Thursday, December 24, 2015

Don't Ever Change! Or Maybe You Should... | A Sounderous Denouement


The 23rd of December was my last day school in the United States for the next three months. On top of the normally impending new year nostalgia, I knew this would be the last time I saw all of my friends for the next three months. Everyone around me has been incredibly kind and have done their best to assure me, "It's only three months, you'll be back!" Yet, yesterday was not nearly as simple as all of that.

I have been living in Upstate New York for the past 13 months. It took a while to adjust to the new city as well as acclimate to the climate, culture, and of course - because this is every teenager's fear - the new social situation. To be perfectly honest, I didn't have anyone I would have considered a friend until the 2015 school year started. Sure, there were people I could talk to and eat lunch with, but I hadn't truly felt I belonged in this strange new place until not even four months ago. 

Since the 8th of September, when the new school year began, I have made so many new friends and deepened relationships with others I had gotten to know the previous year. For the first time in a year, I felt truly accepted and like I belonged in this city I now call home. With recent friendships in mind, there came this extra layer of impending fear.

What if everyone forgot about me?

Obviously, I'm not begging for attention or a farewell parade to send me off to Oxford, but as any adolescent is bound to feel, I was and still am sincerely worried about what will happen when I return. These new relationships I have forged are still brand new and in their beginning stages, so will my absence cause everything that's been built up thus far to crumble? 

I still can't answer those questions.

The adults in my life have given me a lot of unsolicited advice on the matter. "You'll learn who your true friends are in the process," being the most common. One of these adults whose opinion I do trust and value counteracted that [let's call her Mary] by saying she didn't think it was true, that people are going to change regardless and so will I. Maybe I won't want or see my previous relationships with people as fulfilling as they had been when I left due to new insight and experience. Everyone will keep on going with their lives and maybe I won't fit back into the routine / mold I had set up for myself when I left. 

While what she presented to me was a terrifying reality, it was also somewhat of a relief because it reminded me that while no one else is going to have their life on pause... neither am I. I am going to be living on another freaking CONTINENT for the next three months, experiencing what I have probably never even fathomed before in terms of a way of life and interacting with people so unlike who I have met thus far. 

This entire situation has been weighing on me since I discovered that I was temporarily moving to England and in all honesty, is the only thing that has been holding me back in terms of full force excitement and anticipation towards my "new life." However, there has been another color added to the canvas of the situation. Yesterday, when I left my high school, two of my friends said something to me.

Don't change. 

I interpret their words as, don't change who you have been to us for the past four months, not as an actual, "Don't you dare change a single thing about who you are while you are gone." Thinking about what Mary said, I knew that I am going to change. With that in mind, maybe my friends are also scared that the really weird loud writer who says random things at completely inappropriate moments is going to stop being herself. 

I look back at the person I was when the school year began or even last month and I know so much has changed from even then and these friends have accepted and loved me regardless. High school is the most tumultuous, ever - changing place there is on the planet in terms of a social hierarchy and I now know it's going to happen. 

Four months ago, I never would have imagined meeting my best friend in Spanish class - striking up a conversation with a girl in Homeroom and learning we both share a hatred of common core - taking a chance on the guy who sits in front of me in Creative Writing and him becoming my best guy friend - talking to the redheaded musical prodigy in Gym and I am now being invited to her family's Christmas Eve party (which I should probably be getting ready for soon) - finding a good friend with the guy in Global who I was paired up with for an essay. 

You never know what you're looking for in life - whether it be people or things - until what you're looking for finds you and it turns out to be exactly what you always wanted. Of course, what you want is always changing as your priorities do and as your character develops, but that's the beauty of life because there are so many people out there who can be that person for you, that friend you never imagined having to laugh and cry and organize your bookshelves with. 

In the end, change is the only constant variable of life and I honestly haven't a clue as to how my life is going to be or who will stare back at me when I look in the mirror on the 3rd of April when I return to American school in 2016. So just keep in mind that you are going to change, but the people who are meant to be in your life will change along with you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Have I grown out of Loving the Language of Literacy? | A Sonderous Denouement

Sonderous : the realization that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own
Denouement: the final resolution of the intricacies of a plot

Loving the Language of Literacy


I've made an entire post pertaining to how I came up with the name and while there are some days when I get tongue tied with the name of my own YouTube channel, I am never going to regret it. However, the topic I want to address today is branding and what niche you belong to. The popular British blogger Ashley Evans from Nose Graze who I discovered via the bookish community touches up on this subject quite a lot and has written a ton of concise, thought provoking posts pertaining to this very subject. 

There is absolutely no denying that I have been inconsistent with blogging in 2015. To be honest, when I wrote The Evolution of Labels, I knew it was the end of an era. I knew I wouldn't have the time to dedicate myself to blogging and my heart simply wasn't in the task anymore. There are countless reasons I prefer the platform of YouTube over blogging, analytics are faster, easier to comprehend, recognition is a tad easier to come by, and the entire creative process is so much more rewarding for me. 

Regardless, that doesn't mean I have stopped writing altogether. I've mentioned this in many a YouTube video, but I'm taking the creative writing course at my high school, I'm extremely involved in my school's literary magazine, I go to weekly writing class at my local YMCA, and I recently won NaNoWriMo for the 2nd year in a row. Needless to say, I keep busy. In fact, I'm writing more than ever. In the past year alone, I have worked my way through two spiral bound notebooks filled with poetry, prose, and overall teenage angst, and I'm on a third. 

