First & Then, a Novel by Emma Mills [Review and Recommendation]

11:20 PM

I watched Elmify (Author, Emma Mills) on YouTube in middle school, when I attempted to make my own channel inspired by hers. That was, undoubtedly, a preconceived failure. My middle school years turned to high school years, and I didn't have time to watch my dear Elmify anymore. Little did I know that I'd turn right back into a more mature, sophisticated (or so I like to think) version of my middle school self once I reached the college level. What I'm trying to say is, I spend a lot of time with my nose in a book, my fingers with a pen or on a keyboard, or my eyes on a screen, watching booktube or, like, the vlogbrothers. I'm basically just a better looking, more mentally, emotionally, and physically stable version of my middle-school self. And I'm so fine with that. 

So here I was, perusing Booktube, Elmify and her wit not having crossed my mind since the day I received my eighth grade diploma and award for perfect attendance, and moved on to "bigger" and "better" things. One of my favorite booktubers holds up Emma Mills' book and says something along the lines of, "This book is by Elmify, another youtuber," and I was struck dumb. My Elmify had published a book. What a dream. I always knew I loved her. 

I put First & Then on my Christmas wish-list and it was a done deal. Now I'm here to tell you about my experience reading it. 

Summary - 

First things first, the book centers around Devon Tennyson, a particularly apathetic and ordinary senior in high school. She silently watches her best-friend and forever crush, Cas, from the sidelines of the football field. Her normal life is flipped when her family takes in her cousin, Foster. Foster asks a lot of questions and doesn't seem to fit in quite the way the other kids do, but he has a secret talent that Ezra Lynley, the star of the football team, cannot ignore. Ezra takes a liking to Foster, and maybe someone else, when he realizes the freshman's potential as a kicker on the football team. First Foster, and then Ezra, are thrust into Devon's life without her control. 

How did I feel about it?

The writing - the writing was inexplicably witty and intelligent. I recall this from Elmify's videos, and really enjoyed reading her style of writing. She's smart, but at the same time laugh-out-loud funny. Seriously, I haven't giggled into the creases of a book since I read The Rosie Project. 5/5.

The plot - I'm not going to lie. I felt that the first 150 pages, though incredibly well written, were a little slow. No much was really going on for a while. I pushed through because I had faith in the quality of Emma's writing. Eventually, though, it does pick up and from there it gets very interesting. There are a lot of small aspects from the beginning woven into the end, and I enjoyed that. 3/5.

The characters - I can't say I'm surprised since I'm in love with Mr. Darcy, but I'm also in love with Ezra Lynley. First of all, he's sultry and comes of as a total asshat. No kidding, in real life I've always thought that the man I fall in love with will probably somewhat of a jerk to others, but a sweetheart to me. But that's not up for discussion right now; I'll save it for another blog post, I promise. Besides Devon, the characters all had some sort of backstory that brought a bit of mystery to the book, just like real life. You never really know what people are going through or have gone through. This existed for Ezra as well, which drew me into him even further. Ugh. I just. Can't. Woah. I was slightly bothered by how apathetic and seemingly boring Devon was, but that was sort of the point of a lot of the book, so I can't be too bothered. 4/5. 

While it took me a while to really start flipping the pages, I liked this book a lot. It gave me a lot of smiles, laughs, and thought-provoking moments. I look forward to seeing what else Emma Mills, perviously known to me as Elmify, writes in the future. I know that she has two more books signed with her publisher thus far. 4/5.

Forewarnings to a younger audience reading this book: a lot of underage drinking, talk of sex, talk of parental drug abuse. Besides that, there's some kissing and swearing, but it really isn't obscene. I'd recommend for 13+. 

If you're looking for a cozy, funny, relatable read, this is a good one to pick up. 

Oh yeah, Happy New Year!

P.S. I'm getting nervous because I have a huge used book to-be-read pile and a few new books to read. I'm thinking of saving the newer books for when I go back to school. 

Should I read: 

1) Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
2) Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 
3) The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
4) Quiet by Susan Cain
5) Half Broke Horse by Jeannette Walls
6) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
7) When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
8) Reread a Harry Potter book

Let me know in the comments! Or recommend any others you've loved lately. (As if I need more books to add to the never-ending pile...) If I don't receive any replies, I'm just playing eenie-meenie-miney-moe. 


To Be a Fiction Writer - AKA, Why I Don't Want to Hangout With you

9:19 PM

I sound absolutely insane when I talk about writing. If you’re not a fiction writer, prepare yourself. I promise I’m not a psycho or a schizophrenic, I just have all of these stories and people living in my head, and I need to get them down somewhere.

(See what I mean? Please don’t close the tab! I’m not crazy, I promise!)

