The Sunshine Blogger Award!

Happy 22nd year to me, I’ve been nominated for:

…how fitting, I have a yellow soul! Thank you dear Keri (Are You my Book?) for the nomination; you always inspire me to read and write more. Check out her blog for some great book reviews, writing updates, and all kinds of entertaining bookish content. She rocks my socks!!!

Also I’ve clearly been neglecting the beauty that is colored text, so excuse me while I write the rest of this post in vibrant colors!

 

The rules for this tag are straightforward:

~ List the rules and display the sunshine blogger award logo in your post/or on your blog

~ Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog

~ Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you

~ Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.

 

(Also photography is my new passion! Expect many photos on blogs now, including this little piece of sunshine:)

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1. What’s your favorite book to recommend?

I’m pretty sure I tell everyone to read The Little Prince because it pulls many different pieces of humanity and human desires together into one story. Plus it’s short and quick, so no one can use their dislike of reading as an excuse not to read it! One sitting books are also confidence boosters if you feel stuck in a reading desert… don’t ask me why, but no matter how many books I’ve read it always feels like the greatest accomplishment to finish a book!

2. If you were forced to try out a new type of blog post (e.g. a new format or topic), what would it be about?

Given my life recently, I’d probably start a photography blog where I created stories or personal posts from picture themes. I really love looking at life through a new (literal!) lens. It’s such an innately optimistic concept. It proves beauty can be in ANYTHING! ESPECIALLY the easily overlooked aspects of life.

3. If you had to dye your hair a color from the rainbow, what color would you pick?

Oh come on… yellow. You already know that. Everyone already knows that, even you reading my blog for the first time.

4. Who’s an auto-buy author of yours?

Don’t hate me, beautiful bookish friends, but I rarely buy books. 99% of the time I have to have already read it and loved it in order to purchase it. The only authors I think I’ve bought from before reading their works are J.K. Rowling and Jane Austen… I know that’s not the most interesting answer, but it’s the truth. OH! But also if I had the funds, Markus Zusak. I’ve only read two of his books so far, but they’re both on my all-time favorites list!

5. Your all-time favorite snack?

PRETZEL RODS. (Not really, that was just for Keri…) Right now I’m on an edamame kick, but I don’t think I have an all-time favorite… I’m always up for Cheez-its. My friend Johnnie said they “smell like feet,” so that tainted them a bit for me, but I STILL LOVE THEM.

6. Current obsession? (e.g. movie, song, TV show, book)

You’re just asking me to plug all the new music from artists I love… Switchfoot’s album Native Tongue, Dodie’s EP Human, Sigrid’s song “Don’t Feel like Crying,” and Half Alive’s song “Arrow.” I don’t know what kind of music you like but I’m sure you’ll appreciate something on that list. (Fun fact: Keri introduced me to Sigrid! YAY!)

7. Tell us a little bit about your blogging routine?

*Hopefully* every Friday or Saturday I post! Blogs rotate between Christian life, entertainment (like books!), creative writing, and thoughts on general topics that apply to all of us, like love and friendships. Basically you can pick and choose what you’re interested in and there’s 100% something for everyone here! Look around and be one of my new buddies! 🙂

8. Tea or coffee and what’s your favorite kind?

Coffee fo shizzle, with any kind of sugar, but mainly chocolate. Mochas are my life. Mochas are my kryptonite. Mochas are my cardiac arrest. [Excuse me, I had a mocha today, so the mocha demon just took over.]

9. What’s your favorite day of the week?

Thursday because it’s FRIDAY EVE! Plus because of my class schedule currently, Thursdays are basically Fridays since Friday just includes theatre, which is another love of mine as of late. 

10. If someone handed you a gift card to a bookstore right now, what book would you buy with it?

This is, once again, SO mainstream I’m slightly cringing, but I’d love to add To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before to my collection since I just read it! Reading that was like being transported back to my high school self with all the same angst and dramatic inner monologues. I saw so much of my younger self in that book. ALSO one of my new all-time favorites from Christmas break: I am the Messenger. 

11. What’s a goal of yours for 2019? (bookish, blogging-wise, other, it doesn’t matter)

I’m attempting to read 50 books this year and am sadly only on my third right now, because school always ends up being busier than I expect! There’s also sadly a lot of the Bible I still haven’t read and missed on my reading plan last year, so I’m trying to read all the sporadic, unread bits this year (at my leisure, because it shouldn’t be out of pressure.)

 

Now here are MY questions, buddies:

1. Where would you love to travel?

2. What popular book or series have you been dying to read but haven’t gotten around to yet?

3. Is there anything you wish someone would blog about? (And maybe I’ll touch on it sometime soon?!)

4. Board games or video games, and what are your favorites?

5. What book would you recommend to everyone? (I will add it to my list!)

6. What movie(s) have best done a book or series justice?

7. Who’s your least favorite character of all time and why?

8. What fictional world would you want to live in?

9. If you had to write a book, what genre would it be?

10. Who’s a musical artist you can’t stop listening to?

11. What are you hoping for 2019? 

 

And here are my sunshines, if you want to participate:

Sam @ samuelgrangerblog

Scribbles and Stories

Stuck in Fiction

The Book Prescription

Jenny @ Jenny in Neverland

Julia @ readjulespaige

Caralyn @ BeautyBeyondBones

Kelly Jean @ kellyjeancreates

Kaitlyn @ loveisalifelineblog

HolzieLoves

Elaine @ readefining

 

Thanks for stopping by, friends! Stay warm out there (or cool if you live someplace hot.)