The original reason I began blogging was because I had opinions and I wanted them to be heard. Although most of my opinions pertain to books. There have been many occurrences where in social situations, acquaintances, peers, and friends will ask what my Instagram is and I tell them - with the PREFACE that the majority of pictures I post are of books. This has been an ongoing battle for me in the past year on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, and this blog. If it weren't for the bookish community, there's no way I'd ever have social media. I just don't see the need for it, I'm not going to post an endless slew of selfies, that just isn't me. Simultaneously, once people I know from "real life" discover my various platforms of self expression, I instantaneously get self conscious and have been afraid to press the POST button because it's nerdy, it's weird, or any of the other endless excuses I have. However, what I'm coming to realize is, they can unfollow me in a heartbeat and never have to see another bookish post again if they want. This is who I am, these are my interests, and the reason I created social media was to interact with those with similar interests, to get the stimulation and conversation I was lacking with these people I knew in real life... no offense to those who may be reading. 

However, two years is a long time. The first time I ever posted on this blog was December 7, 2013 which to be perfectly honest, feels like an entire lifetime ago. I was a completely different person and while the interest in books may have remained the same, my priorities, my focus, my passions, as well as the actual genres and types of books themselves are vastly different. I'm suffering from a little disease we all like to call growing up. I'm going to change as I experience new things and therefore what I want for myself and feel the need to share will be different. 

With all of that said, I have been wanting to discuss a wider array of topics and tackle different issues that stray away from the literature I still do love very much. I'm a teenager, the only constant variable pertaining to my identity is the fact that it won't be the same if you ask me two hours later. I have considered and even been asked - Why don't you create a second YouTube channel? Why don't you create another blog? I have my reasons, most of them neatly filed under the label of NOSTALGIA, but the simplest way to put it is - laziness. I barely have the time to upload bookish videos and the general upkeep for my channel, let alone an entirely different one. It's a lot of work to start from the ground up. So what I've come to realize is the same logic I used with feeling self conscious about what I was posting on social media; People can deal with me posting different things, they might even like it, and it they don't they can unsubscribe, unfollow, and never look back. 

Of course, this has all come up for a reason, and it isn't just because the year 2015 is coming to an end and I feel the need to suddenly do ALL OF THE THINGS I didn't do the other 11 available months of the year. The fact of the matter is that before 2015 even ends, on the 27th of December, I am out of here. I am leaving behind everything I have established in the past year for Oxford, England, where I will be spending the next three months when my parents - University professors - are on sabbatical. I will be experiencing a multitude of newness, to an even sharper degree than packing my life up and moving across the country. Of course everything will still be here when I return, my therapist, family, and friends have all assured me of that, but in essence, the next three months won't count towards my Central New York identity. But they will matter to the person I am becoming and will be for the rest of my life. 

I'll go into a lot more detail about this in my next post, but as usual whenever I launch into a series of posts attempting to declare I am back in the blogging business, there needed to be an introduction. In a lengthy 2016 Resolutions video I'm most likely going to procrastinate on scripting after this, I'll have a more detailed explanation of what I hope to accomplish. These posts, A Sonderous Denouement - more on the name later - will catalogue this phase of my life in a way no others have previously. There aren't going to be a ton of images or GIFs or a time spent dedicated to each one. This is my journey and mine alone and hopefully, I'll be so busy living life I'll only have harried amounts of time to document it. I pondered keeping everything private but for the family members as well as the few readers I have left for the blog Loving the Language of Literacy might be interested in hearing about my life. If they don't... I'll have thousands of words worth of embarrassment for posterity's sake.

Tell me in the comments below what you think of the series, if you've struggled with branding / finding and fitting into your niche, and if you've ever had to pack up your entire life... even if it was only for a few months.

Keep calm, Read On, and I'll see you in a new post soon :)

Next Post : The Only Thing to Fear is Your Life Falling Apart... The England Debacle

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Wrap-Up | November 2015 ~ NaNoWriMo, My Birthday, Friendship, Black Friday & Writing


IMAGE FROM THIS MONTH

FUN/NOTEWORTHY THINGS THAT HAPPENED
1. An Impromptu Birthday Celebration | I went up to Rochester on the third weekend of November for a visit to my aunt but without my knowledge, she and her best friend turned it into a surprise celebration. My birthday is actually on the 11th of December, but who says we can't start early? We went to one of my favorite restaurants in Rochester called the French Quarter and when I came back to the table from the bathroom, there was this glorious cake [pictured above]. The night before, I told my aunt that some of my friends had taken to calling me "Letters" and she actually wrote "Happy Birthday Letters" on my cake.

2. I went CRAZY in Barnes and Noble... What's new? | Black Friday | I pretty much flee and cower in sight of Black Friday and most definitely don't approach it with the mindset of "Buy! Buy! Buy!" except on the internet, which we all know that we're guilty of it. I spent my Black Friday with one of my best friends Ella and her younger sister Sarah. We took advantage of the wonderful sales/deals and even though I did get a lot of my holiday shopping accomplished as well as purchased a couple of books for myself - don't judge me, you should be used to this by now. However what made it such a memorable and enjoyable day was spending it with my friends who genuinely accept me for my booknerd self and we completely fangirled and recommended books to each other and generally annoyed the heck out of everyone else in Barnes and Noble.


