What I’m Reading 8/21/17

When preparing this post, I realized that I had written way too much content.  Since I’ve begun writing reactions/reviews/summaries in a notebook immediately after finishing a book, I’ve noticed that my comments have gotten a longer.  So I decided to do some shifting around, giving some of the books where I had more thoughts posts of their own.

Here, you can find my thoughts about several of my recent reads.  Keep an eye out over the next week for others–I’ve got a writeup for a fantasy novel primed and ready to go and, as soon as I finish Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab, I’ll give the Monsters of Verity duology their own post.

Here’s what I’m discussing this week:

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Weekend Coffee Share 8/12/17

If we were having coffee, we’d be meeting at my library.  I’d be sipping on a mocha with an extra shot of caffeine that I picked up on the way to work.  It’s a slow morning… I’ve been here over an hour and only five people have come and gone.  Thank goodness, you’re here to divert me!

It’s crazy that summer is almost over!  It always goes by way too quickly.  My August is turning out to be very busy.  Between weddings and out-of-town commitments, my weekends are almost all booked.  When I get off work today, I’m heading down to Rochester to spend the weekend with L’Abri friends.  I’ve wanted to visit them all summer, but haven’t had the chance until now.  Next weekend, I’m taking off work to go on a retreat with the church my family has been attending.

I’ve had multiple cousins get married this summer–one was last weekend.  Is it just me, or are family weddings the most awkward of them all?  I’m not close with my dad’s side of the family, so it’s always uncomfortable spending time with them.  I’m one of the youngest and was painfully shy as a child, which didn’t help forge good relationships with my cousins.  Despite that, the wedding was really nice, there was an open bar, and fantastic cake.  And I learned that some of my cousins (and their significant others) are actually pretty cool!  So that was a win. Continue reading

What I’m Reading 8/7/17

Since I last did one of these, I’ve started writing short, one paragraph reactions in a notebook every time I finish a book.  I do so much reading that stories often blend together and, when I come to do these kind of posts, I forget details.  I’m finding that I really enjoy processing books in this way–it helps me express my opinions and give the experience closure.  In addition, I’m also adding star ratings, just for fun.

I hope you enjoy my list of recent reads!  Have you read any of them?  What did you think?  What have you been reading lately?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!


Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

5/5 stars

When I reached the end of this book, I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.  I rarely give books five-star ratings, but this series was absolute perfection.  All six main characters are distinct, fully, fleshed out, and deeply relatable.  They feel like real people–deeply flawed and broken and beautiful–and I love them all so, so much.  I can’t help being in awe of Bardugo’s planning skills–there are so many character arcs, schemes, plots, and back-stabbing… how does she juggle it all?  And given how complex it all is, how the heck does she manage to pull it off?!  This book sealed the deal: Bardugo is a top-notch writer and I will gladly read anything she publishes.


Geekerella by Ashley Poston

4/5 stars

This YA book has been on my radar for months and I finally got my hands on a copy.  It combines two of my deep loves: fairytale retellings and fandom.  I found the story delightful and endearing–the plot familiar, but a comforting kind of familiar.  More than anything, I was reminded of the movie “A Cinderella Story” with Hillary Duff–only with more cosplay and a pumpkin-themed vegan food truck.  It was a clever, fresh retelling of one of my favorite fairytales.  And, oh, how I wish that Starfield was a real show–it sounds like something I would love to watch.


The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

4.5/5 stars

This was easily one of the best YA contemporaries I’ve read in a long while.  Lately, I’ve found it harder and harder to relate to that corner of the genre.  This book, though, hit home in so many ways.  It’s about a Christian girl who, after discovering that her mom’s cancer has returned, spends her summer as a counselor at a camp for troubled youth.  There, she wrestles with her faith and learns about life, love, and friendship.  The book is about growing up, discovering yourself, and allowing your worldview to grow and change.  Although our circumstances are different, I deeply related with Lucy.  I spent several summers camp counseling, so the exhausting pace of her days was familiar.  What I love about this book is that, while Lucy questions and struggles with her faith, she doesn’t walk away from it.  It’s really hard to write about faith journeys in a way that doesn’t come off as preachy and Lord handles Lucy’s journey so, so well.  Her faith shifts into something new, but it doesn’t go away.  The book also features a rich array of diverse characters and I adored the friendships Lucy forms.  They reminded me of the friendships I forged in my own camp years.  This is a book that doesn’t shy away from life’s biggest questions–it leans into hard questions, tough situations, and embraces the challenges of life.  I’m thankful for books like these–books that act as mirrors to our own experiences.


