Are We Wasting Our Lives?|Gen Z Perspective on Social Media

A few years ago, I wasn’t allowed on any form of social media, and the allure of something forbidden to me yet used by many of my peers caused me to spend almost all of middle school begging my mom to let me on Instagram. She finally relented when I turned 14.

Now, almost two years later, I’m starting to understand my mom’s reluctance. My generation is hopelessly addicted to the Internet- myself absolutely included- and I’m beginning to realize that social media is honestly overrated. And I don’t think I’m the only person who thinks so: the amount of people I know who have said they wish they didn’t have social media is, quite frankly, surprising. So why does everyone still use it religiously? Should we be cutting back? Is social media even that bad?

What Makes Social Media Addicting?

Well, for me…

  1. It alleviates boredom– My chronic social media addiction compounded severely during the spring and summer, for one reason in particular: I was bored. The hours I’d used to spend doing schoolwork or doing things outside of the house were easily replaced by my phone.
  2. It provides social validation– This is one of the most disturbingly strong pulls for me. I am decidedly not popular at school, or really anywhere for that matter, and I constantly feel pressure to post whenever I have a picture of me that doesn’t look bad, or if I have accomplished something interesting. This is bad. The more I think about it, the worse it seems, and I know I am not the only person who feels like this.
  3. It satisfies your nosiness and curiosity– What is really the point of social media if not an outlet for people to pry into other people’s business? But the question I ask myself is, why do I feel so compelled to check Instagram and see all the people from my school post their selfies? It doesn’t make me feel good about myself. So why do I always feel the need to do it? I went on an Instagram cleanse about a month ago, during which I unfollowed almost 150 people. No regrets.
  4. It has become a source for news and politics– This one is mostly specific to 2020… if you live in America, you’d know that we’re in the midst of a very heated presidential election race at the moment. And I mean VERY heated. As a result of this, social media is flooded with political posts. I can’t stop looking at social media to check out what people are posting about, and every time, I’m bound to see something that makes me angry or upset. Especially if I look on the explore page. Every time. There’s no avoiding it. And, perversely, that only makes me want to check more often.
  5. It’s designed to keep you coming back– my history teacher recommended the Netflix documentary “Social Dilemma”, which I haven’t yet watched because we don’t have Netflix. Or do we? I don’t know because I’ve never watched Netflix in my life. (Yes, I know, I’m so quirky). But I don’t have to watch that documentary to realize that social media companies benefit from your usage. I deleted Instagram for Lent in 2019 and in 2020, and both years, I was constantly bombarded with emails from Instagram begging me to come back and “check out what I’d missed”. And it’s so easy to get sucked into the infinite scrolling trap!

I’ve also noticed SO many weird social constructs and habits that I adhere to because everyone else does, and after a while, I’ve started to realize just how pointless some of them are.

Weird Social Constructs of my Generation

  1. Obsession with followers– My friend and I used to always compare how many followers we had on Instagram (“I have 315 now, how many do you have?”) which, taking a step back, is honestly concerning. This kind of conversation isn’t particularly harmful, but it demonstrates everyone’s preoccupation with social approval on Instagram. I used to get really offended if I noticed that someone unfollowed me, even if I barely knew them, because it made me feel like people didn’t care about me at all. I deleted Instagram for Lent this past year because I was just fed up with this kind of thinking
  2. Vapid comments– If you look at a girl’s post on Instagram, the comments will be FILLED with “so cute!” “so gorgeous!” “pretty girl!” “so pretty!” from all her friends. Everyone posts the exact same comments on everyone’s posts, and the weird thing is that they still feel validating. There’s nothing wrong with commenting nice things on people’s posts; I just find it disconcerting that these kinds of comments can become less of a compliment and more of a common social courtesy that you say to everyone. I always feel supremely fake as the tenth person to comment “so cute!” on someone’s post
  3. Judging people– I feel like everyone judges you on Instagram. I see people’s posts and I silently judge them. And I carefully curate my own posts to make my life seem more interesting than it actually is. Sometimes I find myself looking at someone else’s feed and feeling really bad about myself, because it looks like they have so many more friends than me, their life is so much more fun, they are so much more photogenic. That’s another reason I deleted Instagram for Lent; it’s not super great for my self-esteem.
  4. Obsessing over Snapchat streaks– I got Snapchat about a year ago, and I already barely use it anymore. In all honesty, I don’t understand how Snapchat is considered addictive… at all. When I first got the app, I tried to keep my streaks with everyone, but after a while I stopped caring. There’s only so many times you can send pictures of the ceiling to your friends before it dawns on you that Snapchat is kind of pointless… I mostly just watch people’s stories now. But it’s weird to me that people put so much effort into preserving their streaks.
  5. Fairy comments– Listen, I know fairy comments are supposed to be a joke but… some of them go WAY too far. I also just don’t like when people think “no *sparkle* *fairy* *nail polish* *heart*” is a legitimate argument rebuttal. Sorry! (I really don’t belong in Gen Z, do I…)

Are We Wasting Our Lives?

It’s time to answer the titular question of this article. Is social media wasting our lives?

Well, the answer isn’t a definitive yes or no.

Are there better things you could be doing with your life other than scrolling through your phone, wishing you were more like someone else, just trying to pass the time in quarantine? Yes, there are. But you could make that claim about almost any activity.

Does social media have some merits to it? Of course.

It can be informative and it can be fun. It can help you connect with people. The question is: have we crossed the line of dependency?

I know people who spend 14 HOURS on their phones every single day. That number has probably increased in quarantine, but even pre-corona, it was a rarity to see anyone at school not on their phone.

