Receipt Shenanigans, Texans, and The Hate U Give

Last month I ordered some books from Barnes and Noble. After ravaging the box to get to my babies, I normally tear up my receipt. I have no need to return books unless they’re damaged. Thankfully, none of them were, but this is not always the case.

I have an ongoing feud with the mailman. Instead of getting out of his little go kart and placing my packages nicely by the door like a civil freaking human being, he likes to shove them in the mailbox to the point where I can barely get them back out. He knows nothing of this feud. It’s basically just me cursing him until his dying days because he bent the cover of a paperback or smushed the corner of a hardcover.

We’re not animals here, people. Show some goddamn respect for the written word.

But I digress! This time, I took a gander at my receipt, and darned if it wasn’t mine. It was for someone in Texas. Who shipped to another someone in Texas.

They bought two books:

  • The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2017 – Sarah Janssen (editor)

This tells me they are educating themselves. Facts are good, especially with all this rampant FAKE NEWS going around like a incurable strain of flu. Perhaps a big ol’ honkin’ book of facts is a bit silly since one can readily find this information elsewhere. But it’s a start. I applaud them.

  • Adios, America: The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country into a Third World Hellhole – Ann Coulter

This begs some questions. Are they a staunch Trump supporter? Or are they surrounded by Trump supporters, being from Texas and all, and are using this book as a way of blending in with the herd? Perhaps they have their copy–meticulously made to look worn and well-read–on their coffee table. I picture them giving it a slight nudge whenever entertaining Trump supporters and thinking, Looky here, I’m just like you. Please put that big ol’ gun down.

Or is this person a liberal who wants to research opposing views? Who knows?

I shouldn’t joke too much because it’s entirely likely they received my receipt, which has my name and address on it. It also has, to my immense amusement, the title The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. If you don’t know that this is a book influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement and has been KILLING it on the New York Time’s Bestseller list, then where have you been?

The idea of a staunch Republican seeing that title gave me a good chuckle. Too bad I didn’t order a book on immigration. Wouldn’t that just stick in their craw.

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[Review] Chocolat – Joanne Harris

Title: Chocolat
Author: Joanne Harris
Genre: Fiction/Magical Realism
Published: 2000
My rating: ★★★

The small village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes is shaken by the arrival of Vianne Rocher and her young daughter. The parish priest especially doesn’t take kindly to the opening of her chocolate shop and the influence she has on his flock. 

***

Frankly, I’m miffed. I was prepared to give this novel five stars. I loved the voice, the vivid descriptions, the magical realism. I ate a ton of chocolate while reading (wait, that’s nothing unusual) and looked up nearby chocolatiers I could window shop at because dayum that stuff is expensive.

The rating took a dip when I couldn’t really tell where she was going with the plot. Also, I never had a clear sense of what time period we were in. I immediately assumed early 1900s because the people are so conservative and backwards. It has an old-timey, magical quality to it, perhaps because it’s set in an old French village. But then there are glimpses of satellites and wide screen TVs that flung me out of the novel.

I didn’t like that it was set in modern day, but I was prepared to overlook it. Like I said, the writing exudes a magical charm that I loved.

Then I reached the end.

Now, I’ve never watched the movie adaptation in its entirety. I’ve only seen glimpses of it when I was a kid. I assumed it was a romance. In contrast, the novel didn’t feel like a romance. I’m fine with that. Romance is icky and Chocolat explores so many other issues. Roux, the kind-of love interest plays a smaller part than I had anticipated. He was certainly not Johnny Depp dreamy. BUT *spoiler alert* he and Vianne do have the sex towards the end AND he unknowingly gets her pregnant AND he ends up with another woman.

. . .

Miffed. So miffed.

I feel the sting of betrayal even if Vianne wanted it this way. Call me old-fashioned, but he should at least know he has a kid. He has a right. If he had upped and left like the gypsy he is, I would’ve been fine with it. But he falls for another woman. Vianne knows this and sleeps with him anyway. Then, like the gypsy she is, she decides that she’s ready to move on to another city or country or wherever the hell the wind takes her.

When I was putting the book back on the shelf, I accidentally dropped it. And you know what? I left it where it fell. Maybe that’s a bit spiteful, but by golly, it pissed me off.

It’s so sad when an ending turns you off of the entire book. I mean, I really thought we had something good going.

