Books Read in November 2018

I didn’t really establish a TBR for November. Over the past few months, I’ve realized that while I’m competitive and love the idea of a challenge, I read for pleasure and escape, and will balk at starting a book if it’s not something that I have a great interest in reading at that moment.

18 books this month for a grand total of 6,691 pages read!

  • 2 Children’s; 16 YA or Adult
  • 4 Five Stars; 11 Four Stars; 0 Three Stars; 1 Two Stars; 1 One Stars; 1 DNF (Did Not Finish)
  • 13 E-books/Audiobooks; 5 Physical books
  • 1 e-ARCs; 5 Library books; 12 Owned books; 1 Subscription books
    • The number’s a little off here because I downloaded The Darkest Star as an e-ARC, but then bought my own copy from Amazon Kindle.

Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children #3)
by Seanan McGuire
5/5 Stars

I am loving this series! I love how unique the characters are and the way the worlds come alive. This is a very immersive story and this book, more than the two that came before, shows a lot more of the different worlds and paints them well.

Each book in the series started with a strong quality, then built upon it. The first was great at character development and motivation. The second was great at mood and setting. And this one excelled at world-building.

Also, the primary setting for the book was the world of Confection, which was perfect to be reading on Halloween, where everyone is Trick-or-Treating for candy!

Three books into this series and I’m definitely putting it on my list of books to own in physical format.


The Darkest Star (Origin #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout
5/5 Stars

I loved this story! It was interesting and fast-paced, with a believable romantic arc. There were plot twists and intrigue to keep you chasing the words down the page to the end.

I found out later that this was a spin-off novel from the Jennifer Armentrout’s Lux series, but it reads well as a stand-alone. But I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I want to go right out and gobble up the Lux series now, too. I also really hope that these characters appear in subsequent novels!

I think the relationship between Evie and Luc is my perfect blend of intriguing bad-boy with a heart of gold, and spunky heroine who doesn’t let him walk all over her. Evie’s relationships with her friends and mother also felt very authentic and well thought-out.

This was a book that started off fairly strong, but ended even better. It went from 4 stars, to 4.5, straight to a 5 star book that I must own. Thank you, NetGalley, for allowing me to read this!


Obsidian (Lux #1) by Jennifer L.  Armentrout
4/5 Stars

Since I loved The Darkest Star so much, I went right to Amazon and bought the Lux series, in the hopes of being able to stay immersed in this world just a little longer.

This was a great story! I’m so glad it wasn’t a case of insta-love, but that they both struggled with attraction and flaws. The action and threat kept the pace moving and made this book hard to put down. 

Katy’s character growth was great to read. She started off as a normal teen girl with insecurities, but grew into someone who was self-possessed and not willing to be pushed around.


Onyx (Lux #2) by Jennifer L. Armentrout
4/5 Stars

This book had so many great quotes that made me grin:

Daemon was a total babe, but he was stab-worthy.

“Keep using your ego steroids.”

Dog-eared pages were Antichrist of book lovers everywhere.

I was having one of those days where I wanted to start throwing things because only breaking crap would make me feel better.

Clear: A Death Trippers Novel by Jessica Park


Clear: A Death Trippers Novel by Jessica Park
1/5 Stars

I don’t really know what to say about this book. It was going well for a while; I was reading it on a flight.

But then it got suddenly… pornographic. Uncomfortably so, especially when I had a guy sitting 3 inches away from me.

Then, it got weird. Truly W-T-F weird. I had to stop reading it. It has been sitting in my Currently Reading section of my Goodreads for 7 months, taunting me. I would occasionally try to make it through more of the book, but it was a struggle.

I finally just sucked it up and plowed through it. It was painful and I skimmed a great deal.

That resolution though. UGH! Really? Come on! REALLY?! I just… no.

I like a lot of Jessica Park’s other books, and I get that this one warned you that it was going to be different, but it was bad different.


Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes
by Jonathan Auxier
DNF

I intended to finish this book. I had initially selected it at random from the library when I was trying to complete a Harry Potter OWL/NEWT reading challenge.

It could be an interesting adventure story, but I just wasn’t feeling it at the time that I read it. It’s not really the book’s fault in any way; I think I was just not in the right mindset to be able to enjoy  it. I may even pick it up again in the future and really like it.

However, I had just slogged my way through one book that I did not enjoy, and the library’s due date was approaching, so I allowed myself to DNF it and move on. There’s no shame in that.