Would I be able to delete social media? Probably. Do I want to? Kind of.
But I don’t think the answer is necessarily to get rid of social media. Instead, I think we need to break our dependence on it. Like they always say, moderation is key.

What do you think about social media? Do you spend a lot of time on it? Let me know in the comments!

Please subscribe to my blog! I mostly blog about books and occassionally post long rants/discussion posts like this one.

*Note- I have been SO busy since school has started, so I haven’t had much free time to be active on WordPress. I’ve been trying to stay updated on my reader with other people’s posts as much as I can, but it has been a lot!*

Book Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

another random thematic picture

How do you write a review for a nonfiction book?

I’m not exactly sure. There’s no criticizable plot and I can’t exactly critique the characters, so this review is just going to be an amalgamation of everything I found interesting about this book.

Which, in this case, was a LOT of things.

About the Book:

Title: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Author: Susan Cain

Genre: nonfiction, psychology, self-help

Rating: 4.5/5 (but how do you rate a nonfiction book?)

Book Review:

Among the many topics that are so interesting I could think about them all day are personality types (I’m an INTP with ennegream type 5 by the way)

This book is very interesting.

(“Interesting” is such a bland word, I know, but it just the perfect word to describe what I’m trying to describe. If you want to read this blog, you’ll have to get used to hearing me use the word “interesting” because I use it very frequently.)

Susan Cain’s main thesis is that society almost unfairly favors extroverts and qualities associated with extroversion- the “Extrovert Ideal”- and she seeks to explain why this is the case and to bring appreciation back to introverts.

She starts out by summarizing the rise of what she calls the “Extrovert Ideal” in America. According to this book, this societal change began with self-help schemes and advertisements that shifted the perception of the ideal personality from calm, reserved, and kind to outgoing, bold, and sociable. Ads began to paint the “attractive” personality as bold and charismatic, and told people that in order to be an admirable person, they had to command attention and stick out from the crowd.

Today, Cain points out, being extroverted often makes it a lot easier for you to be successful in life.

I definitely agree with this idea! I constantly have to pretend to be extroverted, even though I am definitely not. For example, I currently run a tutoring business with my friends. Meaning I have to go on Zoom and talk for an hour straight about algebra five times a week. I absolutely love tutoring, and now that I am more familiar with the kids I am much more comfortable, but when I first started I was intensely nervous for every single session.

I even have a leadership position in a couple clubs at my school, one of which was really scary because I had to run for it and give a speech and everything. There are benefits to doing these things, and I like going out of my comfort zone but…. it would be so much better if I weren’t so awkward! I constantly wish I had some semblence of charisma in any form.

It was so interesting to read a book that explained the reasons behind this societal preference. But Quiet isn’t a pity-party for introverts; on the contrary, it spends a lot of time exploring the merits of both types of people and identifies the good qualities introverts bring to the table.

Introverts, I learned, are usually more deliberative and cautious while extroverts are more like to be impulsive. Introverts are also more likely to be anxious and are also more likely to enjoy talking about deep subjects. They also have a harder time projecting positive emotions like enthusiasm (so relatable)

One thing I found particularly interesting was the claim that introverts tend to be more comfortable expressing themselves on the Internet as opposed to in real life. I can definitely relate to that, as this blog is essentially an outlet for my personality and my rants, and I’ve been told that my writing on here is more me-ish than actual in-person me.

Like much of the psychology things I have read about, though, there is no definitive law that determines how people act; therefore, different characteristics are present in different people regardless of their position on the introversion-extroversion scale. I could see myself in most of Cain’s description of introversion, but there were some things that didn’t exactly match. (ex: I talk a lot around people whom I know)

There are also a ton of really intriguing studies mentioned in this book, like one that suggested that peer pressure can directly impact your perception of things. Kind of scary, but super fascinating.

I also really liked the informative and engaging writing style, and the pleasant mix of anecdotes, history, statistics, and science.

Book Recommendation:

Overall, Quiet by Susan Cain was an extraordinarily interesting psychology book, and I had a difficult time putting it down (maybe that’s just me being a nerd, though). I’d recommend this to anyone who feels like reading something educational, absorbing, and potentially relatable.

That’s it for today’s book review. Thanks for stopping by my blog! Have you read Quiet by Susan Cain? Would you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert? Do you know your Myers-Briggs type? Let me know in the comments!

*Note- Last week, I forgot to turn my comments on and didn’t realize until three days later! If you wanted to reply to that post, I’m sorry, but I’ve turned my comments back on now. School has made me extremely scatterbrained!*

The Currently Reading Book Tag

a beautiful autumnal picture in honor of my FAVORITE season

I survived!

The first week of online school was definitely weird, but I actually didn’t hate it. I’ve heard lots of people complaining that being on their laptops all day gives them a headache, but… I’m on my laptop 24/7 anyway so I haven’t exactly noticed a difference.

I also finally started going back to some of my extracurriculars, and let’s just say I have appreciated the reminder that people besides my family actually exist in the world.

Today I am bringing you the Currently Reading Tag. Thank you to The Reading Addict for tagging me!

Let’s go ahead and get into the questions!

The Questions:

How many books do you usually read at once?

Usually just one, but sometimes I’ll read two or three at once if a) one of them is super tedious b) one of them is for a school assignment or sometimes c) they are vastly different genres or d) one of them is an audiobook

How do you decide when to switch between multiple reads?

I’ll switch between different reads depending on my mood. If I feel like reading something challenging, I’ll read the more tedious book. If I feel like reading something quick and exciting, I’ll read the fluffier book. If I feel like cleaning my room, I’ll put on the audiobook.

