Sorry Honey, I Forgot Our Blogoversary . . .

SO, I figured out that my blog’s anniversary was August 13th . . . and then I worked a 65 hour week and didn’t think about it at all.*

So I’m doing a belated Blogoversary post for myself. That means I will use an inordinate amount of gifs and jibber about nothing for at least a page; you have been warned.

I’ve been blogging for a bit now, but I’ve only been consistent for about a year. In that time, I’ve made some awesome friends, and had a lot of fun getting some words out there. More importantly, I feel like the writing connection with others (and the helpful feedback) has made me a better writer, and made me a more efficient writer.

I answered a lot of the “Why do you blog” questions on this tag from blogger Victoria Grace, so I’ll skip that. Also, you probably have heard more random facts about me than you ever needed! So I’ll skip that too. Instead, I think I’ll write a bit about my past year in blogging, and where I see myself going.

As most of you probably know, I had my debut novel scheduled for August publication.

Unfortunately, it’s already September (yes, I’m screaming), and I have yet to hear back from my publishers on a new, concrete date. They haven’t done something terrible like close down or drop my book, they’ve just pushed everything back in their schedule because: LIFE HAPPENS. No one knows this better than me, but it doesn’t make it easy. In fact, it’s made my last couple months rougher mentally than I would like.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to stay positive and work on the many writing projects (new and old) that I have. I’ve also kept myself reading – because my love of reading is what got me writing, and it’s still my favorite pastime. It’s also good to get other people’s’ words and ideas flowing through your head, just like it’s good to have conversations with various people and not always be stuck in your own brain!

A Few Things I’ve Been Working on Between Last August and Now:

Promoting:

Knight of the Blue Surcoat, my delayed but still debut novel – an Arthurian historical fantasy adventure starring King Arthur’s daughter Melora. More about it here.

Editing:

The Last Coffee Shop (TLCS)- A snarky, post-apocalyptic adventure novel that involves a barista, a bounty hunter, a dancing thief, and a lot of aliens. Read more about it here.

Drafting:

Red as Blood – A genderbent Snow White retelling set in the same “world” as TLCS, just a decade or so later. It involves high fashion, corruption, food service, and quirky, damaged characters. More about that here, and in my current series of Beautiful People posts. September’s entry will be up soon!

Reading:

Scads of research books for a planned Japanese folktale retelling, and a few for an epic fantasy idea that I’ve been tossing around.

ARCS – as many as I can get to, for my day job as a bookseller. Standouts include Vassa in the NightBlood for Blood, and Patchinko.

Most recent reads: Tokyo Ghoul Volume 8 (<3t_t KEN!) and Malice by Keigo Higashino (Japanese mystery).

Learning:

Korean, and lots of other things – to be continued below . . .

Cooking:

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen my random kitchen projects. Kimchi-in-everything has been the theme. I’ve progressed to a proper kimchi storage container, so I can make as much kimchi jjigae (김치찌개) as I want!! Other things, such as Korean BBQ, fresh tuna sushi, Thai curries, the usual pies and scones, and many other things happened in my kitchen between work and other work.

Watching:

Obviously, I haven’t had much time to watch anything. However, I did finish the Korean Comedy/Horror/Drama “Let’s Fight, Ghost!” and it was hilarious (and actually a little creepy at times). I also started watching PinocchioCity Hunter, and a big-budget Chinese drama called Ice Fantasy. If you’re interested in hearing more about my tv watching habits, check out this post. AND PEOPLE – if you aren’t watching W: Two Worlds, you should! Not only do we get Lee Jong Suk being a fabulous action hero, it’s a reality-bending drama about being sucked into/out of a manhwa (만화 – Korean comics) and it has a rather Christopher Nolan-esque/postmodern feel about it that is pretty unique.

Oh, and Lee Jong Suk = reasons to watch anything. No, I’m completely unbiased.

ANYHOW.

The last movie I saw was Suicide Squad – and I had very mixed feelings about it. It felt like two different movies competing with each other, and I thought that it would have been better off as a goofy heist-style movie. Everything from the message to the storytelling was muddled (and I seem to be in the 1% who thought the Joker was in there too much – and I’d thought he was the main villain from the trailers . . .). And honestly, the villain (Tia Dalma 2.0, supermodel edition) was completely underwhelming. That being said, the main cast was good and parts of it were very fun/funny – and there were some excellent soundtrack choices.

I’m really looking forward to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemMiss Peregrine’s wasn’t my favorite book – I found it rather boring, and the romance was really the only unnerving thing about it, but the movie looks pretty cool. And of course I’m excited about Fantastic Beasts! It looks like breath of cinematic fresh air.

Listening to:

Other than the usual, I’ve really been liking Korean rockers F.T. Island‘s mixture of pop-punk and excellent vocals/instrumentals. Other notable current favorites include BØRNS (Michigan Native!), For the Foxes, EXO and B.A.P‘s dance-y recent offerings, The Unlikely Candidates, and Icelandic rockers Kaleo.

Also in music, I compiled an ultimate Last Coffee Shop Playlist (around 100 tracks) that gives you a great audio picture of the novel – and it includes a lot of the songs I listened to while writing TLCS as well.

Work:

Err, that. Back in February, I took on a second job at a new craft brewery, in addition to working part-time as a bookstore manager/head book-buyer, writing reviews for a women’s mag, and my own personal writing/reading work . . . so, yes. Anyhow, it’s been fun, but I think the crazy work fest might be over for the year.

Travel:

Besides travelling to Nashville and back in three days, I’ve been to Pensacola (for a day, but well, it was a good day), Gulf Shores, Chicago (4 times!), Traverse City, Harbor Springs, and all that jazz. I manage to clock a lot of road hours for someone who is rarely away from work, 😛

Life:

I GOT A NEPHEW!!! I already had a niece (and she’s one of the most precious, sweet, and mild-mannered little angels ever), but as of the end of June, I have a nephew too. He’s adorable and cuddly, and I got to go see him way too briefly in July.

So you remember I was learning Korean?

Well, last fall, after some serious contemplation/soul-searching/finance-shuffling, etc, I decided I’d be interested in putting some of my savings toward a few more college courses (I have some credits, but that’s all). I’ve always wanted to travel, travel write, and make it to East Asia. Not to mention, my passion for Asian History has had me reading courses worth of books for years. SOooo, I thought, well, a degree in East Asian Studies? Worth it? Maybe a foray into International Relations, or a certificate for teaching ESL? My number one goal has always (and probably will always be) to be a published author, but that travelling/teaching/exploring side is loud too. I want to write, in other places. So this meandering paragraph just means, I’m going back to school, as long as I can afford it . . . At least I’ll have a whole class of people to practice Korean with!!

Related to this – readers might remember how my sister and I had to leave our rental and ended up back with our parents? Well, I’m going to move (at least till December) down to Grand Rapids, and commute to my bookstore job in between. So I can’t see the craziness letting up any time soon, but it will probably be a bit more organized now. *Gulp*

And while I’m on the subject of school, I’m attending a college that really is quite a nontraditional place for an adult student – and it feels like I’m in class with high schoolers – I feel so awkward and out of place. So there’s that. I thought about doing a series about what it feels like to go back to school at 27 (on a small enough campus to where you can feel it). So that might be a thing . . . It’s amazing how isolated you can feel when you’re surrounded by thousands of people. Don’t get me wrong, I love being by myself, but trading in 65hr work weeks for 65hr work-and-school weeks is kind of lonely, you know? But I know that I have you guys to talk to! (And believe me, it’s comforting)

So that’s it – that’s all there is in a nutshell. Happy Belated Blogoversary to me! (Also, happy 추석 to my Korean friends out there!)

(I love Lurch’s dancing because we can all do better – sorry Lurch)

If you blog, when’s your blogoversary? Have you ever thought about going back to school after leaving it? Would you read a series about going back to school as an adult student?

