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Book Review + Blog Tour | The Blood Race

I have been following Kate Emmons on her blog The Goodness Revolt for a long time. She never ceases to amaze me with her beautiful, insightful writing and poetry. I always knew that someday she was going to go somewhere with her writing, and when I heard that she was releasing her debut novel, The Blood Race, I was so incredibly proud and excited for her. 
Today I am beyond honored to be a part of her launch team and to contribute a post to the awesome blog tour hosted by Kate's sister, Abbie, from her blog Abbiee, and Grace Anne from Totally Graced
You should go and give these ladies all the love because they deserve it!


He’s spent his life running from who he is. She’s been trying to escape her past for 100 years… 
Born with unexplainable abilities he struggles to control, college student Ion tries desperately to integrate into his new school and finally put his dark past behind him. But after making a serious enemy, which leads to an accidental rendezvous with the mysterious old man next door— and his hauntingly beautiful but troubled young protégée Hawk, Ion realizes his life will never be normal again.
Late one evening, Hawk drags him by the hand into a closet-turned-rabbit-hole to an extra dimension, and Ion finds himself stumbling involuntarily into a secret society of training for “anomalies,” teenagers with a special set of abilities. Just like him.
As they train to become Protectors of future Earth, battling each other as well as their own demons, both Ion and Hawk begin to realize that they are far more alike than they realized. Unsettlingly so.
When the Dimension is shaken by an unthinkable betrayal, will an ancient prophecy bring Hawk and Ion together—or will a deadly threat hidden in plain sight cost them both their powers… and their lives?
Trust is a superlative. The result is never lukewarm: it is either an extreme producer of life, or death.
-K.A. Emmons, The Blood Race
I love stories like this one. Fresh stories about superhumans and different worlds are undoubtably the best, and K.A. Emmons was able to execute it so well in The Blood Race. I got so many X-men/Miss Peregrine vibes while I was reading, but not in a bad way at all. The author was able to take the familiar concepts and make them her own flawlessly.

I could tell that great care and detail were put in developing the universe of dimensions and Sliders, but I still found myself confused from time to time, trying to keep up with explanations or new, complicated aspects of the world. But that's pretty usual for me when starting a new fantasy series. I was able to catch on to what was going on eventually.

I really enjoyed learning about and immersing myself in this new world. This is definitely a first book in a series though, because, while there was a plot, much of the story was spent world-building and explaining how the system works instead of following a lot of action.

This book is very fast paced and filled to the brim with beautifully written descriptions and great characters.

I really loved Hawk. I don't usually care for the dark and mysterious type of characters, but I found that I was more intrigued with her chapters than Ion's. Ion got extremely frustrating sometimes. I didn't hate him necessarily, I just really wanted to lock him up in a basement somewhere so that he would stop messing things up. The secondary characters were also memorable. I adored Fin so much! And I became interested in Sensei as well. I would love to read a book about his backstory.

There are incredible themes of trust and redemption woven throughout the whole story that were amazing! It wasn't until the exciting climax of the book hit that I realized it was an allegory. There were some crazy powerful scenes towards the end --especially between Hawk and Sensei-- that made the reader reflect on their own life without being preachy. It reminded me of a modern, sci-fi, teenage Narnia in a way.

I'm so excited to see where the series will go from here and how K.A. Emmons will grow in her writing and story telling. After that cliff hanger I'm dying for more!


I received a free ARC from the author in exchange for an honest, unbiased review

GET THE BLOOD RACE

Be sure to get yourself in on the action. Buy a copy of The Blood Race on Amazon out today and add it on Goodreads!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

When she's not hermiting away in her colorfully-painted home office writing her next science fiction, passionate story-teller and adventurer Kate Emmons is probably on the road for a surf or hiking trip, listening to vinyls, or going for a power run. Emmons lives in the often-snowy hills of rugged Vermont with her husband and dog named Rocket.

Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

the search for my favorite book

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I like to think I know myself very well as a reader. I like to think I have an intuitive instinct when choosing books. I read a variety of things, and I like to think I can enjoy any genre if I'm up for it. But despite what I might think, I am not a book wizard by any standard. I can't pull the perfect book out of thin air, but whenever I pick up a new book to read, I always expect it to become a new favorite. I never decide to read books I know I'll hate just for fun (I've heard of people who do this... just why?). But unfortunately, despite my efforts to only read books I know I will love, it doesn't always work out the way I expect, and I frequently end up disappointed.

When I was younger it seemed like every other book I was able to finish somehow made the cut to my list of favorites. Back when I was reading things like The Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, A Wrinkle in Time, Ella Enchanted, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond. But as I've grown older and more mature in my reading, and as I've read more and more books, it has become increasingly harder for me to find books that I can enthusiastically recommend to others as new all time favorites. I've read a lot of books I like and that I definitely think other people would like as well, I've just noticed that it's becoming difficult for books to break through and completely blow me away.

In the past several months I have read a lot more than I have in a long long time. I'm excited and passionate about reading again. However, none of the many many books I've read recently have lingered in my mind or have changed the way I think or process things. None have left me wrecked and desperately wanting more. I've enjoyed most of them and I'm glad I've read them, but there was no spark and no WOW reaction as I finished them.

I'm constantly comparing and ranking everything I read against my old favorites. Sometimes I worry that I might never find another book that will make me feel the same as others have made me feel. It's sad and discouraging at times. But for some reason or other I keep reading. I keep adding new books to my TBR. I keep following new authors.
I keep searching for new favorites because I know that they're out there somewhere. You never know when a book you pick up will surprise you and teach you something new and blow your mind. I'm on a continuing search for a new favorite book. It's a search that never ends, even after I find one. But that's what I love about reading.

