Sunday, January 26, 2014

What Happened to Seventeen + Reenacting Adventures & Missing Hair

I don't know about y'all peeps, but January (for me) has already been full to the brim with excitement and amazing things.
Change. Growth.
Last Saturday, my best friends and I got to participate in our first Civil War reenactment.

It was a phenomenal weekend.
Friday night beforehand, I spent the night at Kay and Maygan's house to lessen the amount of driving the next day. We spent the last hours of the evening preparing for the next day - looking up accurate hairstyles on Pinterest, getting acquainted with driving directions, last minute outfit fixing/prep, etc.

Emma, the photographer for all the Friday night pictures.

You know you're a reenactor when this is what can be found in the living room...

And also ^^ this...

Experimenting with hairstyles. Being the only girl in my family, I will jump at a chance to play with/style peoples' hair.

And then of course, I also welcome a chance to have somebody else do my hair.

Kay is now officially my reenactment/event stylist. ^_^ Seriously, she has done some awesome stuff with my hair.

I just love my dress from Recollections!
Saturday morning was eventful. I was awoken promptly at 4:30 AM, after a night of peaceful sleep, and before that, long theological discussions with Maygan when we should have been asleep. Thankfully my friends are early risers, so we had plenty of time to get ready to leave.
The preparations took two hours. We ended up actually getting to Brooksville at around 9:30.

Brooksville, the location of this reenactment, is an hour and 20 minutes south of us. So this was the farthest I've ever driven. With our maps, common sense and God-given protection we got there all in one piece, and had only one instance of minor confusion on if we were on the right road or not.

The actual reenactment was incredible. We stayed for fourteen hours, and left around 11:45 in the night. What a day!

This was during the actual battle, when all the crowds showed up.

I loved getting to watch the battle. There's nothing like the sound of cannon and rifle-musket blanks going off everywhere, accompanied by the rousing drone of snare drums and fife melodies.
So many reenactors attended this event! 90% of them were Yankees, granted, but still. All the men in uniforms! In the beginning of the day us girls were just about the only females in proper attire for our age group, but as the day progressed more women and girls showed up and we didn't feel so...outnumbered.  Haha.

One of my favorite parts of the actual battle was the fife players and drummers. I would have loved to have that position!
Speaking of music, which is always our place at such events...
First off, it was frigid. Yeah, we Florida people don't know anything about true cold, but when you have a day in the early 40s it feels COLD. And we make a fuss about it.
On one hand, I love a nice nippy day. But when you're trying to play a stringed instrument in such weather, it proves difficult for all and sundry. The only thing that worked really well was our vocal harmonization. The bodhran sounded tinny, and Maygan's fiddle lacked depth. The guitar even felt shallow in sound, due to the dry air. But we managed. And I do think people enjoyed hearing us play. And that's all that matters.

I am thankful we had a few friends to meet up with during the day, to help us find places to put our instruments and such. Thanks to Jason and his family for being so helpful and accommodating!