3. I have friends!!! o_o | I know it's shocking, the girl who spends the majority of her free time on her laptop or ensconced in the world of books actually crawled out of her nest to interact with people. I've been in Syracuse for a year at this point and it has been the happiest year of my life. It has also taken a year for me to fully acclimate into the way life here is and to truly feel accepted in my high school. I mention friends specifically this month because of the person who has been my friend since I met her in Spanish 1 but this was the month we really bonded and got a lot closer. *whispers* In case you hadn't figured it out, we're the cute girls to the right of this text. I love Ailin <3 comment-3--="">



4. I drove myself to the brink of insanity aka I won NaNoWriMo | If you are subscribed to my YouTube Channel, you may have seen the series of videos, I made in honor of NaNoWriMo 2015 and you can go there to hear all about my work in progress Countdowns. The funny thing is, I may have won on the 22nd of November but in actuality, I only wrote 17 of those days. I've come to realize stepping back completely to take a break works so much better for me and then just shooting to write more words on a daily basis. Anyways, this is a selfie I posted to Snapchat that is basically the anthem / image for this year's NaNoWriMo. While I accomplished everything I set out to do... I procrastinated and protested myself the entire time :) 

5. More Writerly Things! | Editor in Chief and Creative Writing Connoisseur | My high school has a literary publication twice a year and on a rotating leadership schedule, I have been put in charge during crunch time for the Fall edition of the magazine which pretty much means I'm going crazy... but what's new? We're a bit behind schedule (no surprise there) but as always under a stressful situation, we'll find some way to get it all done. The first marking period portfolio was due this month as well and I scrambled to get all the prose / poetry I've worked on this year into something presentable. I will transfer a lot of the work from there onto the blog so you can read my writing. 

WHAT AM I LOOKING FORWARD TO?
I do not own this image or claim to
I'm looking forward to many things to look forward to in December so I shall proceed with a long rambly paragraph. While I myself may not be Jewish, my family is and Hanukkah starts on the 6th of this month and as I type, I still haven't obtained some of the gifts I'm bestowing on various family members so I've gotta get on that. During that window of time, my birthday is on the 11th and we're celebrating on the 10th. Ailin and Ella (both pictured above) are accompanying my family and I to a fancy winery - I know, I'm definitely not 21 - for a nice dinner. In order to stretch myself even thinner, I have decided to post on the blog 3-4 times a week during December as part of a new series eponymously named A Sonderous Denouement. And the reason this series is coming to be is because my family and I are packing up everything and moving to Oxford England for three months. I obviously want to record my thoughts / memories in the time that I am there and I figured I should get into the habit now. Lastly, the end of the year means reminiscing about 2015 as well as concocting all of the resolutions for 2016. You most definitely can expect full blown rambly vlogs pertaining to my Reading, Writing, Living, Blogging, BookTube resolutions for the new year. If you want to see my progress throughout the year on those resolutions, you can watch my First Quarterly Update and my Second Quarterly Update.

WHAT DID I READ?

FAVORITE VIDEOS OF MINE


I invited Ailin over to make a YouTube video with me and she had delightfully appetizing idea to film the Bean Boozled Challenge so that is exactly what we did. Trust me, the video is 10 minutes of us giggling and spitting jelly beans into a trash can :) I'm dying to do more collaborations because I just love the dynamics of filming with someone


In commemoration of the half marathon I ran in October, I decided to make a video comparing NaNoWriMo and running and I love how it turned out. The two are extremely similar in the way they both require a lot of endurance, mental willpower, and leave you absolutely exhausted when you're finished.



FAVORITE YOUTUBE VIDEOS
Emmmabooks created an original tag and I made my own video answering all of her wonderful questions but I will not be releasing it soon because I'm saving it for a rainy day... aka when sh*t hits the fan and I'm too busy to film a video. 

My OTP Piersha - Natasha Polis and Pierce Brown - made an interview video together and I know they're real people, not fictional ones but they're just the cutest not-couple I've ever seen. 

During the month of November with all of her wonderful NaNoWriMo vlogs, Elisabeth Paige has become my favorite BookTuber/YouTuber. Her personality is amazing and utterly honest so it was so much fun watching her journey throughout the month and knowing I'm not the only one who struggled.

Savannah Brown wrote the viral poem What Guys Look For in Girls a year ago and her channel is full of astounding, thought provoking videos that make me want to discover myself and the world while writing poetry in coffeeshops - clichely of course. Hi, I'm a Slut is one of her newer slam poems and I love everything about it.

Claudia Sulewski is in fact a popular Beauty / Lifestyle vlogger and she made her own Stripped Down Challenge. I got so inspired by what she said and by the utter honesty and rawness of her video.


TV/MOVIE OBSESSIONS


Besides my normal appetite of Fresh Off the Boat, Life in Pieces, and Nashville, I saw Mockingjay Part Two, and I know the rest of the world did as well, but what I really want to talk about movie - wise is one my parents dragged me to over Thanksgiving Break which was Brooklynn. It's a historical love story featuring an Irish immigrant who makes a new life for herself in New York. She grows accustomed to the comforts and possibilities 

SONGS THAT WERE ON REPEAT








QUESTION OF THE MONTH
What is your favorite holiday tradition?

