Mini-Discussion: Reading/Writing Spots!

Good evening, all! I am writing to you from my official new favorite reading and blogging spot: my cheery, fish-and-rainbow patterned hammock hung on my brand new hammock stand!

I live in a second story apartment with a cute little balcony. It’s shadowed by two mature sweet gum trees. From here, my horizon is the swathe of pines that wrap around the backside of the buildings across the street. Even though the woods back there are hardly deeper than I can throw a frisbee (which really is not that far), when I’m cocooned in my hammock, I feel surrounded by nature.

Tonight I’m writing to the rhythm of the last, puttering raindrops from today’s storm front and the summertime trills and croons of gray tree frogs. When I get to write outside, I feel more true to myself and my voice, more in my element. When I read outside, it’s the epitome of relaxation and the most enjoyable version of my bookish experience.

Is there any particular place where you love to read and/or write? I feel like setting can be almost as important to the reading and writing processes as it is to a book, so I’m very curious to know whether or not you’ve got a special reading spot!

Bonus pic: a Cope’s Gray Treefrog I found out and about earlier!


Top Ten Tuesday: Five Books I’m Glad had Moms, and Five that Should Have

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish for sharing your favorite contenders in different book categories!

A well executed parent/child dynamic can make a book stand out from the crowd. We all have people who raised us, but lots of books conveniently forget that for simplicity’s sake. This is especially true in fantasy books: how many characters are orphans, estranged children, or have a cardboard cutout character for a mom? And if the fantasy character only has one living parent in the book, more often than not, it’s dear old dad.

Here’s to five books with moms I love, and to five that I wish had a great mom included!

Yay, Books with Moms!

The Raven Cycle, by Maggie Stiefvater

Maura and Blue have an amazing balance between testing each other and trusting each other. Even when Blue wants to rebel against Maura’s rules or to push the boundaries, she always knows she has a supportive mom to come to when she needs help. Plus, they sometimes read together in Blue’s bedroom. What better mother-daughter bonding activity is there?

Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling

Don’t we all really just want for Molly Weasley to give us a hug and then tell us to go clean the kitchen? She is one of the ultimate book moms, not only for managing to raise and put up with her own children, but taking others like Harry and Hermione under her wing to boot.

A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin

Catelyn Stark is one heck of a momma wolf. Over the course of the series, she goes way out of her comfort zone and deals with tremendous burdens to try to protect and guide her children.

The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessen

The Queen family’s dream home suddenly feels too large after Macy’s father passes away unexpectedly, leaving only her and her mom about the house. Macy and Deborah deal with the loss in very different ways, and Dessen’s portrayal of these two trying to support each other and come to terms with their new life is wonderful and deep. You really feel for this amazingly hard-working entrepreneur mom, even when she and Macy are at odds.

The Fire Within, by Chris D’Lacey

This is an adorable children’s book that is, in my opinion, equally enjoyable for adults. In this cute story about family, creativity, magic, squirrels, and dragons, a college student rents a room from a mother with a young daughter. Liz, the mom, and Lucy, the daughter, quickly become more to David than just his landlord and her precocious kid! Liz is a creative, loving single mom who gets down to business and doesn’t put up with any crap from her kid or her tenant. Reading about her bossing David around and occasionally having to mother him as much as her own child is hilarious and heartwarming.

More Moms Needed!

 

Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas

If Celaena had some good female role models in her life, maybe she would have shown a little more character development over those thousands of pages in the series. #SorryNotSorry

Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo

This duology is basically perfect, right down to the level of parent-child relationship included. I loved everything we learned about Inej’s parents, and even though the series didn’t really need it, my heart still yearns for more stories about her mom. That’s a lady I’d like to give a bouquet of geraniums.

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater

Again, this is a book where the lack of mom is pretty crucial to the family dynamic, but Puck’s recollections of her mom make my heart all warm and fuzzy for that awesome lady. The memory of Puck’s mom teaching her to ride a pony makes me want to hug something. Maggie, how do you make a character who doesn’t even show up in the book so vivacious?

A Shadow Bright and Burning, by Jessica Cluess

This is a prime example of fantasy books where Dad is super important and Mom is negligible. Quite a big to-do is made about what kind of person Henrietta’s father was or was not, but I remember absolutely nothing about the protagonist’s mom, and I didn’t read this book that long ago. Cluess surprised me with some of her twists and misdirections, though, so perhaps Mrs. Howell will have a bigger role to play as the series progresses.

Three Dark Crowns, by Kendare Blake

The premise of this book is unlike anything I can recall: the Queen of Fennbirn, chosen by the Goddess, always has triplet daughters. As soon as her daughters are born, the Queen surrenders their care and her rule to the island’s governing council, then leaves the island forever. Then, when her daughters come of age, they fight to the death and the last one standing is crowned.