One of the biggest highlights of the day was going to Chick-Fil-A in the evening during break to order dinner. Maygan, Kay and I all went inside with our dresses on and you should have seen the stares and gawking! A couple little girls walked by us and were grinning so big, pointing and whispering in amazement. I felt quite...hilarious while ordering my spicy chicken sandwich and milkshake, to say in the least. Hey, it's all an adventure!
It got especially crazy and amusing when all us girls (plus another friend who showed up later) trekked in the bathroom don't even want to try and imagine using porta-potties with huge crinolines on! O_O Plus, Maygan, Kay and Christin needed to change into their ball clothes.
We had a hilarious time being total girls and laughing our heads off about ridiculous things...I think we scared off a few people who started to walk in...I was being the loopiest, and laughing at random people as they opened the door. *sigh* For real, Saturday night? Only my best friends and family could put up with such crazy behavior that I displayed. Thankfully I pulled it together before the ball.
The ball itself was really fun! You could see your breath....eeeep. Did you think that was even possible for FL weather?! ;) A nice amount of dancing and trying not to make a fool of myself by tripping all over my crinoline.
Overall, I loved the whole experience. I felt that in that one day I matured a bit, because I was forced to hold a good deal of responsibility that normally isn't mine to bear since I'm not usually traveling and hour and a half away for the whole day.
I love reenacting because you really, truly do feel like you've stepped back 150 years in time. People act differently, and for the most part, they're a pleasure to be around. Men and boys act like gentlemen, for the most part. If you're a girl or woman, you're treated with respect and favor. Basically, treated the way you should be treated. Granted, there will always be those few guys you want to avoid because, well, erm...they're far from gentlemanly. But that's how it is with any scenario, reenacting or not.
To me, Saturday was euphoric. There were a couple things which threw wrinkles in the plans, but they were minor and trivial - certainly not big enough to affect my general opinion of the day!
I'm incredibly thankful to God that He protected and blessed us, and that we even had the opportunity to participate in this event. It was thoroughly amazing, and something I'll not ever forget. I was a little worried that I'd fall asleep at the end of the day driving us back, because I was just SO tired....but the Lord's traveling mercies were with us and we got back safe, thank God.
In other news, more new pages have turned - this time with my age.
That's right, I've had to bid farewell to sweet seventeen. It was a wonderful year and age, the best of my life. But all good things must come to an end.
Eighteen ushered itself in.
 I am now legally an adult.
What even happened. O_O

Got myself a fedora with some of my birthday money, and loving it! Such a classy hat!
On one hand, it's just a number. Maturity doesn't come with simply being (fill-in-the-blank-number).
Wisdom doesn't come from the amount of years you've existed on this earth. It's found by seeking God and following in Christ's footsteps, always living by His Word.
So on one hand, 18 is a daunting number, but it's also just that. A number.
I'm still going to make the most of it, just like all the other years.
I still feel it's pretty monumental. 18 years I've walked this planet.

So you probably noticed the new-do by now... and yes, with the new year came a new hairstyle.
The last time I had my bangs cut was when I was 9. And they looked horrific. Ever since then I'd avoided them like the plague, in fear that history would be repeated.
But something crazy spurred me a few weeks ago to want to change up my look and try something different, so here I am!
I loveths them.
Anyway, so now y'all have been filled in on the most recent happening of my fabulous little life.
Hopefully I didn't deter you with all the run on sentences and rambling!
It's been a while since I spent so long on a blog post. O.o
Soli Deo Gloria,

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"Embassy" by S. Alex Martin {book review}

