Criss Cross: How to be a Villain

Today’s Criss Cross is all about …


So, you want to be a villain?

More importantly, do you have what it takes to be a villain??


  • Personal vendetta  – You must have a reason that is your reason.  It may not make sense to anyone else, but this is your driving cause.  Once this is achieved (which it totally will be, duh…)feel free to retire into oblivion.  Or find something else to destroy or take over!
  • Great Outfit –I mean, you can’t go out in your PJs!!  (Use a cape only for effect, or if it’s cold. otherwise they just get in the way.)
  • The Underhand – It’s like “the upper hand”, but in an underhanded way… see what I did there??
  • Moral Compass, missing it’s needle –  (But you should still have one, just in case you turn good, or get lost, or just for looks.  because looks are important.)
  • Sidekick, Stunt Double, SuperPet, or Alter Ego – (dragon, army of mythical creatures, robot, mind-controlled minions… it’s a flexible criteria…)  Because you can’t do it alone.
  • Lair  – This is super important.  You must have a special place to prepare your attacks ad trickery!  and to put all the cool stuff you “pick up” along the way.
  • Secret weakness – Because, come one, you aren’t going to win, and if the Hero finds out about your love of gummy bears or how old western romances make you go wobble in the knees, it’s over buddy…
  • Devious, complex, and/or cunning mind  –  Because being an idiot never helped anybody take over the world.   Not to mention you have to work extra hard trying to stay ahead of everybody else, coming up with new way to destroy things…
  • Great hair –  (See, also JB’s point below)  If you are about to blow something up and you are the last thing they’ll ever see…you may as well give those poor folks something nice to look at.  You should frighten people with your power, not morning breath and a rats nest…  (Good example: Cruella DeVille – Class, Sass, Style.   Bad example: Joker – scary guy, but he put his makeup on with the lights off and hasn’t touched his haif since getting it colored during his punk rock phase in high school)  Facial Hair is good too, assuming it is kept well groomed (Good example: Captain Hook, and Jafar, from Aladdin)
  • Cool weapons – Because you won’t be “killing them with kindness”
  • Arch nemesis – Because… well you gotta have somebody to fight.  An childhood hero that disappointed you, or an angellic step family member usually work pretty well.  Or anyone trying to thwart your take-over plans.   Also, Use nifty words like “nifty”, and “thwart”!
  • An “I never lose!” attitude –  Nobody likes a Negative Nancy or Sad Brad.
  • 1 or 2 relate-able qualities –  You needn’t be a total freak.  Somebody needs to be on your side.
  • Be scary –  duh. 

Bonus Points

  • Envy-worthy mode of transportation  – (Warning : don’t take your dragon through the drive through… they don’t like their menu board melted.)
  • Stash of cool weapons –  It’s like a trophy room!!
  • Transformation abilities –  I mean who  wouldn’t  want that?!?
  • Troubled past –  It’s just fuel for the fire.  An old grudge works too.


  • They have evil plots to bring down good.
  • Driven by greed, for money, power, eternal life, or whatever
  • They sometimes seem disappear when they finally won (if they win) because their life seems to no longer have purpose (think Megamind)
  • Anti-heroes are interesting, too. Think of Disney’s recent Wreck it Ralph or The Creature from Frankenstein. Are they bad or just misunderstood? In recent works dealing with “Anti-hero” villains, they turn good and become the hero at the end of the story.
  • Sometimes they are just pure evil and scare me. The witch in Snow White—she was fast-forward-ed through when I was younger. And the evil guy on Princess and the Frog scares me. (I don’t know how that guy made it into a Disney movie… ugh…*shudders* – Juli)


  • Not all villains purposefully do bad. Some think they’re doing the right thing, even if their intentions are, indeed, bad. (I love these kind. For a moment you see their humanity, and then you like/hate them. They are the hero of their own story. I still root for the true hero though. -Rachel)
  • A well-developed villain has a reason for doing what they do that helps you to understand their deeds (even if you don’t agree with said deeds).
  • They’re either really ugly or really attractive. (Ah? So true!  it’s really hard to get into a plain villain.  A villain, by nature, is a bit showy. -Juli )
  • A scary villain makes you want to cuddle under the covers with your favorite teddy bear. (Or at least three-year-old me did whenever the evil witch appeared in Disney movies.)


