The “Hamilton” Tag

I love singing and I love history, so it’s really no surprise that I adore the Broadway musical “Hamilton”. Everything about the show is amazing, from the writing to the music to the acting, and I quickly became a huge fan. I came across “The ‘Hamilton’ Tag” from the YouTuber JonasAlmostFamous, and it sounded like a fun idea. So, without further ado, let’s do this!

The Hamilton Tag

1. How did you find out about “Hamilton”?

The internet. I didn’t pay too much attention to the craze at first, although I was aware of it. I saw the libretto/behind the scenes book at the library a few weeks ago and decided to get it. While reading and listening to the soundtrack, I immediately fell in love. Now I’m obsessed. It happens.

2. Favorite character? 

How can I possibly answer this? John Laurens.

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SUCH A PRECIOUS CINNAMON ROLL.

3. Character you would want to play?

It would be amazing to get the chance to play any character in the musical, but I think it would be especially fun to play Lafayette and then Jefferson. It would be interesting to go from playing Lafayette, a cocky but talented soldier who jumps off desks; to the “villain”, Jefferson, who has a more jazzy musical style and a certain manipulative swagger. I also have this fascination with Samuel Seabury, so I would love to play him just so I can do Farmer Refuted with Lin-Manuel.

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4. Favorite song to listen to?

Meet Me Inside.

5. Favorite song to sing along with?

I would be lying if I said that I don’t immediately start singing along to any Hamilton song I hear, but I love singing along to You’ll Be Back. DA DA DA DAT DA, DA DA DA YA DA DA…

6. Part you always mess up when you’re singing along? 

For some reason, I always forget the lines “We will fight up close / seize the moment and stay in it / it’s either that or meet the business end of a bayonet” from Yorktown. It’s so frustrating because I know like, all of the other lyrics but I mess that up every time.

7. Can you rap Guns and Ships?

I don’t have the full song memorized yet, but I’m definitely fast enough and can already do the first few lines.

8. Which cast member would you most want to meet?

Lin-Manuel Miranda is a given, but also Anthony Ramos and Daveed Diggs.

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9. Have you seen the show?

Sadly, no.

10. Have you read the book?

I’m currently reading it! 731 pages of awesome.

11. Favorite line in the show?

Hamilton’s line from Meet Me Inside: “You’re absolutely right. John should have shot him in the mouth; that would’ve shut him up”. It’s just so sassy.

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12. Five words to describe the show?

Ambitious. Innovative. Emotional. Inspiring. Genius.

 

I enjoyed this tag, and I want to keep it going! I tag my fellow Hamiltrash friend, Maggie from Maggie’s Musings, to do her own version of the tag when she is able.

How about you? If you do this tag, share a link in the comments below!

A Thank You To My Teachers

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As I approach graduation (it’s like, five days away, guys), I can’t help but reflect on my past four years of high school. For those of you who don’t know, I was homeschooled until 9th grade, at which point in time I started attending Commonwealth Charter Academy (it used to be called Commonwealth Connections Academy, but whatever). It’s a tuition-free cyber charter school, and although there are many myths and misconceptions surrounding cyber school, I have thoroughly enjoyed these past four years. I have had so many amazing teachers who have invested in my life and cared about me.

This week, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite teachers and the impact they have made on my education.

Mr. Kalahanis – 9th grade English – You were so much fun to have as a teacher! From your silly review questions to having us hold a mock trial against your puppy for “murdering” his stuffed animal, your lessons were always so lively. Seeing as you are from Greece, I also got to learn a lot about Grecian customs and culture. I always fondly look back on the time that you were my teacher, and you were a great one!

Mrs. Rivera – 9th grade Pre-Algebra and 10th grade Algebra – I can’t even tell you how much you impacted my education. I was never particularly good at math, but you made it as fun and easy as possible. Your genuine excitement and passion for math made me want to learn, and so many concepts that you taught me created a firm foundation for later math classes to rest upon. Not only were you an amazing teacher while I was in your class, but you continued to go above and beyond to be kind to me when I was no longer in any of your classes. You came to congratulate me when I was inducted into the National Honor Society; in my senior year, I attended another NHS induction and you made it a point to come visit me even though I wasn’t the one being inducted. It meant a lot to me that you still cared even though you hadn’t been my teacher for two years. You are truly remarkable.

