Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2016: New and Improved?

Alright, so posting once a week didn't happen. Sorry about that, and if you've stuck around this long despite all of my failed promises to write, thank you. And also wow, your loyalty is impressive. You are a true Hufflepuff, my friend, and you should take that as a compliment.

With the new year now just two days away, the holiday season is drawing to a dramatic close, complete with parties, fireworks, ball drops, and parades. But when all of that fades away, we're left with simply a new year. Scientifically, it's only the start of another of earth's revolutions around the star we call the sun. But to us, it's a fresh start, another chance.

In order to take advantage of this sparkling new year, full of hope and possibility, many of us will make New Year's resolutions. Maybe to lose weight, or make better grades, or save money, or actually keep up with a blog for more than one post a month. And, undoubtedly, many of us will find ourselves in February, wondering where all of that resolve went.

And that's why I'm not making any resolutions this year. Or last year, or probably next year. We feel pressured to make some sort of change in our lives because it's a new year. We think we have to be a new version of ourselves, too.

But new doesn't always mean improved. That's not to say that 2016 can't be better than 2015, it certainly can, and sometimes change is great. But I think many of us will know and agree that change isn't always for the better.

I think I had a great 2015, honestly. I've got great friends, great family, a great new house. I've read some wonderful new books and some old favorites. I've learned new things, and reviewed things I already knew. I've met new people and formed new relationships, and my best friend is sticking around for a tenth year. (I think. Honestly I've lost count.) There were plenty of new things this year that were fantastic, but there were plenty of things that stayed the same, and they were no less wonderful for not being "new and improved."

So while maybe I do need to maintain good grades next semester (three AP classes- yikes!),  or save money for my trip next new year, or make a goal of improving my ACT score, or actually post on this blog once in a while, those things aren't what's going to make 2016 a better year.

Appreciating the things I already have and love, as well as accepting and adjusting to new things that may come my way, is what will make this year fun. You know, maybe you've heard that old kids' song, "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other's gold."

New things are great, but let's not forget to appreciate what we have.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

November is Coming!

As evidenced by the constant flood of everything Halloween, November is rapidly approaching us. Yes, that means (hopefully) cold weather, sweaters, boots, pumpkin pie, turkey, football, and crazy shoppers. But do you know what else it means?

If you guessed NaNoWriMo, then you'd be right! Woo hoo!

If you don't have any idea what NaNoWriMo is or why you should be excited about it, I'd suggest you go read my post from March here.

Anyway, with only three days left before the mad race to 50,000 words begins, I obviously don't have time to plan a whole new novel. That said, I have four decent unfinished novels from years past, and I need your help to figure out which one to work on! I'll post synopses and possibly excerpts from all four, and then you can use the poll in the side bar to let me know which one you want me to work on! 

Also, if you're working on a novel of your own, please let me know! I'd love to be your writing buddy! Check me out on and as thestrangemusician! 

Story 1: Victoria's Cross
Synopsis: London, 1940. George and Katherine Knight die in a bomb blast, leaving behind their five children- James, Arthur, Anna, Robert, and young Peter- in the midst of a war. When James and Arthur end up drafted a year later, they learn that the war is much more than they ever read about in the papers. Meanwhile, Anna, Robert, and Peter discover that the war extends much further than the battlefield- it reaches right into their own family.
Excerpt: First, there was scraping all the leftovers off the plates and storing them carefully in the fridge. Every bit would be needed, especially with the rationing now. It seemed like portions kept getting smaller and smaller, but in a house of boys, it was hard to tell.
 Then came laundry and mending. Everyone needed new clothes, but no one was getting them. Peter wore hand-me-downs from Robert years ago, and some of the clothes were a bit threadbare, but at least they fit him. Robert’s trousers were all too short, and she couldn’t think of any way to make them longer at this point- they’d already been mended and let down too many times. He can’t just keep wearing Arthur’s trousers either, she thought, setting aside the trousers. Arthur’s clothes fit him alright, but the shirts were worn soft and thin, especially in the elbows, and likewise in the knees of his trousers. James, as the oldest, had the newest clothes, but even they were worn and he’d have to pass a few on to Arthur or Robert soon enough. Anna’s own dresses were worn, but she had the opposite problem of Robert- they were becoming too loose. The needle moved quickly and fluidly between her fingers and the fabric, sewing patches onto sleeves and sewing up seams and taking in her own dresses.
Finally, there was cleaning. Making sure everything was being used. Collecting the boy’s laundry for washing and mending. Washing the dishes. Dusting. Even going through the trash to see what could be reused. In this time, every little thing had some sort of purpose, and if it didn’t, it was a luxury the Knight’s didn’t have. Scrap metal or glass could be donated, and would be paid for. Paper could be written on again. Anything could be reused.
Done with her chores- for now, at least- Anna sunk, exhausted, onto the couch, knitting in hand, a cup of tea on the table, and the radio on. The yarn wove around the needles fluidly, stitch by stich creating a sweater, desperately needed with fall and winter coming. All of a sudden, the yarn stopped and the needles fell limp.
“A draft has now been issued. All men of suitable age and health for war are to enlist in the army by the end of this week, or so be arrested for treason.”
The voice on the radio crackled, but there was no mistaking what had just been said- and what it meant for the Knight’s. The knitting slipped out of Anna’s thin fingers, and one bony hand reached up to cover her mouth in surprise.
That means James and Arthur! The only income we have. Robert needs them, Peter needs them, I need them here! Robert and Peter are in school. I can’t work and keep up with the cooking and housework and take care of them! What will we do? They’re… they’ll be going to war. If they… no. I cannot afford to think like that. They’ll be safe. We all will. We’ll all be safe and sound… we have to be.

