5 Sequels I can't believe I haven't read yet

This post brought to you by the Top Ten Tuesday series over at its new location at That Artsy Reader Girl!

Have you ever read an amazing book-- the type of book that you love so much you start squealing when you find out it has a sequel? And then, have you ever just...not read the sequel?

No? Just me? Okay cool.

This week I wanted to highlight some series that I loved...and then got distracted and haven't managed to read the sequels yet. Now everytime I moan about not being able to find a good book to read you are allowed to hit me over the head with this post and tell me to stop complaining.


 The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater

The first book in this series lived up to its hype, a feat I believed to be impossible, until one day I finally picked it up at my local library. I was blown away...yet I haven't found time to read the sequel?

29430013The Trespasser (Dublin Murder Squad #6) by Tana French

I've mentioned Tana French once or twice on my blog which is disproportionate to the amount of love and adoration I have in my heart for her writing. She is hands down my favorite murder mystery author and I've been obsessed with her books since the first one I read years ago. I was shocked when I discovered she had published a new book in her series...yet I haven't read it yet?

27002First Among Sequels (Thursday Next #5) by Jasper Fforde

I've mentioned this series once or twice here and it really is riveting. The writing is so inventive and surprising and novel. Next time I'm craving a book that is clever and sardonic, I'm picking this one up.

The Night Masquerade (Binti #3) by Nnedi Okorafor

I read the first novella in this series a while ago and was instantly blown away by just how impactful and brillant a story she managed to fit into such a small number of pages. The series is thoughtful, universal yet foreign, and I can not wait to read the third book.

5364Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2) by Diana Gabaldon 

Many moons ago, before I know about book blogs, I Googled a list of top romance books-- and the first result was Outlander. After reading the massive tome I realized that it deserved every accolade given to it. Ever time I think about reading the sequel I worry I have forgotten every important detail from the first book but really I just need to read a summary and dive into this sequel!

That's it for me! Let me know, have you ever waited ages for no good reason to pick up the sequel to an amazing book? 

Dear Sunday: Still Snowing

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

Okay to be perfectly honest the photo on the left was from the snow we got last sunday BUT it technically also snowed today (and luckily didn't stick) so I feel like it's pretty representative.

This past week was busy; on Friday my church had a game night where I learned a new card game (crazy cards? like literally that is the name) that is some sort of cross between bridge and hearts and after I got the hang of it, it was a lot of fun. 

This coming week should be decently laid-back, which will be lovely. Trees and bushes are finally daring to put out a little green so it is looking a little less like the dead of winter. 

Onto to the blog posts! 

  • 5 sequels I can't believe I haven't read yet
    • so this week's TTT is a make-up-your-own-prompt and I'm SO EXCITED because I was going to write this post anyway 
  • Jane Austen themed books || 2 mini-reviews
    • one is VERY Austen themed and the other just blatantly makes use of one of her titles. stay tuned! 

That's it for me! This post is up a little late because I got hooked finishing a book I mentioned last week, Sleeping Giants. Oh well, better late than never, right?

March Wrap-up

I'm linking up with The Book Date and Feed Your Fiction Addiction for this monthly review! 

Hello and welcome to my March monthly wrap-up! This one will be short and sweet, seeing how I didn't get too much reading done this past month.  

Favorite March memory : This happened at the very end of March but I'm still counting it. I was able to go home for Easter (first time since starting grad school) and the weather was unbelievable and spring-y and I came back to snow. I'm still waiting for spring to hit here! 

March was not my best reading month-- I managed to get through two books and one audiobook. This year has been busier than last year but hey, I'm averaging three books a month and that's not too bad. 

Total Books Read: 3 
1 Cozy Mystery 
1 Historical fiction
1 General fiction 

248483     26177728          13055971

Click on the covers to go to Goodreads! 

