Sunday, October 23, 2016

On a Break

Hey, guys.

Unfortunately, I need to take a break from blogging at the moment. Between school, band, college applications, and just living my life, it's getting harder and harder to keep posting. And for the sake of my mental health, I need to back away from that pressure. I'm sorry to disappoint any of you, and I hope that you understand.

Hopefully, The Strange Musician will be back relatively soon with new posts and maybe even updates to the website.

Stay tuned, my friends.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

September Sneak Peak


Hello to all of you who are still sticking around! Summer is drawing to a close, and I must say it has been a busy one. I'm back at school for my senior year (although I still can't believe it), and the business continues.

Autumn is my favorite season for many reasons, and I'm anxiously awaiting the days of colored leaves and sweater weather and hot drinks. And as an added bonus, I have several new posts planned that will start going up soon!

BOOKS

As we all know, summer is almost over. And that means it's almost time to start discussing and reviewing the Summer Book Club books! I'll be honest, even I haven't finished all of them since my library doesn't have them all. Regardless, I'll be sure to let you know what I thought of the books I did finish, and if you've read the others, you're perfectly welcome to discuss them in the Book Club forum tab!

LIFESTYLE

For many of us, fall means back to school. To me, that means waking up early, doing homework, and submitting college applications for next year. But thankfully, it also means shopping for new clothes, organization items, and stationary. You can expect to catch a glimpse of the things I've bought (or DIY'ed) to get my room and my backpack organized this year!

BEAUTY

Fall and winter fashion are definitely my favorites, and I'll practically live in a sweater and a pair of boots once the weather gets cold enough! I'm hoping to share with you a few of my favorite outfits that might hopefully help you through the transition into cooler weather. Also, I've been trying some new beauty and skincare products out over the summer, and I'm looking forward to giving you a review of those soon!

MUSIC

At least for me and my hometown, the return of autumn also means the return of marching band. While this certainly keeps me pretty busy with rehearsals, football games, and competitions, it also gives me some fun new things to write about and share with you!

I hope you're as excited about fall as much as I am! What are you looking forward to most? Let me know in comments!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Guest Post: My Escape



Hey guys! My name is Isabelle and I am Shannon’s friend from school. I have known Shannon for five, almost six years now. We have been in band together for a while, since seventh grade actually. I am a flute player and as of last year, a drum major. I am also the author of the blog Major Treblemaker. If you like my guest post (and even if you don’t) please check it out here! :)

Have you ever wanted to escape? Just pick up and leave life behind you? Whether it is for a short time, indefinitely, or forever, everyone has. Whether it is from excessive stress, exhausting drama, or an overwhelming situation, everyone has wanted to at least once, maybe more.  Now, I’m not advocating for running away from your problems forever, but sometimes taking a little break is necessary for staying sane. Some days it is necessary and completely okay to get in your car, get on the interstate, and drive, or set up a hammock in the woods and read a good book, or take a long nap and ignore your responsibilities for a couple hours. 

My personal favorite is reading. When I crave an escape from reality, I set up a lawn chair, grab some ice water, sunscreen, and my swimsuit and get some sun while devouring a book. There is something about immersing yourself into a story—losing yourself in the words on page after page—that makes life a little more tolerable, at least for a little while. There is something about driving by yourself at night on a seemingly endless road with the radio blasting that completely revives and rejuvenates a defeated spirit. 

Escaping isn’t always what it sounds like. It doesn’t have to be jetting off to a tropical island or moving to a new state or country. Escaping can be something as little as sitting in a warm, scented bubble bath. 

The common underlying factor is time to take a deep breath and unwind. Wherever you find that is your escape. Breaks are healthy and breaks are necessary to prevent a stress overload. Take a deep breath and relax, because you’ve earned it!

Kisses,

Isabelle <3

Follow me on social media and please check out my blog. Have a great day! :)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Book Club Picks!

Hey, guys!

Voting has closed on the summer book club options, and we have 7 books to read! I'll post the results below, and if you want more information on the books we've chosen, you can look back at my last two posts (here and here) or you can check out my shelf on Goodreads (here).

Just in case you haven't noticed it already, I've added a forum page specifically for the book club discussion. Feel free to go ahead and start conversations about the books in that forum, although it may be a few weeks before I have any real discussion questions or topics ready to go. If you've already read any of these books, that's awesome! You can go ahead and talk about them, just please be careful with spoilers and warn people of them or don't post them at all. We don't want the fun to be ruined for those of us that haven't read these books yet.

I will admit that I've had a bit of trouble finding some of these books because some of them are such new releases. If you can't find a book or can't afford to purchase them, don't feel obligated to read every single one. With the online forum style discussion, you can choose which conversations to participate in. That said, I encourage you to participate in as many as you can, and encourage your friends to do the same!

Also, if your favorite didn't get picked-- don't worry. I've become really interested in all of these, and they're definitely all on my to-read list now, so reviews on the rest of the list will be coming eventually! In the meantime, you can go ahead and read them with me, and we can always discuss them later.

