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the year of more / the year of content

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I hate writing out these end/beginning of the year posts. For me they are always filled with feigned optimism and empty promises, but I always feel like I need to write something about how I felt about the year and my hopes for the shiny, sparkling new year. But this time I am going to be real.

I had high hopes for 2015. I was excited for the clean slate, to start over fresh from the difficulties of 2014. I was going to read more, write more, blog more, be more. I was going to give up procrastinating, and spend less time on Facebook and Instagram, the poisons that feed my procrastination and I was going to do more school and get better grades. I was going to pop my little comfort bubble and talk to new people and make more friends. I was going to be different.

It started out promising, I was able to somehow balance beautifully on top of all of my blogging, reading, and schoolwork like a tightrope walker. But, inevitably, I began to loose my footing, and fell to the safety net below, staring up, wondering where I went wrong. 2015 was suppose to be my year, how could I slip so easily?

I've noticed a pattern in New Years resolutions. People always want to use the promise of a new year to change something about themselves. They will spend more time with their families... they will loose weight... they will better themselves. And I understand. There is something so refreshing about starting over, the fact that we have a second chance to change and do what we didn't or couldn't do before, and there is something honorable about wanting to change for the good of yourself and the people around you.

But I've been doing a lot of thinking about myself in these past couple of weeks. And for this new year, big, beautiful 2016, my goal is simply contentment. I'm tired of forcing myself to be more than what I am. I don't want to be continually comparing myself to other people and their accomplishments, but instead soak up the life and things I have and be happy with it all, and to be confident enough in who I am to show it to other people, in all of its broken messiness.

I want to be filled and overflowing with content for where God has me right now and trust in His power, and not in my ability to do more, because, seriously, nobody can be more than Him.

Happy New Year!

TAG : the (non-official) best book awards

I was tagged by Abbie and Danielle. Thank you!

I fail at tags. Whenever I'm tagged for something I always get super excited. I even write out drafts for some of them. But, inevitably, I always abandon them, and they get lost in the depths of cyber space never to be posted. When I saw this tag, however, I was determined to do it!

At the end of the year, Goodreads always puts out their "Best Books of the Year" awards, voted on by all of the readers that are on Goodreads. I'm always extremely disappointed with the winners, since they are always the overhyped books that I personally did not care much for. But when I was tagged for this, I felt like it would be a great opportunity for me to share some of the books that I think deserve some more love. 
BEST MALE CHARACTER
Robin Hood from Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

This was one of the harder questions on this list to answer, but in the end I just had to pick Robin Hood. He is my biggest literary/fictional crush of all time. But I won't gush about him too much right now. Maybe in another post. ;) One of my favorite variations of Robin (besides the fox character in the Disney movie) is the one from A.C. Gaughen's Scarlet series which is one of the best Robin Hood retellings I have ever read. The books are so well done, and the way Rob is portrayed makes him seem so real and makes me love him even more. These books seriously needs to get more attention than they do.

BEST FEMALE CHARACTER
Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

A lot of female characters I've been reading lately all seem exactly the same, and while they are (for the most part) very strong women and have amazing stories, there was no doubt in my mind I had to go with Anne. I know I'm being boring picking classical characters that everyone knows about, but Anne is my personal literary role model and I love her so much.

BEST PROTAGONIST (good guy/main character)
The Fellowship of the Ring from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Nothing beats The Lord of the Rings. Nothing! And, of course, I was going to pick one of the characters for this one, but I couldn't just choose only one! They are all very different characters, from Aragorn, a ranger and future king, to Sam, a little Hobbit gardener, to Gimli, a gruff Dwarf. Yet, they are able to work together (except for that one scene with Boromir) to defeat Sauron.

BEST ANTAGONIST (bad guy/opposing party to main character)
Naughty John from The Diviners by Libba Bray
General Woundwort from Watership Down by Richard Adams

I'm cheating a bit on this one (and I'm sure I'm going to cheat on a few more...) but a good antagonist is a special thing, and when a book has a legitimately scary bad guy I have to share.

Naughty John gave me nightmares. He's your typical demon/ghost sort of figure, but, oh, he was terrifying. With his little jingle he would sing before killing someone, and his creepy labyrinthian house of torture and death... *shivers*

Then there's General Woundwort who is a rabbit, but not the fluffy happy kind. He's a very large, very scary bunny and one of the first bad guys I would actually fear while reading.

BEST PLOT DEVELOPMENT
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

I read through this monster cover-to-cover last year and it was one of the best reading experiences. Victor Hugo is my fave. (I also highly recommend The Hunchback of Notre Dame) It is an extremely long book. My copy has about 1200 pages in it, but there is such a rich, full plot packed within those pages that I can't imagine it being any shorter.

BEST PLOT TWIST
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson 

This is a hard one. I'm very good at predicting plot twists, almost nothing can get by me. But this book surprised me quite a lot. When I started it I was convinced that it was nothing more than an innocent children's fantasy book. It was enjoyable, but nothing special... until the end. I read this book about two years ago, but it is still hands down the best plot twist I have ever read! I won't go into details, but seriously, Jennifer A. Nielson is a master of twisty plots.

BEST ROMANCE
Cress and Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Cathy Linton and Hareton from Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

(I don't know for sure whether this question is asking for my favorite romance novel, or favorite couple from a book... but since I don't read romance novels, I guess I'll just go with favorite couple) 

I wanted Cress and Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles to be together before they even met. They complement each other so well, and have a very Flynn Rider/Rapunzel feel to their relationship. Which I'm totally cool with, since Rapunzel and Flynn Rider are one of my all time favorite Disney couples, and Cress is a retelling of Rapunzel... so it works. I love them to pieces.

I just had to add Cathy and Hareton to this list. Wuthering Heights, while one of my favorite books of all time, is a very dark and gloomy story. But, despite it all, Cathy and Hareton are the ray of sunshine that give this book a little bit of hope. Plus they're so darn cute! (I just ignore the fact that they are cousins...)