Story 2: Masquerade
Synopsis:   After the famous Consulting Detective Sherlock Holmes is called in to solve the murders of young Charlotte Keene's parents, her interest in forensic science, medicine, and criminology is sparked- an almost unheard of interest for a growing young woman in Victorian society. Ostracized by her adoptive family- her aunt Margaret and two cousins, Bennet and Emmeline- she is forced to hide her interest, studying, and dream of being mentored by Sherlock Holmes himself. At the age of 18, her secret is outed and her books taken away. Desperate, Charlotte disguises herself as a homeless boy names Charlie and flees to London, in search of her freedom and her hero. There, she is quickly sucked into an investigation of serial killings that shakes the foundation of everything she knows about herself. 
Excerpt: “Charlotte Ann Keene…” She started tersely. I restrained a shudder at the use of my full name. “Charlotte. I remember…” she stopped pacing and looked at me. “I remember when you were interested in science!” she scoffed. “You were nine, only a child. You said you wanted to be a doctor, or detective-” she had been speaking as if the words left a bitter taste in her mouth, but she said detective as if it were especially sour. “Inspired by that ridiculous fellow named Holmes! I explained to you, that it wasn’t proper. It was not your place. I thought you understood. You told me you would give it up. You’ve become such a lady, a beautiful, smart, accomplished, well-bred young lady. You could be a bit more social... But this-” she held up the book she’d taken from Ben. “This, cannot be in your future. It is not ladylike. I am also very angry that you have lied to me, for these nine, almost ten years, and I am angry that you have continued with these preposterous studies.” She tossed the book ungracefully back down on the desk. I winced at the thump it made.
“I’ve had Rosalind search your room. She brought me all of your books on this subject. I am confiscating them as of this evening. She also found a few journals of your own writings on the subject. I am taking those as well. This must end, immediately.”
I leapt to my feet. “My books? My journals? You’re taking those away?” I yelled it in a voice that was certainly not “ladylike,” but at this point I was too angry and hurt to care. “They’re all I have, all I care about! This-” I gestured to the room, and to my own dress, which was far too formal for my tastes. “This isn’t me! This is not who I am, or what I’m interested in, or what I care about! I do not want this life. All I want, is to learn, and to do something with my mind. Is that really so wrong?”
“Charlotte!” Aunt Margaret fumed. “How dare you speak to me in that manner! It isn’t proper. You will cease your studies, and you will be more respectful. Now, leave me, you have quite vexed my poor nerves.” She put a hand daintily over her forehead as she waved me away dismissively with the other. She was quite clear that she was through with me. In all the thirteen years I had lived with her and my two cousins, I had never been this through with her. After all of this hiding and lying, I was done, and not in the way she wanted me to be. I felt the anger bubbling up in me, like a pot on the stove about to boil over.
“Darn your nerves!” I exploded, relishing briefly in the appalled look that crossed her features before I stormed out of the room, my heavy footsteps and the slamming of the door punctuating my final words perfectly.

Story 3: Currently Untitled! 
Synopsis: Michael is a relatively normal 17 year old. 
Except, most normal 17 year olds don't spend most of their time in the hospital. And most 17 year olds go to school, get a job, learn to drive, hang out with friends. Michael, on the other hand, does none of the above. He's an amputee, so on that hand I guess he really isn't that normal. 
Oops, sorry, poor choice of words. 
Oh, and me? I would say I'm relatively normal too. I'm Olivia. I do go to school and have a job and know how to drive. When I met Michael, I was looking for a story. 
And boy, did I find one.

Excerpt: None yet! This one's still in planning stages

Story 4: Anchored 
Synopsis: Abby, a high school senior haunted by the events of her junior year escapes with her struggling single mother to a small beach town called Bayview for the summer. 
Riley, fresh out of high school and still unsure of what life holds for him, is anxious to see what might lie outside Bayview and beyond the grip of his strict, business-mogul father. 
Can Abby come to peace with her turbulent past? Can Riley find his future? What will the present hold for them both?
Excerpt: The van jolted to a stop, and I jerked awake. I would have gone flying except for the fact that I was glued to the seat by my own sweat. I glanced out the window groggily, attempting to determine our approximate location.

“We’re in Bayview. I thought we’d stop and eat before going to the condo.” Mom gestures to the barbecue restaurant we were parked in front of.I nodded numbly, and hopped out of the van.
The door chimed cheerfully as we walked in, and at first, we too were cheerful. The prospect of working air conditioning and a full stomach after a long car trip was definitely nice. That is, until we saw the prices. It was too expensive for us, I knew, but mom sighed and ordered us both the pork plate- the cheapest thing on the menu at $8.00.
We ate in silence, with only the sound of our plastic forks scraping on the styrofoam plates. It wasn't until we were done that mom said anything.
"You can go next door and look around if you want. It's a music store."
I just nodded and got up, throwing away my empty plate and nearly running out the door as the bell chimed. The music store was vintage, with whole sections of old records along with the new albums. Old guitars hung from the high ceilings, and others lined the rough-hewn walls. There were racks of sheet music scattered randomly, and the help desk at the back was a semi circle bearing the store's name- Rhythm and Blues- in vintage blue neon sign. Come to think of it, the whole place was blue, and exuded a calm, almost retro feel.
I walked over and picked up a ukulele and strummed a few bars. The high, almost twangy sound was comforting, and almost put me in the mood for spending the summer at the beach.
"Need any help?" A deep tenor asked from behind me. I spun around to face him.
The guy was tall, much taller than I was. My head came up to about his nose. His hair was dark, curly and reached his ears. He was tan, with bright blue-green eyes, and looked like he spent all his time on the beach. Which he probably did. Judging by his "Rhythm and Blues" t shirt, he was staff. I knew it was his job, yet my stomach involuntarily fluttered at the idea that he was talking to me. My voice caught in my throat as I tried to respond.
"No, just looking," I managed to squeak out. He just grinned.
"Okay, let me know if you need anything. See you around.”
I nodded silently, not trusting myself to speak. He turned with a wave and disappeared between the shelves. I ran out of the store before I could do anything else stupid.
Mom was waiting, sitting in the driver’s seat of the old van. I dreaded getting back in after so long in that sticky leather seat, but I was desperate to get to the condo, and it’s not like I could just walk. So I hopped in, and we turned back onto the road towards the coast.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Book Review of the Month: October

I don't know about you, but there's something about drizzly fall days that makes me want to curl up with a hot cup of tea and a good book. My book of choice? Currently, fairy tales. There's something about cold rainy days that makes me reach for a good fantasy novel. I'm in the process of rereading one of my all time favorites, The Hobbit, (more on that soon, I promise!), but this month's book review is on something new I picked up recently.

The book I'm writing about today is Mette Ivie Harrison's The Princess and the Hound, which is described as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, with a fascinating twist- the "beast" is a woman. With an intriguing catch phrase like that, I couldn't help but pick it up and take it home.

As with any classic fairy tale, there's a princess. Her name is Beatrice, raised by her father, who was rather barbaric at times, and she is beautiful not as most typical fair-haired, blue eyed, delicate fairy tale princesses are. She was described as beautiful in her strength and uniqueness, with her fiery red hair and freckles. Lonely except for her loyal sort-of pet hound, Beatrice is not the kind of princess you expect. She remains quite mysterious for much of the novel.

And then, of course, you have the prince. He's described as young and handsome, of course, but once again he is not necessarily the confident, daring fairy tale hero you expect. The book is written from his perspective, and follows his childhood, so we get more of an inside look. It's obvious that Prince George is unsure and often afraid, although we get to watch him grow and mature as a character.

At times, it seems they're total opposites, marrying only for duty, and you might wonder if they will ever get along properly.

