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 ūüôĀ

-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 ūüôā 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 storyteller.¬†Immortal 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.
7. Fruits Basket (Manga) by Natsuki Takaya
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? 

Lovely Books: 10 Literary Couples I Was Actually Invested In (With Fanart!) (February 15th, 2016)

THIS POST ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON MY OTHER BLOG – on February 15th, 2016

Image Source: Adventure Awaits/Tracey Dyck

Well, I’m behind on reading and reviewing, so I tossed it all out the window and decided to join Tracey Dyck’s new February link-up: Lovely Books (Adventure Awaits)

This is a new link-up that goes live the Saturday of every month. Rules (very few rules) can be found here. Since Lovely Books is all about loving on books with other bloggers and bookworms, I knew I had to join in. I totally missed the first one, but the second one was, you guessed it, Valentine's Day themed.

In unintentional rebellion, I’m doing it for President’s Day.*

Looking good, George.
But, yes, favorite literary couples. I'm slightly embarrassed that I did a total mind blank on this at first. I love books and characters, but I never get that invested in romantic plots. That being said, there are some couples in fiction that were so awesome, I felt my heart clenching in concern for them.** That's some mighty fine writing, my friends. (I intentionally ruled out all manga/comic book couples, because that was easier and required less mental straining)***

Warning: Some of these might be a little spoilery (but I find that figuring out romantic plotlines is one of the easiest to do, so probably not).

There is also fanart. So enjoy! (All art is credited when possible and belongs to the artist. It is not being used for any profit/marketing/or anything other than promoting awesome artists)

1. Howl and Sophie¬†from Howl’s Moving Castle

Unfortunately, I have no idea who the artist is! ūüôĀ I want to credit them. Source: Tumblr
It's a testament to the late Diana Wynne Jones' writing that she made us all fall in love with someone as awful as Howl. He's a spoiled brat of a wizard, albeit a brilliant one, and his antics are too funny. On the other hand, I think Sophie is one of the great unsung heroines of literature. She's smart, sensible, and forced to spend most of the book in the (fitting) guise of an old woman. Howl really doesn't deserve her - though I defy you to not want them to end up together. This a charming fantasy that resembles Beauty and the Beast, if the Beast was attractive in looks but not behavior, and the Beauty had a beautiful spirit but was a little old woman on the outside. A must read.
Sophie proving her love – movie version

2. Eugenides (the Thief) and Irene (the Queen of Attolia)

Attolia + Attolis by annmarieri on Deviantart
In Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series, the story of how Irene comes to respect Gen as a man and an equal is an impressive, mature look at love and relationships. And these books aren't  romances at all. They're based around a fantasy world that resembles Ancient Greece and Rome, full of intrigue, deception and lethal scheming. In the center of it all is Eugenides, the titular Thief, whose charm, wit, and quick fingers get him in and out of loads of trouble. When he starts falling in love with the powerful, proud, and disdainful Queen of Attolia, things get messy, and deadly, fast. Just read it, I don't want to give too much away.
Via Natroze on Tumblr – so funny!

3. Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing.

Love this – poster from Ali de Souza’s 2011 production
Much Ado is one of the deepest, and yet most entertaining, comedies from the Bard. If you get the chance to see it live, take it, as it's hilarious to see the action. Beatrice and Benedick are the bachelors, the confirmed singles who have sworn of love, marriage, and everything in between. Their relationship is realistic and funny, contrasted with the "love at first sight" of Hero and Claudio. My second favorite couple in Shakespeare is the Macbeths - who put the bad in badass and are scary as all get out. They're also hopelessly devoted to each other. Take that, Romeo and Juliet.
She has such a way with words, you know.

4. Sabriel and “Touchstone”¬† from Sabriel.¬†

 

 

Image Copyright: Laura Tolton

 

Image Copyright: Laura Tolton
Another pair from a book that isn't really romantic. Garth Nix's Sabriel is awesome. Sabriel is the Abhorsen, a sort of reverse necromancer that puts the dead back, as opposed to calling them up. When she's forced to take on the responsibilities of her father (the current Abhorsen), Sabriel must leave the safety of school to confront all the powers of darkness. She's a feminine, authentic girl who is  way cooler than anyone you've met, yet identifiable. She's also strong, very strong, in a quiet way that never screams "I can do anything a man can do!" Her relationship with Touchstone is believable, touching, and humorous. READ THIS BOOK. (Artist Laura Tolton has an amazing gallery with more Abhorsen related works - check it out.)

5. Kate and Christopher, from The Perilous Gard, by Elizabeth Marie Pope.

Christopher Heron by Whimsical Cow on Deviantart.com

Another book I’ve read that no one else seems to have heard of. And it’s their loss, because The Perilous Gard¬†is one of the best YA novels ever. Really.

