reading of: medieval murder, daughters and high fae

I sit here, armed with a freshly brewed cup of Irish Breakfast Tea (my fave when mixed with a dash of sugar, and just enough cream to make it a pale, cozy color) and prepared to talk about the most wonderful subject to discuss over a warm cuppa: books.

Once upon a time, when I was much younger (read: had much more free time on my hands), I could quite easily be reading seven books at once and finish them in under two weeks.
Now, I'm excited if I can finish one book in a month.  While I am working on getting my reading speed and vigor back up to where it once was, or, at the very least, faintly resembling where it once was, I've had to cut back on how many books I am reading at once.

For example, rather than carrying around a book bag stuffed-to-the-seams with seven books, I am only reading three (I know. Don't look at me like that. I have book ADD. I can't stick with one book for too long or I get restless...no matter how electric and riveting the book actual is).

 Mistress of the Art of Death was a random find and buy from a thrift store; the cover looked pretty, the premise sounded intriguing and...I kinda have a thing for unconventional murder mysteries.  I get bored easily by the regular murder mysteries that crime-solving involve beat cops, or Parish Priests with a cunning mind (sorry, Father Brown. You are one of the better ones, though).
I grew up reading Agatha Christie, and as much as I still love her books, I think I rather burned myself out on them.
About a year ago, however, I discovered S.D. Sykes' Plague Land.  It completely changed the type of murder mystery I was interested in.
A murder mystery book that covered the black plague, a young English Lord trying to do right, a look at old England in a way that was gritty, ugly and far from charming? I absolutely loved it (also it delved into the human spirit and- stop me now because I could talk about Plague Land forever).
Mistress of the Art of Death vaguely reminded me of the same type of murder mystery that Plague Land was.  It's main protagonist, Adelia, an anatomist who was schooled at the University of Salerno, is a woman above her time who is trying to solve the murder of four children before it is pinned on the closest and most unlucky scapegoat. All in the meantime, she has to be careful to not be too above her time because, yo, witch burning was a thing. While I haven't gotten far into it yet, I'm definitely enjoying Ariana Franklin's medieval take on a forensic thriller.

 In medieval Cambridge, England, four children have been murdered. The crimes are immediately blamed on the town's Jewish community, taken as evidence that Jews sacrifice Christian children in blasphemous ceremonies. To save them from the rioting mob, the king places the Cambridge Jews under his protection and hides them in a castle fortress. King Henry II is no friend of the Jews-or anyone, really-but he is invested in their fate. Without the taxes received from Jewish merchants, his treasuries would go bankrupt. Hoping scientific investigation will exonerate the Jews, Henry calls on his cousin the King of Sicily-whose subjects include the best medical experts in Europe-and asks for his finest "master of the art of death," an early version of the medical examiner. The Italian doctor chosen for the task is a young prodigy from the University of Salerno. But her name is Adelia-the king has been sent a "mistress" of the art of death. Adelia and her companions-Simon, a Jew, and Mansur, a Moor-travel to England to unravel the mystery of the Cambridge murders, which turn out to be the work of a serial killer, most likely one who has been on Crusade with the king. In a backward and superstitious country like England, Adelia must conceal her true identity as a doctor in order to avoid accusations of witchcraft. Along the way, she is assisted by Sir Rowley Picot, one of the king's tax collectors, a man with a personal stake in the investigation. Rowley may be a needed friend, or the fiend for whom they are searching. As Adelia's investigation takes her into Cambridge's shadowy river paths and behind the closed doors of its churches and nunneries, the hunt intensifies and the killer prepares to strike again.


I had seen A Court of Thorns and Roses on multiple review blogs, bookstagram accounts and in the general bookish buzz.  The concept interested me (cute Fae lords? curses? animal shifters? um...yes??? please???) but there were so many anti-ACOTAR debates and reviews that I was a little scared to get involved into the story.  A chance meeting with the book in a discount book store made me decide to throw caution to the wind and dive in.

boy, oh boy, was it worth it. 

