TTT: 5 Books My Kids Will Read (or I'll disown them)

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's top ten tuesday theme is books I want my (super far out in the) future kids to read. I've compiled some of the books that I adored reading when I was a kid.

Harry Potter

What list of childhood favorites would be complete without a HP reference? I adored this series growing up.

Chronicles of Narnia

Ahh another classic! This series is amazing and beautiful.

Alanna: The First Adventure

This is a series about a girl who wanted to be a knight and when I was a child I wanted to be her SO BAD. So yeah. A must read for my child of either gender.

Little House on the Prairie

Another classic and must read for my future kids. Reading this as a kid made me want to time travel to the past and explore the wild west (as an adult I much prefer the antibiotic/women's suffrage/indoor plumbing that the present has to offer)

Dear America

This was one of my favorite series growing up; each book is the diary of a girl in some important historical time. I remember devouring the books as a child (I can even still remember where in the children's section they were located!).

And that's it! Five books that my future kids will read or I'll disown them. Just kidding, my future kids don't have to be big readers (what am I saying of course they will be readers how could they not be). 
What about you? And if you've already had kids, did they love the same books you did?

Dear Sunday: NaNo + more

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series.

Last week was:
  • signing Christmas songs in choir-- feeling quite festive 
  • having Fixer Upper play in the background while I attempted to write my novel-- not recommended but I love Fixer Upper so much I couldn't help it
  • praise team practice in a church that still didn't have heat -- so it was a short, chilly practice; picnic dinner in the secretary's office because it was one of the only rooms with heat
  • traveling to a nearby city with six other grad students to give a brief presentation about my research to the general public. It was a blast! More people than we expected showed up and I think I was able to convince them how cool (bio)physics can be
  • First write-in of the year! My local library hosts a NaNo event where they let us in after hours and feed us pizza and soda and cookies and I love it so much.
That about sums it up! Now onto the (sadly) short lists of posts you might have seen last week on my blog:
  • Top Ten Tuesday: Books I want my kids to read
And that's all I can guarantee :( It's hard to see my blog sort of fade away but I know that this month my free time needs to go towards my novel if I want to win NaNo. Once this month is over I'll have time to read and write posts again. 

How was your week? 

Beautiful Books: The Struggle

Welcome back to another installment of Beautiful Books, a series hosted by Paper Fury where I get two birds in one stone by writing a blog post about my ongoing NaNoWriMo novel :) 

Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?
  1. I'm a little stressed. This is my first NaNo where I'm also trying to blog consistently. Every time I write on my blog I'm imaging my NaNo word count not moving. However I don't want this blog to dwindle and disappear this month! It's all about juggling. Good thing I'm good at juggling. 

What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)? 
2. Yikes. Okay. So my novel is by no means beautiful. It's a hot mess but it exists and that's what important. Without further stalling here's my first paragraph: 

"It was two AM when Rachael cast her spell. The darkest hour of the night, with the promise of dawn years away. It is the time when the most desperate try their most foolish options. And for all her logic, for all her education, for all her training, Rachael was no different."

Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?
  3. Right now I'm a little sparse of characters. Rachel just disappeared and my main character (who is still unnamed?? suggestions for female names??) is kind of on her own.

What do you love about your novel so far?
4. I love that things are happening. This is a plot I've been dreaming of for years. I've written the very beginning and loved every sentence and paragraph-- but it was slow going and would never get where it needed to go. I love that the plot is actually advancing, even if it isn't beautiful (yet).

Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?
5. "Darkness was seeping through the kitten windows."
...I'll just leave that there.

What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?
6. I typically write in order, especially when my plots aren't really fleshed out. Last year was the first year I would skip scenes if I didn't feel like writing them, and flip to later ones. This year that probably won't happen, since I don't really know what's going to take place later on....

What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!
7. I write on my lunch break at work, after work, while the TV is on, while music is on, at coffee shops. I don't really have a routine (maybe that's a problem). What I will say is having the TV is always a bad idea, but I do like writing to classical music. The lyrics can't be too pronounced or I won't be able to write.

Also I've written out on my balcony a total of one time (it's so cold outside!) but I thought the picture was pretty so there you go :)

How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?
8. I've always written alone, because I've never had friends who liked writing/did NaNo. Last year was the first time I convinced a friend to try NaNo with me. We've written together a couple times-- it's really helpful to be able to ask someone for help when you can't think of that perfect word or when your plot doesn't make sense.

