Posted in The Ponderings of Life

Five Things I’ve Learned Since Starting College

It’s that time of year again–time to go back to school! It’s been a little over two years since I graduated from high school and started working part-time at Meadowland while pursuing a Bachelors in History through Lumerit Education. Now I’m a junior and about to start my third year at work and I’ve been recently reflecting on all God’s taught me through this new season of life.

I’m a little bit of a control freak. So as I was growing up, always knowing what the next step in my life was, I did fine. But as soon as I graduated from high school, the detailed map was ripped away and an ocean of questions flooded in, like: Where will I go to college? What will I pursue? Where will I work to pay for college? When am I going to start dating someone? Should I keep writing? Who are going to be my close friends throughout college? And on and on and on. So, as some of these questions have been answered and others I’m still waiting an answer on, here’s what I learned during my two years of college so far.

Continue reading “Five Things I’ve Learned Since Starting College”

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Posted in Book Reviews

FINAL Five Books of 2015

Before January of 2017 comes to a close, I really wanted to finish putting this last blog post together for my 2015 books. Hopefully I will be more on top of things this year for the list of 2016 books I read. 😉 Let’s get straight to it!

As always, if you missed out on my previous 2015 books posts, you can find books 1-5 here, 6-10 here, 11-15 here, 16-20 here and 20-25 here!

*SPOILER!* I may include some of the book’s plot/content in my reviews for them, so if you haven’t read one or more of these yet and want to read it without spoilers, then you can just skip down. *

26. The Prisoner’s Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart – This is the third installment in the Mysterious Benedict Society series. This one was definitely an improvement on the second, but nothing can ever beat the epic feels of the first. We listened to this book on audio during on of our road trips. Enjoyable, but I honestly don’t remember a lot of it compared to the first book–of which I remember almost every detail. Needless to say, I could learn a lot from Trenton Lee Stewart’s vocabulary and sentence structuring for my own writing.

27. * The Varken by Erin Phillips – I look forward to giving this one an official review on Amazon when it is published–which will hopefully happen later this spring! I read through it to give Erin some feedback when she was in the editing stages. This is a sequel to Erin’s self-published debut novel The Keeper. While I think The Keeper will always hold a special place in my heart since it was my first work of Erin’s to read, I think this book is definitely just as good. The characters have interesting back stories and development, there is a mystery to be solved, new things to discover and a lot of action and intrigue. I couldn’t stop reading.

28. Wednesdays at the Tower by Jessica Day George – We listened to this one in the car on audio. I’ve listened to the first three books in the series and have yet to listen to the most recent addition. This is the second book in the series, but I will admit that I don’t remember exactly what happened. I’m afraid I get the last two mixed up. I believe it had to do with each royal family member wanting their own gryphon to raise and fighting with the youngest child about it. It’s a fun series with mysteries, suspense, a little romance and the loyalty of siblings growing up in the strangest castle you’ll ever come across.

29. A Time for Courage by Kathryn Lasky – I know you were waiting for me to mention either a Dear America or Dear Canada. 😉 Well, here it is. This book is part of the Dear America series and while I picked it up at the library because it takes place during World War I (my favorite time period), it’s mostly about the Suffragette Movement, which the main character’s mother is deeply involved in. While generally enjoyable and interesting, there was a lot about this book that frustrated me. To be frank, I’m not a feminist in any way, shape or form. In fact, feminism is one of my biggest pet peeves. So you can probably imagine how I felt reading this book. Without going into too much detail, there were two main things that bothered me about this book. One, Kathleen’s mother and friends were protesting against President Woodrow Wilson, claiming that instead of paying attention to the war going on in Europe, he should instead spend time giving women the right to vote. I tried not to think too harshly of them, for I know that they had no idea what was really going on in Europe, but it was hard. In the end, the women were complaining about something that was so unimportant in light of the fact of all the men and women sacrificing their lives overseas to protect their countries. Don’t get me wrong. Having the right to vote as a woman is great and all, but there’s a time and place for protesting for it. Two, the most important point, is that by the time we reach the end of the book, Kathleen’s mother has completely forsaken her family. Literally. She is never home because she is always out protesting. Kathleen is left alone at home every afternoon. She has to do her homework by herself, she eats supper by herself or with her equally deserted and lonely father. And if she wants advice or encouragement from a woman, her mother is not there to give it. When her mother is home, she’s cranky or too tired to take care of her household. Every day, Kathleen is filled with worry that her mother won’t return home someday, perhaps being trampled by the crowds. The book ends where she really doesn’t come home one day: her mother is put in jail for protesting. Kathleen, only thirteen or fourteen year old, is now left to manage the household and finish raising herself. In the end, Kathleen’s mother put her personal desire to vote over her daughter. It just didn’t seem right.