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How My Bullet Journal Curtailed My Book Hoarding

I buy too many books. Far more than I actually read. I have hundreds of dejected and unread books on my shelves. If you’ve read my previous posts on the subject, you’ll know I fail at willpower. However, this past month, I believe I have finally found a solution. Now, before you scoff at me in doubt, hear me out. Yes, I’m a book junkie. But I can be saved.

In early March I jumped on the trend of bullet journals. Mine is very crude and rudimentary. I’m not an artist and I only write nicely when I don’t intend to. So it looks like vomit. Yet none of that matters because it’s incredibly useful.

I’m the type of person who walks into a room and forgets why I’m there. That’s if I even manage to make it to the right room. If I don’t write things down, I forget them. My bullet journal helps me keep track of everything I need. Day to day tasks, upcoming events, shopping lists, wish lists, financial expenses, savings. Most importantly, I track my writing goals, who I’ve queried to and which agents I’ve received rejections from, what books I’ve read, and what books I’ve purchased.

I only allotted four pages for book purchases. I do not want to exceed those pages. If I do, I will hold myself in eternal shame. In January, I bought 22 books. In February, I bought 19. Before I started my journal, I didn’t really get a clear idea of how many I purchased until the end of the month when I took a picture of them and posted it here. It was always a goal to try and outdo the previous month by buying more books.

Now that I physically have to write each book down when I buy them, it really shows how quickly they add up. Also, it shows how ridiculous my book buying habits are when you compare it to the list of books I have read. So far, only 18 this year.

In March, as you can see, I only bought six books. SIX! I haven’t bought so few since I was a poor college student. Granted, four of those books were bought in a moment of weakness, but I think I did rather well. There was a moment when I finished a book in a series and almost ordered the next, but I said, “Nay! I will write it on my wish list and buy it in April.”

And guess what? It’s April and I haven’t bought it yet. I don’t even feel the urge to.

It helps that the next page is my savings tracker. I won’t post a photo because I drew little pictures and it’s exceedingly ugly. I’m trying to save for a down payment on a house, a safety net, and I’m also skimming the top of my checking account each week to put towards a publishing fund if the traditional path doesn’t pan out.

Seeing how much I’m spending on books I won’t read until years later really puts things into perspective.

I will still likely have my moments of weakness when Barnes and Noble has their “buy over $100, get 20% off” deals. I just hope it won’t be every month that I have these relapses.

For further reading, Book Riot recently posted an article on how one reader whittled down their TBR pile by using their bullet journal.

What do you think? Are you a fellow bullet journalist?
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[Review] The Gentleman – Forrest Leo

Title: The Gentleman
Author: Forrest Leo
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2016
My Rating: ★★★★★

Lionel Savage, an eccentric poet in Victorian London, finds out from his butler that he’s broke after furnishing his private library with books. He marries a young woman for her money. Six months into this loveless marriage, he realizes his muse has left him and he cannot write anymore. He contemplates suicide until the Devil pays him a rather civil visit and borrows a book. Later, after his wife goes missing, Lionel realizes he inadvertently sold her to the Devil.

Oh Lordy. I have not laughed this much reading a book since forever (or so it feels like). I read the entire thing in one sitting–no small feat for me. The Gentleman is witty and absurd and it smacks you in the face with its voice. It wasn’t the plot that kept me reading, but the distinct cast of characters. It’s like watching a British sitcom (perhaps one starring John Cleese, hmm?) set in Victorian London.

When I cracked open the book, I knew immediately I was in good hands. There were illustrations AND footnotes.

FOOTNOTES.

You can do so much with footnotes. You can tell another story. You can expand ideas, give backstory. You can make snide, passive-aggressive comments. They were cleverly used in The Gentleman. Lionel’s cousin, the “editor” of the book, is a very sensible chap whereas Lionel is a narcissistic poet. The juxtaposition between the two works wonders.

My only gripe is that I wish they had actually journeyed to Hell (or Essex Grove, as the dev’l prefers to call it). But I hear Dante Alighieri does the devil’s gardening, so there’s that. Overall, it was an entirely entertaining story, and I look forward to reading Leo’s other work. If he has any. Which I hope he does. (Did I mention the author is the same age as me and now I feel hugely inadequate?). I would recommend The Gentleman to anyone looking for a good laugh.