What do you think qualifies someone to be a villain?

Check back Monday for our new feature with Xander. We will be talking more about villains!


Review: The False Princess


Author: Eilis O’Neal

Genre: Fantasy

Age: Young Adult

Lexile: 860L

Synopsis (From Goodreads):

“Princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia’s led a privileged life at court.  But everything changes when it’s revealed, just after her sixteenth birthday, that she is a false princess, a stand-in for the real Nalia, who has been hidden away for her protection.  Cast out with little more than the clothes on her back, the girl now called Sinda must leave behind the city of Vivaskari, her best friend, Keirnan, and the only life she’s ever known.

Sinda is sent to live with her only surviving relative, an aunt who is a dyer in a distant village. She is a cold, scornful woman with little patience for her newfound niece, and Sinda proves inept at even the simplest tasks.  But when Sinda discovers that magic runs through her veins – long-suppressed, dangerous magic that she must learn to control – she realizes that she can never learn to be a simple village girl.

Returning to Vivaskari for answers, Sinda finds her purpose as a wizard scribe, rediscovers the boy who saw her all along, and uncovers a secret that could change the course of Thorvaldor’s history, forever.

A dazzling first novel, The False Princess is an engrossing fantasy full of mystery, action, and romance.”

Rachel’s Rambles:

This was a guilty pleasure read for me over Christmas break. When I want to escape, I love a good princess story with knights and castles. The False Princess reminded me of Gail Carson Levine books…full of romance, adventure, and fantasy. While the plot was somewhat predictable, it was still interesting. Despite falling short on the 7 characteristics defining notable YA books, it was entertaining. During Christmas break I was wanting to be entertained anyways. If you liked Ella Enchanted or enjoy Arthurian tales, read this book!

This book gets a 4/7 on the motivations to read YA:

2) Youth solve the problems
3) Youth are the heroes
4) Plot Twist

Content advisory: Magic involved, little violence

A 3 out of 5 stars.

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Review: An Acceptable Time

An Acceptable TimeAuthor: Madeleine L’Engle

Wow.  Yall.   This book.  Very brain bending. One of two older teen fiction novels I picked up on my roadtrip-preparation trip to the library.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect out of it, then I realized L’Engle also wrote A Wrinkle in Time.  Ooooo {insert excited}

A curious mix of quantum physics, mysticism, ancient history, romance, and the strength of friendship.  L’Engle writes with a wonderful sort of emotion, almost like a conviction.  It makes you feel like you believe the story, that you are truly a spectator to the events.

We’ve all read books that send the character into a different world or place or time, but here time travel takes root from long pondered theories of the relativity of time and space.  That times can exist in coexisting circles, or spirals, as they spoken of.  In the story the main character, Polly, encounters two unusual figures, which she later learns have come through a “time gate”, a place where their spiral 3000 years in the past has touched Polly’s present time spiral.

Polly discovers she, too, can pass through the time gate, into the past.  When trouble arises and the time gate closes, Polly must work with, and fight alongside history to save this people history never knew, the present, the future, and herself. Questions are raised about purpose, pure, whole love, sacrifice, the workings of time and existence, and the relationship of truth and science.

Cupcake Recipe: The Marissa (Chocolate Peanut Butter)

chocolate peanut butter cupcake

I recently shared some delicious Lunar Chronicles-inspired sweets during our Cress Celebration. One of those was this yummy cupcake that we call “The Marissa.” Marissa Meyer told us that if she were a cupcake, she would be peanut butter chocolate. So we made her into a cupcake! If you want your very own tasty Marissa (er, um…), here’s the recipe!

Ingredients for cupcakes:
milk chocolate cake mix
ingredients called for on cake mix box
mini Reese’s

Ingredients for peanut butter icing:
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup softened butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
at least 3 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

ingredients for chocolate icing:
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
at least 2 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
2 Hershey bars (melted)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder

Tools needed for frosting cupcakes:
three piping bags
large piping tip

Directions for cupcakes:
Follow instructions on box to make chocolate cupcakes. Once cupcakes have been in the oven for five minutes, press an unwrapped mini Reese’s into each one. After they’re baked, let cool completely before icing.