So yes, there are little voices in my head, but they aren’t telling me to do strange things or hurt other people/myself. They’re telling me their story, piece by piece, and I react with the guttural urge to write it all down. It sort of feels like anxiety, taking over my brain and demanding that I tell their story, except a lot more exciting.

When a new character or story comes to my mind, stimulated by something around me (a key, a door, a person, a quote, something a friend said, etc), a warm, strong ball of light forms right below my chest, in the pit of my stomach. It feels like a panic attack, like I’m about to explode if I don’t get the idea down somewhere. Sometimes all it takes is a note on my phone or in my journal, but often, like in November during NaNoWriMo, I need to get the whole dang 50,000 word story out.

As you might expect, this greatly interferes with my social interactions. I could be talking to someone, deep in conversation, when all of the sudden I’m enveloped by the person in my mind and I dig deep into their story-- right at the same time as this person is trying to talk to me. At that point, my brain says screw the conversation, the people in your mind are far more fun.

I don’t mean to be offensive, but it’s true, because the people in my mind are living in situations much more interesting and creative than the ones in my real life. Sorry, friends, you weren’t invented like my characters.

Something else that happens is when I'm either a) deep in the writing process, or b) looking forward to a night deep in the writing process, and someone asks me to do something with them. I'm most likely going to say no. If I get an idea and have a prior engagement planned, I'm totally screwed for the rest of the occasion because my mind won't shut up. Whoever accompanies me is in for it too, because they aren't going to get the proper attention that they deserve from me. I'll space out, or take frequent bathroom breaks to get whatever I need down.  

Author Kiera Cass recently described something similar in a video on Epic Reads Youtube about her new novel The Siren: “I went downstairs and wrote the first four paragraphs…and then had to go to a birthday party, that I hated, because I wanted to go home and play with the people in my head and not my real life friends.”

When I heard her say that, I laughed out loud because no situation has ever been described truer for me. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the company of other people, it's that I'm too often so preoccupied and entranced by the stories and characters in my mind that I can’t focus until I get their lives on the page. The fun is getting to create their story as well and seeing how it plays out. To me, that’s way better than real life.

In a way, going back to the beginning of this post, I do consider myself just a tad bit crazy. Fine, I admit it. But I realized the other day that you have to be a bit insane to do something great. We visited the Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI (a historical village filled with old houses and history lessons from people dressed to the time period). One of the buildings kept there is the laboratory of Thomas Edison, inventor of the lightbulb. Here, you see his equipment-- his mortar and pestle, desk, various tools, wires, and shelves and shelves of chemicals and powders. I'm not exaggerating when I say the building, as large as a barn, was lined with bottles of substances that Edison used for his inventions. The man orating Edison's history told us that he tried to come up with a new invention every 10 days. 

All I'm saying is, people who think normally don't do anything extravagant; they live normal lives. It's the people who are a little bit out of this world who do the extraordinary. I think fiction writers fall in that category. We are a peculiar breed, with the lives of 10,000 others inside our heads. No one has been more places or heard more stories than we have.

I'm proud of my semi-insanity. I'm just glad it's not considered unhealthy to think the way I do. Everyone else just calls it "creativity". 

I'd really love to stay, but I have to go edit my novel now. That sounds pretentious. Let me put it this way: I'd really love to stay and chat, but the people in my head are calling to me. Ah, that's better. 

Thanks for reading, 

blog post

An OwlCrate Delivery

2:59 PM

No, I didn't get my Hogwarts letter by owl...yet (Still convinced that the owl sent to deliver my letter was the dullard of the parliament. Pay no attention to my lack of magic and ever-present muggle-ness).

But I did get the second best thing delivered to my doorstep the other night: an OwlCrate box! OwlCrate is a monthly young adult book subscription box. You can sign up for one month, three months, or six months. In every box you get a new, hardcover YA novel, along with some other bookish goodies. It's guaranteed to be appropriate for age 16+ (Ugh, okay, I'm almost 20. Whatever-- I'm the + in 16+. This Time article will forever be relevant to my life.). My mom ordered me a box to celebrate the end of my first semester of sophomore year in college. So I won't be getting other boxes, unfortunately, unless they're ordered another time.

I arrived home from Chipotle with my little brother, mom, and step-dad, when my mom saw the package on the porch. I pulled it up, jumping when I saw the OwlCrate logo and owl footprints on the box. My mom was nearly as excited as I was. She watched me open it and even almost took a video of me opening it all, because that's what the box tells you to do. (Um, mom, I'm not a video person. Nuh-uh. I prefer to be behind the camera).

Here's what came in my box (SPOILER ALERT):

- First, I found a small journal that allows you to keep track of what books you've read, how much you liked them, as well as areas to write down favorite quotes, authors, etc.

