what to do when you’re running low on inspiration

Hallo, my loves! I’d like to apologize for my long hiatus from blogging. I really don’t have an excuse. I just wasn’t inspired or motivated to take photos and come up with creative posts for all of you to read and enjoy. This creative slump of mine lasted for months–it hit me in April and continued throughout the summer, well into the tail end of August.

I was constantly unhappy and insecure about what I was putting out for the world to see. Every photo had to be carefully scrutinized and put through a rigorous editing process that was very time-consuming. Every caption had to be absolutely perfect, with the paragraphs lined out properly, with no spelling errors. On top of that pressure to be perfect, I felt as if I had run out of my creative juices, and I just couldn’t possibly squeeze out another post. (What would this post be without a pun by yours truly? Hah.) I was under quite a bit of stress and distress because I felt like bookstagram was feeding on me like wildfire, consuming and burning me out with brand rep posts and sponsored book reviews and the like. I realized that most of my posts were structured around sponsored posts, and that I was doing most of it out of duty and obligation rather than pure love for my own content. This led me to doubt myself and my own abilities. I was always thinking about how I could improve my content, but suddenly, there I was, standing on a plateau with no upward climb in sight, face-to-face with an intimidating wall of black obsidian blocking me out from continuing forward. It was all psychological, of course.

Luckily, this perspective recently shifted into something much more positive. I slowly got back into posting on fragilemyths, even if it were only for two or three times a week (as opposed to none whatsoever). And now, I’m happy to say that I’m back on the bookstagram grind, posting daily like I used to! Even better, I’m back to posting here, in my true creative space.

So how did that happen?

It took me a while to figure it out, but the answer is simple. I moved. I moved away from the comfort and familiarity of home, and into a college dorm.

Now, you’re probably thinking, Zelle! Stop being ridiculous. I can’t move just for the sake regaining inspiration! And you would be right, of course. But you see, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a big move like mine. Any change of scenery would help. The important thing is that you gain exposure to something new, whether that means moving to a different city or simply changing one aspect of your daily routine.

And so, without further ado, I’ve compiled a list of things you should consider as an alternative to moving, should you ever run low on inspiration!

  1. Reorganize your bookshelves. Have you been eyeing the way Lara (bookishsolace; you should all be following this wonderfully sarcastic and sassy friend of mine, by the way) turns all her books around, so that the pages, not the spines, are facing outward toward you? Or perhaps you love Fi’s (readsleepfangirl; my friend and fellow Slytherin) collection of “rainbow books.” So what are you waiting for? DO IT. REARRANGE YOUR BOOKSHELF THE WAY YOU WANT IT. Change it up! See the gorgeous photos below, to get an idea of what I’m referring to.
  2. Take a walk around your neighborhood. Or your own backyard. Or in Dublin. It doesn’t matter, just move away from your comfortable bed and approach the outside world. Take note of what you see and feel– a falling leaf, the wind running its course through your hair, the smell of pine– take it all in.
  3. Browse Pinterest. Create a new board of photos and scenes you like! Take others’ ideas and use it as a starting place to build your own.
  4. Exercise. I’m serious. It changes you. Exercising allows your brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for all the happy feelings we feel. And who wouldn’t want to be happy?
  5. Listen to music you normally wouldn’t listen to. I recently started listening to more underground Korean rap and R&B, especially the playlists by danielions.
  6. Make time for the important people in your life. Haven’t talked to your mum for a while? Visit her, or make a phone call. She’ll be delighted to hear from you. Or, schedule a time to grab lunch and chat with a good friend you haven’t seen for months.
  7. Move furniture around and redecorate your walls. You’d be surprised at how refreshing it feels.
  8. Take time off to focus on yourself for once. Instead of worrying about others’ opinions of you and your school/work performance, sit down and reevaluate how you want to be perceived and how you could improve on your soft skills. And then, treat yourself!
  9. Visit a museum. Go to an art museum, science museum, or a natural history museum–take your pick! It’s an easy way to learn something new on a day you don’t have any other plans. Many museums offer youth and student discounts too, so be sure to take your student ID with you!
  10. Take a class in something that you’re interested in, but never had the chance to learn before. Ceramics, zumba, flower arranging, philosophy– the possibilities are endless! You might just find a new passion. I’m currently taking a German language course, and I could not be more excited about it! I think it would be cool if I could converse with my German followers and friends (there are a lot of you!) in German. And hey, if you have any tips and tricks for learning German, or languages in general, please send them my way!

Thank you all for reading this and sticking with me. Be sure to tell me about some of the things you do to stay inspired because I’d love to know. And do let me know if any of the activities included in this list helped you move out of your creative slump!

 

review: forgotten reflections

I had been in somewhat of a major reading slump recently, after my disappointment with ACOWAR and other recent young adult book releases. One fateful afternoon, I received an inquiry requesting a review for a novel called Forgotten Reflections, pegged as “a historical thriller set during the Korean War era [that] sheds light on the brave women who handcrafted hanji paper and made their mark on the unseen pages of Korean history. In the current international climate where North Korea takes center stage, Forgotten Reflections weaves a thrilling tale of family, lost memories, folklore and an unforgotten history, spanning three generations as South Korea rises from the ashes.”

