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what short stories taught me

I didn't expect to have homework to do over Christmas break. Usually it's a beautiful time when I can take a deep breath and have a break from the crazy, stressful, paralyzing schoolwork that eats away at my life.
When my composition teacher announced that we would indeed have homework to do an audible groan went through the whole classroom.
"Nothing too hard," she assured us as she wrote out our assignment on the board.
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We were to read two short stories and write our reaction and thoughts on them. It seemed easy enough... but I still procrastinated.

I was sitting in my room a couple days before my analysis's were due. I stared down at the list of short stories my teacher had given, trying to decide which ones I should go for.
They all had obscure titles, and I had not one inkling as to what any were about, so I just picked some at random.

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson caught my eye. I was told of one teacher who made her students read it in class so that she could witness their reaction to the ending in person. It intrigued me, so I looked it up and quickly read it.
I honestly had no idea what to think of it. I still don't. It was definitely not what I was expecting. I had to read it twice to really let it soak through.

The Last Leaf by O Henry was the next one I decided to read, and was much more light-hearted than the previous story.
The ending made me weep, though, and the message really struck a chord with me somehow.

I hadn't ever read a short story before this. I like big, thick, scary books. I like challenges. I've always told all my writer friends that I am unable to write short stories since all my ideas are far too big to fit in just a few pages.
I realized, though, as I was reading through the titles on my list, that there is a whole lot of magic in a story that is short.
It's hard to get a message through, even when you have a whole book to tell it. When authors are able to be brief and short, but can still pull on our heart-strings and make us think, that is a rare gift.

I have a new appreciation for short stories. And I have found that the saying is true: Sometimes a little is a lot.

when I've got nothing but my aching soul

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I made a list of all my fears.

Stingrays, being kidnapped, needles, amnesia... 

At the top of my list was being forgotten by the people I love.

I'm too loyal sometimes. I trust people I shouldn't, and I love wholeheartedly. But I have discovered the hard way that not everyone is like me.

I've grown scared of making friends. I am the quiet girl who sits alone in a corner who watches the world pass her by.

I'm sure some people think I'm stuck up. Like I think I'm too good for them to talk to them. But really, I'm terrified of getting too close.

I wasn't always this way.

It's real. I'm afraid of being left behind, of being forgotten, of being given up on.

I have issues, and I can't begin to explain how much I wish I could tear down these concrete walls I've built up.

#wordsonmyheart

Book Review | Wonderstruck

|| goodreads ||
Ben and Rose secretly wish for better lives. Ben longs for his unknown father. Rose scrapbooks a famous silent actress. When Ben finds clues and Rose reads enticing news, the children independently run to New York for what they are missing. Ben's story in words, Rose's in pictures, come together in deafness.
I've always wished I could draw. I mean really draw... pictures like those big, beautiful masterpieces that hang in museums. Unfortunately, my artistic ability is limited to stick figures and paint splatters. I don't have the patience to sit still and focus on the teeny-tiny details of a picture. It sounds head-ache inducing and stressful. I have accepted the fact that I am no aspiring da Vinci. But, because of my own patheticness with oil pastels and watercolors, I am always in complete, genuine awe at people who can actually draw. 

I read The Invention of Hugo Cabret when I was very young. I remember flipping through the gorgeous, pencil sketches, soaking up the amazing story. And when the movie came out, I fell in love all over again! (Hugo is one of my favorite movies, btw) When I learned that the same author wrote another book, I got very excited and bought it without hesitation (it usually takes me hours to choose a book to purchase). 

I'm going to be completely honest, I read it in a day. Despite its intimidating size I'm sure anyone could easily fly through this book. 

Two stories are told throughout this book, one told in words, and the other in pictures. As you flip the pages you watch the two weave together towards the end, tangling into one. It was a cute, heartwarming book, much different from Hugo, but still never ceasing to be charming. And the pictures were the icing on this yummy cake.