- After that I pulled out a small candle, which really got me going. I love candles. They're warm, fuzzy, cozy, calm, everything I need in my life. Not only that, but this candle is made by a company, Frostbeards Studio, that makes book-lover scented candles. I received the 'Reading at the Café' scent, which smells of coffee beans and chocolate. I don't like drinking coffee, but I do love the smell.

- There was also a magnet by Sandra Vargas on Etsy who creates whimsical looking pieces of art.

- Included next was a to-do list with a cute little octopus reading on it. The first thing I wrote to-do was to write this blog post. It's by boygirlparty, also on Etsy.

Finally, the December novel. They keep this at the bottom of the package, so that the anticipation can rise as you're seeing all of these cute little bookish gifts. This months book is....*drum roll*

Da Vinci's Tiger by L.M. Elliot!

My first reaction was: wut is this book? I've never heard of it. I quickly realized that it was a historical fiction novel, just judging the book by it's cover. I've loved reading historical fiction lately, so I wasn't disappointed.

After reading the short synopsis included in the OwlCrate box, I was even more excited. It reads: "This historical fiction novel takes place during the Renaissance, and follows our heroine as she discovers a world of artists, philosophers and other creatives. When she meets a young Leonardo da Vinci her life changes forever as she learns about her inner desires and creative voice. This is a very well researched novel and is sure to make you feel as if you have gone back in time!"

A small magnet set was also included, and I created my own poem out of it on the whiteboard next to my bed.

I have started the beginning of this book, and am so far intrigued by the research that must have gone into it. As much as I love reading historical fiction, I'm afraid I could never write it. There's already a large amount of research involved in writing a contemporary, dystopian, or fantasy novel to begin with. To write a historical fiction novel, there's only more. I would be way to afraid of getting some aspect of the society wrong. That being said, even what we know about history might not be correct. It's just scary, that's all. So I give Elliot and other historical fiction authors major props, even though it's probably just what they love to do.

Five stars to OwlCrate. I really hope to be receiving more of your subscriptions soon!

Thanks for reading,

P.S.  I debated posting this to Instagram, but decided my friends would think it's too weird. However, the Detroit Lions play tonight (my home team), and I'm not much of a football fan. I'm over here cheering for the real lions. Go Gryffindor! Go lions! 

P.S.S. @JKRowling, why aren't they the Gryffindor Griffins? Just wondering. 


Tumblr: From Outlet to Obsession

7:12 PM

Tumblr used to be something fun for me. I didn't know why I enjoyed re-posting other people's photos so much, why I found it so inspiring, or why I spent so much time on the site. Eventually I started to notice a pattern in the amount of emotional energy I invested on my Tumblr blog.

I reblogged the photos because I desired them, because I wanted them to be my life. Whether it be a picture of a couple, a bowl of food, a house, a kitchen, or an outfit, they were all things that I desperately wished were mine. I began taking interest in different communities on the site: vegan [if you didn't know, I am one!], preppy, yoga, sometimes even 'Fitblr', a community for those who like to lead a life of exercise and healthy eating.

I turned to Tumblr for answers, only to find that it is truly a place where they can never be found. Not only that, but it provides a very unhealthy outlet that feeds into my unrealistic expectations and desires for life.

Sites like these, including various other social media, create an extremely distorted picture of the way life should be, how you should look, what you should wear, and who you should be with. The once friendly, funny, creative online community quickly turned into a comparison machine for me.

In these worlds, girls are often uprooted from the original purpose of their blog; vegan girls are never vegan enough, preppy people aren't wearing all of the right brands, being healthy and exercising a moderate amount isn't adequate anymore because others are doing better and seeing more results, you eat too much or not enough, you don't practice yoga with the right intentions, and so on. People call out popular users on every small thing. What was once positive is torn down by negative assumptions and call-outs.

The truth is that everyone is different. Every life, every body, every personality. No one is going to react the same to situations they're placed in. You need to do what's best for you, not what the screen seems to think is best for everyone.

So how should life really look? I'm not sure. Sometimes I think my ideas and thoughts behind what life is for and what is real have been changed far too much by the presence of the media to understand the concept of a normal life. I can imagine it doesn't resemble the photos all of the time, though every once in a while, I'm sure it does. We have moments of bliss and moments of wreck, times of trial and times of success, but most of them are never caught on camera.

Sometimes you have to trust that your life behind the lens is just as solid, just as good, as those that are photographed in front of the lens.

From all of this, I'm determined to focus on one thing: God. I shouldn't desire the life in the photos on Tumblr or Twitter or Facebook, unless they are lives filled with Christ. In that case, I should not be glorifying the lives that are lifting Him up, but instead joining in on building a firm relationship with Christ and spreading His light.

Life is not a picture or a magazine photo spread of 'Who wore it better?' It's the pursuit of happiness, which in my case is a steady, firm relationship with God. If you're not a believer, I encourage you to question your motivations and aspirations that might be based on internet communities and sites. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and YouTube are only a few examples. Look at it in your real life as well, for comparison is human, and humanity existed long before the internet.