Embassy (Recovery, Book 1)
| Music listened to while writing this post:
Sweet Revenge - Phantom Power Music
Stand Tall - Epic Score
Purgatory - Brand X Music
You Were Born for This - Epic Score
Jewel of Africa - West One Music
Chrome Standard - Trevor DeMaere
Palladio Rebuilt - Kerry Muzzey 
Tyven - Seven Lions |
First of all, I helped critique this book/was a beta reader during its editing/writing process so naturally it feels more personal to me.  It feels like I've gotten to know it and its characters a lot deeper, since I was a part of its work-in-progress journey. 
Normally, I don't read much sci-fi. In fact, I'm not a sci-fi fan at all. Therefore, I wasn't expecting to be drawn in by this book. I was going to beta read just to help a fellow writer friend out, you know?
But it turned into something so much more.
I found myself thoroughly enjoying this book, and eager to find out what happened next. Embassy took me on an incredible ride, one full of adventure-filled settings, colorful characters and charismatic events.
So yeah. If I can say this about a book from a genre I'm not usually fond of, then you know it has to be decent.
The back cover reads:  
"When Arman Lance fell in love with Ladia Purnell, he made it his life's goal to find her after she left his planet. But amid tragedy and his obsession for Ladia, Arman struggles to fight the mental isolation he has built around him. He sees joining the galaxy's Embassy Program only as one step on his journey to Ladia, nothing more.
Now Arman explores the Embassy, flies a Molter, and competes in the fast-action Hologis tournament. At last, Arman embarks on the expedition that will take him across the stars to Ladia, but the journey might change him ways he would have never dared to imagine."
Embassy may not seem to be a coming-of-age story, but deep down, it kind of is.
Arman's journey is more an emotional one than physical. Embassy may be full of thrilling space voyages and daunting physical obstacles to be overcome, but at heart it's a novel about one young man's journey to understanding who he truly is.
Concerning plot twists and the like, I'll admit, I didn't encounter a whole lot of unpredictable in this book. Nonetheless, one particular event in the very beginning threw me. Gahhh, feels! 
Throughout the entire story, the plot development was rich and the climaxes were gripping. If you want a book with solid plot ascension, and events that arrive in forceful splendor, you'll be sure to like Embassy.
As I made clear before, sci-fi is not my thing. Yeah, I've always been a Trekkie, but that's about it. I've read very little science fiction. Space itself is intriguing to me, because I love astronomy; but stories involving people in space? Nahhhh.
So instinctively I don't think I would've picked up Embassy for its genre alone. 
I'll cut to the chase here - my favorite thing about Embassy is its characters. In the beginning I thought Glacia was a jerk, but the more I saw the story progress, and got to know her, I decided she was awesome. I love her witty, charming personality and how she's constantly smiling, but not in a fake, insincere way. I love that she's so blunt.
Arman is honestly quite a sourpuss for most of the book. But he redeems himself later on. He's arguably the most moody of everyone and is a real drama-king. Of course, considering that he lost a very dear loved one I can see where part of that would come from.
 I love the interchanges between Glacia and Arman. I shipped them from the very beginning and was constantly amused by their conversations and times spent together.
Sometimes it's hard to empathize with certain characters, but overall I feel that their author did a fine job getting us acquainted with them. The prove to be colorful and entertaining.
Wow. What to even say here? So much spectacular imagery was painted in Embassy.
Part of the story is set in the sun-baked, desert wasteland of planet Undil. I could practically feel the heat scorching my skin, and the dry, sandy air clinging to my mouth. Undil is a place deprived of water, greenery and life in essence. Artificial grass covers the playgrounds and parks, replicating what had been wiped out years a priori. Mesas emerge from the barren ground, stretching endlessly.  into the distance. In short, Undil is a hot, boring world. The Embassy, where Arman goes to train for his voyage across the stars, buzzes with futuristic cosmopolitan activity.
One of my all-time favorite scenes is where Glacia takes Arman out to the edge of the city and they look at the stars - she tries to teach him some constellations so he can impress Ladia. This was so beautifully orchestrated, and I could picture it all so clearly as if I were there myself.
Of course the space scenes are also awesome. And once Arman arrives on Belvun, Ladia's home planet, the book's atmosphere and ambience changes dramatically. It takes on a whole new flavor, with the new planet which is teeming with intrigue, fascinating aromas and memorable tastes.
Overall, this book's array of settings and imagery is nothing short of vivid.
Underlying Theme(s):
The most obvious theme in Embassy is one of self-exploration/discovery.
Arman learns to truly appreciate life for all that it is. It may carry a whole lot of pain and suffering, but amid the dark moments there is also potential for great joy and peace. If only Arman were to know where that peace and joy comes from ultimately - Jesus Christ. Because even though one can find momentary happiness without Him in his/her life, it will never compare to the lasting serenity that faith in Him provides.
(On a 1 - 10 basis, 1 being the most mild and 10 the most extreme:)
Violence: 3 One of the most emotionally gripping scenes in Embassy is where Arman and his father get into a car accident, and Arman's father dies. I was so close to tearing up during that segment, just because it happened so fast and I wasn't expecting it. Concerning gore, there was a moderate amount of blood in this scene. I mean, come on, a car accident, what else do you expect?
Throughout the rest of the story it's inferred that people are killed when they reach a certain age or their children are old enough to bear offspring of their own; for "population control" purposes.
Sexual Content: 2 Nothing explicit is shown. However, it's obvious that Arman and Ladia share an intimate relationship and do intimate things. The most we actually see is kissing and embracing. Later on, Arman realizes that he's developed feelings for Glacia over Ladia and one of the final scenes shows him waking up with her in bed with him. (The author made clear that their relationship is not a sexual one, but still this scene immediately made me think otherwise when I first read it.)
If a non sci-fi fan can go through a book like this and really enjoy it, that has to say something doesn't it?! 
Some of the descriptions of things like machinery/technology got a little dry at times, but overall my describing words for Embassy are: vibrant, vivacious, memorable. This is not a book I will soon forget. I felt reading it was an immersive 3-D experience in full color.  I give it a thumbs-up!
Embassy surprised me with its charisma and personality. It's dramatic, intense should read it for yourself because obviously that's the only way you'll be able to get the full picture of everything it offers!
In short? Definitely my favorite sci-fi book yet.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Anomaly" by Krista McGee {book review}