Without further ado, the 2016 summer book club picks are: 




















Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn









It Wasn't Always Like This by Joy Preble















The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson










The Square Root of Summer 
by Harriet Reuter Hapgood











Storm and Silence by Robert Thier












We Were Liars by E. Lockhart


And the number 1 pick, with 85% of the votes:









Everything, Everything
By Nicola Yoon

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Summer Book Club Options (Part 1)

Hey, guys! I've compiled a list of 24 books to choose from for the books we can read for the summer book club. They cover a variety of genres, from realistic fiction to fantasy to historical to science fiction, but I will admit I took a lot of inspiration from Zoella's W H Smith book club. While they are all called young adult books, that doesn't mean that you won't enjoy them if you're not a teenager-- YA fiction can be enjoyable for all ages!

I've tried to pick relatively new releases, and I was hoping to pick mainly stand-alone books rather than series. Read through the summaries (admittedly from Goodreads) of the books below, and then you can vote for the ones you're most interested in over in the sidebar!

Title: All the Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Published: January 2015
Genre: realistic fiction

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.


Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Published: December 2010
Genre: realistic fiction, romance

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets √Čtienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, √Čtienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend. 

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?


Title: Beautiful Broken Things
Author: Sara Barnard
Published: February 2016
Genre: realistic fiction

Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realizes, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.


Title: Billy and Me
Author: Giovanna Fletcher
Published: April 2016
Genre: realistic fiction, romance

Sophie May is content with her life in her small English village, working in the local coffee shop and living with her mom. But when famous actor Billy comes to town to play Mr. Darcy in a new film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Sophie's quiet life is quickly turned on its head. Billy is adored by women around the world, but he only wants Sophie on his arm. But being with Billy comes at a price, and Sophie is thrown in the spotlight after years of shying away from attention. Can she handle the constant scrutiny that comes with being with Billy?


Title: Cinderella's Dress
Author: Shonna Sayton
Published: June 2014
Genre: historical, fantasy

Being a teenager during World War II is tough. Finding out you're the next keeper of the real Cinderella's dress is even tougher. Kate simply wants to create window displays at the department store where she's working, trying to help out with the war effort. But when long-lost relatives from Poland arrive with a steamer trunk they claim holds the Cinderella's dress, life gets complicated. Now, with a father missing in action, her new sweetheart shipped off to boot camp, and her great aunt losing her wits, Kate has to unravel the mystery before it's too late. After all, the descendants of the wicked stepsisters will stop at nothing to get what they think they deserve.


Title: Cinders & Sapphires, also known by the title Secrets & Sapphires by non-US publishers
Author: Leila Rasheed
Published: January 2013
Genre: historical, romance

Rose Cliffe has never met a young lady like her new mistress. Clever, rich, and beautiful, Ada Averley treats Rose as an equal. And Rose could use a friend. Especially now that she, at barely sixteen, has risen to the position of ladies' maid. Rose knows she should be grateful to have a place at a house like Somerton. Still, she can't help but wonder what her life might have been had she been born a lady, like Ada.

For the first time in a decade, the Averleys have returned to Somerton, their majestic ancestral estate. But a terrible scandal has followed Ada's beloved father all the way from India. Now Ada finds herself torn between her own happiness and her family's honor. Only she has the power to restore the Averley name-- but it would mean giving up her one true love ... someone she could never persuade her father to accept.


Title: The Crown's Game
Author: Evelyn Skye
Published: May 2016
Genre: historical, fantasy, romance

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side. 
And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.


Title: Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Published: September 2015
Genre: realistic fiction, romance

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.
But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster. 


Title: Forget Tomorrow
Author: Pintip Dunn
Published: November 2015
Genre: science fiction, mystery

It’s Callie’s seventeenth birthday and, like everyone else, she’s eagerly awaiting her vision―a memory sent back in time to sculpt each citizen into the person they’re meant to be. A world-class swimmer. A renowned scientist. 

Or in Callie’s case, a criminal. In her vision, she sees herself murdering her gifted younger sister. Before she can process what it means, Callie is arrested and placed in Limbo―a prison for those destined to break the law. 


Title: The House of Silk
Author: Anthonu Horowitz
Published: November 2011
Genre: historical, mystery

London, 1890. 221B Baker St. A fine art dealer named Edmund Carstairs visits Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson to beg for their help. He is being menaced by a strange man in a flat cap a wanted criminal who seems to have followed him all the way from America. In the days that follow, his home is robbed, his family is threatened. And then the first murder takes place.


Title: It Wasn't Always Like This
Author: Joy Preble
Published: May 2016
Genre: science fiction, fantasy, historical


In 1916, Emma O’Neill is frozen in time. After sampling an experimental polio vaccine brewed on a remote island off St. Augustine, Florida, she and her family stop aging—as do the Ryans, her family’s business partners. In a way, this suits Emma fine because she’s in love with Charlie Ryan. Being seventeen forever with him is a dream. But soon a group of religious fanatics, the Church of Light, takes note. Drinking the elixir has made the O’Neills and Ryans impervious to aging, but not to murder—Emma and Charlie are the only ones who escape with their lives.

