Inbox // Outbox: November 28, 2016

I continue to surge through my reading lists and here is a bit of what I’ve recently covered and what I’m reading next.

Inbox:

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

An old favorite… I’m usually drawn to it at least once every year.  This year, I’m listening to it on audiobook during my commute.  Rowell is one of my favorite YA authors and this book brings back so much.  As a former fan fiction author, I deeply relate with Cath’s obsession with fictional worlds.  Her journey through her first year of college brings me back to my own lonely, often miserable time as a freshman. Continue reading

November in Review

Because I was a bad blogger and skipped out on October… here is my November Month in Review!

Month in Review blog heading

I. Blogging

November has been a good month.  Although I haven’t been writing like a maniac like my NaNoWriMo and NaNoBloPoMo friends, I definitely have been hanging out with my words.  The past few weeks have been filled with meaningful posts that I’m really proud of.  Be sure to read my comparison between apple farming and writing, my frustration at American responses to the refugee crisis, and musings from the shore of Lake Superior.  I also posted a poem that’s been sitting in my archives for over two years.  Be sure to check it out and let me know if I should put on my poet hat more often.

Looking ahead, I have an exciting December planned!  I hope to start posting book reviews again.  I also have a fun holiday-themed series coming up that I am going to need your help for!  Stay tuned for more details.

II. Books

This month, I was a literary fiend, tearing through books at an alarming rate.  I keep track of how many books I read each year on Goodreads.  In the past week, my count has exceeded 100–a personal record!

I’ve spent a LOT of time over the past two weeks binge-reading fluffy YA novels.  Rainbow Rowell is SO GOOD.  Marissa Meyer’s conclusion to her Lunar Chronicles series was incredibly satisfying (review coming soon!).  And, despite my love/hate relationship with Stephanie Perkins, I managed to eat up one of her novels in less than 24 hours.  (Oh, the beauty of Thanksgiving Break.)

Here’s a list of some of my reads:

  • Symphony of Ages trilogy by Elizabeth Haydon
  • Fangirl/Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • Seven Words of Power by James Maxwell
  • Winter by Marissa Meyer
  • Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
  • Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
  • Forgotten God by Francis Chan
  • Yes Please by Amy Pohler

III. Life

November was filled with unexpected twists and turns.

Things at work went from awful to not-so-bad.  Of course, once I finally get a firm grip on the job, it’s time to hand it off to someone else.  We managed to find a stellar candidate for the Executive Director position.  The hiring decision isn’t official yet, but will be in a week or so.  This means that my brief stint into Chamber of Commerce life is nearly over.  No tears are being shed over this.

Orchard season also came to a close.  We’ve been going strong since August, but finally reached the end.  It was a season for the record books–biggest crowds, biggest crops, biggest sales.  It was an exhausting, rewarding ride and I am happy to be done.  I do miss the physical work.  Hauling around 40 lb crates of fruit helped me stay in shape and I liked the monotony.  Still, having actual weekends is an absolute dream!

This month, I celebrated my twenty third birthday by enjoying a shopping spree with my mom at the Mall of America.  I spent WAY too much money, but have worn my purchases (a sweater, new pants, some scarves) enough times to make it more than worthwhile.

I hung out with friends quite a bit.  My high school buddies and I had a movie night, where they introduced me to The Sandlot.  Now whenever my mom exasperates me, I can knowingly retort, “You’re killin’ me, Smalls!”  My friend, Kassandra, and I had a delightful brunch at a cafe in St. Paul a few weeks back and I was reunited with my long-time friend, Holly, who made the trip from Washington D.C. to spend Thanksgiving with her family.  My study abroad friend, Maddie, came up from her now-home Minneapolis and we spent a memorable afternoon closing up the orchard, wandering around Taylors Falls, and discussing music, politics, and spirituality.

I managed to escape home for a night by accompanying my mom and brother to Duluth, where they had work meetings.  While there, I had some quality me-time strolling along the lakeshore.  That afternoon, we went to a press conference and I got to shake hands with a U.S. Congressman, which was pretty cool.

Finally, the most unexpected thing of all happened in the form of an opening to live and study at a ministry in England.  If you had told me a month ago that I’d be returning to the U.K., I would have laughed in your face.  It’s amazing what a few short weeks can do!  I’m not really sure what to expect from this adventure, but I’m having a lot of fun dreaming about it.  Who knows if I’ll ever come home?

That wraps up my Month in Review!  As always, thanks for reading.

On the Shelf: Fantasy Trilogies Galore

I’ve been reading a lot lately, but have totally shirked my book reviews.  Oops.  The stresses of my new job have me spending evenings rolling around on the couch in a sweater and leggings, avoiding anything that requires thinking.

So, until I’m able to write any focused reviews, here’s a bit of what I’ve been digging into over the past few weeks!

His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers:

I’ve been seeing things about this trilogy for quite a while, but never engaged until now.  I downloaded an ebook version of the first novel, Grave Mercy, from my local library and was off to the races.  I completed the trilogy in five days and loved them so much I ran online to order physical copies.