| Music listened to while writing this post:
Millennium - Audiomachine
Solar Sailor - Daft Punk
This Is Our Legacy - Zack Hemsey
Mind Heist - Zack Hemsey
Brian Boru's March - Celtic Moods
Great Deceiver - Danny Cocke
Tyven - Seven Lions  |
When I first saw the cover of Anomaly by Krista McGee, I was instantly intrigued. For one, the very title alone hooked me. "Anomaly" is a fabulous word and holds a steady place in my day-to-day vocabulary. I've always felt like an anomaly, in my own way.
 So I guess instinctively this fact made me feel drawn to the premise of this YA novel.
Not to mention, while we're on the topic of the cover, it is a gorgeous one. I love the subtle, femininely muted colors and then the bright pop of green in the girl's eyes.  It's stunning.
Question. Feel. Believe.
The back-cover blurb reads:
Thalli has fifteen minutes and twenty-three seconds to live. The toxic gas that will complete her annihilation is invading her bloodstream. But she is not afraid.
Decades before Thalli’s birth, the world was decimated by a nuclear war. But life continued deep underground, thanks to a handful of scientists known as The Ten. There they created genetically engineered human beings who are free of emotions in the hope that war won’t threaten the world again.
Thalli is an anomaly, born with the ability to feel emotions and a sense of curiosity she can barely contain. She has survived so far by hiding her differences. But then her secret is discovered when she’s overwhelmed by the emotion of an ancient piece of music.
The Ten quickly schedule her annihilation, but her childhood friend, Berk—a scientist being groomed by The Ten—convinces them to postpone her death and study her instead. While in the Scientists’ Pod, Thalli and Berk form a dangerous alliance, one strictly forbidden by the constant surveillance.
As her life ticks a way, she hears rumors of someone called the Designer—someone even more powerful than The Ten. What’s more, the parts of her that have always been an anomaly could in fact be part of a much larger plan. And the parts of her that she has always guarded could be the answer she’s been looking for all along.
Thalli must sort out what to believe and who to trust, before her time runs out.
Man, is that the beginnings of a thriller, or is it?!
On one hand, the whole "controlling government/higher power/leaders" thing is so predominant these days that the plot of Anomaly initially sounded a bit unoriginal. In some ways it can be compared closely to Aquifer, by Jonathan Friesen. Both books deal with a society that frowns on emotion and punishes those who have/indulge it. Both books have a set of domineering world-leaders referred to as a number - The Ten, etc.
Both books deal with fallen, corrupted future earths.
And fact is, just about every other book these days is written in first person, present tense.
But despite all this, Anomaly still held its own. It holds a distinct presence amid the ever-popular genre of dystopian YA fiction.  I flew through the pages and drank it all up as if it were a cup of chocolate milk - I love chocolate milk.
The entire story of Anomaly revolves around Thalli learning who she truly is. At core, it's about her learning how to discern reality from fabrications/simulations; truth from lies. Ultimately, Anomaly is a story about a girl being subtly drawn to the knowledge of the Savior and Creator.
Yes, the initial draw is about a teen girl who's been doomed to a soon-approaching death sentence, and all because she can feel what 99% of everyone else can't. But deep down, the further you go, you realize it's about so much more.
There were a few mind-blowing plot twists, which, even though they wrecked havoc on ze feels, were quite ingenious. Thalli is constantly having to reevaluate her surroundings and the events taking place in her life because it's so hard to know what's real and what's not. This difficulty to perceive reality is equally hard for the reader. It's only made trickier by the plot twists.  As you all know, I soak up plot twists like a sponge. I loooove them.
I've said this time and time again, so I'll spare you all and merely give a brief recap.
Dystopian YA fiction is super popular these days, and that means that a lot of stuff will be really unoriginal - Therefore, I personally will be less likely to want to read it. HOWEVER. For some reason I seem to gravitate toward post-apocalyptic stories like this. Perhaps because they make me appreciate the reality I'm living in now. They present stark contrasts, and a daunting idea of what man can become without God. They make me grateful that I live in 2014 and not 3014.
Thalli is a very endearing personality, and I instantly felt a connection to her character.
For one, she's a musician. A musician. Need I say any more?! What got her in trouble was letting her emotions pour into a classical piano piece. For real, I can so relate with this. Give me a fictional character who is obsessed with playing the piano and instantly I'll love you - and the character. Thalli's obsession with asking questions also made me like her better. Questions are wonderful things, and there's nothing more boring than a person - or character, in this case - who doesn't ask them.
Okay, I'll admit I was frustrated when (SPOILERS) a certain character named Stone was never even real to begin with. That hurt. He seemed really cute and sweet. And his family, too. Of course, then again it seemed too good to be true at the time. And you know how stuff like that usually is.
I really liked John, an older man who'd been labeled insane. His strong Christian values and character really made me feel for his struggle and endurance. I loved the conversations he and Thalli had concerning God, love and marriage in particular.
Thalli's world is a overly-sanitized underground place with dwellings called "pods". I have a difficulty imagining whether these things look like house-sized ball-structures as their name suggests, or if they look more like squarely-shaped, cement-block type buildings. There is however, grass. Fake grass, but still, at least they tried to replicate what they lost, right? It's implied that the world aboveground is desolate and toxic. (It's also implied that the world is actually still livable, if you have the guts and determination.) Inside the pods, Thalli and her friends (and enemies) abide within bleach-white walls with no furnishings or color. It's the classic, completely-hygienic dystopian nightmare.
Underlying Theme(s):
I love how blatantly the author speaks of God and His existence. It's such a refreshing thing in dystopian fiction, where most of the time all is so dark and bleak. It makes the story full of hope, even when terror, trauma and disaster are at the door. I don't like to call books, music or movies "Christian" because it's such a generic term and is so misused in such things already. But I do think Anomaly would appeal greatly to the Christ-following audience. I also hope that non-believers read it. It has some awesome spiritual discussions and some sequences are truly heart-rending. This is my favorite aspect of the book.
(On a 1 - 10 basis, 1 being the most mild and 10 the most extreme:)WARNING - SPOILERS!