All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
4/5 Stars

I read this book for a Book Club sponsored by my friend, Monica’s, Let’s Peanut Butter Taco ‘Bout Books group on Facebook. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the meeting that day. 😦

This story was written almost backwards. It starts off, skips 3 weeks ahead, then goes backwards in time one day per chapter, until the end, when we are back in the correct timeline. It was interesting, especially at the end, when you realize that everything eventful basically happened on Day 1, and that for the rest (preceding part?) of the book, the protagonist knew damned well what happened already.

I just wanted to mention the cover for a moment. This is really a beautiful book. I love how the cover subtly points to a scene in the book that defines the protagonist’s relationship with one of the missing girls.


Opal (Lux #3) by Jennifer L. Armentrout
4/5 Stars

This is still an engaging series, but it feels a little more juvenile than The Darkest Star, which is still my favorite Jennifer L. Armentrout book.

Case in point is Katy’s language throughout, which I started highlighting in this third book:

ape poo poo

brouhaha

zilch

Oh, dear baby kittens

Milk did a body good.

doofuses

Holy country roads take me home

It was fine. It didn’t really bother me. It certainly set Katy apart in my mind from other protagonists (a bookworm danger is that all the characters you read start blending together when you read so many books back to back).

I started to read book #4 in the series, Origins, but somehow I became sidetracked. Probably because I had a stack of library books that I had to return soon. I’m hoping to finish out this series in December.


The Magic of You (Malory Family #4) by Johanna Lindsey
5/5 Stars

Growing up, my mom would bring home books for me to read from her communal “library” at work. Of course, these were almost 100% the serial Harlequin romances. So, I was really young and reading romance. Solid parenting choice. *grin* Anyway, it lead me to be interested in historical romance books towards my high school years. They were longer books and a little more involved. They still had the I-will-die-for-you passion that I loved, and I found the Regency era interesting.

Re-reading these later in life is a little… different, but no less enjoyable. I can recognize the complaint that many people have that the male characters are misogynistic and that the female characters are simpering and doormat-y, but I can forgive a lot of things for the sake of the story. I’m not really too picky.

The Magic of You was one of my favorite books in one of my favorite series by one of my favorite authors in this genre. Amy is spunky and goes for what she wants with a formidable single-minded determination. Warren is a grumpy old dude (no, really, he’s like twice her age), but he eventually cannot withstand Amy’s determination and falls in love in spite of himself. (This really isn’t a spoiler. It’s a romance book. They’re on the cover. Obvs, they are going to end up together.)

Why are there two images for this book? Well, I bought the Amazon Kindle version of the book when I wanted to re-read it, and it came with the cover on the left. However, I am partial to the original cover that the book had when I read it in high school, which is  the one on the right (I think the title/author font was different on my copy, though).

Johanna Lindsey has a ton of books featuring the Mallory-Anderson family, and I have really enjoyed reading about them all.

After re-reading this book, I am interested in getting back into reading the historical romance genre, and re-reading a lot more of my favorite authors and series.


Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1)
by Amie Kaufman
5/5 Stars

I loved this book! It was uniquely written from a mish-mash of documents and transcriptions, but for all of that it was an edge-of-your-seat ride, was incredibly fascinating, and managed to keep a remarkable continuity, tension, and emotion throughout. The best (worst) part about it was that because this was written as a compilation of documents in a file, you never knew if your protagonist(s) were still alive, because you were reading about them after the fact. But that didn’t lessen the pace of the story one bit.

The sarcasm and repartee between the characters made my snarky heart warm and there were several times in the plot that I had to FULL STOP quit reading and go back to look up some previously mentioned detail or the other. Plot twists were a plenty and there was a lot to root for. This was definitely a story that had you shouting directions at the characters (as if they could hear you), while in the bottom of your stomach was an icy fear of dread, because it was possible that these files were all that was left of the people (characters, Jenn, they aren’t real) you loved.

I have already placed the entire series on my birthday/Christmas list.

Of the notes that I took as I devoured this book in one day, this one stands out as the clear winner, “All of the blacked out words are like Profanity Madlibs in my head.”


Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl
4/5 Stars

I read half of this book one night and the other half as soon as I woke up the next morning! It was an absorbing read and I was always eager to see what they would discover next.

I think it was well-done, although we didn’t dive too deeply into the characters and their motivations, but perhaps that wasn’t necessary, because this was Beatrice’s story. Beatrice tends to see the good in everyone, but this tendency also makes you miss the dark, complicated things that swirl in everyone’s heart.

