Holiday Words & Sips

It seems as though this year sprinted from start to close. So much has happened over the past 12 months, and I am beyond grateful for where I find myself in life during this holiday season.

I haven’t had as much time to read as I would have hoped (but isn’t that always the case?). But for this post – as a holiday special, if you will – I decided to share some of the books that I’ve been reading over the past month, and the drinks that I have paired with them. Note: I am still in the process of reading the books listed below, so my opinion may change as I read further.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
My Thoughts: The writing is incredibly beautiful and although the sorrows shared are poignant, the language makes them feel a little less harsh. Even if you don’t typically indulge in YA fiction, I would highly recommend this novel just for enjoyment as an art form.
One Word Description: haunting.
Drink Pairing: Twinings Herbal Unwind (chamomile & green apple), served hot with honey to taste.
Rating: None yet due to it being a current read, but anticipated to be 5/5.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
My Thoughts: In my mind, characterization is Doerr’s main strong point, at least thus far. I love all things WWII, and seeing how the two main characters are coming to life thanks to Doerr’s word magic makes this book a treat to read. The pacing is a little slow at times, which is a downside, but it’s more of a “cozy” slow pace than it is a “oh my gosh when will we get anywhere in this story” kind of slow.
One Word Description: Engaging.
Drink Pairing: Leinenkugel’s Pomegranate Shandy.
Rating: None yet due to it being a current read, but anticipated 4/5.

Christmas In London by Anita Hughes
My Thoughts: I’m trying really hard to let myself just be engaged in the story, but I am getting somewhat frustrated with some quirks in Hughes’ writing style. Since it is a romance, there are plenty of times where characters kiss; however, the kisses are always described in terms of how they taste. I don’t know about you, but in my experience, not every kiss tastes like something specific like “champagne and berries” (direct quote). Also, characters never just run into each other; it’s always something like “Louisa sees a young woman coming toward her in a plaid Burberry coat and recognizes Kate” (not a direct quote). Like… does it really take someone that long to recognize another person that they are very familiar with? NO, it does not! So please stop. I do love all of the imagery though. Describing scenes and food is definitely one of Hughes’ strong points.
One Word Description: I don’t just have one word, I have two. Infuriating & entertaining.
Drink Pairing: Tazo peppermint hot chocolate.
Rating: None yet due to it being a current read, but anticipated 3/5.

The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
My Thoughts: I really am enjoying this book. I’m not typically one who reads a lot of humor, but over the past year I’ve discovered that I enjoy humor as long as I read it in small doses. Schumer’s book is no exception. If I read too much of it at one time, the humor does grate on me, but in small doses I love it.
One Word Description: Relatable.
Drink Pairing: Mike’s (Hard) Mango Lemonade.
Rating: None yet due to it being a current read, but anticipated 4/5.

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I’m still around, I promise.

Life has been super busy, you guys. In January, my husband and I and our cat and parrot moved about 600 miles away from the county where I had lived since I was in preschool. We got a gorgeous new apartment, I started working a crazy-but-amazing new job, my husband got a new job, and we adopted a dog. All within the span of two months. Things are just settling down now to the point where I’m making myself take some time to read.

(Oh, and did I mention that I’ve been pretty much constantly sick since we moved? My lungs do not agree with the new climate, even though it’s not THAT much different from where I used to live. Cough drops, cough medicine, my inhaler, tissues, Vicks VapoRub and Sudafed have become my best friends.)

Anyway, so I am getting back into reading. Slowly. Very slowly. So I’m still around, I’ll still be posting (hopefully a little less intermittently!), and I will do my best to read the books I have lined up to review! You know who you are. ūüôā

One of the perks of moving from a rural area to a much more urban area is that the library here is amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the small town library where the librarians knew who I was… but I am much more pleased with the collection of (physical) books that the library here has! Also, they have a reading room with comfy chairs and big windows. I don’t think there are words to describe how happy this makes me! I love being able to go there on a weekend and curl up with a big stack of books with my iPod playing, and just lose myself in a world that someone else has created. It’s one of the most soothing things I can do.

