A Witch’s Spell

October 11, 2016

One stormy night my best friend Claire and I lounged in the living room. We sat watching old rom-coms in our PJs while shoveling salty popcorn into our mouths. Lights flickered as thunder roared around us and the power went out. I lit candles around the room and Claire brought out her Ouija board for nighttime fun. 

Sitting across from each other we started to move the tool across the board. Unaware of the power flowing through our fingertips we giggled as we called for spirits to talk to us. Our laughter halted when we heard a low cackle in the room around us. 
An erie moment of silence passed. Claire and I held our breath listening for our spiritual companion. Nothing happened and we stood to gather the board and put away. The tool moved on its own. Spelling out Hekate. With widened eyes I looked to Claire for comfort but her face was vacant. She was under the witch’s spell. She levitated around the couch and created a fire with the snap of her fingertips. I stood back to watch the show, too shocked to move.  

“Follow me,” a haunting voice said.

Claire floated out the front door straight into the downpour from the storm. I ran after her into the rain. I was drenched immediately, weighed down by wet clothes, and walked to the curb where she stood by a large oak tree. I tried to pull her back inside but she wouldn’t budge. It was as if her feet were glued to the ground as I fell over trying to pull her with me. I sat their for a moment wondering what to do. Transfixed by the flowing of endless rain into a paper cup stuck in the gutter. 

Lightning struck the mighty old oak and I could see smoke rising from where it hit. I walked over to the tree and ran my hands along the warm, jagged wood. A piece snapped off in the shape of a pointed stick and fell into my hand. Claire was suddenly beside me with a wicked smile. She grabbed my hand forcing it into a fist. She thrusted my hand with the pointed tip stick into the sky letting it go as I stood unmoving. An electrifying energy powered through me and my body felt one with the earth and sky. 

Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Be prepared for a lot of praise from this review because I found this book to be one of the best written dystopian pandemic stories I have personally ever read. It has a unique perspective as it jumps back and forth between before, during, and after the worldwide pandemic takes place. On top of a well written narrative Mandel creates a beautiful landscape in every scene with simple imagery. This imagery helps create a strong emotional impact on the story overall as the reader can be easily placed within the shoes of the characters. Overall, this is a wonderful cohesive piece of fiction that tugs on the heartstrings while provoking thoughtful introspection as this could easily happen to our own Earth.

When jumping around different time frames the story lines can become easily muddled but Mandel’s writing manages it effortlessly. She easily connects scenes from before, during, and after the pandemic sometimes only with a minor commonality. This creates an amazing flow from chapter to chapter, as one ends in the time after the pandemic it brings up key information that draws the reader back to before the pandemic in the beginning of the next chapter. It helps paint a bigger picture overall of the entire book and the characters within it by giving a wider time span of information that most dystopian books neglect by focusing on the time after society falls. This is accentuated by the drastic change in imagery from before to after the pandemic hits.

The simple imagery Mandel puts into her story is key in drawing the differences of the world before and after. Simple is a compliment here for the story is not filled with overly descriptive scenes but instead assists in the introspection of the characters as the reader sees the Earth through their eyes. By viewing the world through the eyes of the characters the reader gets a better understanding of not only this new dystopic world but the minds and behaviors of the characters as well. This helps with connecting the different time frames. One of the most striking images that sticks with me comes from after the pandemic as Kristin walks past an area with a weathered McDonalds, the infamous arches no longer illuminating the street as it did before the pandemic hit. These small moments are what add to the emotional impact of the story for the reader as it shows a realistic view of what our future world could look like should a widespread pandemic occur.

While Mandel’s imagery does a great job of creating a realistic view of a dystopic Earth it’s her strong characterization of people that makes it easy to connect with the story as a whole. Each character, even minor ones, are given the right amount of scenes to get an understanding of who they are whether through action or revealing dialogue. Mandel had a way of making these characters feel so real that a reader could be sitting next to one of them even as they read, this goes for the more celebrity like characters too. The effective dialogue, always useful and playing a key role within the plot, helped create these realistic scenes especially in one scene as one character pronounces “Prague” as “Praha” at a dinner party. These little laughable moments happen within our own daily lives and it’s these small instances that create a story the reader can become warped into as if it were their own.

I highly recommend this to avid readers of dystopian fiction, if you haven’t read it already, but I think this book is a great read for anyone. There is a vast array of characters that one can connect with and you’ll definitely never experience writing like this from anyone but Mandel. My biggest problem with the overall story was not getting some minute information on a character that wasn’t even necessary to the plot, it’s just my preference to always know more. Definitely read this book and be prepare to think, cry, and wonder about our own world for a little while. If anything this book we help you truly appreciate the little time you have on this Earth.