This one's been sitting on my shelf for quite some time, but I finally got around to opening it up last week, and then sped through it in about a day and a half. I couldn't put it down!

I will admit, I spent the first half of the book rather confused. I wondered when and how Beauty and the Beast would come into the story, when it almost felt that the plot was heading in an entirely different direction that what I'd expected.

And then, when I finally did understand the proclaimed tie in to the classic fairy tale, I almost didn't think it fit. Animals definitely feature very prominently throughout the novel, and different perspectives on them are offered from different characters. As an animal lover myself, I found it easy to relate. Still, to me, it wasn't Beauty and the Beast. Yes, there were some obvious similarities, as you will understand if you do decide to take my suggestion and read this book, but what I found was that The Princess and the Hound didn't feel like yet another retelling of a classic story.

It felt like a new story, a new classic, all it's own. It wasn't piggybacking off of the appeal of the original, it had a different appeal, all it's own. Even though I picked this book up expecting a retelling of a story I already knew, I was not at all disappointed to find I knew nothing of where the plot was taking me.

Fans of fantasy, fairy tales, and of course, romance, will definitely enjoy this book. It had great characters, a wonderfully complex plot, and a wonderful perspective on animals. And. there's a sequel (make that a whole series, as I've just discovered), so there's even more to love. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Few Brief Updates

Hey everyone! I know it's been way too long! It's been super busy here, with so many things going on for school, band and SGA. Not to mention trying to move at the same time. But anyway, I'll try to post at least once a week, so make sure you subscribe so you stay up to date on all the latest posts!

What you can expect to be coming soon...

  • A new look to the blog! I won't be changing much, but fall (aka my favorite season!) is here now, and I'll be switching up a few things just to keep it all visually fresh. 
  • A new book review! I have managed to find time to read a few books lately, and I may have a new review up as soon as tonight, so be sure to check back! 
  • More guest posts! Even though I'm trying to post more myself, I'll try to let you get to know some of my friends and fellow bloggers here too! 
  • As always, more music and strangeness! 
Also, please feel free to comment and suggest books, music, or blog ideas. I would love to know what you would like to hear from me or know about me, so let me know! 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Trust the Trials and the Change

Okay, I’ll admit it: I. HATE. CHANGE. I hate having to pick something up that I am so familiar, so comfortable with, and toss it in the trash for something new. When I was little, I couldn’t give away ANYTHING I owned because it was (apparently) like ripping piece of myself off and giving it to a stranger I didn’t know. The biggest change I had to ever deal with was moving from my childhood home right outside of Nashville, Tennessee & move to Huntsville, Alabama for my dad’s new job. I had to leave my best friend & my life behind pretty much…all because of a JOB?!

              I cried…a LOT. I screamed & I cried & I refused to leave. I locked myself in a swingset treehouse one day and sobbed for 20 minutes just because I was so upset I had to leave. When I moved down to Alabama, I had no friends. I slept with every single one of my stuffed animals for the first month of living here because even though I felt left out and alone in this new world I was in, I didn’t want them to feel left out as well. I was miserable. For the first year & a half that we lived in Alabama, I made friends, but I wasn’t really HAPPY. Every time we pulled into our neighborhood after being away on a trip, my parents and sister would say that they were “happy to be home”, but I refused to call it my home. This wasn’t my home; my home was in Tennessee, NOT this alienated universe that only cared about football & sports & rocket science.

              Eventually though, I started to settle in. We finally found a church home & I started making friends there, as well as at school. I met my best friend at church (he’s actually the one who helped me come up with this blog topic. Thanks, B!) & I became involved in my youth group. Once I got to high school two years ago, I got heavily involved in my choir…and I found my group of people, where I belonged. Through my friends in youth group & my experiences in choir, I eventually found myself. My weird, musically OBSESSED, quirky self who HATES needles & heights & spiders, but LOVES Disney & country music & performing. I discovered who I wanted to be as a person & what I wanted to do with my life: I wanted to be a person who helps others.

              Okay okay, I know it sounds really cliché. But really! My songwriting helps me cope with things I’m dealing with. I perform those songs & before you know it, someone is telling me they can relate to it, whether it be a friend or a colleague. I want to be a country music performer when I grow up. It’s a long-shot, I know, but I think I can make it. But, I also want to work at Disney World. I want to be the one behind the “mask” so to say, putting that same smile that I had at Disney World as a child onto other kids’ faces; I want to be the one who makes THEIR trips, just like so many cast members make mine.

              The whole point of this post is to say this: God will throw trials at you, and you WILL not like them all the time. But those trials get you to somewhere SO much better! Trust me. If I had never moved down to Alabama, I wouldn’t have found my love for country music. I wouldn’t have met my best friend. I wouldn’t have found what I wanted to do for a living. So, just trust those trials.




ALL SOCIAL MEDIA: @graceccathey3


Band Camp and Guest Bloggers

Hello readers! So today since I'm away at band camp, my lovely friend Grace is writing a guest post! I would introduce her more, but I think you'll get the idea from her post! Expect to see it up later today!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The (Triple) Book Review of the Month: June/July

When I picked up several Sarah Dessen books to take to the beach, I was expecting mainly some light, somewhat predictable young adult romance novels. And, since that's what I was expecting to read, that's what I was expecting to review. But this is not exactly what I expected.

Let's face it: novels are generally not as realistic as we think. Things just don't happen the way they do in novels or movies or television. Not in the real world. The romance in these books was, I admit, slightly predictable, in the sense that it's easy to know which characters will be a couple by the end of the story.

The actual relationships, however, I found to be more believable and realistic than expected. The characters went through real challenges and dealt with real issues and real emotions. They just did it together, some of the time. And while each of the books I read did include some summer romance, as Dessen is known for, the romance did not feel like the main story line in most cases.

These books dealt with a lot of difficult topics that I think a lot of authors, especially in more young adult genres, might shy away from. Drugs, alcohol, rape, divorce, abuse, insomnia, eating disorders, loss and so on. It wasn't all butterflies and rainbows. It was hard to read at times, but harder to know that things like that really happen.

Still, these books, more than anything, dealt with family. It was in how Ruby dealt with her mother. How  Annabel dealt with her sisters. How Auden dealt with her parents and stepmother.

In Lock and Key, Ruby moves in with her sister after her mother abandons her in their tiny shack of a home. Ruby is used to fending for herself, and struggles to trust others and define what family means to her.

In Along for the Ride, Auden goes to spend the summer with her father, her new stepmother, and her baby stepsister at the beach before college. She is used to isolating herself for her studies, due to the influence of her intellectual parents, and now must learn to be her own person.