Do you ever switch bookmarks partway through a book?

I don’t usually use bookmarks. (uh oh, is that sacrilegious?) I normally use sticky notes or pieces of paper, and I honestly have no idea if I switch them out midway through books or not because I lose them all the time.

Sometimes I just try to remember the page number I was on instead of marking the page, but that usually makes it harder for me to concentrate on the book. I’ve also been mostly reading off my Kindle recently, which forgoes the use of bookmarks.

What time of day do you read the most?

During school, the answer to this would be at night before I go to bed. Right now, I would say between 3-7 PM. That’s usually the time frame in which I do my one-sitting reads. I still read a lot at night, though.

How long do you typically read in one session?

I have a very consistent attention span cutoff point at two hours. Even when I was in elementary school, I would always be able to read for two hours- and just two hours- before taking a break.

The same thing applies to studying and blogging and programming and anything else I concentrate on. It’s always two hours. I don’t know why.

Unfortunately, though, I think the typical time I spend reading has decreased recently because I keep getting distracted by my phone. I always go back to my book after checking my phone, though, so I don’t know if these short distractions really affect this question. I probably read for about an hour at a time, but it depends.

Do you read hardcovers with the dust jacket off?

I don’t like hardcovers for this reason. I usually keep them on, but they are so annoying that I end up taking them off after reading for a while.

What position do you mainly use to read?

Wow um… I’m not exactly sure. If I’m on my Kindle, I can read lying on my stomach, side or back. Pretty much any position, because it’s super easy to read on a Kindle. I also often read sitting at the table and eating. If I’m reading a physical book, I usually read lying on my back with my knees up to prop up the book. If I’m listening to an audiobook, I usually pace around the house if I’m energetic or lie down if I’m not.

Do you take your current read with you everywhere you go?

Now I don’t get to go anywhere… but I used to never leave the house without 1) my phone and 2) my book. This one time right before quarantine started, I went to the media center in the morning and ended up carrying six books around school for the rest of the day. I got a lot of stares from people, especially when the books kept falling out of my backpack during class.

How often do you update your Goodreads reading progress?

I’m not sure if this question is asking about reading progress as in location in a book or reading progress as in the number of books you have read in the year.

As for location in the book, I almost never update it on Goodreads until I mark the book as finished. One thing I do often is mark the book 99% finished when I reach the end, and add a little comment in my update about my opinion of the book. Then I’ll just mark it as finished.

As for keeping track of the number of books I read, I update my Goodreads religiously. It’s how I keep track of my reading. I joined Goodreads in 2017, and since then, updating my account has become a deeply ingrained habit. Almost all the “dates read” are accurate because as soon as I finish something, I automatically open Goodreads and mark it as finished. Plus, I like reading the reviews.

… well, that’s all of the questions! (I would give credit to the original creator of this tag, but I am not sure who started it)

I Tag:

A Book Owl’s Corner

Anna’s Book Nook

Beyond the Read

Reading Ladies

Paper Hearts

Thanks for visiting my blog today!

(And if you haven’t already, please subscribe:)

What are your reading habits? Do you have similar ones, or am I just ~quirky~?

*EDIT 3 days later- I JUST realized that I never turned on comments for this post… sorry…. whoops…

I Need Your Help|Celebrating 250 Followers!

To welcome in this new era of the online academic year, I’m going to revamp Frappes and Fiction and focus on writing posts that you would most like to read.

WordPress is not working right for me right now… I wanted to do a feedback form but it wouldn’t show up correctly, so it would be great if you could please do me a favor and answer this question in the comments:

I Need Your Help:

What kinds of posts would you like to see more of on Frappes and Fiction?

A. book reviews

B. book recommendations lists

C. book tags/tags

D. lifestyle posts

E. blogging posts

F. discussion posts

250 Followers!

I hit 250 followers the other day (I’m currently at 258, counting email followers), so I thought I would pop in to say thank you to everyone who supports this blog!

Why at 250? I don’t know. It’s halfway to 500, though, so it has some significance. (I’ll probably do a Q+A or one of those assumption things at 500 follows)

I started Frappes & Fiction as a place for me to share my thoughts about books and just write about whatever I felt like writing about. I never expected many people to read it, and I am grateful to everyone who takes the time to read my posts and leave thoughtful comments!

One Last Announcement

I’ve decided to limit my posting schedule to Saturdays only until after I take the SAT in October, because right now I am really busy and want to focus on school. But, like always, I will do my best to create ~quality content~

I’m sorry today’s post is so short- if you’re new here, I usually post much more interesting things than this, if I do say so myself- but thanks for stopping by and have a great rest of your week!

I know my last few posts have all been kind of boring but I promise I have some book posts coming up for the rest of the month! Today was more of a check in/milestone post than a full-fledged article.

This is How I’m Resetting my Life for the School Year

It’s THAT time of year again. The time of year that’s both deeply loved and passionately hated by students everywhere.

You guessed it: backto-school.

Since the school year is quickly approaching, I wanted to get myself back on track. So I decided to do a little “life reset”, where I basically went through the disorganized mess that has been my life ever since quarantine ruined all of my put-together-ness.

This “life reset” has been underway for the past week as I scramble to get myself together before school starts, and the following list is a kind of amalgamation of things I have already done, things I am going to do soon, and habits I want to form.

Without further ado, let’s get into the list of what I’m doing to reset my life for the school year!