I hate admit-- none of the books I read in March really wowed me. Austenland (review to come!) was fun, for sure, As Death Draws Near is part of a long running series I like, and Pies and Prejudice was pretty bad (review to come!). 

It feels like it has been some time since a book really made me fall in love with it. 

Let me know, did you read an amazing book this last month? If so what was it?? 

How to hobby: embroidery

Hello and welcome to the start of a new series on my blog-- How To Hobby!

I have been accused by my friends of doing all the hobbies and it is true, I have dabbled in many things from watercolor to bread making. And something I love doing almost as much as my varied hobbies is trying to convince everyone to join in on the fun.

This week I thought I would kick off the series by talking about my newest found hobby: embroidery. (I am also a self-proclaimed 90-year old lady who reads her local newspaper each morning and enjoys things like embroidery)

I can't even remember what was going through my head when, last December, I decided embroidery was going to be my next project. I had seen my grandmother embroider before but I don't know what sparked that sudden desire to try it myself. A picture on Pinterest? An instagram post? Whatever it was I came to the quick decision that I wanted to learn how to embroidery.

Let's get into it!

Of course you are going to need some thread. Walmart (if it has a sewing section) sells DMC thread by the color-- that's the high quality stuff. I wanted to start out with a large selection of different colors, so I bought a box of cheap 'friendship bracelet' thread from Joann's.
And of course you are going to need a needle and an embroidery hoop-- both are sold for a couple dollars at Walmart. For fabric I buy the one dollar fabric squares from Walmart. They come in a variety of colors and it is enough fabric for several projects. (and it's cheap!) 

I started out with this kit that came with everything you need: a hoop, needle, thread, and a piece of fabric with a pattern printed on it. The kit also came with a small handout explaining how to do the variety of stitches the pattern called for.

I changed the words because the original pattern had weird words ;) 

What I love about embroidery is that straight away you can make pretty things. There isn't a steep learning curve-- if all you can do is push a needle in and out of fabric then BAM you can at least make something. The more time you put in, the more stitches you learn, and the more intricate the results can be.

The bird on the left is one of the first things I freehanded aftering finishing the kit. Almost every stitch is a basic in-out straight stitch and I rather like how it turned out (the rest of the piece isn't as fabulous but hey, I'm still learning).

Embroidery is great to do while listening to audiobooks-- I don't listen to many of them but I am more motivated to listen if I have something else to do.

Now if you are looking for a craft to do while watching TV, this is not it-- embroidery requires too much attention to be trying to watch something else (the only craft I can really do while also watching TV is knitting).

This piece that I freehanded was inspired by a Victor Hugo quote my friend sent me : Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight on a limb too slight feels it give way beneath her, and yet sings, sings knowing she has wings.

This is a super small piece (made on a mini hoop I got for a dollar at Walmart)-- it took an hour or less to complete and required no fancy stitching. Orion is my favorite constellation and I love how this turned out-- I'm planning on doing a couple more constellation to hang on my walls.

If I have convinced you to give embroidery a try, here are some super helpful blogs to check out!

  • Pumora-- this is an amazing blog full of resources on different stitches, materials, how to start, etc. She is also very active on Instagram
  • Cozy Blue-- Along with having a blog, this lady runs a really cool monthly pattern program. For just ten dollars a month she'll send you fabric (with the pattern already printed) and the thread you need to complete the project. It's something I've been thinking of signing up for. She is also very active on Instagram

Whew! That's it for me. I hope you found this post a tad bit inspiring or helpful. Stay tuned for the next installment of this series (whenever that might occur) because heaven knows I have enough hobbies to fill ten posts.

What about you? Have you ever tried embroidery? 

my current work in progress :)

Dear Sunday: Still Winter

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series.This week I'm also doing a brief Stacking the Shelves and have also linked up with  tyngas reviews 

As with most of the US (except for stupid Florida*), my little corner has been experiencing an extended winter. But oh well! One day it will be spring, or so I hope. 

