{ESC} BOOK THREE: WARM BODIES

Dear Reader,

If there are two things I want you to get from this review it’s this: 1. Warm Bodies is definitely worth the read. And 2. The book is sooooo much better than the movie (shocker).

That actually made me sad, though. I bought the book the same day my sister bought the movie and I read it in a night (it’s a quick read, which I loved). So we watched the movie and, though I adore Nicholas Hoult, I was just mad the whole time. Sarah, on the other hand, had never read the book, so she loved the movie.

But obviously the book is going to go into things that the movie just doesn’t have time for, but that’s what made the book so amazing! I had heard of it before–I knew it was about a zombie who fell in love with a human, but the book explained life before the apocalypse so much better, and it went into the backstories of the characters. I mean, I loved Perry in the book, and his story was heartbreaking, but in the movie he was just a jerk. And we didn’t get to understand why.

Anyway, Warm Bodies is now one of my favorite books. I’d recommend it to anyone who loves a good romance story but doesn’t mind a bit of action, blood, guts, and brains, or an insight into our civilization and what might cause its downfall.

Sincerely,

Sammy

PS. The song for this post is actually from the trailer of Warm Bodies: Lonely Boy – The Black Keys. I hope you enjoy the official music video, which is just a man dancing to the song.

{ESC} BOOK TWO: HOW TO BE PARISIAN WHEREVER YOU ARE

Dear Reader,

I really didn’t think I would love this book as much as I did. Or that it would be as quick of a read. But I read it in one night and absolutely loved it.

It isn’t a story of any kind, but rather tips and insights for a Parisian lifestyle. Four French women came together and wrote everything from basic wardrobe and jewelry pieces to parenting tactics to books you should have on your bookshelf to how to make him think you have a lover.

I’ll admit, when I first started reading it, I didn’t think I would enjoy it. I thought so in the bookstore, but within the first few pages, I read about how the Parisian woman is not a role-model, which is a disclaimer they have. But I kept turning the pages and asked myself, “why am I reading this? Why did I even pick this up?” I mean, this woman seemed so stand-offish and self-entitled. And not only could I never become her (I’ve always tried to be polite and kind to others), but why would I want to?

Nevertheless, I continued reading and slowly fell in love. Maybe it was the perfection of the author’s writing or the fact that it made me miss Paris, but I ate everything up. I mean, I stayed until until 2 just reading furiously and taking notes, writing down everything that I loved (I’ll probably make an entirely separate post later sharing them). And then the next day, I shared them with my sister and we marveled at its beauty together.

Still, I can see the beef that some people have with this book. I mean, there’s a section called “The ABCs of Cheating,” and the first rule is deny, deny, deny. Furthermore, the book is riddled with contradictions and startling claims made by these Parisian women. I’ll repeat: they’re not role models.

But there’s something to say about their message. They have many, but the one that most stuck out and resonated with me was their confidence. If the Parisian woman is one thing, it is confident. And I think there’s something admirable about that.

The Parisienne adores her imperfections, and never completely corrects. They’re not against plastic surgery or makeup or anything, but, as they put, “the gap in her smile or her slightly crooked tooth, her prominent eyebrows or strong nose: these are the signs of a certain strength of character and allow her to feel beautiful without before perfect.

More than anything, their beauty is underneath the surface.

“It’s her personality that sparkles like nothing else: the signs of intellectual wealth.”

So maybe I don’t want to cheat on my husband or act like a snob as often as I can, but I want to be strong, confident, and beautiful. In that sense, I want to be Parisienne.

Sincerely,

Sammy

PS. The song for this post is Flawless Remix by Beyonce feat. Nicki Minaj. Love.

NEW FAVORITE YOUTUBER: THE CLAIRITY PROJECT

Dear Reader,

This is not the kind of post I was going to make today, but after discovering Claire, I had to.

was planning on posting either another book review (I’ve finished both Warm Bodies and How to be Parisian Wherever You Are for the Empty Shelf challenge!) or my favorite albums from 2014. And then I was thinking of even doing a rant about quotes that turn infamous, but then I found Claire.