30. * The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien – Ah. Now this is a book I enjoyed from cover to cover. It was slow going, but every time I picked it up to read another chapter, I was impressed. Unfortunately, I’ve had The Two Towers on my list all year, but still have yet to read it. I’m determined to read it and The Return of the King this year. They are some of my favorite movies of all time. In reading The Fellowship of the Ring, I received a lot more information and detail than the movie is able to provide. Since I already had the basic idea of the story in my head, whenever I came across something in the book that hadn’t been put in the movie, it was like discovering a bit of treasure. Tolkien is probably one of the most brilliant writers of all time. Not only are his characters three dimensional and his plot tight and alluring, his writing is flawless. There is a certain charm to The Lord of the Rings series that no other series can ever have. Every sentence flows smoothly to the next and the next. And I especially loved in reading this book the lack of adjectives and adverbs when someone is speaking. I tend to use a lot of those to help my readers understand what tone my character is currently using or what facial expression they’re making. Tolkien doesn’t need any of that because his characters speak so distinctly from the essence of their inner being that I know exactly how Sam or Gandalf is saying something. I can even tell who’s speaking before he tells me. If I could only write a story even half as inspiring as he, I would be content.

* Books that I highly recommend have a * next to them

Posted in For Fellow Writers, Uncategorized

Writer High

I don’t normally write random posts like this. Most of the time, my blog posts have some sort of announcement, update, story, etc. But this time, I just wanted to write about a moment I had a few days ago. An ordinary, every day moment for anyone else, but a big moment for me, a writer.

Who knows, there might already be a word for this or a better phrase than the one I’m using, but the phrase that came to mind once I experienced this feeling was: writer high. Maybe joy, success, inspiration, hype or a number of other words fit better, but…nah. For those of you who go to church, you’ve probably heard of the term “spiritual high”. Often times, we’ll hear people talk of having them during a church camp, retreat or mission trip. It’s sort of this feeling of being on “fire for God”, you could say. All of a sudden, all you want to do is live for God’s glory. That’s the sort of feeling I got on Saturday, but for  writers.

While waiting for my editor to look over The Whistler Daughters, I’m busying myself with finishing my NaNo 2015 novel, Bridget’s Journey the Sequel–which yes, has yet to be properly titled. Over the past week and a half I’ve been reading over what I’ve already written and making notes of how to fill certain plot holes that will come up later in the novel. Besides the obvious remembering what conversations and milestones have already been reached, I was mainly reading what I’d written to get that inspiration back. Because I’d lost it. Spring of this year I had a lot of schoolwork, spent time with friends, had a lot of visitors and prepared for my high school graduation. Therefore, I wrote little. By the time summer started, I began my long list of vacations: graduation present trip to Texas, mission trip to Kenya, trip to see family in New York and Canada and lastly, our family vacation to Williamsburg, Virginia. In between all these vacations, whenever I sat down to write, I just couldn’t. In fact, by the time I got home from Kenya, I’d decided to move on from BJ2 and just work on starting the editing process for The Whistler Daughters. Once I’d finished that, though, I knew I had to go back to BJ2, and I wanted to. I want to finish it before NaNoWriMo, so I can start a new story.

The truth is, I hadn’t written a scene in BJ2 since late May or early June by the time I finally picked it back up last week. I think I was getting too close, maybe, and needed some time to take a step back and reassess the novel. While I liked the last two scenes I’d written for the break, something about it didn’t feel right anymore. I felt like I was getting off track and losing the point, where I was trying to go with Bridget and Cynthia and their plotlines. I just didn’t have any inspiration left. It wasn’t a writer’s block, really, since I had the next several scenes mapped out. It just wasn’t flowing the way it had in the beginning when I was writing during NaNoWriMo.

So, when I began reading it over last week, most of which I hadn’t looked at since November or December, I started to rebuild up all that inspiration I’d lost over the spring and summer. I remembered what my end goal was and re-fell in love with my characters. By the time I’d read everything I’d written, I was ready, so ready, to start writing again.