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The Magician's HorsesThe Magician’s Horses by Brian Bennett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Magician’s Horses awoke my curiosity within the first few chapters and as I read further I found myself consistently wanting more. This story follows a young man, Dave, saving up for a trip to somewhere new by working odd jobs for extra cash. One of these jobs leads him to a particularly odd yet smart couple, Doc and Sally, who need help conducting an experiment they have been working on for a long time. Dave jumps on board with Doc and Sally’s experiment, not realizing how it will change his plans, or his life.

While Bennett does a great job building up the interest of Doc and Sally’s experiment and Dave’s part within it there is a lack of tension that makes the story fall a bit flat. The story falls into the hands of convenience as things repeatedly happen to work out for Dave without any problems or hardships. He grasps Doc and Sally’s concepts easily and any problem that occurs for Dave finds a solution quickly, if not right away. Since everything came so easily to him, it made it hard to know what Dave’s true struggle was within the book. An inner monologue from Dave would have given his character much more dimension.

Although Dave is the main character he is the one the reader is given the least information about. I constantly had trouble relating to Dave or understanding his character’s actions because a lot of his motives were never revealed. Doc and Sally are two of my favorite characters in the story because their motives are revealed and the reader understands them. Bennett does a great job of describing them and their character through the items that are scattered around their home. This is something the reader doesn’t get from Dave, descriptions of him are really brief and a lot of his back story doesn’t come until halfway through the book. If some of Dave’s back story was mentioned earlier in the book his character would have been much easier to connect to and understand. Because of this lack of back story the ending didn’t make as big as an impact that it should have.

There were certain ties between characters that weren’t as believable because the reader was never given the description of the bond forming. There are many instances I found Bennett skipping over scenes I would have enjoyed reading. In one instance, as Doc and Sally go through the many items in their apartment they tell stories to Dave, but Bennett never reveals any of these stories to the reader. It would have been great to see the dialogue of Doc and Sally telling Dave about their travels. The dialogue would have made the bond between these characters much stronger as the readers witnessed their growing relationship through the stories.

There is a great story within The Magician’s Horses, it just needed to be a longer book. I gave this book a rating of three because I enjoyed the story but I truly wanted more out of it. I found myself needing more description and action to balance out the lengthy narrative. While I enjoyed the fast pacing of the beginning and ending to the story, the middle was a bit too slow paced and started losing my interest. The Magician’s Horses will be a book that piques people’s interest but by the end they’ll be wishing there were a couple more hundred pages like I did.

*Note: This book was given to me through a Goodreads Giveaway*

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The Annotated Little WomenThe Annotated Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Little Women is an American classic coming-of-age story, brimming with realism during a time when fantastical stories were at large. The book follows the lives of the four young March sisters, observing their triumphs and failures from childhood through adulthood. Although the book was written primarily for young girls it can be quite an influential story for anyone, especially those experiencing change within their own lives.

Through the tasks and trials of the March sisters Alcott creates a timeless tale full of morals. Whether it be pride, anger, vanity, or even shyness Alcott portrays a vice within each sister, forcing them to face a moralistic choice between giving in or doing the right thing. All sisters manage to overcome their vices, but as a realistic story goes the sisters meet a few failures before of they do.

This particular edition of Little Women, annotated by the Pulitzer Prize winning John Matteson, adds immensely to the experience of the March sisters. Matteson brings the March family to life through his detailed annotations and images that illuminate each page with the inspiration behind each scene. In an early chapter Matteson immerses readers in Alcott’s time as the narrating character, Jo, brings blanc-mange to a sick Laurie and Matteson provides a detailed recipe alongside. It’s the little touches like this that make the annotations well worth reading although they can be repetitive at some points. Through the annotations readers receive more than a story they gain an understanding of the influences the author had throughout her life that led up to Little Women being written.

The introduction for Little Women was wonderfully written by Matteson as it discusses the impact the book has on many generations of women, including women today. The introduction also points out the many literary influences that helped form the theme of Little Women, The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan being the most drawn upon. Alcott growing up around many literary figures, her father being a known scholar, and herself reading many books helped her shape Little Women into the literary piece of art that it would become. Matteson continues to mark out all the events leading up to the Little Women’s publication in the section “We Really Live Most of It” and follows the life of Alcott once it was published making a great transition into the start of the book.