Another interesting “change” since we moved is that I’ve become more interested in nonfiction. I’ve started reading various humor authors – from Dave Barry (I like him but he is a bit repetitive) to Joan Rivers (don’t like her, too offensive on all levels) – as well as true crime (not right before bed though) and just various other books (for example, right now I’m reading Unmentionable: A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners – it’s pretty interesting! although I already knew some of the things written about in it). I’m also reading a variety of fiction – on my Kindle app on my phone, I’m STILL working toward finishing¬†Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (I didn’t like¬†Gone Girl – I think because I took too long to finish it so I lost threads of the plot – but I decided to give Flynn another shot). From the library, I’m reading¬†Let’s Get Lost by Ali Alsaid,¬†Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume (classic! I’d never read any Judy Blume prior to earlier this year, when I finished¬†Forever…), and¬†Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake. And here at home, I have¬†Fahreinheit 451¬†by Ray Bradbury waiting for me as well as¬†The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, which I’m buddy-reading with my mom. ūüôā

So all is (fairly) well here. I’m happy to be posting an update; I’ve missed being more active on here.

xx April.

Another absence.

Hey y’all. I’m still here!

I figured I’d post and say that no, I haven’t forgotten about this blog. For those of you who are authors and have commented and received a reply from me, I have not forgotten about your books, and for those of you who have commented and have not yet received a reply – I have not forgotten about you, either. I promise!

Life has just been really busy. The time I set aside for reading took a tumble in March this year, when my partner at work quit. It’s been 25 and a half weeks that I’ve been on my own, working about 200% of what my job is supposed to require (I have gotten some help from my supervisor as well as an intern that was with me for about 10 weeks). They are currently going through the hiring process now for a new partner for me, so I hope that soon I’ll be back to reading more.

I’ve been reading a lot of different books (and of course, not finishing [m]any) – from¬†Crank by Ellen Hopkins to¬†Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks to¬†Fat Tuesday by Sandra Brown. And many others also.

It’s already late August 2016. Where did this year go…?

I’m back! (Sort of)

Well, here I am, posting briefly before my busy day begins. ¬†I just wanted to say that no, I haven’t fallen off the radar — at least, not entirely! ¬†Things have been super busy in my life. ¬†My last post was on 28 June 2014, so let’s see what’s happened since then:

– I took two online classes at the same time last July-August, due to the Extended Vacation‚ĄĘ. ¬†Although my grad school’s administration were worried that those classes would be “too rigorous” for me to handle taking them both at once, I got an A in one and an A- in the other. ¬†Don’t get me wrong, those were 6 weeks of me working very hard, but it was enjoyable. (The classes I took were Assessment & the DSM, and¬†Emotional Disorders of Children and Youth.)

– I started and finished my (VERY LAST!!) fall semester ever, and got a 4.0 for both classes.

– I took a break from reviewing books for NetGalley (which is one reason why I haven’t been posting here!), because I’ve just been too busy with grad school to be able to devote as much time to the books from NetGalley as they deserve. (I am planning on going back there, though, once I graduate.)

– I started an internship — one that will go until May — at an agency not too far from me that has a ton of different services, from outpatient counseling to family therapy to partial hospitalization for kids. ¬†The program in which I am interning is the one for kids with behavioral struggles. ¬†I shadow a mobile therapist and I also have a caseload of two. ¬†The internship is 300 hours/semester, so by the time I finish in late April I will have racked up at least 600 hours working there.

So yes, that’s been my life!! ¬†And now I’m on the final semester of grad school — which is insanely hard to believe — and hopefully will be posting more than once every 6-7 months.

Also, the agency where I’m interning wants to hire me — assuming I don’t screw up in the next 2-3 months while I finish up my internship — so that is really exciting. ¬†Although it’ll only be part-time (ha, “only”! my field instructor is technically only doing 21 hours/week there but she’s so busy), that’s fine with me. ¬†There won’t be any benefits but depending on the number of clients I have, I can definitely make enough for us to live on until my husband graduates with his Bachelor’s (expected graduation May 2016, I believe, or possibly December 2016).