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Thoughts on Blogging, Social Media, and Finding the Right Balance

I’ve been giving my social media habits a great deal of thought lately.

I won’t go into the messy details, but over the past few months my habits have changed a great deal.  In January, I made the decision to scale back my consumption and deleted Facebook from my phone.  This may not be a huge change, but it’s deeply impacted the way I experience the social media world.

For one thing, I have more time on my hands.  Instead of wiling away the hours scrolling through status updates and baby photos and engagement announcements, I spend my time doing things that I love.  I go for long walks.  I read more.  I hang out with family.

Another consequence is that I’ve shifted more time to Instagram.  With only photos and stories, Instagram is more curated and eats up far less time.  The more time I spend on Instagram, the more I fall in love with it.  I love putting together photos that I find beautiful and coming up with captions and quotes.  This summer, I started using the story feature and am able to share quirky, more casual bits of my life.

And then there’s my blog.  At the beginning of this year, I set out to be more of an official blogger… and quickly fizzled out.  I attempted to do a series of posts of literary places I’ve visited.  That lasted for two weeks.  Here and there, I’ve done several one-off posts that I’ve been pleased with.

I’ve been blogging for nearly ten years now on a variety of sites and, over the years, I’ve tried a number of different techniques.  (And, before you ask, no I will not share a link to my blog from high school.)

I think that part of my inconsistency is that I lack a central focus and vision.  While I adore my title, Keep Your Feet, and all that it implies, I definitely don’t have a theme.  Sometimes, I’m a book blogger.  Other times I write about travel and adventures.  Other times, I write about more personal things.  And, sometimes, I hardly post at all. Continue reading

Weekend Coffee Share 7/30/17

If we were having coffee, we’d be at my local coffee shop once more.  It’s a full house for a Sunday and I had to take a table close to the counter, which is noisier than where I usually sit.  I have a clear sight of the door and keep getting distracted by all the people coming in.

If I were to pick a word to describe this week, it would be quiet.  My parents have been on vacation for the past week and I’ve had the house to myself.  The solitude has been a much-needed break.  I’ve been able to dive into my head in a way I haven’t in a long time.  I’ve been writing again in a way that feels fresh and natural.  And I’ve been reading!  Between audiobooks from my commute and normal reading, I’ve finished about five books over the past seven days.  Whew!

Not that I’ve been home much… with work and doing things with friends, I’ve kept pretty busy.

I had an enjoyable dinner with an old friend, who was visiting from the East Coast (where she’s about to start her PhD program).  Yesterday afternoon, a college friend came to visit me.  I’ve been trying to get her up here for years and was so glad it finally happened!  We had quite the adventure!  I showed her around our apple orchard and took her to the coffee shop (where I now sit).  Then, we wandered around this really cool sculpture garden and hung out at my local State Park.  The evening wrapped up at the vintage Drive In restaurant, with rootbeer floats and burgers–the perfect summer meal.

Over the next couple of days, my family will slowly fill the house again.  My parents return from their week by the lake in the north woods this evening.  Tomorrow, my younger brother comes home from his summer internship in North Carolina.  It’ll be weird having everyone around again, but a nice kind of weird.  Too much time alone makes me go crazy.

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the quiet while it lasts.  I have absolutely no plans for today and tomorrow and I intend to take advantage of it.  I’m hoping for long hours reading on a blanket in my back yard and at least one big hike in my local state park.

But enough about me!  What have you been up to this week?  What would you share over coffee?

Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part Time Monster. Be sure to check out the weekly Link Up to see what everyone has been up to.

