Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Wrap Up

2016 was crazy. I didn't think it could get more insane than the previous year, between quitting my job and moving and settling into weekly brain injury rehab, but it truly outdid itself, and 2017...well, it's safe to say she gonna be just as crazy.

Despite all the insanity, I managed to read more than I have in years. My goal was to branch out from my usual genres (which consisted of about two), and I believe I accomplished this goal.

I wanted to read 30 books, and as of right now, I've read 28. It's bothering me that I didn't meet this target, but I've been encouraged by others to pat myself on the back for still going above and beyond what had become my normal. breathe in, let go, breathe out. 

I won't go through every single book, as you can check them out here on my Goodreads, but take a peak at my highlights of the year.

Jennifer's Way

Thoughts: Love Jennifer's voice in this book, and the amount of information I gained was so helpful.

Rating: *****

Batman: The Killing Joke

Thoughts: The darkest comic book I've read so far and will possibly ever read, and certainly not my usual style. Twisted, deep, disturbing and exciting.

Rating: *****

Frankenstein read by Dan Stevens

Thoughts: I adored Dan Stevens' version of this story and enjoyed the book more than I thought I would.

Rating: ****

Every Heart a Doorway

Thoughts: Fast, fantastical, twisted. Perhaps also the most confusing book of 2016.

Rating: ****

Most Fun:
Peter Pan

Thoughts: Not a children's book.

Rating: ****

Northanger Abbey

Thoughts: Every time I read this I love it more. It was my only reread of the year!

Rating: ****

The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland

Thoughts: A vacation book. It kept me turning the page, but it was amateurish and angsty.

Rating: **

Favorite Covers: 
Penguin Classics Hardcovers
For my birthday I received Jane Eyre, and it sent me down an obsessive path. I adore these covers and now also own The Secret Garden, Peter Pan, and A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings.

Book of the Year:

Dogs. Love. Writers. Family. What more could you ask for? I fell in love with this book so much I had to buy my own copy — clothbound illustrated edition, of course. 
Rating: *****

Bonus — Most Meaningful: 

As you know from my review, this is my brother's first published book, and it's a masterpiece. You can find it on Amazon and now Barnes and Noble. 
Rating: *****

What Did You Read in 2016?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Writer's Christmas + After Christmas Book Haul!

As a writer, I'm sure you had at least one item on your list that was writer-ly or readable, if not your whole list. I thought it would be fun to share what I received this year that speaks to the writer and reader in me.

1. Elephant Mug from Urban Outfitters — I've wanted this mug for at least a year now! It's even better in person and makes me smile and laugh when I use it.

2. Elephant Notebook — This gorgeous clothbound notebook with a little elephant on the front makes my heart so happy.

3. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up — There's nothing like a good bit of reading. I've wanted this book for a while, and I'm slowly on a path to more minimalistic living.

4. 3 Steps to Gluten-Free Living — I'm trying to go gluten free to see if it helps with some health issues, so I'm anxious to see if this will help me understand gluten free living and help me manage the transition.

5. Chocolate — Because y'all know this is essential for writing.

6. Palm Stone — It can be easy to become frustrated while writing, and a palm stone is the perfect trinket to work between your fingers for easing out the frustration or mulling over new ideas.

7. The Dear Hunter albums Act IV and Act V — My brother took a chance and got me these albums. I'm almost through the second and have loved them. These are great for background music while working on stories.


Also, there's something about Christmas that makes me want to go book shopping. I know not the only one. However, after a Christmas that nearly broke the bank (don't get me wrong, it was so much fun), I couldn't make the big purchase I wanted. So I went to Goodwill and found some goodies for a whopping $12 total. Ah, how I love discount books.

1. Charlie Brown's 'Cyclopedia Volume 1: Featuring Your Body — My most random buy. My mother told me she used to own these as a child, and I can't pass up anything that has Snoopy. 

2. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking — I've had this book on my kindle for a while and have tried several times to get through it. I've liked the book, but I just have too hard a time using kindle. I was so excited to find it in paperback. 

3. Martin the Warrior — Between me and my brother, we own a ton of Redwall books by Brian Jaques. I can't remember if I own this one, but it was a buck and I haven't read a Redwall book in ages and thought it would be fun to grab. 

4. The Real History of World War II — Told you I was building up my World War II research books.

5. Beowulf — I've never read Beowulf in its entirety, only an excerpt in Literature class. Honestly, I thought the cover was cool, and it's always acceptable to add to your classics. 

6. The Silmarillion — The only J.R.R Tolkien books I've read are The Lord of the Rings series. I've heard for years that this is one of his best.