What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?
9. Competition with myself. I'm a really competitive person and having a word count I have to meet works wonders. I love the little graphic on the author page-- I write just to increase that bar. Like seriously. I'll write 100 words and then go update my word count. It's absurd.

What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?
10. Write until things make sense. WRITE. Also-- this one is directed at me-- advance the plot you silly person. Don't be so afraid of running out of plot to write. ADVANCE THE PLOT. *ahem* moving on...

What about you? How is your writing going? Do you also secretly hate parts of what you've written? Let me know!

Dear Sunday: NaNo has begun

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series.

The protected forest behind my apartment :)

Ahh November. The month of turkey, and family, of changing leaves and early evenings, and of writing 50,000 words in just 30 days. 

And, this year, it means a month of not looking at my analytics as I devote my free time away from my beloved little blog and towards writing. I'm throwing words down on my novel but man, it isn't pretty. 

But that's alright! The point of November is to get the novel on paper (metaphorically speaking. some people write their novels by hand. I am not that crazy) not to get a beautiful novel on paper. Later I can go back and make each scene beautiful but before they can be improved they must exist. 

Thank you for letting me have this Dear Sunday just be my pep talk to myself :P 

I might write a post with just pretty fall photos? Like it's obviously not book-related but it is a post I can easily post...what do y'all think? Is that something you would want to see?

  • TTT: Characters Who Would Make Great Leaders
  • ...and sadly that is probably going to be it! I really need to focus more time and energy on my novel right now. It's a story that I love and have wanted to write about for years, so I really want to make this first draft the best it can be. I apologize for my absence from the blogsphere during this month!  
Okay that's it for me! I need to go write. (Get used to hearing that friends and family!) What about you? Are you doing NaNo? Or are you a slightly more sane person?

TTT: 5 Spooky reads!

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Growing up, Halloween didn't mean much to me, other than colorful decorations in grocery stores, and an overabundance of candy. My parents assure me that as a toddler I went trick-or-treating at least once, but without any recollection to back them up, I have to trust their word.

I have friends who look at me agape when I admit that I have never celebrated Halloween-- friends who proudly proclaim it their favorite holiday of the year. While I don't understand the draw, as nostalgia plays a huge part of loving Halloween and I have none, I still have some spooky reads to share with you this week!

Pet Sematary by Stephen King
I read this at an almost too-early age (I may have been a teen? pre-teen?) and I still vividly remember certain scenes. It's a classic horror novel that's worth the read if you want a good psychological scare.

The Raven Boys by Maggie
This is such an odd one to put on this list, I know, but, as I mentioned in my review, I was genuinely spooked by certain passages! There was this sort of nonchalance to the surreal scenes that earned it its place on my list of spooky books.

The Beautiful Land by Alan Averill
This is more a horror story about one man trying to destroy all possible universes in search of the perfect world. Lots of blood and guts-- perfect for Halloween!

The Ghost and Mrs Muir by Josephine Leslie
Okay so this one had the word ghost in the title so how could I not list it?? I read it after watching the 1950s movie. I'm always looking for more diversity in what I read-- and this 1945 book definitely was older than all the other books I read. Also it has a rather spooky ending!

Lexicon by Max Barry
Once again this turned into more horror than spooky but it's an interesting book based off the idea that there are certain words that can unlock a brain and give someone control over another.

That's it! Nowadays I tend to steer clear of horror books, but every now and then a spooky novel ends up on my reading pile. How about you? Do you love scary books? Which one is your favorite? 

Dear Sunday: the dentist

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series.

Last week was: choir rehearsal every night (oddly enough the more I sing high notes the better I get? who'd have thought); malfunctioning machine at work; presenting at the group meeting which turned out to include everyone and their mother; having said presentation go great; stealing a few minutes before praise team practice to play the piano for the first time in nine months; Chopin's prelude 'Raindrops' sounds amazing even on a piano which hasn't seen a tuning in many years; eating Moe's for the first time in over a year (I don't understand the world's obsession with Chipotle since Moe's is obviously the better of the two); and a choir concert where everything fell into place.

Whew! This week things will begin to slow down-- after I have a dental procedure done on Monday (eekk! It should be fine; it's just a crown, I know, call me eighty call me a queen but I'm really too young for this. oh well, such is life!)