In this book, Queen hopefuls Katharine, Mirabella, and Arsinoe unveil a lot of drama and chaos as the day of their royal competition approaches. There are some seeerious twists at the end of the book! I really want to know more about the former Queen, Camille. What has she been doing on the mainland since her daughters were born? Did she have any hand in the drama that gets unleashed? What would she think of the way her daughters have grown up, and which one(s) would she support?


What about you?

Did you participate in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday? If so, feel free to drop me a link in the comments!

A Spoonful of Change

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Wow, y’all. Life is a rollercoaster. My last Waiting on Wednesday post was a pre-scheduled post that I wrote at the end of March, so I haven’t written anything for the blog in about a month. To be honest, I feel like April kind of disappeared in a haze, here and then gone.

Almost all of my goals for last month went up in smoke, too. Rocking out Camp NaNoWriMo with an awesome cabin? Forget 30,000 words; I ended up with 3.5k. Keeping up the blogging momentum? Well, you saw how that went. In April, I got swept away by some major things in my personal life. Weekend getaway with the boyfriend and him getting an awesome new job and moving waaay closer to me: whoo! Best friend slash Ann Perkins to my Leslie Knope getting an awesome new job and moving hours and a whole time zone away: awesome and also a huge bummer. I also ran into major mounting frustrations at work, and I’ve been having a hard time not bringing my negativity home with me at the end of the day.

All month, I was either completely wrapped up with the big events happening for the people in my life or completely drained, stressed, and upset from a day at my job. Because of that, a lot of things I needed or wanted to do in my personal life fell by the wayside. I was letting outside factors take away my passion and excitement, and I needed a change.

Around the same time I realized that, my roommate and I had a conversation about habits. After his breakup, I had advised him that getting over someone came down to changing your mental habits: retraining your brain to stop always running paths to that person and to redirect to other subjects more often. He took that to heart, did some research on habits, and came back to me with ideas. Apparently, the best way to break a habit is to either apply a negative experience to it (ie; quit chewing your nails by wearing nail polish that tastes bad, so chewing the nails becomes extra unpleasant) or is to simply form new, better habits.

He also decided that the best way to form a new habit is to do it daily for a week. He started getting up half an hour earlier to go run in the morning, and it’s working so far. Now, he’s planning the next good habit to start.

I know I need to break out of some of my mental habits. It’s time for me to embrace positivity and gratitude; to live my life more intentionally, and not at the mercy of what’s going on around me. It’s time to make new habits.

So, starting last week, I adopted a new goal: doing at least fifteen push-ups per day. It’s a baby step, something easy and practical, that I can do any time I think of it. It’s something good for me. Something that, with enough persistence, I can see tangible results from. Something to make me feel accomplished and strong.

Today marks exactly one week of doing them. Some days, I even do more or feel inspired to do some other quick exercises, too. In the scheme of things, it’s only a tiny spoonful of change. But it also is a cornerstone, a place for me to continue to build. This is a commitment to myself, to my passions, to the things that matter. It’s also a fresh commitment to all the other things I dream of doing and love doing. It’s a pledge to keep reinventing myself for the better.

It’s also a refresh for my commitment to this blog. This is something I enjoy immensely, and in the month of May, it is something I will consciously make the time for.

Fifteen push-ups. Less than a minute. Just a spoonful of change. But I’m going to savor it, and one spoonful of something good almost always precedes another.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Seafarer’s Kiss

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights highly anticipated upcoming releases.

When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be a marine biologist. That was mostly because “mermaid” was not a viable career goal. After the vampire and werewolf crazes started to fizzle out, I noticed a brief spike in mermaid-themed YA books. To my disappointment, none of them seemed very good.

Imagine my delight to know that the world is about to receive a Norse retelling of The Little Mermaid in The Seafarer’s Kiss, by Julia Embers. Yes, you read that right. Norse mermaids. With a helping of lesbian romance, and a trickster god on top. There could possibly exist a book that is even more of a custom-tailored Sea read than this, but I really doubt it. Look forward to this gem from Duet Books on May 4th!32890474

Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.

A Crown of Wishes Release: Meeting Roshani Chokshi & Ryan Graudin!

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My rad local independent bookstore introduced me to up-and-coming YA author Roshani Chokshi in December by featuring her Indian mythology-inspired fantasy debut, The Star-Touched Queen, as the pick-of-the-month for the YA Book Club. I got around to reading it just in time for her to come into town! She and Ryan Graudin, author of Wolf by Wolf, were touring together for the March 28th release of the companion to Chokshi’s debut, A Crown of Wishes.

When the day came around, I had finished The Star-Touched Queen and was four chapters into the companion. This was my first time going to an author event, and I was absurdly nervous! Like, I had literally been less nervous holding an alligator than stepping into the store for this event.

And no, this is not one of those times where I actually mean “figuratively.”

