Wednesday, August 19, 2015

As Enchanting as Harry Potter?

Recently on Facebook, I found this article about 15 Book as Enchanting as Harry Potter. Naturally, my curiosity got the better of me and I had to see which books they suggested. It was a good post and I wanted to share my thoughts. I've read some of the books on their list and I am going to share with you my opinions on said books and if they are as enchanting as Harry Potter as they claim.

For the record, nothing is as enchanting as Harry Potter, so let's just get that straight.

Just reference this very accurate meme.

I'll never get over you Harry Potter!

The first book they mentioned, I was so excited they put on the list because it is one of my all time favorites. I'm talking, Harry Potter is first, this one comes in a very close second.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


This book -THIS BOOK- is so beautiful and lovely and enchanting and magical. This book gets me. Seriously, I read this book and in my head I'm all "YES. This is me."

But I do know it's a very different writing style and it's not everyone's cup of tea. But if you do read it, and you don't like it, just lie to me and say you did. That way I won't cry.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman


In just that last few years I've become a fan of Gaiman. I wish I had started reading his books sooner because they are so wonderful and fantastic! However, American Gods is not the book I would have picked for this topic. Don't get me wrong - it's a great book! (In fact, I've heard rumors of it becoming a TV series.) I really enjoyed it. The books I'd pick for this topic though by him would have been Neverwhere (my fave), Stardust (so enchanting and quirky!), or The Graveyard Book (one of his middle grade books, but so wonderful!).

The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis


Now, it's been awhile since I've read the entirety of The Chronicles of Narnia. But The Horse and His Boy? Really? From what I remember, this was my least favorite out of the series. So, let's just put all of The Chronicles of Narnia on this list, okay?

The Princess Bride by William Goldman


A classic! Granted, most people just know the movie, which is just fine because it's amazing and brilliant and hilarious. But the book is awesome too.

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray


I'm really glad this author is getting a shoutout! I really enjoyed this trilogy, and in fact, it's one of my sister's all time favorites. It's interesting, and dark, there's magic, and a girls boarding school. The same author is also working on a new series called The Diviners and the second comes out later this fall.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline


Okay, I haven't actually read this book yet. But I've heard nothing but good things and if you are a gamer this is the book for you.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


This book - THIS BOOK YOU GUYS - is SO SO GOOD! This is one of my all time favorites by this author. I could read it over and over again.

It's the perfect book for the recovering Harry Potter fan. Or the fan who will never let go. Like myself. Or for people who live on the Internet and don't know how to interact with real humans. THIS BOOK UNDERSTANDS US. It's cute, funny, awkward, romantic, and touching. Also, Rainbow Rowell is coming out with a new book Carry On which is the fanfic the main character (Cath) in this book wrote. How awesome is that?

Also - were you a Draco/Harry shipper back in the day? Your time has come!

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith


Okay... another one I haven't actually read yet. But it's on my shelf and I plan on reading it soon! Also, I've heard it's awesome. Even people who typically don't enjoy mysteries have liked this book. So, I'm really excited to read it and see how the queen (JK Rowling) does in this other genre.

Some others I'd add to the list:

The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas


I discovered it just in the past year and it's ruined my life in the best way possible and the fourth book is being released September 1. I want time to go faster so I can read it. I also tell people, while the first book is good, the others are even better. So, if the first one isn't your all time favorite, just keep going.

Also, I might have a girl crush on the main character Celeana Sardothian. There - I SAID IT.

The Paper Magician trilogy by Charlie N Holmberg


I also discovered this trilogy in the past year and fell in love! It's magical, there's a school, romance, scandal, adventure, and no love triangles. What more could you want in a trilogy?

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher


Urban fantasy at it's finest. Friends of mine who knew how much I loved fantasy recommended this series and I'm so glad they did! If you haven't read this series yet, get on it right now.

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer


It's retellings of fairytales in a futuristic dystopian society. But instead of Hunger Games or Divergent, think more Firefly. The final book is being released in November and I'm outrageously excited.

What are your thoughts? Have you read any of these books? Have you read the others on the list that I haven't? How do you think they stand up for us Harry Potter addicts who want more? Are there others you'd recommend?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

An Apology to Old Friends

I've been noticing a trend in my Timehop app lately. As I scroll down through the years I notice the ones from my early years of Facebook. Do you remember those days? When we would actually write on one another's walls and have conversations that way? Not using Facebook messenger or tagging them. Actually writing on someones wall outside of the yearly "Happy Birthday!" message. Those early posts are filled with messages and notes and conversations from my college friends. About how we can't wait for the semester to start so we could see each other again or what we've been up to over the summer or making plans for the Weeks of Welcome staff. It's been making me nostalgic for my college friends.