BEST ACTION
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I don't get into action in books very much. In movies I'm okay, but I can't picture the crazy action scenes when I'm reading. But Ready Player One, which is a book based in a future/dystopian sort of setting and is about video games, really pulled me into the action. Even though it's not my favorite book of all time, it was still super fun to read and I enjoyed every minute of it.

BEST SAD BOOK
The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport


I have cried waterfalls of tears over many books, but the thing that made The Romanov Sisters especially sad to me was the fact that this is a true story. I have a slight obsession with learning about the Romanov family and their assassination, and reading this book gave me a lot more insight to the real, mundane lives of the sisters and made the story I had heard so many times before feel so much more real. you can read more of my thoughts on it in my review.

BEST FUNNY BOOK
So Not Happening by Jenny B. Jones
Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

It takes a lot to get me to laugh while I read a book. I'm so focused on reading, that even if I find something funny I will only mentally chuckle and move on. So Not Happening was the first book that literally made me laugh out loud as I was reading. Jenny B. Jones' writing is phenomenal and watching Bella's character develop when she's placed in very non-glamourous situations is simply hilarious. Which reminds me, I totally need to pick up the sequel to this soon...

I chose Nicholas Nickleby for this list because it is the funniest Dickens book I have read so far, but really anything by Dickens could fit here. Even though he deals with some very dark subjects in his novels, it's amazing how Dickens is able to weave in humor to make it more lighthearted.

BEST INSPIRING BOOK
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This is going to be another obvious classic, but honestly, this was the only thing I could think of to put here. But, I don't care. This is an awesome book. Plus Harper Lee was able to make a court room scene intriguing and exciting. That takes talent. So yeah.

BEST OTHER BOOK
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

I'm not quite sure what exactly they mean by "Other" book, so I'm just going to assume it means favorite book overall. Whenever someone asks me what my favorite book of all time is, I always have three answers ready: The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Book Thief, and Wuthering Heights. But I'm going with Wuthering Heights for this one.

It's the type of book that people either adore or hate with a passion, and obviously I'm in the first category. While it is a very hopeless story, the way Emily Brontë puts it together is beautiful. And I love the story within a story that gives the book layers and helps you see all sides of it. It's true that most of the characters aren't very likable, but in my opinion, they seem far more realistic than a lot of characters I have read.

BOOK YOU THREW ACROSS THE ROOM THE HARDEST (in a good way or a bad way)
Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

I was going to use The Book Thief for this one, but I feel like I've talked about how much that book abused my heart quite enough. So, instead, I decided I would pick a couple other WWII books... (why were the World Wars so heartbreaking?) Anything Elizabeth Wein writes is absolutely gorgeous, and definitely throw-across-the-room worthy, because they will have you in mental agony over everything. In a good way of course. If any of you haven't had a chance to pick up Code Name Verity, go do it now, and make sure to read Rose Under Fire directly after.

BOOK THAT MADE YOU LEARN SOMETHING NEW

I'm going to be a bad girl and not put anything for this one. Yes, because I can't think of anything, and also because I feel like I gain something from every book I read whether it's good or bad. (you could say I'm lazy, but hey I think it works)

BOOK THAT MADE YOU CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I talked about this book in detail not too long ago, so if you want to read all my thoughts on it, you can check that out. It's very rare that a book is able to latch onto someone's heart and mind as this one has to me.
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I tag Maria at The Idea Catcher, Elizabeth at Incidents of a Literary Nature, and anyone else who might be interested. Consider yourself tagged!

cover reveal | Resist by Emily Ann Putzke

I have been following Emily Ann Putzke's writing journey ever since her first book, It Took a War, came out last year. She is extremely talented and I am always inspired by her passion for history and how it comes out in her writing so well. I had the opportunity to review Ain't We Got Fun, the book that she co-authored with Emily Chapman, and was blown away.

I had never heard of Hans and Sophie Scholl before Emily started writing Resist. I love history and finding weird, obscure events to research and learn about, but this was one thing I had never heard about. As Emily shared more of the beautiful, tragic story on her blog as she was writing, I became more and more excited for the release of this book. 

Munich, Germany 1942—Hans Scholl never intended to get his younger sister involved in an underground resistance. When Sophie Scholl finds out, she insists on joining Hans and his close friends in writing and distributing anti-Nazi leaflets entitled, The White Rose. The young university students call out to the German people, begging them to not allow their consciences to become dormant, but to resist their tyrannical leader and corrupt government. Hans knows the consequences for their actions—execution for committing high treason—but firm in his convictions, he’s prepared to lose his life for a righteous cause. Based on a true story, Hans, Sophie and all the members of The White Rose resistance group will forever inspire and challenge us to do what is right in the midst of overwhelming evil.
Resist will be available in e-book and paperback format on February 22, 2016, but while you're waiting, be sure to add it to your shelves on Goodreads and pre order. I'm sure you won't regret it ;)
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Emily Ann Putzke is a young novelist, historical reenactor, and history lover. You can learn more about Emily and her books at www.authoremilyannputzke.com and www.facebook.com/authoremilyannputzke

The Bell Jar again

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When my Psychology professor announced on the first day of class that we could write a book/movie analysis for one of our projects, I knew I was going to do mine on Esther Greenwood from The Bell Jar. She is one of the most intriguing and complex characters I have ever read, and her struggles seemed to fit many Psychology concepts that I could bring out in my paper.

It seemed like a piece of cake.
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I read The Bell Jar for the first time exactly a year ago. I don't remember how I discovered it, or what drew me to it, I just remember it being one of the most interesting reading experiences.

I wrote a review for it on here immediately after I finished it, back when I was still only beginning to process what the book was really about and what effect it had actually had on me.

As I was reading through it a second time for my project, I thought about my previous review and cringed. There was so much more that needed to be said, especially now that I have gone through it again and have taken the time to analyze the story a bit more.
“because wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.” ― Sylvia PlathThe Bell Jar
The title of the book, The Bell Jar, comes from the way Esther describes what it is like to struggle with Depression. She says it is like being trapped inside a bell jar. When you take into account the fact that Sylvia Plath drew a lot from her own life experiences in the crafting of the story, it makes the suffocating feeling of being in the bell jar seem even more real. 

