guest posts and such.

Hey guys, hope your weekend is going swimmingly.
Seriously, I hope you're swimming, because it's just hot. Everywhere. 
I, of course, am working, so... no comment. 

But my weekend starts after work tonight, so I'm fairly certain the next few days will find me holed up in my room reading, because I have so many books on my list right now.

I am so cool.

Anyway, today I have a guest post over at the lovely Sophia's blog, Love Live and Learn. Of course, if I wasn't complaining about summer or gushing about traveling I wouldn't be me, now, would I? 

Check it out, and I'll see you soon!

well, i've bitten that proverbial bullet.

And it was actually pretty cheap.

After more than a year of posting, I've decided to just take the plunge {to use another bad cliche} and buy my own .com domain name. Look guys, To Build Books and Castles is all grown up! You can now find me at booksandcastles.com

And honestly, I think this is way cooler than it probably is.


the best almost forgotten books from my childhood.

So I was that girl. You know the one I'm talking about. The girl who spent all her free time in the school library, hidden among the musty bookshelves with 40-year-old books that get way too little love in our modern society. The girl who could be found buried in her latest story conquest at recess when all the other kids were playing knock-out on the basketball courts. The girl whose parents would tuck her in, kiss her goodnight and turn out the lights, only to have her pull out a flashlight and read under the covers until ungodly hours of the morning {for a grade schooler, at least... my definition of "late" has definitely evolved since then}.

But anyway, you get my point. I was that girl. I'm willing to bet a lot of us writer-types are.

And there is nothing that girl loved {and still loves} more than getting sucked into an amazing book, one of those that made her squeal in excitement and anticipation with every turn of the page and had her reading under her desk during math lessons. Those were the books that kept her coming back again and again, long after she had more or less memorized the words.

And then that girl did something horrendous. 
She betrayed them.
She grew up; other, more mature books occupied her attention, and the girl left her old book friends behind. She stopped calling, stopped sitting with them at lunch, stopped inviting them to sleepovers... Even though those books had always been there for her, she stopped being there for them.

She forgot.

Okay, enough with the third person. That's freaking annoying. 
But really, what are some books you guys loved as a child but haven't thought about in ages? 

Here's my list of some of my favorites:

1. My Father's Dragon - by Ruth Stiles Gannet

I don't remember when I first read this book, maybe first or second grade, but seriously, My Father's Dragon is pretty much made of gold. It's the harrowing tale of Elmer {the narrator's father}, who runs away from home to Wild Island to rescue a baby dragon that the other island critters were keeping tied up. All sorts of shenanigans ensue while Elmer searches for the dragon. What these shenanigans are exactly, I don't actually remember because I haven't read this book in years {hence making it a candidate for my "best almost forgotten books" list}. However, I do remember something about Elmer handing out lollipops to some crocodiles and braiding a lion's mane so it wouldn't eat him. Oh, and there were tangerines in the story, which I remember because My Father's Dragon taught me what a tangerine actually was. So yeah. GREAT book.

2. Gloomy Gus - by Walt Morey

When I was in third grade, my teacher read us stories every day after lunch, and Gloomy Gus was the first in a long line of some of the best books in the world {nice going, Mrs. Payne}. In fact, this book was so good that I broke the Very Serious rules and checked out a copy from the library so I could read in secret ahead of the class. Gloomy Gus takes place in Alaska, which is cool in itself because Alaska is that random state where nothing happens except when they occasionally elect people like Sarah Palin into office. It's about a boy who finds an orphaned bear cub, whom he names Gus and takes care of against his alcoholic/abusive father's wishes. Then he befriends a grouchy hermit who hates all people except the boy {isn't that one of the best overused plotlines for those sweet, inevitably moral-wrought stories?} The hermit and the boy and Gus put on shows every day so people can see how friendly the bear is {because he is friendly, you guys, like a big teddy bear, and I'm fairly certain he subsides only on sugar cubes}. But then of course the alcoholic/abusive father has to be a douchebag and sells the boy and his bear to the circus, which just sucks. The boy {SPOILER ALERT} then proceeds to become the only person I've ever heard of to run away from the circus. It truly is a heartwarming tale of love between a boy and his bear and his hermit. Check it out.

3. Peppermints in the Parlor - by Barbara Brooks Wallace


IN THE PROCESS OF WRITING THIS POST I'VE REMEMBERED THIS BOOK AND I CANNOT BELIEVE I ALMOST FORGOT ABOUT IT BECAUSE IT IS SO. F%$#ING. BRILLIANT. {Okay, Caps Lock off now} But seriously, you guys, if you have not read this book I demand that you go order it right now. Really. Right now. It is THAT GOOD {sorry, for real, turning it off now}. Peppermints in the Parlor is about a girl named Emily whose parents die in some horrible accident, so she is sent to live with her really cool aunt and uncle in their mansion. Except when her aunt picks her up from the train station, her aunt tells Emily that her uncle has died and she in general seems all-around shady. When Emily gets to her aunt's mansion, she discovers that it has been turned into a home for for the elderly and is run by these two really scary old women {Well, one of them is scary. The other is just fat} who only let the old people use one tea bag between all of them at suppertime. And the really bitchy woman cuts off Emily's braids and sends her to work in the kitchen. The servants are all too terrifed to answer any of Emily's questions. Then Emily's aunt comes to her in the middle of the night and basically tells her that she can't tell her anything because there are eyes everywhere. Emily makes friends with Tilly, the other servant girl, and Kip, the fishmonger {with whom Emily has serious sexual tension throughout the book, although this is never actually realized. But just saying, it's there}, and her friends help her figure out how her uncle died and why these two old hags are now running the show AND NOT LETTING ANYONE EAT ANY OF THE PEPPERMINTS IN THE PARLOR! {those bitches}

