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.