Directions for peanut butter icing:
Put all ingredients in mixer and beat until fluffy. To make my icing extra fluffy, I like to use heavy cream. Continue adding cream (or milk) until you like the consistency. You don’t want it too thin, but you don’t want it too thick to where it’s difficult to pipe.

Directions for chocolate icing:
Combine shortening, butter, and vanilla in mixer until well mixed. Slowly add powdered sugar and mix well. Add 2 tablespoons of milk or cream and mix. Add in your melted Hershey bars and cocoa powder. Add more milk or cream until you reach desired consistency. (It should be about the same consistency as the peanut butter icing.)

Icing the cupcakes:
Icing cupcakes can be a little tricky (and very messy!), so I’m going to send you to this nifty tutorial that will show you how to swirl the two icings together. This is why you don’t want your icing to be too thick—thick icing is very difficult to pipe!

Enjoy your delicious cupcakes and don’t forget to tell Marissa Meyer how tasty she is! (Okay, maybe leave out the last part because it’s kind of awkward.)


Criss Cross: Do You Read the End First?

CrissCrossHalfFullIt’s a huge controversy: Do you read the end of the book first?

JB: I’ll admit, I used to every once in a while. That way, I could relax because I already knew what was coming. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found more excitement in the adventure, and I refuse to allow myself to read the end until I finally get there. I don’t want to ruin the experience by knowing what’s ahead.

Rachel: I’m really bad about reading the end first, but I have worked hard to stop doing this. I’m actually getting better. It started with Nancy Drew, where I’d make a prediction and I skip the end to see if I was right. (I’m that person who watches crime shows to see if I can figure it out first.) However, my junior year of high school, we read My Sister’s Keeper…and I skipped to the end and cried. If you read the book you know why. I said I was going to stop then, but didn’t until a few months ago. I still may if it gets super intense, or I think I may not finish the book and want to know what happens. Now I’m more likely to skip to the end if I feel like it’s getting slow and I need motivation to keep reading.

What about you? How do you feel about reading the end of the book first?


Interview: Marissa Meyer (Our Second One!)

Having questions that haven’t been asked a million times is important to a quality interview.  If you don’t want it to be a waste of both your time and theirs (and your readers), do your research.  If you found it in someone else’s interview, there is no need to ask it (unless you want to expand on the question/issue, in which case, do more research).  That being said, it was a challenge to come up with new questions for Marissa that we hadn’t asked her before, but I think we did pretty good.

Last time we interviewed Mrs. Meyer, we asked “If you were a cupcake, what kind would you be?”  And perhaps you saw my creation of The Marissa Cupcake during our Lunar Chronicles celebration.  Per request of Marissa, a parcel of such cupcakes accompanied our interview. Also accompanying us was Caroline, who has only just started Scarlet, and thus we couldn’t give away any Cress spoilers during the interview. You might also see some answers from Jesse, Marissa’s husband, who willingly played along when we asked him questions.

Also, how adorable is Marissa? We absolutely LOVE her dress. “I’m wearing almost plaid!” she told us.

Plaid Girls and Marissa Meyer

JB: Are there male escort droids?

Marissa Meyer: Yes.

JB: We wanted to verify that. For reasons. [That would be Cress spoilers.]

MM: Yes, there are, actually. Iko runs into one when she’s in the warehouse and there’s a moment that he kind of reminds her of Prince Kai, so she tries to flirt with him and he’s totally just… a robot.

JB: Ahh, yes! That’s in Cress. Now that you mention it, I remember that.

Rachel: We can’t spoil, but yeah.

MM: Yeah, this is going to be a really hard interview.

Rachel: Tarkan, the guy you based Wolf off of, do you actually listen to him?

MM: I’ve actually only heard one song. Somebody sent me a song of his maybe six months ago because in the song he does a weird little howl thing, and I was like, this is so weird. But I had never actually heard him before that. I’d just seen his picture, and that’s him. That’s what Wolf looks like.

Julianne: What is World War IV about?