Interesting. Very interesting.

I then read the following synopsis and fell half in love with the book right from the start. Keep reading and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Prepare yourself for one hell of a cultural journey.

51lbfp2bocvl-_sy346_SYNOPSIS (Goodreads): DARE TO DREAM IN THE MIDST OF WAR. 1945. Rice fields seem endless in a quaint farming village of South Korea, yet Iseul and the villagers have been on the verge of starvation for as long as they can remember; the last of their Japanese colonizers have taken every last grain with them. In the newly independent Korea, Iseul dreams of what her future might bring. Yet, war is on the horizon, and the boy she has fallen for is an alleged North Korean communist spy. Amidst war, Jung-Soo and Iseul embark on a comic journey of self-discovery across the mountainous peninsula, as they are aided by the occasional appearance of figures from legends long forgotten. Music helps them pass the time, as does the radio and the crafty carpentry skills of Iseul who would eventually make history with her handcrafted hanji paper. Unexpected friendships are forged, love burgeons and betrayal taints their elusive dreams.

THOUGHTS: Forgotten Reflections, written by Young-Im Lee, is a powerfully poignant novel set in South Korea, during a particularly tumultuous time period remembered as the Korean War. There are occasional interjections that take place in the present, told through the narrator’s (Iseul’s granddaughter) point of view in a relaxed, conversational tone that almost seems to be beckoning readers to join the story.

I was totally cheering for young, fiery-tempered Iseul, who–excuse my language–gave zero shits that Jung-Soo was the son of a wealthy and influential politician who may have been a North Korean spy. She absolutely refused to simply accept his arrogance and proceeded to take him down a notch. After their rocky first encounter, the two eventually grow up to become great friends, along with a disabled boy named Yeong-Hoon, in Yeoju, a rice-farming province situated in the sloping valleys of central Korea. But when war threatens to tear apart the Korean peninsula, the trio’s happiness is disrupted, as Jung-Soo is conscripted into the army.

As history would have it, the war does not go well for South Korea. The army is worn down and short on supplies. Their American allies want to be home by Christmas. Jung-Soo, who loves tinkering with radios and guitars, and Dae-Gun, a friend he saves from the front lines, are reassigned to an intelligence unit, where they learn that the North Korean and Chinese armies are strategically poised to wage war in Yeoju, where Iseul still lives. Meanwhile, Iseul uses her knowledge of crafting and carpentry to create hanji paper for neighboring villages and soldiers in the South Korean army. She is wildly successful, and people begin mailing blank pages to their sons and husbands serving in the army, circumventing the severe shortage of paper. Worried for the safety of Iseul and his hometown, Jung-Soo desperately wants to warn her and the others living nearby to evacuate, knowing that the North Koreans and the Chinese may be headed to Yeoju due to rumors of a massive rice storehouse, enough to feed the two starving armies.

The character development was phenomenal, especially for Jung-Soo. I watched as he grew and matured from a spoiled, entitled child into a young man acutely aware of the world around him and his role in it. The plot was well-paced and never dragged. The drama, tension, emotion, all of it— was interwoven neatly together, creating this emotionally evocative masterpiece.

This fine piece of writing kept me at the edge of my seat, constantly worried for Jung-Soo and Iseul, and wondering if they would ever find each other again and start a new life together. I laughed at their banter and bickering. I almost sobbed my eyes out. My emotions were played again and again, and it was wonderful! My heart is full, yet it hurts because of the bittersweet ending that I won’t be spoiling here.

I actually finished this book a few days ago, but did not start writing this review until I sorted my feelings out in order. The novel really stuck with me over the last couple of days, and I’m happy to say that Forgotten Reflections is my first five-star read of this year.

Don’t be intimidated by the sheer size of this book. I promise you that every one of the 500+ pages are worth it. I consumed them all in one sitting because I just couldn’t seem to put the book down! Rarely do I see such a well-written historical fiction novel with a cast of characters from Asia. If you love modern cultural and historical fiction infused with elements of the bildungsroman genre, please, PLEASE give this literary gem a read!


Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book by the author, but this did not in any way impact the nature of my review and my original thoughts on the novel. (A big thank you goes to Young-Im Lee for providing me a copy! And for blessing the literary world with this beautiful book.)

another life update? YES!

hi everyone! I know I haven’t posted AT ALL during the month of February (yes, I know, I’m horrible!) and I’m so sorry for being dead.

Couldn’t resist channeling my inner Moriarty here–

Hahah. Andrew Scott is the perfect villain.

Just thought I’d update you a bit on the comings and goings of my life–

To all the authors out there whom I owe reviews to, I’m sorry for being so unfashionably late! I WILL get your reviews up this month, I promise!

