Top Ten Tuesday: 5 favorite reads of 2017

This post brought to you by the Top Ten Tuesday series over at The Broke and the Bookish.

So I realized as I was writing this that in July I wrote a 'best of 2017' post! It was interesting to see that some of the same books ended up on my list again; but there are also some new additions. 

  • Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde. As I said before: If 1984 and Catch-22 had a child, and that child went through a rebellious teenage phase, then the result would be this stunning, witty, and expansive novel. Part dystopian, part political satire, all amazing, this novel kept my eyes glued to every one of the 400 pages.  It's hilarious and depressing and fascinating all rolled into one.This type of novel was what Jasper Fforde was made for-- I can't imagine what it would be like to be in his mind.
  • Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. As I said before: I'm not sure where I first heard about this short story. Maybe a John Green recommendation? Either way I'm so glad I stumbled upon this sci-fi tale. I love my science fiction to be inventive, to think of other civilizations and technologies so different from our own, and then to craft a story out of their foreignness and Binti was all of that and more. Clearly taking it's roots from the author's own Nigerian roots it is both wildly inventive and universal in all the right ways, as a young woman leaves her village to travel thousands of miles through dead space to claim her spot at a prestigious university.
  • The Stars for a Light by Lynn Morris and Gilbert Morris. This is a fun historical fiction about a woman doctor back in a time when those two words did not go together. It's not the best book in the world but I enjoyed it, and I loved watching the characters evolve over the long series. 
  • The Long way to a small angry planet by Becky Chambers. Check out my review for the whole story but in short: HOLY COW THIS IS AMAZING. 
  • The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black. Check out my review but in short: HOLY COW THIS IS AMAZING.

Whew! That's it! What about you? What were your favorite reads of 2017?? 

Dear Sunday: almost Christmas break

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series. This week I'm also linking to Stacking the Shelves!

a pretty fall photo from a couple weeks ago :) 
Last week was: choir practice-- our concert is literally in a week and we're performing like ten pieces for no good reason AND we haven't had time to even go over all the pieces and we'll see how that all turns out; Christmas party with my church group, white elephant gifts and pizza, I scored a cute beanie; first Advent service of the season; church Christmas party with holiday games that ended with me having to do charades so that my teammates would guess the holiday song "Thistle Hair the Christmas Bear". Yeah. Let that one sink in. Charades. Suffice it to say my team did not win. But that's alright! 

This coming week promises to be almost as busy as last week (oh Christmas break you can't come soon enough) so my upcoming posts will be more of a suggestion than a promise. But onto the books! Oh! And because I clearly don't own enough books I need to read, I bought another one at the dollar tree. I literally can't pass up a dollar book. 

A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell
((I just read the goodreads synopsis which I didn't do in Dollar Tree and I'm not longer quite as excited for the book...the synopsis on the book cover is very different from what goodreads has! Has anyone read this?))

  • Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite 2017 Reads
  • Monthly Review: October + November

That's it! With any luck I'll be able to juggle my research projects, finishing work for the silliest class I've ever had the misfortune to enroll in, writing those posts, AND all the choir rehearsals scheduled for this week. What about you? Are you like me, and your holiday season is far too busy??

Why Vigil by Angela Slatter left me disappointed

I had such high hopes for this novel. To begin with this novel is really hard to find in US libraries and when I requested one through inter-library-loan, my library informed me that instead they were just going to buy a copy and put me on hold. Fast forward probably months and I get an email telling me that the book was in.

The first paragraph of this novel got my hopes up and I read the rest of the 350 pages hoping to recapture that feeling. And in some bits and pieces, I did. There were parts of this novel I really enjoyed.

Vigil features the struggles of a woman as she walks between two worlds-- the normal and the magical-- and attempts to keep peace in both and figure out why murdered sirens keep turning up.

This novel is a hybrid of urban fantasy and modern fantasy; blending original elements with the reimagining of classic fantasy tropes (fairies and sirens etc). What excited me about a novel is the originality of it, I'm such a sucker for innovative urban fantasy. However this was a more traditional fantasy novel, with a few sparks of originality thrown in.

This novel features a strong female lead who is tough and caring, overworked and smart. The plot is interesting and the magic isn't dull. The novel is not bad. It just isn't great and halfway through I completely lost interest and the book sat on my table for weeks. Eventually-- solely because I knew I wanted to review it here-- I picked it up and forced  myself to finish it, even though I had forgotten the fine details of the plot, and couldn't manage to convince myself to care about the characters.

Overall I expected more originality than the novel was prepared to give me. It runs a tad bit too long. If you are a fan of a more traditional fantasy novel set in modern times, then you might enjoy Vigil!

Let me know-- what is your favorite urban fantasy novel? (I'm obsessed with Madness of Angels by Kate Griffith) What should I check out next?

TTT: 5 Dreamy Book Locations

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

For this week's Top Ten Tuesday I want to share five books set in beautiful locations. 