Friday, October 9, 2015

Mini-Reviews | What If?, Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, Devoted


In an attempt to spice up the blog, I've decided to post mini-reviews of everything I read. I've mentioned since I blogged consistently - goodness knows that was long enough ago - that I don't under stand how bloggers can possibly review EVERYTHING they read merely out of a lack of things to say about all of them. Nevertheless that doesn't mean I have to review them all in the style I've become accustomed to in the almost two years since I began reviewing. A post of this kind will go live every 2-4 books I read so you should get at least two or more posts from me a week - a stark contrast to the past few months.

Synopsis : Rachel Walker is devoted to God.

She prays every day, attends Calvary Christian Church with her family, helps care for her five younger siblings, dresses modestly, and prepares herself to be a wife and mother who serves the Lord with joy.

But Rachel is curious about the world her family has turned away from, and increasingly finds that neither the church nor her homeschool education has the answers she craves. Rachel has always found solace in her beliefs, but now she can’t shake the feeling that her devotion might destroy her soul.

Goodreads ~ The Book Depository ~ Amazon ~ B & N

September 1 | 78% | Hardcover |  I sat down at 7pm in my backyard and only got up once before finishing it at 10. The Truth About Alice made my Top 14 Books of 2014. Naturally, I wanted to pick Mathieu's second novel up in hopes that I'd love it. Unfortunately, I was disappointed, not because of anything immediately discernible, but in this case, comparison truly is the thief of joy. I was driven to so much emotion with her debut and as well all know, I'm a sucker for multiple points of view. Religion is something rarely ever directly tackled in YA, even less so in a positive light. I commend Jennifer for tackling it. Even though the focus of the novel is Rachel Walker's escape from her cult-like Calvary Christian Church, she stays true to her core values despite being confronted by the variables of what society considers "normal" life aka 21st century pop culture. Something readers will most likely connect with is her passion for consuming the written word. Despite a particular piece of text bringing the story to a climactic point, she finds comfort in the characters and wonder only a good story can provide. While Rachel does seem extremely inexperienced, everything seems realistic and her budding romance is completely innocent and quite sweet. In terms of familial love, Rachel's actual family isn't understanding but in terms of her true family - friends that love, care for, and support her - she is well situated. The resolution to Rachel's story is a good one and readers will be left with a triumphant smile when you finish reading the last page.  

Synopsis : Randall Munroe left NASA in 2005 to start up his hugely popular site XKCD 'a web comic of romance, sarcasm, math and language' which offers a witty take on the world of science and geeks. It's had over a billion page hits to date. A year ago Munroe set up a new section - What If - where he tackles a series of impossible questions: If your cells suddenly lost the power to divide, how long would you survive? How dangerous is it, really, in a pool in a thunderstorm? If we hooked turbines to people exercising in gyms, how much power could we produce? What if everyone only had one soulmate? From what height would you need to drop a steak to ensure it was cooked by the time it reached the ground? What would happen if the moon went away? This book gathers together the best entries along with lots of new gems. From The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek and the songs of Tim Minchin, through chemistry, geography and physics, Munroe leaves no stone unturned in his quest for knowledge. And his answers are witty and memorable and studded with hilarious cartoons and infographics. Far more than a book for geeks, WHAT IF explains the laws of science in operation in a way that every intelligent reader will enjoy and feel the smarter for having read. 

Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon | Barnes & Nobles

Hardcover | School Library | 76% | I heard about What If? in a completely random BookTube video sometime during the month of September. Coincidentally, a few days after, it showed up in my school's library New Releases section. Therefore, I had to pick it up. To be honest, I went into this novel with the wrong impression. With the example hypothetic questions, I thought Munroe would answer them with an array of knowledge like psychology, history, english, and physics versus what it ended up being - all physics. I would definitely not recommend this book if you don't have interest in or a basic understanding of science. However, because physics is one of the areas I'm considering studying, I felt absolutely no shame for nerdily loving it. If I were to compare this What If? to another book I've read, I would say it's similar to Hyperbole and a Half and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in the way that the author uses comical sketches / graphics to better get their point across. The questions are ridiculous and random, but it was so interesting to see how Randall Munroe answered them in what he made to seem like a logical way. Overall, this isn't the kind of book you have to read cover to cover and if you're a physics nerd that wants the occasional laugh, I would highly recommend it.



Synopsis : "A publisher in New York asked me to write down what I know about the Greek gods, and I was like, Can we do this anonymously? Because I don't need the Olympians mad at me again. But if it helps you to know your Greek gods, and survive an encounter with them if they ever show up in your face, then I guess writing all this down will be my good deed for the week." So begins Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, in which the son of Poseidon adds his own magic--and sarcastic asides--to the classics. He explains how the world was created, then gives readers his personal take on a who's who of ancients, from Apollo to Zeus. Percy does not hold back. "If you like horror shows, blood baths, lying, stealing, backstabbing, and cannibalism, then read on, because it definitely was a Golden Age for all that." Dramatic full-color illustrations throughout by Caldecott Honoree John Rocco make this volume--a must for home, library, and classroom shelves--as stunning as it is entertaining.