And also, her parents' deaths may or may not have been a conspiracy.

4. The Grand Escape - by Phyllis Renolds Naylor


Oh my God, you guys, it took a fifteen-minute "grade school chapter book about cats escaping their owners" search through Google but I have found the title of this book!!! {Perhaps I should tone down the excitement here...} Again, when I was in third grade {wow, never realized how good a book year third grade was} we had reading circles, and each group was assigned a book to read. My group was assigned something stupid, probably about a dog dying, I don't actually remember. But anyway, another group in class was assigned The Grand Escape, and I would just sit in the other corner with my group seething because their book actually sounded badass and my book was total crap {okay, that wasn't the language I used when I was in third grade, but if it was, that's definitely what I would have been thinking}. So I snuck to the book table, illicitly stole a copy and read it all in one night {I was such a rebel}. The Grand Escape is the tale of two indoor cats, Marco and Polo, whose owner leaves the door open one day, and they make a grand escape out into the wild {of the city}. They are hungry and cold for a while, but then they meet a group of stray cats including a sexy lady cat named Carlotta {whose dead-beat ex-boyfriend abandoned her and left her pregnant... But Carlotta is such a cool, pretty kitty that she gets her own spinoff in Carlotta's Kittens.} and a mean cat who was from Texas... or something like that. The stray group of cats either teach Marco and Polo to survive or they shun them. Or both. And one of the cats falls in love with Carlotta. I think it's Marco. I'm fairly certain Polo was an idiot.

5. This other really fantastic series that I had totally forgotten until a few days ago when I read something that mentioned it but I can't actually tell you what it is because I have now forgotten about it again.


new look.

As you can see, To Build Books and Castles is getting a reboot. However, I'm not sure yet if I actually like it. I suppose it will definitely take some getting used to.

So what do you guys think? Old header or new header? 

Or something completely different altogether...?


the art of bad grammar.

I've always found the most interesting, gripping writers are those who have learned to break all the rules. But that's just the thing. You have to learn the rules to break them. You can't just do it.

Breaking rules in writing is like breaking rules in art. Before you can slap a few splotches of paint on a canvas and call it a masterpiece, you first have to understand the fundamentals of form and space, of contrast and harmony and unity. Modern art is only good art if it draws from — and knowingly opposes — the traditional. And it's the same with writing. You have to have a thorough understanding of grammar before you can break it and make it work

I can't stand to read work from people who are clearly and flagrantly disregarding even the most basic of grammatical concepts. 

And then there are writers like David Levithan. 

Those who not only have a masterful grasp on the art of writing in general but who also use this mastery to turn conventional writing upside down, whose very departure from grammar is a powerful tool to portray the depth and complexity of human thought and emotion.

David Levithan is the author of two {er, well, one and a half} of my favorite books, The Realm of Possibility and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. I just reread The Realm of Possibility for at least the fourth time, and as always, his writing sticks with me in a way that I've never experienced with any other author. As an avid reader who hopes to someday become a young adult writer and editor, I consider The Realm of Possibility to be one of the greatest young adult books ever written. Hell, it's a lot better than many "adult" books I've read. And Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, while perhaps not as transcending, is still just as beautiful. 

But what I truly love most about David Levithan's work is he never uses words in vain. Every single word and sentence and run-on sentence and sentence fragment is crafted to expand on his characters' consciousness and suck the reader into that moment. Every grammar "mistake" he makes is so clearly not a mistake but an intentional invitation into his characters' inner self. Just read a few quotes from his books and you'll understand:

The Realm of Possibility

“Moments into minutes. Minutes into hours. Hours into days. Days into years. Years into possibility. This will linger.”

“Once time is lit, it will burn whether or not you're breathing it in. Even after smoke becomes air, there is the memory of smoke. I am seeing as if by the light of a match, a glimpse of my life and having it feel right.”

“I measure the moment
in the heartbeats I skip”

“Here’s what I know about the realm of possibility—it is always expanding, it is never what you think it is. Everything around us was once deemed impossible. From the airplane overhead to the phones in our pockets to the choir girl putting her arm around the metalhead. As hard as it is for us to see sometimes, we all exist within the realm of possibility. Most of the limits are of our own world’s devising. And yet, every day we each do so many things that were once impossible to us.”