This only got 4/5 stars for two reasons. First, because while it was an absorbing read, I’m not a huge fan of mysteries and once I know how they turn out, the re-read factor struggles. Second, the ending. I get what the author was trying to say, but I wanted the mega happy ending (Thank you, Wayne’s World, for my unrealistic expectations). After all of the adventure, I wasn’t expecting something so introspective and philosophical.

My friend, Sarah, from Forever Young Adult, wrote this far more eloquent review.


The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1)
by Julie Kagawa
4/5 Stars

This book caught my attention and I read it straight through without putting it down. It was interesting to read about a vampire struggling with her humanity vis-a-vis her thirst. There were a lot of themes of trust, loyalty, family, bravery, sacrifice, denial, faith, hope, and acceptance that made this a really worthwhile read.

The edition that I read also had some study questions that the end which made you think about the themes and the significance of the book to a greater extent, which I appreciated.


The Gender Game (The Gender Game #1)
by Bella Forrest
4/5 Stars

I read the first 5 books in The Gender Game series (The Gender Game, The Gender Secret, The Gender Lie, The Gender War, and The Gender Fall) in November.

I love dystopian YA, and these didn’t disappoint me. There are a lot of people out there who think that the premise is silly (Two countries: Matrus, which is a female-dominant society; and Patrus, which is a male-dominant society. They are separated by a toxic river and are semi-codependent upon each other, while at the same time semi-antagonistic towards each other. Put in a hard spot, our young protagonist, Violet, must go on a dangerous mission to attempt to steal back a mysterious object for her country.

It gets more complicated from there, but it is a really interesting story. There is a romance element, but it’s not insta-love and it feels well done. I think Violet is a smart protagonist, with the right balance of bravery, self-sacrifice, and compassion.

Viggo is a good complement to Violet, and I love that he has his own voice in this series and that his reactions are different from Violet’s, while still feeling authentic to his character.

Each book is about 400 pages long, but the pacing of the stories is great, for the most part, and it doesn’t feel long. It’s been very entertaining so far, and I can’t wait to see how it all ends!


The Peace Dragon by Linda Ragsdale
2/5 Stars

I was really looking forward to loving this book, but I ended up being a little disappointed.

The illustrations were great. Really sweet and evocative with great colors.

This book on the back cover and inside flap make a point to tell you that this book is to drive home a moral point, which was more in-your-face than I expected from a book blurb. However, I soon found that the MORAL/MESSAGE of the story really was that prominent in this story. In fact, it felt that they were trying so hard to make a point that they forgot to really make a plot.

I had hoped that this would be a cute adventure story, but it wasn’t much of a story.

There is a seal on the cover that indicates that this is a Peace Dragon Tale, so perhaps there will be a series of books. I’m hoping that this is just the introduction and that any subsequent books will have more action and adventure.


17 Weeks Left!

There are 17 weeks left in 2018. I had challenged myself to read 102 books this year, which translates to an average reading pace of 2 books/week.

However, I am woefully behind and have only read 38 books to date. This means that I will have to read about 4 books per week for the rest of the year to catch up!

If you do not see me, it’s because my nose is stuck in a book somewhere!

How are you doing on your reading challenges?

Where Did *That* Come From?

It doesn’t happen too often that I have a dream that I remember upon waking, but this one was unusual in several respects. I had the POV of someone watching a movie, and there was some serious cinematography at work. In my waking life, there would have been no way I could have come up with all of the cuts and angles, different perspectives, and background scene details. Whoever crafted my dream was a film savant. Not only was the camera work excellent, but the plot was detailed and tricky; as the “viewer,” I had no idea what plot twist was coming next. I would have thought that this was a repeat of something I had watched before, but that doesn’t seem likely, as the film’s genre was one that I’m not really into: psychological thriller.

I’m losing details as I type, but I’ll try to relay what I remember. It was set in a home. The furniture and decorations were modern and elegant, but not overtly expensive. There were many people in attendance for some kind of benefit. There was a married couple, of which the husband will turn out to be the protagonist. We see both of them mingling with the crowd and speaking with their guests.

The scene cuts away to see a few other guests doing some suspicious things. They are all very efficient and specific in their behaviors, as if they are coordinating their efforts. They go about the house putting objects that you cannot quite see in hidden locations. One of them, a woman in her mid-twenties, places some long thin rods in the opening of her purse and starts to walk away, but then re-thinks this decision and lingers in the area to make sure that nothing happens to them.