Audiobook | Library via Overdrive | 66% | Upon recommendation, I listened to the audiobook of Percy Jackson's Greek Gods and more than ever, it felt as if Percy was telling me a story, and because it wasn't about him, he really got into the ironic humor interspersed throughout Greek Mythology. I think we all had our own versions of illustrated greek myths to grow up on and when I have children of my own, I am most certainly purchasing this so that I can share the experience from the point of view of everybody's favorite demi god. With that said, I don't think Percy Jackson's Greek Gods was a book intended to be read cover to cover simply because there are individual stories that stand out well on their own, but it becomes an assault of media when they're being told one after another. Not every story will be riveting which is a common issue of mine when I read anthologies or collections of stories. There are most certainly ones I would love to go back and read again, but I don't forsee the rereading of the entire novel any time soon. All in all, I got exactly what I expected out of Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, more adventures, laughs, and knowledge narrated by one of the best voices in young adult fiction.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September 2015 Wrap-Up | I Am a Running, Writing, Apple-Picking Machine


IMAGE FROM THIS MONTH

FUN/NOTEWORTHY THINGS THAT HAPPENED

Gorgeous Sunflowers, Catching-Up & Looking Through Photo Albums | I know my aunt reads my blog so I'm just going to go ahead and say, "Hi Ahja." Even though we now live in the same state, it has taken ages for us to finally get together. She arrived with a (quite literal) armful of the most gorgeous sunflowers I have ever seen and her comforting personality I didn't know how much I'd missed. We did a lot of catching up in pertinence to each other's lives as well as looked through old photo albums reminiscing about times past.



Apple Picking | One of my parents have been talking about the "wonderful, life-changing joys of apple picking" since I moved to New York but we never got around to experiencing it as a family until the last weekend in September. My friend Isaac was invited along and it actually ended up being a nice afternoon for the five of us. Of course, Kathleen forgot her phone, so she ended up using mine to take stalker-y photos of the two of us.

School | I'm probably one of the only teenagers to say this but I love high school. The one I attend runs on a block schedule which doesn't work for everybody's style, but I sincerely enjoy it because of the freedom and ability it gives to manage your time. This makes every period of the day 82 minutes - which is terrible for Gym - but I get to absorb my favorite classes for an even longer time and we are extremely productive. I love 8/10 of my teachers and can tolerate the other two. The workload isn't too difficult yet, and overall it's been an absolute blast. Even though I'm taking both French and Spanish, which has definitely been confusing.


Writing My Novel | While I haven't tweeted the official #NaNoWriMo declaration of my participation - I should really get on that and stop procrastinating, anyone who follows me on Twitter (@sslluvsbooks) most certainly has seen my constant barrage of #NaNoPrep. I have a pretty solid outline for at least half of my story and I am genuinely ecstatic for it to begin - even though I still have a lot to do in order to submit material for my Creative Writing portfolio. I'm also planning on making an #AmWriting update video to discuss my works in progress as well as how my writing life has evolved in the past few months, especially since I haven't attended writing class in weeks because of scheduling conflicts.

Invitationals, Dual Meets & Pasta Parties | I mentioned going to an intensive running camp as well as the Cross Country season starting in last month's wrap-up and the adventure has only gone up from here. We've had a total of five meets thus far - either invitationals or league and I've already run a PR for the season which I am extremely proud of. I'm planning on making an entire video about how life changing the experience has been but for now I'm just going to say that I'm in the best shape I've been in my entire life both mentally and physically. My team feels like a second family and we've been through a lot together - hill repeats, long runs, early makeup-less mornings, and post race hugs.

WHAT AM I LOOKING FORWARD TO?

NaNoPrep | As an elective, I'm taking Creative Writing (surprise, surprise) and the huge assignment of each marking period is to turn in a portfolio and I'm planning on submitting a few poems here and there as well as the first few solid chapter of my NaNoWriMo novel in anticipation of it surpassing 50,000 words. Nevertheless, it's going to be a mad dash for 31 days until the great even begins.


Running a Half Marathon | I plan to run my first half marathon in October and I am absolutely psyched. I've been doing so well endurance / speed wise in cross country as well as snuck in a few long runs so I anticipate a pretty good time. Nevertheless, it's the accomplishment that's important so I can go around telling people I'm a half marathon-er. Apparently it's a really run, generally flat course and I'm ready for it - even though I have a meet three days after, that's going to be interesting.

Autumn | It's been unseasonably warm in Syracuse as of late, but the autumnal skies did seem to arrive overnight - maybe the weather can take a hint and follow suit. I'm dying for a pumpkin spice latte, cozy sweaters, and fall foliage.

WHAT DID I READ?
[to come]

FAVORITE VIDEOS OF MINE


TV SHOW OBSESSIONS


SONGS THAT WERE ON REPEAT



I've been listening to Shawn Mendes' recent album all month as well, but the collaboration between Hailee Seinfeld and himself really took the cake.


I've been obsessed with Hailee Steinfeld since I discovered we share the same birthday and have watched her in several movies like Ender's Game and Pitch Perfect 2. While I'm not in love with the original version of this single, I love its message and when it's stripped down, I quite enjoy it.


I stumbled across this song on an alternative station and have loved it ever since.


I've been listening to Alexi Blue's covers since the day she posted her first one on YouTube and she has come a long way since then. This is her new original single completely unlike anything else she's released before.


Jana Kramer's "I Got the Boy" has been on a nearly constant cycle since I discovered it last July and "Circles" has a similar ring and relatability to it.


I'm not sure we need any explanation whatsoever for this song, I'm the biggest Nashville fan in the bookish community and the Stella sisters are one of the best parts of the show, of course I'm going to listen to their new single constantly.

FAVORITE QUOTES 
(in theory, there should be fewer, but there were just SO MANY good ones, cut me some slack)

“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.” 

I am quite serious about wanting this as my Senior Quote as I don't think I've ever read anything more relevant in terms of where I am in my life.

“The consequence of this is that I'm always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both."