On top of that, one of the college friends I have kept in touch with just moved away. It all came about quickly so I didn't have much time to process before she actually left. She'll be back in a few weeks for a wedding, but the fact remains, she and her husband won't be living here in Chicago anymore.

The same day she moved, some of my other college friends were in town. Originally, they were going to be at church with us, but then plans changed.

This made me realize what a terrible job of keeping in touch with people I've done in the years since graduating college.



I think of the core group of people I spent my time with and how important they were to me. We went to one another's weddings and drove across country to go, and texted and Facebooked, and back in the day AIM was our life saver during the summers. I swore we all would be friends for the rest of our lives and see each other all of the time after graduation.


But that hasn't happened.

I see people's Facebook updates and others whom I was friends with and how their lives have changed. People who seem to have similar situations as me where they left ministry or have had some of the same struggles with our Synod. I wish I had gone to them for support. While the end result may have been the same, at least I would have known I wasn't alone.

All of this is part of life and growing up and being an adult. We lose touch with some friends and we make new ones. I love the new friends I've made since graduating. But I notice how I've lost touch with those in Missouri as well, and I haven't been gone all that long.



Even the people who are here in Chicago, I notice I haven't been the greatest of friend to them since I've moved back. Yes, we see one another and all of that, or we go to church together every week, or hang out time to time, but I know I can do a much better job.



It makes me miss the girl from my Concordia days. Don't get me wrong, I love how I've grown and changed. I make more of an effort to be who God made me to be and not what others might think I should be. I love the group of online friends I've made through blogging and YouTube and the experiences I've had. There are a lot of ways I'm glad I'm not the girl I once was.

At the same time, she was much more dedicated to the people in her life. She made more of an effort. She had fun and didn't crawl into a hole as often or get anxious about social situations the way I do sometimes.



So, this is my apology to my friends of the past. Those from high school and college and Missouri with whom I've let go of. I'm sorry. I want to do better, and I don't know how I'll do better. But I want to. Please don't take my lack of keeping in touch as a lack of caring - because I do care.




Have other people noticed this as they've gotten older? How do you balance maturing and having new experiences, but still valuing the people from the past? How do you make time for people and keeping in touch? Do you ever feel like some of the ways you've changed aren't the best?

I'm also sorry I couldn't post pictures of everyone. Womp womp.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Speak Up! Restoration

It's Speak Up Link Up time again! This moth we're talking about restoration.

Don't forget to link up and watch the other videos! http://www.mrthomasandme.com/2015/08/speak-up-restoration.html


Have a happy weekend!!!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Problem with Christian Pop Culture

Last year, I read the book AD 30 by Ted Dekker for a book review.  I loved it! Then, a couple months ago I was emailed about reviewing the sequel which is coming out later this year, as well as the novella version of AD 30 in anticipation of it. Since I had loved the original so much, naturally, I said yes.

Although, in my head it was more like...


They sent me the ebook version of the novella right away so I could get to reading.

Released August 4, 2015

I'm going to be completely honest ... I'm so disappointed.

What I love about Ted Dekker is he's a Christian writer, but he's not like a Christian writer. You know, full of thin plots and characters with a bit of Jesus thrown in. He writes. I mean, really writes. His stories are full of intrigue and action, his characters have depth, and his discussions on faith are deep and intense, but done in a way which isn't preachy. 

The abridged version of AD 30 took away all of that. I couldn't even get 25% of the way through it. The story was stripped down to it's bare bones and dumbed down.

I'm sure the purpose was to get hype for the next book and to get a shorter version so people weren't so intimidated by how big the book was. But that didn't need to happen. Yes, I understand big books can be intimidating. But do you know what else is a big book?

Game of Thrones. 

Have people stopped reading that?

Nope. 

Harry Potter.

Have people stopped reading those?

Nope. 

Lord of the Rings.

And wait... people are still reading those too!

Outlander anyone...?

Granted, these are all fantasy. But still. People are willing to read big books as long as they're good.

I feel like this happens over and over in Christian pop culture. Our movies, books, music, etc. Something can be truly great, but then it gets watered down "for the masses" and to become "more appealing" when it doesn't need to be. AD 30 is an amazing book, and I truly feel even people who aren't Christian would enjoy it because it's a good story. Because Ted Dekker is an awesome writer. 

I am excited for the sequel, AD 33. It's going to be awesome because the original book was awesome. Don't worry about the abridged, just read the original. 

Basically, if it's not broke, don't fix it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Yesterday Was Tuesday, Right?

Working at a hotel I've learned, really messes up your schedule.