In Just Listen, Annabel and her sisters are young models, and have been since they were children. After having a rough semester at school following an incident with her best friend's boyfriend, Annabel is afraid of losing her friends, disappointing her mother, and telling the truth.

I really enjoyed these books, and if you like young adult romance and realistic writing, you definitely will too!

If you have a favorite book to suggest or a question about a book, feel free to leave me a comment! 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Best Books for the Beach

Although it brings along sunburns and bug bites and sweat, summer does offer a few good things- particularly time to read.

If you're like most people, you're probably visiting the beach sometime this summer, and if you're like me, you're probably planning to read while you're there. (And even if you're not headed to the shore anytime soon, kicking back with a good book is still totally worth it!)

So here's my list of books to bring along when you head to the beach!

If you're looking for historical fiction...

Check out Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen
          I've reviewed this series before, and for more information on the books, you can read that review here. The sparkling 1920's setting, romance, and hint of mystery make these books perfect for a summer read!

Check out A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson
          Although the characters are occasionally a bit cliche, they are lovable and well written, and if you're looking for a historical romance, this book might just be for you! Set in the 1940s in Austria, this book combines romance and the wartime setting to create a emotional read for summer!

If you're looking for romance...

Check out The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
          I read the first book in this series a few years ago, and while I don't exactly remember all the details of the plot, I do remember the book being full of romance and summertime imagery that make it an ideal choice for the beach!

Check out Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
          Sarah Dessen is known for her young adult romance novels, and this is one of the best ones I've read from her. With a quaint beach town setting and realistic, likable characters, this book is a great poolside read. (UPDATE: I've written a review including this book, and you can read it here.)

If you're looking for a classic...

Check out Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
          I think everyone who's a reader at least has an idea what this one is about. This is a more challenging read, but Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy, their romance, and the British Regency setting definitely make it worth the challenge!

Check out The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
          While this one is often a required book in high school and is also more challenging, it's definitely got many of the makings of a good summer book: musical writing, engaging plot, realistic characters, and the glamour of the 1920s make this book a great choice.

If you're looking for a mystery...

Check out Paper Towns by John Green
          This book is many things, but for now I'll call it (and Margo Roth Spiegelman) a mystery. With the much-anticipated film coming out in July, now is a perfect time to pick up the book and get to know the original story before it comes out in theaters!

Check out Secret Letters
          As an extension of the classic, Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes novels, this book is best appreciated by those familiar with the original stories. That said, this book gives a twist to the story that makes it appealing to other readers as well as an intriguing summer read!

If you're looking for a fairy tale...

Check out Serenade by Mari Bianca
          This story is a version of the familiar Little Mermaid story by Hans Christian Andersen, this story rings with familiarity, but with enough of a twist to keep things interesting! The romance, folklore, and oceanside setting make this a perfect beach book!

Check out Avalon High by Meg Cabot
          Although I really didn't like the movie, this book is an old favorite of mine! The characters and setting are definitely lovable, and the modernized Arthurian legend provides just enough action, romance, and fantasy to make this a great choice for reading by the pool.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


School will be out for this year in just under a week, and while that means summer is almost here, it also means that these past few weeks and the next week are busy! We're talking concerts, exams, banquets, graduation, studying, auditions.

All of that leaves little time left for blog posts. I know it's been a while, and I know I've said this a few times, but I promise that posts will be back on schedule in just a few days!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Book Review of the Month: April

Okay, I have a confession to make: I haven't finished a single new book this month. I started several, checked out a few from the library, but never finished one. I know, shocker. This month has been quite busy, and I already know next month will be busy as well. So, this month's review will cover one (or three!) of my old favorites: the Inkheart trilogy.

This trilogy, consisting of Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke, aren't exactly new books, and there's been at least one movie, so you might already know a bit of the story. 

In case you don't, the books tell the story of a girl named Meggie and her father, Mo, a bookbinder. He has such a way with words that he can bring stories to life (literally!) with just his voice. Inkheart, in fact, is the name of the book-within-the-book that Mo has sword never again to read aloud. 

Besides the fantastical cast, the magical setting, and the intriguing concept, I loved reading books about main characters who loved books as much as I do. The magic in the Inkheart trilogy is not just about fantastic and mysterious characters and places. Above all, the magic of the Inkheart trilogy is the magic of books. 

I remember one line in particular that describes how reading a book captured all the little details of where you were, what was happening, who you were. I still remember where I was when I read that line: sitting in the elementary school cafeteria eating lunch and reading, back in the 5th or 6th grade. 

If you love fantasy or even romance books, the Inkheart trilogy would be a good choice for you. But even more so, if you love books like I do, then you will understand and appreciate and love the magic of these books. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Lie Society Tells Us: Self Portraits

At my school, if you walk down the fine arts hallway, you might hear flutes and trumpets and saxophones coming from the band room. You might hear voices coming from the choir room. You might hear lines being rehearsed in the drama room or auditorium. You might smell paint or sawdust from the tech theatre department. But you'll definitely see the line of portraits hanging on the cinder block walls.

About the first half of the drawings are pencil and charcoal self portraits of the students, splattered with colorful paint. The second half are colored pencil sketches on colored paper.

To put it simply, the colored pencil drawings are incredible. They're fantastically realistic, and the colors are bright and unexpected, yet somehow exactly the right shade to create the image you expect to see.

Don't get me wrong, the self portraits are wonderful too, and there is obviously a lot of talent, focus, and hard work that went into creating them. But as a whole, the self portraits are not as realistic as the colored pencil drawings. Upon closer inspection, some of them appear a bit distorted, sort of like looking in a warped carnival mirror.

If you take the time to think about the drawings as you walk down the hallway, you might start to wonder why the drawings the students did of other people look so realistic, and why oftentimes the drawings they did of themselves are a bit out of proportion. And I think it goes back to another one of the lies society tells us.

The self portraits are distorted because that is how we, as people, tend to see ourselves.

We do not see ourselves as we truly are. We cannot see ourselves accurately. We have spent too much time criticizing our own appearances based on a set of "standards" that the media gives us. We have started to believe things about ourselves that just aren't true.

But with other people, we don't seem to do this. I think, a lot of times, we don't hold pick apart other people's appearances like we do our own. So often, we know not to be mean to others, but we never think about not being mean to ourselves.What you may see in yourself isn't necessarily what others see.

And I think that's worth remembering, next time you feel self conscious. Our internalized self portrait is not what others are really seeing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Out of Town!

Hello to my readers! Just so you know, I'll be out of town this week, so there won't be a new post tomorrow! I'll try to have a new post up Tuesday. I know it's been busy, and I know that the post dates have been messed up. Thank you all for sticking around through this craziness! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Are You a Romantic?

If someone asked you if you were a romantic, what would you say? Okay, now if someone asked if you were a Romantic, what would you answer?