Then on Saturday I read a scene that I hadn’t liked from the moment I wrote it. I knew it was dumb and unlikely, but I told myself I just had to keep going, had to keep writing. But I couldn’t move on until I’d fixed it, no matter how insignificant it may have seemed in the long run. So I scrapped it and completely re-wrote it. I’ll admit, it’s only a three page scene and it doesn’t have anything directly to do with Bridget. But when I fixed it and made it not just better, but the best, I was just filled with, yes, a writer high.

I’d done it. I made a so-so scene into a great scene. It made more sense, it flowed better and the reaction from the character was more in tune with who that character really is. Definitely one of my writing pet peeves is when I write a scene where my character does or says something out of character. It’s no one’s fault but my own. Sometimes when you’re in the midst of writing, you just have to start over. So after re-writing this scene, I ran and jumped around the house, feeling all giddy and excited inside.

I’d done it. I’d gotten that inspiration back.

To me, the writing life is always about these moments, these little victories. These moments are what keep me going and push me through the future lows of writing, the doubts and the writer’s blocks. In these moments, you remember why you’re writing this story and why it’s so important to finish it.

So now it’s time for me to finish it.

Posted in Book Reviews

Fifth Five Books of 2015

Hello, readers!

I recently finished reading book 15 of the 40 I want to read this year. I don’t have much left of summer to catch up, so I might have to adjust my goal back down to 30 again. Only time will tell!

Here are books 21-25 that I read from July to September in 2015. To read about the other books I read in 2015, you can check out books 1-5 here, 6-10 here, 11-15 here and 16-20 here. After this one, there will be only ONE more blog post left before I’ve told you about all the books I read in 2015! Then I will be able to start telling you about what I read in 2016. 🙂

*SPOILER!* I may include some of the book’s plot/content in my reviews for them, so if you haven’t read one or more of these yet and want to read it without spoilers, then you can just skip down. *

21. The Great Railroad Race by Kristiana Gregory – Part of the Dear America series, this book took place during the 1860s when the government hired workers to join both sides of the railroad to make one long railroad running across the United States. This was an educating and entertaining story with a twist I’ve never seen done before. I’m not saying that plot twists don’t usually surprise me, because most of the time they do, but this was a different kind of twist that changed the dynamic of the main character’s relationship with someone else. Overall, a very fun read.

22. * When Christmas Comes Again by Beth Seidel Levine – This book along with Willow Run was one of my favorite books that I read last year, so it really deserves two stars next to it! World War 1 is my favorite time period, so I always love any book I can get my hands on  that takes place during that time in history. This book is also part of the Dear America series and I absolutely loved every minute of it. I cared more for these characters than I had for any character in a Dear America book for a while. It was also different than your typical Dear America novel because the main character was 17 instead of the typical 12-14 age range. Being older myself, it was a nice change. I liked–no, loved!–this book so much, I wrote a review for it on Amazon. You can read it below:

I Will Read This One Again and Again

I am very fascinated with all things World War 1 right now and am hoping to write a novel of my own in this time period someday. Recently, I decided to find all Dear America books on this subject and read them for fun and for inspiration. This book did not disappoint in the least! I learned so many new things about World War 1 and what life was like in New England during the war. I learned about “hello girls” and how they played a major part in the victories on the Western Front. Simone Spencer was a delightful character who grew and learned at the same rate as me. Because I am French-Canadian myself, I loved all the French aspects thrown into this story.
Thank you, Mrs. Levine, for giving us this beautiful peek into the past!

23. A Country of Our Own by Karleen Bradford – This is a Dear Canada I bought for myself while visiting Montreal last summer and was the first brand new book in the series I had bought in Canada instead of getting used on Amazon. It’s about how Canada became an independent country from Great Britain (though still a British Commonwealth) in 1867. It was an interesting and fun read as well, giving a peek into what it was like when Ottawa became the country’s capital instead of the expected Montreal or Quebec City.

24. * Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington – We read this one for school with Mom. It’s an autobiography of Booker T. Washington’s life. When we started, we thought for some reason we were reading about George Washington Carver, the peanut guy, so we kept waiting for Booker T. Washington to talk about peanuts. 😉 Well, let’s just say he never talked about peanuts. But he did talk about slavery. Not only was Booker T. Washington freed after the end of the Civil War, but he went back home after going to college and educated the children from his hometown. He taught black people all over the United States throughout his life that just because they were now freed from slavery, didn’t mean they could right away have all the privileges the white people had. They first needed to educate themselves as they should have been years before in order to reach their full potential and gain respect. A quote from the book that accurately portrays the story’s theme is below:

“It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercise of those privileges.” -Booker T. Washington

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants an African American’s perspective of what life was like after the Civil War and what his people need to do to mend the warped view white people had of black people in America.