What have you been up to this September? Conversation is delightful ;P

*I didn’t forget my beloved Bigbang’s anniversary though (August 19th). Priorities, priorities . . .

 

5 Reasons that Vassa In the Night NEEDS to be on Your Fall TBR List (ARC Review)

Anyone who follows my blog knows that I have been INSANELY busy all summer. It’s left me little time to read, and no time to blog – but I finally managed to squeeze in some reading time, and now I have to tell you all about it 😛

JUST LOOK AT IT – So Pretty

First things first – a huge thank you to ABA Whitebox and TOR/Macmillan for the ARC – this advance copy was provided for free as a bookseller promotion, and this is an unsolicited, unpaid, and 100% honest review 🙂

I don’t know about you, but I have a lifelong obsession with fairytales. Whether it was Disney, a dusty copy of Grimms, Ella Enchanted, a folktale collection I found at the library, or Once Upon a Time, I’ve given them all a shot. However, for all of the fairy tales and folktales out there (and there are thousands), only a handful ever seem to make it into novels. So when I saw the synopsis of Vassa in the Night, I knew I had to read it as soon as possible. (Official Synopsis Below)

In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now, but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won t be playing fair .

Basically, Vassa in the Night is a modern reimagining of Vassilissa the Beautiful (there are a lot of Vassilissa stories out there), set in Brooklyn, NYC.
And before you point out how many fairytale/folktale retellings are out there, scroll down for my

Top 5 Reasons to Read Vassa in the Night:

  1. The Prose is beautiful.

    There are sentences that my writer’s brain was wishing I’d come up with. And Sarah Porter’s “stage-setting” and descriptive writing roots you immediately – just read the first couple paragraphs and you’ll see what I mean:

People live here on purpose; that’s what I’ve heard. They even cross the country deliberately and move into the neighborhoods near the river, and suddenly their shoes are cuter than they are, and very possibly smarter and more articulate as well, and their lives are covered in sequins and they tell themselves they’ve arrived. They put on tiny feathered hats and go to parties in warehouses; they drink on rooftops at sunset. It’s a destination and everyone piles up and congratulates themselves on having made it all the way here from some wherever or other. To them this is practically an enchanted kingdom. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now, but not the part where I live.

Not that there isn’t any magic around here. If you’re dumb enough to look in the wrong places, you’ll stumble right into it. It’s the stumbling out again that might become an issue. The best thing you can do is ignore it. Cross the street. Don’t make eye contact—if by some remote chance you encounter something with eyes.

(Excerpt from Chapter 1, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter)

Porter takes her time in setting the scene, enveloping you in a fantastical, yet familiar version of Brooklyn. Her writing has its own sort of magic, and it will immerse you in the world of the story in no time.

2. Creativity!

Baba Yaga as a demented shopkeeper? Yes, please. Vassilissa as a purple-haired teen from a blended family? Works for me. Demented, bodiless hands for sidekicks? Sure. Another world on the fringe of our own, populated by characters that Lewis Carroll would envy. SOLD. This is definitely one of the more inventive YA novels I’ve read, and I couldn’t wait to see where it would take me next. I also loved seeing how Porter worked elements from the Vassilissa story into the book.

3. It’s laugh-out-loud funny.

There’s a healthy dose of sarcasm, usually provided by Vassa herself, and a borderline-hysterics sort of humor that balances the macabre setting and rather dark subject matter (i.e., severed heads and gruesome, fairytale style deaths) The side characters and bizarre situations also provide a lot of humor. Erg (Vassa’s “doll), in particular, is a source of hilarious one liners and dry observations.

4. Reality checks.

I love how Vassa in the Night doesn’t have a “perfect” ending. Everything isn’t resolved or tied up neatly. More importantly, throughout the book, we don’t forget that Vassa is a young girl plunged into a world far beyond her comfort zone. None of her problems are magically solved, and she has to work for a resolution. Vassa’s relationships with Erg, her stepsisters, school peers, and missing/late parents are all extremely important, and she has to deal with them in “real-world” ways to grow as a character, and accomplish her goals. And hey – if Baba Yaga was real, I could definitely see her setting up a sinister convenience store chain in NYC. And getting away with it.

5. VASSA.

She’s everything I love in a heroine – smart, funny, snarky, empathetic, and believable. Despite her tough lot in life, she is determined and stubborn, and she refuses to give up when it matters the most. Also of note, though Vassa is obviously our heroine, she doesn’t fall into the stereotypical chosen-one mode at all. Her character growth and arc were well done and satisfying.

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars.*
A lush and inventive modern folktale for readers looking for something a little darker and less romantic than the majority of the fairytale retellings out there. A strong heroine, crazy strangeness, and beautiful prose help Vassa in the Night stand out as one of my favorite YA reads of 2016.
*Here are my minor quibbles (which are really only relevant after you’ve read the book:
  1. Was there a point to the whole story about Vassa’s dad (other than showing his extreme immaturity and selfishness)?
  2. I felt that “The Rules” (governing the magical world/characters) could have been fleshed out a little more. Obviously, like Erg, Babs had rules she was following – otherwise, she might have stopped Vassa more effectively at times. It makes it a bit harder to suspend your disbelief if you don’t know the rules that the world operates by.
  3. Babs defeat was slightly underwhelming. It was fairytale-esque, but (see #2) I felt like it would have worked a bit better if we knew how/why she was defeated.

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter will be released in Hardcover on September 20th, 2016.

Do you plan on reading Vassa in the Night? Why or why not? Have you read Vassilissa the Beautiful or any of the Vassilissa stories?

 

JUNE ATE ME FOR LUNCH (My Month – Recapped)

I might as well just post this title and go home. But even though it tells you what my month was like, it doesn’t tell you what my month was like.

Here are some gifs to help explain that:

Getting the idea?

I did write ONE June Post – the required Beautiful People, featuring the doctor from my WIP. So I will still consider this a valid entry for the Wrap-Up Round-Up Monthly link-up with Nicole from Feed Your Fiction Addiction.

ANYHOW, there were a lot of reasons I wasn’t on the blog – and the biggest one was a forced relocation to my parents’ upper room. (See May Rewind). So my sister and I couldn’t find a place fast enough, and my parents were kind enough to take us back. The problem is, there are already a lot of people crowded into my parents’ small space, and it’s double the distance from both of my jobs. The perks? I love my family, and they have internet. *Proceeded to binge watch Tokyo Ghoul *

So it’s a little like living in The Burrow – only without magic.

That was the worst news of June (best news soon) – but I have also been extremely busy at both jobs. June – August is always a crazy period at the Book Nook, with Harry Potter Camp and two music festivals in that short period. June has the West Michigan Wine and Jazz Festival, which brings in jazz musicians and singers from all over the country. It’s a lot of fun (and great music), but rather exhausting.

And while I’m talking about music (which I do a lot, I realize), my sister and I had a break from the moving stress and went to see Fitz & The Tantrums at Meijer Gardens. They. Were. Awesome. The Meijer Garden’s Amphitheater is a huge outdoor venue (and it was packed), with rental seating, or you can bring low-backed chairs and sit/stand on the grass. Grace and I managed to get on the second step up, so about 10-15 feet from the stage, which was perfect. The evening started out with indie California rock band Finish Ticket. I’d never heard of them, but they were fantastic, with stellar musicians and an extremely powerful vocalist. They came out the gate with music and vocals that were completely on point and effortless. Needless to say, I bought their mini album/LP, and I’ve really been enjoying it.

But of course, I was there for F & T. I’ve never seen them live, but I’ve been a follower/fan since 2013 (when they released their second LP), so three years of loving their music made me anticipate the live show. I WAS SO EXCITED.

And guys – they were AWESOME.

Vocals, to energy, to crowd interaction, to general quality – it was in the top 5 performances I’ve ever seen on every level. Added to this, the sound quality, lights, and atmosphere were perfect.