Book Review | Life After Life

| goodreads |
★★★
Imagine a book that is one part Downton Abbey and one part Groundhog Day (or Before I Fall. or any story where you are reliving the same things over and over again) and that is what sort of book Life After Life by Kate Atkinson is.
This story is as charming as it is haunting as it follows Ursula Todd and the many lives she lives. Every time Ursula dies, since she was first born in 1910 as a stillborn, her life begins again, like death is nothing more than a reset button for her.

It's a really interesting and thought provoking read. It's astonishing to see how extremely different Ursula's lives are one after the other. This book makes you think deeply about how each tiny choice you make or experience you have can affect who you are and who you will eventually become.

The writing was absolutely breathtaking! Kate Atkinson's style was unlike anything I've ever read. It envelopes you and pulls you in. I also really really loved the atmosphere she created with the time period, jumping between the two World Wars in an English setting. Throughout all of Ursula's lives, the reader is able to see the war through the eyes of so many people, which is what I liked the most about this book.

There are so so many characters that come in and out of all of Ursula's stories, and they are all important in some shape or form. I especially found Sylvie and Teddy to be interesting, and I wanted to delve deeper into who they were and what was happening to them. I felt like in the end a lot of questions about several characters were left a little open ended.

While I did enjoy this book for the most part, it did fall flat in some ways for me. The main thing was that it is an extremely slow read. I don't usually mind slow reads, but this book dragged on and on and on in some areas. It was very weak plot-wise. There was no grand adventure or mission or discovery that was guiding the story. You're literally just reading about Ursula's different lives over and over and over again. The writing kept me going, but I couldn't help but want a little more, especially since I love books that have a rich and detailed plot.

I found Ursula's character to be frustrating at times. She was extremely naïve about a lot of things which led to very bad situations (major trigger warnings for abuse with this one). Overall I didn't feel as interested in Ursula as I was with other characters in the book as I was reading.

The biggest problem I had, however, was the ending. It just sort of ended. I wanted more closure. I wanted to know if Ursula would ever die peacefully and normally, or if she would finally come to realize the fact that her life is an endless cycle.

I wanted this book to become a new favorite. I loved the premise, the writing was absolutely phenomenal, and it is definitely a perfect cozy rainy-day read. I just had a couple of problems with it personally that I would've changed.
“What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn't that be wonderful?” 
― Kate AtkinsonLife After Life

the skies I'm under

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I wish I could say I have learned to love the skies I'm under. But that would be a lie. It's so hard to be content with the place where I am now when my heart aches and moans for more.

Always stuck in the monotonous pattern of work and sleep and wishing to break from it all. 
Pouring over photographs on travel blogs and in books, wondering if they do the world justice. 
Studying my French, worrying that I might never get the chance to use it.
Watching from a distance as friends, family, and acquaintances take spontaneous vacations and cross-country road trips in the peak of summer.
When there are countries upon countries full of people I haven't met.
When I know there are so many mountains and jungles and deserts and oceans I haven't seen.
When I am so small and when this world is so so big.
And when God is even bigger, yet for some reason unknown to me He keeps me here.  

It's been hard for me to understand why I am where I am. But I'm trying and trusting.

"but who's going to be tsar then?"

| goodreads |
I could probably qualify as an honorary historian of the Romanov family. I have studied their fascinating story for many years merely out of my own curiosity. I have watched documentaries and I've read many books and articles about the family and their heartbreaking assassination in 1918.
Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie is considered to be a classic among people who study the Romanov family, and I knew that I needed to read it someday in order to satisfy more of my unquenchable interest in the Romanovs.

This book surprised me. It was different than how I expected it to be. Based on the title, I was expecting this book to mainly document the relationship and lives of Nicholas and Alix, but there was so so so much more.

It was so incredibly, astonishingly rich in historical detail. I was nerding out a lot more than I probably should have as I was connecting the political dots together during the chapters on World War I. This is the type of book that you have no choice but to give your full attention to so that you don't lose track of who is related to who and what all was going on during this time in history.

However, this book does also focus a lot on the lives of Nicholas and Alix, as it promises. When I was finished reading, I felt as if I knew Nicholas and Alexandra intimately. I think it's easy for people studying history to forget that they were just human beings like everyone else. They made mistakes,  they had feelings, and people they cared about. I felt like I especially understood Nicholas and who he was as a tsar far better after I read this book than I did before.
Reading Nicholas and Alexandra made me think about history in a different way. It helped me understand Nicholas, Alix, Alexis, Rasputin, and the Bolshevik revolutionaries more.

Another aspect that surprised me about this account of the Romanov family is the amount of detail it went into Alexis and his battle with hemophilia. Everyone knows now that the tsarevich struggled throughout his whole life with hemophilia, inherited from his mother, but I had never really thought about how heartbreaking it was, and how Alexis' disease played a role in changing the course of history for Russia and the world.

It wrecks me to think that the tragic deaths of the Romanov family really happened, but they did. History is real. And it's crazy to think how every little thing is connected and how history has shaped the way the world is today.
Nicholas and Alexandra is a beautifully written testament to the Romanovs, in the hopes that their story won't ever be forgotten.
“I have a secret conviction," [Nicholas] once told one of his ministers, "that I am destined for a terrible trial, that I shall not receive my reward on this earth” 
― Robert K. MassieNicholas and Alexandra
because this song kept playing over and over in my head as I was reading

guide to booktube


I am Youtube trash. If I'm not reading or studying, I can usually be found watching hours upon hours of random Youtube videos. Youtube is my go to place when I'm trying to procrastinate. It's where I escape whatever I'm having a bad day and need to detox. My absolute favorite videos to watch, however, are Booktube videos.
I stumbled upon Booktube several years ago, a book community full of kindred spirits who love to read and review books just as much as I do.

While I have never really considered starting a channel of my own, I love interacting with the community. Since discovering this little corner of Youtube, I have found some truly amazing readers who stand out and have helped to guide me in my own personal reading and the way I review books. I have been able to branch out with reading different books through recommendations made by reviewers I trust, watch and laugh at ridiculous tags, and engage in some very interesting discussions.

