Sunday, January 18, 2015

TOP 5 // things most people don't know about me


I'm of English, Irish, and Welsh descent.
I am pretty much a European melting pot. The most recent European influence our bloodline has had is from England when my mom's side of the family came over with the Mormon church from England a few generations ago (she is a first generation Christian). My mom is also Irish and Welsh, and my dad's family is all from England and Ireland.

I still sleep with a night light.
Yes, you read that right. At 17-years-old, I still sleep with a night light (although, the reason I sleep with a night light might very well be because I can read better, but hush...). My grandpa made me and my siblings these little lamps made out of pieces of wood, and the light bulb is just bright enough to create a glow throughout my room. It's absolutely perfect for navigating around my room in the middle of the night.

I have this intense love for musicals.
Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Hello Dolly... I love them all. I don't know why I like them so much, other than the fact that my grandmother loves them and we always watch them together. Most are just cheery and light-hearted, and others are really deep and heavy. I typically like the deeper ones like The Phantom of the Opera, though.

I'm training to be an editor.
I've started up my own freelance editing business (which you can find here). I'm currently about to begin the process in training and I am so excited for that! My biggest dream is to be able to help someone with their manuscript and get it polished up for publishing or agents.

I'm writing a fantasy novel currently.
Most people don't know that I love fantasy. My dad is a fantasy nerd, so his influence definitely helped me on my love for fantasy. I don't know what it is about it that makes me like it so much. I like how it's intense and innocent and magical and lovely all at the same time. My love for it definitely has carried out into my writing.

What are your top 5 things most people don't know about you?

xo,
Sam

Friday, January 16, 2015

REVIEW // the scarlet thread


Publisher: Tyndale Fiction
Genre: Christian fiction
Released: 1996

Sierra Madrid. A bold and determined modern woman. Her marriage and family are about to be turned upside down by choices that seem out of her control.

Mary Kathryn McMurray. A young pioneer on the Oregon Trail. Tossed about by tragedy and betrayal, she is filled with anger at being uprooted from her home.

Two women, centuries apart, are joined through a tattered journal as they contend with God, husbands - even themselves - until they fall into the arms of the One who loves them unconditionally.

T H E   G O O D
The one thing I love about Francine Rivers is that she is always so blunt in her writing. She loves to write about the hard and dirty (not speaking sexually) of Christianity and about life. I loved the concept of Sierra getting to read Mary Kathryn's journal at the end of every chapter, and it was so cool to see the parallels of their stories.

I loved Mary Kathryn McMurray's story the most. I loved the idea of her being on the Oregon trail, and I loved getting to watch her grow closer to God.

T H E   B A D
I found myself wanting to pull my hair out at the very beginning with Sierra. I felt that she was so ungrateful towards her husband Alex, and she flat out was annoying. I guess if she wasn't like that from the beginning the story would have never progressed, but I didn't like how every scene she practically said and did the same thing. It got old after the first couple of chapters.

Carolyn and Clanton were a bit forced as well. I didn't connect with them that much (I mean, it was the main character's children... shouldn't I care about them a little?), but it wasn't detrimental to the story for me not to connect, just a bit irritating.

A lot of the scenes seemed to be repeated. Sierra was annoyed with Alex, Sierra vowed to never think of God, Alex did something, Sierra got mad, Sierra had a pity party, and so on and so forth. I had to start dragging myself through the story until Sierra met Dennis and things got a little happier, but then pretty soon the makeup of the scenes were Sierra began praying to God, Alex made her mad, Sierra was angry with Alex, the kids were annoying, then Sierra prayed some more and told God all her struggles with Alex. I know that it's important, but I really didn't want to read practically the same thing every single scene.