But, since that social work job will “only” be part-time, I’m thinking of seeing what other things I can get involved with in the area that would be fun and interesting and possibly pay a bit. ¬†However, that’s a discussion for another post…

Book reviews will be forthcoming too — at least, I hope! ¬†I’ve been reading a lot; I met my GR challenge of 75 books last year so this year I’ve bumped it up to 100. ¬†So far I’ve read 14 so I think that’s a pretty good start… *grin*

Oh — and since today is Tuesday, later I may attempt to do a Top 10 Tuesday post. ¬†Or it might end up being a Throwback Thursday post, considering that I’m pretty busy the rest of today. ¬†Cheers!

Top 10 books I read in 2013!!

This Tuesday’s top ten, as sponsored by The Broke & Bookish blog, is the top 10 books you’ve read in 2013. ¬†This year I read more than I had in several years previous, so I will have to refer back to my Goodreads list to remember which ones were my favorites. ūüôā

1)¬†Phoenix Rising, by Pippa Ballantine. ¬†This book was delightful steampunk, and I adored the characters in it. ¬†Their awkward interactions… priceless!! ¬†I also laughed a fair bit while reading it (well, in my head – I tend not to laugh out loud when I read books, not sure why).

2)¬†Slumber, by Tamara Blake. ¬†This is one that I got from NetGalley, but man, did it stick with me!! ¬†I really want to see a sequel to this, as much as I am sure that I won’t. ¬†It’s a YA novel, and is excellently written. ¬†However, prepare for the ending if you decide to read it… that’s all I’ll say about that!!

3)¬†In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson. ¬†I posted my review of this awhile back here on my blog, but goodness, this is another one that stuck with me. ¬†It’s a novelized history of the US ambassador to Berlin in 1933… and it is so very gripping. ¬†I’m not usually one to rave about nonfiction, but this one was absolutely excellent.

4)¬†The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer. ¬†This is another that I wrote a review of on here, I believe. ¬†It’s another WWII book, but a novel this time, and I really adored it and the characters in it. ¬†I’m sad that Ms. Shaffer died, because I’m sure she could have written more amazing novels had she had the time.

5)¬†The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. ¬†The feels, all the feels!! ¬†I adored this book, as cliche as that may be… I mean, it’s one of the best known YA novels of recent years and it seems like everyone who read it loved it. ¬†But still, it definitely makes it into my top 10 of 2013.

6)¬†City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. ¬†I know there are a lot of mixed feelings about this book’s author, and I never would’ve picked it up except my book club was reading it and it looked interesting. ¬†And it was interesting!! ¬†It gripped me from the first page… and the ending… whoa. ūüôā Now I just have to see the movie…

7)¬†The Broken Rules of Ten by Gay Hendriks. ¬†This one was another NetGalley book, but it was excellent even if the formatting for Kindle was odd. ¬†I can’t put my finger on why I adore this book as much as I do, except that Ten was a very adorable character at such a young age, and it’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that portrayed youth in such an honest way.

8)¬†Soulless by Gail Carriger. ¬†This book was entirely fluff, but it was good escapism reading. ūüôā This year has been rough enough for me that I need books like that, and I am glad that I have the rest of the series to read as time allows – and I mean, any book that is in a series entitled “The Parasol Protectorate” wins, doesn’t it?

9) Postcards from Nam by Uyen Nicole Duong.  This was an excellent, excellent book, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.  The writing is luminous and paints vivid word pictures of Vietnam during the war and of the children involved.  It is a painful novel to read, in parts, but is still one of my favorite books that I have read in quite some time.

10)¬†I shall wear Midnight¬†by Terry Pratchett. ¬†This is the first Tiffany Aching novel that I read, and since I adore Pratchett, of course it had to be in my top ten!! ūüôā Once again, wonderful escapist reading, and Tiffany is such a lovable protagonist. ¬†Plus, the Wee Free Men!!

Those are my top 10 books read in 2013, and believe me, it was tough to pick out of the 50-some that I did get read before this past fall semester ate my face. ūüėČ What are YOUR top ten? I’d be interested to know!!

I’m still alive!!