From the first page, I was plunged into a world of pure magic and delight.  Maas' writing style is the trustworthy simple that is frequent in Young Adult novels without being too simple and lacking in glimmer. In short: she writes beautifully.
Sure, there were things I didn't totally agree with.  For example, I can definitely see where Tamlin is pushy, and on a whole I didn't care for the premarital sex (and the whole "We will never see each other again, so might as well do it." I don't understand why that was a good reason, but...ok. whatever).
I'm almost finished, almost ready to start A Court of Mist and Fury...but while I definitely can appreciate Rhys (it doesn't take a genius to see that he's a stunner), but I'm not sure if I like Rhys yet.  Maybe I will in time. But I liked Tamlin from the start and everyone hates Tamlin after ACOMAF (I read the spoilers. I know why. it completely breaks my heart. Come on, Tam. I was rooting for you. I feel personally betrayed by him). But, lets be honest, if Tamlin hadn't done what he had, the fangirls rooting for him vs Rhys would be a lot bigger and there'd be fights. At least like this, there is peace between us.
 But still, knowing all that, I'm not sure is I'm ready for an ACOMAF that mainly focuses on Rhys x Feyre and I'm not sure if I'm ready for bad!Tamlin? At any point, I need to get my hurry on, because book three, A Court of Wings and Ruin came out and guess which girl hunted herself down a copy?

I love all the lesser faes and sprites and the magic in the world and it's just beautiful.  I wouldn't recommend it for younger readers simply because sex before marriage is shown favorably, but I certainly recommend it for people who are older, more mature, and totally down for falling in love with High Fae men. (Lucien ).

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.


Where do I begin with Mr. Darcy's Daughters? Firstly, I suppose, it should be said that this has not yet proven itself to be a great work of legendary fiction, but is more along the lines of a well writ fanfiction bound up and published.  I know there is some very good fanfiction that has been published by some very good authors, but honestly the $3.99 I paid for this book at a thrift store is about as much as I'd be willing to spend. 
It is a light and fluffy read, and delves into the story of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy's five daughters; Letitia, Camilla, Belle, Georgina and Alethea. 
The whole book (so far as to up where I've read), Darcy and Lizzy are both absent, visiting to Constinople and they've left their daughters in the care of a family friend. 
Letitia is absolutely maddening. I cannot honestly believe that Lizzy or Darcy would be capable of raising such a prudish, wilted flower of a daughter.  I think they tried to make her be The-New-Jane, but she lacks the heart, kindness and wistful honesty that Jane possessed and so Letitia just comes out whining, bossing her sisters around and making me want to rip her hair out with every word she says. 
Then we have Camilla. Spoiler: she's essentially Lizzy all over again, but she's more flirty, less dignified.  She's not the best female character I've seen on the pages of a book, but she's by far one of the most tolerable in this book.  Of course, however, with her being Basically-Lizzie, the author has set up two romances for her, one that smells distinctly of Wickham, and the other is basically Darcy all over again. 
I'm fairly certain I know who she will end up with. 
Belle and Georgina, the twins, are basically the same person. They are both flirty, both insanely driven towards men, and are quite likely to get involved in all manners of scandals (sound like anyone we know? I'll give you a hint...they are both fabulously infatuated by their Aunt Kitty...)
But, just so that we can tell them apart, the author made sure to make them look nothing alike. One is as dark as night (whats that even supposed to mean?) and the other is fair and lighter colored.  How handy. 
Last of all, we come to Alethea, the musically genius youngest daughter of the Darcys. She's ok. Thats it. Not super stunned by her. But she's not as awful as Belle, Georgina or Letitia. 
I guess I should save my hard thoughts for the final review, but if asked, right now, if I reccomended it...my first instinct would be to say, "only if you can find it for free."
However, I don't even think that would be a suitable answer because, trust me, there are far, far better things to spend your time reading.  I'm only finishing it because I paid for it and feel I ought to before ditching it.



It is the year 1818, twenty-one years after the stirring events of Pride and Prejudice.
Mr Darcy and Elizabeth have gone to Constantinople, while their five daughters descend on the dangerous and dashing world of Regency London. The world is changing, but opportunities for women are limited, as intelligent, independent-minded Camilla soon discovers - and Society is unforgiving of those who transgress its rules.
The sisters are assailed on all sides by the temptations of London, with its parties and balls, gossip and scandals, intrigues and schemes, not to mention the inevitable heartbreaks arising from proximity to so many eligible - and ineligible - men. In Mr. Darcy's Daughters, Elizabeth Aston presents a new variation on a Jane Austen theme, introducing a wonderful array of memorable and amusing nineteenth-century characters in a witty, lively and perceptive tale of Regency life.