1. Buy a new planner and keep track of commitments

My planner came about a month ago, but I kept forgetting to use it! This week, I finally got around to writing down all of my meetings and plans. I am trying to make it a daily habit to check my planner and thus quell my procrastination habits.

2. Start using Duolingo again/listen to French podcasts

I have French in first semester. The problem? I don’t know French anymore. Je ne sais pas comment parler français maintenant. Aidez-moi, s’il vous plaît. C’est bon grammaire ou pas? Parce que je ne sais pas.  

I found a bunch of French podcasts- including the Duolingo podcast, which I didn’t know existed- and I’m going to try to listen to them once a day.

3. Clean my desk/room

I always feel better when my desk isn’t sloppy, and it was honestly transformative to have a clean desk after a few months of compounding clutter.

I also am going to set up my online school desk location soon. (I wanted to make my routine as normal as possible, so I am going to have an online school room set up that’s across the house from my room, and I’m going to take my backpack up there every day and pretend it’s school.)

4. ACTUALLY pre-schedule blog posts

This entire week, I have been prewriting September posts so I don’t die when school starts.

I think I was pretty successful in this respect because I have a few posts pre-written, and I actually, for the first time ever, have some kind of a plan for when I will post each one.

I’m not sure if I will be able to keep up with a biweekly posting schedule; in fact it’s very likely that I will need to switch to Saturdays only at some point, but I promise I will try to keep the posts coming as often as possible!

5. Delete social media off my phone

This week, it began to dawn on me how severely overcommitted I am this year. How can I fix this? I thought while panic slowly set in. Then I had an epiphany. Aha! Why not delete the apps I waste 5 hours on every day!

The only “social media” apps I’m keeping for now are WordPress and Snapchat because 1) I need WordPress and 2) I literally never use Snapchat except for my private story, so it doesn’t exactly suck up irredeemable amounts of my time.

6. Tape my study schedule to the top of my desk

I wrote this one back before my August SAT was canceled, but it can still apply to the upcoming year.

EDIT: I have now rescheduled my SAT to October. So now I can do this one right now. Wonderful! I am so exhilarated.

I have never been one to write study schedules (I only ever study for tests the night before the test, unless it’s a midterm, in which case I start 2-5 days before, or an AP exam, in which case I start 3-4 weeks before) but since it’s my junior year, maybe I should try to start making them.

7. Go to bed early/fix my sleep schedule

I’ve never been good at this. I had a really unhealthy lifestyle before quarantine, where I would stay up until midnight with homework, be absolutely exhausted when I had to wake up at 5:30 for school the next morning, drink a huge amount of coffee, drink more coffee when I got home from school, procrastinate my homework, get a random burst of energy at 10:30 at night, and then repeat the whole cycle over again.

I have been going to bed sometime between 11:30 PM and 1:30 AM for all of quarantine, so… I should probably fix that. In fact, last night I was up until 1:30 and now I have a headache. I no longer have to wake up super early for school, so I can relax a little! (#onlineschoolpositivity) but maybe let’s bring it down to 11 PM.

8. Get new school supplies

I LOVE back-to-school, and I am really really upset that we aren’t having a real first day. Treating myself to new supplies will make me feel a little better though. I already have some notebooks. I just need some mechanical pencils and highlighters now. I lost all my highlighters and now I only have a yellow one, which is the ugliest color. And an orange one, which I don’t like either. I love my highlighters but my friends make fun of me for highlighting entire lines of my notes. I memorize things when I highlight them. It works.

Am I the only one who gets really stressed thinking about how I will organize my classes into all my notebooks? I never know how to organize everything because I am not organizationally gifted, and teachers never tell us the right kinds of supplies to get.

9. Declutter my phone/laptop

My school Google Drive was an absolute mess, and since we’re going online this year, I thought I’d benefit from organizing it into folders. Then I realized that my personal Google Drive (the one full of old writing) and my tutoring Google Drives were also messy.

Then I realized that my phone and computer were all cluttered as well, so I started going through those and organizing my apps and deleting unnecessary things.

10. Reach out to my friends

Even for a fairly introverted introvert like me, five months without seeing my friends is too long. It makes me feel like I have zero friends anymore. Which I don’t, because I don’t talk to them. No one texts me anymore either. Considering that I don’t text any of them, though, this is partly my fault.

As counter-productive as it sounds, maybe I should try to spend MORE time on Snapchat; it’s about the dumbest waste of time out of all forms of social media, but at least it allows you to start conversations. Kind of?

Since school is starting soon and everyone is exchanging schedules, this has gotten better; however, I should probably make an effort to reach out more.

That’s all for today. Thanks for checking out my blog! Best of luck in the new academic year.

Frappes and Fiction is Changing…|August 2020 Wrap-up and September Goals

It’s September! Do you know what that means?

It means that the BEST season has finally arrived, with the months of September, October, November, and December (aka the best months of the year). I am so excited!

Maybe I’ll write a post sometime explaining why this is hands-down the best part of the year, but first I need to reflect on August.

August was actually a pretty eventful month- my definition of eventful being relative to the rest of quarantine, of course.

I went to the beach, I finally got my driving learner’s permit, and I honed my procrastination skills.

I progressed from being depressed about quarantine to being angry about quarantine to being bored of quarantine, then finally to being almost, slightly, grudgingly used to it.

Things have started to pick up for the school year, which starts next week for me, so I will be spending this entire week in an attempt to get myself together before the first day of online school. I am so excited, mostly because a week from now, I will be getting Dunkin for the first time in six months.