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[Review] Unf*ck Your Habitat – Rachel Hoffman

Title: Unf*ck Your Habitat: You’re Better Than Your Mess
Author: Rachel Hoffman
Genre: Nonfiction/ Self-help
My rating: ★★★1/2

Finally, a housekeeping and organizational system developed for those of us who’d describe our current living situation as a “f*cking mess” that we’re desperate to fix. Unf*ck Your Habitat is for anyone who has been left behind by traditional aspirational systems: The ones that ignore single people with full-time jobs; people without kids but living with roommates; and people with mental illnesses or physical limitations, and many others. Most organizational books are aimed at traditional homemakers, DIYers, and people who seem to have unimaginable amounts of free time. They assume we all iron our sheets, have linen napkins to match our table runners, and can keep plants alive for longer than a week. Basically, they ignore most of us living here in the real world.

Interspersed with lists and challenges, this practical, no-nonsense advice relies on a 20/10 system (20 minutes of cleaning followed by a 10-minute break; no marathon cleaning allowed) to help you develop lifelong habits. It motivates you to embrace a new lifestyle in manageable sections so you can actually start applying the tactics as you progress. For everyone stuck between The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Adulting, this philosophy is decidedly more realistic than aspirational, but the goal is the same: not everyone will have a showcase of a home, but whatever your habitat, you deserve one that brings you happiness, not stress (From Goodreads).


I will admit this is the first self-help book I’ve ever read. I usually look down my nose at people who read these types of things. “You look like a person who would read a self-help book” is in my insult arsenal along with “yo mammy” jokes. However, I have a horrendously messy room. There are heaps of clothes, at least one pop can sits on every flat surface, and candy wrappers litter the floor like confetti. Not to mention the socks. *shudders* Not only does the mess make me not want to be in my room, I’m afraid I’m going to one day break my ankle. So I thought, why not? Also, swear words are fun.

I’m not sure if I really learned anything I didn’t already know (except that maybe my family doesn’t clean the toilet as often as we should), but it drilled into my head that the mess isn’t just going to disappear. Marathon cleaning, which is all I do, doesn’t help you in the long run. I generally get sick of my filth on the weekends and spend half of my Sunday cleaning. Over the week, the mess just accumulates again until I can’t tolerate it anymore. It’s a vicious cycle. This book helped me realize that cleaning is a life style change, and I need to work on changing my bad habits.

If only I had this thing called “willpower.”

Hoffman emphasizes doing 20/10s. 20 minutes of cleaning, 10 minutes of resting. You do however many you need to in order to get the job done. Generally when I clean, I read between tasks. Read a chapter, make the bed. Read a chapter, do a load of laundry. Read a chapter, unload the dishwasher. Read a chapter, read another chapter. Read another chapter, read another chapter, finish the book.

I did like that Hoffman went into the bullshit that is traditional gender roles when it comes to cleaning. I’ve never really experienced this because my dad does most of the laundry, dishes, and cooking. Buuuut it’s nice that she emphasizes that it’s not just women’s work. If you make the mess, you clean it up.

If you’re a slob like me and looking to change that, I’d recommend this. There are also some helpful checklists on the book’s website if you want to check ’em out: http://www.unfuckyourhabitat.com/

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[Review] The Forbidden Wish – Jessica Khoury

Title: The Forbidden Wish
Author: Jessica Khoury
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: 2016
My Rating: ★★★1/2

She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world….

When Aladdin discovers Zahra’s jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra’s very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.

But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity–only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of the Aladdin story. (From the book jacket). 


I liked this very much at first. Khoury’s descriptions evoked a lot of pretty images in my head. Sand dunes and jewels and Arabian decor. Fighting princesses, ugly ghuls, and monstrous jinn who turn into dark, sexy men. I loved that the princess, who Aladdin tries to marry, surrounds herself with handmaids who kick serious ass.

But towards the end, I just wanted the book to hurry up and end. The romance turned too sappy and the final battle scenes didn’t hold much tension. First person, present tense isn’t my favorite for fantasy novels that are based in an alternate past and there were a few instances where I was flung out of the story. For example, the use of “um” and “man” sounded too modern to me. But hey, man, who am I to judge?