MM: Over resources and land territories. I haven’t thought it out so I don’t know the specifics, but the general idea is that there were some countries that were very very resource rich, and by that point, so far in the future, other countries had depleted their resources and this war broke out because they thought they weren’t sharing the world equally, which then led to the conglomeration.

Rachel: What’s your method of naming? Your names are so detailed. Do you say, I want it to mean this; here’s all the words that mean this?

MM: Sort of. If it’s a fairy tale character, then I can be like, you know, Cinder… Cinderella, and those are easy. Like with Carswell Thorne, I would go to my favorite resource——so I’ll go and I’ll search for all names that have this meaning. So I’d search for things like “thief” or “criminal” and of course nobody names their kids that. And so in a random, “Why don’t I just do a search for Cress?” then Carswell popped up and it literally translates to “grows at the watercress pond.” And I was like that’s so romantic! Because he grows when he’s with her! It just fit. So I use babynamesworld a lot if I’m struggling, and I keep searching for different meanings until I find something that works.

JB: Have you ever met a famous person?

MM: Does Veronica Roth count? I’ve met her and done panels with her. I’m trying to think if I’ve ever met any celebrities. Oh, you know what? When we were at Comic Con last year we were staying at the same hotel as all the Game of Thrones people, so in the lobby we saw Jon Snow  and we saw Tyrion. Oh! And then totally randomly, but two of the guys from How I Met Your Mother were there, but not the one that I love. I forget his name. What is his name? The dancer guy. Anyway. And then Jesse, my husband, has such an enormous crush on Ygritte from Game of Thrones, and we saw her when we were down in the bar getting a drink after Comic Con, and so he got to go take a picture with her, and it was like the wallpaper on his phone. It might still be the wallpaper on his phone. But it was really cute. In the picture he has such a boyish grin.

Julianne: Do you have a muse? Like something you go back to when you’re at a wall? When you have writers’ block, what do you do?

MM: I have a Lunar Chronicles playlist that I will listen to on repeat. But I don’t have an object or anything like that. Well, I have my Harry Potter wand that lives on my desk. I don’t know how inspirational it is. It’s just cool to have it there. But usually when I’m stuck, I have different writing techniques that I use when I’m really stuck. My favorite one is to give myself really really tiny goals, so that if I’m really stuck, I’m like, “I know I can write a sentence.” So then I write a sentence, and if that’s all I accomplish that day, then at least it’s something. But usually getting started is the hardest part, and then that sentence turns into a second sentence and it just starts to snowball. But really really small, stupid goals that I know I’m capable of doing tend to work for me.

Rachel: Do you have a favorite constellation?

MM: I do not have a favorite constellation. The only one I can recognize is the Big Dipper.

JB: We were wondering if the capital of Luna, Artemisia, was named after a constellation.

Rachel: It sounds constellation-y

MM: It does sound constellation-y. I don’t think it is. Artemisia is named after Artemis. But there might be an Artemis constellation. I don’t know. But Artemis was one of the Greek gods of the moon.

Julianne: What’s your ringtone?

MM: The Harry Potter theme song.

Julianne: Do you have any hidden talents? That you feel like sharing, anyway.

MM: (to her husband, Jesse) Do I have any hidden talents?

Jesse: You can stand on your head and chug beer. That’s pretty cool.

MM: No.

Jesse: That’s not you?

MM: No, that was your other girlfriend. But, um… not really.

Julianne: You’re just cool all over?

MM: I just I write. Writing has always been the talent that I focused on. I went through periods where like, I made a quilt. But I don’t still make quilts. And I tried crocheting, but never got the hang of it.

Rachel: I try lots of things and then give up.

MM: Yeah, me too.

Rachel: You’ve talked a lot about mythology. Norse. Would you consider that? Because Greek and Roman is done a lot.

JB: Basically we want you to write mythology.

MM: Let me take some notes! I don’t know much about Norse mythology. I know a little about the Valkyrie. But I don’t know a lot about it. But I definitely would. I would do anything it if came to me.

Julianne: Well, a question for the husband: what’s it like being married to a famous person?

Jesse: You’ll have to ask Marissa that. (All the girls giggle.) You know, it’s pretty neat. On this book tour, it’s kind of changed a little bit. There’s a lot more excitement from her fans. They’re shaking and they’re so happy and excited. It’s a lot of fun. So it’s cool. And I’m able to go with her on book tour and I don’t have to be at home doing hard construction labor stuff, so I enjoy it. I love it.