On the run, Emma is tragically separated from Charlie. For the next hundred years, she plays a cat-and-mouse game with the founding members of the Church of Light and their descendants. Over the years, a series of murders—whose victims all bear more than a passing resemblance to her—indicate that her enemies are closing in. Yet as the danger grows, so does Emma’s hope for finding the boy she’s certain is still out there...


Title: A Long, Long Sleep
Author: Anna Sheehan
Published: August 2011
Genre: science fiction, fantasy, romance

It should have been a short suspended-animation sleep. But this time Rose wakes up to find her past is long gone-- and her future full of peril.

Rosalinda Fitzroy has been asleep for sixty-two years when she is woken by a kiss. Locked away in the chemically induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten subbasement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. Now, her parents and her first love are long gone, and Rose-- hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire-- is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat. Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh. But when a deadly danger jeopardizes her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes-- or be left without any future at all.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Summer Book Club Options (Part 2)

Title: Maid of Secrets
Author: Jennifer McGowan 
Published: May 2013
Genre: historical, mystery, romance 

Orphan Meg Fellowes makes her living picking pockets—until she steals from the wrong nobleman. Instead of rotting in prison like she expected, she’s whisked away to the court of Queen Elizabeth and pressed into royal service, where she joins four other remarkable girls in the Maids of Honor, the Queen’s secret society of protectors.

Meg’s natural abilities as a spy prove useful in this time of unrest. The Spanish Court is visiting, and with them come devious plots and hidden political motives. As threats to the kingdom begin to mount, Meg can’t deny her growing attraction to one of the dashing Spanish courtiers. But it’s hard to trust her heart in a place where royal formalities and masked balls hide the truth: Not everyone is who they appear to be. With danger lurking around every corner, can she stay alive—and protect the crown?


Title: Mirror in the Sky
Author: Aditi Khorana
Published: June 2016
Genre: science fiction 

For Tara Krishnan, navigating Brierly, the academically rigorous prep school she attends on scholarship, feels overwhelming and impossible. Her junior year begins in the wake of a startling discovery: A message from an alternate Earth, light years away, is intercepted by NASA. This means that on another planet, there is another version of Tara, a Tara who could be living better, burning brighter, because of tiny differences in her choices. 



Title: Peaches
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson 
Published: April 2012
Genre: realistic fiction, romance 

Peaches combines three unforgettable heroines who have nothing in common but the troubles that have gotten them sentenced to a summer of peach picking at a Georgia orchard.

Leeda is a debutante dating wrong-side-of-the-tracks Rex.

Murphy, the wildest girl in Bridgewater, likes whichever side Rex is on.

Birdie is a dreamer whose passion for Girl Scout cookies is matched only by her love for a boy named Enrico.


Title: The Potion Diaries
Author: Amy Alward
Published: July 2015
Genre: fantasy

When the Princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in love with her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure, with competitors travelling the world for the rarest ingredients, deep in magical forests and frozen tundras, facing death at every turn.

Enter Samantha Kemi - an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent. Sam's family were once the most respected alchemists in the kingdom, but they've fallen on hard times, and winning the hunt would save their reputation. But can Sam really compete with the dazzling powers of the ZoroAster megapharma company? Just how close is Sam willing to get to Zain Aster, her dashing former classmate and enemy, in the meantime?

And just to add to the pressure, this quest is ALL OVER social media. And the world news. 
No big deal, then. 


Title: The Shadow Queen
Author: C. J. Redwine
Published: February 2016
Genre: fantasy

Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.


Title: Six of Crows
Author: Leigh bardugo 
Published: September 2015
Genre: fantasy 

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...






Title: The Sky is Everywhere 
Author: Jandy Nelson
Published: March 2010
Genre: realistic fiction, romance 

Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life - and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding. 



Title: The Square Root of Summer
Author: Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Published: May 2016
Genre: science fiction, romance

Gottie H. Oppenheimer is losing time. Literally. When the fabric of the universe around her seaside town begins to fray, she's hurtled through wormholes to her past:

To last summer, when her grandfather Grey died. To the afternoon she fell in love with Jason, who wouldn't even hold her hand at the funeral. To the day her best friend Thomas moved away and left her behind with a scar on her hand and a black hole in her memory.

Although Grey is still gone, Jason and Thomas are back, and Gottie's past, present, and future are about to collide—and someone's heart is about to be broken.


Title: Starstruck
Author: Rachel Shukert
Published: March 2013
Genre: historical

Set in Old Hollywood, Starstruck follows the lives of three teen girls as they live, love, and claw their way to the top in a world where being a star is all that matters. 