And it was so much fun – Fitz ” (with his co-vocalist Noelle Scaggs – who is a phenomenal soul/pop singer, and a handful of extraordinary musicians) wouldn’t let us sit still and be stodgy, complacent listeners (which my sister and I usually are). He got everyone on their feet in seconds, and Noelle’s dancing (and urging of the crowd to dance) was contagious enough for my sister and I to at least bob our heads and tap our feet.

Zion T. is an accurate representation of our public dancing 😛

*Hey, they got us to ‘handclap’ for Handclap, so they need an award here. I think it would take me about twenty years to learn the actual Handclap dance . . .*

 

So in short – if you like dance-y soul pop you should check out Fitz & The Tantrums!

(Start with Fools Gold, Out of My League, Dear Mr. President, Tricky, Walking Target . . .)

And speaking of dancing – this crazy video also happened in June.

Every time I watch EXO dance, I am somewhere between awe and despair. HOW EVEN GUYS?? How can you move (or not move) like that? Cordinationally-challenged individuals like myself can only dream.

And on the subject of dreaming AND concerts – BIGBANG keep spamming innocent international fans with all of the cool stuff they’re doing for their 10th Anniversary in Korea, China, and Japan – and it all looks miserably awesome. And far away. Thanks guys

ANYHOW – in non-music related stuff- I was in one of my best friend’s wedding the first week of June.

A lovely shot of the bride and groom that I creepily pilfered from someone's Facebook
A lovely shot of the bride and groom that I creepily pilfered from someone’s Facebook

It was beautiful and everything went well, so that was an answer to many prayers. And no one fainted, though I actually locked my knees for the first time in my life 😛

 

KIMG0550
This picture is actually mine – but the poor quality is my phone 🙁

 

 

I am still waiting to see all the pictures . . . I was too busy to take many myself. But the most important thing is that it all went off without a hitch, and that she is now happily married and relocated with her groom to Indiana (and now I have another person to visit on my spontaneous roadtrips!!)

 

 

BUT THE BEST JUNE NEWS OF ALL?????

I HAVE A CUTE NEPHEW. And thus, one of my lifelong dreams is realized: I now have a nephew AND a niece. William Charles was born on June 30th, and he’s absolutely precious. It is a great testimony to my willpower that i didn’t ditch work, jump in my car, and speed down south at once. Instead, I am consoling myself in many, many cute baby pictures. I will now commence buying adorable little boy clothes and biding my time until I can dart off to see him.

What’s Next?:

Well, Lord-willing, Knight of the Blue Surcoat is still set for an August release (though the publisher contacted me to tell me there might be a small delay . . .?), and when I know more, I’ll tell you.

And July – there’s Harry Potter Camp (prepping like a wizard studying for O.W.L.S right now), and a new Beautiful People (which I’ll use another one of the Seven Sisters for), and maybe, maybe, a cute nephew to go see?? (If I can pull time off out of my ears, maybe). And I’m almost done with my readthrough of TLCS, so I’ll enter the actual editing phase next (June didn’t happen). OH – AND BOOKS TO READ. I basically read a pile of manga in June. It was the only thing I had time/attention span for. But I’m hopeful for July (Blood for Blood – just started it!). And I’m still plugging along at my Korean studies and research (more about that eventually), despite having the attention span of a two-year-old and no time. I’m sort of hoping that I’ll just absorb it from the unhealthy amounts of music I listen to . . .

Despite my busy schedule, my parents’ internet means you’ll probably see a little more of me (though what state I’ll be in – that’s uncertain).

Happy July! Keep Reading and Writing!

Soooo – any summer/fall concerts planned for you? What are you reading or writing? Have you made it to the beach yet (sadly, I haven’t)? Any new bands or songs you’re liking? (Summer is the perfect time for windows down and speakers UP)

 

 

Tags, Tags, Tags – and Gifs

So, I was wanting to write a post, but none of my drafts looked appealing. I started reading other people’s posts instead, and I found out the Victoria Grace @ Wanderer’s Pen had tagged me! Thanks a bunch 🙂

***UPDATE*** Aaaand, then, as usual, life happened . . .

*Cue Jaws Theme*

_Ahem_ Two Months Later . . .

Back to the tag – Victoria said that I could choose which tag I wanted to do, so I just decided to answer ALL the questions. So we have the “Secret Life of a Book Blogger” questions first, and Victoria’s questions from the “Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award” next. Savvy?

First, I am prepared to spill all my secrets *shifty eyes*

Secret Life of a Book Blogger

1. How long have you been a blogger? –
Let me look . . . err . . . and after much digging, I found my blog’s birthday!! It’s August 13th, 2012 (I always did like 13). And now that I found it, I’ll have to do a blogoversary post. So I’ve been blogging on and off for 3ish years, but I didn’t get serious about it until last year.
2. At what point do you think you’ll stop blogging? –
I guess I haven’t thought that far ahead? I don’t intend to quit blogging. Even if no one reads it, I’ll probably still be here. I’m like that.
3. What is the best thing about blogging? –
While it’s fun to share your thoughts with the world, it’s not nearly as cool as interacting with diverse people from all over the place. My favorite part is definitely following/commenting/conversing with all of you fabulous people.
4. What is the worst thing? What do you do to make it okay? –
The worst part – not having the time/energy to blog when you really want to!!! I’m still working on trying to make it okay, to be honest. But not worrying about it is helpful 🙂
5. How long does it take you to create/find pictures to use? –
Depends on the picture. I usually have a pretty clear image in mind that I want to use (see my extensive use of gifs). If I am creating an image, it takes me days to be happy with it, so I rarely do that.
6. Who is your book crush?

Tom Imura, obviously. (from Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry).

And forget the crush, I want to marry him.*
Tom is, to date, my only literary crush. As much as I love hordes of male characters, I am typically more inclined to want to be them than have a crush on them. (i.e., every man in LOTR.) And tbh, most of my favorite literary guys would be bad news (I’m looking at you, Howl, Mordred, Luthe, Hamlet, Peaceable Sherwood, etc, etc.). And I don’t have patience for that. Nope.
*sadly, even if he was real, I don’t think I’m Tom’s type, ;P
7. What author would you like to have on your blog? –
Robin McKinley. She was one of the first author’s to write books and characters that I fell in love with (outside of Tolkien. And I can’t interview him, for obvious reasons). Robin McKinley influenced me as a writer and reader, and I still love her books so much. It would be a huge honor to have her.
8. What do you wear when you write blog posts? –
 . . .
Because *everyone* dresses like G Dragon when they . . . wait, I’m pretty sure that NO ONE but GD dresses like GD . . .
 Whatever I wear normally. For example, today I’m wearing jeans, an anime costume shirt, and clogs. What I want to know is, does anyone actually change what they wear for blogging purposes??
9. How long does it take you to prepare? –

Prepare for what? Work? The Zombie Apocalypse? This year’s election (I don’t think I’ll ever be prepared for that)? The Olympics (Err, never).

I’ll stop being a smartaleck now – as this probably means a blog post. It really depends. I’ve written a post off the top of my head, and taken about ten minutes. Other posts have taken weeks. But my average is a couple of hours.

10. How do you feel about the book blogger community? –
I like them a lot! We’re all united by our love of books and reading, so we have a big plot of common ground. On the other hand, you read a lot of unique voices and experience people from all walks of life, and that is one of the best parts of the community.