Life’s been incredibly busy on my end. So many unexpected things happened to me in February and to top it all off, it wasn’t a great reading month. I’m pretty sure Goodreads says I’m six books behind on my reading goal. Oops. Not a great start.

And because I love making lists…

Things That Happened to Zelle in February

  1. YA GIRL GOT INTO COLLEGE!! (somehow) and not just one, but TWO!!? what the frickety frickle actual frick frack. I still can’t believe it.
  2. I flew to one of the colleges I was admitted to in order to do an interview for a scholarship.
  3. I met up with one of my best friends who attends the college I flew to and he took me around and bought me boba. With matcha! (See, that’s how you do it. Buy me food and you’re golden. This is real friendship, guys. ;))
  4. I walked into a college lecture and DAMN, there were a lot of people!
  5. I learned that Mata Hari’s real last name was…Zelle.
  6. Visited my grandmother’s grave the day after I received my first acceptance letter (the day I visited was the anniversary of her passing) and thanked her profusely in broken Mandarin and mixed English for always supporting and believing in me.
  7. Finished The Crown. WHICH WAS ABSOLUTELY PHENOMENAL AND LITERALLY EVERYONE NEEDS TO WATCH IT OKAY? OKAY. definitely 5/5.
  8. Finished the first season of Reign. I’m torn. I want to love it but I can’t.
  9. Finished Victoria. Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes have some seriously SIZZLING CHEMISTRY HOLY CRUD THEY MAKE ME SO HAPPY SCREEEEEEEEE
  10. I reached 9,000 followers on Instagram. Wonder how that happened. Huh. THANK YOU ALL. ❤
  11. So I learned that the 8-year-old son of one of the teachers at my school was shot and killed during a drive-by shooting, and it makes me absolutely sick to think about it. And to make matters even worse, the person at fault was never caught.
  12. School was randomly cancelled on the 10th because our main transformer malfunctioned and went out.
  13. I had like a bazillion orchestra rehearsals because I’m flying out to compete on March 1, and I have another orchestra that I participate in because I can’t get enough of musical torture. (just kidding, I actually really love classical music)
  14. I WENT TO THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER ON THE 24TH. THAT. IS. ALL. I THINK CAPS LOCK CONVEYS MY EMOTIONS WELL ENOUGH. I will do a full blog post on this later, but just look at this!!! It’s so beautiful that I almost burst into tears!

I probably had other stuff as well but since I had the insane idea of blogging at an ungodly hour of night right before my flight (wow so many rhymes), I probably forgot some things.

Oh yeah, like this one reunion I attended. Whoops. That was a thing.

And driving lessons. Can’t forget those.

Okay, now I’m just writing like I’m delusional. I’m probably going to publish this and then regret it later. In other words, I should stop here.

Hope you’re all doing well! Feel free to email me at fragilemyths@gmail.com, friend me on goodreads, or talk books with me on Instagram at fragilemyths.

how instagram’s algorithm favors dishonesty

Let me just start this off by asking one question: Do you know anyone who likes Instagram’s algorithm?

Exactly.

Instagram was–is–a way for me (and other bloggers) to share our thoughts and opinions within the literary community. I joined at the end of March 2016 (though I had a personal account long before that) and I excitedly watched my account grow slowly over time. It’s not like I started out with 15000 followers on Twitter that I could just casually herd over to my Instagram account. No, I literally started with a follower count of zero.

Over the course of many months, I built a framework of trust and friendship with like-minded people, and we’ve happily discussed all things bookish. I was chosen to be a brand representative for businesses I truly cared about, such as Burning Pages Candles, Authored Adornments, Till and Dill, and Bookified Designs. And I was able to further expand on my sphere of influence by becoming a Lit Without Limits ambassador.

When Instagram announced that it would start adding in advertisements to my newsfeed, I wasn’t particularly thrilled about it, but I understood the reasons behind the new addition. For so long, Instagram had been a free platform for virtually anyone and everyone with access to the internet. Of course they would eventually find a way to monetize it. It was bound to happen. It made sense.

And when rumors of an algorithm started circulating our literary circles, I continued what I had always done–dutifully reviewing books, uploading high quality photos, answering comments and liking photos. I never asked my followers to turn on post notifications so that they wouldn’t miss my posts when the new algorithm was implemented.

But like so many other bloggers and avid bookstagrammers, I noticed a steep drop in engagement. A lot less likes. Even less comments.

It seems petty to be worried about the number of likes and comments each post gets, but for those of us who put in an enormous amount of time and effort into producing quality content, it’s extremely discouraging. For me, every photo is a labor of love. I utilize the creative side of me to come up with a setup before I actually start shooting. The picture-taking part is only the easy bit. After I’m satisfied with the pictures I’ve taken, I import them into my laptop and take time to make some basic edits. I then email the photos to myself and edit them through three different apps on my phone. Each photo I post goes through endless scrutiny. But that’s not all! There’s the dreaded clean-up process. I have to put all my books and props back to where they belong.