~Annah

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2018: A Reflection & Favorites

Last year I posted a final blog of the year which I’m going to turn into a tradition. I listed my favorite things in different reflective and entertainment categories, and this gave me time to dwell on the minute and big joys of the year.

Simply put, 2018 was much harder than I expected, but also more wonderful than I can ever explain. A bittersweet year, but mostly one in which the blessings outweighed the troubles.

Song: “Good as Gold” by Greyson Chance

Firstly, his new album “Portraits” is out in January so STAY TUNED! I support Greyson’s craft immensely and the way he sticks to the pure love of music as incentive for new content. Not only does this song contain a great message that is my anthem to everyone I have the privilege of living life with, but the video and the context for the video is really important. Click and see what I mean!

Book: “Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning” by Leslie Odom Jr.

I wrote a blog about this already but it was definitely the perfect book for me on the cusp of adult life to soothe the fears and uncertainties that lie before me. I look up to Leslie as a creative creator and much of his creative journey aligned with mine, which made it an impactful read. While I’m still searching for my place as a professional, any form of entertainment or creative outlet brings me so much joy and fulfillment… and I know I need to be somewhere where art is. Writing, music, photography, graphic design, theatre, dance… I’ve tried it all and it all intrigues me.

This book emphasized that I will never stop learning or trying new things, and I think my senior year has also proven that with my course load. I’m willing to look like a fool if it means figuring out more about myself. Who says you have to stick with what you know? I refuse to settle.

Musician/Band: Sigrid

This woman has everything going for her–her voice, her dancing, her personality–and I’m such a huge fan. Her audience is growing exponentially and I’m so glad. I can’t believe I only found her this year because I already know all of her songs word for word. Every song is a bop. Seriously. I love how much joy and self-love she promotes. She’s just an utterly positive soul and it’s infectious. (This song is my anthem so I had to include it:)

Bible Verse: Psalm 23:2

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”

I sought a year of stillness, and while it was nowhere close to perfect, there were still some beautiful moments of slowness and gratitude. The last full day I was in Ireland my friends and I went to St. Patrick’s cathedral and I sat for a few minutes praying by myself. I will always remember that.

Movie: Mary Poppins Returns

Check out my last blog post; I wrote all about this movie! Such a delightful romp and a great reminder why imagination is so vital to my life.

TV Show: One Tree Hill

I know this is an older show but I just started getting into it this year during the summer. I’m a sap for dramas, what can I say. But also they feature real musicians and oftentimes quote literature at the end of episodes, so who’s really surprised?

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Photo Credit: eonline

YouTuber: Colleen Ballinger

While she’s not new to me, Colleen is another huge creative inspiration of mine and I’ve been following every step of her 2018 so that’s why I picked her as my favorite this year. What a trooper, what a hilarious person. After reading her YouTube character Miranda Sings’ new book My Diarrhe, I realized the first time I watched one of her videos was in 2013, 5 years ago. What?!

Also I was Miranda for Halloween and it was a boatload of fun. I talked like her all day. You can find the videos on my Instagram page.

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Posing for “pasents” on Insta
Colleen
Photo Credit: Colleen Ballinger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phone App: GoodReads

This app has single-handedly made me read more. I love watching the progress bar move while I’m reading a book and updating my reactions to characters and plot to anyone interested. It also gives me an outlet to post reviews and rate books, and who doesn’t love adding their two cents to a literary discussion? Plus it’s an easy way to keep track of everything I want to read and look back to see what I’ve read throughout the year. It’s all of my reading nerdiness in one app. My goal for next year is to read 50 books.

Class: Novel Writing

This class changed my life, plain and simple. I’ve always wanted to be an author but never knew how to tackle such an abstract concept as publishing. This class gave me a full draft of a book and the perfect steps and tools to make publishing possible. It challenged me in the best way possible, and is easily the best class I’ve ever taken in my life. I got to sit in a room with people all typing creative writing for half an hour straight for the first time, and let me tell you, that was the coolest sensation. My people.

Album: Trench by Twenty One Pilots

Everyone needs to listen to this album. IN ORDER. That’s very important. The end.

ALSO, HELLO, CLICK THIS IF YOU WANT TO SEE ALL THE RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS I DID OF TWENTY ONE PILOTS THIS SEMESTER! I WORKED REALLY HARD. I FANGIRLED. IT’S MAYBE COOL?

Concert: Twenty One Pilots

Okay so I would like to humbly claim that they put on the best concerts. AND I’VE BEEN TO A LOT! They have so much energy and passion! Their concerts are so uniquely them and it’s really hard to describe why they’re so different from other shows, but you’re either going to have to trust me on that or attend one yourself. It’s all for their listeners, not them, and that really shows. They’re not just singing or dancing either, but they’re doing back flips and standing on top of the audience playing the drums and doing disappearing tricks, among other things. There’s never a dull moment. Did I mention there’s only two band members?

I almost cried during their song “Taxi Cab” because like “Failing Up,” it hit me perfectly in this season of my life. Plus my friend Kate grabbed my hand when it started and whispered “Jesus!” and my heart cracked a smile. Their words touch the deepest parts of our internal pains and all I can really do is point you towards their lyrics and say some phrase like “beautiful souls,” like I’m Jesse McCartney or something.

SECOND CHANCE AT THE WEBSITE BECAUSE I’M A DWEEB. CLICK ME, MAYBE.

Creative Writing Piece: “Why do I Wear Yellow?”

Read here!