Title: Storm and Silence
Author: Robert Thier
Published: March 2016
Genre: historical, romance 

Freedom – that is what Lilly Linton wants most in life. Not marriage, not a brood of squalling brats, and certainly not love, thank you very much!
But freedom is a rare commodity in 19th-century London, where girls are expected to spend their lives sitting at home, fully occupied with looking pretty. Lilly is at her wits’ end – until a chance encounter with a dark, dangerous and powerful stranger changes her life forever...




Title: A Thousand Nights
Author: E. K. Johnston
Published: October 2015
Genre: fantasy 

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster. 


Title: We Were Liars 
Author: E. Lockhart
Published: May 2014
Genre: realistic fiction, mystery, romance

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.


Make sure to go vote for which books you're most interested in! The poll will be over in the sidebar, and it'll be closing  just next week, so make sure your voice is heard!

Also don't forget to invite any of your friends to join us for the summer book club! 












Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Summer Reading

Hey, guys! 

I don't know abou you, but one of my favorite things about summer is all the time I have for reading. While some kids may hate that they're assigned summer reading, I'm spending as much of June and July as possible with my nose in a book. 

I love reading for so many reasons. For one thing, you can learn so much from reading, whether it's just learning some new vocabulary or its learning to understand what life is like from another perspective. Reading is also just so calming, being able to slip into a fictional world and forget about all your real-world problems. And with the tragedies going on in the world right now, having that simple escape to another place, another time, is more calming than ever. 

I thought that some of you may want that escape too, so maybe instead of me just reading and reviewing books, you might like to read them with me. That's right, I'm suggesting a summer book club. 

I'll compile a list of books, you can help choose, and then we'll read. I'll pick only books I haven't read before, so it'll be new for both of us. At the end of the summer, we can discuss the books, and I'll write up a review for anyone who didn't get to participate. 

If there's a book you've been meaning to read, feel free to suggest it! I'll try to pick a variety of genres so hopefully everyone can both find something they like and maybe try something new. 

If you're interested in participating or if you think this is a good idea, please let me know in comments below! And if you know someone else who might be interested, don't forget to let them know as well! 

Monday, June 13, 2016

June Book Review: Girl Online

Hey, guys!

This month I'm reviewing two books, Girl Online and Girl Online: On Tour, both by the famous British YouTuber Zoe Sugg, also known as Zoella.

I've been watching Zoella's videos for quite a while, and I finally decided to go ahead and check out her books as e-books from the library and read them while I was on vacation. If you don't know much about Zoe, she's a lifestyle and beauty blogger and YouTuber from Brighton, England. It's certainly not her defining feature, but she also has struggled with anxiety and panic attacks and has been helpful and honest about it in some of her videos. (For more info about her, I'll link to some of her videos below!)

I honestly expected her books to be more autobiography style, especially considering the fact that Zoe is certainly a girl online. Instead, her two books would better be called young adult fiction, although if you've seen her videos, it's fairly clear that she has included many personal experiences in her writing.

The books follow a fifteen-- nearly sixteen-- year old blogger and photographer from Brighton named Penny Porter, also known as GirlOnline, and her best friend, Elliot, and their adventures and misadventures. I won't summarize the second book, Girl Online: On Tour because it would spoil the end of book one, so I'll just say that you should definitely pick it up when you pick up the first.

One of the best things about these books was the very real way they handle some very real problems. Penny deals with severe anxiety and panic attacks, internet bullying, and has a friend-turned-frenemy to worry about, and Elliot has parent problems and issues concerning his sexuality. There's plenty of friend drama and boy drama in there as well, which, as petty as it sounds, can be quite common with teenagers.

As a teenage blogger with anxiety myself, I'm sure my ability to relate to Penny certainly contributed to how much I liked these books. You could tell that it was written by someone who really understood anxiety, and it actually included a lot of solid advice about handling panic attacks.

That said, there was plenty more to love about these books if you don't have anxiety. I could see how someone could call some of the romance cheesy and predictable (then again, most YA romance novels are), but it was enjoyable to read nonetheless. All of Penny's experiences certainly built up an emotional roller coaster, and it was really easy to slip into her world. I honestly could not put them down, and ended up reading both in a day, and then wishing I had more to read. I'm definitely hoping to own real copies of both books soon! (And her third book, when it eventually comes out...)

If you've struggled with anxiety or panic attacks, I would strongly recommend reading these books because it was so refreshing to read something by someone who really understood, and finding little bits of advice scattered about was really helpful. Even if you're just looking for a fun young adult romance novel, I would still recommend giving these a chance.

Side note to my readers-- while I may not have the huge supportive group of blog readers Penny had, I'm also thankful not to have experienced the ugly side of the internet, like she did. Thank you for your support and kind comments.

If you've read these books, want to read them, or have any other book recommendations for me, feel free to let me know in comments below!