Time passes, and the benefit is drawing to a close. The husband is saying farewell to some guests a few yards away from his wife. A couple members of the suspicious group confront the man, and we realize that the only people left in the house are members of this group, this couple, and one other guest. While the man looks on in fear, the young woman takes one of the thin rods and kills the remaining guest with it, letting the man know that he will be framed for the murder.

Before he can react too much to that event, one of the other group members warns him not to be too much of a hero, as they have his children under their control as well. They show him a tablet with video footage of three young children, all oddly frozen in a state of play, and held in captivity. Their surroundings look familiar, like the vestibule of the couple’s condo.

In horror, the man looks over to his wife, who is being held between two group members. One of the group members told him that he shouldn’t be too distracted, that something was also going to happen to his wife. Reveling in his pain, they allowed him to walk over to her. He cupped her face in his hands, both grieving over their lost guest and the fate of their children Then, his eyes went wide in disbelief, as one side of her face started drooping as if she were suffering a stroke. She was unaware of what was happening, and with tear-filled eyes, he explained to his wife what he was seeing. They both understood the implications of this and were devastated.

I’ve lost much of the nuance and plot-detail, but I was fascinated with how complex it seemed. Doesn’t my brain know that bedtime is for resting?! Also, that is some creepy messed-up story!

Day 1: The Most Important Part of Your Day #LLBC

Amy tells us that doing the things that we love to do is far from a waste of time — it’s necessary for our happiness and well-being! She encourages us to spend time every day, even if it’s only 10 minutes, doing something for ourselves that we love to do and that feeds our soul. Our homework for today was to track our activities throughout the day, rate them on a scale of 1-10 based on how they made us feel, and add any comments to note how we felt about those activities.

This will help us see how much of the day is spent doing things which drain/invigorate us and where we might be able to adjust our day.

I am still catching up, so I didn’t keep track of a particular day, but I am going to write down my thoughts on some common activities that I typically do.

Making the Bed (3): I find this more tedious than necessary. No one sees my bed and it really doesn’t make me feel better or worse if it’s made or not. I have a pillow top mattress, so it always looks lumpy.

Commute to Work (6): This is kind of a neutral-to-good activity for me. In the morning, traffic is usually fairly light and if I leave the house early enough, I can enjoy a Starbucks on the way. I typically will listen to a Podcast or Audiobook on the commute.

Work (varies): The atmosphere at work has been stressful lately, but I am staying hopeful. I am happiest when I feel that the work that I am doing is really helping people and when I get to be more creative and analytical. Very routine work or answering the same question over and over is not my favorite thing to do.

Gym (2, then 8): I hate going to the gym; I love being at the gym and having been at the gym. It’s just getting over that hump of trying to talk myself into going. I always think of things I’d rather be doing, want to be home sooner, not want to get stuck in rush hour traffic, not have gym clothes clean and ready to go, etc. But once I’m there, I love it! I love working out on the Lateral machine and lifting weights. I like that I am doing something good for my health. I like the achy muscle feeling after a good workout. So, why don’t I go more?

Post-Workout
Post-Workout Face

Reading (7): I love reading, but it tends to happen in spurts. I will be on a real reading kick for a while, then I’ll fall off and not pick up a book. I cannot help but pick up a ton of books when at the library or in a bookstore. Right now, I’m in another bookish phase, which is great. Although, I’ve found that I’m in the middle of a book that is not engaging me the way the first two books in the series did, so I’m reading that one a lot more slowly. I find that I’m stopping reading sooner and turning to other activities because I don’t want to finish that book, but I feel obligated to finish it before I move on to another book. Hmmmm.

Email (3): It’s more about deleting spam and ads than actually reading anything in there that is useful. And this is with programs like Unroll.me to help filter out the junk. Ugh. But if I don’t stay on top of it, I’ll miss things or have an Inbox with thousands of messages that I need to go through. Just another chore.

Dishes (1): I hate dishes. The only thing I like is the smell of the dish soap. And when they are done.

Laundry (5): I don’t mind laundry too much.

Putting Away Clean Clothes (3): Tedious and tiring.

Blogging (7): I like doing this. I have lots of ideas of what I want to write. But I get in my own way a lot. Either physically, because my office is a disaster and it’s a bit of a pain to get to the computer (although I finally arranged the power cables so that my laptop stays charged), or mentally because I’m looking for just the right image to go with a certain post and am having difficulties uploading the image, etc.