So, readers, I apologize. ¬†It has been a good while since the last time I updated – almost 2.5 months!! – but I am still here. ¬†I’ve just been lax about updating, but certainly not lax in other areas of my life. ¬†This semester finished off nicely grade-wise for the courses I was taking, and I am reveling in my few days of freedom in between getting internship hours and holidays and family time. (Not that I don’t love my family and love our get-togethers!!)

The most exciting thing that has happened since I last updated is that I have returned to writing poetry. ¬†I wrote avidly as a teenager – I mean, what emo teen doesn’t? – and took some poetry writing classes when I was in college, and while I kept up with writing it for awhile, I stopped creating probably in 2011 or shortly before. ¬†I am now in a writer’s group that meets weekly, led by my mentor (and retired poetry professor), and I have connected with some amazing women. ¬†The group is small – only 7 of us total, counting my mentor – and it really is like therapy some nights… but with some wonderful writing getting critiqued!! ūüôā

Because of this, I am getting into some international poets’ works, such as Czeslaw Milosz and the well-known Pablo Neruda. ¬†I love American poets too, but there’s just something about international poets that I find extra inspiring – I can’t really explain it except their views on life are even more varied than those that are here in the States (and there really is a lot of variety to be found in these 50 states!!).

Holidays have been busy as well – and that has taken away from my writing and reading time. ¬†Christmas was wonderful, spent with my amazing parents and fun-loving sister (who is visiting here from “down South” where she’s getting her PhD). ¬†New Year’s is also my husband’s birthday, but I am fairly certain that we won’t be celebrating it, at least in the traditional sense. ¬†I am trying to do what he wants rather than what my traditions demand, which is harder than it sounds!! ¬†Hopefully, though, we can at least have cake and sparkling grape juice to celebrate on New Year’s. ¬†I’m pretty sure he would be amenable to that.

Because of life events, I have not had much time to read. ¬†My NetGalley books have fallen by the wayside but right now I am so tied up with other projects that it is difficult to pull myself back into the reading and reviewing world. ¬†I will eventually, I am sure, but it will take a bit. ¬†I’m currently reading¬†Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, and you guys, that books has all the feels in the world. ¬†It’s like¬†The Fault in Our Stars all over again, except I don’t know the ending of Eleanor & Park, obviously, since I haven’t gotten there yet. ¬†I’m about 45% through the book… so good. ¬†I can’t wait to read more of Rowell’s novels. ¬†There’s something so satisfying about finding a good YA author. ¬†Additionally, it makes me happy that her books aren’t dystopian novels, since those seem to be the hype these days, and I am not particularly a fan. (Okay, so I love¬†The Hunger Games, but aside from those…)

Long enough, my friends. ¬†I will try to be more prompt about updating in the coming months, but with an internship plus two classes, I am kept pretty busy. ¬†I am hoping that with summer will come some semblance of relaxation, though that is a long ways off yet (and between now and then, I need to figure out how I’ll pay for summer’s classes…). ¬†I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday!!

Top Ten Tuesday!!

From the Broke and Bookish blog comes today’s top ten!! – 5 books I thought I would like and didn’t, and 5 books that I thought I would hate and liked.

 

I may not be able to come up with all of each, but it’s an interesting idea, so I am going to attempt to come up with a list. ūüôā

 

Five books I thought I would like and didn’t (like much or like parts of)

Since I’m not a very picky reader, this is a little more difficult for me than it would be for some other people. ¬†I am going to modify this a bit.

1) Soulless by Gail Carriger – the first in the Parasol Protectorate series. ¬†I have to say that I am really enjoying the book as a whole (and it is currently being read – I’m close to the end but please, no spoilers!! ;)), but some of the parts just seem… overly sexual. ¬†I am not a fan of erotic passages in books that were otherwise very enjoyable, but that’s really the only complaint I have about this book.

 

2) My Friend¬†Flicka by Mary O’Hara. ¬†You’d think that since I am an animal lover, and adore horses of all shapes and sizes, I would enjoy this book… but nope. ¬†I can’t even put a finger on why I didn’t like it, but I remember that I couldn’t even get through it when I tried reading it several years ago. ¬†I may have to try again at some point, since it’s a classic in its own right, and I may enjoy it more now than I did years ago – who knows.