  • Top Ten Tuesday: 5 Spooky Reads!
  • ...okay let's be honest; that's my only guaranteed post. I haven't finished any books recently so no reviews are done and I don't know if I'll find the time to write a post or if I will take a break and chill. only time will tell. OH and NaNo is coming and NO I'M NOT WORRIED (holy crap am I worried. I haven't had time for any prep!)
That's it! How about you? Do you have big Halloween plans or is it going to be a chill week? I'm so in need of a chill week. 

Review: The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, YA
Rating: 9/10

I did it. After hearing over and over and over about the beauty, magic, and overall awesome-ness of this series, I finally read the first book.

I won't lie-- I was surprised when the book actually lived up to the hype surrounding it. After all, how many times have you read a overly hyped novel, only to be sorely disappointed?

The Raven Boys did not disappoint. Maggie weaves a spell-binding world, full of surprisingly complexity lyrical prose that manages to be fast-paced yet also introspective. I was drawn in from the beginning, pulled in by the beautiful words and the beautiful world, edged in darkness.

“Gansey had once told Adam that he was afraid most people didn't know how to handle Ronan. What he meant by this was that he was worried that one day someone would fall on Ronan and cut themselves.” 

The characters were well constructed, complex and dark and flawed and beautiful. Perhaps one of my only complaints about this novel was the lack of character development. At the end of the book, the characters felt very much the same as on page one. I get that this book is one in a trilogy-- and I could see the larger story arcs that were being built. However, I would have prefered to see some sort of change or development in any of the characters that I came to love.

“Fate," Blue replied, glowering at her mother, "is a very weighty word to throw around before breakfast.” 

The magic system was not ground-breakingly unique or innovative, yet I still loved it. I was genuinely spooked by parts of this book and that was something I was not expecting. There were shocking twists that not only managed to catch me off guard but, once revealed, made sense. The plot twists were the type that, one you know them, you can go back and see how the answer was really obvious all along. This an unique talent-- to surprise the reader while also staying within the bounds of the story and the characters.

The writing was lyrical, the plot fast paced, the characters complex; I had a hard time putting this book down. I can't wait to pick up the sequel! I would recommend this novel to just about anyone, but especially if you are a fan of modern fantasy.

What about you? What did you think of The Raven Boys? Did you see character development where I did not?

Dear Sunday: Concert Week

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series. 

I'll save you the repetitive rant on how busy I am (my friends wish they were that lucky!) Suffice it to say, I have yet to hit a nice quiet stretch of my life. I have hope for Christmas break.

But the business this past week was good busy! I went to a fun Catholic lecture, my normal Lutheran bible study, and on Friday my church had its annual bonfire/hayride/etc and that was really a blast. Any night that I spend out in the countryside around a bonfire is a good night in my books.

The picture on the left is what I did on my one free night this past week-- I made walnut butter! Super easy; you literally put walnuts (or any nut) in a food processor and turn it on. Bam. I added like a teaspoon of oil and a teaspoon of sugar but that was it. The final result is a bit grainy since I have a cheap food processor. It's not sweet but holy cow is it amazing when paired with sweet strawberries!

But Anna you say aren't you super busy? Why would you post four times in a week where you are busy? Which is a great question that I don't have a great answer to. You would think I would be kind to myself and post less on busy weeks? I'm going to try and follow that sensible advice this coming week because the local choir I sing in is having its concert! And if you've ever been in a band/choir then you know that concert week can be a bit manic.

So with that reservation...

  • Top Ten Tuesday: Unique Book Titles 
  • Review: In which I review the internet's most popular book ever
  • okay
  • I hate clickbait 
  • so
  • I'll just tell you
    • pppssssst
      • The book is The Raven Boys! 
That's about it for me! How was your week? Have you ever had the inexpressible pleasure that is walnut butter and strawberries? 

Blogger Recognition Award

Thanks so much Greg at Bookhaven for tagging me! 

I've always had a habit of creative procrastination.

My first finals season in graduate school, I learned how Tumblr works. My second finals season I learned how to juggle four balls while walking. (this amazing skill has yet to get me anywhere but I still have hope it will come in handy one day) When I've studied as much as humanly possible, I look for other ways to use up that nervous energy.

That's how I believe my first blog started. It was so many years ago-- almost seven, which may not sound like a super impressive number but when you start a blog in high school, and then find yourself in graduate school...well, a lot has happened between now and then. But I'm pretty sure I decided to make a photography blog because I was procrastinating from some homework/exam/studying. I had just discovered how much I loved taking photos, and I wanted a space to share that excitement.