I feel that as Booktube has slowly grown in popularity, it has really changed the way people read as a community. You no longer have to go out hunting for a bookclub, or pray to be blessed with book loving friends. The internet and things like Booktube, Goodreads, Bookstagram, etc. have made it easier than ever to connect with others over a shared love of books. That's just crazy to me.

This is just a simple, incoherent list of some of my favorite channels to watch that I think deserve some more love.
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Mollie from her channel Molliereads has quickly become one of my favorite Booktubers to watch and follow. She reads a variety of different genres, which I appreciate, since the majority of Booktube focuses on Young Adult novels. Mollie has similar reading tastes as me, and I have found many gems from her recommendations. She is also a professional editor, and makes videos about her editing work that are also extremely interesting.



Emma from Missmareadsalot is a very underrated Booktuber. She likes to think outside of the box with her videos and experiments with different formats and styles which makes her channel stand out from the typical Booktuber you'll find. She also reads many different types of books, and her passion for Anime almost makes me want to give it a try (almost...).

READBYZOE


Zoe from Readbyzoe is a very upbeat, fun person who always makes reading sound super exciting. She reads a lot of contemporaries and classics. Zoe is just a person who inspires me to read more and to be positive about life in general, and I love watching her videos.



Unlike other Booktubers I watch, Bedtimebookclub is made by three people. Their videos really make you feel like you are a part of their little bookclub, which is a fun experience. They don't post very often, but I'm always excited when they do. Also they're Australian, so bonus points for accents!



Jesse from Jessethereader is no doubt one of the most popular Booktubers on Youtube, but I've only just recently started getting into his videos. He makes great reviews and booktalks, though mostly on YA books. He also makes hilarious sketches that readers can relate to. 
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What are your thoughts on Booktube? Who is your favorite Booktuber or book reviewer on Youtube?

Book Review | The Catcher in the Rye

| goodreads |
The Catcher in the Rye is a book that, for some unknown reason, sits on my shelves for years and years. Whenever I looked at it I would remember that I should probably read it, but I was always unsure if I really wanted to.
I had heard countless mixed things about it. People usually either love it and find it a powerful piece of literature, while others absolutely hate it. I didn't know where exactly I would rank on the love/hate scale.

I was actually surprised at how much I actually liked this book when I finally did end up reading it.

I think I decided to read it during the perfect time in my life. I was just feeling upset and frustrated with everything and everyone at the time I first picked this book up, and I instantly found a kindred spirit in the crazy, cynical Holden Caulfield... I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not...

He tells it how it is, and doesn't sugar coat anything in his narrative. If he thinks that someone is an idiot, he'll tell you exactly why. I actually found myself laughing out loud at some of the things Holden says, which doesn't happen often when I'm reading. His voice is refreshing, and I just couldn't hate him, despite the fact that he can be quite a jerk at times.

The Catcher in the Rye is a short read, but nothing really happens in it... there is only the faintest glimmer of a plot or story. It is mostly just Holden's stream of consciousness as he stalls in New York. It is fun and entertaining at first, reading all of his thoughts on everything that's going on, but after awhile, it all sounds the same and his cynicism gets kind of old.

I'm not one to criticize a notable, famous author, but I feel like this whole narrative could've been condensed into a short story or something. Even at 250 pages, it felt long and a bit dragged out at times.

I feel like I'm somewhere in the middle with The Catcher in the Rye. I don't really love it or hate it exactly.
I can definitely see how this book is considered a classic. Holden makes you think in between his whining and complaining. There are some very thought provoking themes on childhood and growing up that he brings up, which is all interesting.
While I probably won't necessarily read it again, I'm very glad I did.
I think that everyone should at least give this book a chance and take what they can from it.
“I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy.” 
― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

an open letter to the class of 2021

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Life is full. 
Just a short week ago, I was simultaneously studying for finals and frantically packing up all my earthly belongings, getting ready to move back home for the summer. 
I'm officially finished with my first year of college. It's truly crazy and surreal to think about how crazy fast my freshman year went by, how much I have learned about myself, and how much closer I am to launching myself into the elusive real world

Since I've been home, my friends and family have been asking me a million questions. So how was your first year of college? Does it feel weird to be home? And, to be honest, I don't really know how to answer.
College was a conflicting, strange time for me, and even now, I'm still processing what I thought of it all. 
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During the month or so before I left for college last fall I would pour myself over posts like this. I read many articles and watched many videos about how exactly to do college. What to expect, what to definitely bring with you, how to decorate your dorm room, how to survive on your own.
I guess I thought that after doing all this research I would feel prepared, but I didn't.
The college tips and hacks began to sound the same. No one had any new information to give, and no one seemed to have anything to say that would make me feel immediately confident in leaving everything and everyone I love.

This is my advise. These are the things I wish I could have told myself before I went to college. These are the things that I couldn't learn from the various teen lifestyle bloggers and vloggers.

Get out of your dorm room (even if you don't feel like it). This is serious! I cannot begin to express how many nights I spent hidden away in my room. I simply refused to go out. I didn't want to see people or do anything. (I'm pretty sure my roommate and her friends thought I was antisocial or something). But deep down, I really did want something other than school to occupy myself with. Sometimes an event would be going on and I would have force myself to go, despite how sad or stressed I was. Afterward I was always glad I decided to go.
It's good to have alone time, but when you're always alone without distraction it's easier to dwell on stress, loneliness, and homesickness. Go to events, join clubs, do your homework at the library. Just get out of your room and do something!

You don't need to pull all-nighters to get good grades. I am physically incapable of pulling all-nighters, it's just who I am. I can't do it. So I was very nervous about how I would be able to handle the amount of homework and assignments. It's true, there will always be late nights every once in awhile, but it is possible to keep up with everything and still get a good night sleep. Instead of staying up until 3 a.m., go to bed early and wake up early to finish editing your paper.  It's all about time management and keeping your priorities straight.

