Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Friends, Frenemies, and Finding Oneself: Krysten Lindsay Hager's Newest Release!

Ahoy, lovely readers!

This post takes a break from the regular travel stuff I`ve been talking about. Time to get back to my blog`s roots. With some new good books!

I`m especially honored to bring you today`s fiction feature!

Best Friends…Forever? (Landry’s True Colors Series) by Krysten Lindsay Hager
Good friends have your back, but some go behind it.

Landry Albright hopes the new year will start off in an amazing way—instead she has to deal with more frenemy issues, boy drama, and having most of her best friends make the cheerleading squad without her. Suddenly, it seems like all anyone can talk about is starting high school next year—something she finds terrifying.
                Landry gets her first boyfriend, but then gets dumped just as things come to a head with her friends. She feels lost and left out, but finds good advice about dealing with frenemies from what she considers an unlikely source. Landry faces having to speak up for what’s right, tell the truth (even when it hurts), and how to get past the fear of failure as she gets another shot at competing in the American Ingénue modeling competition.

                I am extremely eager to talk to you about the sequel to True Colors, especially since I did one of my first reviews on the first book! Krysten also does a stellar job writing stories that inspire tweens everywhere and hit very close to home for us who remember how awkward and difficult being a teenage girl was!
                But enough of my gushing, let Best Friends…Forever? do the talking for me!

I got ready for bed and then stopped to check my social media page one more time and that's when I saw it — another picture of Peyton, India, and Devon hanging out. They were sitting on the couch with their heads scrunched close together and laughing. It was a cute picture, but then I saw the caption: So glad we could all be together for the holidays. Love these guys soooo much! Best friends forever. #Alltogether #Threemusketeers #BestFriendsForever #ThreeBestFriends #ThreesCompany.
My heart sank. It was India’s caption and anyone who read it would think what a closeknit group of friends and not realize anyone was missing from that photo. Sure, I was in another state, so naturally I couldn’t be there for it, but the way India wrote that made me feel so left out. I mean, what did she mean by the "ʺThree’s Company"ʺ hashtag? And sometimes people tagged friends who weren’t there in pictures and added, "ʺWish you were here,"ʺ but there was no mention of a fourth member of the group.
“Ready for bed, hon?” Mom asked coming into my room.
“Yeah, just signing off.”
“Okay, sleep well.”
I got into bed and hoped I was reading into things, but the knot in my stomach wouldn’t go away.

And if that`s not enough to bring you back to the teenage struggle…

 “Landry, it’s gotta be so awkward for you to be going to Vladi’s school next year,” Tori said. “I mean, what if you run into him during the tour?"
"It’s a huge place,ʺ Ashanti said. “People break up all the time. It’s not a big deal.ʺ
Tori raised her eyebrows as if to say, “Yeah, right,” and went back to her sandwich. Meanwhile my delicious homemade soup was no longer sitting well. It never occurred to me Vladi might be around during the first prefreshman tour. I would be mortified if I ran into him and he was with a girl. Or worse yet, running into him, and he was with Yasmin. Plus, I hadn’t told my mom about the breakup, so if she saw him, she’d probably go over to talk to him. I could already imagine it: “Landry, Vladi’s here! Hon? Why are you hiding behind the garbage can? Your boyfriend, Vladi, is here. Come say, ‘hello.’ Stop trying to run away. Why is everyone laughing and pointing at you and calling you a ‘loser dumpee?’ What does that mean?”
Well, maybe the world would end and I wouldn’t have to deal with high school or Vladi and my mother running into each other.
Sadly, the world did not end, and on Thursday, we all had to go to the high school for a freshman information night from 6 to 9 p.m.

Let`s learn a little about our wonderful author, shall we?

Krysten Lindsay Hager is an author and book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and also writes middle grade, YA, humor essays, and adult fiction. Best Friends…Forever? is the second book in the Landry’s True Colors series. True Colors was her international bestselling debut novel from Clean Reads. She is originally from Michigan and has lived in South Dakota, Portugal, and currently resides in Southern Ohio where you can find her reading and writing when she’s not catching up on her favorite TV shows. She received her master’s in American Culture from the University of Michigan-Flint.

And if you still need a reason to start reading the True Colors series, here`s what people are saying about the first novel:

From Teenage Book Recommendations in the UK: "This is a fantastically relatable and real book which I feel captures all of the insecurities and troubles which haunt the modern teenage girl. It is about a young model who has to go through tough times when she is torn between a life as a model and managing her friendships. You learn which friends she can most trust and which will create the drama typical of teenage life. Follow the life of Landry and try to see if you can find out which are her true friends before their true colours are revealed. This book is all about relationships, hopes and truth. I loved this book!"

From Books & Authors Spot: “This book is such an inspiration for those who just care about their looks and are tensed about them. This thing is looks aren't everything. This book is related to every teen's problem. Hager has written a very inspiring novel.”

You can buy Best Friends…Forever? at these links below!
And be sure to talk to Krysten and keep up on all True Colors news at these sites:
Website: http://www.krystenlindsay.com/     

Well, that’s it for now! Lots of exciting things are happening in Japan right now, so stay tuned for more travel news and book updates. Still working hard on Reverie! Until then, keep readin and dreamin!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lots of First and a JET Q&A!

Ahoy wonderful readers!

I hope you're enjoying warmer weather as I am. Seriously, I've been prancing to school in this wonderful sunshine and warmth!

Just kidding, I've been DRIVING!

Look at that beaut~ 
I finally decided to become mobile during my remaining months in Japan. My only regret is that I didn't get this puppy sooner! The roads are tiny, winding, and yes I have to drive on the "wrong" side of the road, but it's all pretty easy to adjust to. The fact that a little rain won't keep me shut in anymore is well worth it! 