Mrs. Offut – 9th grade World History – I love history, and I enjoyed how you would accentuate our lessons by showing us the trailers for historical films. When I took my Keystones in 10th grade and you administered them, you encouraged me when I became stressed and cried over the Algebra portion. You told me a story about a test you took in college where you thought you had done horribly and ended up getting the highest grade in the class. Well, you were right about me; I ended up getting “Advanced” on all of my Keystones!

Mrs. Begis – 10th grade Biology – Biology was fascinating, and you were the teacher who got to introduce me to my favorite branch of science, genetics. I learned a lot from your class, and I will always remember how you drew a blank and called a mouse’s foreleg a “mouse arm”. That was our class’s joke for a little while, haha.

Mr. Kimble – 10th grade U.S. History – I had so much fun in your class. One of my favorite things was how you would have “Today in History” facts every day. You were chill and let me be super competitive in our review games, even though I got a little intense at times. I loved getting to meet you, and I’ve heard from another classmate that you and your wife had a baby, so congratulations!! I think that you will be a great father.

Monsieur Bihoreau – 10th grade French I – Monsieur, j’adore Français, and it’s all because of you. During your class, I not only learned French, but I developed a love of the culture and people in France and French-speaking countries. I loved how you immersed us in the language by having us listen to French songs, and I still listen to “Je te Donne” a lot. You were always willing to help when I needed it, as well. I loved your accent and your class. Merci, Monsieur. I am privileged to be have been your étudiant.

Mrs. Carroll – 11th grade Honors English – I always said you were “the Mrs. Rivera of English”, and for good reason. Like her, you were so bubbly and excited about the subject that you taught, and although I already loved English, you made me even more excited to learn. Something I liked the most was that you always prodded us to look as deep as possible into the themes and symbolism of stories. I remember a time when another classmate commented on a poem about comfort food and said, “Maybe the author was just hungry”. It was amusing, and you laughed, but you never let us sit still and enjoy a story on the surface; we always got to the root of the meaning behind seemingly simplistic words and plots. You would always hold your book up to the microphone and flip through the pages so we could hear that you had your book with you and that we should go get ours. Sometimes you would hit the desk in your excitement and we would all ask if the desk was okay. However, one thing I will always remember is how you taught us to analyze the first sentence/paragraph of a story or poem, because those first sentences tell the most about the story and its message. No teacher had ever stressed that and none have since, but I wish more would, because you were right.

Mrs. Voitek – 11th grade Physical Science and 12th grade Chemistry – I got to be part of your very first CCA class, and I like to think that dealing with our craziness prepared you for any future classes you have. I had a blast with you as my Physical Science teacher, and that’s precisely why I insisted that I wanted no one but you as my Chemistry teacher this year. You’re really good at explaining difficult subjects, and making you laugh is so much fun. You also endure my incessant questions and help me every time, so thank you. I may not be Jude’s official godmother, but I love him and I love you. You are one of my favorite teachers. 🙂

Mrs. Morgan – 11th grade Honors American Government – Government and politics interested me, but before your class, I didn’t always understand them. I learned a lot about how government works, and your class is the reason I ended up being a part of the Youth and Government Club this year. Your lessons were interesting, and I discovered a passion for politics that I hadn’t known as strongly beforehand. Thank you for setting me on the path to becoming a more involved and informed citizen.

Mr. Martindell – 11th grade Psychology – One word describes all our classes – tangents. Okay, okay, you did teach us a lot about Psychology, but I also enjoyed whenever you talked with us about comics and books. You were super funny, and I made a list of all your random quotes.

Mrs. Hall – 12th grade Honors English – I really appreciate you fighting for me to speak at graduation, even if I ultimately didn’t get the role. You also went above and beyond to help when certain topics triggered my anxiety. Thank you.

Mr. Leonard – 12th grade Driver’s Ed – You taught me a lot about driving and I love that the ferrets were our class joke. #NeverForget #KeepTheFerretsAlive

Mrs. Goforth – 12th grade Youth and Government Club Advisor – Thank you so much for keeping us alive for four days in Harrisburg. I know that we all were a bit hyper and perhaps difficult at times, but it was obvious that you truly cared for us. One of my favorite memories is the fact that you didn’t like how little they fed us for breakfast, so you bought basically a whole buffet and fed us in your hotel room. You corralled us and helped us, and you are the perfect choice for YAG advisor.