I don’t know who knows (I feel like I mention it all the time), but I’m writing a novel. And in that novel I have a character with cystic fibrosis, so, obviously I need to research it. I think it is so important to get everything right because it’s real. It’s not just a way to manipulate a story or tug on a reader’s heartstrings. My character is a girl whose personality develops much further than this diagnosis.

So, in the midst of my research, I came across this video: Perks of Going to the Hospital

Claire immediately starts off her video with a burst of energy and then babbles excitingly about all the cool things they have at the hospital–like every kind of junk food you can imagine, nurses who are obligated to your vent sessions, and so much free time to read.

So, I decided to explore her channel for a bit. It’s fairly new, 3 months old, but I’m obsessed. I’ve been watching her reviews of “Red Band Society,” a TV show on FOX that I love. It’s so interesting to hear her opinions on it, though–especially those about Dash, the cystic fibrosis patient on the show.

But the thing is, yes I find all of her videos fascinating because I’m learning so much more about the life of someone with CF, but that’s not why she’s my favorite. She’s an inspiration, but not because she’s happy despite it all. She’s an inspiration because she’s happy. And funny. And smart. And she makes amazing YouTube videos that I’ve been binge-watching.

She’s setting out to break down the barriers that people tend to have with people who are sick. Many people with CF are isolated (especially from others with the same disease) because their immune systems are weaker and there are so many infections that can spread, but she wants those connections. And I truly relate to that desire.

Well anyway, I just wanted to share her and her channel like I share any other book, song, music group, YouTube video, etc. that I adore.

Sincerely,

Sammy

PS. Song of the moment is Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black. For some reason, this song has been on repeat for days for me, but it’s so good. 

PPS. All of the aforementioned posts will be coming soon! (If anyone wanted to know)

{ESC} BOOK ONE: CRAZY RICH ASIANS

Dear Reader,

I actually forgot to post this review right when I finished the book (last Friday, oops), but better late than never, right?

So here’s what I’m going to do with this Empty Shelf Challenge: once I complete each book, I’m going to share my thoughts on it in a quick review-type fashion. Except I don’t make my reviews in the typical, “here’s the entire plot and prologue, here’s my list of pros and cons that I thought up whilst reading, and here’s my recommendation: do/don’t read this book” way. There’s nothing wrong with that sort of review, it’s just not how I do things.

You see, sometimes I don’t like knowing the plot. I’m very weird about spoilers (I mean I only get one chance for a book to make a first impression on me–one chance to read it for the first time ever! This can be a big deal.) and sometimes I like picking up random books in the library and check them out and read them without so much as perusing the back cover. That’s what I did with Rebel Belle and let me tell you, that was a surprise.

Sometimes the entire book is summarized in a paragraph on the back page and it’s almost like why even read the book in the first place? Of course there’s plenty of reasons to read a book after learning what it’s about, but all I’m saying is sometimes it’s fun to dive in without knowing a thing, and then everything‘s a surprise!

Alright, enough talk about how I’m going to review these books–I’ll just go ahead and do it.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. I actually really loved this book. I picked it up in a random bookstore in Dayton because, well, that title. How could I not? And then I actually did read the back cover and it was enough for me to buy it. And I’m so glad I did.

It wasn’t as quick of a read as the books I’ve been reading lately (it’s 500+ pages), but by the end I couldn’t put it down. There’s just so many stories, so many characters to fall in love with, and so many twists that I didn’t see coming. It’s also much sadder than I expected. I had to put the book down a few times because some of the lines just broke my heart. But, without spoiling anything, I will say that it definitely has its heartwarming parts as well.

All in all, I loved this book–more than I thought I would. AND there’s a sequel. It’s expected to come out in 2015 but I can’t wait. I’ll definitely be picking up my own copy as soon as it’s released. This one was a solid four stars for me.

Sincerely,

Sammy

PS. Miniature throwback for this feature song, but it’s just as good as it was in 2012: Bruises by Train feat. Ashley Monroe

PPS. I’ll be posting all of my 2015 reads on here, of course, but you can also keep up with me on Goodreads. Let’s be friends!