Sylvia Plath is well known for her hard life and her untimely death by suicide, and is also famous for her very unsettling, haunting, yet captivating, style of writing. She uses Esther as a sort of personification of her own struggles, thoughts, and emotions, illustrating the way she sees the world through the voice of a character. It is difficult to imagine what dark things must have been going through Sylvia’s own mind while she was writing this book.

At the beginning, Esther is depicted as a pretty, young, successful college girl who, from the surface, seems to be living a close to perfect life. She is given a chance to stay in New York on a scholarship, complete with an internship and extravagant luncheons and parties to attend, and a nice, upstanding, young man waiting to marry her whenever she is ready. But, despite all of that, it is during this trip to New York that she begins to show early signs of Depression. She begins to feel like her life is completely worthless and insignificant, and she becomes even more discouraged by the fact that she is still unsure about what exactly she wants to do with her life.
“I just bumped from my hotel to work and to parties and from parties to my hotel and back to work like a numb trolleybus.” –Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar 
It isn’t until about half way through the book, when she returns back to her home in Massachusetts, with all her experiences from New York hanging over her head, that she completely spirals out of control. She begins to show all of the severe symptoms of Depression.
Her feelings of worthlessness worsen when she learns that she was rejected by a writing program that she had applied for. She is forced to live with her mother, whom she has a shaky relationship with, and falls deeper and deeper into her dark Depression. She stops taking care of herself, refusing to wash her hair or clothes:
 “The reason I hadn’t washed my clothes or my hair was because it seemed so silly.” –Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
She is unable to sleep for weeks on end, and begins an unsettling romance with the thought of death: 
“The thought that I might kill myself formed in my mind coolly as a tree or a flower.”– Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar  
She is constantly contemplating ways in which she can kill herself throughout her narrative of the book. She also loses all her ability and interest in doing the things she used to love, like her reading and writing, and doesn’t even feel like leaving her house. 
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Reading this book is never an easy experience, nevertheless, it is written in such a beautiful, yet eerie way. It is the type of book that lingers in your mind long after you have finished the last page, and, most importantly, it is a book that makes you think.

I have seen so many people toss the word Depression around so lightly. You see emotional teenage girls on social media talking about how "depressed" they are after a breakup or when someone unfollows them on Twitter, and it disturbs me. True Depression is a very complex, tricky thing that many people don't really understand these days. 

I am a person who has never experienced major Depression, and I have absolutely no idea what I would do if I were put in Esther's situation, but Sylvia Plath is able to describe in such disturbing detail, and I believe that anyone who would pick up this book would be able to relate to and understand Esther in some way. This short book delivers a strong and powerful testament to what really goes through the mind of someone who is struggling with Depression.
The part of me that belongs in Paris is weeping tonight.

My parents looked at me as we were watching the news.
They've always been leery of my desires to live in France.
"I'm glad you're not there."
But the thing is, as I watched the horrible news footage of the police men running through the streets, and the numbers of casualties going up, I wanted to be there more than ever. My passion for the French people is burning.

I can't explain through words or thoughts exactly what I'm feeling right now, but I couldn't remain silent on this.

When they bombed and shot at Paris, they shot at my heart.

#prayforparis

Watership Down + the books worth rereading

| goodreads |
“All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed.” ― Richard AdamsWatership Down
I was in the midst of summer, and my life was a total mess. I hadn't read a thing in weeks. (except the stuff I had to read to finish up the insane amount of homework I still had to do) Nothing appealed to me. Every time I would start to read something, the words would blur together, and my mind would wander away, completely uninterested in any story. 

I felt like burying my face into my pillow and screaming. 

All I wanted was to forget everything, to wrap myself up in a dozen fuzzy blankets, and read something good, something familiar and comfortable, something that I already knew I love. I just wanted to escape.

I stared at my bookshelf, overflowing with thick books I have yet to read, and somehow my gaze wandered to my old copy of Watership Down
I pulled it out, flipped through the yellowing pages. The corners of the paperback cover were all bent up, and, sprawled across the title page in fading pencil, was my 11-year-old self's signature. 

I knew that this was it. This was exactly what I needed.

My dad first read Watership Down to me when I was little more than five years old. Those are some of my favorite memories, curled up next to Dad on the couch, listening to the story of the rabbits' journey. It became one of my absolute favorite stories. I'm one of the weirdos who actually likes the movie.

From the very first line, Richard Adams' poetic descriptions of the downs pull me in. His words have a way of holding you still. They don't let go until it's over, and even after, they linger in your mind.
Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, and all the other rabbits are some of the best characters I have ever read. They are believable, and I am able to relate to them, even though they are rabbits.
This was my third time through the book, but I didn't get bored. I felt like I was rediscovering something I had lost. And I enjoyed every little morsel of it.

That's why I love rereading. 
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Reading a new book feels like a fresh start. Like when you meet someone for the first time and you decide whether you like them or not. But revisiting an old book is like sitting down to have a cup of tea with your best friend. Even though you haven't seen each other in a while, you are able to start right where you left off. 

My Lord of the Rings collection has seen more rereads than I can count, and I have flipped through my old childhood favorites, Ella Enchanted, Anne of Green Gables, and, or course, Watership Down, many times. 

There is something so comforting and magical about it that I can't describe. 

But it also encourages me to read more new books by authors I've never heard of. To go out and add to my favorites shelf, like The Book Thief, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, or Code Name Verity, all books I fell in love with and definitely plan to pick up again one day. 

That's the beautiful cycle of it.
what are the books you love to revisit?

"what's in a name?"

I keep a list of my favorite names on my phone. Whenever I meet someone with an unusual name, or think of one myself, I quickly write it down so that I won't forget it. I have grown quite the collection over the years.

My sisters always tell me that they feel sorry for my future children, because, let's face it, they are going to get stuck with some pretty peculiar names. I don't care, though. I have an obsession with insanely long, unique sounding names. I can't help it.