Sex & Nudity: Sex was talked about a handful of times (not in a dirty way, but mainly discussing Biblical sex between a man and wife), and sex was implied once or twice between a husband and wife.
Violence & Gore: In a fit of rage over Alex, Sierra slaps her husband across his face, and then proceeds to beat his chest. Mary Kathryn McMurray talks about how Kavanaugh helped her give birth (which is a little gory). Several people die on the Oregon Trail and their deaths are described by Mary Kathryn.
Profanity: Alex often times swears under his breath (no words are ever typed out), and Clanton almost says a few choice words before Sierra covers his mouth.
Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking: Alex becomes drunk once or twice. There is drinking implied at various events that Sierra attends, and one of her friends gets drunk at the country club. Mary Kathryn McMurray talks about how her father took up drinking after her mother's death. She also talks about using whiskey to warm up people during the winter and to clean out wounds.
Frightening/Intense Scenes: Some deaths on the Oregon Trail can be intense. Sierra and Alex's fights might be intense towards younger audiences.

Recommended age: 14+

O V E R A L L   S T A R   R A T I N G
4/5 stars

Thursday, January 15, 2015

BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE // author edition



How many years have you been writing? When did you officially consider yourself a ‘writer’?
I've been writing for nearly 11 years now. I wrote my first short story at the age of six and then could never put down the pen after that. It was like something in my brain clicked and I knew I wanted to be a writer. I didn't really start calling myself a writer until I completed a short story in 10th grade and submitted it to be published. It was published in February of 2013, and although I don't feel like it's very good, it made me feel like this rocky adventure called "writing" could be achievable!
How/why did you start writing?
I started writing as a school assignment in the 1st grade. I've been home schooled all my life and as a part of my English assignments given by my mom each day I was required to write a short story on a certain topic. That really jump started my love for writing, honestly.
What’s your favorite part of writing?
I love the feelings and emotions you can evoke through words. It's hard work, definitely, but the fact that you can stir up to much emotion and love and fear and hate in a person through your words is powerful.
What’s your biggest writing struggle?
Actually starting a project is tough for me. I love planning, preparing, picking out the perfect look-a-likes, and even creating an outline, but putting the ink to the page is just so hard (ironic, huh?)! It takes such dedication and love for a story from me to begin it (which is probably why I have so many unfinished manuscripts on my laptop right now).
Do you write best at night or day?
Both! I feel like my brain works the best immediately in the morning and right before going to bed. I write every morning and night from 9:30 to 10:30, usually saving the morning hours for planning and prepping blog posts and the evening hours for working on my current manuscript.
What does your writing space look like? (Feel free to show us pictures!)
I have so many photos of my space, but here are just a few:



My space is typically pretty neat save the few loose-leaf papers I have flying around here and there. I like to keep live plants on my desk, and I love how my desk faces the window so I can always look out into our green garden (although, right now, it's pretty brown from the cold weather we have been getting).
How long does it typically take you to write a complete draft?
Hm, well, considering the fact that I haven't even completed a first draft yet, I'd say a pretty long time. I am, however, working on a Robin Hood retelling that will be completed before I graduate high school.
How many projects do you work on at once?
I try to work on one at a time, but with so many ideas floating through my head, I'm currently trying to keep my main attention on one manuscript only! I typically put a manuscript on standby while I work on another until I grow tired of it, and then repeat the same process. I am vowing to finish this one straight through, though!
Do you prefer writing happy endings, sad ones, or somewhere in between?
I think it really depends on the story. With the Divergent series, I was content with the ending (maybe because I was annoyed with Tris by the end), and that was a devastating ending. I think books need to be realistic in the sense that not everyone gets a happy ending, but I also believe books should have some measure of fiction in them in the sense that most readers pick up the book to escape their own lives for a while. I think it depends on the reader and the story.
List a few authors who’ve influenced your writing journey.
J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Francine Rivers, and Christopher Paolini. I love Tolkien and Lewis because of their eloquent way of incorporating their faith into their fantasy stories, and I love Rivers for being so blunt and honest in her writing, and I adore Paolini because he was only 15 when he wrote Eragon
Do you let people read your writing? Why or why not?
Eh, not really. I let them read it when it's all finished and I'm satisfied with it. I never let my parents read my short story that was published until after I finished it (don't worry, I didn't submit it for publishing and then let them read it) just because I kind of get embarrassed being put on the spotlight. My parents are my biggest encouragement, but even with them I'm afraid to make a mistake or have something cheesy or too childish or too amateur in my writing, so I always perfect it and then let them read it. I also never let friends or other family read it until my parents say "Hey, did you know Sam had her short story published?" just because it's so unnerving for me to talk about myself (honestly, I swear I'm Mr. Darcy to a T with my mannerisms and awkwardness).
What’s your ultimate writing goal or dream?
Oh, this is a big one. I'd love to say "be rich and famous and be on the best-selling list every single week and have loads of fans and a beautifully designed website", but that really isn't it. If I could just touch one person with my writing, just one person, I would be content. I want all my writing to always point to Jesus, so if I could direct one person towards God, I would feel like I used my talents well. I'm more concerned about hearing "Well done, my good and faithful servant" and using my gifts and talents to further God's Kingdom than attending huge book releases with J. K. Rowling and George R. R. Martin.
If you didn’t write, what would you want to do?
I don't even want to think about what I would do if I didn't write. I probably would be somewhere with a goat farm in Hawaii (my friend's cousin actually did that one time) or living my life as a beach bum. 
Okay, not really, but my life would be totally different. I wouldn't pick up little quirks about people, I wouldn't be able to read people as easily, nor would I be able to appreciate life as much as I do were it not for writing. With writing, I'm forced to pay attention to details and to learn as much as I can. I couldn't imagine my life without that.
Do you have a book you’d like to write one day but don’t feel you’re ready to attempt it yet?
Oh, yes. I really want to write my own fantasy series, but I don't feel like I'm skilled enough to attempt something as big as that yet. I think I'm doing pretty good just attempting a standalone novel as of now.
Which story has your heart and won’t let go?
The story of Alexander.