Flash forward many years, and my old photography blog had worn many hats, but none of them particularly well. I tried genres (photography, crafting, lifestyle, travel, cooking, etc) like people flip through channels on a TV. I wondered why I could never seem to gain a following or find a community until the obvious finally hit me-- I was too eclectic. I was trying to talk about way too many subjects.

I settled on just one subject that I had always been passionate about-- books. My friends were surely tired of hearing me opine for ages on the latest book I had just finished, so I decided to take my copious amounts of words and use them to create a new blog-- this one!

(really this is just me preaching to myself but if you find this helpful, great!)

  1. Be consistent. Find a schedule-- twice a week, three times a week, whatever-- and stick to it. Obviously this won't always be possible (hello grad school) but if you consistently churn on good content, I believe that readers will come. And with readers comes comments and connecting with other people and isn't that what this entire endeavor is really about? 
  2. Be on theme. Obviously book blogs don't have to be exclusively about books but I need to remind myself that if I want to do well in a certain area then I need to stick with it-- not wander off when cooking sounds like a fun post oh but what about nature post but what about-- no. The majority of my content should be book-focused, with fun asides every now and then. 

Please do consider yourself, dear reader, as honorarily tagged! Tell me your origin story and your advice to new bloggers. Leave links to your post in the comments below.

ARC Review: The Beautiful Ones


The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Literary Fiction, Romance, (slightly) Fantasy
Rating: 7/10
Expected Publication Date: Oct 24th 2017

This book.

I don't even know how to explain how I feel.

At times, it was as interesting as an unbuttered piece of toast and the only reason I kept reading was that I had received this eARC in return for a review.

At other times, it held me rapt with its sumptuous lyrical prose and the dark and deep characters.

The Beautiful Ones is a historical fiction novel, set in an alternate world. It's basically France in the early 1900s only with all the names changed (whyyyy?). It is a character driven novel which follows a young woman with a strange talent as she enters her first season as a eligible woman with a good name.

The Beautiful Ones is, on some pages, a beautifully written story, but its inconsistency held this novel back from being one of my favorite reads this month. The characters were beautifully constructed and while most of them had really interesting arcs where they changed and grew, the main villain was never given this luxury. She ended the novel feeling like a stale archetype; luckily the other characters were the opposite.

The lyrical writing was captivating at times, but overused some of the impactful metaphors. The first time you read it it is fascinating...the tenth time the same metaphor is used? It loses its luster.

The magically aspect of this novel was not used to its full potential, and felt like a toss away plot line. This is probably what upset me the most. I love well-thought out interesting magic; magic was used here infrequently, and almost as a crutch to build up characters.

But even as I was rolling my eyes in boredom, I kept reading-- partly out of obligation, and partly because I couldn't see exactly where the plot was going, and that kept me interested. By the end of the novel I was hooked, and even teared up (y'all this never happens and made me reconsider my initial boredom). With all my complaints, some of the character development was really well done and that is one of the things that I look for in novels.

I would recommend this book if you are looking for a literary fiction novel set, basically, in the early 1900s. I went into this book expecting a far stronger magically element, and thus couldn't help but be a little disappointed.

How about you? Have you read The Beautiful Ones? Did you also cringe when they said 'the beautiful ones' approximately 200 times?

TTT: Favorite Cookbooks

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a little different! The theme is food-- and since I can't think of any novels I've read recently that feature yummy eats, I thought I would share two of my favorite cookbooks with you. Adulting is difficult, and one of the more difficult parts of adulting is cooking so much food. Like I eat so much. Like three meals a day. Which, while I was in college, didn't sound like much cooking. But it is so much cooking!

Here are two cookbooks that help with that adulting problem.

There is a tradition in my family to use this classic 1950s Betty Crocker cookbook. My mom found this copy in a local thrift store a year or so ago, so now I have my own!

It's full of quasi-sexist suggestions for wives, cute whimsical drawings, and delicious recipes.

Next up, Ten Dollar Dinners by Melissa d'Arabian! Melissa d'Arabian is perhaps my favorite cookbook author of all time. She has never led me astray-- every recipe of hers I've tried has turned out delicious. She also does a weekly live stream on Facebook called It's Tuesday Night Somewhere where she shows you how it's possible to have a home cooked dinner on a weeknight.

That's it! I don't have many cookbooks, I rely on an amalgamation of cookbooks, pinterest, and websites to make my dinners happen.

What about you? What's your go-to cookbook? Help me with my adulting.