Ms. Shaffer – 12th grade Harrisburg Prom Committee Coordinator – Thank you for making the first ever Harrisburg prom possible!! I loved meeting you this year, and you did a great job making everything come together. It was an amazing night, and I still can’t believe I won as the first ever Harrisburg Prom Queen! You were so nice and collaborative with us students, and I think I speak for the whole prom committee when I say that we absolutely loved you.

Mrs. Comegna – 12th grade Algebra 2 – You have been a great math teacher. You continued Mrs. Rivera’s good work and have taught me a lot about Algebra. You’re easy to understand and you’re always ready to help. I love that you teach your kids mathematical concepts and make videos with them, and it makes me happy that you told me you would have me babysit your kids if I lived closer. You have been so kind right from the beginning! Thank you for your patience and ability to have fun with math.

To all my teachers who have influenced me, educated me, and cared about me.

I wouldn’t be graduating in five days without you.

Thank you. I hope I can make you proud.

Your turn! Who are some of your favorite teachers and how have they influenced you?

Bookends Interviews: Jenny L. Cote

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You may remember me writing about being an advance reader for Jenny L. Cote’s latest book, The Voice, The Revolution, and The Key. I have officially finished it and submitted my review, and although I can’t give anything away, I can tell you that it is an amazing piece of literature!

Through my journey as an advance reader, I have had the privilege of being able to share my blog with Mrs. Cote, as well as been given the opportunity to interview her. So, without further ado, it is my pleasure to welcome Jenny L. Cote to my blog for the first ever Bookends interview!

Me: I’m so glad to have you on my blog! I’ve just finished being an advance reader for your newest book, The Voice, the Revolution, and the Key. I loved all the new characters, which makes me curious: which new character is your favorite?

Jenny L. Cote: Cato the bald eagle, of course! I wasn’t expecting him. He just showed up in my book one day and I fell in love with his character. He ended up being the glue for the major plot line of the entire book.

I loved Cato as well! He was such a lovable character. Do you find your personality is similar to any of the members of the Order of the Seven?

They say that an author IS all of his or her characters, so yes, there’s a bit of me in each one of my characters. Even my villains, I expect. 🙂

As a young writer, I always wonder what it’ll be like to get my “big break”, so to say. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Write about what you love and are passionate about, and don’t write a word until you have exhausted your research. I don’t care if it’s even fantasy that you’re writing about – even fantasy is based in reality at some level! You can’t write about what you don’t know about, so you have to do your research. I happen to love it – research to me is the most fun part of being a writer. But many young writers I meet think it’s boring or a pain. I tell them about my travels and crazy adventures to hunt down information and their perspective changes. Research is a treasure hunt!

Speaking of your research, you have to do a lot of it. How do you keep it all organized?

Well, I organize books by category (I’m reading close to 200 for the Revolution), and actually had to buy a new book case to house them all. For printed sources I use file folders and accordion files. For internet searches, I have a running “Idea Page” where I cut and paste sources by category so I can find them again. As I build a detailed outline, I cut and paste my resources or make notes so I can find them when I’m ready to write a given scene.

Wow, that’s a lot of work! It’s worth it, I’m sure. Now, although I have always enjoyed writing and telling stories, it took me years to realize that I wanted to be able to write for the rest of my life. Before that, younger me wanted to be a dog groomer! Did you want to be anything else before you became a writer, and were there any people/events that were influential in your love of reading and writing?

Of course! I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until I was grown up! I wanted to be a marine biologist and swim with dolphins, an actress, a designer of greeting cards, a corporate CEO – I was all over the map! But I wrote stories about talking fruit as a kid. So when I met Phil Vischer, I told him that I wrote “Fruity Tales” before he wrote “Veggie Tales.” 🙂 I ended up getting two marketing degrees and working in the healthcare field for a children’s hospital, but I was always writing and creating. My first entrance into writing happened when a book bubbled up out of me called “Now I Sea” about spiritual life lessons from the sea. It was a devotional book, and not my best work but I knew I wanted to be a writer once I created that book. At that time the real Max and Liz came to live with me and the idea for The Ark, the Reed, and the Fire Cloud came about. I met a literary agent who said she wanted to represent me and everything happened from there. But I’d have to say that my 7th grade English teacher, Morissa Weiss, taught me how to research, do outlines and write. I’m actually friends with her today so it’s pretty cool. C.S. Lewis is my literary hero and I’ll actually be writing him into my books as the main character when I cover WWII.