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I think it's because of my own name. Hannah. The name has always felt so overused to me. I have been in classes where there have been (and I'm not even exaggerating) 20 Hannahs. I don't even have to tell you how confusing that can get.
I've always related to Anne Shirley in that way. Call me Cordelia. Please. Anything but plain, old, tired Hannah.
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Lately I've been struggling with trust.
I hold on too tightly to people and material objects.
I can't let go and let God.
I'm terrified at what might happen if I let go. I always feel like if I do, the thing that I'm holding on to will stretch out its wings, and flutter away. I'm scared of losing, of being abandoned and forgotten by the people I love.

I pray every night for God to help me with this. I believe; help my unbelief [Mark 9:24]. But it's been hard.

I flipped through my little Bible to 1 Samuel awhile ago and read the story of Hannah, my namesake.
I've read it many times before, and know it well, but this time it spoke to me.

Hannah wanted a son more than anything. She wept and wouldn't eat, and her heart was sad [1 Samuel 1:8]. She prayed every day, even though it seemed hopeless.
But then she decided to give it all to God.
And she vowed a vow and said, "O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but give your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head." [1 Samuel 1:11]
I don't know what made her do it. I can't imagine it was easy, it never is easy to let go. But instead of continuing to go on being depressed, she went away and her face was no longer sad [1 Samuel 1:18].
That was the part of the story that stuck out to me. She was no longer sad. She didn't know what would happen. She didn't have any guarantee that she would ever have a son. But she wasn't worried. It was in God's hands.

Reading this comforted me more than I can express.

I think this is one of the reasons I have this name. Every time someone acknowledges me, I am reminded of the story, and how to trust. It's still difficult. I'm not perfect. Hannah wasn't perfect. But I'm learning to put my faith in the One who is.
what I've been meditating on

Stitching Laughter

“We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures.  Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things!  Make you late for dinner!  I can't think what anybody sees in them.”  —Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

I’m something like a hobbit.  More specifically, I’m something like Bilbo Baggins before he goes on his adventure.  No, I’m not three foot six or lower, I don’t have hairy feet, and I don’t eat six meals a day.  But I think I’m similar to Bilbo in that I like my quiet convenient life.  I like my bedroom and my books and my cups of tea.  I like my warm showers and clean clothes.  And I most certainly don’t like my normal life being upset.  I don’t like going without meals or warm beds.  I don’t like inconvenience.  I get grumpy when I have to try something new against my will.  I get anxious if my daily routines are disrupted.  I get stressed when life doesn't go according to plan.  I freak out and think about how I should’ve done this or that differently.  Then everything would be all right and comfortable and normal.

So far, this thinking hasn’t helped me.

And inconveniences just keep happening.  Sometimes I get a respite from them, but they always come back.  They’re usually not huge, disastrous things, but they’re just enough to tip my day off its kilter and suddenly I’m upside down in the water trying to breathe.  And I wonder, “What am I supposed to do?  How am I supposed to function?”

Eventually something happens.  I do something or fix something or I go get help or someone helps me or I cry and eat chocolate or all of the above.  Then life settles back down and I can look back at the problem instead of being swept up in the middle of it.  Something equally strange happens when I do that though: The problem changes.  It is no longer so overwhelming.  It becomes small, inconsequential.  And it can even become funny.  I’ll tell friends about it and make it a funny story and we’ll laugh and I’ll be like, “Yep, that’s my life.”  It’s no big deal suddenly.

But that doesn’t take away the stress I had in the moment.  Laughing at it later doesn’t negate the anxiety I faced while it was happening.

And I wonder.  What if in the moment of the inconvenience, I was able to remove the stress and replace it with the laughter?  What if I could cut out the anxiety and stitch the humor into its place?  What could that change?  For one, it would make my funny stories afterward more honest because yes, I really would have laughed at the circumstances, not been over my ears in stress.  I think it might make me happier, more relaxed, more carefree.  I might be able to ride the ups and downs a little more smoothly.  I might have more room to breathe and more room to open my eyes and notice the world around me.

That doesn’t sound like a bad trade off.

But how do I do that?  How do I fit the laughter into the stress-shaped hole?  How do I make the lines and edges and curves and sharp angles fit?

Well, think about The Hobbit.  What happened to Bilbo?  He journeyed with the dwarves through all the difficulties and inconveniences, and over time an adventurous spirit awoke in him.  He started facing his problems and not running away from them.  He started getting himself and his companions out of tight places.  And he started enjoying it.  He started to like being clever and wily.  He ended up liking succeeding through difficulty and overcoming obstacles.  And when he went home, he was a different hobbit.  He saw life and its ups and downs differently.  He actually couldn’t get the thirst for adventure entirely out of his bones.

But what about the inconveniences?  What about the damp and the dark and the cold?  What about the travel sores and the low food rations and the achy feet?  That all still happened, but Bilbo ended up being okay with it because in his eyes all those inconveniences morphed into something else: an adventure.

I’m never going to go gallivanting off with thirteen dwarves and a wizard to steal loot from a fire-bellied beast, but the inconveniences in my everyday life still exist and still cause me stress.  But maybe if I looked at them differently they would change.  Maybe the laughter and the humor would come sooner rather than later.  Maybe if I chose to see the inconveniences as adventures, the laughter would fit right into the stress-shaped holes.  The problem at hand would shrink and no longer threaten to drown me in anxiety. 

An inconvenience for an adventure.


That doesn’t sound like such a bad trade off.

Greetings to all of Hannah's lovely blog followers!  I'm Danielle, a seventeen-year-old girl with an ink stained heart.  I should probably mention that although I do like Tolkien's work and although this post was Hobbit themed, I am not by any means a Lord of the Rings or Hobbit fanatic who knows every fact about Middle Earth.  I do appreciate a good story though, and reading and writing are, in my opinion, two of the most wonderful things I have yet encountered.  I regularly find it easier to read or write than talk, and I will never stop being grateful for the written word.  Photography is also one of the things that make my life better, and I view the world through a camera lens.  Oftentimes that world is overwhelming and I'm learning how to live in and with it.  I blog over at Digression with the Dark.


short story | Bright Young Things

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 “Now I am old-fashioned. A woman, I consider, should be womanly. I have no patience with the modern neurotic girl who jazzes from morning to night, smokes like a chimney, and uses language which would make a billingsgate fishwoman blush!” ― Agatha Christie

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It seems almost too quiet back here in my little hotel room. The events of this evening are still playing over and over like a picture show in my head. I can still hear the laughter. I can still see the long chandeliers dangling overhead, the dark-haired men who could magically turn air into jazz with their saxophones, and the dancing women who dressed in diamonds. I can still taste the sparkling drinks as they tickled my tongue, and smell the cigarette smoke that clouded the whole room. I wish I could have a photograph of this night, something I could hold on to and keep with me always so that I would not forget my first New York party.

