14.1.18

8 Books I Absolutely Plan to Read in 2018

Photo by Drew Coffman on Unsplash

I bought a lot of books in 2017. I mean, not as much as I could have, obviously, but compared to how many books I finished and read, it was more than could have possibly been approved if, like, I had an adultier adult telling what I should and shouldn't do with my money.

Last year (and the year before that and the year before that) I also took part in the Goodreads Book Challenge...and failed, miserably (all three years).  So, this year I am trimming things back and hopefully simplifying without cutting out the end goal of reading books.
Instead of saying "I will read 'x amount' of books" I am going to say "THESE are the books that I will have read by the end of the year." If I finish them and happen to read more? great! But if not, if I only finish these, I will still have completed something in its fullness and I can be proud of that.

So without further ado, here are the 8 books that I bought in 2017 that I absolutely, positively, must read in 2018:




  • A Court of Mist and Fury // Sarah J. Maas: I bought both ACoTaR and ACoMaF at the same time, and absolutely blitzed through the first book. It...has taken me a bit longer to finish A Court of Mist and Fury and I can only chalk it up as to not wanting Tamlin to change (but, I love Rhys so....that should negate any bad feelings about Tamlin??). I started this book already, so I've already got, say, two chapters down? Honestly, I need to just commit some more time to finish it and I'm sure I'll get through it as fast as the first book.
  • The Scarlet Letter // Nathaniel Hawthorne: Listen, not all of us had required reading in high school. For a large portion of my childhood, this was the classic we didn't mention. I'm fairly certain if I had picked it up, I would've been allowed to read it (with the exception of Harry Potter, my mom practically didn't vet what I read due to not being a reader herself) but the content always scared me away.  However, I am a big girl now, and I fully plan on delving into this weighty classic. 
  • Wizard's First Rule // Terry Goodkind: When I was younger, I heard about Legend of the Seeker and honestly really wanted to watch the show. However, I could find it nowhere (legally and cheaply) and so I put it off.  Last year, I stumbled upon Wizard's First Rule and instantly went, "hey, isn't that...?" so, since I never got to watch the show (and tbh, I think I can safely say I outgrew the need to watch it), I'm instead opting to go with the book which inspired the show. Surely that can't be an awful trade-off.  This is another book that I have started, and frankly, I'm pretty impressed. Is it a fairly normal fantasy read? hecking yes. Do I like fairly normal fantasy reads? I'm trash for them. So, I think it'll be a good relationship. 
  • Norse Mythology // Neil Gaiman: This one will probably be the first to be finished, simply because I'm already about halfway through it and, while I'm reading it, I'm also listening to it in audiobook.  I'm not a big audiobook fan, but I had a 9-hour car ride and, even though I had the book, decided to download the audiobook because it had Neil Gaiman reading it. That was a great idea. Gaiman's reading style is to die for, and he does the voices! Every voice is so pristine and perfect and look at me fangirling.  So, yes, with the combination of an audio-book I love and a collection of Norse Mythology stories that are funny, original and written as only Gaiman could write them, I'm sure it will be a quick finish. 
  • The Great Gatsby // F. Scott Fitzgerald: I have a friend who spent the entirety of an almost hour-long car ride passionately discussing the greatness of this book, and frankly, I'd felt left out. The book had never before caught my attention, despite the roaring 20's being perfectly aesthetic. But the way she spoke about it made me feel like I might truly be missing something important. Besides, it's such a thin little book, I'm sure I could read it in no time. 
  • A Flame in the Mist // Renee Ahdieh: I don't read much mainstream YA these days. Aside from Maas' series, I honestly didn't find my attention dramatically captured by very many YA books. A Flame in the Mist was one of those rare gems that did catch my eye.  While I've heard from other book bloggers that it cant, reliably, be called a Mulan retelling, the setting, and the storyline offers much to interest me.
  • The Orphan's Tale // Pam Jenoff: This was a last minute buy towards the end of the year. It was majorly discounted at work and the synopsis sounded like a new twist on WWII stories. I'm a few chapters in and, honestly, it's remarkably charming.  A young childless mother saves a Jewish infant from a railway car ultimately headed toward's the baby's death, and then joins a circus. In the circus are remarkable people, and a woman who knows, better than most, the fear and terror that she's going through.  What's not to love? 
  • Moon Called // Patricia Briggs: I place the full blame of this book on one of my dearest friends. When she got me hooked on this book dripping with fantasy and modern world realism, she opted not to tell me that there are 10 (11, if you count the extra...and even MORE if you count the spin-offs) books in this dang series. I don't know how she ever expects me to finish this series that is chock full of realistic and dang-pretty werewolves (honestly, this is the best, most honest and raw writing of werewolves that I have ever seen. The whole 'alpha male' thing isn't sexualized and they are written as real half-animals, half-men. It's very refreshing).  I guess I'm just going to have to start with finishing one book at a time and hoping to have them all done by the time I'm, I dunno, 40. 

What's on the top of your TBR list? 
Have you read any of the books on this list? 

If you made a similar post, I'd love to read it! Share the links in the comments and I'll be sure to stop by. 