xo,
Sam

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

CURLY HAIR // my hair routine

Free your hair, and the rest will follow.
Lorraine Massey, author of Curly Girl: The Handbook

T H E   B A C K S T O R Y :  My curly hair journey started before I was even born. My dad had black curling masses of hair (I say "had" because he shaves his head now), and my mom had white-blonde wavy locks. Both my parents came from families with pretty curly hair, so I was destined to be a curly-head (maybe that has something to do with our families originating from Ireland and England?). When I was born, my hair was black with small cherub curls, and as I grew older, my hair began to have a mind of its own. My mom would spend every morning with me enduring my tears of frustration as she wet my hair down, scrunched it up, and attempted to comb through it. I remember crying every morning, then looking in the mirror and absolutely hating the hair that was on top of my head. It was frizzy and kinky and often times felt like straw with a big bow on top. I was miserable up until the 6th grade.

In 6th grade, I discovered the straightener. I begged my mom to straighten my hair every day, and she did reluctantly. Everyone had straight hair, so why I couldn't I have it? Eventually she taught me how to do it, and I spent every morning in my hot and stuffy bathroom literally burning my hair off. My hair never stayed straight, so my straightener was usually used more than once a day. My hair care routine usually involved straightening my whole head of thinning hair, pulling it back into a tight pony tail, then hair spraying it all down, then continuing to straighten my hair while it was inside the ponytail. Honestly, I thought this was the best thing for my hair, especially since the relaxers my mom would put in never worked.

Eventually my mom told me the news in 8th grade: my hair was thinning, fried, and my curls were ruined. I needed to stow the straightener away and let my natural hair do its thing for a while, after my mom chopped most of my hair off. I cried and cried while the hair piled around me, clumps of straw-like hair landing on the floor. My mom lathered my hair in deep conditioners for weeks, hoping what little hair I had left would turn out to be healthy. From that day on, I left my hair curly, but kept it in a ponytail, telling myself I was destined to live my life confined to a hair tie, even going so far as to say I would probably end up getting married with a ponytail. My hair continued to break off and thin out since it was in such tight ponytail.

Then, one glorious day, me and my mom were searching through Books-A-Million, and my mom picked up a book about curly hair called Curly Girl: The Handbook. I was so thrilled to find a book that broke down every single type of curl and told you how to take care of it. It was almost magical, and I took the next week and memorized every word and watched all the videos on the DVD's they provided. It truly was life changing, as cliche as that may sound, but through that book I was able to develop my own hair routine that I found works wonders on my hair, and I have never been happier! My hair is shiny, healthy, smooth, and full of bouncy curls.