The drawings are what make Brian Selznick's books so special. I half wished I could rip out every page and decorate my room with them. (jk, I would never even think of ripping up a book as gorgeous as this one) It's a grown-up picture book, how cool is that! No matter how old you are I know you will enjoy reading this book. 

Little Favourites

Blogs are fabulous. I love writing them and I absolutely love reading them. Over the years I have stumbled upon some of the most adorable/inspirational/amazing blogs. I have some of them listed over on my Favourites page, but I've never actually gone into detail about why I like those blogs so much or why I think that everyone in the world should check them out.
I was finally inspired by Olivia and her Dear Blogging Friends post to actually make a post featuring my most favorite blogs.
This is not going to be short, though I'll try to be as brief as I can. I doubt I'll be able to get through every single blog on my list, so, if you're interested in finding even more fantabulous blogs, click on over to my Favourites page. :)
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//Blogging Friends//
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I have had many, many blogging friends over the years. I always love meeting new friends from all over the world, and that's one of the best things about blogging, building friendships with people who you'd never meet otherwise.

The Daisy Tree is the cutest blog of like ever. I have been following Hannah (not me Hannah, different Hannah) and her blog for pretty much my entire blogging career, and her posts never disappoint. She always has something different and fun to talk about. Traveling, cooking, reading, or simply just fangirling over The Lord of the Rings. (#approved) 

The Cwtch is a blog I have only been following for a few months, but Olivia is so sweet, she makes every reader feel at home, and I love reading her words (which are gorgeous, BTW). I still can't really pronounce her blog's name quite right... but that is totally okay! Her blog is fabulous!

Incidents of a Literary Nature is another newer blog I'm following, but I absolutely adore it! Elizabeth posts of books and pretty much everything in between. I love reading her posts. :)

//Real-Life Blogging Friends// 
 photo Capture2_zpsf8fd169d.png Another great thing about blogging is how you can grow closer to your real-life friends as well. You can read what's on their mind and what they love. I was surprised to find how many of my real-life friends also have blogs. 

Inklined is a blog written by my dear friend, Sarah. She posts a lot about books, publishing, and writing. She is a fantastic writer and has tons of great advise for any aspiring writer. Plus, she's awesome!

The Idea Catcher is another wonderful writer blog written by Mia. She is very funny, and her posts never fail to brighten my day. She posts about her writing and books she's read, along with some other crazy things she does. 

Running His Road is a very refreshing blog by Rebekah, she writes amazing posts about her writing and faith that I never get tired of reading. 

A Bloom // An Ache is by Sayda, whom I've never actually met, she went to camp with my sister, but she is super sweet. Her posts are the definition of short and sweet, and her photography is breathtakingly beautiful. 

You + I is written by another of my dearest, closest friends. I've known Rachel for a really, really long time, and her words and poetry are gorgeous!

//Book Bloggers//
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It's probably no secret, I love reading, and through book blogs I have discovered some of my favorite books. 

Feed Me Books Now is one of the best book review blogs I've ever read. Ruby does an amazing job at reviewing books, but she is also able to give very thought provoking discussion topics as well. 

Living on Literary Lane is a darling blog. Elizabeth has all sorts of bookish things, cover reveals, reviews, discussions, but she also does a lot with classics, which I appreciate (I love me a good classic!) Other than books, she also posts about her writing and little events in life.

Paper Fury is the bomb! Cait is super funny, and I always check her reviews first before picking up a book I'm not sure about. She is also the master of gifs, seriously, no one uses them as well as Cait.

//Beautiful Words//
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Sometimes my heart just craves beautiful words, posts that dig their way into my soul and make me think, or cry, or sigh with happiness. 

The Cupcake Dictionary is one of my absolute favorite blogs ever! Definitely in the top three! Jocee doesn't post as often as she used to, but when she does I'm always rushing over to her blog to soak in her posts. Her whole blog is simply gorgeous!

Grace's Garden Walk is written by Grace, who can always post about the events of her life, but make them relevant to everyone who is reading. And her pictures illustrate her posts so well.

The Goodness Revolt is always such a lovely read! She posts about pretty much everything, but no matter what she writes about, it's always 100% beautiful!