 

3)¬†Dune by Frank Herbert. ¬†I like the premise of the book, and I understand that it’s a classic sci fi novel, but I have a hard time following the politics in the world that Herbert created. ¬†I got about halfway through it before I couldn’t read any more, but I am planning on picking it back up when I have some time to actually dig in and spend time figuring out what exactly happens. ¬†I like Herbert’s writing style, though, I will admit.

 

4)¬†Santa Olivia¬†by Jacqueline Carey. ¬†I read this one with my online book club, and while parts of it were enjoyable, once again, overly erotic parts really ruined the book for me. ¬†Erotica has its place in the writing world, but it’s not something I enjoy (obviously) and I also wasn’t expecting it when I read this book. ¬†I hadn’t ever heard of Carey’s work before and didn’t know the reputation that her other books have (re: erotica).

 

5)¬†La’s Orchestra Saves the World¬†by Alexander McCall Smith. ¬†I love McCall Smith’s books, and while I really liked this book for the attention to detail that is inherently in all of his books, and while the premise was interesting… the last quarter of the book really dragged. ¬†I enjoyed the story for the most part, but the ending was awfully dragged out – as was the beginning – so I felt a little gypped when it came to the actual story of La’s Orchestra. ¬†I felt as though McCall Smith could’ve included more story about the orchestra itself (and what he did write was very moving, for me at least) and less introduction and less ending, and the book would’ve been much better.

 

 

Five books I thought I would hate but liked

This should be easier. ūüėČ Maybe… once again, I’m not really a picky reader so I don’t really go into books with the assumption that I will hate them.

 

1)¬†Dune by Frank Herbert. ¬†I know, I know, it’s on both lists – what?! – but it deserves a place here because I avoided reading it for years because I was afraid that I would hate it when family members and my husband have all enjoyed it. ¬†When I finally picked up a copy, it was a lot more absorbing than I expected. ¬†Although I haven’t finished it yet, I am planning on finishing it when I have the time to get absorbed into a very detailed fantasy world.

 

2)¬†The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian. ¬†This book was read for my IRL book group… it’s about a married couple in their 80s, both with chronic/fatal illnesses (cancer and Alzheimer’s), who go on a road trip. ¬†It sounded like an interesting premise, but I was a little put off by the fact that the protagonist was so old – I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to relate to her at all. ¬†However, as the book progressed, I became more absorbed in her narration of the story. ¬†Definitely a good read. ¬†I highly recommend it – it was surprising to see just how well Zadoorian managed to paint the lives of two elderly people when he himself isn’t that old. ¬†Also, it was surprising to my group how well he “got into the mind” of a woman, since the book is told from the perspective of Ella (first person).

 

3)¬†Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. ¬†This one was another book that I read for my online book club. ¬†It was my introduction to the genre of steampunk, and I have to say, I truly wasn’t expecting to enjoy steampunk as much as I do. ¬†It was a bit of a bumpy ride, reading through this book (no pun intended ;)), but the more I read of it, the more I got into the groove of the story and the more absorbed I got in the plights of the main characters. ¬†It was definitely a good summer read.

 

4)¬†Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith. (See? I read a lot of his books. ;)) This book was very different from the other books by McCall Smith that I have read, and I was not prepared for just how different this one would be from his others that I’ve read. ¬†Since I come from an academic family, it was interesting to see a humorous perspective on academia from one of my favorite authors. ¬†I wasn’t actually sure what to expect when I first started this book – I didn’t expect to hate it, but after the first few pages I wasn’t sure if I would be able to finish it. ¬†However, by the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

 

5)¬†Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. ¬†I thought that this book sounded interesting from the get-go, but I wasn’t sure if I would actually enjoy it since it was on the bestseller list for so long, and often I don’t really adore books that are bestsellers. ¬†But this one I truly did enjoy, and I now have the sequel to it, waiting for me to read it. ¬†While I didn’t have any huge “Aha!!” moments while reading this one, it was a fun read, and was also fairly thought-provoking.

 

And there we go!! ¬†I actually managed to do the entire top ten. ūüôā