To be perfectly honest, I spend way more time than I should on bookstagram. When that invested time and energy seems to go to waste, it makes me reevaluate whether or not I should be trying so hard to cater to my audience. Why should I, when there’s no way that most of my followers would see my posts unless they are favored by Instagram’s algorithm?

So basically all of my posts will be buried underneath all the more “popular” posts. The only way to circumvent that is for my photo to immediately gain likes and comments as soon as it goes live. If that latest post doesn’t attract a lot of interaction right away, it’s going to be pushed down the newsfeed that has long since abandoned the much-loved chronological order.

I ended up spending a lot of time trying to gauge the right time to post, when interaction would be optimized at its highest. I researched and experimented with different hashtags to determine which ones were more likely to make others notice my photos. I joined a comment group, where each of us in the group could notify each other whenever we posted a photo, so that all of us could quickly double tap and comment, boosting interaction and convincing Instagram’s algorithm that the new post was “popular.” But this was exhausting and even more time consuming than ever. This was definitely not what I joined Instagram for. (Frankly, the whole popularity contest thing is so old. Instagram is not middle school or high school.)

Others ended up buying likes in an attempt to boost the popularity of their latest photo. Yes, you read that correctly. Buying.

It’s ridiculously easy. You post, buy hundreds of likes off of a website of questionable repute, and then suddenly Instagram and its beloved pet algorithm believe that because you’re suddenly gaining tons of likes per minute, your newest photo is so incredibly popular! The algorithm, believing it is Instagram’s gift to the online world, will put your latest post on top of your followers’ newsfeeds so that they will see it and add even more “popularity” to it by liking and commenting.

Sounds like a great solution, right? Zero research needed. Minimal time commitment. Your account might just be even more popular than it started out!

NO.

It’s deceptive. In other words, THE ALGORITHM FAVORS THE DISHONEST. Not the popular. Not the ordinary bloggers. Not you and me. I cannot emphasize this enough.

If you are dishonest enough to buy likes and followers, you are deceiving the businesses you promote and the people who work with you. Your “likers” could all be spam accounts, and the algorithm wouldn’t know shit. You can promise the businesses you promote that you will bring them benefits, but in the end they are deceived by your fake interaction that brings nothing. Small businesses often rely on their brand representatives to promote their products and spread the word about them. By faking your interaction, it hurts small businesses as much as it hurts honest bloggers.

The algorithm rewards honest bloggers for their time, energy, creativity, and arduous planning with low organic interaction. I know many bloggers who are discouraged when less than 20% of their followers actually see their posts, myself included. Those who pay for their interaction ultimately hurt those who are not spending money on shady sites. The algorithm puts smaller accounts at a terrible disadvantage and stymies their potential for growth, while continuously promoting larger accounts that already have a substantial following. I mean, how is an account like mine, with roughly 8000 followers (granted, I know I should not be complaining too much because there are plenty of accounts that are even smaller), supposed to compete with one that has over 100k followers and gets 400 likes a minute? Mathematically speaking, I can’t!

It used to be that I absolutely LOVED interacting with the bookstagram community. It was a constant source of joy. Of course, I still love it to an extent, but the fact that I have to literally search people up to like their posts or do all the other crazy stuff I mentioned earlier in order to prevent my photos from underperfoming really ruins part of the experience for me.

One other thing that irks me is this: Why does Instagram get to decide what I want to see and what I don’t? If I follow someone, doesn’t that mean that I want to see their content?

It just doesn’t make an ounce of sense to me.

I spent a lot of time collecting my thoughts on this. Please, please don’t be one of those people who buy fake followers and likes. Don’t ruin it for everyone. Dealing with the algorithm is already annoying enough.

And please feel free to share this post. It was definitely more rant-like than my usual cheeriness, but I really needed to get this all out. More people deserve to know about the messy intricacies of how Instagram’s algorithm works, especially small businesses who are struggling.

Instagram is my favourite platform, and I am so grateful that it has given me the chance to build friendships with readers from all over the world. I don’t want to lose out to something as silly as fake interaction or a useless algorithm.

13 reasons why (i read)

Two months ago, when I finally decided to cut my past-waist-length Rapunzel hair, I brought The Architect of Song with me to the hair salon.

I opened my book and barely a minute later, a young girl who couldn’t have been older than 11 immediately exclaimed, “EW! Why do you read?!”

I thought I heard wrong. Seriously. Because how could I not read?

I can give you Thirteen Reasons Why I read. (Hi, Jay Asher.)