Aladdin wasn’t as swoon-worthy as he could’ve been. I mean, it’s ALADDIN. How am I not drooling over him? He should’ve been an immediate addition to my book boyfriend harem. The Disney version made my heart flutter more. Then again, they drew him quite nicely. He’s got those eyes that just…and that hair. Wow. And his voice…*sigh* (If you didn’t just picture Disney Aladdin rubbing the back of his neck and nearly swooning, you’re doing it wrong.)

I think what bothered me the most was that the jinni didn’t have enough personality. I wanted Zahra to hate Aladdin for being her master. I wanted her to be more spiteful, more conniving, more evil. Like a jinni is supposed to be. I wanted her to make Aladdin’s life miserable until she finally, reluctantly, fell in love with him. But no. She was too good. Too . . . human. Granted, she was human before she sacrificed herself to save her people. Thing is, I don’t enjoy selfless characters like that unless they eventually break. Give me a good anti-hero any day.

Though I have not yet read the original Aladdin story, I think The Forbidden Wish is an interesting addition to the canon. I would not shake you by the shoulders and demand you read this, but I would perhaps nudge it in your direction.

What are your thoughts? Have you read it? Do you have another Aladdin retelling you could recommend?
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My Future Book Signings: Expectation vs. Reality

I spend more time fantasizing about my life after publication than I do actually writing. I dream of movie deals, money galore (ha), and fans who make candles that smell like my characters. Book signings are, of course, an integral part of the author-reader relationship. As an introvert with social anxiety, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering how any future events I have will take place.

Book Signing Expectation:

The author strides into the bookstore, black skirts billowing. Golden curls peek from beneath a wide brim hat that obscures her pale, heart-shaped face. Her cheeks are sharp, her lips full, makeup impeccable.

The audience stands as one. They clap. They cheer. They are here for her alone. They have traveled miles to get here and endured hardships at rest-stops strung along the way. Someone tells a tale of clogged plumbing and fly traps. But it was worth it to see this woman.

She takes a seat behind a table and crosses her long legs, pointed heels slicing through the air like a sword. The crowd settles. Moments of eager silence pass until she raises a slender, gloved hand.

It begins.

They bombard her with questions: What are your writing techniques? How do you feel having all twenty of your novels simultaneously topping the New York Times Bestseller List? What is your next project? Will you have my babies?

She doesn’t respond, her demeanor impassive.

Such eccentricity, they think but do not say. They swoon like teenage girls at a boy band’s concert. They knew this would happen and they admire her for it.

I am your biggest fan! someone screams. His face is drowned in tears.

The author sniffs daintily at that. They’re all her biggest fans. She interrupts their adulation with a raise of her hand. The silence is abrupt. The crowd stares, enthralled. What will she do?

She says but one word. It is the only word she will speak that night.

“Darlings.”

With a flick of her wrist, she beckons them forward. They flock to her, arms shaking under the weight of her books. There is not a paperback copy to be seen. Her publisher would not allow her words to be cheapened so.

Two lines form. One for her, the other for the bathroom. The weaker fans’ nerves are too shot to handle the pressure of meeting her face to face. The sweet scent of her perfume turns their insides. They know they are unworthy to be in the presence of this goddess who humbles herself to be before them. Such benevolence, they whisper to one another.

A fan tries to sneak in a picture. A bodyguard tackles her and escorts her away.

The author does not speak. She does not smile. She does not look up from her work. Using the fountain pen of a long-dead author, she graces her readers’ books with a signature as elegant and refined as her.

They leave, some in tears, some wordlessly starstruck. They will never forget this night. But, as the author boards her private jet to continue her tour in Europe, she has already forgotten them.

 

Book Signing Reality:

The author stumbles across the stage, projectile vomits on the front row, pees a little, and runs from the room screaming.

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February Book Reviews

Hush, Hush – Becca Fitzpatrick

Nora’s new biology partner, Patch, is as dangerous as he is good-looking (and possessive). She gets caught in a feud that stretches back hundreds of years between immortal Nephilim and fallen angels.

My rating: ★★★★

Nora is far too passive for my taste, and she doesn’t have much of a personality. Fortunately, her best friend Vee makes up for what she lacks. As for the love interest, Patch, there’s no denying that he’s sexy. I especially liked the fact that he (spoiler alert) tries to kill Nora throughout most of the novel (sometimes a little part of me wishes he had succeeded). Who doesn’t like homicidal bad boys? On the other hand, I don’t think he’s book boyfriend material and cannot add him to my list.