//Various//
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For the blogs I either can't fit in a single category, or random blogs that don't fit in my usual categories.

Into the Woods is a fashion blog. I don't typically follow fashion blogs, but I just can't get myself to unfollow this blog. Alexandra's outfits are totes adorbs, and I'm always wondering how she makes room in her closet for all her clothes!

My Holy Joy is always a breath of fresh air. She posts about deep, spiritual things, and I always leave her blog thinking. Her blog is really good at making you think.

Sew Technicolor is a blog about books, knitting and movies, what more could you possibly ask for in a blog!?

CARMEL is what used to be Tea and Bree, but remains another of my absolute favorites. Carmel posts about everything, but everything she posts about is fantastic!
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There ya go! And, of course, feel free to share your favorite blogs in the comments, I'm forever in search of new blogs to sigh and obsess over. ;)

Rapunzel

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Entry #58

The tower stands in the center of the forest like an old soldier, tall and proud, yet crooked and hunched over. He wears a long coat of thick ivy that crawls all the way up to a single window that overlooks the dark forest. This is where I have been trapped and forgotten all these years. I am the prisoner of the old soldier. I am safe here. It is for my own good that I stay locked up; at least that is what the old soldier tells me. Somehow I find it hard to believe him.

All I can do is wait, but for what I do not know. To be rescued, I suppose. As I sit here, singing lullabies and brushing through my wild mass of hair again and again, I wait. I imagine a young, handsome prince with dark eyes, like one from the books and stories I have read. He would slay the old soldier and take me away from the forest, back to his kingdom, where we would live happily together forevermore.

I imagine what it would be like to be free. I imagine the feeling of prickly grass between my bare toes. I imagine how blue the sky must look contrasted against a web of tree branches above me. I imagine running as fast as I can. I have never run before. I imagine these things until my heart grows so heavy with longing that I feel as if I could leap from the very top of this tower if it were my only choice of escape, but there is no escape for me.

The old soldier is strong and diligent in keeping his guard.  He will not give me up without a fight. But it does not matter anymore. I have realized now that no prince is coming for me. And I am growing tired of waiting.

Because I feel like Rapunzel sometimes.
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I sat in the drivers seat of the old, red car. I buckled my seat belt nice and snug, and I adjusted my mirrors the way I was taught to do. It was my forth time driving with an instructor, and I still felt the way I had on my first drive: nervous and inexperienced.

I don't like driving. I know I've mentioned it before, and I'm sure it'll come up again. There is just something about being in control of a giant, metal... thing that I don't feel comfortable with. Especially when the said "metal thing" could potentially kill people if I mess up.

The instructor slid into the passenger side, a cup of coffee in one hand, and a clipboard in the other. My score-card was securely clipped to the clipboard, and so were all the notes my previous instructors had given me, all of which telling me to get more practice and to get more confident behind the wheel. I must admit, I probably didn't get as much practice as they probably wished...

I turned the key, the engine roared with life. I slowly backed out of the parking space, taking a deep breath.

As I pulled out of the parking lot, the instructor turned to me. "So where do you go to school?" He asked.
"I'm actually homeschooled," I replied.
"Oh really? Do you like being homeschooled?"
Many people have asked me this question, and I've always found it strange. "Yeah... I guess so."
"Are you taking any foreign language?"
"Yes, I'm doing French."
"Why did you choose French?"

I didn't answer right away. I didn't know how to explain to him that French was my passion, how I dreamed of fluency and of moving to France someday, of being a translator and interpreter. So I just said: "I don't know... I just like it..."

"Je suis un professeur de français."

It took me awhile to process what exactly he had said. Concentrating on driving makes it difficult to understand French.

"I am a French teacher."
"Really?" I asked, trying not to sound too excited.
"Yes, I am. It's a beautiful language, isn't it?"
"Yes." I sighed.