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn't already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.” 

Obviously The Book Thief has been showered with praise for many years at this point, but the concept of the Death as a narrator was astoundingly executed and this quote truly expresses the respect and admiration he had for Liesel and humanity.

--- The Book Thief : Marcus Zusak

“You're the most important thing in this universe. You; this vessel; the people of this planet; lovers, warriors, artists, leaders, dreams more numerous than stars. Each mind unique, each thought created for an instant and then broken apart to form new ones. You don't understand the unbearable beauty of being you.” 

While I most certainly had my share of issues with the story itself, this quote puts things into perspective from the omniscient narrator in a way similar to Death.

--- This Shattered World : Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

“Some things exist in our lives for but a brief moment. And we must let them go on to light another sky." 

Anyone who has ever had a before / after stage of their life can definitely relate to this quote as it's about letting go but being appreciate of the time had.

--- The Wrath and the Dawn : Renee Adieh

QUESTION OF THE MONTH
What is your favorite part of Autumn?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Never Always Sometimes : Adi Alsaid | BookTalk w/ @sslluvsbooks

Rating: 66%
Series: None
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction, Fiction, Young Adult,
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Page Count: 308
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library


Goodreads Synopsis: Never date your best friend.

Always be original.

Sometimes rules are meant to be broken.

Best friends Dave and Julia were determined to never be cliché high school kids—the ones who sit at the same lunch table every day, dissecting the drama from homeroom and plotting their campaigns for prom king and queen. They even wrote their own Never List of everything they vowed they’d never, ever do in high school.

Some of the rules have been easy to follow, like #5, never dye your hair a color of the rainbow, or #7, never hook up with a teacher. But Dave has a secret: he’s broken rule #8, never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. It’s either that or break rule #10, never date your best friend. Dave has loved Julia for as long as he can remember.

Julia is beautiful, wild and impetuous. So when she suggests they do every Never on the list, Dave is happy to play along. He even dyes his hair an unfortunate shade of green. It starts as a joke, but then a funny thing happens: Dave and Julia discover that by skipping the clichés, they’ve actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even on love.


Disclaimer: On Loving the Language of Literacy, the term "BookTalk" refers to a thorough review of the novel plus a spoiler-filled discussion. 

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?
Fans of Morgan Matson, Emery Lord, Robin Benway, Jenny Han & Rainbow Rowell

Background & Backstory?
I actually didn't intend to read this but was in the mood to get out of my school-induced reading slump, so I picked this up for a quick cutesy contemporary.

What Was My Reaction Upon Finishing?
Seriously?


Plot | 80%
Premise | 67%
Characters | 50%
Romance | 60%
Originality | 90%
Cover | 75%
Title | 55%
Feels | 40%
Writing Style | 57%
Pacing | 70%
Ending | 60%

How Likely Is It That I Will Read Another Book By This Author?
45% | I'm not certain I'll read Let's Get Lost simply because the feedback hasn't been stellar but I'll consider it if I'm in the mood for a road trip novel.

Conclusion: Never Always Sometimes was a cute, diverse contemporary with well an unpredictable, well-developed plot and characters.

Monday, September 14, 2015

American Sniper : Chris Kyle | Book Review w/ @sslluvsbooks

Rating: 73%
Series: None
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Authobiography, 
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: January 3, 2012
Page Count: 416
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library via Overdrive


Goodreads Synopsis: From 1999 to 2009, U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle recorded the most career sniper kills in United States military history. The Pentagon has officially confirmed more than 150 of Kyle's kills (the previous American record was 109), but it has declined to verify the astonishing total number for this book. Iraqi insurgents feared Kyle so much they named him al-Shaitan (“the devil”) and placed a bounty on his head. Kyle earned legendary status among his fellow SEALs, Marines, and U.S. Army soldiers, whom he protected with deadly accuracy from rooftops and stealth positions. Gripping and unforgettable, Kyle’s masterful account of his extraordinary battlefield experiences ranks as one of the great war memoirs of all time.

A native Texan who learned to shoot on childhood hunting trips with his father, Kyle was a champion saddle-bronc rider prior to joining the Navy. After 9/11, he was thrust onto the front lines of the War on Terror, and soon found his calling as a world-class sniper who performed best under fire. He recorded a personal-record 2,100-yard kill shot outside Baghdad; in Fallujah, Kyle braved heavy fire to rescue a group of Marines trapped on a street; in Ramadi, he stared down insurgents with his pistol in close combat. Kyle talks honestly about the pain of war—of twice being shot and experiencing the tragic deaths of two close friends.

American Sniper also honors Kyles fellow warriors, who raised hell on and off the battlefield. And in moving first-person accounts throughout, Kyles wife, Taya, speaks openly about the strains of war on their marriage and children, as well as on Chris.

Adrenaline-charged and deeply personal, American Sniper is a thrilling eyewitness account of war that only one man could tell. 


Background & Backstory
This will probably sound ridiculous, but I never intended to read this book. If you're subscribed to my YouTube Channel, you may know this, but I recently became re-obsessed with audiobooks. Since August, I've had my visual book I'm reading - either on my Kindle or as a hard copy - and my audiobook simply because I find it a more productive and efficient use of my time as opposed to watching YouTube for hours on end (come on, we're all guilty of this). For the books I assume will take me a long time to read because of density or reluctance, I listen to them, and I've found this works wonders. American Sniper is a book I've been wanting to read since I saw the movie last February but because of its focus on the military, I knew it would take me forever to pick up a physical copy. I put it on hold via overdrive and when it became available, my thinking was, "What the heck? I might as well listen to it."