These books aren’t the most well-written in the world, but they’re incredibly fresh and original.  The premise is a convent in medieval France where they are dedicated to serving Mortain, the patron saint of Death.  Novices are trained as assassins and sent into the world to do Death’s bidding.  Each book is very different in flavor, although all have their share of romance.  Grave Mercy is, in many ways, a political thriller.  Dark Triumph is very dark and personal.  Mortal Heart is a coming-of-age tale.

If you like historical fiction, fantasy, and romance, these books are a must-read.

The Symphony of Ages trilogy by Elizabeth Haydon

I read the first three books of this now-longer series in high school and have been hankering to revisit them ever since.  That being said, I picked up Rhapsody on a Friday and had all 2,000+ pages of the series read ten days later.  You’d think that a series this long would have dull points, but I couldn’t put these down.  (And this is my second time through!)  Haydon has created a story that suck you in and doesn’t let go until the ride is done.

The books tell the story of Rhapsody, a young singer who finds herself swept into an adventure across Time to learn of a prophecy that foretells her destiny to be a key force in destroying evil.  Through her journey, she encounters a vast array of characters that are diverse, complex, and wonderful.  Haydon’s universe is vast, with deeply structured, believable cultures and religions.  Her world-building is top-notch.  The scope of the story is epic, leading up to a satisfying, memorable conclusion.

If you’re a fantasy fan, add these to your list.

Right now, I’m also re-reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  I’m loving it even more this time around.  Maybe I’ll make a focused On the Shelf discussing it in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, when I finish that, I’m going to dig into Winter by Marissa Meyer.

Here’s to more books!  Keep an eye out for more On the Shelf posts in the coming weeks.

On the Shelf

What better way to spend Winter Break than by reading?  I haven’t been doing a lot of it, in light of the fact that I’m taking three literature classes next semester and don’t want to overdo it.  However, I’ve been enjoying some fun, light reads!

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

This book has been on my radar for a LONG time.  It didn’t disappoint.  Rowell creates a marvellous coming-of-age story about Cath, a fandom-obsessed introvert transitioning to college.  I related to Cath on so many levels.  Although my own fan-fiction efforts (culminating in an unfinished novel-length fic and several short one-shots) died out after a few years, I’ve been knee-deep in fandom culture since I was fourteen.  Fangirl is your typical teen-lit novel in many ways.  There’s love, family drama, a weird roommate, and lots about what it means to be a writer.  It’s a fast read and a fun one.

Yulin Kuang, a filmmaker and co-creator of the YouTube channel Shipwrecked, filmed a scene from Fangirl, featuring the incredible Mary Kate Wiles.  Definitely check it out!  (And check out her other videos as well–they’re incredible.)

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

This is the fourth massive novel in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.  Honestly, it was my least favorite.  I understand that one of the great things about these books are the depth of historical content, from larger political events to the tiny details of everyday life… but I thought she got carried away.  The first half dragged.  I think Gabaldon spent too much time with Jamie and Claire.  The Bree and Roger bits, for me, were the most compelling.  I would slog through 200 pages of Jamie/Claire story just to get to the twenty pages about Roger.  I think that the story could have been much stronger and more compelling if she had spent more time developing the younger generation.  Because, when major events began happening halfway through the book bringing all the characters together, I found myself not caring.  Why?  Because I wasn’t invested enough in Bree and Roger to actually care.  All in all, although the story is interesting, the character development was misplaced and underdone and the plot needs MAJOR tightening.  Because this book was so disappointing, it’s going to be a while before I work up the desire to finish the series.

Any Anxious Body by Chrissy Kolaya

Since its release last Spring, I’ve wanted to read this collection of poetry.  Chrissy is a professor at my college and I’ve had the opportunity to take several of her classes.  She was my guide in the basic freshman writing class.  A year ago, I had the opportunity to be in her Innovative Creative Writing class.  The class taught me that I don’t want to write creatively for a living (or for pleasure, for that matter), but gave me a deeper appreciation for those who do.  It’s always fun reading the published work of people you know, and I adored Any Anxious Body.  I’m not much of a reader of poetry collections, so I don’t really know what to say beyond the fact that I really enjoyed the work.

Before Midnight by Cameron Dokey

This is a book I will be re-reading all my life.  I’ve had my copy for about six years and have probably read it at least five times since then.  It’s a quick read–I usually breeze through it in a day or so.  It’s simplistic, easy, aimed at a lower reading level.  But, oh, how I adore it.  If you’ve been with me on this blog for a while, you will know that I adore a good Cinderella adaptation. Before Midnight fits the bill.  It’s simplistic, the characters are pure of heart without being overbearing, and centered on the power of wishes and value of love.  Dokey does a masterful job weaving elements of the fairytale with a story of her own–one that is new, fresh, and engaging.  At the end of the book, Dokey talks about the research that went into her retelling.  She discovered several old versions of the story where Cinderella’s didn’t die, but merely dropped from the story, submissive to the stepmother.  Dokey says, “If Cinderella’s father is still alive, but takes no action to save or protect her, what mights this say about both him and the woman to whom we are all accustomed to assigning the role of the bad guy?  What would happen if I put a father back into the story?”  Other questions I’m sure Dokey asked regarding her adaptation are: What if political intrigue factored into the plot?  What if the stepmother wasn’t cruel?  What if Cinderella’s new family learned to love her?

~*~

Next time I do one of these posts, I’ll be knee deep in academia.  Assigned reading, here I come.