Call people by their first names. This may seem like a weird one. But when you first arrive at college, you will be bombarded with a million new people who have names you need to learn. It can be hard to remember everyone. If you can, though, try and call people by their names when you pass them on your way to class or when you see them across the food court. Showing someone that you've taken the time to remember their name can mean a lot, even if it may not seem like a very big deal.

Everyone else feels just as lost as you and that's the truth. Even all the teen lifestyle bloggers out there who are dishing out all of their sage-like wisdom don't know what their doing. I remember on one of my first days on campus, sitting in a dorm with a couple other girls just venting about how scared we were. There will be people who seem more confident than you, but remember that everyone's in the same boat. You're starting a new stage of life, and that's always frightening. Don't ever feel like you're alone, and don't be afraid to talk to someone if you need to.

Use your brain and be CRITICAL. The number one reason you're going to college is to learn. To learn about the real world and how to get your dream job, but also to learn about yourself and what you believe. This is a time in your life when you're really going to begin to develop your opinions and beliefs and make them your own. It can be exciting and scary and confusing. You should listen and seek to learn as much as you can from as many different people you can, but you should also learn be very critical about the information you absorb and take everything with a grain of salt.
I cannot stress this point enough. I have seen so many people who have taken whatever a professor or peer says without questioning it. Don't do that. Pray and think on what you learn, talk to your parents or pastor or someone you trust about things that confuse you. Be always wary of accepting something as absolute truth without thinking it through.
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Sometimes there are just some things that no blog post can teach you. Sometimes you just have to dive in and see what sort of treasure you'll come back to the surface with.
You'll probably learn completely different life lessons from your own experience. Everyone has different experiences in college, and I can only speak from my own.

With one meager year of college experience under my belt, I in no way consider myself an expert on college life. I don't feel like I'm qualified to enlighten any upcoming college students. In many ways I still feel like I did a year ago: completely lost, unsure of what to expect. I'm still working on following my own advise.
I will always be learning about myself, but I am extremely grateful for what college has taught me so far.

life as a mood reader

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I've heard the term "mood reader" thrown around several times, and I had never thought much about it. But as I've matured in my reading, as I've come to know who I am as a reader more, I have realized that I am in fact a mood reader.

I can't do TBRs. I just can't. I keep a list of books I'm interested in reading someday, but that's the extent of my ventures in TBRs. If I even try to construct an exact, numbered order of all the books I'm going to read in the next 5 years I go insane. I feel like I'm restricted and limited. I begin to get stressed out over just how many books there are in the world, and how little time I have in my short life to read them all.
I applaud the people who can be more organized in their reading life. But TBRs induce existential crises for me. It's just not healthy.

Instead of sticking religiously to a TBR like other professional readers. I choose the books I read one at a time. Whenever I finish a book, I immediately go to my bookshelf, or my aforementioned list of interesting books, to see what exactly I want to read next. What sort of story I'm in the mood for (hence the term mood reader).

There are several cons to mood reading. Sometimes I'll accidentally pick up a book that I wasn't really ready for, and my emotions will affect my ultimate opinion of the story. I'll end up hating a book I might've actually loved if I were in a different mind set.
And since I rely on my feelings, there are times where my emotions simply say no to reading. This is when I sink into the depressing feeling that there is no book in the world that will meet my specific desires. Defeated, I turn to Netflix and develop a massive, incurable reading slump.
These instances, thankfully, don't happen extremely often.

I feel like through being a mood reader, I have enjoyed reading even more. I don't feel an obligation to read all the time. It would feel like a chore to pick up a book simply so that I could mark it off of a TBR. And since I only read what I really want, I end up loving most all of the books I do end up reading.
Ultimately, I really love my mood reading habits. It can be tricky at time, but it has opened me up to countless books and genres I may have never read otherwise.

What about you? Are you a mood reader?

Book Review | Eleanor & Park

| goodreads |
I like to think that I am the type of reader who can read and love anything. And for the most part that's true. But I don't read a lot of contemporary books. I just have the hardest time finding contemporaries that I actually love. For some reason, though, I found myself actually craving a cute, fluffy, romantic, contemporary book to read.
I stumbled upon Eleanor & Park at my school's library. Since it has been on my TBR shelf for forever, and since I've read and enjoyed Rainbow Rowell's other young adult book, Fangirl, I figured I wouldn't totally hate it (like I typically do with contemporaries).

Guys. This book was all kinds of adorable. The relationship between Eleanor and Park was probably one of my favorite parts of the book. It wasn't the strange, unrealistic case of insta-love that I expected. In fact they can barely stand each other at the beginning. The development of their relationship is nice and gradual. They bond over a shared love for music and superhero comic books, becoming close friends before eventually starting a real romantic relationship. And if you're a helpless romantic (*cough* like me), you can't help but gush as you read it.

I also really enjoyed the setting. The story is set in the 80's, so it is filled with cultural references that give a cool atmosphere to the whole book. It makes you feel like you're reading a book based on an old 80's film, honestly.

I'm always surprised at how Rainbow Rowell is able to also incorporate some pretty heavy topics along with her cutesy romance. There are serious sub-plots that go on in this book, about bullying, working through bad family situations, etc. I don't want to spoil anything, but I will admit that, while this book starts off fairly happy and carefree, the ending was able to make me tear up. It left me with a mild book-hangover when I was done, which hardly ever happens to me with contemporaries.

The only thing that got on my nerves was that Eleanor could get kind of angsty. I tried to be understanding, since she she had a hard life. But there were too many times where her confidence would shatter and she would worry that Park didn't love her anymore because of her weight or whatever, whatever, whatever. It got a bit annoying. Which is probably why Park was my favorite character.
Park was so sweet and understanding and a total nerd. He genuinely cared about Eleanor and didn't want her to get hurt, even if it meant possibly losing her, and I just thought it was adorable.