What Was My Reaction Upon Finishing?
Whoa.

September 4-6 | With that said, American Sniper was everything I expected it to be and I had the same issues with the book as I had with the movie. A problem many reviewers (myself included) have with non fiction is the guilt that comes with any serious critique of the text. Pertaining to a novel, while you are insulting the author's decisions, they still are the AUTHOR'S decisions versus non fiction where you're insulting AN ACTUAL HUMAN BEING'S LIFE AND EXPERIENCE. I deeply admire and respect the sacrifices and choices Chris Kyle made for America, but this review is on how he conveyed his own journey as a sniper.

What I'd like to start off by saying is - Thank God everyone is different and that we have courageous men and women in this world who are willing to defend this country. It's common knowledge with firsthand accounts such as Kyle's, but to be part of the military takes an infinite amount of dedication and commitment. On a much smaller, less significant scale, I have a slight taste with the persistence it takes. I run cross country and there are days when I think to myself, "Who in their right mind would ever want to participate in a sport where the goal is to push your body to the limit and end the day with your tank completely empty?" Enduring is not for the feint of heart and the motivation can't come from someone else yelling at you. Navy SEALS' jobs are unlike anyone else and the training alone is enough to kill 99% of the people on this planet, which is of course, the reason why only the best of the best live to tell the tale.

On the flip side, there is no chance you are catching me any time soon marrying someone in the military. I know I don't have the strength of character to not have my family be my spouse's first priority. It's simply the way I was raised and my personal values. Chris Kyle's marriage and children suffered so much with the amount of dedication he had to the military and his sense of duty was simply extraordinary.

In terms of the way American Sniper was set up, I definitely think Kyle's co-authors could have structured it differently to accommodate for a larger audience of non-military personnel readers. As it was, they did a great job of interspersing other people's perspectives throughout Chris' narration. Nevertheless, as someone who is not familiar with the military, there seemed to be a lot of repetition in terms of Chris Kyle's focus as he regaled the tale of one battle after another. There were a lot of details surrounding what type of gun, situation, and kill it was that meant (on a comprehension level) absolutely nothing to me.

Another issue I hesitate to bring up that I had with Chris Kyle was the way he appeared to so easily fit into the stereotypical redneck mold. The south already gets enough grief with non-country music fans making fun of pick up trucks and beer, but it seemed as if Kyle could have been plucked from one of Luke Bryan's chart topping singles. He had an extreme amount of faith in God and his sense of duty to America was astonishing. It only bothered me because I am unfamiliar with it and I couldn't personally relate.

Conclusion: American Sniper is a fully immersive, uncensored account of Chris Kyle's experience as a Navy SEAL sniper, but more importantly, a dedicated United States citizen.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Wrath and the Dawn : Renee Adieh | Book Review w/ @sslluvsbooks

Rating: 65%
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1
Genre: Retelling, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult, Fiction,
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Page Count: 388
Format: eBook
Source: Overdrive via Library

Goodreads ~ The Book Depository ~ Amazon ~ B & N

Synopsis : One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.


Would I Buy It?
25% | Because of my mixed feelings surrounding this novel, I know I won't be rushing out to Barnes & Nobles any time soon to purchase it. Yet if a bargain deal came around... I couldn't help myself if the beautiful cover snuck its way into my collection.

Background & Backstory?
This is actually my second attempt at reading The Wrath and the Dawn because the first time, I completely spaced out in terms of focus. I knew my loan from the library would expire in five days and I knew my friend Alex from The Books Buzz would kill me if I didn't at least attempt to read this novel.


What Was My Reaction Upon Finishing?
Whoa! *waits a few minutes* My feelings need to get themselves together so I can write a review.


September 3-4 | There had been nearly relentless prepublication buzz surrounding The Wrath and the Dawn months before its release. I honestly don't know how marketing teams and publishers determine which books to pluck out of obscurity and hype up. Is it the "eye-catching" premise? The amount of money they've invested and hoped to dear god would pay off? I can most certainly see what people enjoy and I can agree on a few of their points. Nevertheless, it didn't knock my socks off and has made me wonder, what truly made Penguin go to such lengths to advertise this novel? Anyways, that's a topic for another day but the point you have probably gleamed is that The Wrath and the Dawn did not wow me.

Whittynovels provided a more in-depth review than I could ever compose and managed to scoop up all my tangled up thoughts to give readers a quite eloquent summary of her feelings. I've adored A Thousand and One Nights since I was little; Shahrzad has always stuck out to me because of the protagonists evidently strong will and the element of storytelling used as something that could save your life. Even though it's literal in Shahrzad, I strongly believe literature has the power to not only inspire, but save people's lives by showing them perspective that can completely turn their realities around.

Plot : Something I've heard critiqued upon has been the way Adieh just jumps into the action and the meat of the story, skipping the lengthy exposition and world building we've come to expect from kind of fantasy The Wrath and the Dawn proves itself to be. Personally, my problem with the story comes when we're scrambling as readers to keep track of all our characters and the wide scope Renee gives us. Something Whitney commented on was the fact that a ton of characters were presented but we were never given any second heads-up as to who anyone was and the role they played.