I also had another first over the weekend. As I've mentioned in earlier posts (on my old travel blog, https;//marsjaws.tumblr.com ) I joined a taiko group in November. March 15th was my debut, and I didn't mess up! I love these guys. They really took me in as one of their own, and it was an honor to drum alongside them. 

Me and my best bud, Sota-san. Look how awesome our uniforms are! 

Needless to say, I've been busy. Don't you worry, dear readers, I'm setting time aside to write as well! Devon's story is on track, so do not fret! I do have this whole living-and-working-in-Japan thing to deal with, but that's giving me more stories to tell! 

And it's also giving me great opportunities to give aspiring and soon-to-be future JETs words of wisdom! My friend and fellow 1st year JET, Francesca started a #JET20questions chain (you can check out her amazing blog at http://memoirsofagaijin.com ) where current JETs answer 20 questions to hopefully give others a better idea of how the JET Program and living in Japan pans out. As per usual, every situation is different, but it's really interesting to see how ex-pats all over this great nation are enjoying and living in Japan! 

So, without further ado, here's my contributions to the 20 questions thing! 

1.   Name: Lauren Frederick

2.   Prefecture Placement: Hiroshima

3.   Prefecture Requests: Shimane, Hyogo, Hokkaido

4.   Teaching experience: 2 years of private tutoring and substitute teaching middle school and TESOL certified

5.   Number of schools: 3 high schools

6.   School level: ranges from low to really low to have-you-ever-studied-english-before low. My base school is agriculture (lowest) and my 2 visit schools are low to mid-low academic schools. 

7.   Average classes per day: 2-3

8.   Closest JET to you distance wise: Right next door, and there`s another one of us about a 5 minute drive away.

9.   Best part of the job: Being able to form many new relationships and working your way into little communities of students and faculty. The enkais are pretty amazing, as well.

10. Worst part of the job: The fact that most of it is a desk-warming or babysitting job and the Japanese bureaucracy.

11. Best part of living in Japan: Being able to feel like you belong in a Japanese town and having the ability to explore all of Japan and Asia. Oh, and conbinis are amazing. 

12. Worst part of living in Japan: Lack of insulation, old fashioned technology (お久しぶり、fax machines,) and no debit card system.

13. Favorite memory so far: It has to be my first party with my taiko group. The party was during the beginning of the holiday homesickness time, and even though I was not performing just yet, my taiko group invited me to their show and let me tag along to the after-party. It ended up being an extended family barbecue, which was the defining moment when I realized I was meant to be in my little inaka town at that place and time. Truly touching.

14. Hardest time so far: The winter, all of it. Being a southern girl, I was not ready for a Japanese winter. I think the worst of the worst was waking up in the middle of the night, with the electric blanket and aircon on at full blast on the highest settings, and still shivering from the cold. I also didn`t have a car during the snow, so walking through that to get to work on time was really tough and resulted in tons of slips and bruises. Winter also brought about loneliness, as no one seemed to want to brave the weather to hang out or do things, so it was just a dark time that I kind of want to blank out of my JET memories.

15. What do you miss most about home? My friends, hands-down. I don`t really click with the other JETs in town, so I miss just being able to hang out with people who like me for my obnoxious self. I also really miss my dog—we are joined at the hip and not a morning passes where I`m sad he`s not there to wake me up. I also miss my gym. I was big into group fitness, and want to eventually become a fitness instructor, so going from 2 hours of that to a tiny room with a few treadmills and weights was pretty depressing. I also miss the climate, but not everyone gets that I love hot, humid weather, so I`ll leave it at that. Food and family are a given, as I`m from New Orleans, so I won`t elaborate.

16. What would you miss most about Japan if you left tomorrow? My taiko group, which goes without saying. Those guys seriously gave this year abroad meaning, and I almost stayed another year just for them. They took me in as one of their own, don't treat me as a token gaijin, and opened me up to many more possibilities and opportunities in my little inaka town. Oh, and I`d miss the hell out of Hiroshima-yaki, aka the best okonomiyaki in the world.

17. The one thing you wish you`d brought with you to Japan? I wish I`d brought more books and hand held video games to pass the time. Some days on JET, especially those during exams and student holidays, are 8 hours of nothing, and there`s only so much time one can spend scrolling through social media.

18. What`s something you brought that you wish you didn`t? I brought way too many clothes. Unless you have a really unique body type, you will be able to find things to wear in Japan. Cute things that you will want to buy. Had I known I`d give myself a wardrobe makeover over here, I would`ve made my second checked luggage an empty suitcase to fill with all my new gear.

19. Tip for living in Japan: Don`t be afraid to make a fool out of yourself. Your Japanese might not be stellar, but there will be times you`ll have to fumble through a 100% Japanese conversation in order to get things done. Also, don`t be afraid to explore your town. Even the most isolated of towns will have a few people really eager to meet the new gaijin and want to show you around. Don`t spend those weekends holed up in your apartment, living vicariously through your friends` snap chats. Get out and explore! Also, if you`re even vaguely considering driving, go for it. It will make your life so much better, especially if you`re in the inaka. Also, who wouldn`t want to road trip through beautiful coastlines, mountains ,and rice fields?

20. Tip for being a JET: Be as open minded as you can and don`t take things personally. Not every student or JTE will like your lesson. You may not click well with your fellow JETs in town. You might really hate the fact that you`re land-locked in the middle of nowhere instead of the metropolis you hoped for, but there will be times—wonderfully brilliant times—that will make all of the other crap worth it. This is your adventure, your story. Make it what you want to be. 

Aaaaaand I'll leave it at that! Thanks for giving it a read.
I hope it gives some of you out there a better idea of what you'll experience in August.
It's a wonderful journey, so enjoy every minute of it! 

Until next time, keep readin and dreamin!