Event: Luke Legacy Photo Challenge

My family friend Luke passed away last fall at 17 to an aggressive cancer. Because of that, his hometown hosted a photo challenge on August 18, three days after his birthday, because his Bible verse was Romans 8:18. My parents, older sister, and I ran around taking pictures at different local establishments and helped raise more funds for his legacy fund, which sends kids who can’t afford it to Young Life camps nationwide so they can hear about Jesus! One of the best things I did this summer! Lots of goofy photos.

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Experience: Ireland May term

For my senior seminar class I was able to go to Ireland, my dream country to visit, for three weeks, and experience the culture and the people. Even trying to wrap my mind around all of it still seems impossible, because there were so many beautiful, indescribable moments. I still cannot believe I had that opportunity… it feels too awesome to be real. Honestly it was such a great experience that I don’t even know how to begin describing it. Pictures can never do Ireland justice and the Irish, who have such generous and joyful dispositions by and large, have made me so proud to be Irish. Every day there was a dream come true.

People: Drew Elliot, because he allowed me to intern in the recording studio and I’m forever grateful for his blind belief in me. It was a wonderful experience I will never forget and has opened the door to much more confidence in myself and my creative (and technical!) abilities.

Also Miranda, Michael, and Annabelle. Their friendships are so special to me. More than they’ll ever know.

Accomplishments: Besides writing a novel, traveling around Ireland, watching Twenty One Pilots in action (my favorite concert of all-time), working in the recording studio on campus, and participating in the Luke Legacy Photo Challenge *as if those aren’t already the coolest things ever*, I was able to:

  • Dabble in some photography (and buy a new camera to officially learn this coming semester)
  • I created my very first ePortfolio, which you can view here
  • See Harry Styles in concert
  • Work 25 concerts at Frederik Meijer Gardens for an internship?! THE COOLEST people and venue!
  • See Niall Horan in concert
  • Push myself out of my comfort zone in auditioning for my improv team (and partaking in callbacks)
  • Run my first 5K
  • Perform in the student dance showcase as a completely new dancer this past semester
  • Read 45 books this year (11 of which were in the past two weeks so I have to document this momentous occasion)
  • Plus, I’m positive I wrote at least 100,000 words, combining my novel, blogs, essays, and projects

How did I get this lucky? I really couldn’t tell you. I still can’t even express my feelings properly, but at least I can say I’ve tried to. Here’s to 2019 in all of its uncertainty, fear, joy, and excitement! My goal is to go with the flow.

~Annah

A Colorful Life with Mary

I finally went to see Mary Poppins Returns today with my mother, aunt, and oldest sister, and I’m still trying to process what it meant to me. I absolutely adored the narrative and all of the characters. Mostly I had a large lump in my throat for a majority of the movie, which is why I found it important enough to write about. Listening to the soundtracks now–new and old–I will try my best to put my emotions into words.

Mary Poppins was a large part of my childhood, and I watched it countless times with my Aunt Janet. It has always represented nostalgia and naivete for me, but most importantly one of the biggest pieces of my imagination to date.

In high school I wrote a “This I Believe” essay, on why I believe first and foremost in a child’s imagination, and I still wholeheartedly agree. Mary Poppins values imagination and wonder, and how powerful a child’s mind is in its purity, and I think that’s something we underestimate frequently. Children are incredibly smart and carefree because of the endless possibilities that they can see, while adults only fixate upon the impossibilities of the world. I don’t believe you can have as full of a life without imagination, and adults who are constantly focused on rationality and logicality will only end up unhappy, taking themselves and their lives far too seriously. What’s the use of a brain if you’re not also exercising your creativity?

Mary’s character reminds us that the best kind of people are a little rational and serious, but mostly imaginative.

Even though I haven’t watched the original movie in years (but will pretty soon, don’t worry!) I still remember it vividly from watching it often. As such, I can happily say this movie both brought about an exciting new narrative while still paralleling many aspects of the original in plot structure, character development, and musicality, with little snippets of original soundtrack peeking through at times. It was both new and comfortable in the similarities.

I think a big chord that strikes me with movies like this sequel is that they visually emphasize that time has passed in our lives and force us into reflection, which most of us don’t take nearly enough time to do regularly. Dick Van Dyke made my heart so happy dancing around on the desk at 93. (Also Lin-Manuel Miranda just makes everyone smile with his positivity!)

Most significantly, Mary Poppins Returns reminded me of what I value, no matter how many years have passed: wonder, imagination, belief, and faith, despite logic’s “odds” and the world’s negativity. When I used to watch Mary Poppins, growing up seemed like the end of the world and I was willing to sell body parts to prevent that from happening. Now, on the cusp of adult life with my last college semester before me, and having just watched Mary Poppins Returns, I can say I’m not afraid of the uncertainties and passing of time anymore, but rather the way in which I’ll live my life and interact with others. And my goodness, I hope I cling to imagination and wonder always, because it makes life exciting, colorful, and joyful.

Also, six-year-old Annah, I can tell you that even though a lot has changed in your life, a lot has remained the same, and just because desires and daily life as an adult are incredibly different than childhood doesn’t make it negative or less fulfilling. So take comfort in that. Your imagination is still flourishing and you’re still creating new worlds with your words and your unique language.

Of course I want to thank Aunt Janet for showing me how imaginative adults can be and how our brains will always continue to create regardless of our age or profession. I’m so glad I got to sit next to her and experience Mary’s return with her.

Forever singing Mary’s songs loud and proud. And hopefully I’ll pen something half as cool as P.L. Travers.

“Everything is possible, even the impossible.”