At home they would host parties, but none like tonight. There the whole small town would gather in the neighbor's barn, wearing their Sunday best. A young boy would play his fiddle, and everyone would square dance, shuck corn, and eat large helpings of food until dawn. I suppose I am still learning how New York is much different than home.

I stare blankly at myself in the mirror. I am not the same as I was before. My face is covered in thick cosmetics, and my old, soft, cotton dresses hang untouched in the wardrobe, traded for new, fashionable clothes. I look older now, somehow. The only thing that remains of the old farm girl I used to be is my long, brown hair that has escaped from the jeweled clips I had pinned it up with earlier, falling in thick curls around my shoulders.

I tried to cut my hair once when I first arrived in the city. I went to the beauty parlor and sat in the chair, determined to get a short bob like the girls I had seen in magazines. But as soon as scissors came up next to my cheek, threatening to chop off the one last piece of home I had, I just couldn't do it. I kept thinking of mother, how I knew she would throw a fit if she found out I had cut my hair.

Mother had warned me before I left to be careful. She read aloud dozens of articles from newspapers on the day of my departure about the dangers of New York, articles that were meant to scare me into leading a sensible life at home. "The city is a jungle," She explained. "These 'Bright Young Things' they talk about are no different than lions if you ask me, and they will eat you up if you enter their cave. It is not safe for you!" But I went anyway.

Sometimes, when I'm not able to sleep, I stare up at the ceiling of the hotel room and find myself crying, thinking of my old life and how quiet and simple and familiar it was. But then I wake up and remember why I came here, my new job and my writing, and all is right again. I know this is where I'm suppose to be. Although, I do miss the farm with my swing still hanging up in the branches of the old tree, the lake where my friends and I would swim during the summer, the big, beautiful walls of golden corn surrounding me at harvest time, and even Mother's pesky chickens.

I know that mother will say I have turned into one of those "Bright Young Things" if she found out about the party tonight. She would think I have fed myself to the lions without even putting up a fight. And it is true, the city, and all of its parties and glamour, has taken a piece of my heart, but I know, deep down, the country will always be my home. 

5 Reasons You Should Learn a Second Language

 
   Hello everyone, Elizabeth here, and I'm incredibly excited and honored to be doing a guest post on Hannah's lovely blog!
   Almost two years ago I started taking French at my local community college.  I thought it would be cool to be able to communicate in a different language, and I was right.  But it's been so much more.  It's surprisingly helped me in other areas of life.  True, I'm still a beginner, but even my limited knowledge of French has been very useful to me; so here are 5 reasons why you should learn a second language too.

1.  It's proven to make you smarter.
It sounds crazy, right? But it's true.  According to an article in the The New York Times, speaking two languages helps you develop cognitively, and not only linguistically.  People who speak two languages tend to have an easier times solving puzzles and problems.  They tend to do better on tests! So yeah, speaking two languages actually makes you smarter. Besides that, it's supposed to slow down cognitive aging.



2.  People will like you better if you speak their language.
I work at my family's bakery, and occasionally someone will come in who speaks only Spanish. Let me tell you, it's probably one of the most stressful things ever. What if you get their order wrong? What if they misunderstand you? How are you going to get them to understand the difference between a latte and a cappuccino when you don't speak a word of Spanish and they don't speak a word of English?  Now, take this situation and switch it around.  You're the person ordering something at a French or Italian cafe, the waiter is really flustered, and so are you.  It's getting really awkward.  But what if you could speak a basic amount of their language? Tada, they instantly like you.  The waiter is able to explain things better, and even takes the effort to strike up a conversation with you so you can practice your language skills. Really, even if you don't speak much of a language or very well, people who do speak that language will appreciate your effort and be as helpful as possible.


3.  It helps you understand your own language better.
The more I learn of a different language, the more I understand my own.  Every language is different, so when you learn a new one, you automatically want to know how it translates into your own language.  You often have to learn entirely new grammatical structures, which makes you compare it with the grammatical structure of your own language.  I never really gave a thought to why English is the way it is before I started learning French.  Why do we say 'The blue shoes are in the corner' instead of 'The shoes blue are in the corner' like they say in French?  How come we say 'hair' when speaking of multiple hairs instead of just 'hairs'?  I've always thought that I spoke pretty well, but I've started to recognize more grammatical errors in my speech that I'd never recognized as errors before.

I'll admit, I haven't read this
in English, much less French!
4.  You can read books in their original languages.
True it takes time and practice, but it's kind of awesome.  I can't say I have a lot of experience with this, but I've learned enough French to read the TinTin books with the help of my French/English dictionary and Google translate.  There are quite a few things in the originals that are different from the English comics.  The punchlines are different, but still hilarious, and even some of the names are different for humor's sake.  It makes me want to read every book in its original language.

5. And last but not least...
Your family and friends probably won't understand a word you're saying.  There are some cons to this, like, you can never have a conversation with them in that language, but there are pros to it as well.  You can say literally ANYTHING you want and everyone thinks you're saying something really smart or poetic.  Believe me, this can be really funny...

Are you learning a second language? What do you love about it?

xoxo,
    Elizabeth

taste and see || slowing down



Lately I've been thinking about now. Or rather, how we sometimes miss now.

The present is so real; so big, so expansive, so here. Why is it then, that we are so often somewhere else? How can we miss something so close to us?

I've started noticing this more and more in myself lately. I'll be on my morning run, but I'll be thinking about the paperwork I have to finish when I get back. Or I'll be out on a shopping trip with my mom and sister, or having a conversation with a friend, but thinking about my task list and the things I have to accomplish before the day is out.