Just like my July wrap-up, this post will be divided into three different sections:

  • Reading
  • Blogging
  • Goals

Reading:

August was a pretty consistent reading month for me: for the first time this summer, I rated no books below three stars. I also went on a huge nonfiction binge. (Nonfiction recommendations post coming soon, by the way!) In total, I read 9 books in August.

3-3.5 stars

With Malice by Eileen Cookreview here!

All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urbanreview here!

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson– I kept getting distracted when I was listening to this audiobook… that may explain the low-ish rating

Ready Player One by Ernest Clinereview here!

4-4.5 stars

A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa B. Sheinmelreview here!

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain– this book is about the psychology behind introversion and extroversion and how and why our society favors extroverts. It is extremely interesting

Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal- the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin– Another nonfiction. This one is about the Manhattan Project and the role Soviet espionage played in the lead-up to the Cold War. VERY interesting.

The Real McCoys: Two’s a Crowd by Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr– I read this so I could buddy-read it with the elementary schooler I am tutoring

5 stars

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys review here!

Blogging:

I had a good blogging month, although I definitely could have tried harder to prioritize my blog.

I gained around 50 followers, increased my monthly views, and almost doubled the monthly number of comments I received!

Here’s a list of my posts from this month:

In case you missed any.

My Stats Exploded!|July 2020 Wrap-up and August Goals

Book Review: With Malice by Eileen Cook

The Sunshine Blogger Award

The Anonymous Bookaholics Tag

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Reacting to my Old Writing Part 1|(11-year-old me thought she was a literary genius)

The Liebster Award

Book Review: A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Reacting to my Old Writing Part 2

What is your Favorite Genre?|ft. My Controversial Opinions

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

15 Places on my Travel Bucket List

The folklore Book Tag

Book Review: All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban

Goals:

August Follow-up:

  1. Write book reviews right after finishing a book/take notes while I read– Ehh… I did this for about half of the books I read this month, but there were definitely times when I succumbed to procrastination
  2. Make it a habit to write in my planner– I was on vacation for much of August, so I didn’t start doing this until this past week
  3. Spend less time on my phone– Okay yeah… I failed miserably at this. I have been forcibly cutting back this week, but for most of August I did a large amount of scrolling. My screentime average for my phone- ONLY my phone!- hovered around 4 hours per day for the entire month.

September Goals:

  1. Add variety to what I post– I’ve been saying often that I’m going to be writing more list posts and posts that are not book reviews or tags to kind of add some variety to my blog. I will be putting this into action in September!
  2. Don’t go on my phone right after I wake up– this goes along with my excessive phone usage problem. Since my alarm is on my phone, I always go on my phone and check social media right when I wake up. Since I always inevitably see something that annoys me or just stresses me out, it sets the tone for the rest of the day. I also then end up scrolling for an hour while I eat breakfast and procrastinate everything and feel guilty and end up ruining the morning and feeling lazy for the rest of the day.
  3. Focus on school– as I mentioned earlier, (online) school starts for me next week, which brings me to the titular part of this post:

Frappes and Fiction is Changing…

Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic. But I am going to have to make some adjustments going into the school year.

This year I am taking 5 AP classes and about a million extracurriculars, and on top of all that, I’m taking the SAT in October. You know what they say, junior year IS the hardest.

In short, I don’t know how I’m going to have time to do anything. Thus, I’m going to be making a few changes to my blog:

1) I’m changing my posting schedule

Starting next week, my posting schedule will be adjusted to Wednesdays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM ET (11:30 PM UTC/GMT)

This is the same as it is now, except I won’t be posting on Mondays anymore. In the future, I may adjust it to Saturdays only.

2) I’m going to be trying to write a wider variety of posts

Including book recommendations lists, blogging tips, random articles and tags. There may be a decrease in book reviews because it is going to be very hard for me to read a lot on top of everything on my plate. I will try my best, though!

That’s all for today’s wrap-up! How was your summer? How are you managing the transition into the academic year?

Like always, please:

Book Review: All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban

Do you ever get that feeling, while reading a book, where you’re completely absorbed in the story and you just can’t put it down? It’s almost like eating delicious food, or being wrapped in a warm blanket.

You don’t want it to end, because you’re just in the MOOD for reading.

That’s what I felt like while reading All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban. Thanks to the combination of my mood, the thrilling and rather fluffy plotline, and the easy-to-read writing style, I flew through this YA thriller.

About the Book:

Title: All Your Twisted Secrets

Author: Diana Urban

Genre: YA, mystery, thriller

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Favorite quote: “Not everything can go exactly the way you plan, no matter how much you want it to.”

Book Review:

“The thing about being trapped in a room with five other people, a bomb, and a syringe of lethal poison is that at some point, s***’s going down.”

When high school senior Amber Prescott gets an invitation to a prestigious scholarship dinner along with five of her peers, she’s looking forward to the opportunity for an extra $20,000 towards her dreams of become a film score composer.

But when the host never shows, it doesn’t take long for the guests to realize that they are the subjects of some sort of twisted game: the door is locked, there is no cell service, and the clock is ticking. Literally.

On the center of the table is a syringe of poison, a time bomb, and a letter informing the teens that unless they choose one person to kill within the hour, no one will make it out alive.

This book is like Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None mixed with the uber-YA drama of One of Us is Lying.

Though bored me really enjoyed reading this book, critical me had some mixed feelings.

First things first: the plot was very gripping! I read the entire book in one sitting, effectively yanking me out of my reading slump. There was tons of suspense, but some of the story required immense suspension of disbelief.

Why would these kids go to a scholarship dinner for a scholarship that isn’t even given out at that time of year, based on an unsigned invitation and no other information? And that’s not even the most unrealistic part.