I’m starting to notice I’ll give four stars to books that I read quickly even if I don’t think they’re that great. Hush, hush didn’t rock my socks or anything, but it kept me up until 1 AM. I can’t ask for more than that.


We Are The Ants – Shaun David Hutchinson

To say Henry Denton has a lot on his plate is an understatement. He’s secretly fooling around with one of his bullies, his grandma is suffering from Alzheimer’s, his boyfriend recently committed suicide, and he’s periodically abducted by aliens. The Sluggers, as he calls them, give him a choice: Press the red button and save the world. Or don’t, and end life as we know it.

My rating: ★★★★1/2

This kid. I love him. He’s such a snarky bastard and he has the same outlook on life that I have. I mean, what’s the point if we’re all going to die anyway? He also thinks babies are parasites. I cannot agree more. With all the shit he puts up with, you just want to hug him and pet his head, assuring him everything will be all right. Even if it is a bald-faced lie.

My only issue is that Henry gets so hung up on his boyfriend Jesse’s death. I get it. It’s traumatic and heartbreaking, but it started to become redundant. He kept asking the same questions over and over. Why did Jesse do it? Was it Henry’s fault? You want to scream at him to move on.


Asking For It – Louise O’Neill

After going to a party, Emma wakes on the front porch of her house, bloodied and bruised. She doesn’t remember what happened, but when explicit pictures of her surface online, she and her small Irish town are shaken by a criminal investigation.

My rating: ★★★★

I don’t like the main character. She steals, she lies, she becomes jealous if she thinks anyone is even the slightest bit prettier than her, and she’s manipulative. She’s the beautiful, popular girl who everyone envies yet wants to be friends with. None of that matters though. The reason I disliked her has to do with the fact that when her friend confides to her that she’s been raped, Emma tells her not to make a fuss about it because she doesn’t want things to change. When Emma herself is gang raped, she tries to pull the same thing and ignore it. Only, she can’t because everyone has seen the pictures.

The astonishing thing is that even with the photos, people blame her for it happening. Despite the fact that she’s clearly unresponsive in the photos, they think it was consensual. When she claims it’s rape, they blame her for ruining the boys’ lives. It’s infuriating that people think this way, that they can blame the victims. “Well, she was drinking, what did she expect? So what if the boys were drinking? How can you hold it against them?”

O’Neill doesn’t hold anything back. It’s gritty and it’s effed up and there is no neat, happy ending. It’s as realistic as it gets. Asking For It should absolutely be required reading in every high school.


Paper Princess – Erin Watt

To keep her independence after her mother passes away from cancer, Ella supports herself through high school by stripping at a local club. That is, until the day the millionaire best friend of her recently deceased father convinces her to live with him and his five sons. The Royal boys hate her on principle, and they will do anything to see her gone. 

My rating: ★★★★

In the beginning, I was leery. I knew it was self-published, so I pushed through the bad formatting–srsly, the text was in two different fonts and there were some paragraphs that weren’t properly indented–and I’m glad I did. Again, this is another 4 star rating that isn’t based on the writing itself, but on how it kept me up past my bedtime. The story is strangely compelling. Perhaps it’s all the smut? It also helps that Ella doesn’t take anyone’s crap and will up and punch the most popular bish in school.

Though none of them are book boyfriend material (alas, the search to complete my harem continues), the brothers are kinda hot. They’re complete dickheads, sure, but there’s something charming about each of them. Could be the money. Could be the dark hair and ripped bods. My favorite is Easton, the one who is the same age as Ella (she unfortunately has the hots for Reed who is a year older and is a complete twit). East refers to her as “lil sis” and I find it oddly cute even though he calls her this after making out with her.

*shrugs*


Wintersong – S. Jae-Jones 

Liesl’s music draws the attention of the Goblin King, who she used to play with as a child but has since forgotten. He kidnaps her sister, forcing her to journey Underground where she bargains for her sister’s life with her hand in marriage. 

My rating: ★★★1/2

Jae-Jones writing is as beautiful as I am, which is to say gorgeous. From the first page, I was super excited. I thought I had finally found something akin to Naomi Novik’s Uprooted.

Unfortunately, the search still continues.