And now – The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

Rules (which I will sort-of ignore)

Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link their website (click it)
2. Use the award logo on your post (see above)
3. Answer the 10 questions provided by the blogger who tagged you (following)
4. Nominate 10 bloggers (I did this last time, so I’m flouting the rules. )
5. Ask them 10 questions (I’ll leave 5 questions for anyone who is interested)
Now that the rules are out of the way, Victoria Grace’s fabulous (but difficult) questions:
1.) What is your favorite fandom?
Favorite because I like it, or the fandom itself?
Well, my favorite fandom (that I’d consider myself a part of) will always be Lord of the Rings. It’s the earliest one for me. If we’re talking about the fans themselves – err, still LOTR.
2.) If you were in an epic fantasy battle what weapon would you use? (Magic counts)
This is so hard!! Just ONE?? I want to use all the weapons 🙁
If I HAD to choose, a sword. I’m all about those classic lines and a sophistication.
3.) If you could be any fantasy or alien race besides human what would you be?
An ELF (a la Tolkien). This is the easiest answer of them all.
4.) What Divergent aptitude are you?
I just went and did the official test to help myself out, lol. And I quote:

“YOUR CHOICES DEMONSTRATE THE VIRTUES OF MORE THAN ONE FACTION, SCORING HIGHEST IN ERUDITE AND DAUNTLESS TRAITS”

Guess I’m Divergent. I’m not sure what I’d pick, to be honest. I’d probably decide that I wanted to be Factionless. That’s what I kept thinking when I was reading the book. Sure, you’re a total social outcast, but you’re on your own. Seriously.

5.) Japanese manga, American comic books, or graphic novels?
Manga! That is pretty much all I read (other than research books) when I have busy months (like June)
6.) Have you ever been out of your country? If so where have you been? If not where would you like to go?
I have been to Canada – but I really want to go EVERYWHERE. Especially Japan, Korea, Germany, Ireland, and New Zealand.
7.) What element would you like to control? Air, water, earth, or fire?
URGH – another hard question! All of them? I want to be master of all the elements . . . but if I had to choose . . . air. Distractible, fickle, packs a heckuva punch but it would really rather play a game. That sounds like me.
8.) Favorite video game, card game, or board game?
*continues griping offscreen* Probably board games. I love cooperative strategy games like Pandemic or Zombicide
9.) Favorite piece of jewelry (with a pic)?
Currently? I reaKIMG0357lly love earrings, and I got these super cute Mitoki ones in Chicago after the B.A.P concert (right side). The other ones are Bigbang earrings from that same store. I also love every piece of jewelry from the Fandom of the Month Club.
10.) Do you like your hair straight or curly?
When I straighten my hair, I look like Hugo Weaving (not that there’s anything wrong with what he looks like, for him). So I’ll pass.

So those were her varied and fun questions! Thanks Victoria!

Would you have answered the same as me, or opposite?

Oh – and before I forget – here are my extremely random questions, if you so desire:

1. In your opinion, what is the function of a rubber duck?
2. How far would you travel for a concert?
3. What is the strangest book you’ve ever read?
4. If you woke up tomorrow and were fluent in any language, what would you like it to be?
5. You are stranded in a warehouse that’s surrounded by enemies (zombies, rabid wolves, rival soldiers, rabid fans, take your pick) – what is the one fictional character you’d like to have at your side?

May Rewind (Yes, I’m Still Here)

While I didn’t fall off the face of the earth (exactly), I have been pretty noticeably absent from the internet. Not on purpose. I just had such a busy month that it made April (see Aprilpocalypse) look, bland.

An accurate representation of me and May

Not only was I traveling up and down the country in the first week, I have a lot going on. And no internet at home (I’ve mentioned this), which makes blogging tricky if you also have extremely limited spare time. For the record, I had all kinds of ideas for posts – which I didn’t write – and planned to do some tags – which I didn’t finish (does starting count?) – and you’re getting the picture.

So while I wasn’t online, I actually have a lot of things to recap in the Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up, hosted and originated by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction. Click through to check out her lovely book blog and join the link-up/read some more monthly wrap-ups.

May started off with a bang – as I had to go on TV. I’m not a TV person. But hey, what can you do *shrugs*. But here it is, if you’re interested 😛

The books I picked/discussed were Jakob’s Colors, The Residence, Thorn, Haymaker, and Finding Winnie. I thought it was a nice, diverse little group – and I didn’t forget what any of them were about!! (I was seriously worried about this – it’s a bookseller’s nightmare)

After I survived the TV – I immediately flew down to Pensacola, FL. Enroute (okay, at O’Hare Airport), my phone crashed and died and was no more (no idea why). So I had no way to contact my family, who had planned on picking me up later in Pensacola, to then drive us to Gulf Shores, Alabama, to meet up with the rest of my mom’s family. This was annoying, but providentially, my sister was just pulling a loop around the Pensacola airport (in my parent’s 15 passenger van, which is unmistakable due to the Oatmeal Savage bumper sticker – see below).

Before we made the 45 min drive to Gulf Shores, we stopped at a magical place – Joe Patti’s World Famous Seafood Market (I’d never heard of it . . .).

Not that kind of magical place!

It’s full of fresh fish, but you can hardly even smell them, which means it’s incredibly clean. Fyi, if I lived within an hour or two of this place, I would shop there at least twice a week. The fish was gorgeous, fresh, and profuse. They also have a sushi bar and a bunch of cool and/or local ingredients. My sister and I purchased everything we needed for sushi (including a beautiful pound of tuna). We packed it on ice, and headed to the gulf.

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I don’t know about you, but the sight/smell of the ocean immediately relaxes me. It’s the real vacation part (Having a dead phone and being <1,000 mi from work/home helps too).

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Of course, there was a “dangerous sea creatures advisory” the whole time I was there (one guy saw a seven-foot shark – thankfully, I just saw a large stingray. Well. Two.) But this didn’t stop me from swimming. Fortunately, I never saw a shark. I’d love to see a shark – as long as I was nowhere near the water. But not in the water with me. No thank you.

At any rate, I ate my fill of fresh fish. And I made sushi! That tuna was so good, guys – velvety smooth and with the lightest taste and texture you can imagine. And now I’m hungry . . .

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SUSHI

Other than my phone debacle (I wasted a couple of hours trying to fix it), everything was pretty good – until my ENTIRE family got really sick. My grandma and I were the only ones who didn’t get it, even though we were exposed to everyone. Because of the sick people, we were put behind schedule, and I ended up driving most of my family to Tennessee. They were all sickly and weak, but we made it. A good music playlist helped 🙂 (And it was hilarious to hear my littlest sister singing along to Bigbang’s If You – which is almost completely in Korean – and I had no idea she knew the song . . .). But my younger sisters’ favorite non-Disney song to listen to is the catchy, feel-good Just Right by GOT7:

Err, yes . . . anyhow – we survived the trip and made it to Nashville. I got to see my precious niece for a couple of hours (but she was sick too), and my brother and sister-in-law. It was still worth it, though. After this, I had my airport—->BEA 2016/Chicago Adventure, which I actually wrote a post about:

After I got back, it was an immediate plunge back into work – with a few too many 12-15 hr work days (if you combine both job shifts) and far too little sleep.

In the meantime, I cram-read some books – here are a few thoughts on them:

Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern – 4.5 stars (MG fiction)

Synopsis: “Fourth grade is not going at all how Benny Barrows hoped. He hasn’t found a new best friend. He’s still not a great bike rider—even though his brother George, who’s autistic, can do tricks. And worst of all, he worries his dad’s recent accident might be all his fault. Benny tries to take his mom’s advice and focus on helping others, and to take things one step at a time. But when his dad ends up in the hospital again, Benny doesn’t know how he and his family will overcome all the bad luck that life has thrown their way.”

Thoughts: Just My Luck was a sweet, touching, and relatable little novel. The tone and writing were fabulous, and Benny’s voice was pitch-perfect. To be honest, I related more to him than I do to most YA/Adult protagonists! It made me laugh aloud, and I really was rooting for the Barrows family to overcome all their “bad luck.”As a bookseller, this is one of my favorite summer picks for MG readers (and their parents).
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi – 3.75/4 stars

Synopsis: “Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.”