I’m excited for you to write about C.S. Lewis, but in The Voice, The Revolution, and The Key, the main historical character is Patrick Henry. If you could go back in time and ask him one question, what would it be?

Did you really know my sixth great grandmother Elizabeth Strong who grew up where you did in Hanover? (Why else would you go to bat and help her as a war widow when you became governor?) I’ve written it fictionally that he did, and hope so.

Thank you so much for your time, Mrs. Cote! You are truly a joy to talk to.

 
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Award-winning author Jenny L. Cote, who developed an early passion for God, history, and young people, beautifully blends these three passions in her two fantasy fiction series: The Amazing Tales of Max and Liz and Epic Order of the Seven. Likened to C.C. Lewis by readers and book reviewers alike, she speaks on creative writing to school and universities around the world.  A Virginia native, Jenny now lives in Roswell, Georgia.

 
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The Voice, The Revolution, and the Key will be available in stores on August 15th, 2017. For more information, visit the website.

My Top 5 YouTubers

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Ah, YouTube. It’s the venerable home of funny animal videos, bizarre challenges, and lengthy how-to tutorials. But amidst all its random twists and turns, YouTube has plenty of determined content creators that deserve recognition for their hard work and unique ideas.

I love watching YouTube videos, and there are some YouTubers that stand out more than others. Here’s a list of my top 5 favorite YouTubers (in no particular order):

1. Shonduras

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Shaun McBride (or Shonduras, as he’s known on social media) is a daily vlogger who encourages people to get out and make every day “the best day ever”. Whether he’s traveling, hanging out with Jenny (his wife) and Adley (their daughter), or doing something completely spontaneous and fun with his friends, he’s always upbeat and ready to take on whatever comes his way. His humor and laidback attitude is what really drew me to the channel, and now I watch his vlogs every day. Shonduras’ sister channel, Spacestation Stuff, adds some fun games and challenges with his family and friends into the mix.

2. Studio C

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It’s hard to find clean, yet hilarious, comedy these days. Studio C is a clean sketch comedy show that regularly uploads their sketches to YouTube. The actors are super talented and their ideas are always creative and unique. From exploring what it might look like to defend your home with nothing but a paintball gun to settling the age old “my dad could beat up your dad” debate, Studio C combines laugh-out-loud humor with sketches that the whole family can watch without having to cover the little ones’ ears.

3. SuperCarlinBrothers

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I love analyzing plots and characters, so it’s really no surprise that I’m a sucker for a well thought out book, movie, or TV show fan theory. Brothers Ben and J Carlin produce theory-based content on Tuesdays and Thursdays, such as discussing their Top 7 Unanswered Questions From Fantastic Beasts and talking about just why the ocean chose Moana. If you love Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Pixar, and Disney, as well as naturally sarcastic humor, you’ll love this channel.

4. What’s Inside

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Have you ever looked at something and wondered, “What’s inside that?” If you have, you’ll love this channel. Dan and Lincoln Markham, a father-son duo, make it their mission to cut open interesting items and find out what they’re made of. It all started with a school project, and it’s evolved into a science channel with over 4 million subscribers. They cut open an item, analyze its contents, and try to figure out how it works. They’ve discovered what’s inside of all sorts of unique thing, such as a vintage Pac-Man arcade game, a metal detector wand, and even an authentic 2017 Olympic torch. Be safe and don’t try to replicate anything they do at home, because, just like their motto says, “We cut things open so you don’t have to”.

5. Brian Hull

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You may remember Brian Hull from his viral video where Disney and Pixar characters sing Let It Go, but his vocal impressions haven’t stopped there. His channel is chock-full of humor, accents, and impressions, and I’m always blown away by his talent. If you want to hear him flawlessly impersonate the characters from Zootopia and The Lion King or combine Winnie the Pooh’s voice with Batman’s, definitely check out his channel. He’s even made several more videos of different characters singing popular songs!

 

Well, those are my top 5 favorite YouTubers and their channels! Check them out and let me know what you think!

Here’s a quick reminder that although I try to follow the cleanest and most family-friendly channels, I haven’t watched every single one of these creators’ videos. If you come across something that you find distasteful or wrong, I apologize, and please know that I neither approve of it nor advocate it. 

Your turn! What are some of your favorite YouTubers? What are their channels like? And do you already follow any of the ones I listed here? 