7. Splinter Cell — Certainly not my normal reading, but my brother recommended this one to me as there is a movie based on the book coming out soon. 

What Books or Writer-ly Things Did You Receive for Christmas? 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

November/December Wrap Up

Just a quick monthly wrap up before the year's end overview!

Black Widow, Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread

Thoughts: Read my review here.

Rating: ****

Ms. Marvel: No Normal 

Thoughts: Read my review here.

Rating: *****


The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland

Thoughts: I turned the pages. I finished it. I felt I had wasted my time.

Rating: **

Frankenstein (Audiobook)

Thoughts: I really enjoyed the story and Dan Steven's version of the book.  If you have a hard time reading classics, check this out.

Rating: ****

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict

Thoughts: The beginning was strong and had potential, but soon the dialogue and action turned repetitive, and I found myself counting the pages til the end. The end was cliche, feel-good, and not horrible, but I was rather disappointed in this book.

Rating: ** (and a half star)

The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere (Audiobook)

Thoughts: I listened to this as a way to build my book count, but I did end up enjoying it. I wouldn't agree with everything the author says, and I wish he had included more personal experiences that observations of others behaviors, but it was a relaxing listen.

Rating: ***

The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty

Thoughts: I went into this book thinking it would be a deep look at today's society and culture, and what it turned into was a chick-lit with a random splash of supernatural that just didn't flow. I enjoyed it well enough, but I set the book aside and laughed, and not in the best way.

Rating: **

Peter Pan

Thoughts: It's Peter Pan. Of course I loved it. A very different book, and certainly not the children's story we are familiar with thanks to Disney.

Rating: ****

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Comic Book Reviews: MARVEL

Ah, there's nothing like running out to Barnes and Noble with your brother 20 minutes before closing and having to wade through the hundreds of titles in the comic book section to find your perfect book. Thankfully my brother is well-versed in comics and was able to help me find what I wanted with minutes to spare.

I'm on vacation right now, and when you're on vacation, you read no matter what. I read the first the night I came home after riding for 11 hours in a car, and the next night I couldn't resist reading the second. So without further ado, let me tell you about the two I bought.

Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread

I snatched this one up first as Black Widow is one of my favorite characters, and I wanted to get to know her more in the comics. The first volume in what I believe to be three, there wasn't much of a story line but more of character setup cluttered with erratic stories here and there eventually wrapping up to tie into the next novel. A bit of a disappointment, but I still enjoyed the character building and if anything, the illustrations made up for it. If you love something a little softer and more realistic, you'll adore these graphics. I'm definitely keeping my eye out for more books illustrated by Phil Noto.

Ms. Marvel: No Normal

Image result for ms marvel no normal

I've been hearing about this book for a year, so after I got into comics this past March I figured it was finally time to pick it up. I have to say I was impressed. I appreciated the themes of the story and authenticity of the teenage protagonist; sixteen, Muslim, rebellious, ignorant, confused, aching for more than she is... It's a story of growth and acceptance in the midst of mistakes, addressing issues of bullying, tolerance, and responsibility. If you love the character of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, you'll enjoy Ms. Marvel, and I also think it's a great comic book for teens if they want to start reading comic books.

Did you grow up with comics? Or are you just starting to show interest like me? 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

October Wrap Up

Happy November 1st! October ended up being a pretty good month for me reading-wise. After refreshing my list with some delicious new books, I've come out of my reading slump and dived right back into the magical world of getting lost in books.

1. Northanger Abbey / I read this for the Austentatious Book Club on Goodreads. This was my third time reading through the book, and I loved it. The protagonist is young, flawed, and though she experiences guilt and grief as the true story of life is revealed to her sheltered eyes, she remains the innocent, slightly immature heroine  which I find to be genius on Austen's part. 4/5 stars