{TOP 5} I LOVE ABOUT PAGES

Dear Reader,

Because it’s Christmas break and I’m at home, being a hermit, I’ve been obsessed with WordPress and blogging in general. And not just writing and sharing–but finding new blogs and interacting and socializing (which is really ironic, considering I seem to only leave my room for food these days).

Anyway, one of the first things I do when I find a new blog is check out their “About” page. This isn’t ever a make-it or break-it deal, but I enjoy learning a bit more about the author and their blog before I decide to follow them. And, honestly, some peoples’ “About” pages are the greatest things ever.

So I thought I would share some favorites.

The Happy LifeaholicFirst of all, great name. And her bio is relatable, funny, and filled with awesome little images and doodles and cartoons. I especially enjoy the fact that she writes it at a point in her life where exercise is big, so she says she’ll probably be posting about it a lot and stick with it, but then comes back and updates it saying, “who am I kidding? Didn’t happen..the only exercise I do is walking to my fridge a million times a day, pulling the door open, and staring in.” Same, girl.

TaisieTaisie’s “About” page is really unique, which I, obviously, love! It’s just a list of 50 facts about her, but they’re all so random and wonderful. These facts range from “I love fire” to “I am not convinced that I can staple” to “I can’t ride a unicycle” (who can, really?). I sincerely suggest reading the whole list.

*Also: I was 18 when I got my first kiss too! Practically. 2 months away. So I’m with you, girl.

Sick and Sick of ItPossibly the best “About Me” I’ve ever seen. It starts: Once upon a time, there was a princess, and her name was Ella. Intrigued, right? Well it gets better with every sentence and I don’t want to spoil the fun, so just go read it! Ugh, it’s great. She’s great. Her whole blog is great. Go look.

College with AshleyHere’s one that’s short and sweet and sums up college in one sentence.

Love and SparklesI just agree with a lot that she has to say and find her “About” page to be really refreshing. She believes in people and chasing dreams and documenting life, and I just love that. I also think her opening quote is perfect: “Life is a collection of stories, and these are mine.”

There’s so many more amazing blogs I could feature in this post, but this is getting to be pretty long so I’ll just end it here. And maybe I’ll make another one of these in the future–after I’ve done some more exploring and found more gems.

Or maybe I should update my own bio. I’m feeling inspired.

Sincerely,

Sammy

PS. Lately I’ve been OBSESSED with The Vamps. Their entire album is fantastic, but my favorites are definitely Risk it All and Girls on TV.

2015 Bucket List

Dear Reader,

For those of you who don’t know me, I love bucket lists. I actually love lists in general–my phone is filled with lists of songs, things to do, potential baby or character names, ideas that I get, things that make me laugh, and anything else that I feel needs to be written down.

In the past, though, my bucket lists haven’t been very successful. Yet, I continue to make them and continue to fail.

But I think I figured out why this continues to happen–I always seem to forget about them. And then I’ll remember, but it’ll either be too late or I won’t be motivated anymore, and the whole project ends up failing.

So this year, I’m going to make one slight change. (After all, it was Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results).

In order for me to complete this list, I’m going to make it constantly on my mind. I’ll put it everywhere and set goals for it and check in regularly and be persistent about it. And, hopefully, I’ll be successful.

But, either way, bucket lists are fun to make and planning for the future has always been a joy for me. As Margo Roth Spiegelman says, “the pleasure isn’t doing the thing, the pleasure is in planning it.” (I don’t know if I agree with that completely, but I do take pleasure in making plans.)