T H E   R O U T I N E : First of all, I have naturally fine hair. When I straightened it, it looked as thin as ever, but it really isn't thin, just fine (meaning, I have a lot of hair, but it doesn't look like it because the hair strand itself isn't that thick). I also have drier hair because curly hair tends to have a harder time capturing and keeping the moisture. 

I only wash my hair about every three days. When you wash curly hair every day, or even every other day, you rip the natural oils from your head that are supposed to be there, leaving it dry and limp. When my hair needs a little pick-me-up because of my rad bedhead (I have the worst bedhead ever... I look like a troll who has just escaped the dungeons after years of being held hostage with no haircare products), I spray it down with some water and scrunch my hair using upwards motions. 

In the shower I use two products. One of them is Head & Shoulders 2 in 1 Smooth & Silky shampoo. Most curly-headed people will tell you this is a big no-no because it contains sulfate (which is the stuff you find in dishwasher detergent that strips hard stains or food off of the dishes). Curly hair is so delicate that using sulfate in your shampoo can leave your hair weak, but I use Head & Shoulders because I need a little help with scalp issues that most curly-headed people have. Because I only wash my hair every three days, it doesn't do as much damage and I'm able to revive it with my conditioner, but I wouldn't recommend using it every day.

The other product I use is Matrix Biolage Colorlast conditioner. This is a bit more expensive than the Head & Shoulders, but it works wonders. I use the Colorlast series because I do color my hair (when I was in 10th grade my hair began to lighten and darken in some odd places, and because it's easier to go darker than it is to go lighter, I decided to just make my head all one color, so I took the darkest part of my hair and went with that color). With the conditioner, though, you only need about a quarter size and you do not rinse it out. It sounds weird, but it has completely changed my hair and given it so much more moisture. I always put it in my hair and then scrunch it upwards to get the curls to form more properly in the shower.

After I get out of the shower, I only use a towel to scrunch my curls upwards, leaving them still wet but in their natural form. I then get about a palm-ful of Volumax Volumizing Styling Gel and scrunch it into my hair. Because there is no alcohol in any of the products I use, my hair takes about four hours to dry completely (which, I admit, can be a pain since it always looks thin when it isn't fully dried), but once it's dry I scrunch it upwards one more to loosen any parts of my hair that was hardened by the gel.

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I hope this helps anyone who is dealing with the joys and struggles of curly hair. It took me 17 years to find a routine that really suited me, so don't worry if you can't find the right product. Just keep trying and experimenting with different routines and enjoy the spontaneity of curly hair!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

LIBRARY HAUL // january 2015

I haven't gone to the library in ages. We used to go all the time, but once all of us kids were put in a private school, our library outings ceased to exist. Even after we were taken out of the school and home schooled again, we just never made time to go to the local library. So when the opportunity to go after our English class arose, I snatched it up. Usually I pick up at least ten different books, but this time I was only able to get two due to some unforeseen circumstances that forced us to leave the library earlier than expected. Nevertheless, I'm so excited to read both of these books as I've been dying to get my hands on them.

The Scarlet Thread, by Francine Rivers
Sierra Madrid, a bold and determined modern woman. Her marriage and family are about to be turned upside down by choices that seem out of her control.

Mary Kathryn McMurray, a young pioneer on the Oregon Trail. Tossed about by tragedy and betrayal, she is filled with anger at being uprooted from her home.

Two women, centuries apart, are joined through a tattered journal as they contend with God, husbands - even themselves - until they fall into the arms of the One who loves them unconditionally.

The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd
Living on a peach farm in South Carolina with her harsh, unyielding father, Lily Owens has shaped her entire life around one devastating, blurred memory - the afternoon her mother was killed, when Lily was four. Since then, her only real companion has been the fierce-hearted, and sometimes just fierce, black woman Rosaleen, who acts as her "stand-in mother".