Links:
Zoella's YouTube channel
Zoella's blog (and her two posts about anxiety here and here)
Zoella's video about her anxiety and her anxiety Q&A video
Zoella's book club video (aka my new books-to-read list!)

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Stress and Anxiety

Hey, guys! So this is definitely going to be a more personal and a bit less happy post than usual, so just bear with me for a bit. I'm not writing this to complain or whine or anything like that, but I think it will give you some good background information and who knows, maybe it'll help someone out there as well.

For a few years now, I've been dealing with stress, anxiety, and panic attacks.

I didn't always know what was happening. I've always been a bit anxious around new people and I've never been the best at socializing or making friends, but I always just thought "Oh, I'm an introvert (which I am), and I have a few good friends and that's all I need (which it is)." But getting panicky when I'm stuck in a group with no one I know isn't exactly the best for me. The first panic attack I can actually remember as a panic attack happened almost two years ago now, but my mom thinks I'd had them before even that.

But on this particular day, we had one of our biggest football games to play at, and I hadn't been able to find my marching band shirt for my uniform that morning. I'd already been panicking at home about this since I was new and didn't want to be that one kid that made everyone wear uniform jackets in 90-degree weather because I couldn't be bothered to be in proper uniform. My dad finally just took me to school and said he'd find the shirt and bring it to me before game time. Then, I get to school-- and realize that in my panic, I had forgotten my instrument.

I lost it. I was already shaken up and sticking out like a sore thumb in my yellow shirt, and as a new marcher, I was rather intimidated by the band director. I couldn't stand the idea of telling him I didn't have my flute and couldn't rehearse on the day of the biggest game.

I started crying and hyperventilating and shaking. My head was pounding and my heart felt like it was going to bust and everything was suddenly too loud, too bright, too much. As a person who already hates being put in a spotlight, this just made me feel like everyone was staring at me, the weird girl freaking out in the corner.

I remember thinking oh my goodness, I'm having a panic attack. I knew what was happening, but of course, I had no clue how to stop it. I just panicked and panicked more about panicking. Finally, I did manage to make it to the nurse's office, where I sat and drank water and calmed down until my dad brought me my shirt and flute and I was able to rejoin rehearsal.

I can clearly see now that there was never a huge threat. It was plenty easy for my dad to bring me what I needed in time for it to matter. But that there was nothing to panic over didn't matter then, and it hasn't mattered in any other panic attack since.

The panic attacks were very infrequent at first, and so I didn't really worry much about them or having another one. I don't know what happened recently-- I'm guessing just general junior year stress-- but the attacks came much more frequently. When I had multiple within a few weeks, that's when the worry kicked in. (Now you understand why I didn't post much in April.)

I didn't have to worry what was wrong with me-- I knew what panic attacks were, and thanks to AP Psychology, I knew a good bit about panic disorder as well. But I worried about when the next attack would come, who would see, what I would do. I worried more about panicking during my AP exams than about the exams themselves. I almost didn't want to go to my friend's birthday party because I was afraid I'd have a panic attack in the puzzle escape room and feel trapped and ruin her party.

I did finally talk to my mom about it, and I've been getting help. I wish I could tell you everything is fine now, and I wish I could tell you exactly how to deal with this problem, but I can't. Maybe at some other time, I'll go over a few techniques I've learned for controlling breathing and trying to calm down.

But for now, I just want to say that if you deal with anxiety or panic attacks, you are certainly not alone, and don't be afraid to talk to someone.

And if you do know someone that deals with anxiety or panic attacks, just be there for them. Understand that it's not easy to control and we didn't ask for this and we know it's nothing to stress over. Don't be dismissive or tell them to "chill" or "calm down"-- it's not that easy, believe me, I wish it was. Just be supportive and understanding and listen to them. If they want you there, great, if they want to be alone, that's fine too. Just be their friend.

Anxiety and panic attacks are more than normal stress, and they're a very real problem. I really hope that at least maybe this will eventually help at least one person out there, and I hope it helps someone understand.

If you can relate or if this has helped you in any way, feel free to let me know in comments below. And even if you don't relate, please just try to be respectful of anyone who does deal with this issue. Thanks :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

New School Year Resolutions


Hey guys!

Thankfully, school let out for summer holiday a week ago, so I can hopefully have more time to write! I was planning on working on this post a few days ago, but I ended up on a mountain "retreat" with no WiFi or cell signal. Now, I'm not as addicted to my phone as a lot of people my age (as well as younger or older), but I didn't exactly appreciate my phone basically being reduced to an ultra-expensive brick with no warning.

That said, I've finally got a chance to work, and I wanted to share something that I've been thinking about-- rather than making New Year's Resolutions, those of us who are still students (or teachers for that matter) might be better off making New school year resolutions.

I talked a bit about New Year's Resolutions in a post earlier this year (if you haven't read it already or don't remember it, check it out here!) Basically, I was saying how we don't have to change everything to make a new year a good year. That being said, sometimes there are changes we need to make.

