

Jade represents me, and though it's a green hue, my connection to jade has nothing to do with the color . . . though my favorite color is green.  I blame my Irish heritage for that.  This is where I get to admit my personal geekness.

The first book series I read on my own, outside of classroom assignments, was back in the sixth grade when the Star Wars Heir to the Empire trilogy was growing in popularity.  The last book of the series, The Last Command, had just been published, and the series was bringing Star Wars back into Pop culture.  I was first introduced to Star Wars in the fifth grade.  And Timothy Zahn, the brilliant author behind the books, created this character called Mara Jade.  She's amazing, and I kind of became obsessed with her.  I've got the action figure.  But she's this super intense, deep, complicated character with spunk.

But as I began to research Jade and what it meant to the those in the Orient and ancient Egyptians, and even the Mayans and Aztecs, the more I began to fall in love with Jade itself.  I just read on Wikipedia that "In Chinese culture, if one wishes to express one's love for someone, one gives them something made of the gemstone jade or an object that is colored jade."  Apparently that needs to have a citation, but it's neat.  A Chinese book of verse states "When I think of a wise man, his merits appear to be like jade" and "Gold has a value; jade is invaluable." (I got that from about.com)  "Jade symbolizes beauty, nobility, perfection, constancy, power, and immortality in Chinese culture."  For the Egyptian's Jade symbolized inner peace, balance, and love.  Jade is beautiful and comes in many colors.  I'd love to one day own a peace of violet jade.

So that's how Steven and I became Cerulean Jade.

Always,
Sarah

Monday, February 6, 2012

365 Day Photo challenge: Days 20 - 22. Remembering the Great Porterville Snow Fall of 1999

(Day 20 of the 365 day photo challenge) 

Starting January 22, 2012 we had a series of snow storms come through, which was actually a pleasant surprise.  I grew up in central California where all the orange trees grow, so just going below freezing was enough to freak the community out.  I heard that's how Porterville earned the "All American City" award, because one winter, when the trees were in danger of being destroyed by the cold, everyone got together to save them by pumping warm water and what not, and the crops were saved.  Nothing beats getting an orange straight from the tree.

 
(Day 21 of the 365 day photo challenge) 

I would fantasize how amazing it would be to have a snow day and for school to be canceled.  Every once in a while we would get snow flurries, but they would melt before hitting the ground.  Then January 25, 1999 something freaky happened.  Growing up LDS outside of Utah, I attended 6:30 a.m. seminary, but around 5:30 in the morning I got a call from my teacher saying class was canceled because it was snowing.  Snowing!?  Yeah, right, and I think I even laughed, because my teacher told me to look outside.  I did, swinging the door open, and gasping.  It was still dark, but there was at least half a foot of snow on the ground, and giant white snow flakes falling to the ground in glorious puffs. 

 
(Day 22 of the 365 day photo challenge) 

School was canceled, and I spent the day with my brother and friend Jeff, a neighbor, playing in snow fights and walking to other streets.  Everyone was out that day.  The whole city seemed to be at a stand still.  Here in Utah if there was snow like that, we wouldn't give it another thought, business would resume as normal.  But in California with braking tree branches taking out power lines and cars skidding everywhere causing accidents, most people seemed to stay home.  

It was such a novelty that the Weather Channel did a segment on it, featuring footage of the snow in Visalia.  

It's sad, reflecting, because I've forgotten that magic.  When it snows the first thing I think of is hoping the plow trucks are out and that the snow needs to be shoveled.  I hate driving in it.  These last few winters have been nasty and very wet.  But this year there hasn't really been much snow at all.  And so when we finally got a little, I couldn't help but be reminded how beautiful it is.

Have a great week!
Sarah 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My Review of The Hunger Games

(Day 19 of the 365 day photo challenge) 

A little over a week ago I finished the Hunger Games Trilogy.  It took me 9 days to do it, and was fully consumed the whole time.  I've known about the book series for a couple years, and was about to purchase it when a friend said she didn't like the last book, and that the series would have been better without it.  This discouraged me.  Who wants to read a book and feel at the end that it was a waste of time?  Books are a bigger commitment then a movie.

So the final verdit?  I loved it.  Of course I had to get past the theme of the book, kids killing other kids, and the Mutts, I hate the Mutts, but it was interesting.  And even now I can't get the characters out of my head.  Reading the last book I can see why so many people didn't like it.  The ending isn't a fantasy ending, it's a realistic ending, and I appreciate it.    

Through the process of reading these books two things came to mind:  The Uglies book series by Scott Westerfeld and the Romans.  The first is a series of four books, another look at a post apocalyptic America, only a completely different take.  Think of the Capital in The Hunger Games on steroids.  These books are quite exciting; another page turner.  I don't want to give anything away. 

And the Romans.  Roman history is both interesting and depressing at the same time.  Suzanne Collins, who wrote the Hunger Games, has mentioned the Gladiators, which wasn't the first thing that came to my mind, but I can see it.  Men sent to their deaths as a form of entertainment.  What did come to mind was something I learned about in a college theater civilization class.  There was another form of entertainment Romans used slaves for. Slaves were used as actors in stage shows, and if there was a death scene, there was a literal death scene where one slave was expected to kill the other on stage.  And I learned that off the coast the Romans would fill two battle ship with slaves, and watch them battle each other, once again, to the death.  It's been many years since I've taken this class, and I would love to find my course book, but these two facts have stayed with me.

Would I recommend the Hunger Games?  I don't know, because there is such mixed reaction to what happened to some of the characters in the end.  Personally I'm glad I took the plunge and gave the books a chance, and they will go down as one of my favorite series of all time.

Happy Reading!
Sarah