  1. My parents. I am extremely fortunate in that both my father and mother are avid readers as well. Even before I could read on my own, my dad would read short children’s stories to me every night before bed. And when I was a little older, my mum would take me to the local library every weekend to pick out a stack of thirty books that I could hardly carry myself. Their philosophy is that…
  2. Reading fuels the brain. It keeps your brain active! It makes you think, feel, laugh, cry, and just about everything in between.
  3. I read to enjoy and explore a world that is not my own. Through reading, I can live vicariously through my favourite kickass heroines or immerse myself in the rich complexities of another era.
  4. There’s a lot to learn from reading. It’s not just about building up your SAT vocabulary bank, or even refining your writing. Literature educates you about the human experience as a whole, and it allows us to take a look at our lives through a wider lens of understanding.
  5. It’s a way to de-stress. For me, reading is necessity. I typically read a little before heading to bed. (old habits from childhood die hard?) It helps me unwind after a long day, and it’s a perfect way to relax before going to sleep!
  6. It’s a means of escape. Sometimes, when I hit a rough patch in my life or a particularly terrible day, reading becomes my chief solace. I forget about my life and my surroundings and let myself be drawn into a story, as if I’m a silent character observing and following the main cast.
  7. Reading is infinitely more interesting than TV. I mean, of course I binge watch shows and anime, but not all the time! And when I do, it’s always on my laptop. TV has never been appealing to me.
  8. It starts conversations. Having knowledge from reading scholarly works can automatically make an intellectual conversation more engaging and interesting. Reading fictional accounts can spark conversations among social circles, with friends. It’s even better when others have read a certain book too, so you can all fangirl together! So yes, I’d say that reading has the potential to expand your social skills. Not all of us are introverts!
  9. It improves focus and concentration. Reading takes time. I often hear my classmates complain about not being able to finish assigned reading because it was too boring and too long. It takes a considerable amount of focus to read and continue reading, but if you can sit it out, you’re bound to improve your concentration!
  10. It sparks imagination. Reading makes me think. That’s why I write reviews and put my thoughts online. Hell, it even inspired me to start blogging!
  11. Reading is easy to do! All you need is a good book and a source of light. Optional: a hot mug of green tea.
  12. I read to understand different perspectives. This is especially true nowadays, with the push for more diversity in literature, especially YA lit. In my 7 am literature class, we are currently discussing poetry written by people of different race, beliefs, experiences, and ideas. So although I don’t agree with William Butler Yeats’ version of the “ideal woman” (from A Prayer for My Daughter; I believe his thinking is rather antiquated), I can still understand that he simply wants his young child to grow up with peace and innocence, unmarred by the tumultuous world.
  13. So why do I read? Perhaps the simplest answer is the best one. Why not?
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photo credit: Google images

Why do YOU read? Do tell me, I’d love to know!

sherlock season 4!

FINALLY. THE LONG-ANTICIPATED FOURTH SEASON OF MY FAVOURITE SHOW IS HERE.

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I watched episodes 1 and 2 last night, and I personally thought episode 2 was better. More on that later.

The first episode, The Six Thatchers, was nothing short of amazing. It was an unforgettable, heart-wrenching opening to a new season. It was even a little creepy, with the shots of the broken busts and the skulls. Quite macabre, if you ask me. I only have one teeny tiny complaint about season 4’s first episode:

IT WAS EMOTIONAL. TOO EMOTIONAL.

What happened to the cold, hard logic of my favourite high-functioning sociopath? I wish there had been more detective and case-busting, (hahah) and I felt that The Six Thatchers had more emotional elements to it than necessary. I wanted more of Sherlock’s fascinating mind palace. I wanted to hear him voice his observations more often. (I don’t think John would agree.) I wanted Sherlock to be the detective I love so much. But instead…

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this is the expression that was on my face

*spoilers ahead*

The scene with the most emotional impact was of course, Mary’s killing blow. I had to literally pause for a second to catch my breath and then let out a small scream of frustration! WHY?! WHYYYYYY??!! Oh, my dear Watson, my heart breaks for you. The feels are still pounding in waves over me:

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I wanted to slap Sherlock for goading Vivienne into using her pistol. Ugh, Sherlock, I love you and your brilliant mind, but did you have to do that? Especially when Mary said in that voice and tone, “Sherlock,” like three times! Even though I love it when Sherlock unleashes his observational powers, sometimes I do sympathize with John and his irritation with Sherlock’s arrogance and tendency to show off.

So with a heavy heart, I watched the second episode and I literally want to SCREAM MY LUNGS OUT because WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT ENDING?!  You can’t seriously expect me to wait a whole entire week for the finale. I’m not sure I’ll live that long, truthfully, not with this enormous storm of feels brewing ominously in my brain.

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same, Sherlock, same.

The second episode, The Lying Detective, took a dark turn towards a “living, breathing coagulation of human evil” in the form of its villain, Culverton Smith (Toby Jones). The best word I can use to describe Smith is creepy. His ease in the morgue with cadavers was morbid. The fact that he killed people in a hospital that he loved and supported…well, that was a nice touch to his macabre agenda. Even his toothy smile was downright bone-chilling. *shudders* However, because Smith was so convincingly portrayed as a complete psycho, I couldn’t take my eyes off the TV screen. He makes Moriarty look tame.

And I just don’t know about that cheesy “cereal killer” pun. I just don’t know. What I do know is that I won’t be making that joke again. Ever.