I’m not going to spoil the decently twisted ending, but I almost had to laugh when I finished the last chapter because it was so over the top. Was it entertaining? Sure. Could this scenario actually happen in real life? I doubt it. Did the whole motive and scheme make sense? Not totally. But you know, I still thought it was satisfying. Mostly satisfying.

Similarly to One of Us is Lying, this book has a very intense, almost obtrusively YA feel. To the point where, again, I was trying not to facepalm while these characters, instead of acknowledging their literal life-or-death situation, were just concerned about “OMG! You like him?!”

This is the reason people hate on YA.

Also, I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing. Some of the dialogue felt a bit manufactured and awkward.

There was a lot of showing instead of telling, a fair amount of melodrama, and some scenes that made me vaguely feel like I was reading the screenplay of High School Musical.

BUT I did find the drama intriguing, and I was definitely hooked until the end. The writing style was simple, which made the plot move faster.

I loved that each character had their own unique passions and interests, though; it was easy to differentiate between them, and for once, we got a protagonist with actual hobbies and ambitions!

Amber aspires to be a composer and writes film scores for fun, which is an extremely interesting hobby that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a book before.

A few more points to Diana Urban for realizing that high school is stressful and not everyone parties all day. (I am now an upperclassman and I have NEVER been to a party- not that I particularly want to)

However, like I said before, so much of this book was fabricated and overdramatized. Perhaps the most obvious example is one character, Sasha, who is the Regina George of this high school. Except she’s also going to Harvard. And she’s also the lead in the school play. And she also loves to drink. And she is the meanest girl in school.

Most of the characters were written as caricatures of certain high school stereotypes, or written to possess almost unbelievably exaggerated characteristics. It was just… distracting. Combined with the plot, I knew I was reading a fictional YA thriller. And definitely a YA thriller. The fourth wall was unintentionally broken because of the story’s substance.

Extraordinarily good books feel REAL; this one just didn’t do that for me. But I definitely enjoyed reading it.

Book Recommendation:

If you’re in the mood for a dramatic, tea-filled, suspenseful but very YA-ish thriller, I would recommend this book to you.

Apparently this was Diana Urban’s debut novel; I will definitely be keeping tabs on her because I think she has the potential to become a really popular writer!

Have you read All Your Twisted Secrets? Did you enjoy it? Feel free to leave a comment.

Also, if you haven’t already, be an awesome person and:

The folklore Book Tag

Another book tag! This time featuring Taylor Swift’s most unexpected, artsy, and unapologetically ~a e s t h e t i c~ album, complete with (grammatically incorrectttt) lowercase titles and a subdued color scheme.

I am still working through my tags and posting them very out of order, so… bear with me.

Thank you to Introverted Thoughts for tagging me. Go check out both of her sites!

Rules:

1.Link to the original creator: Ilsa @ A Whisper Of Ink
2.Tag at least 3 people.
3.Declare the rules and list of prompts in your post.
4.Thank whoever tagged you and link to their post.

Books:

the 1- a book with an ending that left you speechless

I was going to say A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, because it absolutely fits this category, but I chose it for a later category so I’ll change things up a bit and use Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. I was devastated by the ending, which I didn’t see coming AT ALL.

(ft. one of my old and less extensive book reviews)

cardigan- a book that made you feel happy and sad all at once

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson; this book is really emotionally ambivalent… it was simultaneously funny, depressing, sad, and empowering, all at once.

the last great american dynasty- a book with a fascinating and extremely well-told story

This is my favorite song on the album!!!

For this category, definitely Harry Potter. I’ve never been so ridiculously obsessed with a book series before. In 4th-5th grade, back when I still read fantasy, Harry Potter was my LIFE.

I dressed up as Hermione for Halloween in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th, AND 10th grade. The first few times it was because I was completely obsessed; the last few times it was because I didn’t feel like getting a new costume, and I actually do look and kind of act like Hermione. I’m even a Gryffindor, according to Pottermore.

I need to re-read the series (for the 11th time) soon.

exile- a book you wish you hadn’t read

There’s a small list of these, but today I’ll feature Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. I’m sorry if you like this book, but I could not suspend my disbelief enough to like the story and I thought the “everyone can be popular! Be friends with everyone!” message was way too saccharine.

Before you can say that I’m too much of a conformist- no, my main criticism of this book doesn’t stem from Stargirl’s eccentricity (though I thought it was very overdone); it stems from the fact that… that’s not how high school works.

Maybe I should try reading this when I’m in a better mood.

my tears ricochet- a book that made you cry uncontrollably

As a general rule, books never make me cry uncontrollably… the most you’ll get is a few tears. But one of the saddest books I’ve ever read is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Edit: When I first wrote this post, I hadn’t yet finished reading Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. That’s another contender. I am obsessed with that book!

mirror ball- a book that feels like it was written just for you

Okay… please bear with me even though this is probably the 10th time I’ve mentioned this book on my blog…. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson. Overachiever MC? Witty humor? Mysterious plot? Interviews with shady people? Clues to figure out? Secrets? Unpredictable plot twists? SHOCKING ending?

I tried to criticize this book in my review, like I do for all books, but I legitimately couldn’t find anything I didn’t love about it. You could not write a book any more up my alley.

Edit: it just occurred to me that “up my alley” is a pretty weird phrase

seven- a childhood book that makes you feel nostalgic

The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This was probably my favorite series in 1st-2nd grade. I even dressed up as Laura for Halloween in 2nd grade, and I did my biography report on her life.