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I had no need to be jittery and tongue-tied, though; the event was awesome! The discussion was well-moderated by the Children’s curator of the store, and Chokshi was almost like a charismatic yakshini out of one of her books: graceful, friendly, confident, and literally sparkling in a star-studded night sky blouse.

Chokshi and Graudin are both Southern authors, and it was fascinating to hear how their heritage here has influenced their writing. Growing up in a place with such a double-edged culture and a dark, problematic history impressed upon Chokshi the idea of “genteel monsters,” a theme threaded heavily into A Crown of Wishes. In a culture that placed extreme emphasis on manners, politeness, and upholding social mores, she recounted, it didn’t matter if your worst enemy showed up at your door; you still invited them in for lemonade and offered to fix them some food. To me, that’s the crux of her Otherworld: appearances and illusions can mean everything, and yet nothing at all. The Otherworld may bring the concept to the extreme, but her characters also realize that leaving the realm of fantasy and magic doesn’t make appearances any less deceitful.

This idea is also going to be central to her next series. The Gilded Wolves is going to be about power dynamics and cultural appropriation in the height of the Age of Imperialism.

“I use the world ‘gilded’ very intentionally,” she said, to describe an externally flourishing and beautiful city and culture built around a rotten core. This series sounds epic, and the first installment is expected to hit the shelves in 2018.

Graudin, meanwhile, said her childhood in Charleston and her many travels since have given her writing a strong sense of place. She loves teasing out the most unique aspects of a place and trying to breathe life into it in her books. When the topic of ideas for future books came up, she mentioned a long-held “story kernel” for a book honoring her hometown.

“The elevator pitch for this one,” she said, “is Southern Gothic meets a Miyazaki film.”

Sold. I don’t even need to know anything else about it; the second that book exists on a shelf, I’m buying it!

I’m bummed out that I hadn’t read any of her books before attending the event. Graudin was reflective, thoughtful, incredibly passionate in speaking about her writing, and full of elevator pitches that put her books way-high on my reading lists. I haven’t even read Wolf by Wolf yet, but I already told two friends that I was going to force them to read it after I do. That’s how awesome this book sounds.

My favorite part of the night was when Chokshi told us how difficult the writing process for her second book was. Whenever her characters acted up and frustrated her, she wrote horrible deaths for them, ended the chapter, and quit writing for the night. “Stay dead and think about what you’ve done!” she joked. Unfortunately, fellow writers, she advised that putting them in a death time-out and reviving them in the morning didn’t actually improve their behavior. I’m sure it was satisfying, though!

At the end of it all, I got my shiny new copy of A Crown of Wishes signed. If you get the chance, I would totally recommend supporting these two wonderful writers!

Stacking the Shelves: Library Sales & my True Book Love

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Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, dedicated to showing off all the wonderful new book treasures that we hoard bring into our lives.

Between a good library trip, a few bookstore purchases, and a huge used book sale/library fundraiser today, my bookshelf is feeling a little more full! I’m so excited for all these bound pages of goodness, I just had to share.

Click above for the slideshow of full-sized pics!

Library Books

Went to return books; accidentally came home with the modern magical realism trifecta: The Weight of Feathers, When the Moon was Ours, and The Night Circus.

 Bought Books

Got a copy of A Crown of Wishes at an author event with Roshani Chokshi and got it signed! Also ordered Caraval to have it when I definitely go to that book club this time (*crosses fingers*) and Three Dark Crowns because I can’t stop thinking about this book, and a re-read is a certainty.

Library Big Book Sale!

One of the local libraries does a fundraiser sale twice a year, and today was the day! For all of $6, I snagged Ever the Hunted, Persepolis, The Mists of Avalon, a new-to-me Michael Pollan book about human-nature interactions, and an excellent Audobon Society field guide overview of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Honestly, it’s the field guide that I’m most excited about. It’s in great condition, and it is a freaking steal at $1. Field guides are my favorite, favorite books, and this one has the basics of everything I could ever want to look up at the beach! Today, I am a most happy Sea.


What about you?

Any great books come into your life lately? Am I the only one who could sing ballads to a good field guide?

Probably, yes.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Upside of Unrequited

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights highly anticipated upcoming releases.

I read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda last year and loved it, in which I am far from alone.

I’m perpetually late to the party, but I’m sure I’m also not alone in having completely missed that Becky Albertalli has a new book coming out this month!

The Upside of Unrequited sounds amazing. On its own, the plot seems fun and heartwarming. All the reviews I have read say that Molly is a character you can’t help but love, and that Albertalli brings the wit and humor just as strongly here as in her debut. Even better, though, this book is going to be the diversity mother load! It includes diversity of: race, religion, sexual orientation, body type, family structure, mental health, and probably even more.

It seems like Albertalli is on her way to becoming a YA contemporary mainstay. Look for Upside out on April 11th, and most likely another novel from her in 2018!

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unreq30653853uited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?