~Annah

20 Questions Book Tag

Firstly, thanks to Jenny in Neverland for this 20 question tag! Books are something I love immensely that I don’t get to talk about enough. Also fun fact: I can’t stop listening to Cat Stevens. But what else is new?

       1. How many books is too many books in a series?

THE LIMIT DOESN’T EXIST! Let’s not put limits on creativity, shall we? If your brain can keep whirring out more, I think that’s fantastic and inspiring. Plus, I understand… I love writing standalones and short stories, but dang, it’s hard to let your characters go. So maybe this is more of a writer’s point of view, but I definitely don’t think it’s my place to limit authors as a writer or a reader.

2. How do you feel about cliffhangers?

I think they’re a very smart way to keep a reader engaged and I’m all for them, as long as they’re not too glaringly predictable. But nothing hits you as hard when you’re reading a book than an unexpected twist at the end of a chapter.

3. Hard copy or paperback?

When I was younger I insisted on only owning hard covers, because I thought they were so much more fancy and official. But now I’m more of a paperback gal (probably because I’m broke and actually pay for things). I don’t care what a book looks like or its “aesthetic,” it’s all about the content. The cover’s pretty irrelevant to me honestly, at least until I’ve read the whole book.

4. One book you read because of the cover:

So as such, this really isn’t applicable to me. I have such a huge list of books to read that I wouldn’t even consider picking up a random book for years, and even if I did, the cover wouldn’t hold weight for me.

5. Favorite book?

Two answers: Les Misérables and The Little PrinceThe most opposite when it comes to length that I could possibly think of but so, so powerful in their own ways. Les Misérables represents my love of redemption and the resilience of the human spirit. It really epitomizes all of the ways I deeply appreciate the human race, because I think too often we let the bad blind us to the immense beauty we can create if we want to. The Little Prince highlights other values of mine that are equally important to me–childhood, naivete, and imagination. I need hard-hitting realities and imaginative complexities in my reading life, and I think these books showcase my personality well.

6. Least favorite book?

I’ve only ever given one book a one star rating and it was THE FOUNTAINHEAD. I’m sorry if you happen to like it, but I swear I’ve never had a book rub me in such a horrible way before, like this one did… I deeply loathe every single character–just like my love for Les Mis, The Fountainhead is everything I despise about humanity in one book. I do not think I’ve ever disliked any piece of entertainment as much as this book… even thinking about it makes me clench my teeth in anger. Yikes…

7. Love triangles, yes or no?

I know this is an overused trope in books, but I genuinely only think I’ve properly read about one–The Hunger Games. I’d like to say I hold a strong stance on this since so many readers do, but I don’t lean either way very strongly. As long as the confusion and ties within the triangle are realistic and it’s a genuine struggle because of the characters’ personalities, I’d say it’s perfectly fine. When it comes to aspects of book plots, even if they are overused methods, as long as you’re portraying humanity accurately–that’s all I really ask of writers.

8. The most recent book you just couldn’t finish?

I feel like these questions are just proving I’m an abnormal reader… I really can’t not finish books, unless you count being little and having a small attention span, so you subconsciously switch books every two seconds. Technically I haven’t finished a couple books in college, but that’s only because I had zero time, not because I actually didn’t want to finish them. When they’re free choice I feel obliged to finish them, even if I don’t love them, because it seems like an unwritten code of polite conduct. And as a writer, I’d hope people would stick it out to the end of my works…

9. A book you’re currently reading?

For my Advanced Fiction Writing class, we’re currently reading Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich, and I think she paints such gorgeous pictures and characters with her words. It’s comprised of short stories that are all centered upon two families, but they can each also stand alone. I’ve always been super drawn towards fictional works involving Native Americans so this has been an intriguing read, and while some of the stories can be harsh in nature, Erdrich’s words showcase the hope and evil we each possess in a heartbreaking and authentic way.

10. Last book you recommended to someone?

Yesterday I recommended The Little Prince to someone. What else is new?

11. Oldest book you’ve read?

The Odyssey, but haven’t we all?

12. Newest book you’ve read?

Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning by one of my favorites, Leslie Odom Jr.

13. Favorite author?

I always think of a smattering of people when this question comes up, but never one particular person. But there’s something about J.D. Salinger’s writing that has always stuck with me, and I love incorporating his dialogue accents in my own work. In general, I love simplicity in writing–both the words used and the plot–and when simple language can generate such powerful emotions within us, that matters. We say simple things every day that can have long-lasting impacts on our loved ones, so there’s no pressure to write so abstractly or eloquently all the time. The simple stuff sticks.

14. Buying books or borrowing books?

In case you forgot, I’d like to reiterate how poor I am. But I’m also weird about buying books; I tend to only buy books I’ve already read or authors I know I already love… I don’t like taking chances on books I’m unfamiliar with. Not when it comes to money… #PennyPincher. So I’m forever praising the fact that we have libraries and I’m forever borrowing books.

15. A book you dislike that everyone seems to like?

Moby-Dick. I only read snippets for class, but it was painful. Too slow-moving and abstract for my taste.

16. Bookmarks or dog ears?

Books are beautiful objects and I try to keep mine as beautiful as possible for as long as possible. Bookmarks 500%.

17. A book you can always reread:

Third time’s the charm… The Little Prince. It’s so short, well-written, and easily accessible that I highly doubt I could get tired of rereading it. But also the Harry Potter series, as I’ve successfully reread it who knows how many times already.

18. Can you read whilst listening to music?

Nope. I adore music so much, I just pay attention to music when I put it on.