In a few months, I'll be heading into my last year of high school. Which is intimidating, for a lot of reasons. One huge reason is that there is really a lot of pressure to make senior year the best year. I wrote a lot about how to succeed in school earlier this year, but I don't think it showed the whole picture for me.While my grades would generally show that whatever I'm doing in school is working, I think that my overall stress level would say that it definitely wasn't working.

I ended up being terribly disorganized-- my desk and my backpack and my room are all a mess-- and procrastinated about everything. You'll know I haven't posted that often, and this is why. Honestly, I kind of procrastinated writing this post, about procrastination.

So with a lot of stress on my back coming out of this past year, and a lot of pressure to make the next year fantastic, I've decided it's time to set some goals.

It would be really easy to write down lofty ideas like "stop procrastinating," "be organized," "stop being late to things," or "get in shape." But one thing I did learn in my extra early Student Leadership class was that your goals have to be SMART.

What are SMART goals? Simply put, they're goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, rewarding, and timely. For example, "stop procrastinating" isn't very specific or measurable, whereas something like "start my homework as soon as I get home" would be a better goal.

If you're a student like me, I would suggest setting goals for this school year. It really makes more sense than setting goals for the calendar year, since for us things really start over in August, not January. And we get the added bonus of a whole summer to work on our goals before we get back to school. If you're not a student, don't feel left out. Goals are always a good way to get things done.

That said, my goals for this school year are:

  1. Start my homework as soon as I get home, if at all possible.
  2. Clean and organize my backpack and school materials about once a week.
  3. Use a good planner and actually keep up with it. 
  4. Leave home in time to be at school, meetings, or events a few minutes early, if at all possible.
  5. Post once a week, if at all possible.
If you're setting any goals for this school year or just goals in general, let me know in comments! I'll try to keep you all updated on how it's going, if you're interested, so maybe we can help each other stick to it!

If you have any good tips for staying productive and organized, suggestions for planners or organizational materials, or books you'd like to reccommend, feel free to let me know as well!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

May Book Review: Beastly, Cloaked, and Towering



Hey, guys!

So while I was taking my mental health break, I did manage to read some books. Quite a lot of books, actually, as I read three in about two and a half days. 

Since I was still in a post-Lunar Chronicles slump, I went to the school library, desperate to find the next best thing. And as I'd just seen and maybe slightly obsessed over the school musical, Beauty and the Beast, I picked up Alex Flinn's Beastly. (It's been a month and I may or may not still be obsessing over the school musical...)

This, as it turned out, was a great decision. 
I will say, the first few chapters weren't my favorite. Kyle, the main character, was insufferably shallow and irritating. And yes, I realize that according to the story, he is supposed to be. Still Mr. Teen Prince here and his equally annoying girlfriend did not immediately catch my interest. 

But once I got into the book a bit-- which only took me a few hours-- the magic of the fairy tale really started to shine through. I wish I could tell you more, but I don't want to give you any spoilers. I mean, if you know the story (and after Disney, who doesn't?) then you pretty much know how it goes. Although I will say, there was one plot twist toward the end that actually surprised me a bit.

Unfortunately, there weren't any talking clocks or singing candlesticks, which was a little disappointing for me. Especially as I was-- and still am-- amazed by the performance of Lumiere and Cogsworth (mostly Lumiere) in my school's musical. 

So after I finished Beastly in about a day, I immediately went back to the library to turn in it and pick up the next few of Alex Flinn's books that I'd noticed on the shelf the first time. I walked out about five minutes later with Cloaked and Towering

Cloaked was not based on any particularly common fairy tales, except maybe The Princess and the Frog. But as it was a combination of several less well-known fairy tales, it felt a lot more like a new and unique story rather than a fairy tale retelling. 

Which is great, but slightly disappointing if you're on a Disney kick and were hoping for a really well-known fairy tale. 

Nevertheless, I really did enjoy this book and read it in about five hours. Yep. Five hours. Straight. And Alex Flinn, you didn't fool me with that plot twist this time! I mean, it was mostly a hunch based on the feeling that "if I was writing this, I would totally do that." Since, you know, I'm a writer. Sort of.

Towering, on the other hand, was-- as you might have guessed-- a retelling of Rapunzel. And a fantastic retelling at that. The plot, with all its classic fairy tale references, satisfied my craving for more Disney-style fairy tales, but it was completely not a Disney fairy tale at the same time. This book had such an interesting and unexpected plot, and I wish I knew how to describe it without giving too much away. Guess you'll just have to read it, right?

I would really recommend these books, particularly if you like fairy tales or romance. Even if you don't usually like fairy tales, I think these still have a lot to offer, particularly Towering. The other two are definitely a bit more fantasy, but all of them are modern and interesting and fantastic. 

Being a bit fairy tale obsessed just made them even better.

If you've read any of these books, want to read any of these books, or have any suggestions for what I should read next, feel free to let me know in the comments down below!

Monday, May 2, 2016

April/May Updates

Hey guys!