MM: He’s really nice to have around, too.

All of us: AWWWWWW!!!

MM: (laughing) Mushy! Gross!

Julianne: I have to ask one more. What is one of your favorites or really memorable fan moments?

MM: There’s been a lot. But I think my favorite was at the Texas Librarian Association last year. They did this author speed dating type thing, so all the librarians were at these tables of ten, and then the authors would spend ten minutes at each table and then move around to the next table. So the second table that I go to there are nine librarians and then one of them had brought her eleven year old daughter. So I sit down next to this girl, and she looks at me, and looks at my name tag, and looks at me again, and then just falls over and starts hugging me. And it was so cute! At first I’m like, what’s going on? Why are you hugging me? And then when she pulled away she was in tears. She was so excited. It was really really adorable. And at that point Scarlet had just come out. Or may be there were Cress ARCs? I don’t remember. So after the thing was over I took her over to my publisher’s booth and they had one copy of the book left, so I was able to get her a copy of the book. That was a good moment.

A huge thank you to Marissa (and Jesse, too!) for allowing us to interview! (Even though she possibly only said yes because we bribed her with cupcakes.) If you haven’t read our first interview with her, you can check it out here.

Road Trip: Montgomery County Book Festival

Roadtrip with The Girls in Plaid Skirts is synonymous with one word…


Rae and JB, along with a lovely accomplice, Caroline, rose bright and early, packed up the car (luggage, books, comms & portscreens, plaid skirts, cupcakes, blankets, pillows, snacks, the “Justin Case”, atlas, all check), the only thing missing was me. Like the trooper that I am, I had overslept. (It had been a very crazy week and my sleep schedule had gone haywire.) But soon we were on our way. We didn’t get very far before I realized that, in my haste, I had left my purse in my car. Meaning I had no money and no driver’s license. Cue facepalm. But being that I was among the dearest of friends, I was assured I would not go hungry. (Thanks girls, you’re the best! and I owe yall. Like for real lol…) So we journeyed on.

We continued to journey until, in the middle of reading aloud the special Thorne story in the back of Cress*, when Rachel realized that she forgot to mention that turn we were supposed to make about an hour back… So out came atlas and the phones, because our predicament was two-fold: first was “Where are we?” the next “How do we get there from here?”  Thank heavens for technology!  Soon we were once again on our way.  After a little time, a lot of laughter, lunch, and only one potty break  (I know right??) we arrived safely at the

book festival

Book Festival! And with just enough time to do a little book shopping before Marissa Meyer’s panel!  Naturally we were excited to see her again, but especially excited because after the panel we had an interview!!! On the same panel were notable authors, P.J. Hoover of Solsitce, and Lindsey Cummings of The Murder Complex.   

After the panel we were given a table in the Authors Only room for our interview, where we waited, with cupcakes and questions at the ready.  (I would like to take a moment to note that coming up with questions that aren’t old hat is hard sometimes… more on that and the cupcakes later.) At last she appeared!! And looking quite smashing, no?


We had our slightly giddy cordialities before getting to the actual ‘interview’ part 🙂 Joining her on Cress Tour was her husband, who seems just wonderful. He enjoyed the cupcakes very much.  Because the lovely Mrs. Meyer was the keynote speaker, we wrapped up our interview so she would have some prep time.  She had delightfully fitting topic for her keynote: The Art of the Story, during which she graced us with the telling of three classic version fairy tales!  Notes on the Keynote are soon to follow!  

Marissa’s reaction to the cupcakes came a little later, via twitter:

Holy Peanut Butter Batman!


Although we had but a short time, it was a good time.  And it was followed by really really good food!  Local Mexican place, El Bosque… omgoodnessyall.  Everything was amazing and not expensive, my favorite combination!

Back at the hotel, we challenged ourselves with a little late night riddling via thisisnottom.  (the perplexing process to access a shrouded novella, compliments of John Green).  We made it to level 6.