Thoughts: I loved the setting and the lush descriptions, but I’ve read so many Cupid & Psyche/Hades & Persephone/Bluebeard type novels that I have trouble keeping them straight. I was far more invested in the mythology and world than the story or romance, but that was to be expected. So I’m not sure if it was the book, or just me. Maya was a wonderful, strong heroine though!!
In Defense of the Princess by Jerramy Fine – 4-ish stars (adult nonfiction/memoir/essay)

Synopsis-It’s no secret that most girls, at some point, love all things princess: the poofy dresses, the plastic tiaras, the color pink. Even grown-up women can’t get enough of royal weddings and royal gossip. Yet critics claim the princess dream sets little girls up to be weak and submissive, and allows grown women to indulge in fantasies of rescue rather than hard work and self-reliance.
Enter Jerramy Fine – an unabashed feminist who is proud of her life-long princess obsession and more than happy to defend it. Through her amusing life story and in-depth research, Fine makes it clear that feminine doesn’t mean weak, pink doesn’t mean inferior, and girliness is not incompatible with ambition. From 9th century Cinderella to modern-day Frozen, from Princess Diana to Kate Middleton, from Wonder Woman to Princess Leia, Fine valiantly assures us that princesses have always been about power, not passivity. And those who love them can still be confident, intelligent women.

Thoughts: While I never really disagreed with Fine in the essentials, I thought her take on things would be interesting. Regardless, this was a really fun read, and it was so hilarious that I kept stopping to read lines to my sister. I had definite ambitions to be a princess (specifically Princess Jasmine) when I was little too, and I completely understand the “longing to find the place where you belong, or your ‘people,’ so to speak” that Fine describes so authentically. The most interesting part was her bio list (at the end) of real world princesses. These women don’t sit around on their hands and look pretty!! In other words, this is my pick for a beach read 😛
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavalaero – 2.75/3 stars (YA Contemporary/Mystery)

Synopsis: The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

Thoughts: I really wanted to like this book. And to be honest, the mystery and setting were kind of interesting, so I finished it. But it didn’t work for me on any other level. Jamie was ok, but I found his admiration of Charlotte to be a bit more slavish than sympathetic . . . Granted, I love the original stories (and the show Sherlock), so I’m a tough customer. To be honest, just read Cait @ Paper Fury‘s review here. She’s 100% right about this book.
Memories of Ash (Sunbolt #2) by Intisar Khanani – 5 stars (YA Fantasy)

SynopsisIn the year since she cast her sunbolt, Hitomi has recovered only a handful of memories. But the truths of the past have a tendency to come calling, and an isolated mountain fastness can offer only so much shelter. When the High Council of Mages summons Brigit Stormwind to stand trial for treason, Hitomi knows her mentor won’t return—not with Arch Mage Blackflame behind the charges.

Armed only with her magic and her wits, Hitomi vows to free her mentor from unjust imprisonment. She must traverse spell-cursed lands and barren deserts, facing powerful ancient enchantments and navigating bitter enmities, as she races to reach the High Council. There, she reunites with old friends, planning a rescue equal parts magic and trickery.

If she succeeds, Hitomi will be hunted the rest of her life. If she fails, she’ll face the ultimate punishment: enslavement to the High Council, her magic slowly drained until she dies.

Thoughts: You can read my full review here – but I loved it! If you haven’t read these books, you need to. Memories of Ash was basically everything I was wanting (only it wasn’t about 600 pages longer). And I’m not complaining about length here, because it was already novel sized, which fulfilled my wish from Sunbolt.
Noragami, Stray God Volume #1 – Manga – 3-ish stars

Synopsis: Yato is a stray god. He doesn’t even have a shrine, not to mention worshipers! Hoping he’ll eventually raise enough money to build himself the lavish temple of his dreams, Yato accepts all kinds of jobs. Of course, he can’t afford to be picky; from finding lost kittens to helping a student overcome bullies, no job is too small for Yato, the god-for-hire! An eccentric story with a charming cast of characters!

Thoughts: Meh. It was funny and the art was good, but I just didn’t care. But that seems to be the case with a lot of first volumes in manga. I might read the second one, but I won’t go out of my way to try . . .

The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan – DNF

Urgh. Cutesy, kitschy, trite, twee, tepid – I could go on with the adjectives, but there’s a reason I didn’t finish this one. Adult Contemporary is the new YA – unrelatable characters, randomness, and everyone is stupidly attractive. And we’re supposed to swallow all of this with heaping tables of sugar. No. Thank. You.

Currently Reading:

The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye – I’m finally getting into it after several misfires. Once I got over the angsting and being-beautifulness of the first few chapters (and the magical duels started), the story really took off.

Your Lie in April, Volume #1 by Naoshi Arakawa – I got this for free, so I’m reading it. I don’t know how I feel about it yet. The art is cute though. And I’m extremely confused by the title.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – I just started this, so I don’t have any opinions. The first chapter is good! Regardless, I’m extremely excited about this one.

My novels:

I’ve been tapping away (a bit) at Red as Blood, and I featured secondary protagonist Mollie in May’s Beautiful People. I plan on using another one of the Seven Sisters for June’s BP, so I’m looking forward to that.

I’ve been reading through The Last Coffee Shop, and been pleasantly surprised – for a NaNoWriMo project, it isn’t nearly as terrible as I thought it would be!! That’s always awesome. At any rate, if I can get my act together, I might be ready for a few betas sooner than I thought – maybe this fall :0 I still love the world, story, and characters, and I want other people to make me more rational about it . . .

Other than that, I haven’t had much time to write (as my lack of blog posts will attest to).

Movies, Music, and More:

I saw Captain America: Civil War twice, and loved it both times. I think it did a great job of incorporating all the characters, the previous movies, and paying tribute to the comics. The acting was spot-on, Black Panther was epic, Bucky and Falcon as rivals/friends/enemies, and I love how the Russos write Black Widow. Now if we could just get that Black Widow movie . . .

I also saw X-Men: Apocalypse, which was a lot better than I was expecting. It wasn’t as good as the animated comic arc from the 90’s, but it was entertaining. And I loved Storm. Professor X and Magneto’s bromance was good as usual, and Cyclops was probably the least annoying he’s ever been, and Quicksilver was the best part of the movie. Period.

At the end of May, my sister and I went to see the touring production of The Phantom of the Opera. I’ve loved the musical since I was little, but I’ve never had the chance to see it live. It was incredible!! The staging and effects, in particular, blew my mind. There wasn’t a weak link in the cast, and everyone did a great job putting their own spin on these familiar songs and characters. FIVE STARS.

As usual, I’ve listened to a bunch of music, and while I didn’t discover much new stuff, I remembered why I loved 90’s Celine Dion so much (on that long car ride). OH, THE DRAMA!

But in all seriousness, her slower songs are so perfectly crafted for her voice. She’s a master of emotion, that is for sure.

I’ve been on the nostalgia train a lot lately, with mid 2000’s pop/rock and a lot of 80’s stuff on my current playlists. Here’s one of my favorite songs as a kid (my dad had a cassette tape with it that I would always request)

It’s still a favorite of mine <3

But because I am a complete and utter goofball, I will leave you with another frequent song on my playlists – Look at me, Gwisun by Daesung (a.k.a D-Lite) from Bigbang. It’s in Japanese, but if you look at a translation, you’ll see that the (hilarious) MV is basically interpreting the lyrics – literally. And be warned, this video is really, really, goofy (don’t blame me if it scars you for life, lol).

This is basically something you watch if you’re having a really bad day. (And what’s with the X-Men suit? Okay, not really X-Men, but that’s what it looks like . . . And GD’s cameo is my favorite thing)

I’ll stop with the videos so you can actually load this post, but there are lots more where those came from. They’re much better than cat videos, trust me.

Looking Ahead:

I’m probably going to be a sporadic poster for the near future. I found out that my sister and I have to move out of our rental by the end of June, and we aren’t sure where we are going. So this has definitely upped my distraction and stress levels. Also, the summer tourist season is upon us at both jobs, so I have no idea how much blogging or blog reading I can do. We’ll have to see.

In the meantime, thanks to everyone who reads these wandering posts and tolerates my erratic attention! I love you guys and hope you are having a wonderful and productive June so far!