My family also used to watch the TV series all the time. The entire franchise is a throwback for me.

august- a book that reminds you of summer

The To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series by Jenny Han… if you’re going to read them at all, summer is the best time to read fluffy YA contemporaries. I did not at all expect to like this series, but to my utter surprise, it was, in a word, cute.

I did NOT cringe at the romance (which is an exceedingly rare occurrence), and I really liked all the characters. Lara Jean was irritating at the beginning, but she grew on me. And I loved Peter and… what’s the other guy’s name… oh yeah, John Ambrose McClaren.

Maybe I should read Jenny Han’s other series, The Summer I Turned Pretty. That title makes it sound like the stupidest thing ever, but maybe I’ll be surprised again. I like Jenny Han.

this is me trying- a book that deals with loneliness and sadness

What a fitting category! I’ve been feeling very lonely and sad recently- maybe because I have spent the entire day on the Internet every single day for the past six months. My nomination for this category is The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Everyone in my English class hated this book, but I loved it! I thought Holden was relatable.

It’s a book I can always turn to when I’m in a particularly angsty mood and feel like lamenting about how no one understands me and I have no friends.

Which is fairly often, because all the people I know are phonies. They really are. It just makes me so depressed.

invisible string- a book that came into your life at exactly the right time

This was such a tough category for me to answer! After scrolling through my Goodreads list for a while, I’ve decided to feature The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart.

I don’t even remember when exactly I discovered this series, but it was sometime in 2016; I had a lot of anxiety back then and I had been having a hard time finding good books to read. I finally found this series and really enjoyed it. It’s a creative, light and very fun middle-grade read.

mad woman- a book with a female character you adore

I’m going to have to copy Paper Hearts with this one and choose The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. Another series I name drop a lot. But the adored female character in question, is, obviously, Katniss. She is just amazing. I mean, to be unflinchingly honest, I do not think I would have the guts to volunteer for my sister in the Hunger Games.

A lot of people hate Katniss. I don’t agree with those people.

epiphany- a book that is haunting

1984 by George Orwell. When I first read this for school back in February (wow, does that seem like someone else’s life), I could not sleep after reading the ending because I was just so creeped out. But what’s even creepier than Room 101 is all the parallels to today’s society I’ve been able to draw months after finishing the book. I’m scared…

betty- a book couple that fills you with yearning

That fills me with yearning? That seems a little extreme for me, but I’m going to have to go with Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. I love Mr. Darcy, and Lizzie is just savage.

peace- a book character you’d die for because you love them so much

I’m answering this in the figurative sense because… I don’t think I’d actually DIE for any book character. Nah. But now I can’t choose… there are so many characters I love.

The most recent character whom I really cared about, though, would be Emilia from Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys.

hoax- a book you thought you were going to love but didn’t

With Malice by Eileen Cook– this was the first book that popped into my mind for this category because I read it this month. If you read my review, you probably witnessed my uncontrolled rant about how much I was loving this book until Eileen Cook threw away the whole plot with that ENDING. Ugh.

I Tag:

Chasing the Maximum Life

Blue Mood Cafe

The Reading Addict

Sweaters and Raindrops

Julie Anna’s Books

Don’t worry if I didn’t tag you because I try to pick different people each time; I always choose people whose blogs I enjoy reading and/or people who have recently commented on my posts! If you’re reading this right now, feel free to do the tag. I informally nominate you.

That’s it for today. Thanks for visiting my blog and happy Saturday!

15 Places on my Travel Bucket List

Right now, I think we can all agree that it would be nice to get out of the house.

I have always loved to travel, though I haven’t yet been out of the United States, and quarantine has only increased my wanderlust. One day, I want to have a travel blog or YouTube channel.

To make myself feel better about being stuck inside, I decided to make a kind of bucket list: a list of places I would love to travel after quarantine, or just visit one day in the future.

This list is going to be slightly random and slightly unrealistic, but… it’s always fun to make bucket lists, right? And who doesn’t like to dream about traveling the world?

1. Paris, France– as I have probably bemoaned on this blog before, I was supposed to go on a student exchange trip to France in June/July. Unfortunately, with the current global circumstances, the trip was canceled. They’re saving my application for next year, but if we are STILL quarantined in summer 2021- which, if our luck continues, will probably happen- I’ll have to wait until 2022.

2. London, England– I just want to travel around all of Europe. I wish I lived in Europe.

3. New York City, New York– I have seen the Statue of Liberty from the NJ side of the New York Harbor, but I’ve never actually been into NYC. Actually scratch that. My dad just told me I went there when I was a baby. That doesn’t really count though. (NYC was supposed to be part of the canceled exchange trip as well…)

4. San Francisco, California– SF is on the long list of places I may want to live one day. If it wasn’t soo expensive. I also don’t like fog THAT much, so I’m a little iffy. But I really want to go there, and to the rest of California as well.

4. Banff, Alberta/Canadian Rockies– I LOVE the mountains!!! I have been to Colorado two times, and CO is number one on the list of places I want to live, but I haven’t ever been to the Canadian rockies or Canada in general and I have seen so many gorgeous pictures. I need to go there one day!

5. Vatican City/Rome- I’m Catholic, so it would be really interesting to go to Vatican City. I’ve also always wanted to go to Rome and just anywhere in Italy.

6. Monument Valley, Arizona– The only Wild West-y place I have been is Arches National Park, which was amazing. I really want to drive along the scenic byway in Monument Valley, perhaps during sunset.

7. Honolulu, Hawaii– Who doesn’t want to go to Hawaii, though? Truthfully, I don’t think I have ever been anywhere “tropical” in my life, unless you count Orlando.