So, without further ado, my 2015 bucket list:

  1. become an Aunt – I always start my bucket lists with something inevitable, and my sister just happens to be due in February, so this is fitting
  2. rush a sorority
  3. complete The Empty Shelf Challenge
  4. submit a piece of my work to be published – not even get published. Just take the step and put yourself out there!
  5. travel outside of the country
  6. be able to run a 7-minute mile – this may not seem like a big accomplishment at all, but it has been a while since I’ve even attempted to run a mile, so if I can end 2015 with a 7-minute mile under my belt, I’ll be content.
  7. go somewhere new
  8. learn to draw – just one thing! a puppy, a pelican, a person (don’t mind the accidental alliteration)–I just want to have one thing I can sort of draw kind of well.
  9. at least start a scrapbook 
  10. watch 50 new movies
  11. make a jar for memories
  12. be confident in a bathing suit
  13. write at least 3 letters to 23-year-old Sammy – this one requires more information that the rest, so I’ll probably just end up doing a whole other post about it when the time comes.
  14. run a 5k
  15. finish my daily sudoku puzzles (from 2014) – failed project from 2014, meet 2015.
  16. go to a concert
  17. learn 365 new words – ideally one a day, but we know how I tend to handle daily tasks (see #15).
  18. have a birthday “party” – it’s been a solid 5 years since I’ve had one, and I keep meaning to at least celebrate my birthday with friends, but it never happens. So maybe 19 will be the year
  19. go to the batting cages
  20. watch the sunrise
  21. learn how to use chopsticks
  22. color my hair – dye a streak purple, go read, dip-dye it pink–something that I can only get away with because I’m young
  23. join a new club
  24. explore interesting buildings on campus that I’ve never seen before
  25. write a letter – put pen to paper, lick the envelope, smack a stamp on it. We don’t do this as much anymore and that makes me sad.
  26. attend a random lecture for a class I don’t take
  27. people watch 
  28. take a hot bath/have a spa day – candlelight, calming music, a few drops of lavender essential oil, this is one I can’t wait to get checked off the list.
  29. learn how to skate backwards
  30. talk to strangers – just random people in general. I can be very shy but I find people fascinating. So this is just kind of a persistent reminder for me to reach out and interact with other human beings every once in a while
  31. volunteer
  32. reach 300 followers on Sincerely Sammy – let’s be ambitious.
  33. take senior pictures with Sarah
  34. learn how to juggle
  35. be someone’s inspiration for 2016 – not exactly something I can check off (unless someone comes up and tells me I inspire them, I guess), but I always like putting something like this on here. It’s a good goal to strive for.

Well, there you have it. Most of those are things I have been meaning to get around to for ages (learning how to use chopsticks, making a jar for memories), so on the list they go.

Feel free to comment any suggestions for the list–or let me know what you plan to accomplish in 2015! I just love these things.

There’s nothing like the promise of a new year.

Sincerely,

Sammy

PS. I’m diggin this tune: The Mother We Share – CHVRCHES

EMPTY SHELF CHALLENGE

Dear Reader,

Each year, one of my resolutions is always the same: read more. And, each year, I start off strong, struggle for a few months, and then end just as I began. But I don’t come close to making any of the reading goals I set for myself.

And maybe it’s because I have more time to read in the winter compared to the rest of the year, but this year I’m going to be self-motivated for the full twelve months.

*Cue The Empty Shelf Challenge*

This challenge was created at the end of 2013 by Jon Acuff and the rules are simple: clear off a shelf in your bedroom/office/library/etc. and fill it by the time the New Year rolls around with the books you read. I’m starting mine today because 1) I just went on a shopping spree where I bought four new books that I can’t wait to dive into and 2) in the words of Jon, himself, waiting until January 1st to do something awesome is stupid and fake.

So that’s what I’m up to. I encourage everyone to partake–I challenge everyone to, actually. And you can even do this if you’re an e-book reader or audiobook listener! Just get out there and read–and share your progress on their Pinterest board too!

Here’s to the many stories to discover in 2015.

Sincerely,

Sammy

PS. Current obsession: Ghost by Ella Henderson

AN EXPLANATION FOR YESTERDAY

Dear Reader,

I don’t know that this post is necessary to write because I don’t know that there are any people who truly follow and keep up with what I post on this website, but on the off chance that there are, I thought this update was called for.

My first semester classes are all wrapped up–finals week is over. And for one final, I was supposed to publish a piece I had written. I could choose anything I wrote for the class, and there was a long list of publications where I could submit my work, but I decided not to do it. My professor allowed me to turn in a “mock” query letter and submission, but I never sent it out anywhere.