I immediately wanted to give Wintersong five stars. The writing and the story sucked me in (I’m all about devilish kings who make innocent maidens marry them). The Goblin King was, of course, dreamy. But about halfway through, the plot began to drag and Liesl got on my nerves. She talked way too much in her head. Like, how many feelings do you need to analyze? Who even has that many feelings? There just wasn’t enough actually happening and, towards the end, I had to fight to get to the last page. It stretched on too long and there wasn’t enough tension to keep me invested. I especially didn’t care for the ending.

As well-written as it is, especially for a debut, I don’t want to dissuade people from reading it. It just wasn’t for me. I needed a quicker pace and less flighty romance, but that’s not to say someone else won’t love it.


This Month’s Haul:

I will one day have Instagram-worthy pictures. Just you wait.

Among this month’s haul is Empress of a Thousand Skies, which I won from a Goodreads giveaway. The Edge of Everything, This Side of Home, and Scarlet were all part of a YA quarterly box that I subscribe to. Also pictured is Resistance by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky, who is one of my immensely talented writing group buddies.

Did you read anything exceptionally good or sucky in February?

 

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Eight Days of Heat Frustration

As I endure this admittedly mild Minnesota winter, I recall last year’s summer vacation, where I spent a week melting my face off in Orlando with my boyfriend (we’ll call him Jerry) and his family. We went in August, which is, in all honesty, the best time to travel to Florida. Any travel guide worth their salt will tell you so.

Day One: Sunday

We arrive at the airport and pick out our rental car. I push for the Camaro, the Mustang, the Charger, the Corvette.

In an Impala, we drive to Jerry’s uncle’s for a quiet, relaxing dinner.

Over fifteen cars are parked in the driveway and along the street. As we slowly clamber out of the car, wondering if we have the right house, a man in a pickup with Alabama license plates jumps the curb and parks on the yard.

We tentatively walk in the house and are bombarded by family we haven’t seen in years. My social anxiety kicks in, but I smell food so I endure.

Because we haven’t had a bite to eat all day, Jerry and I stare longingly at trays of egg rolls, fried rice, and kebabs of lemongrass pork. One aunt tells us to dig in, two other aunts shoo us away, making us wait for the toast.

The toast? I wonder.

That’s when I notice the women in dresses. The men in suits. The cake. The flowers.

In horror, I realize I’ve walked into My Big, Fat Vietnamese Wedding.

The rest of the night is spent stuffing my face in the living room, hoping I don’t stink too much in my stale traveling clothes, and trying to stay awake because humans suck the life out of me.

Day Two: Monday

We drive through a sudden downpour to buy an umbrella at Target.

I’m coerced into doing this. Note: I’m the one laughing her ass off and yelling, “wee” while the other screams in terror.

I have so much fun, I make her go a second time. Note: Her screams are just as shrill and terrified. My laugh is just as maniacal.

Day Three: Tuesday

We go to Daytona Beach. Our practical little Impala holds five, but as more of Jerry’s family arrives, our number increases to six. Four of us try to squeeze into the backseat and, though we are small people, I end up sitting on the floor, praying that we don’t end up in an accident or that a police officer doesn’t spot me looking like a disgruntled pet sitting at my boyfriend’s feet.

At the beach, the water is cold and the waves are rough. I do not go in past my waist because of sharks and jellyfish and riptides and, for all I know, alligators. Though I love to be in the water, being a Midwesterner who has only seen the ocean a handful of times, I am terrified of it. It’s, like, really big or something.

I’m too busy staring at the ocean’s vastness to notice the wall of black clouds that has gathered behind me. Naturally, it isn’t until after I change out of my swimsuit that I feel a drop. And another. And then it starts coming down sideways. Jerry and I make a mad dash for the car, leaving the rest of the family to finish packing tents and chairs and the kitchen sink.

His mother grabs her purse from the backseat and rides off with an aunt so I don’t have to sit on the floor again. It isn’t long before we realize she has the keys.

Trapped in the hot and sticky car with Jerry’s younger siblings, we watch from behind fogged windows as the rest of the family struggles to leave.

A cousin’s car needs a jump start.

An uncle’s rental car takes a nose-dive into the soft white sand and has to be dug out.

The Target umbrella remains dry at the house.

Day Four: Wednesday

I experience all of the feels at Hogsmeade. A Death Eater wand chooses me at Ollivanders. I buy a chocolate frog and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans at Honeydukes. Over a Butter Beer, I try to convince Jerry that I’m a Slytherin. He tells me I’m a Hufflepuff. Vehemently, I hiss, “I eat Hufflepuffs for breakfast!”