So I'm well aware that I promised quite a lot for April....and then delivered very little on those promises. Sorry about that.

This month I've been taking a much needed mental health break, and I've had a lot going on that I've had to deal with. I think it's important to take care of yourself, especially mentally, and so I think it's also important that I practice what I preach.

I know I said you could expect new book reviews, beauty tips, and lifestyle posts, and you still can. Other than my prom makeup look, which I think the time has passed for, you can still expect to get those posts coming soon. Keep an eye out for that!

Thanks so much for sticking around, and I'll try to be here for you all as well!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Book Review: The Lunar Chronicles

Hey guys! You may remember my review of the first book in this series, Cinder, from February. (If you haven't read that one yet, you might want to click here.) Since I finally finished all of the four main books, I'm going to review the series as a whole.

I really loved this series, and it's definitely now on my to-buy list! It was so good that it's left me in one of those book hangovers, where I don't want to read anything at the moment except more of that series.

(Thankfully, there's still two more minor books I haven't read yet, Fairest and Stars Above, so the series isn't quite over yet.
 UPDATE: I've read them now, so, unfortunately, it is over.)

Let me just say, Marissa Meyer is a writing genius. Her ability to remain remarkably accurate to the original Grimm fairy tales while also maintaining a dystopian, sci-fi plotline perfectly woven through all four books and all main characters is simply amazing. I honestly have not found anything like it.

The first book, Cinder, quite obviously focuses on the fairy tale Cinderella. I won't go into much detail since I've already reviewed this book individually, but Meyer did a wonderful job of transplanting all of the traditional Cinderella elements into a new setting. Again, if you haven't read the review on this one, you should really go read that first. I go into a lot more detail about this book there!

The second book is Scarlet, and this is a twist on Little Red Riding Hood. This one is, of all of them, probably the least accurate to the original fairy tale, but fantastic nonetheless. I was extremely glad when Cinder showed up again, because I was afraid this was going to be one of those series that doesn't connect between books. Boy, was I wrong! The books definitely connect, in more ways than you even realize to begin with.

Thirdly, there's Cress, based on the story of Rapunzel. After going back and reading the original fairy tale when I got my new copy of Grimm's complete fairy tales, I found so many little connections to the original story that it just blew me away. I can't actually list them all without giving you way too many spoilers, but seriously, I mean it when I say Meyer is a genius. I can't imagine how much time she spent studying the original stories and planning and editing her novel to get all of those little tie-ins in there.

I really should have stopped and read Fairest here, since it expands upon the main antagonist's backstory, which would have been good information to know before I read the last book. But I haven't actually found a copy at the library yet, so I'll read it whenever I get a chance. UPDATE: I just downloaded this on iBooks and read it in one night. Literally could not put it down! This was a fantastic addition to the series that really helps give a lot of backstory and understanding to the story.

Skipping ahead to the last major book in the series, Winter. I'm sure you can take one look at the cover and know what story this book is based on. That's right, Snow White. It may have been missing a few small things from the original (i.e. seven dwarves... unless I missed a reference somewhere), but it was definitely full of action. And, if you pay attention, there's plenty of other clever references to the Grimm version.

I really have no idea what Stars Above is about. Sorry about that, but I will definitely be reading it as soon as I can.
ALSO UPDATE: I downloaded this book as well, and read it in about a day and a half. It's a collection of short strories in the Lunar Chronicles universe. It was awesome to have more backstory for the main characters, as well as an epilogue to Winter and a new short story based on a different fairy tale!

Overall, I would highly highly recommend this series. It really has got everything: science fiction, fantasy, action, and romance, and I feel like most everyone could find something about the books that they like. They have definitely become some of my new favorites, and I'll be adding them to my collection as soon as I can.

Have you read these books? Do you want to? Let me know what you think in comments below!

Friday, April 8, 2016

6 Of My New Favorite Beauty Products!


Hey guys!

Like I mentioned a few days ago, I've recently bought several new makeup products, and I've really liked them! The most expensive thing I bought was $12 on sale, usually $20, but other than that, most everything was in the $5- $10 range. I bought these products from Target, Walmart, and Ulta, so they're affordable and pretty easy to find!

Starting off with the least expensive item, I bought the Ulta Super Blender for $4.99. Looking back at the website now, not all of the reviews are positive for this sponge. People complained that it was stiff, didn't blend well, and soaked up too much product. However, I haven't really had these problems. To be fair, I don't have much to compare it to, and it did take me a few uses to figure out the best way to use it. But now that I've figured it out, I've found it works really well for me, especially with certain foundations.

For the same price, I also bought the Rimmel Kate Moss Lasting Finish lipstick in the shade 08. I ended up getting this one at Walmart, but I had to look for it at all three stores before I found it. This color must be fairly popular, because it was always out of stock! I was looking for this shade in particular because it's such a nice pink that isn't too coral or too purple in tone. I've worn it a few times, including prom, and I've really liked the way it looks and feels on my lips!