I’m also not entirely convinced that Sherlock didn’t recognize his own sister, Eurus. The only explanations that make sense to me are 1) He was plotting with his sister the whole time, which explains why he wasn’t at all surprised to see her with Watson because he’d planned it. You’d think that after not seeing his sister in years that he’d express some kind of reaction. Or 2) Sherlock usually fixates himself on noticing small details about a person, not necessarily his/her face alone. So maybe, just maybe, that’s why he didn’t recognize her face.

But to think that all this time, I thought the third Holmes sibling was a brother named Sherrinford! I had my suspicions that the drug addict Sherlock previously found in a drug den was the third Holmes brother, because Billy (is that his name?) has some pretty solid observational skills, reminiscent of Sherlock and Mycroft’s own abilities. Additionally, Mycroft made it sound like he and Sherlock had another brother when Mycroft mentioned previously in another season that “[he’s] not prone to outbursts of brotherly compassion. You know what happened to the other one.”

The Lying Detective raises so many questions in my head. Why and how did Sherlock predict that Molly, Watson, and Smith would end up at Eurus’ place? I’m calling bullshit on his “two weeks” prediction. What if he arranged the whole thing with his sister? Because how could Sherlock, observational mastermind, not notice his own sister?! Where does Sherrinford (Mycroft’s post-it note: “Call Sherrinford, 2 pm”) factor into all of this? And one more question: HOW DID EURUS KNOW ABOUT FAITH SMITH AND WHAT SHE WROTE DOWN BEFORE HER FATHER ERASED HER MEMORY?

My favourite part in all of season 4 so far has to be when Mrs. Hudson shows up, speeding in a wicked beautiful Aston Martin with Sherlock handcuffed in the trunk and a police officer on her tail. And then…

Mrs. Hudson: (to John Watson) “If you ever need anything, ANYTHING, just ask.”

Watson: //scheming face// “Can I borrow your car…sometimes?”

Mrs. Hudson: *purses lips and frowns* “No.”

Watson: *shoots her with a perplexed look*

But then some time later, when Watson has to race to the hospital to save Sherlock…

Mrs. Hudson: *tosses keys to Watson*

Watson: //confused face//

Mrs. Hudson: “CAR”

I laughed until my eyes leaked tears and my cheeks hurt! Mrs. Hudson was so full of surprises, and I’m not even going to mention what she did to get Sherlock into the trunk of her Aston Martin. I can’t wait to see what role she plays in season 4’s finale.

I really hope that Sherlock will be renewed for a fifth season because I can’t seem to ever get enough of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic detective. Benedict Cumberbatch is an insanely talented actor (I was amazed at the scene where he runs around trashing his apartment like a madman and waving his gun at photos of Culverton Smith) and so far, his stellar performances in these two new episodes have me convinced that the season finale will be far darker and action-packed than anything I’ve seen before in previous episodes and seasons.

So tell me, what are your thoughts on the new season of Sherlock?

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The Irene Adler (she is briefly mentioned in episode 2!) necklace and 221B Baker Street cuff bracelet featured in this post were both made by Julie from Authored Adornments. You can use code BOOKSHOP upon checkout to receive 10% off your order from her etsy shop!

hello, 2017!

Happy New Year, my friends! I hope you’re all enjoying the festivities and fireworks. May 2017 bring you all things good.

To be frank, 2016 was quite a whirlwind. Many people might be inclined to say that it was absolute shit, but I disagree. Why focus on the negative aspects of 2016, like the deaths of our beloved Alan Rickman and Carrie Fisher? Or the hate that has practically torn apart our country? Now, that’s not to say that we should overlook and dismiss these events simply because they are in the past, but rather, we should focus on the positives and propel ourselves forward.

I’d like to focus on one word for 2017: POTENTIAL.

po·ten·tial /pəˈten(t)SHəl/

(adjective) having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future

(noun) latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness

We have potential. Heck, even electricity has “potential.” (Electric potential? Where are my physics nerds? hah.)  Point is, everything has potential. 2017 has the potential to be great or…not-so-great. It depends entirely on you and what you make of it.

There are a lot of things that I’m looking forward to in 2017, namely:

  • the Beauty and the Beast live-action film
  • graduating high school and setting off for college
  • traveling with friends and family
  • SHERLOCK SEASON 4
  • Hamilton’s West End debut in LA
  • release of A Court of Wings and Ruin

I typically don’t make New Year’s resolutions because let’s be pragmatic here, they’re usually not fulfilled. And also because I think that the drive to complete a goal should be present year round, not just at the beginning of the year. Still, I believe it’s healthy to set a few personal goals for self-growth every year. Some of my own objectives for the upcoming year include:

  • reading another 100 books for my Goodreads challenge
  • making at least three new friends
  • quitting my disgusting nail-biting habit
  • traveling to a new country + visiting a new place
  • writing and journaling on a daily basis (or at least every other day)
  • learning to cook at least 10 different dishes

Unfortunately, the we don’t live in Cinderella’s world, where everything changes at the stroke of midnight. We can never forget the tumultuous events of the past year, but what we can do is move on and forge new memories and relationships. The new year brings new beginnings and allows us a chance to start fresh. I encourage all of you to set goals and pursue them! And above all, never ever let the hard days win. Have a little faith, and focus on the positive side of things and on your potential to be a part of the goodness in the world.