While I would highly recommend this annotated version of Little Women to all I know, there is one exception. New readers of Little Women be warned, that while this annotated version is an excellent edition it is more suited for previous readers. This is mainly due to the fact that the introduction and annotations touch on elements of foreshadowing which sometimes give away future events and major plot points that will occur later on within the book. It should be noted that this book is best for former readers of Little Women and big fans of Alcott that want to know more about her life and how much it related to Little Women.

*Noted: This book was given to me through Goodreads Giveaway*

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1. “Fix You” by Coldplay

This is my go-to song when I’m feeling blue. It’s like being understood without having to make an appointment with your therapist. If I’m not already crying before I put the song on I’ll be crying soon. The lyrics are filled with so much emotion and a beautiful orchestral sound. This song is great to listen to when dealing with loss as it was written about grief and getting through the loss of a loved one. Now listen and let Coldplay “Fix You” up a nice cry.

2. “Everytime” by Britney Spears

There are countless Britney songs that I can have a good cry to but this one forever takes the cake. The slow pop ballad with a heart-wrenching piano and breathy Britney vocals will tug at your heartstrings with the first note. A song written by Britney Spears that clearly shows her heartache and struggle and makes it easy to relate to when suffering your own heartache. It’s hard not to be moved by this song. Be prepared to have a lot of feelings when you listen and cry away!

*Note a young Stephen Dorff as her complicated love interest in the music video.

3. “How to Save a Life” by The Fray

I could not make this list without having How to Save a Life on it. Another song with the heartfelt piano pulling at your heart strings as you listen. This is one of my favorites because it’s up for interpretation, whatever the song makes you feel, it’s about what you’re dealing with. You can listen to this song after losing a loved one, after a heartbreak, or if you’re just struggling yourself. I bet you can’t listen to this song without singing along!


4. “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt

Gwen Stefani is phenomenal at writing heartbreak songs, as can be seen in Used to Love You, but Don’t Speak will forever be one of the best all-time break-up songs. Ever. I love cranking up this song when I need to have an angry cry and get frustration out. You don’t need to being going through a break-up to cry to this song. It’s good for feeling upset over lost relationships with lovers, friends, or family. Now get your cry on while belting out “Don’t Speak”.

5. “Everybody’s Changing” Keane

This song is more nostalgic sadness. A sadness you understand but still need to cry to. Things aren’t what they once wore and that can be sad. Let’s say this song is the soundtrack to those feelings. Feel the lyrics, drift with the piano, let those old memories wash over you and have a nice cry.

6. “It Ends Tonight” by The All-American Rejects

This is a great song to listen to when you just feel overwhelmed. I know I cry a lot when I get overwhelmed so this is a nice song to blast and let that frustration out. It’s okay to lose hope in things. It’s also okay to move on. But, for now just belt it out with the All-American Rejects below.

7. “Smile Like You Mean It” by The Killers

Hot Fuss was an unforgettable experience to me as a teenage girl. I will forever remember listening to Hot Fuss on repeat while I was visiting my aunt in San Francisco. This song is probably not a big pick for songs to cry to, but it’s special to me. Smile Like You Mean It is more downtempo than the more popular upbeat songs by The Killers. This particular song’s lyrics break the barrier knowing the pain behind the fake smile you put on to show you’re fine. It’s okay to not be fine and this song gets that. So, don’t be fine as you listen to Smile Like You Mean It.


8. “Say Something” by A Great Big World

This is one of those songs that use soft instruments, single notes on the piano, a beautiful medley with heart-breaking lyrics. You’re heart just aches listening. Such powerful vocals full of emotion that will quickly move you to tears bringing old pain up sometimes. If you’re having trouble letting something go this song is you ode.

9. “Someone Like You” Adele

There will always be people who come into your life and make a huge impact. They can be around for years, months, even a couple weeks. You’ll always remember the effect they had on you. They may be no longer in your life for a multitude of reasons. Some good, some bad. It still hurts. Adele is good at capturing that pain. It would be crazy not to include one of pain filled songs that understand heartbreak and just trying to get through it. Cry out with Adele below.

10. “Let it Be” by The Beatles/Across the Universe

The Beatles have been with me throughout my life, many of their songs coming into play at different moments. It would have felt wrong if I didn’t include a song by them. I would listen to this song in my times of trouble and it would help me release my feelings. I actually included the Across the Universe version of the song because it held quite a bit more emotion than Paul McCartney’s, although I still absolutely love his version. While I enjoy both, the Across the Universe scene is so moving with it’s portrayal of death and pain that it’s better to listen to and watch when I need a good cry. Cry your pain out with them!