The truth is, we are busier now than we ever have been. Our generation has more to occupy our thoughts than any other generation has. We are bombarded with things that demand our thought-space; work, school, projects, advertisements, trends, social media (especially social media), and so many other things that keep us trapped inside this cage of "get to the next thing", "finish this, start that", "be better", "I need something else", "I need to be somewhere else". We experience these pressures on a daily basis. And oftentimes it robs us of the joy of being right here...right now.

Right now I'm sitting at my dining room table, eating a super yummy breakfast of fruit with (homemade) almond butter. I'm writing this guest post for Hannah's beautiful and inspiring blog. I can hear birds outside. I can see patches of blue sky through the window to my left. I can hear the rustling of papers in the other room while my sister works at her desk. 

...Such a seemingly simply moment is so jam-packed FULL of flavor. And sounds. And color. And character. Each moment holds so much that we so often miss. I know I miss it. But the thing is, I don't want to miss it.

I want to be the kind of person who lives fully, and presently within every single moment of every single day. Each moment is a masterpiece that longs to be bit into and enjoyed.



Biting into things, in fact, leads me to something my online yoga teacher calls "the apple meditation", and it's easy. And you can do it with anything. (and we all love easy, flexible things that you can do whenever. So here goes.)

When eating an apple, hold it in your hand. How does it feel? What does it look like? What color is it? Take a bite. What does it taste like? Is it sweet, or tart? Crisp and crunchy? Chew slowly. How does each bite feel in your mouth? How does each bite taste?

This meditation could easily become "the pizza mediation" (<which sounds like an incredibly sacred experience, if I do say so myself.) or "the running mediation" or the "going for a drive" or "going for a walk" meditation. The point is to sloooow down and TASTE. 

When I was little, my mother used to teach me this by taking my sister and I on "listening walks": nature walks that we would take together in silence, often pausing to close our eyes and open up our senses to the explosion of sound that erupts around a person when they are still and quiet; the songs of birds, the wind sighing through the trees, the distant cries of hawks.



I think the Psalmist puts it brilliantly: taste and see that the Lord is good. (P. 34:8)

Taste. Savor.

Slow down and enjoy. Each moment is yours to grab hold of, hang on to, and LIVE to the fullest. Live it to the fullest by opening your eyes, and your ears, and your heart to all the little things that make life so absolutely gorgeous.

____

hey guys! Kate here. I blog over at The Goodness Revolt, and I'm honored for this opportunity to guest post here today on Hannah's awesome blog. She is an amazing gal, and I enjoy her thoughtful and wonderfully written posts so much. Thanks for taking the time to read, and thank you for having me here, Hannah!


x o

k a t e 

Book Review | Ain't We Got Fun

| goodreads |
It was never much of an issue for Bess: living contentedly on her family's farm, despite the Depression which loomed around them. But when her older sister Georgiana takes off to New York City to make a fortune and help Papa out, feelings of adventure and wanderlust strike Bess at home. Through their lively letter correspondence, the sisters recount to one another their adventures, surprises, and heartaches, leaving little room for depression. For in a world of such wonder, ain't we got fun?

When Ain't We Got Fun first premiered in January on the blogs of Emily Chapman and Emily Ann Putzke, I was super excited! 
I have enjoyed reading the short stories and snippets they have posted, and the thought of a full book written by the both of them seemed like pure perfection. 

The story of Gi and Bess sounded exactly like my type of book. Historical Fiction is one my favorite genres, and I love the idea of stories told through letters.

I followed the story faithfully for the first couple days, but as I got busier, I shamefully couldn't keep up. So I determined that, once I had time, I would find the letters in the blog archives and read them all from beginning to end. 
But then, to my absolute joy, they published it all in an actual, physical book form!
***
This was one of the sweetest stories I have ever read. It made my heart very happy, and I was able to finish it after only a few short days of reading.
It was so easy to slip into the story, but much harder to get out.  

What I liked most about this book was that, because of the letter format, I was able to see the contrast of what life was like in the big city of New York as well as in the small farm community of Kansas during the Great Depression.
"This depression our country has fallen in is just that: depressing. Isn’t it interesting how the government appropriately names economic disasters?" Ain't We Got Fun
Another thing I appreciated was how very different Gi and Bess were. Both of them were great characters, and each of the sisters had a distinct voice. Their letters never sounded the same.

I felt like I could relate to Bess the most since she was a lot like me. But Gi was so adventurous and fun! I wanted to be her best friend.
And even though it was told in letters, I felt like I could connect with all of the other characters as well. Donny, Tom, and Will were all great!

I'm going to be honest, the ending totally snuck up on me. 
When I finished the last letter, I flipped on to the next page without even thinking, expecting there to be another letter, but instead I found the acknowledgments. 
I sat in shock for a little while.
It's over...? 

I wanted to know what happened next. I had grown so attached to Gi and Bess and I wanted to be able to read through their whole lives!
***
Overall, I think this was a very nice, short, summer-y read that I think every Historical Fiction fan would absolutely love!
I can't wait to see what Emily Ann Putzke and Emily Chapman write in the future.
"Every morning, every evening
Ain't we got fun?
Not much money, oh, but honey,
Ain't we got fun?
The rent's unpaid, dear,
And we haven't a bus.
But smiles were made, dear,
For people like us!" Ray Egan and Gus Kahn. 

finding the road less traveled

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference." -Robert Frost 
As I'm slowly making my way out of highschool, the subject of my future has been brought up more and more. People have started asking me seriously about what I plan to do once I graduate.

Awhile ago I was talking to a friend, and the inevitable question came up. "So, what's your plan after school?"

I have always thought that everyone on the planet has a certain purpose.
Not one person is the same, and I believe that God gives everyone different gifts and talents to aid them in fulfilling their own unique purpose.

That's why I have never liked answering the questions pressed on my by my friends and relatives, even though they mean well. I don't know what my purpose is. 

I was about to answer with my usual "I don't know yet," but it didn't come. Instead, this time, I heard myself say: "French. I want to study French."