As the day progresses, my upper lip begins to feel swollen. Everything, everything, begins to itch. By the end of the day, my face throbs and there’s not a spot on my body that hasn’t turned mottled and bubbly. The culprit? The new sunblock I bought to replace the one I lost in the chaos at the beach the day before.

To make matters worse, my clothes cling to me from the sudden downpours and humidity you can swim through.

The Target umbrella remains dry in the car.

Day Five: Thursday

We use this day to recover. My swollen hands and feet ache. I develop a cough and lose my voice. I fear I’ve caught pneumonia from one of Jerry’s family members, who has been hacking up a lung since the day we arrived. I drug myself, mutter incoherent babble, and sleep most of the day.

At midnight, I wake and have a mental breakdown. I’m hungry and sore and I’m sick of people. I take a walk and chase after tiny lizards. When I’m about to start swinging, I force Jerry to drive me to Taco Bell.

I eat the best damn chalupa I’ve ever had. The fast food, which I had been suffering withdrawals from, soothes me. The murderous rage subsides.

Day Six: Friday

We visit the Kennedy Space Center. I spend most of the time feeling like an insignificant speck because space is, like, huge or something. I watch Jerry marvel at all the science and shit.

It is the one day that doesn’t rain.

The Target umbrella remains dry in my purse.

Day Seven: Saturday

I survive another day of family reunions and engorge myself on pho, which I had been anticipating for weeks. It is amazing and fills my soul–or, rather, makes me feel like I have one.

We pack for the early morning flight. I have to shake my belongings out to uproot the colony of tiny ants that have taken up residence in our room and have been biting us all week. Earlier in the week, we shared the floor with these little devils until we stole an air-mattress from Jerry’s younger siblings. Sometimes being high maintenance and vocal pays off.

There are hugs and heartfelt goodbyes. My farewells are perhaps the most eagerly spoken.

Day Eight: Sunday

Our plane arrives in Minneapolis. After a somewhat awkward car ride with my dad and Jerry’s family, we arrive at home.

My dog wets himself in excitement and nearly wheezes to death.

My mom “accidentally” breaks my Kennedy Space Center souvenir.

My brother steals my Gryffindor keychain.

I get White Castle’s for breakfast and cannot be happier to be home.

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January in Review

My goals for 2017 are simple. Workout more, write more, read more. I bought a Fitbit and have been habitually walking in circles to reach my step goals. I posted an unrealistic to-do list above my desk (I intend to write four rough drafts and do at least two rounds of revision each.) And I hope to read 100 books. Last year I read 84, which is the most I’ve ever read in a year.

January Reviews:

The Winner’s Curse – Marie Rutkoski

On a whim, Kestrel purchases a young slave, drawn to his rebellious nature and affinity for music. Her actions set in motion a rebellion by the people her father helped conquer.

I kept seeing this one on Goodreads and in my Twitter feed, but I ignored it because I despised the cover. It doesn’t match the tone of the novel at all  and the paperback versions are even worse. Kestrel is a pacifist who enjoys music. She’s not a natural fighter, certainly, and she refuses to become the soldier her father wants her to be, but she’s a strategist. She’s not some swooning dolt with crimped hair!

While I wouldn’t say it’s a favorite (I’m being more stingy lately with doling out five stars), I read it in one sitting and immediately purchased the second and third books.

The second book, The Winner’s Crime was good, but not nearly as compelling as the first, which is unfortunately why I haven’t dived into the third book.

 


Between Shades of Gray – Ruta Sepetys

Set in 1941, Lina, a fifteen-year-old from Lithuania, and her family are arrested by Soviets and sent to a labor camp in Siberia.

Prepare to get wrecked. It’s not a pleasant read, but it is a necessary one. I never really learned what happened in Russia during WWII. I had only a vague idea who Stalin was. In class, they focus so much on the holocaust and Hitler that you don’t really learn much about the atrocities that occurred in Russia.

The cruelty is unbelievable. I simply cannot fathom the hatred you would have to feel for someone, or a group of someones, to treat them like this.

I highly recommend the book. I read it in one sitting. It has a semi-happy ending (by which I mean the characters I liked didn’t starve to death), so just try to power through until then.