I forgot how much I love Rainbow Rowell's writing, and now I'm finding myself wanting to reread Fangirl. She is so so good at hooking readers to keep them reading and interested until the very end. Even people like me, who have trouble finding gems in the contemporary genre will become invested.
“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” 
― Rainbow RowellEleanor & Park

"wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight"

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I've had all seven books of The Chronicles of Narnia sitting on my bookshelf, neatly collecting dust between the spines, for many many years. Every time I would glance at them I would think to myself: "I should just sit down and read all of those someday..." But someday never seemed to come, and the books remained in their little box set. 

Of course I already knew the stories of all the Narnia books. But I had yet to read them all on my own. The stories had all been given to me secondhand. My mom read a couple to me and my sisters when we were young, and I've seen the movies multiple times. I wanted to read them for myself to develop my own personal, untainted thoughts on the popular series.

It wasn't until I was stressed beyond belief that I started to crave a children's book. I wanted something that would lift my spirits, and something that wouldn't take much effort to read and get into. After scanning my shelves for options, The Chronicles of Narnia seemed like the best choice. 

I know there's a mild controversy among readers as to which order is the best to read Narnia. I decided this time to simply read them in the order starting with The Magician's Nephew and ending with The Last Battle. If I ever pick them up again, I'll try to read them in publication order so that I can begin to form an opinion on the matter. For now, however, I'm sticking with the order they're presented as.

Reading these books as an adult was a very different experience than I expected it to be. They still read like children's books, with plots that are easy to follow, characters that are somewhat childish, and writing that isn't too complicated. I found, though, that while they were entertaining, there's so much more to these books than a simple children's fairytale story.

I truly enjoyed reading all of the books in the series. All very short, very quick reads, each like a little treat. They all had special parts or themes that have stuck with me since I finished them. My personal favorites, however, were The Silver ChairThe Last BattleThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; and The Magician's Nephew, in that order. While the other three were still good, they didn't quite touch me in the same way those four did.

As I was reading, I was struck again and again by just how deep these books could get. There were times, especially in the last two books, that I found myself pausing to think about a particular passage or to underline a quote that I thought was profound. Theology and Biblical lessons are woven so tightly within the story in a way that could only be done by C.S. Lewis. From the birth of Narnia, to its rebirth; the speech given by Puddleglum as he resists the manipulations of the witch; Eustace and Edmund's redemption stories; and, of course, the iconic scene of Aslan dying on the stone table.

I strongly believe that Aslan is one of the absolute best illustrations of the character of Christ ever written in literature. "He is not a tame lion."

I will always regret the fact that I never read all of these books when I was younger. But I do feel that I have understood them, and have received so much more from reading them as an adult than I ever could before. They were a lot more than I expected them to be, and I'm sad to see that my journey in Narnia has come to an end.
"I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia." --Puddleglum

am I a writer?

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Am I really a writer? I've been trying to answer that question about myself. Trying to gauge whether I should consider myself a writer or not anymore. 

It's been a long time since I've felt joy from my writing, since I've felt that sense of satisfaction I used to get from writing my thoughts down on a page. It's been over two years since I last remember staining paper with my story ideas. I've been thinking a lot about my writing, where I'm going with it, if I will ever write a book like I've always dreamed of, or whether I am a writer anymore or not.

Writers are suppose to write recklessly with fervor and urgency, like they must form words and sentences and paragraphs in order to simply breathe and survive. Whatever spark for writing I used to feel has dulled. I haven't had any bursts of inspiration to write. My mind is as blank as the pages in my journals.

I think I've finally come to the conclusion, though, that it isn't an issue of my not being a writer anymore. Just sitting at my laptop right now composing this insignificant little blog post is enough to nudge the storyteller living within me into action... I'm just a different sort of writer now than I once was.

I'm a cautious sort of writer now. I don't have a lot of time anymore to write for myself very often, so when I do, I pressure myself for it to be great, something that I will be proud of. But that rarely happens. I don't want to take any risks in my writing.

It's hard to get back into something when you're so out of practice. But I'm trying. Maybe I will write a book someday, or maybe not. Maybe I will write something else in a format that I haven't thought of yet. I'm trying to learn how I write now and how to utilize my writing the way it's meant to be shared.

Writing will always be something that is important to me. Whether I feel like a writer or not.

Book Review | The Night Circus

| goodreads |
I have never read a book more atmospheric than The Night Circus. I have never envisioned a world or characters as clearly as I did while reading this book. The way Erin Morgenstern expertly utilizes all of the senses in her writing is astonishing.

This book is deceptively labeled as a romance. When I first picked it up, I was expecting a magical, mystical romance novel. Honestly, I was uncertain whether I would really like it or not. I cannot emphasize how happy I am that did end up reading it, despite my skepticism. There is a romantic story arc woven into the plot, but it is much more minimal than I had expected initially going in.

This is a story that completely revolves around a circus. Le Cirque des Rêves is the heart and soul of this book, and it is what makes it such a special read. The author's writing is so descriptive and beautiful, and when I read it I get lost so easily within the world she has created.

I wish more than anything that the circus could be real, I want to explore the Ice Garden, the Cloud Maze, and the Labyrinth. I want to make a wish on the Wishing Tree, and, most importantly, I want to eat all of the delicious food.

The story surrounding the circus is also very intricate and detailed, jumping from different perspectives from different characters, and going back and forth in time until everything comes together beautifully at the end. The writing and plot can feel somewhat slow at times, but I hardly noticed since I was so enthralled.

I also fell completely in love with all of the characters. They were all very well balanced throughout the whole novel. There didn't seem to be any secondary characters as they were all vital to the circus. Isobel, Poppet and Widget, Chandresh, and Marco intrigued me the most. Celia, however, was the most difficult for me to like, even though she is technically the main character. I think this is because she keeps her feelings and emotions hidden away most of the time, making it harder for the reader to really get to know her. But it's part of her personality and who she is, so it was easy to get over, and I did eventually learn to like her.