8. Sydney, Australia– I used to be friends with a girl whose family moved to Sydney when we were in second grade. I have always wanted to see the southern hemisphere, and Australia just seems really beautiful.

9. Tokyo, Japan– Tokyo is apparently a very nice city to visit, and it just looks so cool! I would love to go here.

10. Amsterdam, The Netherlands– Half of my Pinterest feed is pictures of Amsterdam. And for a good reason.

11. Yellowknife, Northwest Territories– I used to have this fascination with Yellowknife being one of the coldest places in Canada, and just a general obsession with northwestern Canada and Alaska. I also really want to go somewhere where I can see the northern lights.

12. Switzerland (anywhere in Switzerland)– I love mountains, and Switzerland just seems like such an amazing place to visit. I need to see the Alps!

13. Niagara Falls, New York– I feel like so many people have gone to Niagara Falls. I haven’t, though.

14. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming– Throwback to the fake Old Faithful geyser I was scared of at Disney World when I was five!

15. Machu Picchu, Peru– Machu Picchu is just so mysterious, interesting, and picturesque. It would be so absolutely fascinating to visit

That’s all for today’s post. Have you been to any of the aforementioned places? What travel destinations are on your bucket list?

Thanks for reading!

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

I am ashamed of myself.

First because I failed to read this book sooner, and second because I’ve been complaining about quarantine nonstop without truly realizing that my life is NOT that bad.

Genre: YA/adult, historical fiction, survival

Rating: 5/5 stars

Favorite quote: “What was life asking of me? How could I respond when I didn’t know the question?”

First line: “They took me in my nightgown.”

June, 1941.

15-year-old Lina Vilkas used to be a normal Lithuanian girl with dreams of becoming a professional artist. But when she and her family are arrested by the Soviet secret police and forced on a grueling journey to a labor camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia, everything in her life is dashed to pieces.

Now, starving in the desolate Arctic, separated from her father and 6,500 miles from home, Lina has only one goal: to survive.

It’s rare that a book’s ending leaves me utterly speechless.

It’s also rare that a book makes me cry actual tears (the last one was in April).

Between Shades of Gray did both. Dare I say it was even better than Salt to the Sea?

If there was any doubt in my mind that Ruta Sepetys is one of my absolute favorite authors, it has been dispelled.

Because THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD.

It’s definitely my favorite of Sepetys’ books; and now I can say that I’ve read all of them. All in the span of two months, and now I’m extremely sad because I need another one….

First of all, the writing was amazing. I’ve seen lots of people saying that Ruta Sepetys’ writing is too clipped or too vague or too dry…. but I beg to differ.

There were multiple points where I had to stop just to marvel at a quote. I have so many favorite quotes from this book, it’s not even funny. I don’t want to quote-spam too badly for copyright reasons, but…. wow.

Their faces sang songs of defeat.

This is GOOD WRITING.

I’m definitely a fan of “simplistic” writing styles; and by that I mean that sparser writing is not always something that makes me hate a book. I love the way Ruta Sepetys writes because it’s almost like a documentary. The amount of research she puts in is almost tangible.

That brings me to my next point, the point I bring up every time I review a Ruta Sepetys book (sorry!): all of her books focus on “forgotten history”, which is absolutely fascinating.

I had never heard of what happened in Lithuania during WW2, so I was shocked to learn about the deportations in Lithuania and that thousands of people were deemed enemies of the state and sent to perish in Siberia. We never learned this in school.

According to the author’s note, part of the reason these events were largely unknown- and are still largely unknown- to the rest of the world is because when the deportees were released in 1955 they were forbidden by the government to tell anyone what had happened to them.

Like Salt to the Sea, Between Shades of Gray tells a unique and forgotten story of WW2, exposing the experiences of all the people caught between both the Nazis and the Soviets; a situation, which I mentioned in my other review, that I had never even considered before or seen in historical fiction.

Our country is doomed, don’t you see? Our fate is genocide, no matter whose hands we fall into”

Besides the valuable historical context and chill-inducing writing… the plot of this book was executed wonderfully.

There was no disruptive romance, thank goodness; the hint of romance in it got a yes from me and served to further the plot and character development. (A chill and actually good romantic subplot in a YA book? Yes. Really)

All of the characters felt so real, which made the story exponentially more devastating. Like in Salt to the Sea, I felt an overwhelming attachment to the characters and this contributed heavily to the emotional impact the ending of this book had on me.

There was suspense, but it was overshadowed by a general feeling of horror, reminiscent of the feeling I had while reading Night by Elie Wiesel (another amazing but VERY upsetting book- and that one’s nonfiction so it was even more horrifying).

This book will make you very sad, but that’s the point.

This is definitely going on the list of my favorite books of all time. I was in complete awe upon finishing it. (And it ended IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE. EXACTLY how I love books to end. )

Am I going to name-drop this book as often as the other books I have loved this year? Probably.

I would recommend this book to everyone, especially if you’re a historical fiction nerd like me, though be prepared. It’s one of the saddest books I have read for a while.

I just found out that there is a movie! So that explains the title change to Ashes in the Snow. (Other than the fact that the original title sounds unfortunately similar to a certain very different book.)

I found the trailer on YouTube:

Thanks for reading today’s review! Have you read Between Shades of Gray? What did you think of it?

I’m currently in a blogging and reading slump right now so I haven’t been able to write that many book reviews, and I also have been super busy lately.

I’m probably going to start doing more list posts again soon, like the ones I used to write all the time when I first started my blog.

Any posts you want to see from me? Leave a comment!