This past week has been busy, but productive at work. In non-work news, I started editing my NaNo '16 novel and y'all editing is the. worst. For the first time (like ever) I have to focus on quality over quantity. And since my NaNo novel is, well, a NaNo novel and thus a haphazard dash towards the finish line, editing really means rewriting it, using the old novel as the template. 

It's coming, but it's coming along slowly. My friend and I went to a coffee shop a couple days ago and slowly chipped away on our respective writing projects so that was nice!

*my friend lives in Florida and she talks about how stupidly nice and not below-freezing the weather is. 

25733990I've had this book-- Sleeping Giants-- on my TBR list for ages, so I'm excited that my library hold finally came in!

19070282Shortly after Christmas my dad got into baking bread-- and I stumbled upon this book somehow, somewhere on the internet and bought it for him. Well he loved it so much I grabbed it last time I was home and y'all this. book. is. amazing! It is hilarious and informative.

  • How to Hobby || Embroidery 
    • so once again I'm not feeling this week's Top Ten Tuesday prompt-- books you would not reread. I've talked in the past about how I don't' reread anything...so I figured that post would be a little boring
    • so instead I'm finally starting my how to hobby series! This week I'll talk all about my newest love, hand embroidery :) 
  • March Monthly Wrap-up

That's it for me! 

Review: Kitchen Counter Cooking School


Genre: nonfiction

Kathleen Flinn is passionate about helping homecooks learn how to...well cook. She demystifies the entire process to nine eager volunteers hoping that at the end of the cooking school they won't feel the need to gravitate towards premade boxes for dinner, that they will realize just how simple cooking can be. Most of them enter the class unsure of how to do basic things that I take for granted (how to season, how to spice up a recipe that is horribly dull). They are overly cautious and for most of them their lack of cooking ability ties into a lack of self-confidence. Flinn's goal is to teach them the basics but also to show them just how delicious the 'basics' can be.

Her approach to cooking is everything I ever wanted.

You see, I'm not the biggest fan of strict recipes. Sure I'll follow them-- and generally I don't stray too far-- but what the physicist in me really wants is fundamental knowledge. I don't want to know this specific recipe for braised chicken; I want to know the general way to braise meat (when to do it, how long, flavor ideas). I don't want to know a specific pasta sauce recipe, I want to know some basic ways to make a sauce so that when I look in my fridge, I can plot out what to do with what I have.

This book weaves lessons in the cooking fundamentals (how to braise something, how to make a soup) with delightful anecdotes about the women going through the cooking class. Once you know the basics it is easy to cook with whatever food you happen to have on hand, as opposed to shopping exclusively for one recipe.

I adored this book; it was entertaining but it was also extremely informative. And what better way to convey that but by cooking one of the many recipes included in the book?

(link to original recipe, you can use either rice or pasta)

What appealed to me most about the recipe was its simplicity-- and reported deliciousness. 

You simply chop up a bunch zucchini, roasted them until they dissolve. Cook some pasta, reserve the water and add to the zucchini, mix together, and well...that's it. 

I added some onions because I am obsessed with caramelized onions-- a technique I still haven't mastered to my satisfaction but I've heard you can caramelize onions in a crockpot and I might try that soon. 

The recipe was simple-- that part is true.


it pains me to say this

I honestly didn't expect this at all.....
But the end result was quite definitely bland. About halfway through cooking this recipe it struck me that while it was easy, there didn't seem to be any flavor going into the dish.

Now if you made this during the height of summer when fresh zucchinis practically jump off the farmer stand and roll up to your front door then yeah, this recipe might be amazing.

But during the middle of winter cooking with zucchinis you picked up at Aldis? Yeah, no. They lack a strong flavor which means that this pasta lacks flavor and depth. If I were to cook this again I would probably roast garlic in the oven and add that to the sauce, along with some herbs (rosemary? maybe a splash of soy sauce to add depth to the sauce?). While I was cooking I did everything I could to add last-minute flavor to a dull dish but it didn't quite work.