So, those are the titles I have set to finish reading before I pick up any other books.  
Next up on my to-read list, however, is (naturally), A Court of Mist and Fury (shortly followed by A Court of War and Ruin). Then The Wizard's First Rule, by Terry Goodkind, which is the novel which inspired the tv show that I cant seem to find anywhere, The Legend of the Seeker. Finally, Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, is on my list, as it was recommended by a co-worker.  Somewhere in there, I'm also going to attempt to lightly pick my way through the Outlander books and hopefully not be too viciously scarred by Diana Gabaldon's lack of propriety when it comes to writing sex scenes. 

What are you currently reading? Do you recommend it? Why or why not? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!


letters i'll never send

years and years ago, i used to take part in a blog link up called "Dear Boys."
 basically, you wrote anonymous letters to various boys who you had interacted with, posted them on your blog and usually you didn't give away any hint regarding who was behind the 'letter.'
it was basically a lot of fluffy fun, very teenage-girly and ended up being mostly utter nonsense.  'recipients' of my letters could range from close friends, to the boy behind the counter at the grocery store.  the charm was just that you never knew who these boys might be. 

while thinking back on Dear Boys (and wondering if it is still up and running somewhere), i realized that, in many ways, i've collected 'letters' in my heart towards certain people i have interacted with. friends, family members, associates, there are many who have notes penned to them in my heart and mind.

so, i decided, what better way to plunge back into writing by honoring an old link up and clearing our the old letter box of my heart?
it should be noted, and likely as you read the 'why' will become obvious, i do not plan on revealing who these letters address, even if asked, even is asked by the person who they belong to. 

there is a reason i never plan to send them. 

dear once-hated,
i used to hate you.  wow, some way to start a letter out, huh? thats a dang ice breaker right there.  but, honestly, its the bare and ruthless truth.  i hated you so much. so so much. there was no logical reason for it, but anytime your name would come up, anytime we'd talk, anytime i'd see you, something ugly and green swirled deep in my chest and i wanted to be as far away from you as i possibly could be. 
this hate was something that shocked me; i had never considered myself to be a ruthless or ugly person. but oh, dear, it also delighted me. it was something so tasty and lovely. i liked hating you...and i think that shamed me the most.
i felt like you deserved it; you had, after all, stolen something precious from me.  i staked my claim on something that i had no right to call my own, and then you came along, all perfect and charming and smart and witty and i paled beside you. how could i ever compare? hate was the easiest thing for me to do in such a situation. you were the thief, and i was the victim.
slowly, however, i saw the hatred for what it was. it was ugly, and definitely not something to be prized. it wasn't an immediate change, i had spent years building a portfolio of reasons to despise you. but i began tearing up my causes, and reaching out to you.
funny, the reasons that i had hated you slowly seemed less loathsome. you are charming, you are funny, and smart and witty.  the thing that you 'stole' from me? bah, who needed it anyway, not i.
if i had been meant to have it forever, i would not have lost it. admitting that was the final step, i think.
yes. you took something, and have something, that was once mine.
but you see, the thing is, i want you to have it. i realize now that you stole nothing, it walked away from me. it chose you.
thats ok.
thats not your fault.
and i am sorry for blaming you for that.  someday, i think, i want to personally apologize. but you are lovely, and splendid, and i am afraid of being turned into the hated one. i lost one thing, i'd like to not lose you as well.
-- sincerely, apologetic. 

dear Gone,
i would send this one if i knew you would get it. but there is no way left on earth for you to read this, and that pains me every day.
i told you i loved you, and i know you knew.  but still...the regrets of those left behind remain. did i tell you enough? did i tell you with all the conviction i felt?
i say it now, with my throat choking and all the pain resurfacing,
i miss you so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so much and everyday i miss you more.
i love you.
-- love, always yours. 