We talked French the whole hour long drive, only stopping so that he could give me instructions on how to parallel park. He told me how he had lived a whole year in France, and how his wife was French and was a private French tutor.
He quizzed me on my French skills, asking me to answer questions in French. It was difficult while I was driving, but it was fun. and when we would come up to a turn he would tell me which way to turn in French. "Tournez à droite."

I didn't do any better on that drive than I had on any other, but somehow I felt more confident while I was speaking the language that I loved. Whenever I think back on this experience, I can't help but think it was a little kiss on my cheek from God. He knew how nervous I was, how I was terrified I was of messing up. He also knew that French would calm me down.

I don't think I'll ever forget that drive.

Book Review | Since You've Been Gone

The Pre-Sloane Emily didn't go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn't do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell. 
But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try… unless they could lead back to her best friend.
Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?
| goodreads |
I've never been a huge fan of contemporary fiction. I always seem to have trouble finding books in the genre that aren't incredibly cheesy and predictable, with characters that are actually enjoyable. I've tried my hand at reading several of the popular books, but none have ever impressed me much.
So, naturally, when I picked up Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson, I was not at all expecting it to impact me as much as it did.

It started out as a nice, cute, funny, summery read, but towards the end it began to really touch on things I've been struggling with in my own life.

I don't know why. You would probably read this book and think "how in the world did this change Hannah's life?" Disclaimer: it didn't change my life, it just made me realize some things about my life I need to change.

There are two types of people in the world: the Emilys and the Sloanes.

The Sloanes are the outgoing people who everybody loves, they don't mind being different and don't care if other people don't like them, they do what they love anyway.

The Emilys are the people in the background, too scared that they'll mess up to do anything too spontaneous and crazy.

And I realized through reading this book that I am an Emily... and a Sloane. It's hard for me to explain. I sort of feel like I am a Sloane stuck inside an Emily. As Emily went through the list that Sloane sent her, I started feeling more confident myself. And the end was my favorite, but I won't spoil it.

I loved all the characters, Frank and Collins and Dawn, and, of course, Sloane and Emily. They all had their own distinct personality, and it was perfect. The character development in this book was phenomenal, and not just for Emily. Every character changes by the end.

The whole list was so unique too. I kept getting excited for what crazy task Emily would do next.

There were also playlists scattered throughout the story, like when Emily was running. It was a nice little touch that I really liked. I almost wished I didn't have to give the book back to the library so that I could find a time to look up all the songs on the playlists.

The chapters were a bit longer than I usually like (each of the chapters were all mostly close to a hundred pages). Each thing on the list had it's own, personal chapter, but I felt like it could've been broken up more. Even though I did love the story, I found it hard to read because I never had time to get through the long chapters. But that is a seriously minor problem.

If you are a big contemporary fan, or not-so-much, I'm sure you'll enjoy this book. :)

P.S. some of the letters on my keyboard have been sticking. I apologize for any letter-less words you might stumble upon.

When I am Dead and Gone

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Entry #59

When I am dead I want to be buried in the woods. I want to be hidden away from the rest of the world, in a place where only a select few know about. Under a willow tree, next to a nice, gentle stream, with nothing to mark my grave but my name, scratched and faded, on a large, ivy-covered stone. That is where I want to rest, not shoved away in a crowded, depressing cemetery. Yes, that's what I want...
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I worried my mother the other day. I told her about how I don't mind the thought of dying. I don't fear the fact that I could die anytime. And that is the truth, I really don't.

I explained how I am so sick and tired of our sinful universe. My heart is thirsty. It's thirsty for heaven, for no more pain and suffering. I watch the news and all I want is for Jesus to come back already and fix it all.

I'm not suicidal. I would never kill myself. But if I tragically died suddenly somehow I really wouldn't mind.

I don't know if I'll ever fully understand why God orchestrated it all like this. Why He thought it was necessary for us to live suffocated in sin for so long. But I know there must be some sort of reason. I know He doesn't do things spontaneously, He is a careful and perfect planner. And I'm trying to trust that it will all be for the best someday when I look back on it.
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Sorry if this seems weird. Just some of my thoughts as of late, they aren't meant to make sense or be profound in any way.