I've never really thought of myself as a Romantic. And no, we're not talking about Cupid and hearts and Valentine's Day, although that's all fine and good it that's your sort of thing.

So a few months ago, I probably would have answered no to both of those questions. Or at least the second one, for sure. But I think I've rethought my position since then.

In case you don't remember from your high school history or English literature class, Romanticism was a movement that circulated during the 1800's in America and Western Europe. It affected nearly all areas of art, including literature, visual art, music, and dance. It was largely a reaction against the Scientific Revolution, rationalism, and rapid industrialization of the time.

The Romantics believed that creativity was more important than intelligence, spontaneity was more important than planning, emotion was more important than mind, and nature was more important than industrialization.

And these few things are what made me disagree with them.

I will be the first to admit: I am a very logical person. I like to think out how to solve problems in a logical way, I analyze (and sometimes over-analyze) everything, and I tend to plan things out before I do them. So to insist that something else is more important than the way my brain works sort of instantly turned me away from agreeing with the Romantics.

But I am also a very creative person. All of my hobbies are very expressive ones: music, writing, art, and sometimes I can be rather reflective and sensitive. I do tend to plan out my stories before I write and sketch out my drawings before I paint, but it's still creativity.

I've realized now that I don't entirely disagree with the Romantic movement. I just disagree that one set of ideas is necessarily more important than the (seemingly opposite) set.

I believe in the importance of creativity as well as intelligence, spontaneity as well as planning, emotion as well as mind, and nature as well as industrialization. People, and the world as a whole, needs a balance of both to really be successful.
"There is no conflict between warm emotions and an intelligent, well-trained mind."                 —Walter Raymond Spalding, Music: An Art and a Language

Friday, April 10, 2015

Post Delays

Hello to all my readers out there!

As you may have noticed, I haven't posted this week. I really am sorry about that! Things have been delayed due to homework, SGA elections (this is your new Junior Secretary speaking), and headaches, but everything should be back on schedule for this week. Be sure to check back on Tuesday and Thursday for new posts!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Lie Society Tells Us: Price vs. Worth

I think it's pretty clear that society tells us all a lot of lies. About the world, about others, and about ourselves. But I think one of the biggest lies we're told is that expensive things are better.

It's a common saying: "you get what you pay for." But I would argue that it's not always true. Yes, sometimes cheaper items are of a lower quality. That's just a simple business principle; to charge lower prices, you usually need to purchase cheaper, poorer quality materials. But sometimes, having lower quality materials doesn't make enough of a difference in the final product.

For example, I can't tell the difference in a book I paid full price for at Barnes & Noble and the one I paid a dollar for at Dollar Tree. Obviously, the stories are different, but when it comes down to it, it's just ink on a page. And if the Dollar Tree book is printed with lower quality ink on lower quality paper, well, it just doesn't make a difference in the end reading experience. Nor can I tell a difference in the book that I paid fifty cents for at a thrift store, other than it maybe showing a little age or wear. 

I was raised to look for bargains. I always buy things on sale, or with coupons, or at thrift stores, and if I can't find it, maybe I can make it myself. And I normally find really good-quality items for low prices. Sometimes even name brand items. I am not the kind of person who will pay more for an item just because it has a certain brand on it. 

However, because of the lie society tells us, many people will pay more for an item just because of its brand. And I think this makes the people who simply can't afford to have all name brand things feel like they are inferior somehow. They feel like because they don't have the biggest house, or the nicest car, or the newest iPhone, or that name brand backpack, that they aren't as good as the person who does. Society teaches us that "price" and "worth" are synonymous. 

Yet, for a society that treats price and worth as being the same, there sure is a big difference in "worthless" and "priceless," isn't there? 

Let's take a look at that for a moment. If we are to believe the lie society tells us, that price and worth are equal, then these two words should mean the same thing, right? But everyone knows that they would never call the Mona Lisa worthless, or an ordinary pebble they picked up outside priceless. 

The dictionary defines it this way:
1. having a value beyond all price; invaluable:
a priceless artwork.

1. without worth; of no use, importance, or value; good-for-nothing:
a worthless person 

Isn't that interesting? Society tells us that price and worth are the same, and in the same breath explains the difference in worthless and priceless. "Worthless" generally means it has so little value that it cannot equal money. And "priceless" means it has so much value that money cannot equal it. 

It's simple. Price does not equal worth

For an example, let's look at people. If you have to "buy" your friend, let's say with expensive gifts, then they're probably not going to be a very valuable friend to have. In fact, you might could say they're worthless as a friend, because they're not truly loyal to you. 

On the other hand, a true friend will be loyal, whether or not you give them fancy presents or whatever they ask for. They will stick beside you in good and bad. The friend with the high price tag could be considered worthless, while the friend that comes for free is priceless. 

Friends, family, love, hope, faith, peace, laughter, nature, music (and we're not talking iTunes here), language, and art are all examples of beautiful, priceless things that come at no cost at all. 

So if you ever feel worthless because you can't afford that fancy new item with the high price tag, just remember...

Price does not equal worth. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Same Blog, New Look!

If you're wondering if you've come to the right blog, you have. As you can probably see, I'm making quite a few changes to the design around here. But don't worry, I'm not changing my content! I'll still be putting up the regular posts you know (and hopefully love!). I'll try to get all the renovations done quickly, but until then, things will be changing! In the end, it'll look fantastic so stick around! 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

10 Random But Hopefully Interesting Facts About Me

It's been about a month since I started this blog, and whether you've been reading it all this time or you're just now finding my site, you probably want to know a bit more about me. So here's 10 random things about me that hopefully you'll find at least somewhat interesting.

1. My favorite soda is Diet Dr. Pepper. Yes, diet. I don't know why, but with Dr. Pepper, I like the diet version better.

2. I hate needles. Hate them. I can't even think about needles without getting creeped out. I have to look away every time they use one in movies, like the Hunger Games or Divergent.

3. I've only ever been to two countries, the U.S. and England. I have, however, been to more than ten U.S. states.

4. I hate coffee. I know it's immensely popular, and I've tried it, but I just don't like it. It's too bitter. The only way I will drink coffee is when I can't taste the coffee.

5. I used to live on Mercury. For real.

Just kidding about that last one. That was just the street I lived on.

6. My favorite movie is AristoCats, all the way. I can quote nearly the entire movie. In case you haven't heard of it, it's a Disney movie made in 1970. Basically, you can't go wrong when you put kittens, music, and Paris together in one movie. You just can't.

7. I actually want to write a sequel to the AristoCats, because more people need to know about the awesomeness that is that movie. And there needs to be more of it.