"just one glance
and my life was redrawn
just one word
and my vocabulary changed
I asked the time
and you said 'what's the hurry?'
you asked my name
and I almost forgot”

“teenagers are never joking. when seeking to prove a point, principals and teachers should remember that teenagers are never, ever sarcasic or ironic. if they say "I wish someone would drop a bomb on this school right now," that means they have arranged for a nuclear arsenal to be emptied onto the school and should be immediately suspended and ridiculed. if they say they were merely coming up with a joking excuse to postpone a bio test, reply that all jokes are funny, and that since dropping a bomb on a school is not funny, it is therefore 

Nick and Norah's Infinte Playlist*

*For those of you who have seen the movie, the book is, as usual, much better. For the record.

"The day begins in the middle of the night. I am not paying attention to anything but the bass in my hand, the noise in my ears...I am the clockwork, I am the one who takes this thing called music and lines it up with this thing called time. I am the ticking, I am the pulsing, I am underneath every part of this moment...I am the generator. I am listening and I am not listening because what I'm playing isn't something I'm thinking about, it's something I'm feeling all over...I am punctuating and I am puncturing and I am punching the air with my body as my fingers press hard into the chords. Sweat, malice, and hunger pour from me. This is release, or maybe it's just a plea for release."
"Singing in the rain. I'm singing in the rain. And it's such a fucking glorious feeling. An unexpected downpour and I am just giving myself into it. Because what the fuck else can you do? Run for cover? Shriek and curse? No--when the rain falls you just let it fall and you grin like a madman and you dance with it, because if you can make yourself happy in the rain then you're doing pretty alright in life."

"My heartbeat accelerates. I am in the here, in the now. I am also in the future. I am holding her and wanting and knowing and hoping all at once. We are the ones who take this thing called music and line it up with this thing called time. We are the ticking, we are the pulsing, we are the underneath every part of this moment. And by making this moment our own, we are rendering it timeless. There is no audience. There are no instruments. There are only bodies and thoughts and murmurs and looks. It's the concert rush to end all concert rushes, because this is what matters. When the heart races, this is what it's racing toward."


So seriously, guys. I don't recommend books as often as I should, but I am recommending both of these. Read them. You won't regret it.

Long, kind of rambling post, I know. 
I just get a little crazy when I read amazing things.

Until soon,


the highway signs say we're close, but i don't read those things anymore.

I live a life of elsewheres.
When I'm here, I long for there. 
And when I'm there, it's all I can do to not run back to here. 
I can't seem to make my mind stay put.

I used to be proud of this. It meant I was an adventurer, someone destined to travel the world and experience all the excitement that staying put can never offer. But now... I'm not so sure. I don't think the concept is as romantic as I once made it out to be. Am I an adventurer, or am I really just capricious and unstable, fanciful and flighty? It worries me that I am never satisfied enough to just be, that I constantly wish for the elsewhere instead of enjoying the life I live at that moment. Because if I can't be in that moment, then really everything passes me by no matter where I am.

Can a girl who lives a life of elsewheres ever truly find a where she's content to be? 

Title song: "Stubborn Love" - The Lumineers


a time to rise and a time to fall.


I've never had a greater appreciation for rain than I have these last few weeks, when rain means a respite from the torrid heat of a scorching second-level apartment without air conditioning. I know that sounds funny coming from someone who spent the first months of the year cursing the clouds and the dampness and fervently wishing for a patch of dry dirt. But now there's nothing better than curling up at the foot of my bed with my head on the windowpane, reveling in the cool breeze and drinking in that rain-fresh scent.

I find myself falling in love with the way it rains. A drop here, a drop there. Nothing, slowly, and then a sudden downpour, like it cannot hold itself back any longer. And then just as quickly it sighs and relaxes to nothing more than static in the background. That's my favorite part, the monotony after the angry pounding of the storm at its wildest, after the wide-eyed children leave their windows and after the drivers take the furiously swiping windshield wipers down a notch or two. When the rain still slaps against the sidewalk in a listless, lackadaisical drawl but no one no longer cares. 

Rain is at its most beautiful when it's ignored.

Title song: "Give Me Love" - Ed Sheeran


okay, so i may have had one brownie.


 Not one bit.

it's not like i'm bitter or anything.

No sparklers.
No brownies.
No barbecues with the family.
No fireworks.
No cupcakes.
No fruit salad by the pool.
No parties with friends.
No homemade ice cream.
And absolutely no fun.

But you know what I do get to do today?

Edit stories about children drowning and neighborhood shootings and, if I'm really lucky, one or two about guys beating up their girlfriends.

Happy Fourth of July.


melting in minnesota.

So you know how I was bashing the Minnesotans for being such wimps when it comes to heat? Well, they still are wimps. But I am quickly becoming just as bad. I mean, it may be 106 degrees at home right now, but growing up in Kansas, at least I always had air-conditioning. Now, living on the top floor of an ancient house in the 90 degree heat with no central cooling and only a tiny fan to keep me from heat stroke, my definition of "really hot" is being amended a bit. My mom says it will make me stronger. I don't know.I suppose it definitely shows me what I'm made of.

Which as it turns out is a ridiculous amount of water. 

Like, 60 percent.


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