Violence: 5. This isn't your shoot-em'-up deal where rebel alliances or guerilla warriors are fighting back against the government with physical force. It's 'hospital-violence,' which can be arguably far more disturbing. Characters are injected with all manner of drug and who-knows-what-else, made to go through simulations which are scarily real-looking, and countless are euthanized in a very subtle, hygienic manner. Thalli is operated on and doctors poke around in her brain. Basically, it's a classic nightmare. The reason I give it a five, is because to me "hospital violence" is a lot more perturbing than blatant cops-and-robbers violence. Nothing scares me more than brain surgeries involving the erasing of ones' memory. (Yes, I warned you already there were spoilers in this section.)
Sexual Content: 1. Berk and Thalli share romantic feelings, but thankfully we don't witness anything too intimate between them, other than a kiss, holding hands, etc. Thalli for a brief time becomes attached to a guy named Stone, and is conflicted about her feelings between him and Berk. And then it's revealed he never existed. Boom. (I sure hope you're not reading this if you haven't read the book yet.)
Get yourself a copy and read Anomaly. Just do it, okay? Because there is so much you're missing out on if you don't.  So much drama, beautiful moments, suspense and times when you almost want to cry. The feeeeels, people. THE FEELS!
Anomaly is written in a simple, breathable manner. The word choices are raw and organic in feeling, which makes for a rich reading experience. Thalli is a masterfully-crafted character, and her emotions and experiences are told in a way that makes you feel like you're right there inside her head, living what she's living. The twisting labyrinth of a plotline is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat, and each event that unfolds sinks in deep, pulls on your heartstrings. In short, you will experience emotional traumatization.
Overall, I give it my seal of approval, even though I don't officially literal seal of approval. Anyway, I really enjoyed this volume and I'm sure you will too. So read it. And then tell me so we can talk about all the spoilers together!
Note: I was provided a copy of Anomaly in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed remain mine and mine alone.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Fly Me To the Moon {living radiantly, adventurously}