The next day, after the oh so important breakfast, we headed off to the Johnson Space Center, aka



There we poked around the cockpit of a shuttle (our Cress was rather excited)…


…played inside a booster funnel (miss Scarlet was having a little too much fun)… 20140218-130609.jpg

…touched space (via the transitive property of existance)…20140218-130747.jpg

… got a look through the most awesome moonroof ever…20140218-130757.jpg

…and took a saunter down the spaceship catwalk!catwalk


In short (or long lol)  a grand time was had by all and when the night came, we slept, each in our own beds, with visions of Lunar adventures dancing in our heads.

till next time…


* The Bonus story can be found in the Target editions

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Reasons I love being a Blogger/Reader

I had books before I was born…It was my mother’s requirement for my nursery. This lead to me having a love for reading and learning to get lost in a book at a young age. Now this love of reading has been channeled through this blog. Here are 10 reasons I love reading and blogging:


1) Reading allows me having experiences I could not otherwise have. By reading, I have time traveled, toured the world and universe, solved mysteries, graduated from a spy academy, and learned to sword fight, profile criminals, and how to behave like a lady at tea.

2) Reading helps me safely solve problems. When you read a book, you go through the break-ups, adventures, mishaps, and failures of the main character without paying the consequences. You learn from the characters mistakes. Hopefully.

3) When I’m sitting the classroom, I am able to make text-to-text or content-to-text connections with the previous reading. Reading makes me a better student.

4) A well written book evokes emotions and I enjoy those thrill rides. We learn what real love, pain, and sorrow feels like when we read about these situations.

5) By reading other book blogs and visiting with readers, we are able to connect and form strong friendships because we have gone through similar “struggles” (refer to #2). Blogging allows us to connect to more friends and readers around the world.

6) Blogging and reading reminds me there are two sides to every opinion. The world is bigger than me and my beliefs and culture. I learn to connect and communicate with others through reading and blogging. I learn about other people’s culture and it widens my world.

7) Blogging allows me to discover more books and expand my reading scope. When I read other blogs, I discover other books that I would not have otherwise noted at the store or bookshop. When I blog about a book, I hope to increase a fellow reader’s TBR list.

8) Reading and writing is a cycle. By blogging about reading, I think deeper and harder about my books. When reading a book, knowing I will blog about it, I examine the book and my emotions because I will eventually share these thoughts. Reading makes you a better writer. Writing makes you a better reader.

9.1) It is FUN.


10) It makes me feel productive and useful. Maybe I won’t fade into oblivion.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.


Why Read??

For those of you who didn’t know, I’m currently enrolled in a YA Library Science course. A discussion that came up while in the course is how to motivate relectuant readers to read a specific book.

My professor made a statement along the lines of “A reader just needs a two sentence synopsis of book if you are recommending them a book. A non-reader needs motivation.”

She then pointed us to our Textbook for 7 characteristics of YA lit (AKA motivations to read).

1) They are written from a YA viewpoint.

They allow us to feel things and think about things in a way that young people do. This is why 1st person narratives are so common in YA.

2) The youth solves the problems or becomes the hero of the story and wants independence.

In YA there is often the absence of one or both parents. This forces the student to rise and take charge. While I personally like strong lead characters, I do believe having positive adult roles is extremely important.

3) “Optimistic with Characters Making Worth Accomplishments”

YA characters are surviving the Hunger Games, becoming queens, and leading armies.

4)Hooks, Fast -Paced, Suspense, Cliff-Hangers, and Plot twist

These things is what makes YA fun and exciting to read.

5) “Variety of genres, subjects, and levels of sophistication”

With a variety of young people, there must be a variety of YA novels.

6) Stories and characters from different cultures and ethnic societies.

With a variety of young people…

7) Series books are important.

From Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, to Gallager Girls and Lunar Chronicles, series have entertained us all. We love a good series.

It is my goal to start using these 7 characteristics/motivations when reviewing a book. So if you are wondering if a YA book is “good”…compare it to this list. If you are trying to convince a reluctant reader to read a specific book…use this list. I hope it helps!

Source (My Textbook):

Nilsen, Alleen Pace., James Blasingame, Kenneth L. Donelson, and Don L. F. Nilsen.Literature for Today’s Young Adults. 9th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2013. Print.