2. Every Heart a Doorway /  I've tried multiple times to figure out the perfect way to describe this book...and I can't. A school for children come back from other worlds who now can't cope in the "real" world is just the kind of twist I adore. Add a scoop of murder mystery, a dash of fantastical, and pinch of world issues, and I found this book too intriguing to ignore. In a novella that reads like a short story, you know who each character is, and there isn't much growth, yet it keeps you turning page after page until you close the book and breathe a sigh, maybe of satisfaction, maybe of relief, but certainly of contemplation. 4/5 stars
 3. Throne of Glass / I posted a summary review of this book here. I was a bit underwhelmed after the build of anticipation for this book, and yet I found myself losing track of time as I read. A slightly flawed introduction to a series that will hopefully lead to bigger and better things.  2.5-3/5 stars
4. Daredevil: Guardian Devil / Ah, yes. I am a comic book reader now, and I love it. I was introduced by my brother to my first comic books this past March, visited my first comic book shop, and this is the first comic book I've bought. After being obsessed with Netflix's Daredevil series, this was an obvious choice. I admit I wasn't thrilled with the story, and the artwork was great though not my exact taste, but I still enjoyed reading it. 3/5 stars
5. Jennifer's Way / I adore Jennifer Esposito's character Jackie on the CBS television show Blue Bloods, and when I found out she was a Celiac, I had to pick up her book. I'm not sure I'm celiac, but I deal with many similar symptoms and am on my own journey trying to find my way out of the twists and turns and muck and mire of health issues to find an answer. I flew through this book, and it was the first autobiography I've read that became a page-turner. It's an incredible story of a heart-wrenching health journey that proclaims hope, and I think anyone would enjoy it, especially those who have Celiac's Disease or struggle with health. 5/5 stars. **Favorite book of the month

What did you read in October?


Friday, October 28, 2016

October Book Haul!

This is actually my second book haul of the month, but as most of my previous haul was featured in my autumn TBR, I'm counting this as separate.

I purchased all these books from I'm not affiliated with them, just thought I'd let you know about their site. They offer like new to brand new quality books at incredible discount prices, and also offer a section of even cheaper priced books though at slightly less quality. I've ordered twice from them, and the only marks on (a few) the books have been some sticker residue and a black pen strike on the bottom (often found on sale books). Shipping is fast and I've been immensely pleased!

The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty

I found this book on Pinterest and the premise looked fairly interesting and thought-provoking, and after hearing from a friend that she'd like to know my opinion of it, this was the first book I picked up. 

Every Heart a Doorway

This book is being reviewed everywhere on Youtube. I didn't pay any attention at first, because honestly, I judged the book by its cover and thought it was a typical YA or Adult romance, but then I finally caught onto the storyline; a school for children who have gone to magical lands but come back to the real world and can't cope? Yes, please. As a child (and adult!) who had an active imagination and spent her days wishing she could escape to Narnia, I have a feeling this book will be right up my alley. 

Hans Christian Andersen, Best-Loved Fairy Tales

Honestly, I didn't grow up reading a lot of Hans Christian Andersen, even though I love fairy tales. This book is enormous and contains beautiful black and white illustrations. I couldn't pass it up and can't wait to catch up on some fairy tales! This might become my nightly read. 

The Secret Garden

This is the most exciting book I've purchased this year. I read The Secret Garden when I was in elementary school, and it was the first book I remember making an impression on me with its writing, particularly Hodgson Burnett's knack of mesmerizing descriptions. I haven't read it since and am so anxious to reread it. Plus, how beautiful is this Puffin Classics cover? It's even more darling in person.

Peter Pan

This was actually purchased in my first haul but I forgot to include it in my TBR post mentioned previously, so I'm slipping it in here. I've had several people recommend I read this, citing it's completely different from the Disney animated movie I grew up with. It's also a Puffin Classic edition; I'm so in love with these beautiful, whimsical covers!

Night Knight

  I'm making a trip next month to see my nephew and new niece (squee!), and I'm bringing this along as a little gift for my 3 year-old nephew. I've fallen in love with this book. The illustrations are so charming, and the story is adorable. I only wish I lived closer so I could read it to him myself more often! ;)

How's your autumn reading coming along? What book will you pick up next? 


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Book Review: Throne of Glass, Book 1

I finally did it. I read the first book to the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, a series endlessly pushed by "booktube" and beautiful fan art on Pinterest, a book which I could ignore no longer.

Throne of Glass is about Celaena Sardothien, a world-reknowned 18 year-old assassin who is taken from the slave camp Endovier and brought to the kingdom of Adarlan to compete in a series of Tests against other assassins, soldiers, and thieves for the role of the King's Champion. Though working for the king who ruined her life isn't her ideal situation, Celaena is promised freedom in four years and finds herself facing an offer she can't refuse. She soon discovers things are not as they seem and finds herself not only in a fight for title, but a fight for her life.

I will say...the hype, centered around this young assassin with extraordinary skills, didn't live up to my expectations. I prepared myself for a dark, grim world and protagonist. While there were a few scenes where we got a glimpse of Celaena's mad skills, I felt her budding romance with one of the characters and her constant self-examinations in the mirror over every detail of her new dresses overshadowed the assassin in her. Granted, she's young and not inhuman, but she's also been through hell and trained to be an assassin by the leader of the Assassin's Guild; I figured there would be less concern over her attire and how dirty her face was and more suspicion and apathy. 