CLASSIFIED: My Top Secret Advance Copy

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If you read my Bookshelf Tour Tag post last week, you might have noticed me mention being an advance reader for Jenny L. Cote’s newest book, The Voice, The Revolution, and the Key. If you don’t know what in the world I’m talking about, here’s the gist: often, authors will choose certain people to read their new, unreleased books. These “advance” readers read the entire book in a certain time frame of the author’s choosing (in my case, it’s a month). We catch any lingering typos or mistakes, advertise the book, and provide feedback that will be published in the novel once it is officially released.

Today, I was treated with a nice surprise…

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The advance copy came!!

I’m so excited to begin reading, and I’ll be sure to keep you updated on the rest of the advance reader process. Although you can’t get the book yet, here’s the official summary to get you pumped for it:

The Order of the Seven must help birth one nation under God by entering the lives of a unique generation of children chosen to become the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. Liz is given the assignment of helping Patrick Henry become the Voice of the Revolution, setting the entire war in motion. If Max can’t protect George Washington in the French and Indian War, the patriots will lose the Sword of the Revolution to lead them. Nigel must ensure that Benjamin Franklin’s kite-flying efforts succeed to turn the key to unlock American independence, and Al must gather intelligence right under the nose of King George III. Victory will be impossible without powerful ally France joining the fight, led by its patriotic son, the Marquis de Lafayette. But will Kate be able to protect the young Marquis? The fight for liberty will be costly with an Enemy determined to the give the patriots the other outcome – death. 

Jenny L. Cote is an amazing author, and I can’t wait to delve deep into this new adventure that she has created. Hopefully you’ll check back in and see where this advance reader journey goes next!

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The Voice, The Revolution, and The Key by Jenny L. Cote will be available in stores on August 15th, 2017.

Your turn! Have you ever been chosen as an advance reader? What would you like to learn about being one? 

The Bookshelf Tour Tag

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The day I got a bookshelf for my room was a great day. It was a spiffy piece of shelved wood that would house all of the many books I called my own. Nowadays, it’s a much more cluttered bookshelf, with some books having to reside on top of others because they no longer fit side-to-side, but it’s no less beautiful. I love my bookshelf.

Back when I was still struggling with whether to continue my blog or not, my friend Maggie from Maggie’s Musings tagged me in the Bookshelf Tour Tag, and I knew it would be something that I would enjoy participating in, since it highlights my well-used bookshelf and its papered contents. It’s pretty simple: I provide books from my personal bookshelf that fit each description. You’ll see what I mean once we get into it.

1. A Short But Powerful Book

The Giver by Lois Lowry isn’t very long (it stands at only 225 pages!), but it is one of the most insightful, thought-provoking books that I have ever read. It centers on a world that no longer experiences war, famine, hatred, and crime – but its people also do not feel joy, compassion…or love. I first read this book right before its movie counterpart came out on DVD, because the movie looked interesting, but I usually like reading the book before the movie. I was astonished by how Lowry so effectively tackles hard questions about love, loss, and what it means to be human in such a small novel. The movie does a great job of posing the same questions, so I’d encourage you to check out both.

2. A Good, Long Book

At around 436 pages, The Wind, The Road, and The Way by Jenny L. Cote isn’t the longest book I own, but it’s hefty in its own right. It’s part of two great book series, The Amazing Tales of Max and Liz and its sequel series, Epic Order of the Seven. Cote’s books are always informative and captivating, and The Wind wasn’t an exception. What’s even more exciting is that I’ve recently been chosen as an advance reader for Cote’s newest book, The Voice, The Revolution, and The Key! I’ll definitely be chronicling the journey on this blog, so stay tuned!

3. Favorite Classic (on your bookshelf)

5160gdxt47l-_sx304_bo1204203200_The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is, hands down, my most favorite play of all time. I fell in love with the witty script when I read it for Honors English in 11th grade, and after I had to return my manuscript to my school at the end of the year, I searched everywhere for a copy to add to my bookshelf. No matter what online store or physical bookstore I looked at, not a single one had it. However, my mom searched as well and bought me a copy for Easter last year! I’m so thankful to finally own it, and it remains an amazing classic.

4. A Relatively Obscure Book

I don’t know if “obscure” is the best word for it, but The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen definitely doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. The sarcastic, sharp-tongued narration of Sage, the protagonist, is unique and amusing, and the novel’s fast-paced intrigue never stops. Pair that with a huge plot twist, and you get a great book worthy of being talked about.