<3 R

Monthly Wrap-Up: March 2016 – a Month Where a Lot Happened That Was Not Blogging

I can’t believe it’s April. (I mean, you’d think I would, because I’ve said something similar every month for, I don’t know, a year?)

But yeah, March. Over. *looks vaguely bewildered*

Monthly Wrap Up is hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction, and instructions on how to join are here.

I’m getting around to the Monthly Wrap Up late as usual.

A legitimate representation of me

The biggest thing on the blog in March was THAT I MOVED IT. I have this shiny new site and I couldn’t be happier with it. Everyone has had such lovely comments about the new look, so thanks guys!

In March, I also:

  • Introduced Sull, the MC of my newest WIP, Red as Blood, for this month’s Beautiful People.

I decided that I wanted to write as an angsty teenage guy, and listen to all of the same music I did as an angsty teen (with the addition of copious amounts of G-Dragon <3). It also reminded me that Castle of Glass (Linkin Park) never got enough love.

I’ve already finished one (The Wise Man’s Fear), which I read as a buddy read with fellow blogger/fantasy author Sara Letourneau (it was a ton of fun, and motivating – thanks Sara!!)

SO EXCITED.

I added pertinent quotes, and let myself gush a bit about why these gems need other people to appreciate them 🙂

  • -And then I stole a tag (mainly as an excuse to use all the gifs I’d been hoarding) – and wrote a bit about my “writing process”- Behold, the #WritersLife tag!

  • -Just when I thought you’d never get another sensible, non-gif filled post out of me ever again, I decided to write an extremely sensible (for me) post on Writing What You Know.

All told, that’s 6 posts, which I’ll take with a smile. Between work, work, work, and moving the blog, I was surprised that I got anything up at all!

On Other People’s Blogs:

I always read quite a few posts (as it’s much faster than writing a post!), but I don’t always comment. I skipped around the blogosphere a lot this month, and I discovered some great posts. Here are a few highlights –

Off the Blog:

Well, I was rather down in the dumps in February (despite my general tendency to laugh at everything) – and I probably should have had my debit card confiscated. What does that have to do with March? Err – all the random stuff I purchased from overseas showed up this month. If you don’t know how exciting it is to get a package from Japan (or anywhere that isn’t in the US), I’ll give you a hint –

Kirito (L) = Everyone else. Asuna (r) = Me
It feels like this
So, thanks to the buying-binge of February, I have A LOT of Cds . . .

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And this – I’m still baffled by it, tbh.

Screenshot 2016-04-04 17.20.25

Errr – it’s this intense random thing with a dvd, a calendar, a poster, weird card things that confuse me, and a photo book with 2 billion photos. What am I even supposed to do with it? (And I can hear you all saying, “don’t look at me, you’re the one who bought it!”) I did find one use for the photo book though – my sister and I used it as a makeup guide! Nifty.*

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*Who’d have thought?

I also have a cute dress from the UK . . . but I digress.
So March was Music Madness. And of course, work madness. Two jobs take a lot out of my energy levels AND time, but it’s been nice to bump my savings back up a bit (despite the buying binge of February).

Other than working (and reading The Wise Man’s Fear), I started a whole pile of other books, including H is for Hawk. It’s very well-written and it’s a fascinating subject, but I’m only about halfway through so far.

On the writing front, I continued to add details to my plotting/scraps for Red as Blood, and I look forward to working on it in April.

For whatever reason, my sister and I ate out more during March. We discovered Sakura in Grandville – a Japanese restaurant with excellent sushi. However – the night started off with awkward hilarity after the waiter asked for my ID. He squinted at it, and then told me that I didn’t look like the same person – because (and he actually said this) – I wasn’t as pretty as the person in the picture, and we looked different . . . And while I had on my glasses and work bandana, and had no makeup on – I don’t think I looked that different??

What-Excuse-me-Say-what-GIF

 

Anyhow, my sister and I were a little startled, but then we had to focus just so we didn’t explode with laughter in his face. And our waiter – well, he quickly backtracked, and then we could hardly keep straight faces the rest of the time.

WHO SAYS THAT TO A PERSON’S FACE???

Still, on the bright side, I looked young enough to be trying to use someone’s ID. ;P And I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time!

And then – at the very end of March – I came down with a dreadful cold. I did not pull a Howl-esque diva fit over it – I just bought some medicine and slept every free hour. And when I felt too bad, I just watched a bunch of really old BIGBANG videos on Youtube. While the latter part didn’t help much (with the cold), it did help my flagging spirits. So. Funny.

Bigbang in the early days . . . (from Dirty Cash MV)

Ah, the awkwardness of youth . . .

Seriously, they’re still hilarious. (And it helps that I really love their music)

Times change

Okay, maybe not everything has changed, 😛

From “Running Man “- BIGBANG + JongKook as “The Gladiators”
Stay awesome, guys.

Coming in April:

Starting Edit #1 for The Last Coffee Shop. In a departure from my normal haphazard ways, I decided to download Sara’s super helpful editing sheets. We will see if I can stick to this more orderly route.

Oh, and I’m going to go see B.A.P in Concert!!!!

You may remember this band from my songs that should be books post that I did back in February. No? Here’s a video to give you an idea:

So we have to drive to Chicago. That’s closer than most of the bands I want to see will venture!! (On that note, I found that one of my favorite US bands, Fitz and the Tantrums, is actually coming to Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids. Just not until June)

On the blog – we will see! I’ll do Beautiful People, but I’ll probably post as often as my work schedule and erratic internet availability allow me. And hopefully, that will include some book reviews!

I’ve considered doing a few Last Coffee Shop editing posts, but I’m still undecided.

And of course, there’s the general randomness that I produce from time to time 🙂

So how did your March go? Is it still snowing where you are (it is in Michigan!)? Do you have any big plans for April? What was the last book you read?

 

TTT: Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR

 

Top 10 Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted/created by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish. For instructions on how to participate, click here.

I couldn’t pass this one up, as it’s nice and easy. My TBR stretches from here to Jupiter (and fills up half of my rental house), but picking out a few to focus on might help me get to more of them in the end

1. Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani

I'm not posting the cover today (even though it's gorgeous) because I'll be participating in the cover reveal tomorrow! Be sure to check out my blog for the cover, info on preorders, and other fun stuff! More importantly, Memories of Ash is diverse, layered fantasy and the sequel to Sunbolt, and I couldn't be more excited about it. Read my review of Sunbolt (or better yet, read the book), and get all excited with me.

2. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

I actually just started this as a buddy read with blogger-friend Sara Letourneau . It was a little hard to get back into the swing of things (it's been over a year since I read The Name of the Wind), but it's good so far. I've decided that reading my favorite genre (epic fantasy) is like a mini vacation - not because it's easy, per se, but because it's a welcome respite from the business/stress of everyday life. So thank you, Patrick.

3. The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

SO PRETTY
I heard about this one through Cait over at Paper Fury (she's part of the blog tour). Russia, dueling magicians, historical fantasy - this book sounds right up my alley!

4. Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

MORE PRETTY COVERS
Persian-inspired fantasy? YES. Deserts, djinn, gunslingers and rakish foreigners? Please and thank you.

5. A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

I'm actually kind of embarrassed that I haven't read this :) I  mean, it's about magic and multiple Londons. Anyhow, I decided to fix this problem by buying a shiny paperback edition and putting it on my desk. Now I just have to read it.

6. Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale by David Kudler

I wanted to read this one as soon as I saw the title ( a kunoichi is the simplified/modernized term for a female ninja). It's a historical adventure novel set in 16th century Japan - and thanks to the author and NetGalley, I have an eARC of this one that I can start ASAP!

7. The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dei Randel

Now we have the Tang Dynasty of China. Mei, the young woman who became the most infamous empress in Chinese history, is the narrator of this debut novel. Naturally, I'm also fascinated by Chinese history, and this book looks really good. (Thanks for the eARC Sourcebooks!)