19. One POV or multiple POVs?

For the most part, one point of view. But Rick Riordan did a great job in the Heroes of Olympus series with multiple characters having their points of view incorporated, and I think he firmly established that by giving each character separate chapters. If the point of view is changing in the midst of a chapter or story without a change of voice established, I think that can read very sloppily and becoming immensely confusing for readers.

20. Do you read a book in one sitting or over multiple days?

Unless it’s a really short book, I have to read books over multiple days. I think that’s mostly a sentimental thing; I don’t like leaving characters that quickly.

 

Well I’m officially sad I have hardly any time for choice reading right now. But only two months until Christmas break, right?!

~Annah

Summer 2018 Books

For once in my life I planned out a month of blogs, but of course I was too busy at a dear friend’s wedding last weekend to write anything, so that blog will be pushed back a month, because college is consuming my life now for one FINAL year.

I’ve been dying to share book reviews for a while now, so as you already know, here are the books I read this past summer! There were 9, which is one more than last summer (and once again, I started a book near the end of the summer and didn’t finish, so that’ll be pushed back to Christmas break unfortunately).

I have a little bit of variety, but not nearly as much as last summer, since four books are by the same author. Instead, I read a lot of books that were connected in one way or another. Seasons of life vary immensely, as do reading patterns, apparently.

1. The Scorch Trials by: James Dashner

I started the summer off by delving into the second book in The Maze Runner series. I’ll keep these brief for those of you not interested in this particular series.

It’s a dystopia about a boy named Thomas and other teenagers in future North America who are forced into a contained and controlled living environment, in order to test the limits of their brains and see who is best equipped to survive the harsh living conditions their world has been put in as a result of sun flares. This book follows the teenagers into “the Scorch,” which is an incredibly arid environment. They learn about and encounter Cranks, who are people who have caught “the Flare” disease and since become inhumane, as the disease has eaten away at their brains. Gruesome? Yes. That’s why it’s dystopia.

What I love about Dashner’s writing is how vivid it is. Every sentence pulls you into the moment with the characters. Every book you read is a movie in your head, but Dashner’s writing seems to provide me with much more visual awareness than other books, so it’s no wonder the series became a target for movie-making.

While it’s nowhere near happily ever after, I appreciate dystopian books because I think they speak volumes of what someone (the author) finds flawed about society and the government. Seeing how the fictional government system works and where its weaknesses are in dystopian books fascinates me.

2. The Death Cure by: James Dashner

As you can guess, this is the final book in The Maze Runner trilogy. I won’t say anything more as to keep from spoiling it from anyone who wants to read it.

Overall, I think the series’ themes are important for the intended young adult audience to hear. Hard times are not exclusive to a certain time period or season of life, and it’s okay to be frustrated when the cards seemed stacked against you. But when the cards are stacked against you, that also becomes the opportunity to rise up and not simply let the situations define you. These are great lessons that cannot be spoken upon enough, and I think Dashner conveys the spirit of human resilience well in this series.

3. Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning by: Leslie Odom Jr.

After I finished the series, I wanted a change of pace before reading the prequels, so I proceeded to satisfy my Hamilton thirst. Leslie’s book was by far the most emotional read of my summer. I’m hoping to acquire my own copy soon just to annotate it, which is something I NEVER want to do. But it has had such a profound impact on my creative aspirations at such an uncertain time in my life, so I will gladly write all over it when I get the chance. I’m going to include my Goodreads review, because it truly encompasses all of my emotions:

Failure is necessary and cannot be spoken upon enough. The greatness of any artist is a resilience of spirit, through which dreams are chased, despite rejections.

I knew this would be 5 stars after 20 pages. At 30 pages, I started crying. The thing was I knew Leslie would have some great things to say in a wise, eloquent way and he’s a great inspiration of mine, so I naturally wanted to pick up the book… but little did I know how deeply and personally his story would touch mine. I saw myself in his thoughts and my family in his.

Truly, Leslie gave myself and all of his other fans a gift through this book—to be this vulnerable about one’s struggles and triumphs is never easy, especially when you’re well-known. But what a beautiful comfort it is to read the pages of an inspiration’s and trace out the same fears and doubts within my own life and journey as an artist. Personally I am passionate about words and music, but at a transitional time—my last year of college—so many questions linger in the air: most prominently, how do my passions translate into a career?

Leslie’s words have brought me great comfort, as I know they will for anyone interested in any art form. Despite unconventionality and uncertainty, Leslie reminds us that the outcomes will be okay. As long as we never tire of chasing dreams, they can be obtained. It’s a small world after all.

4. Hamilton: The Revolution by: Lin Manuel-Miranda & Jeremy McCarter 

This is all about the musical Hamilton, which Leslie Odom Jr. starred in for a few years. Basically it’s an additional book for any fans wanting more background on the musical, or readers who are curious what the musical is about and why it’s such a current phenomenon. My favorite part about this book was that Lin Manuel-Miranda included annotations about his lyrics. As a writer reading the work of another big inspiration, I soaked it in like a sponge.

5. The Kill Order by: James Dashner

I dipped back into Dashner’s work with this prequel about how the sun flares initially impacted Thomas’s world. While there was a little surprise at the end that connected the narrative back to the original trilogy, I didn’t think a whole 200-300 pages about the sun flares was necessary. It made me apprehensive to delve into the second prequel, but I did nonetheless.

6. The Fever Code by: James Dashner

Unlike The Kill Order, this prequel was worth the read and it explained some of the questions left about the characters at the end of the original trilogy. Frankly, you could skip The Kill Order altogether and be perfectly fine connecting the dots. While I did thoroughly enjoy Dashner’s writing and dystopia, I was ready for something different at the end of this book.

7. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by: Mark Twain

I had to sneak a couple classics in, because I’m very invested in a healthy balance of classics and contemporaries. Tom Sawyer’s story was a light and fun romp. There wasn’t anything too exciting or intriguing about the narrative, but it’s definitely a good stepping stone for younger readers trying to get into classics. It’s fairly easy to follow and the language isn’t too complex. As someone who adores childhood and themes of innocence vs. a dark world, I still felt it worthwhile to be read once.

8. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by: Mark Twain

Of course, you can’t read Tom Sawyer without reading about Huck Finn, too. Unfortunately, this is the part where I come off as a bad English major, because I didn’t love the book. It’s not that I disliked it, I just struggled to grab onto the narrative and feel invested in what happened to the characters. It could have been the heavier dialects present, but I felt distracted every time I picked it up.

I did appreciate the themes of friendship, morality, and integrity, and the fact that the two main characters, Huck and Jim, were outcasts in that historical time period. I can appreciate it for being an important text in the context of the time period. But like Tom Sawyer, there was nothing I really thought would stick with me or change my outlook on an aspect of life. It was with a heavy heart I told my dad I didn’t love it, but we cannot all like the same things of course.

9. Love Does by: Bob Goff

This was a great book to finish the summer on, because it made me feel really inspired to go out and live life better, by placing other people before myself. Bob Goff really has the most incredible stories and he shows God’s radical joy through his words, which I love! If you’re a Christian looking for a book that will make you laugh and also challenge you in your faith, give this one a try.

 

I enjoyed my book journey this past summer; it was a great way to unwind and relax from other emotional stressors… And believe me, I had plenty! But life has been looking up the past month and it appears I’m out of the valley for now, so I’m rejoicing! (Literally! I’ll be at a silent disco tonight!)

Let me know if you enjoy or want to read any of these books! I’d love to talk more about any of them. Any book recommendations?

~Annah

Music is a Breathing Force

I’ve been wanting to do an entertainment blog for a while but have admittedly been a little stuck, as I’m waiting to do larger review posts when this season is over. So for inspiration I looked up what some recent music tags have been, and I found one called “Shuffle the Music,” where bloggers will pick the first 15 songs on their music library shuffle and explain any kind of relevance or importance they are to that person’s life.

I’m going to change it up a bit though. I’m only going to do the first 5 songs that appear on my Spotify shuffle, and I’m going to explain the significance of both the song/artist and one quote from the song that resonates with my life right now.

1. “My Love Goes Free” by: Jon Foreman

“You’re a bird with a pretty mouth / You’re a bird with songs to shout.”

Besides the fact that Jon is my biggest inspiration as a writer and a man of faith, his songs always speak to me in delicate places of my heart. To me, this song is almost a Foreman equivalent to McCartney’s “Blackbird.” It’s essentially about a caged bird singing to be let free, which I think is a beautifully delicate theme that anyone who feels oppressed or underrepresented can relate to.

This particular lyric has the same sentiment that “Blackbird” has for me: I’m a reserved and composed woman, while also being one who feels the need to start new conversations. I will stop at nothing in order to get a message to others that I feel they haven’t heard enough, which is exactly the purpose of my fictional, yet autobiographical novel “Status: Untilled, Moldy Heart.” Many revisions to go before I sleep, but this is for both petite women and everyone else’s self-image issues. This novel is reassurance and victory, and hopefully my readers can rejoice in Ryden’s journey, as they reflect on how far they’ve come on their own.

 

2. “Tear in my Heart” by: Twenty One Pilots

“Sometimes you gotta bleed to know / That you’re alive and have a soul.”

Firstly, this is one of the most refreshing and unique love songs I’ve ever heard. And if there’s anything we’ve heard enough of, it’s love songs, so that means a lot. I mean, who puts romance and the government in one song? Only Tyler Joseph.

This song was one of the first ones I really gravitated towards when I discovered Twenty One Pilots (3?!) years ago. But I really love the opening line, because of how simple and important it is. Even the hard and sticky blood that comes out from heartbreak is beautiful, because it means you’re human. Sometimes you only learn great lessons when you’re bleeding for good or bad reasons. Blood = reassurance. Although I’m going to stop using that word now. Fun fact: I don’t like internal things of any kind (i.e. blood, organs).

As of right now, Gracey Rose is the tear in my heart (and I’d like to hope Jesus is too).

 

3. “Focus” by: Sigrid

“I will not degrade myself / Even if it means that we are not a we.”

Yikes. I’ve been relating to this song a lot this season through inconvenient romantic feelings (can anyone else relate?). The song is all about getting over someone you know is not beneficial for you for one reason or another.

This year, I have been so happy to have stumbled across Sigrid. She helped me through the rough draft of my novel, but also can relate to all of my hardly existent romantic problems. To me, she represents the authenticity we cannot have enough in popular culture: a bare and natural face without makeup, relatable and quirky dance moves, raw vocals, and a grounded 21 year old for younger girls to look up to, who doesn’t feel pressured to sacrifice her values for the sake of being trendy.

The highlighted lyric has always stuck out to me, and I think it’s a sentiment really lacking from female love songs. At least, this is the first time I have explicitly heard a woman sing these words. Although it’s hard to just push feelings aside, as I’ve realized lately, it’s also important to establish that your own self-respect takes precedence over feelings that can oftentimes not be based on that kind of logic. It’s a great reminder to never settle: not in feelings and romantic relationships, nor in career choices and life-altering decisions.