5. An Underrated Book

Although The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is pretty famous, I don’t hear it talked about as much as it should be. It’s the incredible and heart-breaking story81bzuga-bhl of the members of a small “greaser” gang, most specifically the protagonist, Ponyboy, and his friend Johnny. The character development and story arc is absolute perfection, and might I add, the 50th Anniversary Edition that I own has a gorgeous cover.

6. An Overrated Book

I tend not to purchase books that I think are overrated (or that might turn out to be), but The Isle of the Lost and its sequel Return to The Isle of Lost by Melissa De La Cruz sort of fit the bill. Both books are written in the Disney Channel “Descendants” universe, which has been all kinds of popular lately. While the books were pleasurable to read in their own right, and they both invested in more character development than the movie ever did, it’s obvious that they were written for the younger Disney Channel crowd and not the more, ahem, discerning readers. The over-abundant use of past tense and stiff dialogue got a bit annoying after a while.

7. Most Reread Book

I just finished rereading the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling last year, and they never get old. I definitely gravitate to them when I just want to reread something that I love.

8. A Book You Haven’t Read

Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer. This one is kind of weird, considering that I read the entire Artemis Fowl series…but somehow I accidentally skipped over this book and didn’t find out until later. I got it free from a book fair/thing that my school did in 9th grade, but I still haven’t gotten around to reading it.

9. A Short Story Collection

I’ve always loved stories about animals that save people’s lives, and so I have four small short story collections that make up what I call my “Animal Heroes Collection”. These are They Too Were Heroes: True Tales of Courageous Dogs by Joanne Mattern, True Tales of Animal Heroes and The Dog Who Saved Christmas and other True Animal Tales, both by Alan Zullo, and Ten True Animal Rescues by Jeanne Betancourt.

I also love Greek mythology and I own three books that contain different Greek myths: Treasury of Greek Mythology by Donna Jo Napoli and Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods and Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes, both by Rick Riordan.

10. A Non-Fiction Book

Although I adore fiction, I love non-fiction just as much. I really enjoy learning how movies are made, so I’m especially fond of my collection of non-fiction Harry Potter books, which consists of Harry Potter: 51fwjmej6pl-_sx258_bo1204203200_The Character Vault and Harry Potter: Magical Places of the Films by Jody Revenson, Inside the Magic: The Making of Fantastic Beasts by Ian Nathan, and The Case of Beasts: Explore the Film Wizardry of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them by Mark Salisbury.

Another good non-fiction shoutout is Terry BrooksSometimes The Magic Works: Lessons From A Writing Life.

11. A Book (physical copy, not the story itself) that has an interesting story behind it 

Now, this isn’t an inspirational or touching story, but I still find it pretty funny. I had ordered Calamity (the final book in the Reckoners trilogy) by Brandon Sanderson from Barnes and Noble, and it arrived in great condition. I got to about the middle of the book before I was puzzled by how one chapter ended after only one page. I figured it was just a super short chapter, but the next one didn’t make sense with the context of the former. It wasn’t until I checked the page numbers that I realized the book was missing an entire chapter!! My parents and I had to drive to the nearest Barnes and Noble, which was 45 minutes away, just to exchange it. I didn’t blame B&N at all, though, and I was able to get the entire book.

 

I don’t have anyone to tag, so feel free to continue the tag if you wish!

Your  turn! Have you read any of the books on my list? What’s one book on your bookshelf that you think I should read? 

 

My Mental Health Journey: Living With OCD

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I’ve been trying to figure out the right time to talk about this for a while. I kept deciding that it wasn’t the right time, and left it be.

This past Sunday, one of our lead teaching pastors was talking about the choices we face when it comes to the wounds in our lives – we can either “run and numb”, or “own and offer”. In other words, we should own up to our pain, and offer our story in the hopes that it will help others. Near the end of the message, I felt God saying to me: “You’re doing better with your OCD. It’s time to talk about it”. Ever since that message, I have had no doubt that this is the right time to open up about my mental health journey.

Even if you don’t share my faith, you don’t have to believe that God told me it was time to share my story to listen.

In June of 2016, I was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder after a year or so of dealing with severe anxiety.

Before I go any further, I want to clarify something: OCD is not a quirky personality trait that centers around wanting things to be neat. OCD is a debilitating mental illness. It is composed of two parts – obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions are repetitive, intrusive thoughts and images that cause fear, guilt, and anxiety in the individual struggling with OCD. Compulsions are the actions that the individual completes in an attempt to reduce their anxiety. For example, someone might have obsessions over a loved one dying, and they feel like they have to repetitively turn a light switch on and off in order to save that person.