dear betrayer,
do you know how much it hurts me to write that title and think of you?  gosh...you were once the one who brought my smiles...now, the only smile you bring is lemony and sour.
i would be false to myself if i said i did not see your betrayal before it even came. i felt it creeping up onto me, and like the little bird i was, i ignored it.
i chose to focus on what i felt was still good and happy between us...maybe our rift is partially my blame, for i did nothing to stop it until you were quite out of my grasp. i let us drift away all while i covered my eyes and ears and pretended the tide would bring us back together.
i'm wiser now, and know that will never happen.  no tide pulled us apart, no watery current pulled you away from me.
you chose to leave. you chose to leave me alone. you, who knew my deepest secrets, you were the peanut butter to my jam left when you knew i had no one else; the hole between us is and was your choice and doing.
im sorry i wasn't shiny enough to stay at your side, but i am done and tired of competing in the hunger games that is your affections. i have better things to do with my time.
-- goodbye. 


God help the girl // this year

in many ways, for many of us (most of us), 2016 has been a downright awful year. 
i agree. 

this has been a hard year to blog through; recording it would probably have been important, but in many ways, getting through each day was my priority.

within this last year, i lost a grandmother that i hadn't known until months before her death. it shouldn't have been as grievous as it was, except that within the few months that i got to know her, i also was allowed to finally bond.

i watched my brother go from being in a happy and blissful courtship with a girl that my family positively adored, to watching our families break and the bond between both the couple and our families shatter.  it was sad. it felt avoidable. but it happened.

celebrities have died. a dear family member is quite likely dying. acquaintances have died. i had to leave a job i loved and thrived in. and oh, by the way, of my childhood group of friends, can you guess who is the last to be neither married nor engaged? if you guessed me, bingo.

but you know, this whole year hasn't been awful. sure, there were awful bits, but there were downright good parts too.

i :: i thrived in my skin. early this year (or late last year) i had made a post about accepting myself. the funny thing is, even when you accept who you are, there is always so much more you can find to love within yourself. i learned who i am, and learned that i can be so much more. then i became more.

ii :: i mentioned the job that i loved, but it was so much more.  it stretched me, and made me stop testing foreign waters with only my toes. it taught me that i would never do anything if i didn't cannonball dive into it. also i learned how to hold an adult-ish phone conversation without totally displaying an error message. i loved my coworkers, and still dearly miss them. but i am glad, so very glad, that i got to know them.

iii :: i came to my knees and submitted. it truly was a 'cold and broken hallelujah.' oh how glorious it was to kneel and sob and reach out and have heavenly hands grab you. i used to have a lot of worries and uncertainties. no more.

iiii :: i found home in a small southern town. i've never truly felt like i belonged in a place until this place. i have a wandering soul, but if it ever needs a place to roost here in the south, that is where it will be.

iiiii :: my grandmother. i hadn't seen her since i was....five, or younger. we had no bond and no relationship. but then she got sick, and i am forever grateful that in her time of need, we were able to show her the forgiveness we ourselves had been given. i am thankful that even while my time with her was short (and rocky at first -- forgiving is easy. forgetting and trusting? not so much), it was a good time. i learned that we shared interests, and having her in our lives brought other distanced family members into our life as well. in the end, her death reunited a separated family.

so while this year had blights, it had many positive elements as well, and for those, i am thankful.
but it was packed, it was full of sadness and happiness; of rush and exhausted tranquility. 
i meant to get back into blogging during 2016, but i think i picked the worst possible year to return myself to this sphere.
so, this is me, trying to restart (again).

i miss blogging, i miss having a place to pen out my thoughts, and i miss my audience. i want to return.

if all goes well, i would like to have a new post once a week. at least. this will take some work at the start, as i am rusty and out of practice. (encouragement is much appreciated...lol).
but i want to do this. i think i am ready to do this. further, i am desperately excited to do this.
so, lets do this thing.

i will see all of you in 2017; aka: the year we all hope is better than the last.

( explaining the title: God Help The Girl, by Belle and Sebastian, has been my sort of go-to song throughout 2016, especially the first set of verses: 

 "There is no way I'm looking for a boyfriend
There is no way I'm looking for a scene
I need to save some dough
I'm a working girl, you know
I'll fend attention off; I keep to myself"

so, it felt appropriate to make the title thus. )

 all photos taken from here.