A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabelle L. Bird -- I know I've mentioned this book like a hundred times on my blog but it's just so interesting! Isabelle travels through Colorado on horseback in the late 1800s and her gift for description had me wanting to travel through the mountains as well except for I would have cell phone service and antibiotics.

Two Women Abroad by Adaline S Hall-- I've mentioned this really cool, rare, travel log on my blog before. I stumbled upon a copy in my college library and fell instantly in love. It describes the journey two self-proclaimed spinsters took through Europe right at the turn on the century and it's really cool.

The Lost Girls by a bunch of people-- Here's a switch to a very modern travel log; several college friends take a year to travel the globe. While I wasn't very tempted by their tales, it did make me want to travel.

Into The Wilderness by Sara Donati-- I adored this novel, set in New York state in the late 1700s. It was beautiful and atmospheric and made me want to journey through rural New York.

When Calls the Heart by Janette Oke -- This novel about a posh young woman who goes to teach in the middle of the wilderness in the late 1800s was a fun little read. Once again I felt the tug to travel through rugged rural country forgetting my deathly fear of spiders, bugs, and my deep love of indoor plumbing. Oh well. Maybe one day.

That's it for me! Five books in lovely locations I would not mind finding myself in. :) What about you? What's your favorite bookish location?

Dear Sunday: I'm back!

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

my november life :) 
It's been so long since I last wrote a blog post I feel the need to introduce myself again! You see, I attempted to: (i) write a novel (ii) write posts for this blog (iii) do course work (iv) do research and (v) have a life ALL in the same month and surprise, surprise, it didn't work out. The obvious thing to take a break on was this blog (who's kidding I would have much preferred skipping out on the class I'm in because it's 10 types of pointless). 

However, on November 30th I officially 'won' NaNoWriMo clocking in at barely over 50,000 words in my novel! I'm refusing to even look at my novel during the month of December (ideally revisions will start in January...) which means, in theory, I finally have time to get back to this little hobby of mine.

I mean if I kept up my NaNo pace and wrote 1,667 words a day devoted solely to the blog holy cow would I be able to get so many posts out! But considering how this is my month of rest (from writing) that crazy pace won't happen.

Anyway I just wanted to apologize for the long and sudden absence on my blog and to assure you that I'm back and excited to write about some cool books I've been reading.  :)

  • Top Ten Tuesday: Book Destinations 
  • Review: Why The Vigil by Angela Slatter left me feeling disappointed 

That's all from me; I look forward to getting back into the blogosphere and catching up on everyone's blogs!

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.

Dear Sunday: break please?

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

This past week has been manic.

This is a lovely little pond outside my apartment :)
As in hectic days and busy nights manic. My professor and I were polishing up my first paper in order to submit it to a scientific journal which meant we were pouring over every single word, phrase, figure, number, detail, theory, and conclusion to make sure that we really were ready to permanently sign our names to them.

It was exhausting! But, as of Friday afternoon, the paper was officially submitted! It's now out of our hands and should soon be in the hands of the reviewers, who hopefully will stand in shock and awe at our meticulous attention to detail.

This week my goal of doing NaNo has seemed like a silly impossible dream-- how could I possible find enough time to achieve such a goal as writing a novel?? But I know that not every week will be this busy; I'll squeeze in writing time like I always do.

I feel like I've been horribly absent on the blogsphere this past week-- even though the only post I neglected to get up was a top ten tuesday. But more than that, I haven't had time to read and comment on everyone's blog! Hopefully that'll change this coming week.

  • Top Ten Tuesday-- food related!
  • ARC Review: The Beautiful Ones
  • ...I won't promise any more ;) I'm trying to keep from feeling overwhelmed! 

That about sums it up! I've officially re-joined Twitter for the express purpose of this blog. So if twitter is your thing, be sure to check me out! 

How was your week? Hopefully it was relaxing! Things should be quiet next week for me (fingers crossed...).

Beautiful Books: NaNo '17

I'm linking up with the beautiful books tag by Paper and Fury!

In case you haven't heard, I am participating in National Novel Writing Month which takes place every year during November. The goal is to write 50,000 words in one month; I started NaNo waayy back when I was in high school. This year is actually the 10th anniversary of my first Nano! Which is absurd. 

When I came across this link-up/tag for NaNo novels I knew I had to jump in. I've been too busy to find to do stuff like, you know, plan the novel I'm going to write; these questions helped me think maybe a bit more about my project. This way I've got two birds with just one post. 

*sigh* have I told you how in love I am with my new lens? 

1.What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
A couple of winters ago, a few friends and I were wandering down dark streets in downtown New Orleans. It was horribly surprisingly cold and we were on what ended up being like a two hour hunt for dinner. My friend had introduced me to A Madness of Angels (one of my all time favorites books) and I was struck by the mystic of New Orleans and how well it was suited for a magical realism novel. He (or I?) turned back and pointed out how well suited this city of voodoo was for such a venture. And thus this ill-fated idea was born! 