I can't bring myself to totally delete my Tumblr. I know that it's bad for me. It's like an addiction that I can't kick. I think that joining a more productive community on the site, perhaps one based in Christ, might help me a bit, but even there will always be aspects of comparison and sin. A good idea would be to delete the app on my phone. The truth is that these actions are so ingrained in me, so comfortable, that I have a hard time letting go. But it's time to move on.

The only person I should be striving to be like, comparing myself to is Jesus Christ.

I know that others have had experiences like this, even girls that I know and have talked to about it. We should not be pressured by comparison to do anything- to act a certain way, dress a certain way, desire people a certain way. If we look at what truly matters in life, we see none of that. If you'd like to chat about it, feel free to email me at I'd love to have a conversation.

Have a lovely weekend, and good luck on finals to all my fellow college students!

camp nanowrimo

Here's to New Adventures

7:08 PM

New job, new major, new summer plans; All of the stress of the past few months is falling into place, and I know that sooner or later the planning for the future will continue, and more paperwork will need to be filled out, more hours will need to be put in, more outlining will need to be done, but it's all in preparation for aspects of my life that I'm passionate about.

On the small scale, I've recently accepted a job at the library on campus in media tech. While my current job is at the desk and most of what I do is my own homework, it's a far change from my previous employment of scanning alumni files to a database. There's also the chance that I will be trained to work in the tech lab, which would provide me with a lot of computer skills. (I love computers. The more I know about them, the merrier. Bloggers can't not like computers.)

A much bigger change has occurred within the past few weeks:I'm changing my major. After romanticizing what it would be like to teach for so long (ie. All of my students will love reading! None of them will be behind! They'll love our in class discussions! I don't need to follow common core!), I faced the facts and recognized that education, becoming a teacher, is not for me. I don't doubt that I would make a good teacher, but I know that it wouldn't be a place where I was ever truly happy. 

That being said, I dropped my education endorsement and am now switching to English and creative writing, something that allows me to be both a systematic and creative thinker. I'm also pursuing classes in media and graphic design. For now, I'm not sure about career, but I know that I have many options that will use my creative and intellectual skills, leaving me feeling satisfied. My dream job would be an author, but I know that I would be happy as a grant writer, magazine writer or designer, graphic designer for a company, or if I played a role in media for a company. Heck, maybe I'll be a full time blogger. I'm not so sure about that, but people do make careers out of it. 

Summer plans are happening too. I've just been accepted to a program at my school to study abroad in Vienna for a month. I'll be taking a four-credit art course while living with a host family in the city. We're going to take two weekend trips as well. 

I'm currently picturing myself exploring the city, having picnics with my journal and a basket of strawberries, looking out over the city on a warm but breezy day. I feel overcome with excitement, the kind that boils up in you and seems to expand to the point of bursting in your chest, only for it to remain there in a bubble, enthusiasm trapped. When this happens, my body doesn't know what to do with it. I usually exclaim, "I'm so excited!" and gallop and dance around my room as if I'm a (rather clumsy) ballerina. It's quite like a baby deer just learning to use their legs, unsure of how to bound about with the new skill that they have. 

In June, I've been offered to research literature under a grant my advisor applied to and received. I'm not totally sure what I'm going to be researching yet, but my advisor has told me that his goal is to get me published. When he told me that, my brain screamed "Eeep!" because what English major desperately wants not to be published; I don't think they exist. We all want to be published, no matter the subject or the type of writing. I'd write a research article on frog's feet if I were told it would be published by a legitimate source. 

After that, I plan on sticking around in my college town and maybe continuing my job at the library if they'll have me there. I'll participate in Camp NaNoWriMo in July, pen my fourth or fifth novel, or edit another. I'll photograph the area, and try to keep you update on this blog. 

I'm just oozing with gratitude for the way things have panned out, and eagerness for the year ahead of me. I have a lot going on, and I'm thankful for that. I wanted to write a post to commemorate the way I'm feeling in this moment - excited, beholden, amazed with God and His plan. 

A few days, weeks, months ago, I was stressing about all of these things. I had to change my entire schedule for my new major, had to file a bunch of forms to apply to go to Vienna (I didn't even think I'd get accepted.), had to break it to my last job that I would be leaving, and then start training at my new job. Things are slowing down. I know they'll speed up and I'll get stressed again, so I need to take advantage of this moment of peace and glory. 

God is so good. Here's to new adventures, brought to me by Him. 

I'm choking up a little bit. 

I'm so happy. 

I hope I look back on this post and remember the good that's to come, and that God has a knack for making things work out eventually. This is His kingdom. I'm so excited to explore it. 

I hope things are well for you all as well, 

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