25. Gingersnap by Patricia Reilly Giff – Another of Patricia Reilly Giff’s books that takes place in World War II. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as Lily’s Crossing and Willow Run, so I didn’t write a review for it on Amazon. Though there wasn’t much to the story line, I always enjoy a good historical. There was a little bit of the ghost element, which was okay, but maybe could have played a bigger part in the plot itself. One of my main problems with it was that it ended too fast. I know I have a problem in terms of over describing in my books, but the last two or three chapters, the part of the book we’d been waiting 200 pages for, happened perfectly, but way too fast. I wanted to delve more into her thought process, her emotions as one event happened after the other, but the pacing was so fast, we didn’t have enough time to analyze each situation. So, that was too bad.

 

* Books that I highly recommend have a * next to them

Posted in The Ponderings of Life

Slide Into Summer…

Hello again readers!

I apologize once more for not blogging in almost two months! It has been a crazy busy summer so far, but I’m hoping to write a few more blog posts before the next vacation to tell you all about what I’ve been up to.

To start off, since graduating from high school in May, I have been able to read a lot more than I did in the spring, which has been so fun and refreshing. I finished reading Lady Susan, Jane Austen’s first novel, and thereafter watched its first movie adaptation, Love and Friendship with one of my best friends, Emory, during my visit to Texas at the beginning of June. The movie did an excellent job following the book and succeeded in making me laugh. It was very fun to see it AFTER having read the book instead of vice versa.

As for writing, I have done very little of that unfortunately, but I’m hoping to get back at it this month. That said, my plan right now is to put Bridget’s Journey the Sequel aside for a little while and focus on editing The Whistler Daughters instead. While I have enjoyed working on BJ2 and having something to write, I’ve been lacking some of the creative juices in that area and I think taking a break will be good for me…and the story. And either way, I’ve been itching to spend time with Erica, TWD‘s main character, for a while now. I’m looking forward to going through it for the second time and starting the very long process of publishing it, hopefully sometime next year.

I have just returned this week from a two week mission trip to Kenya and while I cannot wait to tell you all about my wonderful experiences there and all God did in and through us as a team, I think I will write in this blog post about my first trip of the summer.

My graduation present from Mom and Dad was a plane ticket to Texas to see my friends for a week! So at the beginning of June, off I went! It was a little intimidating going on a plane by myself, but everything went smoothly. I stayed at the Lambert’s house during my stay and spent my time catching up with friends from church and our homeschool co-ops. I was able to attend church that Sunday morning and it was so nice to see everyone again! We had a list of things we wanted to do while I was in Texas, and we did pretty much all of them. I got to have some Braum’s and Raising Cane’s while I was there and that made my tummy very happy. 🙂 I also got to go to Half-Price Books, which made my heart very, very happy since there are no Half-Price Book stores in North Carolina, unfortunately. My last night in Texas we had a party at Panera and it was so fun to be reunited and talk about graduation and movies and just enjoy being together.

It felt weird returning to Texas. It was my first time going there since moving to North Carolina two years ago. While some things were changed, most of the week I felt like I had never left. It was still very hot and the roads were still straight (not twisty and turny like it is here) and all my friends were still there.

Soo…do I miss it? Yes–I miss my friends. In going back, it just reminded me what good friendships I had and how much I’m going to miss them all over again. Do I wish we had never moved? Not at all. I’m glad we moved here. Not only is it 1200 miles closer to relatives in Canada, a lot prettier and colder, the move itself has taught me a lot about God and myself. I couldn’t have learned those lessons if I hadn’t moved. Of course I will keep visiting Texas, but I’m very happy here in North Carolina. I’ve made new friends and God has opened up so many opportunities here for me to learn and grow closer to Him here.

But in going back, I did make a realization. Just because I was born in Canada or because I currently live in North Carolina…doesn’t mean Texas can’t be my home. Texas is my home…and so is Quebec and North Carolina. You don’t have to have just one home for it to be home. You can have two…or three.

I have three homes. So no matter which place I visit, I’ll feel perfectly comfortable. I’ll feel right at home.