| Today's music playlist:
Why Do Fools Fall in Love - Frankie Lymon, The Teenagers
Fly Me to the Moon
Blueberry Hill - Fats Domino
Best Day of My Life - American Authors
I See Fire - Peter Hollens' version |
So I never got around to doing that traditional 'end of the year' post. Oh well. I was camping and trying to finish up The Rebels of Florida. (and yes - it's finally, finalllllyyyy done!) I'm sure you all can forgive me.
But seriously.
This year is gonna be beyond fabulous, folks. Just sayin'. I sense huge things are going to happen this year. I thirst for adventure and somehow I feel that 2014 will be immersed in it.
Because, truth is, every year is an adventure in its own way. You don't have to go skydiving or travel the world to live adventurously.

This year, I'm striving to live radiantly, diving into adventure when it knocks at the door, embracing change and always on my toes. Never stagnating, never letting the grass grow under my feet.
Most of all, I want my being to overflow with the love of Christ. I want my eyes to sparkle with His joy and peace.
I want to be radiant.
I want to live in the moment, drink in the little details and notice every blessing, no matter how small it is. I want to remember how much God has done for me, and be in constant gratitude.
I want to be the kind of person who you see and think, "whoa, she's totally in love with the Savior."
Each new year we think of things we want to aspire towards, or accomplish. For most of my teen years I've made goals to accomplish things in the new year.
Things. Just marking stuff off a list.
Well maybe it's time for a change-up.
Yeah, I still have stuff I want to finish. I still have goals. Lists. But perhaps the most important things can't be marked off, they don't fit into a little box which you can cross out with ink.
Maybe the most important things aren't things at all. 
But, what about character qualities? Now we're getting somewhere! What if instead of long to-do lists I just aspired to be a different sort of person, a better sort of person?
What if I aspired to be more like Christ?
I don't know about you, but that sounds like a good plan to me. So that's what I'm going to do. 2014 will be amazing. And whatever happens, I know who's in charge. I know who I am, in Him. And I want the world to see what they're missing without Christ in their lives.
Okay, so another thing I've been musing. I want to write stuff down. Like, yeah I'm already a writer. I obviously am going to continue creating stories, and strange, tortured characters. That's not what I mean here. No, what I'm talking about is journaling. Describing little moments and blessings day to day. Even if it's just a few paragraphs, a few words.
Today for example, I'm drinking in everything. All the beautiful aromas, delicious tastes, and pleasant memories. Today I'm savoring...
| Buying French gifts for a French-loving friend. |
| A spritz of perfume from a little shop Mom and I went to in Micanopy. |
| A chilly, overcast January day, spent in a charming little town with my mommy. |
| The taste of an organic mocha and German chocolate brownie on your tongue. |
| Dancing around to 50's music. |
| Visiting the library. Nuff' said. |
| Getting a new Spanish book from the library. Me gusta! |
| Listening to your brothers' laughter/unintentional sound effects |
| Chances to explore and do new things. |
| Being weird. |
| Laughing. |
| Smiles. |
| Knowing that even tomboys like me can be feminine and hopeless romantics.|
So there's my little New Years' post. Random as usual, but how is that new? 
Y estoy frio. The temperature is dropping quickly...whoooo! I love least, when we finally get to have a wintry moment here. For real, the rest of the country is getting warnings to stay inside so they won't freeze to death, and here we are running around outside and having a ball.
Esta bueno. Life is good.
Anyway! Adios queridas! Tell me what's new with you now, okay?