 

4. “Yesterday” by: The Beatles

“Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away / Now it looks as if they’re here to stay / Oh, I believe in yesterday.”

I know I said Sigrid helped me through my rough draft, but honestly I think The Beatles singlehandedly did. Not only are they mentioned a billion times in my novel, but they’re such huge icons for a reason. As many people could agree, they really represent why I love music so much. Many of their songs contain universal and breathing lyrics that are always relevant over the decades, and this song is no exception. One way I’m going to revise my book is to place a relevant Beatles lyric at the beginning of every chapter.

The transition from yesterday to today can make all the difference, whether good or bad. In one day my dog was taken away from this world, in one day I realized I had inconvenient feelings that changed my relationship with a friend, in one day I felt unsafe as a woman.

But throughout everything, I really enjoy ‘I believe in yesterday.’ I think so often we write off the past, but we would be nothing without our past decisions, nor would we have the opinions or drive for change we have today if not for yesterday. I believe in yesterday’s purpose, because it shapes  my entire life, and it has shaped how I can now live in freedom, knowing I am constantly forgiven–a forgiveness that is not based on works.

 

5. “Someone Else” by: The Greeting Committee

“And maybe you didn’t mean it / But when a dog bites, ‘sorry’ won’t stop the bleeding.”

While finding 20 new artists this past semester as an internship goal, I found The Greeting Committee. I’m still getting into their music, and truthfully, this song isn’t as well-known to me as the others I’ve listed. However, I do really love this lyric. I wrote a poem about this a few years ago, but basically even sentiments people ‘don’t mean’ can haunt a person’s thoughts for months or even years afterward. I know casual comments people said to me once have subconsciously affected me to this day.

For example, 7 years ago someone mentioned I ‘talked too much,’ and since then, I grew more reserved in nature. The good news is that comment doesn’t matter anymore: I’m more of an ambivert now than ever before (which means I can be both introverted [reserved] and extroverted [outgoing] in nature). But that’s exactly why you have to be so careful about the kinds of things you spout to others without properly thinking them through. Just because it’s not an explicitly rude comment doesn’t mean it’s an uplifting comment. We need to uplift each other as much as possible, and respect one another’s unique personalities.

What songs or lyrics do you relate to most lately? Who are your favorite artists and why? I’d love to hear thoughts on any of these topics I brought up.

Hopefully this was semi-interesting, I’ve never partaken in any kind of blog tag or trend before! Have a wonderful day, friends!

~Annah

Top Favorite Book Series

Since giving up social media last week, I have gotten bit by the reading  bug again. Although only on my second book of the summer, I plan on growing that number rapidly, as my to-read list is also expanding exponentially.

As you can tell by the title, I thought it would be fun to talk about my favorite book series! I tend to be pretty selective about what books I want to read, especially if they’re a series. Usually I don’t chance getting into a series unless I’m pretty positive I’ll love it, so I honestly can’t think of any series I’ve read that I haven’t loved. I’m more drawn to reading standalone books.

Most of these are well-known, so instead of giving full run-downs of the books, I’m going to briefly describe them and then explain why they have meant so much to me.

1. (You guessed it) Harry Potter – 7 books

Out of all pieces of entertainment, Harry Potter has impacted my life the most. My first venture into Harry’s wizarding world was at the age of 5, when I tried to pick up and read Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone, the book I had seen in all of my siblings’ hands. Although my first journey through the book lasted only a few pages, I remember being excited by the prospect of multiple books being about the same people–it was my earliest memory of encountering a book series.

Harry’s adventures have followed me over the vast majority of my life, with numerous rereads along the way (my friend and I are currently reading them aloud together, and trying to finish them before graduation). Although a common answer, Rowling has been one of my favorite authors, because she taught me the true depth of imagination and has continued to show me through Harry that despite deep grief and worldly trials, love will always come out on the winning side.

Through the ginormous phenomenon, Rowling showcased how essential children are to the literary world and how no one is too old to delve into the depths of their brain’s creativity. Childlike wonder is a valuable trait the world needs. 

2. The Hunger Games – 3 books

To me, this trilogy was one of the most unique and intriguing concepts I had ever heard of. When I first started the book, I had no idea what to expect, and was surprised and entranced by the gripping tale of a young woman thrust into a twisted national game show where she must fight other children to the death to win.

It’s no secret that I love dystopic books, and The Hunger Games series tops the ones I’ve read. The combination of politics and game shows seemed so fresh to me, and I loved the concept of a fictional world that was also plausible, by exaggerating aspects of our society. I think dystopian books can be an intriguing look into what others find as downfalls of our society, like political deceit and greed in the case of Suzanne Collins’ popular trilogy.

I think what both draws readers into dystopia and what pushes readers away from dystopia is the fact that in the midst of far-fetched tales of puzzles and violence, we can see some great and disheartening seeds of truth about the evil in our world. But that’s all the reason we root for the protagonists–because as bleak and violent as it gets, they persevere and keep fighting for what they believe is right, even if it means overthrowing a government system.

3. Percy Jackson – 5 books

Rick Riordan’s series both introduced and hooked me into Greek mythology. In middle school, pretty much everyone I knew read these books. What makes them so great is that they center upon relatable and sassy characters that attend a camp–a tangible, warming concept to most children. Riordan then pairs these unique and fun heroes with Greek stories in a fun, understandable way that also educates his audiences. I think that’s a really great example of effectively drawing children to literature and education. Personally, I haven’t read many other Greek-related works except Riordan’s, which makes his tales memorable and unique for me.

