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?

 

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?

Monthly Rewind: April-pocalypse

And here I was, thinking April wouldn’t be crazy . . .

Nice to know I can still be naive, I guess?

April made my crazy March look -well- calm.

Have some more 10

So now it’s May, much too soon, and high time for the month in review link-up hosted by Nicole over at Feed Your Fiction Addiction. Click the links to look at what participants have been up to, and/or to join up.

On the Blog:

While I was hardly online in April, I did get a few things up, in spite of myself.

  1. I posted what happened in March – including a (slightly horrifying) pile of imported cds and dvds that . . . err, grew even larger in April. And everyone laughed at a rude waiter with me. That was fun.
  2. I continued working on Red as Blood, and posted a rather long introductory piece about The Seven Sisters of Henpecked Bar and Grill
  3. I made a really exciting announcement about my debut novel, Knight of the Blue Surcoat.
  4. I counted down (just) 10 of the books that make me laugh to the point of tears for Top Ten Tuesday. It was basically just an excuse for me to use silly gifs.
  5. And just when we thought (*I thought) that I’d disappeared from the internet and you would never read anything writerly from me, I decided to post a thoroughly involved post/essay/article on the differences between Villains, Antagonists, and Antiheroes.
  6. Bonus* There was no Beautiful People for April, so I snatched an old one and featured Sull, the protagonist from Red as Blood. (I actually posted this in May, but I typed it up in April, so don’t tell anyone).

Off the Blog:

This is where things got busy . . .

I have been working away at my two jobs, which is a bit like juggling, but with all of yourself. I have been on bartending training shifts, which aren’t hard (since I have the experience), but they do involve longer hours. On the upside, I’m just living the life of my characters in Red as Blood (albeit with less space, and sadly, no aliens. Yet.)

I helped host a bridal shower for one of my best friends (cheers!), which made the imminent wedding seem, well, imminent . . . And my sister and I made many fruitless searches for bridesmaids’ dresses, as we’re both in the wedding.

My sister (the oft-mentioned Grace) made Hotteok (호떡) – or Korean sweet dessert pancakes/street food – which were amazing, but we ended up using them to make egg sandwiches because of the end of this video (if you don’t click through, it’s an interview with Bigbang, with a “cooking competition” at the end.) They aren’t exactly the same thing, but, whatever.

2016-04-30 14.18.37 2016-04-30 14.25.22

They were really good- by the way.

And while we’re on the subject of reality tv (sort-of), there is this new Korean show called “Fantastic Duos” and the concept is really fun (we should adopt it over here). A recognized artist records their part of a song, and then invites anyone and everyone to participate by recording the other part(s) as a duet on their smartphone. Some of the participants are chosen to perform later on the live show (with the artist looking on), and then one is selected to actually perform a live duet with the aforementioned artist. It’s a ton of fun to watch, and they’ve already gotten an incredible performance like this out of it:

I already knew Taeyang (from Bigbang) was a great vocalist, but this girl is crazy good, and it will be a surprise if she doesn’t land herself a record deal. Anyhow, you should watch this, as it’s beautiful. 😛

But I digress – when we weren’t cooking (how we spend the majority of our “free time”, for whatever reason) or watching snippets of reality shows,  I was cram-reading to get ready for book club in May, and a local tv appearance (more on that some other time), and getting ready for Book Expo in May.

To be honest – most of April is a blur – but I actually remember the end of it, because that’s when my sisters and I went to Chicago for the weekend. We actually helped at my friend’s bridal shower, and then got in the car and drove straight to Naperville to check into our hotel. This went faster than expected, giving us plenty of time to stop at the H Mart that was (almost) next door. I mainly just ended up buying vegetables (because that’s what I usually end up buying, regardless). The most exciting one was a radish that was larger than the upper part of my arm . . . Naturally, we stowed the vegetables and things at the hotel before we went over to the Rosemont Theatre for our BAP CONCERT!!!

(for a few pics, you can look at my Instagram feed)

At the Rosemont, we somehow ended up with pretty good seats. We were in the top section (there’s only a balcony and a floor section – it’s pretty small – about 5K seats), and we were in the direct center, so we could see really well (even without the screens). The crowd was far more diverse (especially in age) than any other concert I’ve been to – ranging from little kids to couples my grandparents’ age. And it was a great crowd – minus the extremely annoying and immature girls behind us. They screamed for the point of screaming (and so loudly/high-pitched that they could have broken glass), and talked about the band members like they weren’t even human. I’m an old-fashioned grouch though – I go to concerts because I love the music and want to see the performers live – so I might have overreacted, but still . . .

Other than those girls – everything was awesome. B.A.P are energetic, incredible performers, from their dancing to their impressive vocal talent. Despite the (moderate) language barrier, all of the guys have great stage presence and senses of humor, and they were so much fun to listen to/watch.

To give you an idea, here’s a video from one of the girls in the front row (from Youtube.com)

This is one of B.A.P’s older songs (1004 Angel – released 2014), so most of the crowd knew the (mostly Korean) lyrics, and sang along. When you have thousands of people who don’t all speak a language singing along anyway, that’s pretty cool. Naturally, if you were there you could actually hear B.A.P a lot better, but off a cell-phone camera, not so much!

At any rate, we got back WAY too late at night, but managed to beat the traffic :). The next morning, we found the closest PCA church (which turned out to be a church plant – Restoration Community Church), and they were so welcoming and friendly. After church, we decided to go to Chinatown instead of driving straight home (because I’ve actually never been there . . .). We mainly walked around, as the weather was glorious. We did stop at the Kpop store there, to buy something for my sister Lydia (who had been bummed that she couldn’t go). A cute snapback with the logo of one of her favorite bands did the trick ;P

After that, we continued wandering around and people watching (there were a ton of families out in their Sunday clothes – so so many cute babies). I thought about going to the Disney store (one of my other favorite things), but then I decided it was too hard, and we made the trek back to my car. Walking all afternoon is a little fatiguing after going to bed in the wee hours of the morning.

