Project for Awesome 2015



The Project for Awesome 2015 is here! It’s my favorite charity event.  It was created in 2007 by YA author John Green and his brother Hank. Together they have a Youtube channel called Vlogbrothers, which you can watch here. People in their community are called nerdfighters or collectively, nerdfighteria. A nerdfighter is a nerdy person who fights to make the world a better place, or”decrease world suck” as John puts it. A nerdfighter may or may not also be a fan of John’s books. (I love John’s books, and consider myself a nerdfighter.)

The Project for Awesome is a charity event on YouTube, where people create videos about their favorite charity, which are then voted on at the Project for Awesome site. There’s also an IndieGoGo page which raises money for charity. The perks there are mostly related to YouTubers (John and Hank, Rhett and Link, Emily Grasslie) or their favorite charities. The money from the Project for Awesome goes to John Green’s foundation, which splits the money between different charities. Money from today, December 11, goes this year to Save the Children and the UN’s High Commission on Refugees. Money from December 12 through the 15th goes to charities chosen by the nerdfighter community–and you!

Last year when I did the P4A I gave $10 to the Harry Potter Alliance (here is their site.) I got an “Apparating Library card” as part of their Accio Books campaign.

My other favorite charities besides the HPA are: (click on the name to go to that charity’s website)  Everyone needs clean water close by in their community! John and Hank also support this one. Here is a list of their videos about visiting places helps, like Haiti. (If the link didn’t work, I searched the Vlogbrothers YouTube page for

Room to Read This organization focuses on literacy and girls’ education in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and parts of Africa. They build schools and libraries, and create books in local languages. One of their fundraisers you can do is a readathon! (It seems mostly for schools here in North America, but I like the idea of books or pages being worth a certain amount of money to donate.)

My local Humane Society branch

Other charities that work in girls’ education, like The Girl Effect. Girls’ education is very important to me because there are still girls in the world who don’t get the same access to education I’ve had in America. I love to read, learn new things, and found work I’m passionate in pursuing. Girls’ education programs give them the same opportunities, and help make the world better through school and life skills initiatives. They also turn into women’s programs, like entrepreneurship.


If you want to make a video or vote on one, here is the main site. To donate, go to the IndieGoGo page.

Update: Other charities I voted for at the P4A site:

Malala Fund 

Girl Up 

Because I Am a Girl 

American Stroke Association: This is a charity important to me and my boyfriend, as he was affected by a stroke before we met.


The 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno

The 100 Thing Challenge: How I Got Rid of Almost Everything, Remade My Life, and Regained My Soul by Dave Bruno



Format: Ebook

Source: from the library  (Overdrive)

Apparently, I wanted to read this way back in July when I began to get interested in minimalism and the simplicity movement.

In 2009, Dave Bruno decided to create the 100 Thing Challenge. He was overwhelmed with the amount of stuff filling up his family’s house, and the need to constantly buy things he didn’t use. So his Challenge was to own only 100 things for one year, and write about it on his blog. Then he expanded the blog posts into this book. He counted his individual items, but not items he shared with his wife and daughters. Books counted as “1 library,” though he didn’t mention how many books he had.

Bruno narrowed down his hobbies during the challenge. He started out with hiking, camping, woodworking, and making model trains. He realized he was drawn to building expensive model trains because his dad had created one for him as a kid, and they made him think of his dad. He had to let go of the past. He had woodworking equipment stashed in his garage because he imagined himself a “master woodworker.” This imaginary woodworker had a different temperament than Dave himself, so by getting rid of the woodworking tools, he let go of that image of himself. These sections were very thought-provoking. Things he didn’t need reminded him of the past, or he envisioned himself using them in the future, and ended up distracting him from his life with friends and family.

As Bruno is Christian, he did make a few Bible references. It wasn’t enough to make me stop reading though. There was also an odd section where he went on a hiking trip and met a woman who was unprepared for weather changes on the trail. Later his friend, also Christian, said the woman “was Satan,” there to tempt him, but he said he wasn’t tempted at all–he just helped a less experienced hiker. I’m not sure what that section had to do with minimalism or simplicity– maybe knowing the weather where you are and taking only what you need. A chapter I liked better was the one where he talked about his “perfect day”: doing work he enjoyed, spending time outdoors, and spending time with his family, which were the “things” he really wanted after all.

The end of the book has a “create your own challenge” chapter. Bruno does reiterate that the challenge is not for everyone–previously he had mentioned trying to pare down his young daughters’ toys, which they found distressing. He also mentioned that he picked 100 things, but other people could pick different minimal numbers of things to own, or adapt his challenge in other ways. One adaption he mentioned that I’m familiar with was blogger and author Leo Babauta‘s list of 50 possessions from 2010, which is here.

Overall, I liked this book. It made me think a lot about how I use the things I own, how I spend my time, and how many things I actually need to have the life I want.


Goal Tracking with Beeminder 

Beeminder logo

Looking around for a to do app, I decided to use one called Beeminder.