8. Masque by W. R. Gingell

And the prettiest cover yet
I literally read about this book ten minutes ago - and now I really want to read it. It's a murder mystery retelling of Beauty and the Beast by an indie author. The reviews compare it to Jane Austen, and say that the romance takes a backseat to the mystery. After reading just a few blurbs, I'm sold.

9. The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Another one that I actually have a copy of. It's about time travel, and there's a ship on the cover. And I heard there was a Persian thief involved. That's really all it takes to make me want to read a book.

10. Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh

Prehistoric Pride and Prejudice? I'll read that in a heartbeat. Warring clans and survival stuff are just bonuses. Honestly, this premise is fabulous.

So, are any of these on your TBR? (Are they now?) Which one looks the best to you? What book are you looking forward to reading this spring?

Monthly Rewind: February (and Some Questions for You Bloggers)

NOTE: This post first appeared on my former blog, Wordsmithing and Worldbuilding

I almost don’t know where to start on my Monthly Rewind – February was . . . Intense.

At any rate, it’s March (the month of appropriately mad weather for Michigan), which means it’s time for the monthly link-up with Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction. Instructions on how to join are here.

 

You may or may not have noticed that I was pretty absent for most of February. There are a few reasons –
First, I picked up a second part-time job a couple weeks into the month, and both my time and internet access have become even more limited than normal. That being said, I’m still here!
Working two jobs has also upped my caffeine intake, and made me seek out coffee from less savory places (like the gas station). I’m normally pretty spoiled because the coffee at the bookstore is amazing. Not so amazing at the gas station. But hey, it’s coffee. I think.
Secondly, I’ve been having an endless amount of annoying problems with Blogger and Google+. They are currently refusing to let me comment on anyone’s comments, or even read them when I’m logged into my blog.

I didn’t realize what a goldmine TOP* gifs were . . . until now ^^

Ugh.

Anyhow, after much deliberation, I’m considering moving my blog to a different platform, or possibly my own domain.

Which leads me to these important questions:
1. Is it worth buying an actual domain name?
2. What blogging platform do you use, and why? Do you like it? Is one better than the others?

Any advice/feedback would be really appreciated! (Oh, and since I can’t read your comments – note the contact form on the top right-hand side of the blog- thanks!)
And now that I have that out of the way – February in Review!
On the Blog and Reading fronts, my hectic schedule made hash of things – and I only managed 5 posts 🙁

-Current mood-

 

My reading count for this month was even worse – I started about 15 books, and finished only two of them!
The first was Stars Above, and the second was The Guest by
Hwang Sok-yong. I’m not sure if I’ll review it or not. It’s about the 52 day massacre in the Hwanghae Province of North Korea during the Korean War. It was moving, disturbing, horrifying, and profoundly important if you’re looking to understand a little more of the North/South Korean relations, the relationship of Korea with the West (especially the U.S.), and the two huge “foreign guests” of Christianity and Communism. It wasn’t light reading, but I was glad I read it. I’m just not sure how to explain it in a review! (A funny place for a writer to be in, let me tell you).
I am also reading through a manuscript for a friend, so that’s taken plenty of time and attention.
And if you’re interested, here are some of the books I’m currently reading:
 
 
Without You, There is No Us by Suki Kim
Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
The Star-Touched Queen (ARC) by Roshani Chokshi
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald
Small Data by Martin Lindstrom
Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Also in reading, Intisar Khanani’s (novel-length!) follow up to Sunbolt, Memories of Ash, has a release date!! This is easily one of my most anticipated books of 2016. It’s out May 30th – so just 3 months to wait!! In the meantime, there will be a cover reveal on March 16th, and it will be up for preorder on that day as well.

Off the Blog:

  • I started the second job (at a new local brewery)
  • I started yet another novel (I have very bad habits.) More about this in a minute.
  • I turned 27
  • I made lots of kimchi and discovered kimchi stew (soooo good. And kimchi fried rice is almost better!!)
  • I basically did a lot of cooking, now that I think about it . . .
  • One of my best friends got engaged and I get to be a bridesmaid (my second time)!
  • The only movie I watched was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Because Matt Smith – Eleventh Doctor as MR. COLLINS)***, I watched none of the Oscars, and watched an unhealthy amount of YouTube videos when I should have been sleeping after 12-16 hour work days.
  • And to be honest, if anything else happened in February – I don’t remember it. I was probably sleeping. My ability to fall asleep anywhere on anything at anytime just turned into a superpower.

Looking Ahead:

Hopefully I’ll finish a few of those books this time around, and have some time for reviews! I’m also thinking of doing a series of editing posts on The Last Coffee Shop – to help me actually edit it, and because it would be fun. Thoughts? My major goal for March is to do at least one edit through.
Oh, and that book idea I mentioned above) – it won’t go away. So I started writing it. It’s basically a vintage sci-fi + western + Hallyu wave + high fashion novel in the world of TLCS (though not a sequel). The MC’s voice is stuck in my head – he’s an angry teenage model (yes, that’s he) on the run from a truly freaky family situation. He takes refuge at a greasy spoon space diner, which is run by a posse of (former) warrior women who specialize in fried chicken. Because I just can’t write anything normal. If you’d like to see a glimpse into it, here’s the link to my Pinterest board.
Also, I plan on plugging away at The Butler Did It, and reading everyone else’s wonderful posts (I did a lot of reading posts in Feb, but rarely had the energy to comment, lol)

So that’s it for me folks. How was your February? Do you have any big plans for March? What are you reading? And please tell me your thoughts on the blog move idea/domain name 🙂 I’ll give you all the virtual cake if you do!

Footnotes:
*From BIGBANG. SO MANY GIFSSSS
**Yes, I know he’s fake. No, I will not get over it.
***Not as bad as I thought it would be, and Matt Smith was hilarious.

Stars Above (Lunar Chronicles Short Story Collection) Spoiler-Free Review

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like all short story collections, "Stars Above" is a mixed bag. However, seeing as all of the tales are set within the world of The Lunar Chronicles, I enjoyed every one of them. Here's a brief, spoiler-free summary:
"The Keeper"- This story tells Michelle Benoit's story in more depth. It touches on her relationships with both Scarlet and Dr. Tanner, and finishes with how she came to protect Cinder. Well written and plotted, it manages quite a bit of story and character development for its length. 4 stars.

"Glitches"- This story follows Cinder as she joins the Linh family in New Beijing. She's a child, she has no memory of "the other family," and she's a cyborg. Young Cinder and Peony are precious, and I enjoyed reading this part of the story. 4 stars

"The Queen's Army"- Naturally, this is a story about Wolf and how he became an elite member of the Queen's Army. This story has a decidedly different tone from the previous two, and it was one of my favorites. Taken from his parents and genetically modified, Wolf (or Z, as he's known at the time) must deny his gentle nature and become a killer if he wants to survive. 4.5 stars

"Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky"- A cute story about pint-sized Thorne at school. The most interesting thing about this story was that Thorne was from a wealthy background, and how that shaped his character. Otherwise, this one didn't do much for me. 3.5 stars

"After Sunshine Passes By"- Next is a story about Cress as a child, and how she came to be put in a satellite. This one is quite short, and it is basically a reworking of the beginning of Rapunzel in the world of TLC. 3.5 stars

"The Princess and the Guard"- Winter and Jacin are the titular characters in one of the longer stories in the anthology. Basically, this story just explores their childhoods and backstory. Jacin was the character I felt the most distant from in TLC, so it was good to get more of his personality and character. Winter is, as usual, completely charming with a stain of sorrow. 4 stars.