Characters : Shazi was quite admirable for her strength even if her motive was a tad confusing. Her personal vendetta against the caliph was quite obvious but we were never certain if it was because he killed her best friend, if she had the entire thing planned with Tariq, or if it's going to be a whole other over-arcing plot of political intrigue throughout the story. Khalid has been compared to a middle eastern Warner fro me Shatter Me Series and while I didn't agree with the comparison, I liked his character nonetheless. However, when we finally learned the reason for all of the beheadings and Shazi discovers some strings attached to that, I didn't see how probable it was that this other side to him was there all along. 

How Likely Is It That I Will Read Another Book By This Author?
60% If the question were about reading the sequel, that's a lot less likely. However, no one can deny the gorgeous writing and if Renee Adieh were to concoct another elaborate story, I know I'd at least have to give it a shot.

Conclusion: While the writing is extraordinary and the characters solid, I just wasn't hooked on the plot and the different perspectives as well as points in time were hard to distinguish. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Cress : @marissa_meyer (Lunar Chronicles #3) | BookTalk w/ @sslluvsbooks


Rating: 67%
Series: Lunar Chronicles #3
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult, Fiction,
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: February 4, 2014
Page Count: 550 
Format: Audiobook
Source: Overdrive via Library

Goodreads ~ The Book Depository ~ Amazon ~ B & N

Synopsis : In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who's only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.


Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers for the events that have taken place in the series previous novels - Cinder and Scarlet. On Loving the Language of Literacy, the term "BookTalk" refers to a thorough review including a clearly marked spoiler free and spoiler filled section.

Background & Backstory?

In my August 2015 Reading Wrap-Up, I expressed my distress having to do with the Lunar Chronicles. Besides Queen of Shadows, Winter is a many people's most anticipated release for 2015. I marathoned Cinder and Scarlet back in Summer 2013 and I actually purchased Cress upon its release last year. The first two books in the series never impressed me, both earning a 3.5/5 stars and I consider it pretty average. Everyone insists Cress changes everything in terms of reader's opinions but despite the hype from the bookish community, I never got around to reading it. Until last month when I started feeling left out because everyone wants to read Winter.


What Was My Reaction Upon Finishing?

I can see why everybody said Cress changes everything. Why isn't Winter here!?

Even though I had expectations for this novel, I don't think those are what hindered my enjoyment of Cress, and I'm sad to say this but my opinion of the series overall didn't change with the addition.

Something I didn't expect to enjoy was the third person point of view throughout the story. Often, I wish for first so as to get a more intense glimpse into their minds - I don't sound like an evil mastermind at all. However, there are simply too many characters to accomplish a 1st person POV and so many places to be simultaneously. I enjoyed seeing the opposing forces and the tension knowing I was powerless as a reader to do anything for them. Plus it was extremely funny to see confusion from two different characters on the same matter - you know what I'm talking about with that android escort body *winks*.

I suppose the largest factor established in Cress that we hadn't seen previously was the huge scope of the universe. I've got to admit at times it was difficult to distinguish Cress's voice from little Cress or even Iko. She seemed so justifiably innocent and naive. Of course the fact that the audiobook's narrator's intonations weren't that different for the two characters impacted that. It was interesting to see her discover the Earthen world as we see it as "the future," but from the perspective of someone not Earthen but not Lunar either. 


***Spoiler Alert***



Scarlet Benoit had obviously been tested before but I personally recognized her strength as a character throughout the Lunar interrogations and torture sessions as she was used as no more than a play thing. 

I finally know what everyone was talking about when they fangirled over Captain Carswell Thorn. I couldn't help but see him from Cress' admiring perspective even if he annoyed me to no end when I was reading Scarlet, and that admiration was multiple further when he protested against Cress' attempts in finding some shred of goodness in him. Plus, when he gave her a kiss to remember on the roof of the palace... that was just icing on the cake.  

Emperor Kaito has always been a favorite of mine and his stale mate situation tugged at my feels - especially because of the serious Heir of Fire vibes, if you catch my drift. It's obvious that all he wants is peace and good for the commonwealth but in many ways he's stronger than his father because of his desire to stay true to his values. Even though a huge issue I had was not being invested enough in the characters, I HAD to fangirl when he finally kissed Cinder and it seemed that they were united against Levana for the good of the universe.

I couldn't help but feel frustrated most of the time with Cinder because of the serious middle-of-the-series syndrome she was suffering from in terms of character development. It's clear she's ready to undertake the responsibility as queen but at the same time, she has understandable albeit aggravating doubts about her own moral compass as her lunar powers increase.

Our glimpse of Princess Winter is brief when she asks for Scarlet as a plaything but it's enough to know that she is seriously off her rocker. Obviously Winter is the final retelling of Snow White but I always assumed she would be sane. Whether it's merely because of living her entire life on Luna or being the daughter of someone as power hungry as Levana, she is clearly not. I am extremely intrigued to see where her arc goes.

Despite severely disliking Dr. Erland I understood him and was heartbroken at the scene where Cress learned he was her father and the one after that where he was tortured by Levana and died. He played a crucial role throughout the series and I'm a bit nervous to see how the characters will cope without him.

How Likely Is It That I Will Read Another Book By This Author?
75% | With everything said, I begrudgingly have to admit I will probably read Winter because the last chapter of Cress was too enticing not to continue with the series.

Conclusion: Even though my thoughts on the series as a whole are still extremely mixed, Cress was hands down the best addition to the series and set up the series for a hopefully stunning arc to be completed in Winter.
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