I didn't know why I said it, it just sort of came spilling out of me... and for some reason, deep down, I knew it was right.

I have been in love with languages for a long time, and decided to learn French for school. My family came to Canada from France hundreds of years ago before making it down to the States, so learning French was more of a fun way for me to learn about my ancestry. Never had I considered it as a possible career or future to pursue.

I thought about it long and hard, and as I've dug further the dots started to connect, and the fog began to clear away.

I am on this path, like the one in the well known poem by Robert Frost, getting closer and closer to where the road will fork into millions of possible futures.
I'm very confused about a lot of things and I'm still trying to make many decisions as I'm preparing for this next stage in life. I know it probably won't be as smooth a path as I hope, but I can feel God's hand directing me, and I have no doubt this is where I'm suppose to go.

That's the best part: I have not one doubt.

The Romanov Sisters + why I adore history





When I was younger, I loved the movie Anastastia. It had such a different, darker story than any other cartoon I'd ever seen. I was fascinated by Anastasia and Dimitri's journey, Rasputin, the villain, was actually quite terrifying unlike other villains I had encountered, and the music was just as good as any Disney soundtrack.

But a couple years ago I randomly discovered that the movie was actually based on a true story!
I felt both completely ignorant that I had never heard of it before, and beyond excited to look further into the story. And, not to mention kind of terrified that Rasputin actually existed. 
I spent a good week reading any article I could find on the Romanovs. I immersed myself in the entire terrible, heartbreaking story of the last Tsar and his family.


I have been perfectly obsessed with the Romanovs and Russian history for quite a long time now. So, of course, when I saw The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport come up in my Goodreads feed, I knew I had to snatch it up immediately!
This book did not disappoint one bit, and is, in fact, the most interesting, beautiful nonfiction book I have ever read. It is thick and gorgeous and stuffed with black and white pictures and an incredible story inside. 

Reading this book made the family seem more real to me.
It's hard sometimes, when you are so familiar with a historical event. It make it almost turn into a sort of fairy tale or legend in my mind. It's difficult to imagine that it really happened.
This book was able to take these facts that I've known so well and display them in a realistic way. Instead of the regal royal family the Romanovs were known as when they were alive, or the tragic historical figures they illustrated as today, Helen Rappaport portrayed them how they really were.

In the movie granted, the movie is not the most historically accurate thing ever, and in many articles I've read over the years, the focus is mainly on Anastasia. I understand why, but know one ever gets to hear about the other siblings Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Alexei, or their parents, Nicholas and Alexandra.

In The Romanov Sisters, the focus is one the entire family, which was something I really appreciate while I was reading.
I got to see the distinct differences in each sister's personality. I felt like I could relate to them more, but it also made the ending that much harder.

One thing I found surprising while I was reading was the fact that I felt sorry not just for the sisters, but for Nicholas and Alexandra as well, as they struggled with the pressures of pleasing their county along with raising their five children. I could feel their frustrations when they didn't have a boy at first, I felt their helplessness when they were so dependent on Rasputin, and their guilt whenever Alexei would suffer from his Hemophilia.

I did discover new things that I didn't know about the family while reading this amazing book, even though I thought I already knew everything there possibly was to know about the Romanovs.

Of course the ending made me cry...

Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia were nothing more than four teenage girls who dealt with things that every teenage girl deals with. They had crushes on handsome soldiers, insecurities about their looks, disagreements with their parents, and loads of schoolwork to do.
It's hard for me to think of them going through the things they did.
I imagine myself and my sisters, I imagine if it were us in their place. What makes Me, Chauncea, Erin, Emma, and Leigha any different than the four Romanov sisters? What makes my brothers any different from Alexei?
They didn't deserve the ending they got. Nobody in that situation really does. But it happened.

History is one of my favorite things. It blows my mind how all the stories from all over the world act as a point, each point connecting to another, like a twisting line on my graph paper that only God can make sense of. I've been doing a lot of graphing, can you tell? Making the world as it is today.

Not everything goes great. There's so much tragedy twisted through the timeline, and that's because we live in an imperfect world. It's hard for me to realize the purpose behind it all when I learn about a story such as the short lives of the Romanov sisters.
But in the end I have to remember that this all is not only the story of the humans, it is the story of God. It all really happened, and there is a beautiful reason for it, even though I might not know it yet.

God is a plotter, and he is the best author ever

And that's why I adore learning history so much.
***
P.S. I know I most likely bored you all to death with my obsession with the Russian Royal family, and I apologize if I did, but hey, it was going to explode out of me sometime. Seriously, though, I recommend you at least go look up the story. It's so intriguing and interesting. 

sixteen

via
Entry #8

I feel like the world has over-romanticized the age of sixteen. All of the movies, books, and songs out there make it seem as if it were some sacred number. 

You'll finally have the freedom of driving. 
You'll be super popular, have tons of friends, and go to parties every weekend. 
All your insecurities will be cured, and your future will suddenly be crystal clear.

What the world doesn't tell you is that you'll hate parties, and that you'll be terrified of driving. They don't tell you about how confused and alone you will feel. They don't tell you that you'll lock yourself in your room at night so that you can cry for no reason. 

Sixteen is not at all easy or glamorous, and most of the time you will wish you could go back to being five years old again...


***
Goodbye Sixteen

how I fell in love with the sky

via
You cloaked your face in a mask of blue, and hoped that no one would see the scars you kept hidden.

I stayed awake while the rest of the world slept. You let me see behind your disguise, but instead of flaws, I found only constellations.

Book Review | The Luxe Series

The Luxe is not the sort of story I usually enjoy reading. I totally thought it was some sort of steampunk/fantasy thing set in 1900 at first, which, you know, sounded like the coolest thing in the world to me. It didn't take me long after picking it up that I realized I was very wrong. This whole series reads like a novelized soap opera... but, surprisingly, I sort of liked it.
| goodreads |
I read through the first two books very quickly, and while there were some problems with the plot and characters, I just brushed it off. The writing was absolutely beautiful, especially when they were describing the clothing. Seriously, Anna Goberson could've been a fashion designer, because she could describe clothing exceptionally well! I also grew very attached to the adorable relationship between Diana and Henry.