Despite my disappointments, I still feel as though I need to give this series a chance. I haven't heard great things about book 2, but have heard book 3 is where it starts to get interesting. There were elements of the story and characters that I loved, and I thought the world-building was unique (I mean, a castle of glass...C'mon. That's not usual). Book One can be tricky in setting up backstory and characters, so I'm still hopeful that this entertaining but shaky introduction will lead to bigger and better things.

A hopeful 3/5 stars

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Autumn TBR!

It's been a rough year for reading. 

Life happens. 

You get busy. Your mind becomes consumed with other things. Headaches plague your eyes. You break your finger. People are born. You start to wonder if it all means something...or nothing. 

But then you have a birthday and receive money from your gommie (a.k.a grandmother), and you realize you can buy books with said money. And by buying books...happiness is regenerated.

So as I try to type this, minus one finger and with my dog attempting to lick remnants of popcorn from my hands, bear in mind that for me, this year, this list is ambitious which is why it is an Autumn TBR and not just October. It will certainly be spilling over into November...maybe even December. And January. But hey, it's good to have goals. 

Northanger Abbey

I joined the Goodreads Austentatious book club created by readbyzoe. An Austen book a month? Sounds like heaven to me. Unfortunately, the first two months I wasn't able to fully participate. This month is Northanger Abbey, and not only is it one of the smaller Austen books, it's one of my favorites. I'm determined to finish this month's!

Jane Eyre

I received this gorgeous edition of Jane Eyre for my birthday. It's currently displayed beautifully on my book shelf and by far the prettiest book. I haven't read this book since I was in my mid-teens, so I can't wait to revisit it!


I don't know much about this book except that it deals with problems such as high school drama, bullying, and rape. A friend recommended this with the warning that the material is heavy. I have a feeling it will be a tear-jerker and deeply thought-provoking. 

Jennifer's Way

I first discovered Jennifer Esposito while watching the cop TV show Blue Bloods. Anyone else a Jackie fan? After reading her experience online expressing her ordeal with illness and celiac's disease, I knew I had to read this. As someone who has dealt with undiagnosed chronic illness my whole life, I already know this book will bring me to tears and also shine hope. 

Throne of Glass

This series is all over Pinterest and Booktube. After drooling over hundreds of fan art photos as inspiration for my own fantasy works and hearing the name over and over again, I finally broke down and bought the first book. I'm skeptical, but anxious to read it. 

Theft of Swords

At nearly 700 pages, this fantasy book won't be finished in October, that I know at least.  I've read mixed reviews, but the premise was something I couldn't get out of my mind. Two medieval swashbuckling partners framed for murder, sprinkled with a bit of sarcastic humor and mystery? Bring it. 

 What are you reading this fall?


Monday, September 26, 2016

What Is a Writer?

Tell me, does this situation sound familiar?

You're standing alone in the corner of a room, surrounded by friendly, laughing faces. You observe, not so much minding the solitude but wishing you could somehow be included in the conversation. 
Joy! Someone turns to you. 
"Hey, do you still write?"
You lean forward eagerly. "Yes, I do!"
"How's it going?"
"Oh, it's going pretty well. I've been writing quite a bit lately—"
"Published anything?"
"Well, no—"
...And there's nothing more to talk about. The person, bored, disinterested, or just plain awkward, drops the conversation, and you stand back in your corner in silence, wondering just why you haven't published anything.

In the world's eye, a writer is not successful until having published their work. A newspaper or magazine is a stepping stone, a blog is cute, and a novel is the holy grail — until it becomes old news and the people wonder what comes next.

Lately I've found myself in many similar conversations. People become so dreamy-eyed when you say the word, "writer," but if you mention you've only had a short story published in a college journal or are not working on publishing anything currently, the dreaminess just...sinks. I can't say for sure what exactly goes through their minds, but in my mind, it goes like this:

"Great. There's that look. 'Oh, so much for that.' 'Haha, that's cute.' 'Hm, maybe she's lazy.' 'Oh, so she's not a real writer.'"

Well, I take umbrage.

(Not this Umbridge.)

First, I did not start writing in hopes of publication. My first story of a sheriff and his ten-gallon hat that I wrote in elementary school will never see the light of day. 

Writing for publication stunts your creativity. You're constantly wondering what others will think, how they will react, what they would want, why they might be offended, what they expect...rather than letting your characters take you on a journey for the sheer pleasure in unraveling a story you didn't even know was inside you. 