When Rosaleen insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily knows it's time to spring them both free. They take off in the only direction Lily can think of, a town called Tuburon, South Carolina - a name she found on the back of a picture amid the few possessions left by her mother.
There they are taken in by an eccentric trip of black beekeeping sisters named May, June, and August. Lily thinks of them as the calendar sisters and enters their mesmerizing secret world of bees and honest, and of the strong, wise women. Maternal loss and betrayal, guilt and forgiveness entwine in a story that leads Lily to the single thing her heart longs for most.

The Secret Life of Bees has a rare wisdom about life - about mothers and daughters and the women in our lives who become our true mothers. A remarkable story about the divine power of women and the transforming power of love, this is a stunning debut whose much, assured, irritable voice gathers us up and doesn't let us go, not for a moment. It is the kind of novel that women share with each other and that mothers will have down to their daughters for years to come.

//////////

I've been a fan of Francine Rivers since the 9th grade when I read her The Mark of the Lion series. Her novels are all Christian-based and absolutely breathtaking in her writing style. I do have to point out that they are adult novels, and although she doesn't write about anything graphic or too sexual, things are implied and she holds nothing back. She's an adult writer writing for adults who can handle that, and none of those scenes are unnecessary or too forced. Everything she writes about is for a reason and to further the story and I truly believe it's her way of helping furthering the Kingdom of God. 

I've heard about The Secret Life of Bees for a while now. A few of my friends read it but I just never picked it up off the shelf. I honestly forgot about it until Marcia posted her books she's read in 2014 + 10 of her favorites blog post and that novel was one of them. I'm super excited to read this one since I've never heard of the author before (it's a debut novel and all). Hopefully I'll be able to juggle these two books plus Pride and Prejudice, which is the novel I'm supposed to be reading for my English class.

Monday, January 12, 2015

REVIEW // harry potter and the chamber of secrets

Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Fantasy
Released: 1998

Harry's second year at Hogwarts is rife with fresh torments and horrors, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls' bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley's younger sister, Ginny.

But these seem minor when the real trouble begins, and someone - or something - starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally revealed? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects... Harry Potter himself!

T H E   G O O D
Just like Harry Potter and the Socerer's Stone, this was another thrilling read. I keep reminding myself that this is a children's book because I honestly keep forgetting because I get that into it (although, I hear it's written for children to grow up with, and I do notice the tone and writing style beginning to shift towards a more mature audience as I continue the series). I thought this book was beautifully written.

One of the things I admire about J. K. Rowling is her ability to create worlds. I wish my world building with my novel I'm working on currently could be half as good as hers. I loved getting to explore more parts of Hogwarts with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and I loved getting to see Ron's house (affectionately called The Burrow). Overall, the story captured my attention  from the first page.

I loathed Gilderoy Lockhart with a passion almost as red as the Weasley's hair. Rowling does such a good job at making you truly hate a character, and I found myself moaning and sighing along with Harry every single time Lockhart came into view.

T H E   B A D
Again, just like I said in my review of the previous novel, this quite frankly put is a story about children learning witchcraft and wizardry. Now, the story does not revolve around that solely, but it does play a huge part. I am able to realize what is reality and what is fiction, so this doesn't bother me as much. If you have a hard time, I wouldn't recommend reading it at all.

I think the only thing I really found boring or cliched was when Tom Riddle proceeded to tell Harry all about his plan and his whole backstory in the Chamber of Secrets. I know it was probably a stalling thing on Riddle's part because he wanted to be able to be a full person and fight Harry himself, but I always hate villains who tell the hero exactly what the hero needs to know and all the villains secrets before killing the hero (but they always end up escaping with their newfound knowledge).

O V E R A L L   S T A R   R A T I N G
5/5 stars


J. K. Rowling is the author of the beloved, bestselling, record-breaking Harry Potter series. She started writing the series during a delayed Manchester to London King's Cross train journey, and during the next five years, outlined the plots for each book and began writing the first novel. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was published in the United States by Arthur A. Levine Books in 1998, and series concluded nearly ten years later with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, published in 2007. 

J. K. Rowling is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, including OBE for services to children's literature, France's L├ęgion d'honneur, and the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award. She supports a wide number of causes through her charitable trust, Volant, and is the founder of Lumos, a charity working to transform the lives of disadvantaged children. 