The times when everyone else is off work, I have to work. When I'm off, everyone else is at work. Getting off early for me means I get out on time at 11pm. Weekends no longer exist because hotels are open (and very busy) on the weekends. Especially in the summer. Hello, wedding and family reunion season! Saturdays become Mondays and Mondays are a welcome breather.

Basically, this is a really long way of saying I had totally forgotten today was Wednesday. Between work and getting reading for VEDA (SIGN UP HERE!), what day of the week I was on completely left my brain making me feel like Sam Winchester.


Only... it isn't Tuesday anymore. It's Wednesday. 

I'm just confused. 

Next week guys. NEXT WEEK I will have a for real actual blog post up. 

In the meantime... how are you? Tell me about life! Do you get as confused about what day it is as I do? Maybe I need to get back to my old job at the preschool so I can have calendar time every day so I can learn the days of the week again. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Novel of Great Importance

First, have you signed up for VEDA yet???? Click here to sign up!

Okay... shamelss plug over. Moving on.

So much of writing is sitting around trying to find the perfect word or the perfect phrase. I feel as though people think writers just sit down at the keyboard and the words and phrases fly out of their fingers with ease as they say beautiful and important things. That it's natural for them.

I don't know about you, but most of my writing is me staring at the blank screen thinking of the right words. Imagining scenes in my head, then typing it out and realizing it reads nothing like I thought it would, deleting everything, and starting over. I pull up thesaurus.com to try and find new words to use that might describe what I want to say in a better way. I pace circles around the house to try and figure it out. Then, sometimes after only getting a couple paragraphs on the page, I put it away and decide to think about it another day because I'm just writing myself into a rut.

When you write, you feel this pressure to have each word and sentence perfect. Each one needs to be meaningful and important.

Recently, the author VE Schwab wrote this on her Twitter:

"So many people set out to write a Novel of Great Importance. I just want to write stories that make people forget where they are. I want to make readers miss their stop. I want to make them smile and gasp and cheer. I want them to have fun."


When I read that, a wave of relief swept over me.

Lately, I've read a couple of those Novels of Great Importance. They have beautiful words and sentences and metaphors and say very important things about life and society. I read them and I agree saying "Yes, you are a great writer. Yes, this is very important. Good job. Gold star." Yet, I'm bored.

I don't lose myself in the story and forget where I am. I don't miss my train stop. I don't laugh or cheer or cry out loud. When the book is over I close it and say "Yup. That was very important and had a lot of important things to say. What's for lunch?"

Yet, we writers think this is what we need to create. The Novel of Great Importance. Or, perhaps, the Blog of Great Importance. We sit down and think "Yes! This will be the blog post where I have some great quote everyone will be talking about and will be pinned for everyone to be inspired by! This is the blog post that'll go viral and everyone will see what a great writer I am!"

That's not how it's supposed to be. The best writing, is the writing that comes from you. If the Novel/Blog of Great Importance isn't your style- don't write it. Pieces that are funny, or silly, or filled with fantasy and adventure, or about fashion, or art, or whatever it is you enjoy are the best ones. Because they are what you want to write about.

The bloggers who stay true to themselves and don't try to be something else are the ones I still follow. The novels that make me laugh and cry and get lost in their world, even if they are the "best" of literature, are the ones I will continually pick up and read.

This doesn't mean they aren't important or don't have fantastic messages. I keep going back to Harry Potter and how many important messages there were in that series. Yet, I wasn't bored to tears.

Last night I watched Legally Blonde and was reminded about how on the surface it's a silly girly comedy - but I find it to be one of the best feminist movies. The musical is the same way.

This is my writing advice. Write what you want to write and don't feel like you have to live up to some standard of what is considered "great" or "important." It doesn't mean you won't have writers block or days when you struggle to find the words. That will always happen. But write what you want to write. Whether it's a fun blog post, fanfiction, a silly story, about fashion and makeup, your family, or whatever. If it happens to be deep and meaningful, that's awesome. If it doesn't seem that way, who cares? Your best writing will come from you, not from being pretentious.

Writing Wednesday Button

Linking up with Erica Jaquline for Writing Wednesday!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

VEDA Is Coming

August is two weeks away. Can you believe July is half over? It's crazy pants!

But you know what it means, right?

VEDA IS COMING!

What is VEDA you ask?

It is Vlog Every Day August. A bunch of people on the Internet get together, brainstorm topic ideas, and then in August we film videos based on those topics every day and comment on each others videos. For the second year, Kirsti and I are teaming up to coordinate the WeBlogWeVlog VEDA and this year we are joined by Nico and Katherine. We've been emailing back and forth planning and plotting and sharing ideas. We have A LOT of thoughts for this year.