8. I'm totally not  a sports person. At all. I never really played any sports as a kid, and I don't really like watching sports. That is, excluding high school football games with the marching band. I love band.

9. That being said, I am super competitive. I cannot stand being second place when I could be first.

Last but not least...

10. I currently have one pet, my cat Biskit. And no, his name is not Biscuit. It's Biskit, like kit for kitty. Clever, huh? If you think so, then I totally came up with it. If you think it's stupid, then it was definitely my dad's idea. (It actually was  my dad's idea.)

If you want more randomly interesting facts, feel free to ask random but interesting questions in comments!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Book Review of the Month: March 2015

It's book review time again! This month, I'm reviewing the Bright Young Things trilogy by Anna Godbersen, consisting of Bright Young things, Beautiful Days, and The Lucky Ones.

If you haven't seen last month's post, I'd suggest you read that one first in this particular case, since this trilogy is actually by the same author as last month's series. I wouldn't exactly call this a continuation or a follow up series, but it does revisit a few things.

It's Manhattan, 1929. It's been 30 years since the events of the Luxe series, so it's a fairly safe bet that the Hollands and the Hayses and the Shoonmakers are probably still around, but by now the spotlight has shifted away from aging debutantes and towards the bright young things.

All eyes are on the flappers, with their bobbed hair and short skirts, and the rising starlets of the stage and screen. And there's no better place to be than New York City if you want to be in the spotlight.

Meet Cordelia Grey and Letty Larkspur. They're best friends from a small town in Ohio, and they're fed up with their dusty, boring, Midwestern life. That is, until they run away for New York. Cordelia wants to escape her restricting aunt, and Letty has dreams of being an performer.

Meet Astrid Donal, the bubbly upper-class socialite of White Cove. She's dating Charlie, the tough-but-loving son of one of the biggest bootleggers in New York, Darius Grey.

Meet Max Darby, the young, daring airplane pilot. He wants to be the youngest man to fly solo across the Atlantic, but he's stuck giving passenger rides and doing skywriting for the time being.

Being that these books take place in the midst of Prohibition and nearly center around bootlegging, I expected a lot of scandal. But the realm of accepted behavior has greatly changed since Gilded Age New York society. While the characters in the Luxe often had secrets and schemes, there seems to be a lot more openness among the main characters of Bright Young Things.

I'm currently in the middle of book three, The Lucky Ones, and I've loved these books. I read the first two in a few days, and I've laughed, cried, and loved the 1920s.

With an atmosphere of freedom and youth, brilliant dialogue, a few unexpected twists, and plenty of tense romance, these books have been a glittering and thrilling read. I definitely recommend them to fans of romance, historical fiction, mystery, and fans of the Luxe series. Anna Godbersen is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

If you have any book suggestions, leave them in comments!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Why I Have a Love/Hate Relationship with St. Patrick's Day

Today is March 17th, which, as you probably know, means its St. Patrick's Day. The day for wearing green, drinking beer, and looking for four-leaved clovers and pots of gold at the end of rainbows. The day when everyone is Irish. Fun, right?

Well, personally, it gets on my nerves.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I have nothing at all against Ireland or the Irish. In fact, my own family history is a mix of Scottish and Irish, and I would love to visit Ireland. Celebrating Ireland is definitely my favorite part of St. Patrick's Day.

Unfortunately, society and I have differing ideas on what celebrating Ireland should be. At least in America, St. Patrick's Day has become so over-commercialized and basically dumbed-down that it's lost its meaning. It's just an excuse for people to wear "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" t-shirts, drink lots of Irish beer, eat corned beef hash, and put on ridiculously fake Irish accents.

To me, it almost feels like it's become a mockery of Irish culture. For example, corned beef hash isn't even really Irish. It was more commonly a dish prepared among immigrants in America using beef and salt. It's like eating fortune cookies to celebrate Chinese New Year.

In my opinion, St. Patrick's day should really be about learning about Irish culture without mocking it. Ireland has a deep and fascinating history, full of fairy tales and war and music and rebellion and folklore.

So if you want my suggestions on how to celebrate today, here's what I have to say. Pick up a book of Celtic fairy tales or poetry. Listen to some Celtic folk music. Read some fun facts about Ireland. You don't have to spend ages studying everything about Ireland, but take a moment to appreciate the beautiful country we call the Emerald Isle.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

8 (Somewhat) Surprising Things Music Does For Your Brain

I've never met anyone who didn't enjoy music, even just listening to it. Most of my friends and family enjoy making it, through singing or playing a musical instrument. Overall, it's obvious that people just generally really love music. Simply put: it's fun.

Learning a musical instrument is already a good idea simply for the fact that it's fun and it's something interesting to add to a list of skills. But music does much more than make you look cool- it actually engages and helps strengthen your brain, in more areas than one.

  1. Playing a musical instrument actually engages almost all areas of your brain. The visual cortex is involved in reading the music or watching the conductor, and the auditory cortex is involved in listening to the music. The sensory cortex, motor cortex, and cerebellum deal with actions such as physically playing an instrument, conducting or dancing. The prefrontal cortex deals with decision making and expression. The hippocampus, nucleus accumbus, and amygdala control our emotional responses to music and memories of music. 
  2. Because learning a musical instrument involves learning rhythms and sound patterns, it actually improves your verbal skills. Studies show that the skills enforced with musical training also help with recognizing human speech amid other noise and improving your auditory memory. In other words, you'll be more likely to hear, understand, and remember what someone says. 
  3. As any musician will know, music actually involves a lot of math. There's counting beats, rhythms, measures, and rests. There's subdividing beats to better understand the rhythms, and mathematical relationships also connect musical intervals, scales, chords, and keys. Because of this, studies show that music can actually help improve your math skills. Not to say that you automatically become a human calculator, but it does contribute to recognizing patterns and thinking quickly.
  4. Music has actually been shown to raise academic IQ points, and musicians often have higher IQs. Interestingly enough, music contributes more to academic IQ than to emotional IQ. It's also worth remembering that intelligence is much more than a test and a number. 
  5. Because of many of the same reasons as number 1 and also because musical directions are often in languages such as Italian, French, or German, musicians are generally better at learning foreign languages. They are usually more skilled at picking up on sound patterns and learning the grammar behind it, as well as developing larger vocabularies. 
  6. Simply put, music requires you to listen. Whether you play an instrument, sing, or just like listening, you have to listen. In a group setting, you have to listen to your section, to other sections, to the director, to the melody, harmony, and tone. Even in a solo setting, listening to tone and pitch is necessary. So, it follows that music can make you a better listener
  7. Music can slow aging. Studies show that musicians that play their instrument for years- we're talking around ten or more- retain the bonuses that we've already mentioned as they age. This means that their brain declines at a slower rate, and they have a stronger memory. 
  8. I know a lot of us like to put on our favorite songs when we're in a bad mood, but it's scientifically shown that music can make you less anxious, and more confident, happy, and creative. Music releases endorphins and neurotransmitters in our brains that can put us in a good mood and make us feel better. Also, music training can cause the areas of your brain that control depression, anxiety, and attention issues to thicken, meaning it becomes easier to control your emotions and focus on tasks.
And as a bonus, here's a fun fact (that's also a hint) for the topic next week's post!