J. K. Rowling lives in Edinburgh with her husband and three children.

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READ MY REVIEW ON HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE HERE

Sunday, January 11, 2015

TOP 5 // fictional crushes

Let's face it: we have all come face-to-face with the love of our life, allowing him to sweep us off our feet, whisper words that carry meaning into our ears, and leaving us with hints of mystery. We let ourselves get to know him, talk with him, dream about him, and fall madly in love with him. But then the unthinkable happens. 

        We come to discover that our handsome charmer is none other than a fictional character.

We've all had our share of heartbreak, and we have all had to deal with the reality that Mr. Darcy just doesn't exist. It's a hard realization, and sometimes I wish it weren't necessary. However, I've come up with a list of my top five fictional crushes (in no particular order) that I'd marry in a heartbeat (if they weren't, you know, fictional and all that jazz), and I'd love to hear yours!
                                                                                        
                                                                                            /////////////////

 Is it really a surprise to anyone that Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice is on this list? I think every girl secretly hopes a Fitzwilliam Darcy would come in and rescue her from a dreary life of Mr. Collins, but alas, even if Mr. Darcy were to be real, that kind of class and character would have to be left in the early 1800's. I think, out of all that have made it onto the list, I'd relate more with Mr. Darcy than any of them. He's awkward, doesn't know what to do in social situations, often can be mistaken as rude or arrogant (when really he is trying his best to appear interested), and overall is very quiet in his demeanor, yet witty when he has to be. Maybe it wouldn't be a good idea to marry someone like Mr. Darcy because we might be too much alike, come to think of it.



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I've always loved the Phantom. I couldn't seem to understand why Christine would want to go off frolicking around with Raoul, especially since he had just now popped back into her life after years and years of never seeing her. The fact that they never had a decent conversation about dreams and plans and even their favorite color seems to turn me away from encouraging that relationship. Sure, the Phantom was sometimes incredibly frightening when you ripped his mask off without warning, but wouldn't everyone? In all seriousness, I think I might feel more pity for him than anything. He lived his entire life without a single friend, being forced to live in the attics of an opera house (and before that an event at the freak show circus) because of his hideous face. No one wanted to take the time to get to know him, and he grew bitter. In the end, he pretty much drove himself crazy.



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I'm not typically the type to go for bad boys, like, at all. I am drawn to the quiet and nice types (like Mr. Darcy!) so this was a shock. I find Draco Malfoy's character to be incredibly sad, and this might be another pity person for me. His whole life he was raised to think of himself as better than anyone else for being a pure-blood, but I feel like deep down he wouldn't be doing any of the scheming things he did throughout childhood if it weren't for the constant nagging of his father, Lucius. I haven't finished reading the books as of yet (I just finished Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), so I can't really make an judgements unless they are based on the movies.
Draco was also played by Tom Felton, so this might have a huge teeny tiny part in Draco making the list.


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What girl didn't have a crush on Gilbert Blythe? He's handsome, says adorable things like "Your friendship can't satisfy me, Anne. I want your love.", and is incredibly smart. His constant picking on Anne was adorable, you have to admit (although I nearly cheered in my seat when Anne hit him over the head with her slate), and he grew up to be quite the gentleman and doctor when he got older. He and Anne definitely make the perfect pair, and I could never imagine him with anyone else. I haven't read any of the books yet (I plan on reading them soon), but I hear everything is far better in the books, so I can't wait to dive into Gilbert and Anne's relationship!
                                                                ///////////////

I read The Inheritance Cycle when I was 16, and maybe it was Christopher Paolini's amazing writing skill, or maybe it was just true love, but I fell head-over-heels in love with Eragon. I have to admit that in the first two books I was quite annoyed at some of the things he did (like when Arya rejected him and he immediately burst into tears), but he was supposed to be younger and less mature, so I'll let that slide. But in the later books when he was thinking for himself and no longer considering himself to be a lowly farm boy is when I think I liked him best. He was so caring towards Saphira, and he pursued Arya relentlessly, and those two things alone made up for the irritating parts of him.





{all photos via pinterest}