Ever since I've finished this book, it has haunted me. Every time I think about it, I get this aching desire to read it again and again. The writing alone makes it worth the read, but it also has so many important and thought provoking themes such as sacrifice, love, wisdom, knowledge, and dedication, making it so much more than a simple romance or fantasy novel.

The Night Circus is most definitely a forever favorite for me, and I feel like I can never do it justice.
“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.” 
― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

écouter | a playlist in French

J'aime écouter le musique français. Quelquefois je ne comprend pas les chansons, mais ils sont belles. Musique est la langue parlé de tout le monde.

translation// 
I love to listen to French music. I don't understand the songs sometimes, but they are beautiful. Music is a language spoken by everyone.
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I've been collecting French songs.

So much can be revealed about people through their music. Just by listening, I've been able to gather so much about language and culture in these songs.  

This is a work in progress, something I will continue to add to as I delve deeper into French and Francophone music.
Give a listen:
Can we just talk about how awesome Let it Go is in French?

why I love long books

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Inspired// I watch a lot of book related videos on youtube. It's my guilty pleasure. One of my favorite Booktube creators is Ariel Bissett. Even though I disagree with some things she's talked about and discussed, I still love her videos because they really make me think deeply about literature and writing in ways I never would have before. 
A week or so ago, Ariel made a video entitled Why I Love Short Books. I've watched the video through multiple times, and the more I watch it, the more I've reflected on my own reading habits. I do agree with what Ariel says in her video, but I've noticed that I am naturally drawn to long books for many many reasons.
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For as long as I can remember I've wanted to read long books. I would check out ginormous classics from the library that I knew I had no chance of finishing in the two weeks before it was due back. But for some reason I kept attempting to finish them. There was something inside of me that needed to prove to myself that I was committed enough to read books that were over 500 pages long.
I'm still like that to a degree. I felt the greatest sense of accomplishment when I turned the last page in Les Miserables. And I still look at big books as a fun challenge. As I've grown older, though, there are many more factors that feed my love of long books. 

I have found that I simply enjoy long books more than short books, typically. My shelf of favorite-books-of-all-time is crowded with large, thick volumes. I think that this is because as I read books that are longer I grow more attached to the characters, the story, and the way the author writes. I become invested in the plot, and it's always bittersweet to finish because I become so attached. I don't get that feeling often with books that are shorter in length.

I do have a very huge appreciation for short books. As someone who can become unnecessarily wordy in my own writing a lot of the time, I understand the importance and skill it takes to be concise. Books such as The Great Gatsby and The Bell Jar have left a significant impact on my life, and it amazes me when an author can deliver such a punch in just a couple hundred words, or even less. But there are some ideas that are just too big to contain in a small book. Some have to overflow beyond a reasonable length for a book. 

I do know people who are intimidated by large tomes, and that is something I totally understand. It does take more time and commitment to finish a book that is very long, but I find that, for me at least, it's always a rewarding experience. Whether it's long, short, or just right, don't let the length of a book turn you away from what you could potentially learn from it.

What is your personal preference in your own reading? Long books or short books?

more than passion

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"On n'est point toujours une bête pour l'avoir été quelquefois."

translation//
"Being a fool sometimes does not make one a fool all the time." (quote from Denis Diderot, French philosopher)
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I've always been a believer in the impossible. I always thought that if you were to dream something, and want something, and be passionate enough about something that it would be bound to come true. This optimistic, sickly sweet, Disney-princess perspective I had came to define my worldview.

It's amazing how we are challenged and tested as we grow older. I love to look back on my life and see how my thoughts and opinions have evolved and matured over time.
God has thrown curve balls at me, and I've discovered the hard way that there is much more than just passion that you need in order to achieve something.

It's a discouraging thing to walk into a room and meet twenty other people with the exact same dream as you. You no longer feel special. You question whether or not the world really needs you when there are hundreds of others who are more qualified.
Comparison has always been my bane, and has caused me to give up many aspirations, despite how passionate I thought I was.

I have found my own passion to be a flighty thing, jumping from one goal to another. It's so easy to go after whatever sounds most appealing or achievable at the time, instead of focusing on one thing. There is a sort of drive, commitment, and persistence that one needs. Something that will cause you to go after what you want, even when your passion is questioned. I always admire people who are able to stick with what they started, and it is something that I am forever learning myself.

I still believe adamantly that passion is an important trait to have. If you're going to be doing something for the rest of your life, you should be passionate about it, or at least enjoy doing it. It is the glue that holds dreams together. But there are more ingredients that go into succeeding.

My goals, dreams, thoughts, and opinions will continue to change as I face new obstacles and triumphs. But I'm learning that that's a good thing. I'm glad that I've had to learn these things the hard way, and I feel like my passions have been strengthened through it. I'm excited for wherever life takes me.

Book Review | The Secret History

| goodreads |
The Secret History by Donna Tartt is not a typical murder mystery novel. Honestly, after reading it, I found it barely seemed to fit the genre at all. You know from the very beginning who will die. The author lays out the whole murder scene in the prologue. So instead of trying to figure out who committed the murder and how, the reader is trying to piece together the why. What was it that drove the killer to murder?

I picked up this book on a whim, but mostly because for some reason the synopsis reminded me of Dead Poets Society, which is one of my favorite movies. However the story turned out to be darker and very very different than what I expected. Not necessarily in a bad way, though.

The reader follows the narration of the main character, Richard as he joins a mysterious community made up of the five other kids in his Classics class. Richard was a somewhat dull character. There was nothing interesting about him or his voice in telling the story, but I found it to be nice. Richard, to me, represented an average, everyday person, someone with whom the reader can relate to. It makes the other characters seem much more interesting and different in contrast.