It feels odd to end a glowing review of a book with a less-than-glowing review of a recipe from that book and it feels dishonest to glaze over how the cooking actually turned out but! Please don't let this one recipe misfire turn you away from a really good book. Even if you don't pick up any specific recipes from this book, it will motivate you to get back into the kitchen and cook!

Camp NaNo || What my goal is

I have participated (and won) National Novel Writing Month for six years now which means (theoretically) that I have six 50,000 word novels sitting on my desktop.

It has only been the past two years where I have successfully written 50,000 words in one month that also included a beginning, middle, and end of a novel-- my other ventures never made it much more than to the muddling middle of a story.

That feeling, of writing the cliche words the end is addicting and it is a goal that felt impossible those first years of novel writing, an impossible reach...until I did it.

My goal for my first stay at Camp NaNo feels similarly impossible. Camp NaNo is like the younger sibling of NaNoWriMo-- a self-directed month with a self-directed fill-in-the-blank writing goal.

My goal for this month? To edit a novel.

You see I have never edited...well, really anything I have ever written (except blog posts of course!). My novels are all dust-covered first drafts with the faults, flaws, missteps, and fourth wall breaking you would expect from a dash-to-the-finish-line competition such as NaNo.

The novel I am going to edit is called Among the Stars (at least that is what it's called until I can come up with something better) and it is a sci-fic novel I wrote for NaNo '16. I have broken it up into 19 scenes (I plotted out this novel by scenes and that is one of the large reasons I was able to write a beginning, middle, and end because before the first word was penned I had a clear goal in mind).

19 scenes. 4 weeks. Because Camp NaNo doesn't allow you to declare number of scenes edited as a goal, I've set up an hour goal. And because Camp NaNo is hardcore, the smallest hour goal you can set is 30 hours (though to be honest my real goal is 20 hours).

That means for about an hour every day I want to sit down and edit a scene or two, work on some plot points, and basically make my characters fully fleshed out.

And since this month begins with a holiday, I'm technically already behind-- but unlike NaNoWriMo, I'm not super dedicated to reaching my goal. Instead I just want to make progress, to try my hand at editing, polishing, crafting a story, coaxing it from the rubble that is a first draft.

Wish me luck! ((because man do I need it))

What about you? Have you ever edited something you have written? Any tips for me? 

Dear Sunday: Happy Easter!

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

He is risen, he is risen today, hallelujah! 

Happy Easter y'all! This year the stars aligned and Easter fell at the end of my spring break (ha ha, it's a lunar joke get it? cause easter is based off of the lunar calendar...nevermind). This meant that for the first time since starting grad school I had time to go home for Easter! (well it does require me to skip my class tomorrow....#worthit) This spring break has been lovely due in part to the fact that Arkansas (where my family lives) actually is in the middle of a real, verified Spring season while Missouri (where I live)...is not.

I'm trying to make the most out of the vacation, relaxing, reading, and trying to catch up on blog post writing and blog hopping! (*tries to think of a hopping related Easter pun*) Also I've somewhat/kind-of/partially decided to do the April version of NaNoWriMo called Camp NaNo. The rules are far more relaxed than traditional NaNo, and you set your own goal. For me, my goal during the month of April is to do a good amount of editing on a NaNo novel I wrote a couple years ago. I've never actually edited a novel I wrote...so we shall see how that goes!

  • Camp NaNo: who, what, when, where, why of my novel!
    • *pssstttt* I'm just not feeling this week's TTT prompt-- characters you liked from books you didn't. When I don't like a book it's often because I hate the characters so my list would be very short and very nonexistent. 
    • so I think I'll write a post about my novel (it's my 2016 NaNo novel) and editing goals 
  • Review: Kitchen Counter Cooking School
    • with a recipe test! 
    • look at me
    • doing the cooking 
That's it for me! I hope you are having a lovely weekend with family :) 

Beautiful Magical Realism || Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

I forgot to take a pretty photo of the book so I'll just show you pretty photos from my home
I bought Garden Spells roughly a year ago for about two dollars. I was at a fancy clothing thrift store and couldn't resist the urge to peruse their book section. It had a pretty cover-- and it was two dollars-- so I was sold. Once I got home I kept seeing this book pop up on other blogs, always to rave reviews.