In the 1920s, it was fashionable to wear a different outfit for day, afternoon, and evening. Women would change clothes several times a day. The hemline indicated which outfit was for which time of day.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My Top Five Writing Methods

In case you haven't heard about it, National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo, is a month long event in which writers try to complete the insanely difficult task of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It occurs chiefly in November, but there are also other events during the year.

I will be participating in the April session of NaNoWriMo this year to work on my new novel, which I'll probably talk more about when I have more of the details worked out. If you have a story idea or a story in progress, I encourage you to participate sometime during the year. It really is a lot of fun, and writing is a great skill to build.

In case you're thinking you can't possibly write 50,000 words in a month, consider a few things:

  • It doesn't have to be a huge planned out idea. Maybe you just have a character. Or one scene. Or a setting. Or nothing but willpower. That's fine. Just plant the seed, nurture it, and it'll grow. 
  • You can make your word count goal whatever you want it to be; you don't have to write 50,000 words. I do encourage you to challenge yourself; however, you should also be realistic for your schedule. 
  • You now have my 5 suggestion to help you along! 
Of course, this is a matter of what works best for each individual, and what works for me may not work for you. I'm not calling them "tips" for that very reason. But if you don't already know what works for you, this is a good starting point. So here we go!

  1. Planning. I personally, am a planner. I like to know everything about my story before I begin. Outlines are my best friend during NaNoWriMo, and I really love the free story-boarding program Storybook. You may be what's known as a pantser—you like to jump right in and figure it out as you go. Even if this is you, I encourage you to flesh out your characters and at least have an idea of the climax of your plot, so you have some idea of the momentum of the story.
  2. Editing. Don't edit as you go. It can be really hard not to, but remember: first drafts are supposed to suck. No one is perfect on a first draft, and you have plenty of time to edit later. Unless you're making a major change and really need to edit, don't. When I try to edit as I go, I never get anything done. 
  3. Music. I love listening to music when I write, and what I listen to varies from Celtic folk songs to Taylor Swift to Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks to Classical. I pick music that fits the setting, characters, era, and tone of my novel to help keep myself in the right mindset, but it's really what works for you. 
  4. Technology vs. Paper. I know people who hand-write their novels. There are those of us who use a computer. And then there's those who use typewriters. This one is also entirely up to you. I am more productive at a computer for several reasons: I can type faster and more comfortably than I can write, it's easier to edit later, I never lose pages, it's easier to track your word count, and it's easier to research and share your novel. Personally, I use Google Docs to write because it auto-saves and can be accessed anywhere with internet, so it's safe if your computer crashes. 
  5. Time. It is surprisingly hard to fit time for writing 50,000 words into a month, since most of us have school and/or jobs, homework, housework, family, etc. etc. etc. The best solution is to actually schedule it out and make time for writing. I work best between the hours of 9 PM and midnight, because my brain tends to think more creatively right before bed, and it's after I'm done with homework and band and everything else I need to do. Find the time that works best for you, but don't forget to take a break every now and then!
If you haven't already figured out what works best for you, then I encourage you to take some time this year and participate in NaNoWriMo. It'll give you plenty of experience! If you have any questions about the program, you can ask me in comments or check out the website

If you have figured out what works for you, comment and tell me about it! 

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo at any point this year, comment and let me know! I'd love to hear about your ideas and chat with you on the website! 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

6 Things I'd Say in a Letter to My Younger Self

Dear (younger) me:

There's a lot I could tell you about your future. I could go on and on, but you don't need to hear all of it. You do, however, need some encouragement, because your life is going to be difficult at times. That's just how life goes, but bad things don't make the good any less, well, good. So here I am, to tell you six things you need to know.

1. Don't get too excited about high school. It's not the dream you think it'll be, but it's not a nightmare either. Your classes will be hard, but you'll survive. You'll make friends, don't worry. But there'll be plenty of annoying people too. Which brings me to number...

2. Don't let those people get to you. People are going to say terrible things about you and your friends. Society itself will say terrible things too. You'll end up hating yourself. Don't listen to anyone who doesn't love you for who you are. Most importantly, love yourself.

3. Don't think you need a boyfriend to love you. High school romances are a long shot at love, if anything, and really cause more drama. You'll see it happen, there's no reason to experience it too. Be happy on your own, because you're great.

4. Don't be too proud. Yes, you're great. But don't forget that other people matter too. Always try to be kind, even when you don't want to. I know it's hard. But never stop.

5. Never stop being you. Don't change yourself into someone you're not comfortable being. Be everything you are and want to be. Accept yourself as a complicated, beautiful mess.

6. And no matter what, never ever give up. Classes will be hard, and you won't have much motivation. Don't quit. You won't want to do anything but lay around. But your future is so so bright and all your dreams are within your reach. So don't quit.

Good luck, and never ever forget to be extraordinary. I believe in you.

Love, me. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Bright Future?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I'm sure every kid has thought about their answer to that question. Adults too, for that matter, since it doesn't seem to be all that common that people are actually doing the work they want to or dreamt about. But for us teens, who are on that precarious edge between our childhood dreams and our futures as adults, that decision is starting to look very real—and very intimidating.

As a kid, I don’t think my “when I grow up” dreams were all that conventional. Sure, princess was probably on the list, but I mostly remember wanting to be a veterinarian, author or service dog trainer.
I've since realized that I couldn't handle seeing animals sick or in pain well enough to be a vet, and that I couldn't handle giving away the dogs I’d trained once I got attached to them (which I inevitably would). I actually do still want to be an author, but at this point in time, it seems like that’ll be more of a side job than a career.

The next job that made it onto the list was an English teacher. I love writing and literature and helping people (especially helping make them smarter). But after a project at school in which we had to teach the class for a day, I’m no longer sure I can handle a certain few students who refuse to pay attention, ask stupid questions, then blame the teacher for why they can’t understand a simple concept.

My current dream job is actually to play in an orchestra professionally, the kind of orchestra that gets to record soundtracks for films and television shows. I’m only hoping I could actually make it to that level and not burn out on playing when I have to do it as a job.

But for all of us who want a career in an area as risky as the music business, we know that you usually have to have a backup plan. I suppose my backup plan would be to be a music educator, although my real “dream” backup would be to work with music therapy for special needs students.