When it came down to it, I wasn’t confident in anything I had written. I couldn’t see my writing in any magazines or literary journals. My lyric essay wasn’t even done yet–and I don’t know that it ever will be. At least in the near future. The subject I picked is an ongoing struggle I face, and there’s no end in sight as far as I’m concerned.

As for my personal essay, I didn’t think it fit any of the publications. My writing isn’t mature, and I felt that this story just wasn’t worth telling quite yet. Who cares about the inner battle I fought during my senior year in high school?

But I had worked hard on it–writing, editing, re-writing, revising. And I was at least somewhat proud of the piece. At the very least, it helped me come to terms with how I truly felt that year, and I’m glad I finally have that story–the true story–written down.

And I decided to share it.

I’ve been sharing more of my writing on here, and even though this one tops 1,000 words, I thought why not? I’m not writing any other posts today. Why not put this out here? 

It’s not a publication–it’s not even a submission–but it’s a step. I shared my work and now it’s out there. It’s a minor victory, but a victory nonetheless.

And that’s the story. That’s the explanation for my seemingly out-of-place post yesterday. If you want, you can read it here, on my blog, where my work will remain until either my confidence or writing improves to a point where I feel comfortable submitting my work.

Maybe that day isn’t as far off as I once thought.

Sincerely,

Sammy

PS. I’m truly loving Luck by The American Authors right now.

 

{PERSONAL ESSAY} STATE CHAMPION

The air was icy cold and the freezing wind was, at times, brutal, but my layers kept me warm. Two pairs of socks, shin guards held up by duct tape, new cleats that hadn’t gotten much use (and wouldn’t be getting much use from there on out). Sliding shorts underneath my own white shorts that were just slightly different from everyone else’s. My hair was fashioned into a french braid that pulled back into a ponytail. Everyone had to have some sort of braid in their hair–for good luck, of course. We were a very superstitious team, and we couldn’t risk breaking any of our many rituals on November 9th.

Finally, and most important to the uniform, a long-sleeved number 19 jersey that I wore with an unsure sense of pride. Sure I was proud of my school, proud of my soccer program, proud of my community, but this jersey indicated that I was proud of myself. This jersey, the same one that was framed and hung on my bedroom wall once it was all over, was proof that I was part of this team. It didn’t say I was a small part, the most insignificant part, but people knew. And I couldn’t stop myself from wondering. All of the validation I crammed into my head was fleeting to say the least, and didn’t prevent the same old thoughts from creeping in.

What am I doing here? Do I even belong? What did I do to deserve all of this?

Then again, it’s not like it mattered. No one was focused on me anyhow.

I checked out the other team. They didn’t feel like my opponent, but I sized them up for the sake of the team. Mason High School. They’d always had a strong team. This certainly wasn’t their first time to the state championships, so they had that one up on us. Their forwards were fast and good shots. I was glad I wouldn’t be going up against them that day. Lucky. Relieved. That would’ve been the worst day to crack under the pressure of being a defender.

I warmed up with the team, silent through it all. I didn’t really have anyone to talk to, and I didn’t want to bother anyone who was trying to focus. I was just along for the ride. Like a little kid on bring your kid to work day. They showed me how it was done and I watched with awe.

The only problem I had with being so quiet was that I was alone with my thoughts, which was the worst. I wanted to feel like everyone else on the team. Pure pride and satisfaction. But when I was pondering these thoughts, I came to the conclusion that everyone hated me. I did half the work, had a tenth of the talent, but still got this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  It just didn’t make sense.

I couldn’t bear the thought of it anymore, so I looked around and took it all in. It was beautiful. The sky was dark black and the stadium lights shone down on us like spotlights. The field was pristine. A field I would’ve loved to play on, just not that day. I had felt myself falling out of love with the game for a while at this point, but this vision ignited a spark that would last just a few months more. Sure, that spark was meant to burn out eventually, but it kept me going for a little while longer.

I looked at the student section and saw all of these familiar faces, but I didn’t make eye contact with a single one because none of them were looking at me.