I first started doing VEDA a few years ago and it's how I got into vlogging and YouTube and it's so much fun. I've made a ton of friends during it I can't wait to see who joins us this year.

If you've thought about vlogging, VEDA is a great place to start because you have topics given out and a bunch of people who are right there to watch your videos.

To sign up, click here!

Next week, we'll be getting a Google Doc ready so participants can all brainstorm what topics we want to discuss in August, then we'll also be posting a participant list so we all can find each others YouTube channels and Twitter accounts to subscribe and follow. Also be sure to follow WeBlogWeVlog on Twitter for more updates.

It's going to be totally awesome!


Aw, it's been awhile since I've made A Very Potter MUsical reference and used a GIF for them. My heart is happy.

So... go sign up!

And yes, I realize this whole blog post was a shameless plug/ad for VEDA. But I didn't have any other ideas for this week. SUE ME.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

How I Journal

I've always loved journaling and having blank notebooks and journals. I love filling the pages with my thoughts and ideas and even when I have a journal I'm already using it's fun to wander around the journal section of the store to see what they have.

The idea of sitting down and writing in a journal every day is the dream. Writing out my hearts desires, my dreams, my failures, my fears, and having my memories there on the pages for me to go back and read upon later is what I've always imagined what journaling should be. I have old journals and diaries stored away in a box somewhere and from time to time I go back and dust them off and relive my childhood and high school days.

As I've gotten older, I haven't had the time or dedication to writing in my journal every single day. It's been said to help boost your creativity a habit to get into is to free write three pages each morning when you get up. I tried to do this for a little while, but I skipped one day and then one day became three days then three days became three weeks... you get the idea.

Not long ago, Amber over at Mr. Thomas and Me wrote a blog post about bullet journaling and how much she loved it. Then, Amanda over at Musical Poem said she gave it a try and she loves it too! I gave it a look and thought I would try it too.

My method of journaling isn't quite bullet journaling, but more inspired by it. Honestly, it works and it's been awesome! When I have the chance, I still write out "real" journal entries, but I've really enjoyed using my journal more as a "catch all" for all of the random things through my day.



The Type of Journal I Use

There's nothing like a good leather journal. The one I've been using for awhile now is pictured above and I got it at Barnes and Noble. It's a soft leather, the pages open flat well, and there's a ribbon to use as a bookmark. But I don't use leather exclusively. In fact, the next journal I have lined up for when this one is all used (which is soon) is a Snow White one a friend got me for my birthday last year. So, whatever works for you!

Calendar


I've found when I'm planning out my blog and vlog, I need a calendar! I used to just schedule out what I was going to be doing for the blog and my YouTube channel on my main calendar, but something about it didn't feel right. So, I started to hand write a calendar in my journal and it works so much better. I highlight, make notes, etc. and it's lovely.

To Do List



I also have found I love having a to-do list. It helps to keep me organized and be sure I am on top of things and don't forget what I need to get done. Since what I need to do at work doesn't seep into my personal and home life, I leave that out, and I only make a list of personal things I need to do. Social media stuff, people I need to call, what songs I want to practice on the ukulele, etc. I have a to-do list for each week and I label each item at the end by which date it needs to be done by. Then, there is a little box next to each item so I can check it off when I'm done.

Brainstorming



When I'm brainstorming, especially for a writing project, I do much better handwriting it than anything else. Making lists, drawing maps and diagrams, etc. I've dedicated a couple pages in my journal for novel brainstorming. There are also pages with all of my ideas for blogging and vlogging. Most of my pages in my journal are of this nature. Lists, pages of quotes I find that I want to remember, brainstorming ideas, writing projects, my To-Be-Read lists, books I've completed, etc.


Organization

Because I use so many pages throughout the month, I had to think of a way to keep it all organized and know where everything was. In bullet-journaling they suggest having a table of contents. I've tried this in the past for journals, and it's never worked. This time, I made my own system.

First, I keep the ribbon bookmark with my calendar so it's there and ready the whole month.



Then, I got another bookmark which I keep at the next available page so when I need to start something new, it's at my fingertips and I don't need to go searching for a blank page.


For everything else, I use little sticky-note tabs.


I label them with a word or two of what their page contains, and I stick them on the side.


Someday, I hope I can do more of writing daily journal entries, and I do try to when I can. But, I've found having this system for journaling is wonderful too! It gives a little snap shot of my day-to-day life and what I'm thinking about and doing, and it keeps me organized. It's been awesome!

Do you journal? Do you have any sort of system that you use? How do you keep yourself organized?

Join Erica Jacquline for Writing Wednesday! Coincidentally, she's talking about writing morning pages today!

Erica Jacquline