"The Little Android"- A pretty straightforward retelling of "The Little Mermaid," but with an android (Mech6.0). It was a standout in that only Cinder has a brief cameo (as far as the main LC characters go), and we get to see more of the world and everyday people of TLC. Bittersweet and well done. 4.5 stars

"The Mechanic"- I'll admit that I was primed to like this one, since it is the story of Cinder and Kai's meeting from Kai's perspective. It was great fun to get in his head, since he is one of the more impassive/emotionally unavailable characters. As I suspected, he's pretty funny. I would read an entire book with him as the POV character. 4.5 stars

"Something Old, Something New"- Obviously, there is a wedding involved. This story was the sappiest, and definitely had the most corny parts, but it also surprised me with some truly hilarious bits. The mental images of all the male characters decorating for a wedding together was worth the read by itself. It went on a bit long for me, but it also neatly tied up the story and sent the characters into the next stages of their lives. 3.5 stars

Overall: A fun, breezy read with some standout stories, a liberal dose of humor and mayhem, and more of lovable characters. Definitely a must for Lunar Chronicles fans. 4 stars 

View all my reviews

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books That Really Weren’t My Thing (But I liked them anyway) – With gifs and reasons and stuff

Image Source: The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday is a really fun topic (again) this week* – since it highlights books from genres or on topics that we don’t normally read, but that we really liked.

As a bookseller, it’s part of my job to read a diverse selection, so I have read plenty of books that I wouldn’t pick up because I simply wanted to. Here are 10 of the books I liked more than I thought I would!
As always, TTT is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and you can find out how to participate in the link-up right here. (Disclaimer: All images belong to respective copyright holders and are not being used for any financial gain)
And here we go . . .

Top 10 Books That I Liked (Even Though They Weren’t My Usual Reads)

1. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Why it isn’t me: I don’t usually go for cute and cuddly NYT bestsellers.


*Sniffles* Pushing Daisies!
How it changed my mind: While it was most definitely cute and cuddly, and bestselling, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry was sweet not sappy, and a love letter to books and bookstores. How could I not approve? The author really captured the charm of indie bookstores, reading, and the quirky people you meet in the bookish world.

2. The Iron Fey Series (And The Immortal Rules) by Julie Kagawa

Why they aren’t me: Two words- paranormal romance. And they were billed to me as “swoony,” which always earns an eyeroll (internally, of course, one must be polite).

My eyeliner is never this flawless, but this is how I’ll react . . .
How they changed my mind: While there was zero swooning, I did find the characters charming** enough to read every one of the Iron Fey books (and I even made it through the slight love triangle unscathed).
Anyhow, these books are like those giant cupcakes — you buy one and one becomes five and . . .  anyhow, I actually really enjoyed them. But I sort of felt like I had a sugar hangover after the fact. The characters are fun, the worlds are lovely (I especially love her take on the Fey), and Julie Kagawa is a good storytellerImmortal Rules was one of the more interesting vampire books I’ve come across, and I loved Kagawa’s take on a post-apocalyptic setting.

3. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Why it isn’t me: It’s an adult contemporary romance/comedic novel. I don’t usually enjoy romantic comedies, and they only ask for an hour of my time. A book is much more demanding.

How it changed my mind: It was actually hilarious. The characters were quirky and fun, and I loved Don Tillman. He's autistic, brilliant, and so socially awkward that I was immediately charmed. Rosie was fun, but Don's narration won this novel for me.

4. The Benny Imura Series and The Joe Ledger Series by Jonathan Maberry

Why they aren’t me: I am not into zombies. Period. And the Joe Ledger series are an adult zombie series, which really isn’t my thing . . .

Before Rot & Ruin
How they changed my mind: TOM.*** While there are a lot of zombies in both series, they also include: strong characters, brother bonds that will make you cry in a hole, great action, swords, authentic and relatable teenage drama, adorable characters, plotlines, humor, philosophy, and really complicated but terrifying villains. And did I mention Tom Imura? No? Small oversight. And as for the Joe Ledger books - they're like a Clint Eastwood movie with zombies and humor. A little rough,**** but I liked them way more than I thought I would (I haven't read them all yet, but they're still going strong)
After

Why it isn’t me: I read some of Faulkner’s short stories for school and was driven mad by his stylistic decisions (run-on sentences, strange punctuation, etc). Despite my love of classic lit, we didn’t click.

Trying to capture that eerie, empty feel with a gif here
How it changed my mind: I saw how short it was, and picked it up on vacation. And I was completely won over by the eerie darkness, the strange style, the drama, the depiction of the South, the story, and the narrators. Faulkner went from my never-read-again list, to my read-everything-eventually list. Just because of this book.

6. The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

So pretty

Why it isn’t me: I tend to avoid coming-of-age novels as a genre, especially when they sound like they’re just about teenagers doing teenage things (no, I never liked them when I was a teenager).

Couldn’t resist, mate
How it changed my mind: First, there was the evocative title. Second, I met a few people at Winter Institute who completely convinced me to read it with their love for this book. And then the author read an excerpt, and I loved her prose. The story is much more layered and complicated than what I expected, the characters are lovable and seem like real people, and the peek into 60's-70's Alaska was absolutely fascinating. If you like contemporary-ish YA at all, you should definitely give this book a shot.
Just look at this cover . . .

Why it isn’t me: While I love manga, I’m not much into the shoujo/school stuff/romance. I prefer shonen, hands down.

And Hiro – that kid with unlimited adult sass
How it changed my mind: Blogger Victoria Grace (Stori Tori) convinced me to watch the anime first, and I was hooked. I swear I've never been so invested in school clubs or random everyday life before. I had to read the manga because the anime doesn't have the entire story! And there are three very important things I haven't mentioned:
1. Everyone and everything is so darn cute!
2. The Chinese Zodiac have human forms, and they revert to animals when hugged by the opposite sex. It's weird and random and provides tons of hilarity.
3. The characters have surprising layers, and/or really dark sides.

8. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Why it isn’t me: See #2. Guys – this is so “not me” that I was almost too embarrassed to put it up (and I am not knocking anyone who likes these books, I promise). Paranormal romance, love triangles, ridiculously unrealistic characters, weird taxidermied-looking dudes on the covers, I could go on for days here – but they’re not my normal thing, obviously.

Taxidermy . . .
How it changed my mind: This was just a fun book. I stopped thinking and just giggled at the dialogue and got lost in the indulgent steampunk world and fun. Quirky, cute characters and plenty of action helped too.
Got to love that title though

Why it isn’t me: This is the sort of book I’d never even notice. Confessionals, anecdotes, personal mother-daughter stuff, chick-lit, etc.

Batman, are you trying to make us all feel bad?
How it changed my mind: I got this ARC from a box at work when I was desperately seeking a beachy read for a review program. The review was due in two days, and I needed something quick and easy. What I didn't expect was how much I enjoyed it! The stories were pretty relatable, and funnier than I thought they would be. As I have a close relationship with my mother, I found the mother-daughter stuff endearing and fun. It was easy to read, but only just fluffy enough. Sweet and sincere, I could honestly recommend it as a "beach read" to readers and non-readers alike.

10. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

Why it isn’t me: I was fully persuaded that I didn’t like Dickens. (Too early of an exposure – which was my own fault!). Long, overrated, boring, and melodramatic – that’s what I thought. And Little Dorrit is basically moose-sized.

How it changed my mind: I watched the Masterpiece Theater (love MT!) version and was hooked, so I decided to give the book a chance. I liked it even better. It was hilarious - with a such a heady level of satire I was completely surprised, and the characters were brilliant. The Circumlocution Office still figures into my conversations. Anyhow, Little Dorrit rekindled my love for Victorian novels, and sparked a new one with Dickens' works in particular. Many years later, I'm still a loyal fangirl <3

So, what was the last book you read that was out of your comfort zone or not something you’d normally read? Why did you like it? Have you read any of these books?

Footnotes:
*Last week was 10 Songs that Should Be Books - which was a fabulous idea!
**Ash is my spirit animal (okay, one of my many spirit animals)
***Tom Imura = <3<3<3<3<3
****The Joe Ledger covers are gross. Who wants to look at this?