"Follow the story, do not try to control it. A story is a living work in progress. Get that first line, paragraph, or page down and allow the story to evolve in the writing and lead you wherever it takes you." --Arnold Zable

Second...I am proud of the short story I've had published in a college journal. It was an accomplishment for me, and a big step; I let my parents read it, my friends, my extended family. I don't let people read my work as I'm writing, and to have my writing public terrified for me. But the response I got from my little 'network' was nothing but encouraging. 

Publication is fun, but with my writing, I'm looking for that personal accomplishment. Satisfaction. Courage. I'm looking for joy, inspiration, a desire to please God in all I do. I don't need to have anything published. When I'm working on those first few drafts, I'm writing for me.

In your stupid. Be funny. Be sad, or wistful, or visionary if that's who you are. Don't just be what society wants you to be. Explore your own creativity and accept it as a part of you. Let your voice shine through your words, and you will write something startling and breathtaking...and then let it sit on your shelf in a pretty binder for a while.

Go on, then. Write.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Book Review: Poetry Collection, Sin Eater

Reading the first book of a published author is exciting. You may love the author and enjoy going back to his or her first works to see how the writing and themes developed, or begin the journey with them as a newly published writer. For me, the latter is the case with this collection of poems.

I had the honor of receiving one of the early drafts of Sin Eater, and I fell in love with it immediately. I'm no expert on poetry, but when I read this collection...I got lost. I was inspired. I filled several pages with my own verse. The book that makes me want to write is the book that earns a special spot on my shelf.

The author isn't fooling around. There are no "airs" in these poems; it's raw honesty, the everyman. He lets you take a glimpse into his life as a human being, including themes on loss, love, and depression, and gets to the point while still conveying that beautiful, calm rhythm only poetry possesses. As someone who deals with depression and anxiety, the poems resonated with me, reminding me I'm not the only one struggling.

You might have noticed the last name of this author is the same as mine. Andrew is my eldest brother, and ever since I was little I can remember him writing stories, making him one of my first influences in the world of writing. Despite the pride I feel over his accomplishment of publishing his first book, I can assure you, there is no bias in my review.  I genuinely love this collection of poetry, and no matter who you are or what you're going through, I can guarantee you'll identify with these poems and enjoy this thought-provoking collection.

This book is available on Amazon for $10.99 Paperback.

5/5 stars
**This book contains adult content and language.

Monday, August 1, 2016

July Monthly Favorites

Welcome to the monthly favorites of July! These past four weeks flew by. I haven't done a post like this in a while, but certain things stood out to me this month and I couldn't ignore them.

1) My Antonia

Considering my review, it you may be surprised as to why this book is in my favorites.  As I said in that review, while not a particularly enjoyable read for me, I read this book after learning it was one of my grandmother's favorite books. Anything that can bring me a bit closer to who my grandmother was is at the top of my favorites. 

2) Relaxing Music Epic Fantasy playlist on Youtube

There's nothing like music to ease the soul and help you through plotting ideas! This playlist contains soundtracks from Lord of the Rings, Skyrim, Game of Thrones, and more, and I love it. 

3) Stickies
On my mac I use the program Stickies, which is essentially digital sticky notes, for all my new story ideas. Let's just say there's more than one or two filled up with ideas for my WIP...

4) KM Weiland's Post on Story Theme

You need to read this. Everybody needs to read this. 
And while we're on this note, K.M. Weiland's blog Helping Writers Become Authors has been tremendously helpful lately. I can't get enough of her posts on plot and character arcs, etc. Check it out!

5) Goodreads
I joined Goodreads a few months ago, and while I have to say it still confuses me (tech savvy I am not), it's satisfying to check off a book from "currently reading" to "read." I think I've read more this year than last year already.

6) Artwork
I'm making tremendous progress on my fantasy trilogy that I had set aside a while ago. My stories are led by females, and this artwork fits the stories so well there might have been a bit of squealing upon discovery.

7) Peruse Project

(Ragen's latest video)

Book reviewers on youtube...why have I never seen these people before? It's like I've discovered a secret society and my life is now fulfilled. Enough dramatics. My favorite "booktuber" I've found recently is Regan of PeruseProject. She reviews books, does book tags, unboxes monthly subscriptions, and has an energy that can't help but make you smile and want to buy all the books. (Seriously, all the books. I've come so close to spending all of my money in one major book haul, but I don't think they would fit in my house.) Check her out!

What's something you discovered this month?