And why would they? They were looking at the 2012 dream team! A perfect season with 23 wins, 108 total goals scored with just 5 goals against. Led by Maddy Williams and Molly Whitacre–amazing athletes who went on to play at Purdue and Ohio University. Goalkeeper Chloe Buehler who came back from a devastating injury, only to break records and save the team countless times throughout the season. These were the players to watch. Who was I? Sammy Neiswander, junior, wasn’t she on JV? Oh, Sean’s little sister! He’s so good! Sucks about his ACL though…

That was my legacy. My brother was a player that I never lived up to, but his time got cut short due to a very unfortunate ACL tear. Then he went and tore his other one. Twice. He would never play soccer again. This game that he adored stabbed him in the back, and now he has to watch other people do what he had once dedicated his life to.

It wasn’t fair that I was living what was so many people’s dreams when I had done nothing thus far to deserve it.

I thought of the all the others. I thought of the girls whose places I took. Becca, Kenzi, Vicki, Maddy. They were all older than me, all arguably more talented and more suited for the team than me. Why was I the one chosen? Because I played defense? Because I stayed healthy throughout my entire career? Those weren’t good enough reasons for me.

I turned my attention back to the stands. I studied the sea of parents, overwhelmed with pride for their talented children. After all, this is what these soccer moms had been dreaming of for over a decade. All of the time, effort, and money. All of the carpooling and snack schedules and kissing the asses of the various coaches. All of it was paid off for them. They were living through their daughters that day, so life was good.

I looked back at the student section. Something kept drawing my eyes back to them. I was meant to be up there with them. I was a poser on the field. A glorified fan, really. I was dressed to play, but we all knew that I would be warming the bench all night.

And that I did. Sure, I was invested in the game. I sat on the edge of my seat. I jumped at every shot a player made and thanked God every time Chloe saved the day. And I rushed the field with every other person dressed in a black and gold jersey when the 90 minutes were up, thinking what every other person in the stands was thinking that night.

They did it! They won the state championships!

The game had ended. My own personal Hell that involved me sitting on the bench, drowning in my thoughts and contradicting feelings, was finally over. But it was really just the beginning.

I got swept up in the whole mess of it. We were recognized at a basketball game, the Walleye game, the state house, and the holiday parade. We signed hundreds of Christmas cards and set them to local businesses, thanking them for their support. We got sweatshirts, sweatpants, t-shirts and jewelry, all labeled 2012 State Champion.

What an achievement.

Countless girls have told me how that night was the single best night of their life. How that is their favorite memory from high school and how that is the biggest accomplishment they’ve ever made. And how can I disagree? What have I done that is bigger than being a part of that team?

Until I can come up with a good answer, I have to live with this. With my face on the wall of Perrysburg High School. With my jersey hung up in my room with my name engraved in perfect font. With my state ring, gathering dust inside my jewelry box, haunting me. I can never wear it because I never earned it, but I can’t get rid of it because it’s proof of my greatest success.

And soon it won’t fit. My fingers won’t always be the same size that they were when I was 16. I just hope that when the day comes that it is too small, I won’t need it anymore.

SEEKING: TRAVEL PAL

REQUIREMENTS:

Must be smart. Must be familiar with the outdoors and have plenty of common sense. It’s not necessary to be multi-lingual or excessively knowledgeable about history–though it wouldn’t hurt. No degrees necessary. At the very least, one must be able to hold intelligent conversations and discuss the many wonders of the universe late at night.

Must be fun. Must laugh a lot and have good stories to tell. Must be able to make good of any given situation and see the positives in life–find the big picture. Must encourage adventures in foreign places, but also be able to find it in places as dull as Ohio.

Must be spontaneous. Must be able to let go of our over extensive planning every once in a while and encourage gut feelings. Must be ready for adventure at all times–ready to pack up and leave in the middle of the night when necessary. Must allow me to be the cautionary one sometimes… most of the time. Crazy is not required, but not necessarily discouraged either.

Must be curious. Must talk to the natives and search for hidden gems. Must step away from the guidebooks and tourist destinations and roam the land with me–must encourage and understand my tendency to wander.

Age/race/gender/etc. doesn’t matter. More than one may be accepted. Now taking applications.

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