Let’s make 2017 good for all of us.

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the joy of christmas book tag

Merry Christmas, lovelies! Did you get all the books you asked for? Or, better yet, a gift card to Barnes & Noble?

Christmas has always been special to me, not because of the gift-giving, but because it means time off from work and school for family. Though holiday dinners can be nerve-wracking (trust me on this one) it’s always nice seeing relatives get together and catch up. I personally love talking the night away with my cousins, with a cup of hot chocolate in hand. Like Sierra from What Light, I use a candy cane to stir the chocolate into the steamed milk to add in a taste of peppermint.

So when I saw The Joy of Christmas book tag on my friend Rachael’s blog, I knew I had to participate as well! Here goes nothing:

ANTICIPATION: the Christmas excitement is real, what book release(s) are you most anticipating?

Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

A Court of Wings and Ruin (ACOWAR, which might as well just be called A Court of Want a Rhysand) by Sarah J. Maas

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

Now I Rise by Kiersten White

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

The Hummingbird Heart by A.G. Howard

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

CHRISTMAS SONGS AND CAROLS: what book or author can you not help but sing praises for?

Heartless by Marissa Meyer. It. shattered. my. heart. and. I. still. haven’t. recovered. ugh.

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GINGERBREAD HOUSES: what book or series has wonderful world building?

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Ohh, this is so difficult! My first thought is actually my friend Tiffany’s book-in-progress. The way she structured her world is totally insane. I really felt like I was there, in the world she spun out of her imagination.

But if I had to choose from a book/series that’s already been published, I can’t go wrong with J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, can I? Harry Potter was practically my childhood! Seventh year Hogwarts Ravenclaw Head Girl here. 🙂

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: favourite classic or one that you want to read

I meant to finish reading Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I guess that’s something I can do with the rest of my winter break…

CHRISTMAS SWEETS: what book would you love to receive for Christmas?

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Can I just get ACOWAR right now? Please? May 2 is too far away!! But to be more pragmatic, I’d love to receive the illustrated versions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

CHRISTMAS TREES AND DECORATIONS: what are some of your favourite book covers?

I love the covers for the Starbound trilogy! I think I’ve raved about how gorgeous these covers are in a previous book tag, but I mean look at this:

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CHRISTMAS JOY: what are some of your favourite things about Christmas and/or some of your favourite Christmas memories?

I love driving around the neighborhood, admiring the lights. Almost everyone on my street puts them up, and the myriad of twinkling lights is really breathtaking at night. It’s such a small thing, but I appreciate it nonetheless.

My dad gifted me my first fountain pen this morning, and it’s so beautiful I want to cry a little. I’ve always wanted one, so he got me a dark blue one from Cross! So while this memory is fairly fresh, I know I’ll remember for the years to come. Yesterday my uncle gave me a medical encyclopedia, which I am SO excited about! He says the virology section is the most interesting, but so far, I think anesthesia, cataract surgery, and the history of microscopes are cooler. Yes, I know. I’m such a nerd!

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Merry Christmas, everyone! Spend time with family. Eat good food. Laugh a lot. May the days ahead be forever merry and bright.

too late: a discussion

Who’s a fan of Colleen Hoover? *raises both hands*

CoHo is such a talented writer! She has a way of tugging at my heartstrings and making her readers, myself included, fall in love with her characters. I don’t know what it is, but I always find myself sucked into her stories. The world could be exploding into smithereens and I wouldn’t notice because I’d be too engrossed in one of her novels.

I was, at first, hesitant to pick up Too Late by Colleen Hoover because I wasn’t sure if I’d be okay with reading really graphic scenes depicting abuse, rape, murder, and drug use. But damn, I am so glad that I went ahead and took the leap anyway. Here is the synopsis:

Sloan will go through hell and back for those she loves.
And she does, every single day.
After finding herself stuck in a relationship with the dangerous and morally corrupt Asa Jackson, Sloan will do whatever it takes to get by until she’s able to find a way out.
Nothing will get in her way.
Nothing except Carter.

Sloan is the best thing to ever happen to Asa. And if you ask Asa, he’d say he’s the best thing to ever happen to Sloan. Despite Sloan’s disapproval of Asa’s sinister lifestyle, he does exactly what he needs to do in order to stay a step ahead in his business. He also does exactly what he needs to do in order to stay a step ahead of Sloan.
Nothing will get in his way.
Nothing except Carter.

For those of you who have already read Too Late–

We need to talk. About Asa Jackson.

I know everyone despises him and hates him for the hell he put Sloan through, but he was a much better developed character than Sloan and Carter. He had substance. He was dynamic and interesting.