The five students who make up the strange club are all very unique, but equally untrustworthy. Even when they seemed like great people, I had a hard time believing everything they said, but I felt like that was how they were supposed to be written, especially Henry. Henry Winter was the most fascinating out of the group. His past remains very secretive throughout the whole book, the author only revealing bits of who he is every once in a while. I still am uncertain how I really feel about him.

I also really enjoyed learning a little bit about Classics as I was reading. Classics and the ancient would are very interesting to me, and reading a book with Classics as a theme was great.

However, there were some trivial problems I found while I was reading. The amount of information the reader receives is unproportional. Some of this probably has to do with Richard's narration, you can only know what he knows or what he finds out, but some was not. There were certain, unimportant things that would be explained and described in tedious detail, while other, way more important things would be somewhat skimmed over in a way that made it hard for me to understand.

Also I mourned the lack of the presence of the character, Julian, the professor. Based on the synopsis, I expected Julian to be a powerful presence in the novel. I imagined him being a John Keating type of influence on the actions of the students, when in reality, he only made an appearance maybe three times in the whole book. But in those cameos, I really liked him, and desperately wished he was a bigger character. I feel like if he had been in it more, I would've been able to understand the actions of the main characters better.

Despite all of this, I did love this book. It was a very dark read, but the writing and descriptions in this book were stunning, and I definitely want to pick up more by Donna Tartt someday.
“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.” 
― Donna TarttThe Secret History

backstage

I sit quietly in the dark. I can see nothing, except for the bit of light that streams in through the bottom of the curtain and glazes over the toes of my high-heeled shoes. I can hear the impatient murmurs of the audience and I can feel my stomach tighten with both excitement and nervousness. Hundreds of people will come to the theater tonight. They will sit in the green-velvet, folding chairs, dressed in their finest clothes and watch our show. We are entertainment to them, merely something to occupy a Saturday evening. They will never know of our world backstage.

I search the faces of the tired actors and stagehands, as if I can tell by simply looking at them whether or not it is time to begin. A couple of girls stand at the side of the curtain, opening it just enough to peer through to find family and friends amongst the growing crowd. I can hear them as they laugh and whisper in hushed tones, but I don't dare breathe a word. I rub my sweaty hands on the stiff fabric of my unwashed costume. My thick stage makeup feels as if it is melting off my face in the unbearable heat.

I am ready to go on. My lines have been running through my head and haunting my dreams for the past several days. I can walk through every scene without even thinking. I know which prop goes to whom, and who says what in exact order. Yes, I am ready, but right now I lean back against the black, brick wall and try to soak in everything around me. Tonight is our last performance. It is almost hard to believe we are here already. In this past short week the theater has become a home to us, a place it doesn't matter how old we are or where we came from, we are all family backstage. I know that once we take our final bow tonight, after the curtain closes and the audience goes back home, it will be all over. We will take down the set, pack up the countless hair brushes and tubes of mascara, and go back to our old lives.

I know that over time we will probably forget our parts, what we said, and where we stood on the stage. The one thing that we will not forget, however, are the memories we made at this old theater. I will remember exploring trap doors and hiding places, sneaking candy into dressing rooms, and exchanging secrets with other actresses as I applied more layers of red lipstick. I will remember taking naps on old sofas stuffed with bobby pins, daring the stagehands to climb up the never-ending ladders that poke through the ceiling, and the strong scent of sweat and hairspray that never seemed to fade. I have made more memories at this theater than I have in my entire life. This is what the audience cannot see tonight.

Suddenly, the house lights flicker and dim. The audience goes completely silent with anticipation. I stand and brush myself off quickly as a man in a suit goes onstage to introduce the performance. My head is spinning. Everything is going so fast, but I don't really mind. The curtain opens with a heavy squeak. It's show time!
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Resurrecting an old composition because I miss this more than you can imagine.

Book Review | Rebecca

| goodreads |
You know those books that pull you in? The ones that keep you on the edge of your toes, that leave you breathless with its beautiful imagery, that chill you to the bone? Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is one of those books.

This story follows the main character as she spontaneously finds herself becoming the second Mrs. De Winter, her experiences as she uncovers the dark secrets of her new husband's past, and the presence of his first wife, who continues to haunt them beyond the grave.

I was nervous when I started this book. So many other readers and reviewers who I greatly respect have sung the many praises of this book. Like every hyped-up book I read, I was afraid that I would get my hopes up too high and become extremely disappointed if it didn't live up to them. However, I'm very pleased to say that Rebecca most definitely lived up to every bit of the hype and then some.

I was also afraid this was going to turn out to be a ghost story. I have a hard time enjoying scary types of books, but this book surprised me. It turned out to be more of a mystery thriller than a creepy ghost story. From the moment you meet Maximilian De Winter, you're trying to piece together what truly happened to Rebecca.

I really liked the fact that the main character, the second Mrs. De Winter, remained anonymous throughout the whole book. The narration was told in her point of view, and since you never find out her real name or who she really is, it makes you feel like you are her as you're reading. You relate with her and feel what she feels as you're figuring out the mystery of Manderley with her.

The other characters were intriguing as well. You never know exactly who to trust or who to like. Some of my favorite scenes were those with Mrs. Danvers, she was shady and untrustworthy, but she was passionate. When she would get angry I could practically see her going on her tirades. Frank and Bee were some of my other favorites.

The pacing of the book was nice. Daphne Du Maurier's writing is so fluid and smooth, you don't care at all if the story goes slowly or not. However, once the ending hits and secrets start slipping out, the plot quickly becomes a speeding rollercoaster of crazy emotions. There were many plot twists I didn't even see coming, and I'm usually shockingly good at guessing plot twists.