But honestly, I don’t know what my future is going to be, and that’s okay. I know that I don’t actually have to have my entire life planned out, because things never go quite according to my plans. But if there is one thing, above all, that I aspire to be, it’s brilliant.

I adore the word “brilliant.” It means that something is so wonderful that it’s actually incandescent. It’s radiant. It’s illuminating.

And that is what I want to be. I want to be intelligent and clever and beautiful and inspirational and determined. I want to be a shining light in a dark world. I want to be a star—and I don’t mean celebrity. I mean the burning balls of gas in space that we all look up at on a clear night. Why? Because they get brighter when it gets darker. Darkness doesn't dim their light. They are brilliant. That's what I want to be.

What do you want to be? 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thoughts and Roses

"Truths and roses have thorns about them." —Henry David Thoreau
As we all know, it's February 26th today, which means that Valentine'sDay was almost two weeks ago. That also means that all of the flowers that were given are probably now dried up and wilted. Which leads me to a question: why do we use flowers, which wilt and die in a few weeks, to represent love, which lasts forever?

I know what you might be thinking: "Love doesn't last forever! Just look at breakups and the divorce rate!"

Well, let me say something else. I don't believe that's really love. And love does last forever. Love is more than just passion and excitement and butterflies in your stomach and that tight feeling in your chest when you look at or think about the person you "love." It is all those things, certainly, but it is more. It's also a choice.

Love comes with ups and downs, just like anything else in life. Real love is when you choose to work it out and go through the downs together, rather than giving up. So why do so many people break up? Sometimes, it's just because they found it easier to give up than to work it out together. When you choose to commit to loving a person, it does last.

But flowers don't. So why do we use them to represent something that does? Well, several reasons, I guess.

For one thing, it's a bit traditional, now. I'm not really sure when, why, or how this tradition of giving cut flowers to one's significant other began, but it's certainly a tradition now.

Secondly, it's generally accepted that flowers are pretty. People like flowers.

Thirdly, on a deeper level, I think that they can represent how quickly life may go by; how delicate our lives can be; how each of us grow and bloom as individuals.

Roses are special flowers. They seem to be the favorites of poets and romantics and Valentine's Day gift-givers. But more importantly, they have thorns. And I think that that says something important about us as humans, that we would pick flowers that have painful thorns as our favorites. It shows that we recognize that bad things don't have to ruin the good.

What do you think about flowers and the meaning they hold? Let me know in comments!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Falling in Love... with Music

Last Thursday, I talked about how much I love books. And I most definitely do! But since this blog is titled "The Strange Musician" after all, I think it's important to talk about myself as a musician as well as a reader.

Honestly, I think I've loved music all my life, and I think my parents were a huge influence in that area. My mom played music for me when I was a baby, and I would fall asleep listening to music all the time. My dad is a musician himself, having played saxophone, guitar, and currently bass guitar. Growing up, he played in the praise band at my church—still does, actually—and I loved watching him play and listening to the music before going to Sunday school. 

Of course, with my dad being a guitar player, the first instrument I actually tried to learn to play myself... was guitar. 

I don't remember how old I was, probably around eight or so, but I obviously didn't have enough motivation or discipline to actually practice the instrument, and my dad didn't have time for regular lessons with me, so that never got very far. I did revisit guitar again more recently, but encountered the same issues. 

I didn't actually fall in love with music as a musician myself until much later, in sixth grade, when I started learning to play flute as part of a 6th Grade Honor Band. 

Maybe guitar just wasn't my instrument. Maybe it was the type of music. Maybe it was that I actually had  to practice to be able to play in a group setting. Maybe it was because I had lessons. Maybe the chair tests motivated me. Whatever it was, something clicked when I started to play flute.

My love for the instrument, band, and music itself grew as I improved and was able to play more challenging music and take pride in my abilities. Of course, the wonderful teachers and directors I've had along the way have certainly helped as well. 

Now, I absolutely love music—studying, listening, playing, performing, and even writing it. So much so that it has become my dream career to be a professional musician, as a member of a major orchestra. You know, the ones that get to record soundtracks for movies and television shows. Who
knows if it will ever happen, but hey, a girl can dream, right?

What about you? What about music do you love? Let me know in comments! 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Book Review of the Month: February 2015

So in case you haven't read my profile yet, I'll let you know now: I love books. Ever since I learned to read, I've had my nose in a book. Not a bad way to spend my time, in my opinion. As a result of my reading habits, I happen to read well above my grade level, have an expansive vocabulary, and excel in English class. And, as an added bonus, I have a extensive list of excellent books to recommend to you! I'll be starting a "Book Review of the Month" post, but if I find something really great along the way, there might be an extra review thrown in the mix!

February's book of the month is actually a series: The Luxe series by Anna Godbersen. This is a collection of four books (The Luxe, Rumours, Envy, and Splendor), set in the late 1890's in Manhattan. 

Now, in case you don't remember much from your U.S. History class, or in case you never had one, the late 1800s was an era known as the Gilded Age. The term "gilded" means for something- usually a base metal or wood- to be covered in gold, and this era reflects that. It was one that looked great on the surface, but hid some really nasty stuff, like poverty and corruption. (Fun fact: the name was coined by American author Mark Twain!)

The books follow the lives of some of New York's favorite families, long-standing members of the highest level of New York society.
There's the Hollands, chiefly the "prim and proper" Elizabeth Holland, and her younger, wilder, and more Romantic sister, Diana Holland. 
There's the Hayeses, well, Hayes, mainly... Penelope. While her parents are somewhat involved, and her "prodigal" brother shows up some in book two, Penelope is the real queen here. 
There's the Schoonmakers, particularly bachelor Henry Schoonmaker, although his father and stepmother play relatively important roles as well. 

And then there's the characters of the lower classes who have no less important roles to play: 
Will Keller, the Hollands' carriage driver. 
Lina (short for Carolina) Broud and her sister Claire: maidservants for the Hollands. 
Tristan: a boy who works at a department store, Lord & Taylors, who picks up a fairly important role further along in the story. 

These books are full of romance, scandals, lies, rumors, jealousy, and historical references. You can't even describe it as a "love triangle"- it's more of a love web. Actually the whole thing is one big, twisted, web of love and lies... and also a little bit of death. 

And it's wonderful. 

I read the second book, Rumors, in a day and a half. I laughed, I cried, and I couldn't put it down, and I blew through the others nearly as fast. The ending may not have been exactly what I'd hoped for, but it was brilliant all the same. 

I highly recommend these books to anyone who likes historical fiction, romance, mystery, or any combination thereof. 

If you have a favorite book or any suggestions for what next month's book review should be on, leave them in comments!