We finally headed back to Michigan, tired but still amped up (partially thanks to my too-loud music and the nice weather). And then it was back to work as usual!

And now, as it’s May 9th, I’m sitting in a beach house in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and finally having time to write an update. Why Alabama? I flew down for Mother’s Day weekend (as the rest of my family was down here vacationing). And then – most of my siblings got sick, and my phone crashed so bad that it might never be fixed – so I borrowed my brother’s laptop, and here we are. I had all kinds of pictures for this post, but they are on my phone – which is too bad!

On the upside – I am stranded at the beach – so I really can’t complain. Also, I have an eARC of Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani (sequel to Sunbolt).

I have to be in Chicago (again) for Book Expo on Wednesday, so we’ll see how things go. In the meantime, I might head back out to the water. The weather in Alabama is lovely, warm and breezy, and the swimming has been even better (though I did spot two stingrays while I was in the water). Or I’ll pull out The Last Coffee Shop and continue my read through. But here’s to hoping that everyone feels better soon, that I don’t end up with the virus, and I make it to Book Expo in one piece!!

Happy May! If you’re a Mom, belated Happy Mother’s Day!

How was your April? Do you have any big plans for May? What was the last concert you went to?

 

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? 

The Week in Review (or Why I Sort of Reverted Back Into a Hermit This Week)

After a strong run of blogging, I have fallen prey to two weeks of intense work stuff and preparing (feverishly) to go to NEW YORK (screaming inside-in a good way) next week. But in between freaking out and scrambling around the store, I did find a few books to read, and some tv to watch.

I won’t bore you with descriptions of all the chocolates/chocolate treats I made [for work] this week, or maybe . . . nah, I’ll get distracted if I start with chocolate.

What I read/started reading (all pictures and links are from Goodreads):

I read the first one of these as an ARC, and then was bummed to find out it was a series, and that I had to wait for the next one. They are borderline MG/YA ghost hunting/paranormal mysteries that are surprisingly well written. (Why surprisingly? Look at the cover).
The first one was creepier (so far), but I love the ghost hunting team of the mysterious Lockwood, the talented ghost-sensitive Lucy, and the smart but hardly personable George.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

I picked this up randomly, and it is fascinating so far. As the regulars at the store where I work are mainly seniors, this book is one they have been buzzing about. Gawande tackles tough topics with wisdom and good sense, and he isn’t afraid to call people out. That being said, this book isn’t ranty, but gentle. He looks at both sides of the medicine debate, as well as end of life care, in an easy to follow fashion.

Expiration Day by Willam Campbell Powell

A great premise: People on earth are no longer fertile, so a tech company bio-engineered robots to act/think/look like kids to stop riots. The catch is that these robots have an “expiration day,” after their eighteenth year.

I am still only about a third into this. It is a little boring for me, and skews middle grade in the characters/depth, but the plot is interesting enough to keep me going.
Link
Link
As for these two: I just started The Darkest Minds, so all I can say is that the writing draws me in. I finished The Intergalactic Adventures of Queen Bea, but I am still digesting it, and plan on writing a full review.

In the non-reading, non-work world (small part), I managed to get ten pages of writing logged, which is really good for two weeks of crazy. My current project (post-apoc parody/adventure) is still going strong, and I have very good feelings about it. But I have to be careful, and nurse that enthusiasm to the end of the book.

Pippin is cautiously optimistic for me.

When I wasn’t writing, I was finally able to catch up with/finish The Flash Season 1, which was excellent. That finale . . .

^Me, seriously impressed by the finale.

Sacrifice, emotions, courage, bad decisions, *so many emotions,* consequences Time Travel, paradoxes, black holes . . . but no spoilers here, you’ll have to watch it yourself. However, I have been really impressed with Flash overall, (especially since it is on CW!), and you should definitely check it out if you’re into superheroes. 

In that same vein, I finally got around to watching the Legends of Tomorrow trailer (CW spinoff of both Arrow and The Flash) and it looks epic, and cheesy, and epically cheesy. AND RORY WILLIAMS IS A TIME LORD. I am not kidding (hence the all caps).

Okay, so maybe he’s Rip Hunter, time traveller (but we all know what that really means). But it is still Arthur Darvill in a cool coat playing mentor to a strange group of heroes (there is time travel!). I am in. Unfortunately, it doesn’t premiere until next year. But it is up there with Captain America: Civil War and Agent Carter Season 2 for me (excitement level).
You can’t fool me, Rory. 
I still have to catch up on Arrow S3 (more than halfway through). It has had its ups and downs, but I still am really enjoying it.
I must say that DC has thrown the gauntlet for the superhero shows. I still haven’t watched MARVEL and Netflix’s Daredevil (high on my to-watch list), but I have heard a lot of good things. In my opinion, MARVEL still wins in movies, but DC is ahead in television (at least for now).

So that was a fraction of my week. How about you? Did you find any interesting books? Did you start any new ones. Do you watch superhero shows, or are you 100% done with superheroes in general. If you are a Whovian, what do you think about Arthur Darvill’s newest role, and will you watch Legends of Tomorrow?

I am off to BEA next week, so my blogging will probably be nil, but I’ll be back after that (hopefully with pictures and adventures!) with books and thoughts to share.
Cheers!
R