What I’ve Been Reading 7/25/17

It’s time for another exploration of my recent reads.  I’ve been pretty spoiled by some of the books on this list–I rarely give out five star ratings on Goodreads, but there are some titles worthy of that honor in here.

Enjoy–and be sure to let me know what you’ve been reading lately in the comments!


Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

This book has been on my radar for a LONG time–it was just a matter of getting to it.  Well, I’m currently listening to it on audiobook and HOLY CRAP, HOW HAVE I BEEN MISSING OUT ON THIS?  The subject matter isn’t one that immediately sucks me in (which is why it has taken so long to pick up), but dang.  Once I got past the first few chapters, I was absolutely hooked.  What strikes me about this book is the excellent characterization.  It features a variety of characters and switches points of view constantly, but each voice is distinct.  Each character is fully-realized, which makes them feel so real.  Bardugo slowly unveils their stories, giving us hints and glimpses at their pasts and their ambitions with each page.  It makes driving to work an absolute treat!  I’m already dreading reaching the end of the audiobook, but I know I’ll be moving on to Crooked Kingdom straight away.

The Noble Servant by Melanie Dickerson

Gosh, WHY do I keep reading Dickerson’s books?  I’ve read almost everything she’s published and, even though I don’t love her stories, they’re enjoyable.  I love fairytale retellings, and Dickerson’s are subtle.  After the mess that was this one, I think I might throw in the towel.  Her stories are all formulaic, but the formula is definitely wearing thin.  Dickerson’s protagonists are always beautiful, kind, compassionate, selfish, pious, and BORING.  Her side characters have zero depth.  It’s like watching paper dolls act on a puppet show stage, then fall into a puddle and crumble apart.  I’m also almost insulted by how heavy-handed Dickerson is with her representation of Christianity.  Female leads are always quoting scripture, praying, and longing to someday be rich enough to own a Bible translated into German.  It’s as if Dickerson expects that, by making her women models of Christian femininity, that makes them good characters.  Um, no.

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

I talked about Schwab’s first book in this series, A Darker Shade of Magic, a month ago.  While I really enjoyed that book, I fell head-over-heels in love with this one.  I think this might be because I listened to it on audiobook, which meant that my reading was slower and more deliberate.  Schwab is excellent at world building–in the first book, she establishes the different Londons.  In this book, Schwab takes a new turn.  She expands the world of Red London through a magical tournament, which reminded me a lot of the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter.  The tournament introduces the different empires and peoples, as well as expands on how magic functions and how each culture relates differently to it.  Schwab also continued to establish her characters, who have nestled their way deep into my heart.  Delilah Bard (who I found likable, but flighty and kind of annoying in the first book) is now making her way to my all-time favorite characters list.  I’m eagerly waiting for my hold on the third book on audio to come through at the library so I can continue.

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Weekend Coffee Share 7/22/17

If we were having coffee, we’d be meeting at the library.  Things are slow–no one usually rolls in until around ten, so I’m taking advantage of the quiet by prepping for my programs next week.  I just made a cup of tea (cranberry and raspberry)… would you like a cup?

We’re in for a dreary Saturday–with scattered thunderstorms this afternoon.  My grandpa is passing through town early this afternoon.  He called earlier this week and asked if he could get a tour of my library and then take me out to lunch.  I said yes, of course.

The rest of my weekend will be spent traveling.  I’m visiting family in Southern Minnesota, which should be really fun.  It’ll be nice to get out of town for a while–even if it’s only for a night.

Over the past month or so, a construction crew has been hard at work redoing the road I live on.  This week, they began the section in front of my house.  They’ve ripped up the entire thing and we have to keep our windows closed to keep the dust out.  It’s really interesting, watching them solidify the foundation and widen the shoulders.  It’s also been annoying–they begin work at 6 AM and the roaring of the machinery wakes us all up.  Still, it’ll be worth it to have a nice new road.

The highlight of my week was hosting a Stuffed Animal Sleepover at the library.  Kids came in on Wednesday night wearing their pajamas, clutching their animals.  I read them a few stories, gave out a midnight snack, and then they tucked in their pals and said goodbye.  When they returned the next day, I gave each of the kids a little book filled with pictures of what the animals got up to.  Much mischief ensued!