2. Describe what your novel is about!
Two friends struggle to survive grad school (what no this isn't a memoir) when one of them suddenly disappears, leading her friend to plunge into a world she never knew existed to try and get her back. 

3.What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!
 If you're a writer you've probably heard some cockamany  well-intentioned advice about being concise or limiting your flowery metaphors etc etc. I started writing this project out of a desire to do the exact opposite of what I had been told was right. I spent sentences on metaphors, anthropomorphizing like there was no tomorrow and I loved every second of it.

this is a beautifully empty page just waiting for to like...plot or something
4.Introduce us to each of your characters!
Get ready for some vague answers!

MC -- our fearless main character (name still to be determined) spent her childhood believing in every stray fairy tale and ghost story. Now in grad school, her world is strictly bounded by the laws of science. 

Friend-- she's in grad school to study anthropology, but mainly to focus on voodoo, let's be honest. 

Guide -- he's still a pretty sketchy, but important, character. Summoned quite by accident he and MC mostly just yell at each other as he introduces her to the veins of magic running around her. 

5.How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)
If it's not already terribly apparent, I have some outlining I desperately need to do. I've spent a lot of time thinking about the plot, but the actual writing down of ideas has yet to really happen. Also I plan on stocking up on mini-cokes and goldfish because if that isn't the snack of champions I don't know what is.

6. What are you most looking forward to about this novel?
Actually getting the story out from my head and onto the page! Last year's NaNo was the first NaNo where I actually wrote a beginning, middle, and end of a novel and man, that feeling is addicting. 

7. List 3 things about your novel’s setting. 
New Orleans, old decrypted cemeteries, piled high dusty thrift stores. 

8. What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
The main character's goal is to find her missing friend. What stands in the way? Police who don't believe a 23 year old adult is really 'missing', a pissed off un-helpful boyfriend of said friend, and herself. (wooahh how deep) 

9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
She comes to accept that there are mystical things all around her-- and learns how to live with not understanding everything. 

10. What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?
One of my favorite themes, stolen shamelessly from the webseries Carmilla, is when a main character boldly does what she believes to be the 100% right moral thing, and inadvertently hurts those around her and messes everything up even further. It's a theme I played with during last year's NaNo and one I hope to pick up again. 

And that's it! What about you, my fellow NaNo-ers (? nano-ites? nanos? nachos? okay now I'm hungry) What's your novel going to be about? Anyone else feel woefully unprepared? No? Just me? Well, be sure to friend me on the NaNo website regardless :) 

Review: The Oyster Catcher

The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 8/10

Fiona Clutterbuck was having a bad day. Crashing her rental van, which turned out to be technically stolen, she had a rocky start at a new life in the middle of nowhere Ireland where it rained more than should be physically possible. Oh, and add on the fact that she harbors a deep fear of water and just somehow agreed to work on an oyster farm?

The Oyster Catcher is a delightful, light hearted romance that had a well-rounded comfortable plot. It is not a typical romance novel, as the main character faces trials and tribulations both inside and outside the romantic plot. Perhaps that's what made it so enjoyable to read, even at 400 pages it didn't feel boring because the author crafted an enjoyable story full of romance and friendship and oysters and festivals and barflies (because apparently that's a word?).

I knew I had something special when, less than halfway through, the author references Dr Who. What can I say, I'm a sucker for Whovian references! That being said, this book is not that old-- 2014-- but the use of technology felt a little dated (who even has a cyber cafe anymore?). Nothing that totally dated the story, but definitely something that nagged at me.

What I loved about this book was that it was simple without feeling boring, heart-warming without feeling cheesy and comfortable without feeling simple. 

My only negative was the ending-- it felt horribly rushed, which was odd, as I don't think this book needed to be any longer than it was. It was a tapestry that, while pretty, had odd trailing ends that awkwardly knotted themselves together.

However, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a nice romance read. This would be a great book to bring on a vacation; get lost for a few days in a rainy Irish coastal village with a lovesick donkey and you'll be charmed before you know it.

What about you? Have you ever read The Oyster Catcher? If so, what did you think of it?

Dear Sunday: The Wedding Shoot

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

Okay y'all. This is going to be short. I'm still exhausted from yesterday. One of my friends got married and somehow I managed to be the official wedding photographer. OH and the church she got married at just so happened to be the church I'm the official custodian at. SO all this meant that I worked at 13 hour day yesterday between the two jobs. 

Future me will have to sort through the nearly 1500 photos (photos of everyone getting ready, the dresses, the venue, the wedding party, the ceremony, the family, the wedding party again-- in a different location-- and the reception) but present me most certainly will not. Well, except to find that photo on the left ;) 

At least now I can strike 'wedding photographer' off my list of potential backup careers. Photoshoots I can do any day-- weddings? No thank you! Wayyyy too much stress and work. But, at least I think the photos turned out and my friend will be happy.

  • Top Ten Tuesday of some sort
  • Review: The Oyster Catcher

And that's it! I'm off for some much needed rest and relaxation. :) how was your week?