This was truly a curl-up-with-a-cup-of-tea-and-a-mountain-of-pillows-on-a-rainy-day kind of read. It's suspenseful, and moody, and dark, and Daphne Du Maurier's descriptions of Manderley are drop dead gorgeous! It's a beautiful gothic novel that I will most definitely be picking this one up again someday soon.
I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end. --Daphne Du Maurier

my language journey | beginner status

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Je suis désolée, j'essaye, je te le promets.

translation//
I'm sorry. I'm trying. I promise you.
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Small disclaimer: I am not a language expert. I still consider myself a beginner in my studying. I am in no way fluent in French, or any other language other than English for that matter, but I've been wanting to write a post like this for awhile. I want to share my language journey with you, and give advise for anyone who might want to try to learn on their own.

Someday in the future I plan to write detailed posts on why I am studying French specifically for my first language, why I decided to major in it in college, and why I strongly believe that language learning is so, so, so important for everyone. This post, however, is all about the how: how I began learning French, and how I got to the level I am at now.

I've been studying French seriously since about Junior year of high school. However, learning a different language has always been something that I have wanted to do, and I've been teaching myself little bits of language off and on since I was very young.

My first official French resource I tried was French in 10 Minutes a Day, a cheap, short, floppy workbook meant for people attempting to learn basic French quickly in order to have a nice vacation in France. Nothing serious. Even though it wasn't the best language source to realistically learn French well, it gave me the first steps I needed, and it cultivated my early fascination with language. It taught me basic vocabulary that has stuck with me to this day, and I believe I still have the workbook half finished and abandoned in a drawer somewhere.

Since I was homeschooled my whole life, I never had an opportunity to take a serious French class, so I began exploring online options. I would watch little lesson videos, listen to native French speakers, and I also joined a website called LiveMocha, a sort of social media site for people trying to learn languages on their own (however, it's sadly not in existence anymore).

Towards the end of middle school I finally convinced my parents to get Rosetta Stone, since I needed to start working on getting a language credit for high school. I firmly believe that Rosetta Stone is one of the best resources for starting to learn a language. It won't make you fluent at all, and it is somewhat pricey, but I feel like it gave me a way better jump start than any other resource I had used previously. I learned a lot of vocabulary and phrases, and it made my first real French class so much easier.

As I was going through the Rosetta Stone program, I also used some supplemental sources to go a bit deeper in my language learning, especially as I became more serious.
I got a nice French--English dictionary, and I would watch old French movies whenever one was on TV (which happened more often than you might think). 
I would google concepts I was confused about, and I would read various French literature, most of which was translated into English, but it still taught me cultural things that were important to know.
I also subscribed to a helpful youtube channel that I still watch regularly, Comme Une Française TV, that explains specific aspects of the French language and culture that isn't always taught in classes or curriculum.

No two people are the same, and what has helped me may not work for you. If you want to learn French or any other language, the best thing to do is to try different things. If you're serious buy different books, or look around online. In this day and age, the possible resources are endless. Just stick with it. Persistence and practice are ultimately the best ways to learn anything.

The Book Thief Again

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I've written before about what a wonderful experience it is to read through an old favorite for a second time. I love the feeling of revisiting the stories and words that have become a part of me. The familiarity is comforting. And even though I already know what happens, rereading allows me to take a closer look at what it was that made a book special to me.

I first picked up The Book Thief in the summer of 2013. I will never forget it. It is not often that a book makes me feel the way The Book Thief did when I finished it, and I immediately recommended it to everyone I knew, wanting to see someone else grow to love it as much as I did. To this day, my old, battered, paperback copy has been read more than any other book on my shelf.

This year I decided it was time to give it a second look. I wanted to see if it still held its special place in my heart after almost 4 long years. And it did.

From the first page it took hold of me once again. The eerie narration from death, the beautiful descriptions, and the characters that break my heart every time. By reading it through a second time, I feel as if I paid more attention to the details, the foreshadowing and the use of the words to paint the story in a powerful way. I fell in love again with Liesel, Rudy, Max, Hans, and even Rosa who I didn't really care for my first time through.

The themes that are highlighted throughout the book also became clearer to me, and I was able to appreciate its message more. The importance of books and words and knowledge could've been told in many different ways. However, the World War II setting, the way it was told and narrated, the view of Nazi Germany that it portrays, all connect together so well, in ways that are surprising and profound, especially as I read it through a second time.

It's somewhat difficult for me to write about this book. I honestly believe it to be perfect, even though I'm sure it has its flaws. I could ramble on and bore you all for hours and hours about how much this book means to me. About how much I wish I could go back in the past and read it again for the first time with fresh eyes. Markus Zusak has truly written a masterpiece that, I am happy to say, will stay with me forever.
I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --Markus Zusak

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je ne sais pas

18 janvier 2017.
aujourd'hui j'ai décidé à écrire en français sur mon blog chaque semaine.
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translation//
today I have decided to write in French on my blog every week.

For 2017 I made a sporadic goal to write on my blog every week. When I say I miss blogging and writing, I really mean it. I miss writing for fun. I miss not having the suffocating pressures of deadlines and page limits and pre-determined topics guiding my writing. I miss being happy with what I've written.
Obviously I've already failed at my New Years resolution. Two weeks have flown by with nothing to show for it. But I have a project that has been developing in my brain for awhile now.
I've been studying French at school and on my own for a long time. It is my passion and is something I want to work with the rest of my life. I have wanted to do something that will grow both my writing and my French skills. Something that will push me to go out of my comfort zone, to study more vocabulary and sentence structures and grammar. But it is also something that will push me to blog and write the way I've wanted to for a long time.

Every week I plan to write a sentence or two (maybe a paragraph if I get ambitious), with the translation. Some days I might write more in addition in English with something I've been reflecting on or want to talk about.
I'm still thinking of how the details will be.

Il n'est pas parfait. It won't be perfect. I expect to make many mistakes (I hope no native French speaker or any of my professors find this). It will also be boring and mediocre at times since my current skills limit my writing. But I'm excited to be able to share this journey.

Merci.

À bientôt.