Anyways, that’s all I’ve got for today.  How has your week been?  Any fun plans for your weekend?  What would you share over coffee?

Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part Time Monster. Be sure to check out the weekly Link Up to see what everyone has been up to.

 

Weekend Coffee Share 7/16/17

If we were having coffee, we’d be sitting once again in my local coffee shop.  It’s busy for a Sunday–but, then again, Sundays have been more and more busy lately.  Don’t worry about finding me–I’m the girl by the window with the laptop.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve joined in the coffee share.  I’ve been neglecting WordPress lately… I don’t think I’ve even opened the site in over a week.  How is everyone doing?

This weekend is our annual summer festival in Lindstrom, one of my hometowns.  Karl Oscar Days is one of the highlights of the warm months.  The festival is named for the protagonist of a book series about Swedish immigrants by the author Vilhelm Moberg, who stayed in our area while writing the book.  The community is obsessed with its Scandinavian heritage.  Downtown Lindstrom is peppered with Swedish flags and dala horses.  I’m half Scandinavian, so I find it quirky and charming.

Anyways, I had a friend come up from the cities and we joined in the festivities.  We wandered all around town, exploring the vendor booths, and chatting with people.  The town is perched between two lakes, so we borrowed some kayaks from a family friend and spent a few hours going around the lake.  In the evening, we lined up for the annual parade.  We ended up walking away with an enormous mound of candy, courtesy of our screaming at every float that came by.

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What I’m Reading 7/3/17

Book talk time!  I’m definitely not a full-fledged book blogger.  I definitely have the reading stamina, but don’t have enough drive to do all the writing.  But I do love informally sharing what I’ve been reading lately.  I used to call these posts Inbox//Outbox, but from here on out will just call them “What I’m Reading”.  Because, really, that’s much more to the point.

So here is what I’ve been reading over the past few weeks!

Hunger: A Memoir of My Body by Roxanne Gay

Other possible title for this book: In Which Roxanne Gay Bares Her Soul.  I can only imagine how much courage it took to write this book.  It follows the trajectory of her life–after being sexually assaulted at the age of twelve, Gay turned to food as a comfort and safety mechanism.  In this memoir, she shares the story of her life thus far and the experience of living in her body.  She covers topics like sexual assault, fat shaming, weight loss TV shows, dating, etc.  The writing was articulate and brutally honest.  It broke my heart more than once.

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

This book is the PERFECT summer read!  It’s a soft retelling of You’ve Got Mail, only it takes place in California with surfers and film lovers.  I adored the main characters, Bailey and Porter.  The whole “we are arch enemies” aspect of the plot faded pretty frequently, transitioning to “we bicker all the time because we are super attracted to each other”.  The plot was predictable, but that didn’t diminish the enjoyability of the book.  Sometimes, it’s absolutely lovely to sit down with a fluffy book that you can finish in a day.  That book was it for me.

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Weekend Coffee Share 7/1/17

If we were having coffee, we’d be meeting in my library.  I’d be sitting at my usual perch behind the circulation desk blinking sleepily at you over a my Shakespeare mug, which is filled with lemon ginger tea.  Work is quiet today–the usual patrons are settled and happy on the public computers–so I have time to chat.

Can you believe it’s already July?!  Summer is going by WAY too quickly!

On Tuesday, I lead a Marshmallow Engineering STEM activity at the library.  I got to work obnoxiously early that morning, giving me time to run around town picking up last minute supplies.  I had no idea how many people to expect.  In the end, there were around fifteen kids and their parents.  I lead them through some basic exercises and challenges before giving them free reign to build anything they wanted with marshmallows and toothpicks.  It was so much fun!  Everyone had an absolute blast and, when the event wrapped up, all came into the library to do the various scavenger hunts and games I have set up.  It’s days like this one where I can’t believe how lucky I am–I get paid to play with kids!  I get paid to load them up with marshmallows and send them home to their parents all sugared up.  Continue reading