Staying Sane: A Grad School Update

I realize I’ve been neglecting my blog of late…  So hey, let’s chat.

In September, I started my first semester of graduate school.  I’m taking classes online through the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee to get a Masters in Library and Information Science.  Going into it, I knew that grad school would be a challenge.  But, of course, there’s a difference between knowing something intellectually and knowing it experientially.  As someone who has half a semester under their belt, I can attest that grad school is HARD.

It’s not the work itself that is challenging.  I mean, yeah, it’s hard.  But it’s grad school.  High standards are to be expected.  For the most part, I think I’m keeping up just fine.  I understand the coursework, participate in discussions with my classmates, and have pulled decent enough grades on my assignments thus far.

The most difficult part about grad school has been finding time to actually do the work and still maintain a shred of sanity.  I’ve already had two emotional breakdowns this semester, which is two more than my entire career as an undergraduate.

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What I’m Reading: YA Fall Releases

It’s Thursday night and I’ve managed to talk myself down from the “I should be studying” ledge.  So, since I’ve decided that grad school is no excuse to not read for fun, why not talk about all the books I’ve been cramming in my spare time?  Thanks to my library, I’ve been on the top of the list for many of this fall’s hottest YA releases.

My mini reviews are spoiler-free, so no worries if you haven’t read them.

Here’s my lineup:

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Meeting Leigh Bardugo

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Last night, I had the chance to meet Leigh Bardugo, author of the Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows duology.  While I’ve only discovered her work this year, she’s quickly become one of my favorite authors.

Bardugo has been busy this fall, with two books released in September.  At the beginning of the month, Wonder Woman: Warbringer (the first of the D.C. Icons series) came out.  I just finished listening to it on audiobook and it was really fun.  This week, A Language of Thorns was released, which is a beautifully illustrated collection of folktales set in the Grishaverse world.

As part of my job as a librarian, I frequently host author talks, but this was my first time attending one that is part of a national tour.  I’m the kind of girl who gets nervous around people I admire and frequently feel like I make a total fool of myself.  (Seriously, it’s the worst when talking to attractive guys… I get sooo awkward.)  Thus, coming face to face with an author whose work I love was really intimidating.  But this was too good a chance to pass up. Continue reading

What I’m Reading 9/14/17

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about all the things I’ve been reading.  Some of these, I finished almost a month ago!  Holy cats, does time fly!  I’m glad I take notes on each book I finish, otherwise I wouldn’t remember what I thought about them.

Here are the books I’ll be discussing today:

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Let me know what you’ve read lately in the comments!

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Returning to Student Life: Hello, Grad School!

Goodbye, free time.  Hello, higher education.

Last week, I started grad school!  I’m pursuing my Masters in Library and Information Science through the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.  My classes are all online, which enables me to do school while continuing to work full time.

All week, people in my life have been asking how it’s been so far.  My reply has usually been a dubious expression and a weird, semi-coherent grunt. I knew that grad school would be a lot of work, but there’s intellectual knowledge and experiential knowledge.  And, boy, am I learning experientially!

It’s not that my classes are anything I can’t handle.  The workload is large, but definitely doable.  The challenge is adjusting to new pressures and a new routine.  Significant portions of my weekends and days off are now spent hunched over my laptop and pouring through textbooks.

As I learn to be a student remotely, I have to learn to be intentional about taking care of daily business.  I’ve taken for granted having time to cook, shop, clean, do laundry, exercise, etc.  I now have to think about when I’m going to get those things accomplished. Continue reading

Weekend Coffee Share: Orchard Opening, Grad School, State Fair, and more!

If we were having coffee, we’d likely be sitting outside on picnic tables overlooking my family’s apple orchard.  Please excuse my cat, Pip, who has no concept of personal boundaries.  He has most likely climbed on your lap and is demanding snuggles.  While you pet him, we look over the orchard to the St. Croix River valley in the distance.  Isn’t the view great?

At the moment, I’m enjoying a few days of calm before the craziness that is fall hits.  The library was absolutely dead this week, which (while boring) was a nice break.  My patrons are all getting ready for school, going on last minute vacations, and harvesting their gardens.

This week, I DID get to go to the Minnesota State Fair for work!  It was Read & Ride Day, put on by the library system in the Twin Cities area.  Fairgoers could get discounted admission with their library cards.  As a worker, I got in for free!  My shift was three hours long and I ran the game Plinko.  My coworker for the day and I were given a massive amount of prizes (color changing cups, temporary tattoos, pens, bags, flashlights, etc.) and told that they needed to all be gone by five.  So we were VERY generous to all who played our game.  “Everyone’s a winner at the library!” we told everyone who stopped by.  It was a lot of fun!  After my shift, I spent the rest of the day wandering around the fair with library colleagues from my own system, who had worked earlier in the day.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I start graduate school this week!  I’m pursuing my Masters in Library and Information Science through the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.  I’m kind of nervous about being back in academia and balancing school and work.  It really helps that everything is online and I can fit it in with my schedule.  I think I’ll be fine… I’ve always been a bit of a Hermione Granger when it comes to school and started reading one of my textbooks already.

My family’s apple orchard is open for the season!  My parents and brother worked really hard to get everything together.  Dad has been overseeing the harvest and getting the outside presentable.  Mom organized the store and is training all our new seasonal employees.  I’ll be helping out on Sundays this fall during the peak of our season, but with grad school and having my own job, my involvement will be fairly minimal.

That’s enough chit chat from me.  How are you spending your last weekend of the summer?  Anything exciting going on this fall?  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 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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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 7/1/17

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