Ehhh I don't know, I hesitated. The book seemed very literary fiction, very character driven, and I'm a sucker for a good plot. Maybe it won't be my cup of tea. 

And then recently on a whim I picked the book up off my shelf, decided to give a try, and was immediately blown away.

This book is beautiful, lyrical story about two sisters who dealt with a difficult past in dramatically different ways. From the start I was sucked in by the beautiful magical realism which sung from every page. There was the old lady who gave out random trinkets to strangers who called her crazy...only the trinket ends up being just what they suddenly needed the next day. There was the apple tree who tossed apples into the bedrooms, enticing the family, one bite and you'll see the biggest event in your life.

And while I think I'm a sucker for a good plot the truth is I'm enthralled by unique, innovative writing and this fit the bill. It never dragged, I tore through the book in a little over two days, and I can't wait to pick up the sequel.

If I had a qualm (and it's hard to find one) I felt like the book focused on the conflict (how can I love that which might be temporary?) but then sped through the resolution. However I have this complaint for many books (why can't I just read their happily ever after part for like the entire book??) and it's pretty minute.

I was shocked at how much I adored this book, considering how little I liked Practical Magic which I feel like is a very similar book. I think it all boils down to what I want out of a book when I pick it up. If you want a super plot-driven-tons-of-stuff-happens-every-second type of book, if you don't want introspection, if you don't want a slower paced book then maybe, right now, this isn't the book for you.

But I think you should read it anyway.

TTT: 5 books not set in the USA

This post brought to you by the Top Ten Tuesday series over at its new location at That Artsy Reader Girl!

Welcome back to my first non-Sunday post in far too long! When I first saw this week's prompt-- books that take place in another country-- I figured it was going to be difficult. Most of the books I read are set in the US. But when I had a look through my Goodreads list, I found it surprisingly easy to rummage up five books set in non-USA locations!

  • The Lost Girls
    • This is a travel memoir written by three friends who spend a year traveling the world-- it was an interesting read!
  • The Scribe of Siena
    • This book is set in Medieval Italy and follow the journey of one woman thrown hundreds of years back in time.
  • My Life in France
    • This memoir of Julia Child's life was engaging-- and made me want to get into the kitchen and cook more! Ironically few of the dishes she described were ones I would want to make (most were very heavy with tons of cream and butter).
  • Song of a captive bird
    • This fictionalized memoir is about Iranian poet Farough and it was a wonderful, riveting read.
  • The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club
    • This is a fast paced easy-to-read novel about a woman who finds herself suddenly a single mother raising two precocious boys in England. It was fun, but I haven't been motivated to seek out the sequel just yet.

That's it for me! What are your favorite non-USA books? 

Dear Sunday: Spring Break!

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

I'mmmm back! I survived my exam and was rewarded by the start of spring break. Even though I still have to work a couple of days this week, I am taking off towards the end of the week to go home and I'm pretty stoked about that. 

I apologize for the week of radio silence-- this more laid back week coming up will definitely afford me the opportunity to write some blog posts and visit some blogs :) 

The photo on the left is from yesterday when a friend and I went ice skating in a nearby town! During college I went ice skating once/twice a year; my friends and I were horrible at it but also loved every minute. It's been a while since I last went ice skating and I forgot how hard it was! I definitely looked like a newborn giraffe that had been thrown on ice. 

  • umm...well..about that....

  • Top Ten Tuesday: 5 Books Not Set in America
  • Review: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen 

That's it for me! I hope you are having a great week :)