4. A Series of Unfortunate Events – 13 books

This series was another childhood, elementary-age staple. I’m also starting to realize there’s a theme in these series… education masked by imagination. Although Lemony Snicket’s writing style is quirky and much less discreet; oftentimes in his narratives he makes asides to define words for the reader within the story’s context. Some people found the writing style odd and awkward, but I thought it only enhanced the story’s voice and made readers feel closer to the lives of the three Baudelaire orphans.

I remember having to wait for a couple of these books to publish and then trying to read them as fast as I could. One friend in third grade and I read The Penultimate Peril at the same time, making it a competition to see who could read it faster. But I also know my favorite part of these books, both as a child and now, is the theme of age vs. intelligence.

For those of you who don’t know, the books center on three children who’ve lost their parents and are transferred to live with a guardian named Count Olaf, who ends up being an evil man that will do whatever it takes to get his hands on their parents’ fortune. Eventually, the adults believe that he’s evil and transfer them to another guardian, but Count Olaf continues to follow them in different disguises. The children try to convince the adults in their lives that Count Olaf is following them, but time and time again, the adults never believe them until it’s too late and he’s escaped.

Too often, adults look down on children or think they know better than others simply because of age, and I think that can cause a lot of blindness among individuals. Yet children are wiser and more valuable than we give them credit for, in mindset, attitudes, and opinions.

5. Divergent – 3 books

This is another dystopian series and one of the most controversial series out of my favorites, mostly because many people hate the ending of the last book. However, I really enjoyed this series and Allegiant was the first book I ever read that made me sob for a good five minutes. Again, the themes or plot choices in the books I like that many others tend to dislike are usually based on reality or truths we don’t like to think about. In this case, not everything is tied up in a nice bow, and that’s life really.

This is another dystopian concept I found intriguing, plus it kind of takes an idea from Harry Potter that is really interesting to me: there are different, distinctive groups/types of people. In this series, people are sorted into different factions when they turn 16, that open up certain types of societal roles for them. There is Amity (the kind), Dauntless (the brave), Erudite (the intelligent), Abnegation (the selfless), and Candor (the honest). But there are also the factionless, who either failed intiation tests into the different factions or refused to join theirs, and divergents, who can fit into multiple factions and are dangers to the society. As you can imagine, the story centers upon a girl, Tris, who is divergent and trying to hide that fact from the government.

6. A Great and Terrible Beauty – 3 books

I adored this trilogy in every way possible; it combines everything from fantasy to romance to adventure. I made quick work of these in high school. My favorite aspect of them is that it takes something very current and enjoyable, a fantasy world, and juxtaposes that in the midst of nineteenth century Britain. Mainly, I tend to enjoy a combination of two very different things in books, and I think that’s a great way for writers to come up with original ideas, especially in fantasy. It also had some hints of Indian culture, which has always been a subject of fascination for me. Definitely the least heard of series in my list, but I would recommend it to anyone who loves a dramatic fantasy adventure.

7. The Maze Runner – 3 books

I’m in the midst of the third book now (book #2 of the summer), but I already love this series. Many people dislike it for its graphic imagery, and while I tend to be a bit squirmy with violence, James Dashner’s writing really pulls me into his dystopian world. He has one of the most vivid writing styles I have ever read, and while it’s not the most complex writing, it really allows you to empathize with the protagonist, his emotions, and all of the difficult situations he has to undergo.

This series follows a boy named Thomas, who shows up in this place called the Glade, without any memories of his past, not even his name. He and the other boys living there are stuck with no escape, surrounded by an ever-shifting maze with scary creatures that come out at nighttime. Eventually Thomas is invited to take on the most prestigious role in their little Lord of the Flies-like society: Maze Runner. His job is to help find an escape to the maze, all while getting back before sundown, when the maze doors close and offer certain death. Each book has been incredibly different, so it’s really hard to predict how the series is going to end, but I’m excited (and a little scared) to find out.

8. A Future Trilogy That Shall Not Be Named

Okay, I couldn’t resist. I’ve had a trilogy on the brain for a couple years now. It was one of those lightning-struck, I-don’t-know-where-this-came-from ideas, but I have been really excited ever since the idea landed in my head. My hesitations and reservations that prevented me from getting down to business are now quashed, as I’ve taken a novel class that has presented me with the technical plan I need to tangibly reach my goals that were only abstract before. All of the aforementioned series, with their wonderful characters, are definitely huge inspirations to my own writing. But before I can get to that trilogy…

July is Camp NaNoWriMo, which is a regular part of novelist vocab, but sounds like a weird disease to other people. Essentially, November is the original NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but July is a laidback camp variation. Normally in November, writers around the world attempt to pen 50,000 word novels in one month. But in July, writers are encouraged to work on any writing project (novels, poems, scripts, etc.) and set any kind of goal they wish (e.g. word count, page count). Writers create online “cabins” with friends or strangers, and track one another’s goal progress as a team. Community and accountability are great ways to stay motivated as a writer (and in life in general).

I’m dying to write my trilogy, but I have a standalone I need to complete first, as I’ve decided I want it to be the first glimpse readers have of my work (even though it’s completely different). Now that I already have a rough draft, my goal this July is to spend 100 hours working on revisions, which will include rewriting, revising, and researching different aspects of my story. I’m not going to lie, my characters are bursting to talk again.

So if you need me, I will be camping out at my computer, with a notebook, or with a novel in hand all month, soaking in all of the outside perspective on my story and my writing style as I can, while trying to craft a more vivid, engaging story for my future readers. When I get exhausted I just tell myself–this is for all of the petite women out there who don’t have a voice yet. Not for long.

~Annah