Passenger – Alexandra Bracken 

Etta journeys across centuries and continents with Nicholas, a “legal” pirate, in order to save her mother. 

It took me a while to get into the story. I didn’t immediately click with Etta but, once we boarded Nicholas’s ship, I was hooked (no pun intended?). However, somewhere along the journey, I started to lose interest. It felt like the author was trying to shove a politically correct agenda down my throat. I understand that now more than ever we need stories with diverse characters (I loved that Nicholas was African-American), but the way she went about it at times felt like an author intrusion or lecture.

Etta is irritated in 18th century America because of the treatment women receive and the clothing they have to wear. She is very vocal and defiant about it. But when she travels to Damascus in the 16th century, she has very little to say about how they treat women and how they are dressed. She is very respectful of their culture. It felt like a double standard. Also, while in Damascus, Etta is kidnapped. Her kidnapper orders one of the hired men to ride on the same horse as Etta. Touching a woman who is not his wife or his kin is against this man’s beliefs. Etta says to her kidnapper something along the lines of, “Well, you shouldn’t have put him in that situation in the first place. That wasn’t very nice.”

And I just thought, who gives a damn about this man and his beliefs? He’s holding you hostage. While I may be a liberal, my tolerance for others and their beliefs only goes so far.

Overall, I want to know what happens next, but I’m not inclined to rush out and grab the sequel Wayfarer. I’ll get to it eventually. Maybe.


The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

Kvothe recounts the events that led him to become the most notorious wizard of his time. It takes him three days to tell his story. This is day one. 

I heard so many good things about this story, but I had been hesitant to read it because its thick, for one, and I’ve been trying to read quantity lately over quality. And second, when people gush about something, it immediately turns me off.

Ah, but I’m glad I finally read it. Rothfuss certainly knows how to string a sentence together. It’s not overly bloody or dark, but there is a magical, lyrical quality to it that I enjoyed. I loved the academic setting. I’m hesitant to begin reading the second book, though, since the third one hasn’t been published and I have no idea when it will be.

This is a must-read for fantasy fans. Five stars!


Additional Recommendations:

I stopped blogging at the end of last year because I’m lazy. But there are some books I read during that time that I want to recommend because they’re friggin’ awesome.

Across The Universe – Beth Revis

The spaceship Godspeed’s mission is to travel three hundred years across the universe to colonize the planet Centauri-Earth. Amy, a frozen passenger, is awakened fifty years too early. She and the ship’s second-in-command, Elder, must race to find her would-be killer.

So many secrets. So many plot twists and mysteries and unveilings. The entire trilogy keeps you guessing. Just when you think you have a handle on what’s going on, the rug is ripped out from under you.

 

 

 

 


Falling Kingdoms – Morgan Rhodes 

The three kingdoms of Mytica grapple for power as magic, once drained from the world and long forgotten, emerges in the form of a sorceress and four elemental Kindreds. 

This. series. rocked. my. world. All for one reason–Magnus. My dark, brooding, sarcastic prince. I even overlooked his unnatural attraction to his sister. Ahhh, he’s so dreamy. The tension between him and Cleo throughout the first four books kills me.

I devoured this series within a week. I’m both irritated with myself for leaving Falling Kingdoms to sit unread on my shelf for years, but also kind of glad. It meant I didn’t have to wait a year in between each book. But now that I’ve read the most recent, Crystal Storm, I have to wait another year. Naturally, the ending for the fifth book is the most cruel cliffhanger I have ever read and I CAN’T DEAL.

I’m shaking with frustration.


Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin

Yael’s skinshifting abilities are the result of Nazi experimentation during her time as a death camp prisoner. Using her ability to change faces, she enters the Axis Tour, a motorcycle race from Germany to Tokyo that commemorates the Axis Powers’ victory. Her mission: kill Hitler. 

Wow, where do I start. This was a wonderfully written, furiously paced novel with rich characters you can’t help but love. The sequel, Blood for Blood ripped out my heart, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it with its steel-toed Nazi boots. I just. I can’t. I will never get over it.

This is one of those books that I still think about months later. Just to get more of her writing, I purchased Graudin’s The Walled City.


This Month’s Haul:

I received loads of gift cards for Christmas and I still, if you can believe it, haven’t used them all. I’m trying to expand my reading horizons by branching into new genres.

Do you know how hard it is to get a decent picture in my dungeon of a home?

What did you read in January?

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