Kate Sutton by WhimsicalCow on Deviantart.com
It's set in 1558, and the historical accuracy makes this the most believable novel I've read about the Fae. Kate is the heroine, exiled by Queen Mary Tudor to the Perilous Gard of the title. It's an unwelcoming place, full of secretive inhabitants, including the handsome, rude, and mysterious Christopher Heron. Their relationship has a bit of the Jane Eyre-Mr. Rochester dynamic, but without all the creepiness (Christopher just acts like the type of guy who'd hide a wife in the attic, but he isn't). And there is a sad lack of fan art for this book! However, Jenn Rothwell's (Whimsical Cow) illustrations are perfect.

6. Gemma and KartikThe Sweet Far Thing (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy #3) by Libba Bray

Image Copyright Sam Schechter
I read this book a long time ago (whenever it first came out), but to be honest, the only thing I really remember is the ending - and Gemma and Kartik's characters. I always liked these two fine, but I didn't really care about their romance until, gulp, it was threatened by death and destruction and mayhem. I'll warn you, they don't get a "happy ending." But it's a beautiful finale that really proved how much they meant to each other. In other words, we had real, self-sacrificial love, that made sense, in a YA novel. Not kidding. And yes, fine, they had good chemistry and a convincing relationship too. At least, as far as I remember . . .
Dragon Fire by Leanna Crossan

7. Aerin and Luthe from The Hero and the Crown

Robin McKinley really likes her bittersweet endings. A lot. The Hero and the Crown is no exception. Somehow, her characters seem to make more adult decisions than most YA protagonists. Which means that these two do not end up together - because it would be irresponsible. Cue my twelve-year-old tears.

Yes, I really did cry for them when I was twelve. I just wanted them to be okay, you know? It doesn't affect me like this anymore (I'm all "hooray for people making the right choice instead of the romantic one"), but I still like them together. After fifteen years, it would be a shame if they weren't on this list.

There is basically zero fan art, or art at all, of either Aerin or Luthe. Sadly.

8. Luthien and Beren from the Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien

Beren, Luthien, and Huan by Steamey on Deviantart.com

Tolkien wasn’t known for romance, but is there anything more romantic than disguising as monsters to infiltrate “worse than Mordor” to steal a mystical gem from a guy who makes Sauron cower?

I didn’t think so.

Beren and L√ļthien against Carcaroth by Justin Gerard
In fact, Luthien and Beren are so hardcore that they die and come back to life, mainly because Luthien is so stubborn that she refuses to lose her man after everything they've been through. It's pretty epic.(I love all of Tolkien's couples, but Luthien and Beren are definitely my favorite!). On a side note, I could probably fill about five posts with all the quality fanart of these two, so narrowing it down to just a couple pictures was hard.
Cinder by chrysalisgrey on deviantart.com

9. Kai and Cinder from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Prince Kaito, Cinder, and Iko by Mari945
I admit that I was rooting for them just because I loved both of their characters separately.

Kai's evolution from a slightly silly prince into a seriously impressive Emperor was one of the highlights of the series. And Cinder is the sort of character I love the minute they're introduced. Practical, no-nonsense, not afraid to laugh at herself, headstrong, determined, you get it. I can relate (and I'll add that I wouldn't say no to Kai either . . .).Cute fanart aboundeth for these two.

10. Morwen and Telemain from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede

Forest Scene by chibi-oneechan on Deviant.com
(I couldn't find art I liked of these two, but I did find some gorgeous forest art that reminds me of the entire series)

If you know who Morwen and Telemain are, can we be friends? I love this quirky little fantasy series, and the whole Morwen + Telemain thing is a definite highlight. Granted, the fact that they like each other isn't confirmed until very late in the series, and it is a side thing, but it was obvious.

They're hilarious every time they interact - the ultimate odd couple in denial. She's a sensible witch with a lot of opinionated cats, and he's an absent-minded magician (not a wizard) who relies on endless theories and experiments instead of raw power. Classic.

So there you have it: 10 of My Favorite Fictional Couples

True. Love.
The trick to getting me invested is making me care so deeply about the character that I want what they want.
A good author can make you feel a little heady during a romantic scene. A great author can make your heart ache with the characters, make you want their “happy ending” for them so badly that you confuse it with your own feelings. And a brilliant author will do all of the above without you realizing it happened until it’s too late ūüėČ

What was the last fictional couple you got invested in? Why did you care (or not care) about a fictional relationship? Do you tend to anticipate the romantic bits, or are you like me, and distracted by swordfights? Have you read any of these books? Why not?

 Footnotes:
*George and Martha approved
 **Confession time: I actually have a fictional couples themed Pinterest board.
 ***Winter Soldier + Black Widow <3