BONUS:

If none of those songs made you cry, which I highly doubt, then here you get one bonus song. You can not escape the sadness that this song brings.

Believe

March 12, 2015

Can you believe it?

We exist here. Now. In time and space.

Can you feel this?

The warmth of my hand upon your face.

Do you hear that?

The loud thumping as my heart begins to race.

Do you see it?

The epitome of love in the human race.

Language of the Eyes

December 30, 2014

To speak with the eyes is

A conversation in silence.

Narrowing

Widening

Each emphasizing

A different story

With the aid of brows

That rise up,

Furrow together.

Beware those

That come between

Eyes meant for others.

There can be

mis-

Inter-

pretations

Leading to fury,

For eyes

hold

A powerful language.

The Struggle

July 3, 2014

Lately I have been constantly pondering what I should do in my life. This is on my mind since I recently graduated from college with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

My plan is to continue with graduate school as that’s the only way I can get a good job in the mental health field.

The only problem is I keep coming face-to-face with the thought of “what truly makes me happy?” I can honestly say I’m completely unsure about the answer to this question.
I thought becoming a clinical psychologist is what I truly wanted but so many road blocks keep coming in my way and I feel unsure if that’s what I really want.

I have been asking myself what I want, what will make me happy and love my life but I come up empty.
I’ve tried to turn to my dreams because I use them sometimes as insight into my inner self but I haven’t gotten anything out of them.

I just don’t know how to figure myself out. I can understand other people and see what makes them happy and see what they want to do in life but I’m not as perceptive of myself. Sometimes I feel like a stranger. I know you can’t figure out your life in a couple months but I hate this feeling of uncertainty. I just wish someone would tell me what to do or what I want because I am so indecisive and I am just clueless.

I took a scriptwriting class and learned how to format a script and wrote a few pages of things here and there.

It was a great learning experience and I believe I have really started producing something of great quality. It’s actually the first time I’ve written something, read what I wrote, and not hated it afterwards.

So far I have written one act of my script, it’s a little over 20 pages long. I don’t want it to be super long and I pretty much have idea of where I want it to go in my head. Inspiration strikes me at the oddest time though. When I’m blasting music on my drive from Orlando to Miami. Now let me tell you, it’s kind of hard to write a script while driving. So, I still only have the first act done. I really want to develop this script and complete it I’m just having trouble putting my thoughts onto the page.

Well I’ve been going on about this script without revealing the basis of the story. Alas reader, I shall inform you. It’s a simple script, in my opinion, about a young man who is a fairly recent widow and dealing with his grief. He is sort of dealing with it in an odd way by forming an immensely close relationship with his cat Bliss. The story goes on from there showing the problems he encounters because of this relationship and dealing with the grief of losing his wife.

So that is what my in progress script is about, now I just need to get the rest of the script (it’s currently in my heard) onto the page. I don’t know why it’s so hard but this is something I really want to complete. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it once it’s finished but I really want to finish it. Maybe I should put it in my “schedule” (not that I really have one). Maybe I should attempt to write it while driving (don’t worry I won’t really do that-I am somewhat of a safe driver). I do plan on finishing it though and I guess right now I am obligating myself by setting a goal to finish it before the end of this year! Ha future me! I got you roped into this now.

Signing off, thanks for listening/reading (if you got this far down).

I do appreciate it.

Amanda

Be Yourself

June 18, 2014

It’s funny how as humans we watch each other, judge each other, envy each other. I know I even do it myself. The age of social media has kicked this into high gear. It makes people constantly compare themselves to everyone else. But what we tend to forget is we’re only seeing the things people choose to share. Things that are usually to show off something they’re proud,an accomplishment, or just a fun vacation.

My point is that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to these other people. Yes they may be traveling or doing something you’re not but it doesn’t make them better than you and it doesn’t help to dwell on the fact that they get to do what you want.

We need to stop focusing on others and focus more on ourselves. Forget what everyone else is doing. If what you’re doing makes you feel happy, good! And don’t let what other people are doing you feel bad about that. If you’re unhappy though don’t look at others and think “what am i doing wrong?”, instead look at yourself and think “what can I do to make myself happy?”.

Be yourself. Don’t be what you think others want to see and don’t be what you see in others.