It’s really a goal tracking website and smartphone app “with a sting” as they say. If you don’t meet your goals, you have to pay Beeminder.  You set your daily or weekly goal in numbers, and the site projects what it looks like if you met your goals on a line graph. This projected data is your “Yellow Brick Road.” Stay on the road and you never have to pay. (By default, as of this writing, payment starts at $0 and increases exponentially.  You can set it to stop at a certain amount if you don’t want it to increase that much.)

I like it a lot so far! It seems to combine SMART goals and “don’t break the chain” goal tracking. Beeminder has a blog post from a few years ago explaining SMART goals here.) When I used “don’t break the chain” tracking, it ended up not being motivating for me. “I only checked off two days out of five of my daily goal, I guess I’ll stop.” With Beeminder, the data is now on a graph going up. I’m very motivated to keep my graph moving up and do a small part toward my goals every day!

So far Beeminder is helping me stick to my blogging goals: two posts a month, and stick to reading books I want to review.

P.S. If you’re interested in the visual Don’t Break the Chain method instead of data-centered Beeminder, I used Karen Kavett’s calendar.

A Counterfeit Betrothal by Mary Balogh

Cover of A Counterfeit Betrothal/The Notorious Rake by Mary Balogh: A woman in a pink Regency dress holds a finger to her lips.

A Counterfeit Betrothal

Mary Balogh

2013 (1992)


Mass market paperback

Source: Personal copy
Lady Sophia Bryant wants to get her estranged parents back together. Her solution is to pretend to be engaged to her childhood friend, Lord Francis Sutton. Her parents, Olivia and Marcus, have to help prepare for the wedding. In turn, they pretend to still be in love for Sophia’s sake. Alternating points of view  of the four of them showed how they miscommunicated with each other.
This was well written, though a little repetitive. (In an early chapter, it said twice on the same page that her parents had been separated for fourteen years!) The characters all had depth and clear motivation. There were a few times I thought, “Why doesn’t she just ask him if he loves her? Well no, then the book would be over too soon.” The plot was mostly the miscommunications, but I liked this book overall. As a reprint of an earlier novel, I see Balogh’s strengths lie in characterization more than plot. Now I’m interested in reading more recent Mary Balogh books, like her Survivor’s Club series.

What I’m Reading 

I’m reading the historical romance A Counterfeit Betrothal by Mary Balogh right now. It’s one of Balogh’s early books, so it’s a little repetitive. The characters are engaging, though. I’m looking forward to reading her more recent books!

Upcoming Reads

Some of my upcoming reads are:

Herland and Other Selected Stories, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, edited by Barbara H. Solomon: Picked up at  a bookstore in Maine.  I read the famous story “The Yellow Wallpaper” back in high school. I’m interested in reading more of her works!

Highland Scandal by Julia London: Another historical romance read from a used bookstore. It looks fun!

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen: I realized back in August during #AusteninAugustRBR 2015, this is the only main Austen novel I didn’t own. Now I do!

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #2) by Ransom Riggs: A pick for a Weird Wednesday post. I also own and enjoyed the first book in this YA fantasy series, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Harness the Sun: America’s Quest for a Solar-Powered Future by Philip Warburg: A book I received from LibraryThing Early Reviewers in August or early September, and accidentally forgot to review before it was released.

Weird Wednesday: New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird edited by Paula Guran


Weird Wednesday is a monthly feature about “weird” fiction, which is a combination of science fiction/fantasy and horror, or sometimes pure surrealism. 

New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird

Edited by Paula Guran

Prime Books


Source: Ebook from the library (OverDrive)

For this first installment of Weird Wednesday, I chose a book of stories based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, one of the “fathers” of weird fiction. I’ve read some H.P. Lovecraft, but I don’t like his Cthulhu stories much. I don’t see the universe as inherently frightening and overwhelming.

It took me a long time to get through this book as it was too much of the same thing. A lot of the stories in this were about people stumbling on or discovering the Lovecraftian monsters. My favorites were the ones where the monsters were known to some people but not to others, or the monsters were known to everyone.

My favorite stories were:

“Fair Exchange” by Michael Marshall Smith: A thief in London steals a mysterious artifact from the house of a strange American family.

“A Study in Emerald” by Neil Gaiman: One of my favorite Gaiman stories! In a world taken over by the Elder Gods, a man much like Dr. Watson meets a man much like Sherlock Holmes.

“Bad Sushi” by Cherie Priest: An old Japanese man encounters the monster he fought decades before.

“The Essayist in the Wilderness” by  William Browning Spencer: A man decides his life’s work is to write essays about nature. He observes the life cycle of “crawdads,” which are baby Cthulhus.

“The Dude Who Collected  Lovecraft” by Nick Mamatas and Tim Pratt: A story where the characters discuss Lovecraft himself.

“Cold Water Survival” by Holly Phillips: An update of sorts to “At the Mountains of Madness.” Explorers in the now melting Arctic find Lovecraftian monsters have adapted to climate change.

“Mongoose” by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette: A science fiction novella about a man who uses a small tame Lovecraftian monster to hunt giant ones in a space station.

