Friday, October 10, 2014

The Southern Girl's Guide to Books #2

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Hello, beauties! Now that we're heading into the cooler months, there is nothing better than snuggling up with a cup of tea and a book worthy of getting lost in. Whether you enjoy books that slow burn or ones that keep you warm with their action-packed pages, these crisp autumn days are made for reading to your heart's content. Today, I'm bringing you three books perfect for settling in with this fall!

The Lying Game by Sara Shepard
Emma Paxton has been in and out of foster care since her mother abandoned her when she five. So when she connects with a twin sister she never knew she had, Emma is excited at the prospect of finally having a real family. However, Emma's dream comes crashing down when she arrives to meet her sister, Sutton, only to find that Sutton is dead, and her killer expects Emma to assume Sutton's life...or else. Now it's a race to solve Sutton's murder without anyone finding out who she truly is or suffer the same fate.

For fans of: Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard, Private by Kate Brian, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Hazel Lancaster is a terminal cancer patient living on borrowed time thanks to an experimental "miracle" treatment. Intelligent and bitingly sarcastic, Hazel finds the cancer support group her parents send her to a waste of the little time she has left. That is, until Augustus Waters walks through the door. In an instant, everything changes and Hazel learns that her cancer may be terminal, but love doesn't have to be.

For fans of: A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, anything by Lurlene McDaniel

City of Bones by Cassandra Claire
After having a front row seat to a murder committed by a group of teens covered in strange tattoos, Clary Fray is pulled into the mysterious world of the Shadowhunters, a brotherhood of old that defends humanity from the evil hordes of the Downworld. Clary quickly learns that she has the gift of sight, the ability to see the supernatural, despite being normal, a mundane. Soon after, Clary's mother is kidnapped placing Clary at the center of the battle between the Shadowhunters and the Downworld. In order to solve the mystery of her powers and find her mother, Clary has to dive headfirst into a world she can hardly believe exists, all while dealing with her burgeoning feelings towards Jace, a young Shadowhunter with an even darker past.

For fans of: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia, Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

From reality to fantasy and everything in between, these picks are sure to get you through these cool autumn weeks! Now, make a cuppa, grab a new book, sit back, and relax!

Have you read any of these books? What's next on your to-read list?

Stay gorgeous, peaches!

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Where I've Been (Or How Insecurity Is a Dream Killer)

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Hello, beauties! Long time, no see! As you may (or may not, I don't know your life) have noticed, I've been away from the blog for a month now. It wasn't my intention to be gone this long. In fact, it wasn't my intention to be gone at all. But sometimes things and people get in the way of your best intentions, and that is what brings me to today.

So, where have I been? Nowhere, really. I've been around, occasionally posting to Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, but I've long been silent here on the blog. There were a lot of days that I wanted to post or wanted to be involved with the community, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I couldn't bring myself to sit at my laptop and craft a new post. I couldn't bear the thought of another blog chat. Needless to say, my laptop gathered a nice little layer of dust.

Why, you may ask? Well, things start farther back than this last month. From the time I was small, I have wanted to do something artistic with my life. I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to be a singer (and eventually made a demo to test the waters). I wanted to be a model, an artist, whatever I could do to use my imagination. I wanted to be a writer.

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I still have fake news bulletins I'd write on my grandmother's typewriter as a child, binders of my short stories from middle school, and journals of my angsty teenage poetry. In college, I was published in my school's literary magazine, and later rose up to become one of its editors. I took classes to hone my skills. I worked on writing a science fiction novel. Even last year, I had a poem published in an upstart lit, photography, and art magazine.

While I've had multiple blogs over the years, everything from personal blogs to a wedding planning blog, I decided to open this one after being inspired by a friend's blog. I was going through one of the worst times in my life (see my post on my mental health journey) and felt that indulging in a creative outlet, especially one that I've loved so much, would help me find my purpose again and turn things around. To say that it changed my life would be an understatement. Writing again for an audience empowered me in ways that I can't begin to describe.

While I was excited about what the future held, people around me were not always as enthusiastic. Reactions to my blogging have run a full gamut. Some people have insinuated that I don't deserve success from blogging. I've had some who felt early on that I was gaining a following too fast. They'd had to work harder and longer to gain their own followings for their artistic endeavors, therefore it wasn't fair because they deserved success more. I've had people look down their noses at me for blogging, and others who continue to suggest I shoot for a "real" job instead of a dream job.

At first, I was hurt, but tried to shrug it off. But as with any poison, eventually it overtakes your system until there is nothing left. Growing up, I was told quite often that my artistic dreams were no more useful than basket weaving, and that I'd never make anything of myself. (Though, let me state that my mother was always a beacon of encouragement. She reads my blog and would be hurt if I didn't make mention of her support. Hi, mom!) I always said I'd prove those people wrong. Yet, here I was, finding myself surrounded by more people who reinforced those childhood barbs.

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Things have culminated in these last few months with me feeling deeply insecure. I started believing that I didn't deserve to be successful. I doubted my talents. I felt like I'd wasted my entire life working on my writing. I took a backseat to all the people around me, never letting myself shine for fear of angering them. I've toyed with the idea of giving up blogging altogether, my finger hovering over the delete button on numerous occasions. And the saddest part is I think that some people would actually be happy if I did.

The insecurity seeped into all areas of my life. I don't even feel like I know who I am any more. I have been made to feel like I'm not allowed to be anyone at all. I feel like I'm not allowed to write, or explore new things, or even change my damn hair. I feel small, trapped, pathetic, unable to just be. I feel like I'm taking up space that I don't deserve to have, that I haven't earned. I've felt ill just looking at my computer. The amount of nights I've spent upset over all this in the past few months has been unreal.

I have always been the kind of person who feels like there is enough room in this world for all of us to shine. I find joy in everyone's accomplishments, large or small. I've never felt intimidated by other people doing the same things as me, or sharing success with others. I don't see life as a competition. I've not been one to hold back any "secrets" to success, and I love being able to give a helping hand to those in need. But I have learned in this past year that not everyone I've surrounded myself with feels the same.

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So, where does that leave me? I'm still hurt and sorting through my insecurities, but I've also become angry. That fighting spirit leaves me wanting to have another go at it. It leaves me hopeful that I can slowly shed those insecurities, get my life back, and remove the influences that brought me to this point in the first place. It makes me want to reach for my dreams again.

With that being said, I'm hoping to be back at the blogging game. I'm going to start out slow and see where that leads me. I'm shooting for two posts a week and adding more as I find my groove again. While I know that I didn't have to explain myself, I wrote this post as much for me as it is for my readers. I need the catharsis and I was tired of holding everything inside, allowing the poison to continue to control me.

I leave you all with a final message. Don't be like me. If you have friends or family that are trying to pull you down, who expect you to remain in the shadows instead of shining the way you were born to do, who don't give you the support you deserve, let them go. Let. Them. Go. Do not let people stand in your way. Be gracious and supportive and positive, and surround yourself with others who treat you in kind. Do not ever let anyone steal your dreams from you. Ever. You are not their opinions of you. You are a wonder who brings value to this world. Never forget that.

Stay gorgeous, peaches!

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