My heart was extremely broken after the ending of the second book, Rumors, so I had to snatch Envy up from the library as soon as I possibly could... That was when things started to get a bit rocky between me and this series.

While I did have problems with the story and plot before, in Envy it got even worse. Nothing seemed believable to me, and all the other characters, besides Diana and Henry, annoyed me so much. They didn't feel real and weren't very likable. Lina and Penelope especially pushed my buttons, which was a shame because I wanted to like them.
Lina's story could've been interesting, she was just so terrible, I wanted to poke her eyes out. And while Penelope was amazingly evil and a perfect villain, she kept ruining Diana and Henry's relationship, which was not okay with me.

I almost didn't want to move on to Splendor, because I feared it would get worse, but I had to finish. Alas, I was correct.

It was okay, don't get me wrong, I just had a hard time following what was going on. Too much was happening and it felt like a mess at times. There were rushed relationships that weren't believable at all, weddings and break ups that didn't make a lick of sense, and terrible, terrible endings. I was left with more questions than answers.
But Anna's beautiful descriptions and writing pulled through and helped me to at least enjoy finishing the books.

All in all I would give this series a solid 3 stars, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves this time period, or TV dramas. I seriously think this story would make an excellent TV show!

epic reads { T A G }

I was tagged by Hannah. Thank you girly!

1. If you could invite one author and one of their fictional characters to tea, who would you invite and what would you serve them?
I think having a tea party with a bunch of fairy tale characters would be quite interesting! Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin... along with the Grimm brothers? Yes! And we would eat an assortment of yummy finger foods along with our tea. I mean, what else is more appropriate to have with tea?

2. What book do you wish the author would write the prequel for?
The only book I can think of that I desperately want a prequel for is The Lunar Chronicles, but that doesn't work because the author actually did write a prequel! #iwin

3. Which two characters (NOT from the same book) do you think would make a good couple?
Okay, here's the thing: I don't ship characters who aren't in the same story. I don't even ship couples who aren't cannon most of the time... I just think it's ridiculous to think two characters from different stories should be together. It just doesn't work for me. I'd rather not get my hopes too high over something that can't possibly ever happen. (sorry you dedicated shippers out there) However my main OTPs forever and always are: Anne/Gilbert (Anne of Green Gables), Cress/Thorne (The Lunar Chronicles), Faramir/Eowyn (LOTR), Cathy/Hareton (Wuthering Heights), etc.

4. If you ran into your favorite author on the subway and only could say one sentence to them, who is it and what would it be?
My most favorite author who is actually still living is Markus Zusak, the absolute genius who wrote The Book Thief, and I don't even think I would be able to say anything to him if I randomly ran into him on the subway (side note: why am I taking the subway? There's not a subway anywhere near where I live). I would probably just babble stupidly or just sit there gazing from a distance. Either way I would feel completely embarrassed and ashamed afterwards, so let's hope that never happens.

5. What book made you a reader and why?
I've always been a reader, but back in my early reading days I remember my American Girl and Life of Faith books holding a special place in my heart. I never ever got tired of reading them over and over again on a continuous loop!

6. Your bookshelf just caught fire! What is the one book you would save?
This is a terrible question! However, I would probably most definitely make a dive for my LOTR box set first. I have read them so many times and cherish them more than anything. But once that was safe I would go for my drop-dead gorgeous Grimm's Fairytales book because pretty things should never have to burn if we can help it.

7. Which dystopian world would you want to live in and why?
Delirium. I don't really know why that was the first one to pop into my head... I just think it would be fascinating to live in a world without love... well, for a little while at least. Then I'd like to come back home to my world and watch sappy Hallmark Channel romance movies. 

8. What is your most Epic Read of all time?
As far as epic goes, I think LOTR wins hands down every time. You can't beat it! Many have tried, and many have got close, but nope. LOTR all the way!
------------------
If any of you all would like to have fun answering these great questions, go ahead! Leave a link in the comments to your post to let me see it :)

"language was not powerful enough to describe the infant phenomenon"

insta
This is my drama family. I have known this amazing bunch of people for over six years, and, honestly I cannot imagine my life without any of them.

When I first joined the Christus Homines Drama Troupe I was a little eleven-year-old who had barely ever left the house. But they had announced that they were performing Little Women, one of my favorite stories, so of course I had to join! I remember that first year well. I didn't know anyone, and my sister and I stuck together like glue for every rehearsal. The only time I would really say anything was when I had to recite one of my seven little lines.
I have stuck with drama ever since, and have been a part of many, many, many plays.
A Tale of Two Cities, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice, and The Mouse that Roared.
Every year I have been faced with new challenges, like the year I discovered I shouldn't ever do makeup crew... just no, or the year when I could not get my insane laughter down as the March Hare. Every year I'm stretched and pushed outside of my comfort zone. Sometimes it's difficult, but it is always worth it.

This year, as Ninetta Crummles in Nicholas Nickleby, I had a whole new set of challenges. Ninetta, or The Infant Phenomenon, as she is so affectionately known as by everyone who knows her, is one of Charles Dicken's most strangest and under-rated characters (for those who don't know the story, she is basically a grown up baby). I was honestly confused when I had learned I was cast to play her.

I am not weird, at least not in that way. I have trouble portraying very obscure characters. I just can't get out of my shell enough to actually do the strange characters justice.
Each rehearsal I would have to prance around our makeshift stage area, stare at people awkwardly, skip, giggle, spin, and do all sorts of weird, abnormal things that I would never do otherwise.
When I was at home I would read through the book, underlining and highlighting the parts with Ninetta, trying to get a sense of who Dickens meant her to be. And eventually, I started to understand her. It clicked, in a way, and by tech week I could do it all without feeling embarrassed.

That's what I love so, so, so much about drama, learning how to understand and portray a character who is not like you in the least. I have learned so much about myself from playing these little characters . The theater is deep in my heart. I don't think I will ever stop acting, even after I graduate from the drama troupe, I will always take whatever chance I get to be on the stage.