Photography (?): I remember that I loved doing this, but I haven’t had time to really do it in so long that… I don’t know?

Traveling (9): I love this! I’m excited to go to Austin, Texas soon! I would do this all the time if I had unlimited funding and time away from work. Of course, it’s a million times better with a friend (or 1,300).

Commute Home from Work (2): Practically nothing redeeming about this. Slow, traffic, frustration. Why can’t we have teleportation devices already?

3 Hour Commute
This 3 hour commute can bite me.

Cooking Dinner (3): Most of the time I really don’t enjoy this. A lot of that is due to the fact that I also hate doing dishes and that means that I have to clean dishes in order to have dishes to use to make dinner. My dishes are all clean right now, which makes it easier, but it’s still a chore.

TV (6): It’s entertaining, but I find that once I sit down, I will binge-watch until I fall asleep on the couch and I never end up getting as much stuff accomplished as I wanted to.

Spending Time with Friends and Family (10): I love this! I need to schedule much more of this time into my day-to-day.

Untitled
Squishie and Sissy

Final Takeaways: So much of the barriers to doing what I want is environmental. I need to get rid of the physical and mental clutter that is holding me back, so that I can have more time, freedom, and mental space to do and enjoy the things that are meaningful and make me happy. I need to prep better and stay on top of the things that I don’t enjoy doing so that they don’t take over and become large burdens.

#LlamaLettersBookClub: Craft a Life You Love

Cindy recommended Amy Tangerine’s “Craft a Life You Love” to everyone in her Llamas Love Lettering Facebook group and started a book club where we read a section (mini-chapter?) per day and post our homework in the group (well, only if you want to share). The premise of it all is to set aside time each day to do something that you love every day and prioritizing your happiness at least once each day.

There are six sections and 29 mini-chapters, so this will run 29 days (or a tad longer if I slack off and have to catch up, not that that happens).

If you’d like to follow along, I’ll add #LLBC to the title of those posts.

IMG_6710.jpg

Our intro to the program was on Wednesday (I’m writing this on Saturday because I’m behind, but I’ll be posting it with Wednesday’s date – a little blog time traveling if you will), and the first step was to sign a permission slip to yourself, to give yourself permission to care for yourself.

Permission Slip

I am going to be posting my work here, because blogging and photography are two of the things that I love to do, but that I never make space for in my day-to-day. So, Thank You, for helping keep me accountable to myself! And if you are also participating outside of the Facebook group, link me to your work and I’ll support you in return!

Happy Reading and Crafting!

Once More unto the Breach!

Sadly, lately I have been neglecting my reading life in favor of binge-watching TV series on Hulu/Netflix. I always intend to be better and every year, I set ridiculous goals for my reading life in Goodreads. (This year, I set my goal at 102 books and 3 different challenges. I’m 17 books behind schedule. *sigh*)

This morning, I listened to one of Anne Bogel (Modern Mrs. Darcy)’s podcasts: WSIRN Ep 125: Gateway Books to Hook a Netflix Addict, which seemed incredibly appropriate. Not only did some of the books discussed spark my interest, but also invigorated my desire to read more.

I love challenges. But my follow-through of late has been more than lacking. Take the Quarterly Challenges put on by one of the YA groups I belong to in Goodreads. By my count, I haven’t completed a Quarterly Challenge since #10. They are currently on #29.

But that doesn’t stop me from continuing to sign up for them, quarter after quarter. And, of course, that’s exactly what I did (– again –) this morning. So here we go!

Quarterly Challenge #29

  1. New Release – One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler
  2. SPRING –
  3. Dr. Seuss –
  4. Tolkein –
  5. Couple Appreciation – Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  6. Earth Day – Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  7. Read in Public –
  8. Paranormal – Hush, Hush by  Becca Fitzpatrick
  9. Smart & Sexy – Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer
  10. Victoria Day – Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

I’ve put in a request to my local library to have some of these pulled and held for me (always dangerous), and I’ll get my copy of One Beautiful Dream once it’s released (on pre-order from Barnes & Noble). Graceling, I’ve owned for a while, but have never managed to finish reading it.

In addition to these, I’m planning on participating in a Book Club with Cindy Guentert-Baldo for Amy Tangerine’s book: Craft a Life You Love. This will be run out of her Facebook group.

Let’s see how far I get this time! 🙂