People with OCD do not choose their obsessive thoughts and physically can’t control their compulsions. It is not quite known exactly what causes OCD, but correlations have been found between individuals with OCD and a lack of serotonin in their brains.

Think of it in the terms of car transmissions. A car with an automatic transmission seamlessly switches gears. That’s what it’s like in the mind of person who doesn’t have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. A non-afflicted person can usually ignore any intrusive thoughts or urges they might receive. Their mind automatically pushes them away. But then there are cars with manual transmissions. The driver must physically shift each gear, or the car will get stuck. That is what it is like to have OCD. The brain of a person with OCD cannot automatically disregard unwanted thoughts or images. The person must learn how to manually deal with them, or the brain will get “stuck”, and the individual will feel compelled to continuously dwell on their anxiety and repetitively complete actions. This stagnant physical and mental state hinders those who suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder from freely living their lives.

So please, don’t make any “OCD” jokes. I won’t find them funny.

I see my counselor (Justin Erb, Greenleaf Christian Counseling, he’s awesome, look him up) and I take medication to treat my disorder. I’m not ashamed of doing either. I am getting the help I need, and I’ve already seen how far I’ve progressed since just last year.

I still deal with anxiety every day, but it’s gotten so much better. And now I’ve discovered a newfound passion for helping others who struggle with mental illnesses.

This my struggle, but it doesn’t define me. And your struggles and pain don’t define you either.

Thank you for taking time to read my (shortened) story.

Now that I have started discussing my OCD, I will definitely be writing more posts on it in the future. But if you want to learn more about it in the meantime, here are some useful resources:

The International OCD Foundation

Debunking the Myths of OCD (Video)

Crash Course Psychology: OCD and Other Anxiety Disorders (Video) – Watch this video from 2:34-4:16 for information about OCD.

My Blog’s Getting a FACELIFT?!

Hello there, all my beautiful blog followers!

I know, I know, I’ve been absent.

For like, a year.

Life has been happening (I have a niece now, guys!!!) and I’ve gotten distracted by – well, everything. What I’m saying is, I haven’t been fair to this blog and to its readers. And I regret that. I realize now that from the outset, my blog’s purpose has been way too narrow. Don’t get me wrong, writing is my life, but I have other passions that I’ve been searching for outlets for, all the while forgetting that this blog is a great outlet for all of the topics that I’m interested in. By making it solely a writing blog, I had limited my ideas for posts and my ability to create weekly content.

But no more.

I’ve decided to broaden Bookends to include not only my writing thoughts, but also just life stuff (did I mention my adorable niece already?) and the others things I am passionate about, like pop culture and hearing loss awareness.

What helped me come to this conclusion was my wonderful-beyond-words friend Maggie from Maggie’s Musings. She has a great blog that discusses everything from the plights of being a girl geek to the ABC’s of writing. I’ve been impressed with how she’s continued to run weekly posts (while being in college, no less), and she’s encouraged me to revive my blog and keep going.

So, here goes. Bookends will stay Bookends, but with more topics and (hopefully!) more consistency. Within the next week or so, I’ll edit outdated content on the site, like my “About Me” page, and I’ll get a new posting schedule up and running. Any blog post that I have previously published will still be available, so feel free to go back and read and share them to your heart’s content.

Buckle up, guys. You’re getting an invitation to join me on this wild ride I call my life.

Let’s go!

Your turn! Check out Maggie’s blog and give her a follow, then come back here and tell me your thoughts on my new direction for the blog! 

 

 

 

Dear Hearing World…

Dear hearing world,

Please be patient with me.

Be patient when I ask you to repeat yourself.

Be patient when I lose track of the conversation because I can’t hear all of it.

Be patient when everyone’s laughing at a joke and I look confused because I didn’t hear what was said.

Be patient when I give a response that doesn’t fit what you said because I misheard you.

Be patient when you’re waiting for me to answer and I’m not aware that you said anything.

I want to hear you. I really do. I want to be a part of the conversation, of the jokes. I want to not feel foolish when I ask you to repeat yourself and it turns out that you were just yawning or making a noise (I can never be sure). I want to interact with you.