So a mixed bag of stories. I might look into the second book, New Cthulhu 2.

#AusteninAugustRBR 2015: Lady Susan & Wrap Up

Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon

Oxford World’s Classics edition, 2003 (Oxford University Press)


Source: Personal copy

I wasn’t in the mood for Northanger Abbey after all, so I decided to read Austen’s unfinished works. I only got as far as Lady Susan, which was finished but unpublished.

I like to read the introduction to classic novels before I read them to get some context. This edition’s introduction (and notes) is by Claudia L. Johnson. According to the introduction, a novel in letters was considered a classic novel when Austen began this in the 1790s. She wondered what the scheming villian of Clarissa would be like as a woman. Lady Susan tricks the Vernon family into giving her money, while writing to her confidante about how awesome she is at tricking people. Catherine Vernon knows about her reputation, and therfore suspects Lady Susan of not being sincere. Catherine describes her terrible behavior in letters to her mother.

Writing an epistolary novel was difficult for Austen, as she ends the story with a third-person “Conclusion.” If the same story was in third person, it probably would have focused on Catherine knowing her husband was being duped, and being powerless to stop it until the end. Overall, I liked this story.


I enjoyed my first Austen in August! Even though I didn’t enter any giveaways, I liked reading other people’s posts on Austen and her works. I’m looking forward to sharing more thoughts next year!

#AusteninAugustRBR 2015: Austen Fandom Videos

As I’m on vacation this week, here is a roundup of my favorite Austen-related videos.

Regency version of  Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” from Austenland (2013). This played over the end credits to the movie adaptation of Shannon Hale’s book. (Read my review of the book!)

“Jane Austen’s Fight Club.” I understand this and think it’s funny even though I’ve never read or watched Fight Club.

“Mr Bingley’s Post (Pride and Prejudice parody).” The jokes remind me of Monty Python or Fry and Laurie sketches, which should be expected from a comedy group called Pineapple-Shaped Lamps.

“The Real Housewives of Jane Austen.” A reality TV version of Austen’s heroines. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that I’m drunk” is the best joke in this one, I think.

Bonus: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies panel from Comic Con 2015 with the cast and Seth Graeme-Smith, author of the book. I’m excited to see Matt Smith (from Doctor Who) as Mr. Collins, zombie or not! It comes out February 5, 2016.

Do you have a favorite Austen or Regency era video/meme/GIF? Please share in the comments!

#AusteninAugustRBR 2015: Austenland by Shannon Hale


By Shannon Hale


Ebook from library
I don’t read much contemporary romance. I like to watch romantic comedies more than read them. So I’m glad this was made into a movie. Even so, this was a quick read and I enjoyed it!

Jane Hayes read Pride and Prejudice as a teen and became obsessed with Jane Austen. Now in her thirties, she’s searching New York for her Mr. Darcy–or her Colin Firth as Darcy. (She hides the DVD in her houseplant.)

Her Great Aunt Carolyn dies and gives her an all expenses paid trip to Pembrook Park, a Regency theme park in the English countryside. In this “Austenland” actors play the men and supporting characters to the “Ideal Client,” women who want to live the fantasy of falling in love with a Regency gentleman.

Jane arrives with the idea that she’ll give up men forever after getting lost in the fantasy. She ends up falling for two different men, the Darcylike “Mr. Nobley” and Martin, an actor who plays a servant. She wonders if the actor playing Nobley is as sincere as Martin is as a real person.

It was hilarious that the women who come to Pembrook Park are given different names by the manager. Jane becomes “Jane Erstwhile,” another American woman is “Elizabeth Charming” and a third woman is “Amelia Heartwright.”  That part was more like Dickens than Austen, where the characters’ names describe their natures. On the other hand, giving the women silly names added to Hale’s theme of living in a fantasy versus reality.

I would recommend this if you like Jane Austen or funny contemporary romance, or both.

#AusteninAugustRBR Announcement and Reading List



I just found out about this meme by way of The Classics Club‘s Twitter feed. It was created by Adam at Roof Beam Reader and is an annual event! I’m a fan of Austen’s books and anything related to her work, so I’m excited to join!

My picks are:

Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon by Jane Austen:


This is the 2003 Oxford World Classic’s edition I bought in college when I read Northanger Abbey for a Gothic Literature class. It also has her unfinished works, which I didn’t read then. I understand the titular Lady Susan is a good villain. Hank Green and Bernie Su adapted Sanditon into vlog form on YouTube a couple of years ago, like they did with Pride and Prejudice (The Lizzie Bennet Diaries) and Emma (Emma Approved). I enjoyed Lizzie Bennet and Emma Approved but didn’t want to watch Welcome to Sanditon until I’d read Sanditon itself.

Austenland  by Shannon Hale:


An Austen-obsessed American woman looking for love goes to a (fictional) Regency theme park in England. I discovered Hale when I was still in the kidlitosphere, as she also writes for kids. This book sounds fun! It was made into a 2013 movie.