I could understand that Asa really did love Sloan, even if it was in the most twisted way possible. Sure, he was all f*cked up, but not without reason. His behaviour made sense when it was revealed that his father had basically ruined him, ruined him to pieces with his “advice” on women and whores. Of course, this in no way excuses what he did, though. But as a result, Asa ended up growing up with a very…complex way of viewing things. He was manipulative. Undeniably smart. Deceptively charming. He knew his way around people, and he knew how to please Sloan in more ways than one. Because of his sorry excuses for parents, Asa just wanted a love that would stay with him, and a love who, by his father’s definition, wasn’t a whore. For this, I sympathized with him. I felt a little sorry for the broken boy inside of him.

Reading from Asa’s point of view was both scary and surprising. Yes, he drops a lot of f-bombs and profanity. Yes, he constantly thinks about sex. He always took me by surprise with his scheming, especially the whole act with schizophrenia, as well as the FBI bust. If he weren’t so psychotic, I’d be tempted to say that he’s wicked brilliant.

Colleen Hoover is extremely talented for creating Asa’s multi-dimensional character. As a reader, I could see that Sloan brought out the best in him, almost like how Vanessa Mariana brought out a more human and vulnerable side to Wilson Fisk from Daredevil. But like I’ve already said, this definitely doesn’t excuse any of the terrible things he did–committing murder, engineering a drug ring, rape, cheating on Sloan, etc. One of the things I was most disgusted with was when he told Carter that the reason why he cheats constantly on Sloan is because he has to satisfy his sexual cravings as a male, and that females don’t operate the same way. So…wait? If Sloan cheats, she’s a whore, and if Asa cheats, he still gets to be Asa? No way in hell is that twisted logic going to be acceptable!

I have never felt more conflicted about a character in my life, ever.

As for Carter, he honestly felt like an archetypal shining knight in armor to me. Boring. Cue the yawns. I couldn’t really connect with his character. And even though Sloan had her moments of strength, I found it frustrating to read from her perspective because she was almost always crying. Like, girl, if you don’t like something, quit bawling in bed and do something about it! I think she only fell for Carter because he was the exact opposite of Asa, and he was who she needed at the time. But luckily, she grew on me as the book progressed. By the epilogue of the epilogue, she’d grown a spine of steel! To avoid spoiling the ending, I’m just going to say it was bloody f*cking brilliant. And it involves a trash can.

I have reservations about recommending this book because while I thought it was quite good in a dark and disturbing way, it might not be the right fit for younger readers and those who are more sensitive to graphic scenes.

My full review is here, on Goodreads.

fantastic beasts movie review

I know, I know, I’m so unfashionably late to the game! Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them features a magizoologist named Newt Scamander who accidentally sets loose a briefcase filled with (yes, you guessed it) fantastic beasts in 1926 New York City. I watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on November 26 with a good friend of mine and needless to say, it was FANTASTIC. (excuse the overused pun.) I loved Newt and his whole menagerie of magical creatures.

BE WARNED: mild spoilers ahead!

Eddie Redmayne was the perfect Newt Scamander. (Okay, Eddie Redmayne is perfect. Have you seen him as Marius in Les Misérables? And Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything?) The way he cared for his magical creatures was so moving! I could really feel and see the emotion behind his actions. Personally, my favorite “beast” is Pickett the bowtruckle. When Newt reluctantly handed him over to a goblin, I swear my heart was screaming “NOOOOOOOO! DON’T. YOU. DARE. DON’T DO IT!” And the scene near the end when the magizoologist was trying to get Pickett to smile was so adorable. Shy little Pickett just made a face like are you joking my life you betrayed me!!

The other magical creatures were just as endearing. How adorable was the shiny stuff-loving Niffler? And can we talk about how the invisible little Demiguise took care of the Occamy? I was also ecstatic to see the Thunderbird make an appearance, the bird for which my Ilvermorny house is named after.

The most hilarious scene in the movie HAS to be the Erumpent mating dance in Central Park. I watched the behind the scenes clip on how it was filmed and I think I died in a fit of giggling. Eddie Redmayne is one super talented actor to be able to pull that one off!

Though the visual effects were stunning, I must admit that the plot was a bit lacking. In fact, I wasn’t even aware that there was a plot until much later because it was so slow. It was too easy to guess who the real villain was, and I wasn’t a fan of Johnny Depp as Grindelwald. But maybe that’s because I still have a mental image of Jamie Campbell Bower as a young Gellert Grindelwald from the previous Harry Potter films. Fantastic Beasts did bring back a lot of nostalgia for the wizarding world, though. I just wish ‘Muggle’ was a universal term, rather than a strictly British word for ordinary folk. America gets ‘No-Maj’ instead. Ah well.

All in all, I’d say that Fantastic Beasts was a pretty solid and enjoyable film that sets the premise for the next few movies. JK is still out there, Rowling! (hahah) I can’t wait to see what the following films have in store for us!