But I have a hearing loss, and sometimes things are loud. Sometimes crowds are noisy. Sometimes you’re too far away. Sometimes I misread your lips or wrongly piece together the parts I heard.

I know this is a foreign concept for you, because you hear things much better than I ever will. You may mishear or not hear at all every once in a while, but it’s not a daily occurrence. I know you don’t understand, but I ask you to try.

I’m not making it up; I’m not messing with you; I’m not making a joke. I’m not being rude, or ignorant, or dumb. I’m simply someone who goes through life with a hearing loss that can make interacting with others challenging. There are others who have hearing losses much more severe than mine or cannot hear at all. Whatever problems I have communicating with others, I’m sure theirs are tenfold.

So I ask you, be patient with us.

Don’t explain away our challenges. Don’t try to tell us that we just need to pay more attention. We’re being truthful when we say we didn’t hear you – saying, “oh, you heard me” won’t change anything.

When we want to find ways to accommodate our hearing loss, we’re not being whiny. We’re looking for ways to ensure that we can do the best we can at our jobs and in our relationships with other people. We want to make sure that we will have the same opportunities that fully-hearing people have. When you repeat yourself five times and can’t understand how we haven’t heard you yet, we’re not trying to be frustrating. In fact, we’re frustrated at ourselves as we attempt to make out what you said.

We just want to be people. People that can live life to the fullest as we experience new things and forge new relationships. We want to overcome the obstacles being hard-of-hearing and deaf create.

We want to hear you.

And if you’re patient, we will.

Sincerely,

A Member Of The Hard-Of-Hearing Community

What Defines Fantasy?

Fantasy is by far my favorite genre. I can get into other books, but I always come back to my first love. And, since I could talk about fantasy for years on end, you get to hear about it today.

What defines fantasy.jpg

First, you need to know that there are certain kinds of fantasy that I separate from normal fantasy. These types are what you would call “high fantasy” or even “epic fantasy”, but I refer to it as “traditional fantasy”, due to the fact that it’s essentially how fantasy used to be done before the genre evolved.

How is a piece of fantasy dubbed as traditional fantasy? I define traditional fantasy as being such using one and only one piece of criteria. Traditional fantasy must, in my personal definition, center on a fully developed world apart from ours. Though it may be hard to believe, the presence or absence of magic is not a factor at all. While magic is a fun element of fantasy and is present in most works in this genre, a book can have absolutely no magic anywhere in it and still be a true fantasy story. Jaye L. Knight’s Ilyon Chronicles has nary a trace of magic threading through its world, but the important thing is that it’s a fantasy book (and an AMAZING one at that) because it does have that world.

Okay, so traditional fantasy always has a well-thought-out fictional world. But I also divide it into two types of traditional fantasy. I know, things are just getting all crazy, right?

Traditional fantasy type #1: The purest type of fantasy is that in which our world is nonexistent. One of the possibilites for traditional fantasy is that you are immersed completely in a fictional world with no acknowledgement of our own. The characters know nothing of our world, and by all means, it doesn’t exist. You’re in another land, and that’s where you stay, learning the cultures, customs, and general life of its people. You can find this sort of fantasy in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, as well as Jessica Day George’s Dragon Slippers, Jaye L. Knight’s Ilyon Chronicles, Jennifer Nielsen’s The Ascendance Trilogy, and John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice*.

*Some may debate whether Ranger’s Apprentice is even traditional fantasy, since it’s been hinted at that the story may actually be set in a medieval Europe. However, since it operates very much under the fantasy umbrella and it has never been determined that the lands in the book are real, I’m going to count it as such.

Traditional fantasy type #2: This second subgenre of traditional fantasy still meets the criteria of having a developed fictional world. However, this world is featured alongside our own as people from our neck of the woods somehow journey to another place. The new world is still as unique and different as in the first type; it’s just that our world is acknowledged and recognized. Additionally, we learn the rules and customs of this different land through the eyes of the people from our world that go there. This is demonstrated in C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia and Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper’s The Berinfell Prophecies. (I would put more examples of this type of fantasy story, but I’ve discovered that I must read more of the first type than the second, so I don’t have many others).

To summarize, books that contain a central, well-developed world apart from ours are called traditional fantasy. Traditional fantasy can either occur solely within a different world or can center on humans from Earth that are transported to a different world.

What do you think of traditional fantasy and its two subgenres? Which do you like to read most? What are some other books that fit this description? Do tell!