For $6.49, I bought the Rimmel Stay Matte primer at Target. I was looking for an affordable primer for prom makeup, and this is the one that I found that was the cheapest with best reviews. There were some complaints about how thick it was, and I will agree that it is definitely pretty thick. It looks and feels kind of like a moisturizer, but goes on matte. Again, this was a product that took me several uses to get used to, but now that I've figured it out, I do really like it. It doesn't make my makeup feel caked on, and it does help control oil for me.

For $6.69, also at Target, I bought the Rimmel Lasting Finish foundation. I'd seen a lot of good reviews of it on YouTube, and I thought it would be worth a try. This is a heavier coverage than the Almay foundation I reviewed a while back, and it claims to last 25 hours. Although I doubt that part is true, it did have nice coverage and it lasted pretty well for me, especially with the primer.

I found that the beauty blender was the best way to apply this for me, because it is a little thicker than my other liquid foundations. The brush didn't blend it as well for me as just using light motions with the sponge.

I will say, if you're not quite pale, then this probably isn't a good foundation for you. There is a small range of shades, and they're mostly pretty light. I'm fairly pale, and I bought the third shade down, whereas I'm used to buying one of the palest shades. I did notice that some shades were a little more pink tones and others a little more yellow, but they're still all quite light.

Also because I'd seen a lot of good reviews for it, I bought the Real Techniques Expert Face Brush. I was disappointed not to find Real Techniques at Target, but I did find it at both Walmart and Ulta for $8-$9, varying a little based on where you buy it. This brush has a rounded, fluffy top, and I think it works really well to blend in liquid foundation seamlessly. I also used it with some mineral powder foundation, and it worked fine for that as well. I'm hoping to try some more Real Techniques brushes soon!

Lastly, and possibly my favorite of the bunch, I bought the Ulta Rose Gold eyeshadow pallet. I really like rose gold, and when it comes to eyeshadow, I also really love pinks, golds, and purples. So of course, this pallet and I were a perfect match. I got it on sale for $12, but it normally retails for $20. I really loved the colors in it, and there were a nice mix of matte and shimmery shades. I also thought the colors had nice texture and pigmentation, and it came with a nice eyeshadow brush as well. (I did also end up getting a few individual Ulta eyeshadows, but since I haven't used them yet I'll have to review them later!)

I used this pallet to create a pink and purple toned smoky eye for my prom makeup. I thought it turned out really nicely. Since my dress was pink, the colors matched well, and they lasted all night without creasing. I'll be writing more about my prom makeup look soon, so keep an eye out for that as well!

If you have used any of these products (or want to try them!) let me know what you thought in comments!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Guest Post: Bullet Journal

Good morning Shannon, it’s Monday.

First off, thank you for giving me this opportunity to post on your blog. I don’t typically have much to say, but I have plenty to say on this particular topic.

For the rest of you, hi, I’m Jessica, one of Shannon’s really close friends and ideally a future neuroscientist. I usually have a lot on my plate when it comes to school, and like most other people I need to write things down in order to remember everything I have to do. Throughout my school career I’ve tried keeping track of using several different planners and random notebooks, but I’ve found that none of them really worked for me. I’d still find myself forgetting assignments, missing important meetings, and having to go searching through the four notebooks I always have on hand just to find one idea I wrote down earlier that day. Basically, I was a mess.

Then last summer, I discovered the Bullet Journal.

The Bullet Journal is, simply put, a journal full of lists. The original idea was developed by Ryder Carroll as an alternative to normal planners and journals, because it’s a system that the user creates themselves. Think of it as a DIY planner. All you need is a notebook!

Okay, you’re thinking, why is this any different than any other planner?

Well hypothetical questioner, it’s different because you can do literally whatever you want with it. You can go strictly by Ryder’s method (link here), or you can mix it around like many Bullet Journalists on the Internet do. It gives you the ability to use what you want and only what you want, unlike with store-bought planners.

For one thing, Bullet Journals typically have an index and a key at the beginning so you can keep track of what all the bullets and other markings mean as well as where all of your important pages are. It’s also an ever-changing thing; if you decide to tweak something, like add color or a tracker for developing habits, then you can do that at any time you like. There’s no pressure for you to use the same system for a year straight. You can even add extra stuff around your daily planning pages, like random grocery lists or sketches. 

Really, the Bullet Journal is more than just a DIY planner. It’s a companion for the whole year. You’ll carry it around all the time so that you can copy down assignments, cool sayings, book ideas, a new book for your to-read list – the possibilities are endless. And you’ll never have to worry about running out of space.


If you want to know more about the Bullet Journal system, check out Ryder Carrol’s website at http://bulletjournal.com/get-started/, and follow me on Tumblr at http://butterflywingsit.tumblr.com/. I highly recommend it if you’re tired of store-bought planners too. And Shannon, I’ll see you the next time you post.