9.1.18

learning how to not hold a breath

I am a workaholic.

Granted, I did not realize I was one until recently.  Until a few months ago, I would have insisted that it wasn't a rooted tendency that fringed on working myself to death, but rather a good work ethic and willingness to pitch in where needed.

The beginning of my realization started at my last job.  I worked in a daycare and gosh darn it, I loved those babies. I spent my hours off the clock trying to think up ways to fill my classroom. I wrapped myself in the cloak of 'teacher' and flaunted it with pride. I truly enjoyed being around those magnificent little people and their parents were pretty great too.

I worked even when it was not the time for work because, jokingly I told myself, "It's not work if I want to do it!"


News Flash:
Work is still working even if you enjoy it.
Working on things outside of your passions can still wear you out even if you don't mind doing those outside things.
Taking breaks to invest in yourself isn't just a 'nice break from the norm,' it is a requirement for health.


Ironically, my workaholic tendencies did not start there either, but rather, at my first real actual not-hired-by-a-friend-or-family job.
It was journalism, where I worked with words, with community, with photography and deadlines and I loved it. I soaked it up. I relished in it. "I could do this for the rest of my life!" I decided, making press deadlines. "This doesn't feel like work at all!" I thought, staying up late to cover tiring city commission meetings that drug on and on and on. "It's not work if you enjoy it!" I convinced myself.
I pledged myself to staying late, to going far, to doing more than needed, and I did it because, thats what good, hardworking employees do, right?

It should surprise no one, then, that it was then that my hobbies, my passions, became neglected.

I wrote all day for a newspaper, I was too word-worn to dedicate anything to my novels. Reading books seemed like a chore. My photography lost it's feeling as an art form I indulged in and felt like a job skill I needed to hone. I stopped blogging, reviewing books, and for a few weeks, my friendships took a hit, as I was too busy, too tired and too driven to give more than a few words above what was required.
I smartened up regarding friendships, but I was too busy working to realize that my passions were becoming secondary to my need to work and work and work and work and work.

When I left the newspaper due to a move, I had depleted myself without even knowing it. I had started to hold in a breath and didn't even know how to release it.
So when I came into the daycare, the urge to work myself into a blur quickly reignited. I was on autopilot and had forgotten how to thrive outside of work. I needed this job. I needed to stay busy.

So, I was very very very very very very busy.

Whether it was time finally catching up with me, or the (awful) circumstances and work environment of my daycare job that weighted me down until I could finally see the truth, I had a collapsed.

It wouldn't be very noticeable to an outsider, but I had, indeed, worked myself thin. I had no temper to spare and was quick-tongued and reclusive. I came home from work and went straight to bed. I woke up exhausted and spent the work day trying to find some energy.
My work environment was getting worse and I was losing my drive and my energy to overcome it, and I was confused on the why.  I loved my classroom, I loved my co-teachers, I loved my job, so why was I loathing going to work?
I still didn't understand what I had done. I didn't see that I had been running on a career sugar high and I was finally seeing how unhealthy it all had been.

It wasn't until I left my job at the daycare, cried in the parking lot, and drove home with the sense of 'what now? what am I supposed to do now?' that it finally began clicking into place.

The week after I left the daycare, I slept. Not a whole week, of course, but gaps of hours, lumps of time and portions of each day, I slept. It honestly felt like, for the first time in a long time, that I was rested and ready.

I'm working again now, but I'm wiser. I know what I did.  I worked and worked and gave all of myself to a job and left nothing for myself.  A sad side effect was that, as far as writing and photography go, my inactivity also led to feelings of failure and unworthiness in my hobbies. I am working to overcome that.  With blogging, I will have to relearn to appreciate my words and place value in my writing. I am no longer tired, but I am out of practice. I've forgotten how to not hold my breathe and run everywhere.  I've forgotten how to slow down and enjoy each second.

I'm working on it though!
I bought a Polaroid camera and an assortment of scrapbooking items. I plan to scrapbook each Polaroid-worthy event and I've decided I want to start basking in my passions again. I've made it a point to bring a book with me everywhere and to not schedule more work on the days I'm off from work.  I'm going to coffee shops just for the sake of going and basking and writing. I plan on taking more pictures.

As for writing and blogging, it won't be a quick or easy fix.  But I really do want to return to myself, and this blog and my novels are a part of who I am.  I am going to have to find words to write and run with it until I am myself again.
I trust I will get there, but I do ask that you guys look gently on me during this time.  I'm not sure what I will write, or how frequently (or how interesting....) it will all be.

Photo by Matthew Smith on Unsplash
I'm learning how to breathe again, instead of holding it all in.  I'm trying to pour myself back out instead of bottling me up.

Part of my New Years Resolutions were goals to regain my sense of identity, and while I don't plan on listing all of them publically here (as some are of a more personal nature), I can safely say that 'blog more/blog better' did make it onto the list.

 I think I am going to resolve not to read a pre-set amount of books or write a certain amount of words or publish an estimated count of blog posts.
I am just going to resolve to be me and live like me and stop working the fingers of my heart to the bone.

7.5.17

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.

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 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.



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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 ).
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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.








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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.

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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.








 
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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!