Life, Currently // One (& a review)

I completely stole this format from Cassie over at Nose Stuck in a Book. She’s significantly less long-winded, so there’s a good chance you’d rather be reading her blog right now.

Time //  A super lazy Saturday night.

Reading // I’m in a bit of a lull after a ton of reading in January. Right now I’ve just finished the preview excerpt for A Darker Shade of Magic (from Netgalley), I’m still neglecting Bad Feminist (despite loving every bit so far), and occasionally I open Fairest. I’m looking forward to starting Damaged Goods soon, but I’ll probably need some fast fiction first.

A Darker Shade final for Irene

A Darker Shade of Magic // This is my first time receiving an ARC [advanced reader copy] through Netgalley, and I’m pretty excited about the possiblity of getting to read books in exchange for honest reviews A) before they come out and, of course, B) for free.

I was definitely disappointed when halfway through this preview I realized it was, in fact, a preview—because it’s quite good. ADSOM boasts a story of magic in London, but not just one—several Londons, referred to as Red London, White London, and Grey London (can you guess which one our world boasts? Yeah, it’s grey). Kell is one of the Antari, or Travelers, one of dwindling few who can cross between the worlds. While a long time ago the walls of the worlds were more open, now Travelers carry letters, and letters only, between the rulers of each London. Except Kell occasionally smuggles more. Oops. And may have just accidentally commited treason because of it. Double oops.

Then there’s Lila, a pocket-picking cut purse (who I love so far) who gets caught up in all of the things.

I find it hard to give a real review after an except, but perhaps it’s helpful to tell you that if I can get this off my library soon enough, I absolutely plan to finish it. Magic and multiple worlds is a favorite of mine, and I like both Kell and Lila.

Kudos, netgalley, kudos, for suckering me into a book I now have to acquire for myself to finish!

Listening to // The Dandy Warhols.

Watching // I just finished Veronica Mars, and it reminded me why getting so completely into something that I’m marathoning it is a terrible idea for my life. The plan was to avoid new shows for a bit and just keeping up with the likes of Suits, New Girl, BBT, Arrow, and Flash, but I just discovered Stargate is on Amazon Prime. So that’s happening now.

Loving // I’ve been using the company for a few months now, and I’m still in love with Twice. Twice is an online consignment store: all clothes are nice brands, in excellent condition, and anywhere between 50-90% off original price. I don’t have a lot of money to spend on clothes, and Twice lets me pay Ross-like prices for much nicer things.

If you sign up, do it with this link: liketwice.com/181DX, and you’ll get $10 credit. I believe you can also get another $10 for downloading the IOS app, and if you let me know, I can probably find you a 50% off first purchase coupon. Yes, that effectively makes your first $40 free.

Also loving: Arizona Rx Energy Tea, diffusing Young Living Thieves oil blend in the office (my cubicle neigbors’ favorite of anything I’ve diffused so far), Old Navy’s Rockstar jeans, and Milani lipstick (in Pretty Natural).

Working on // I’ve got a nice, big design project going right now—an admissions catalog for a school I do a good bit of work for—and having some continuous freelance work like this is lovely. However, I’m looking ahead right now at different ways to expand my freelancing options, both with design and editing. Some of it’s exciting, and some of it’s terrifying. Scratch that, it’s all a little terrifying.

Shopping // I’m resisting a lot of things shopping right now, because a studio can only hold so much (and I’m broke, whatever). So books? Resisting. Furniture? That’s funny, where would I put it?! Some new clothes for spring? Ok, I’m not resisting that one, but I’m trying to be smart, for the very good reason of being, well, a stereotypically broke 20-something.

One thing I am keeping an eye out for is some big, inexpensive wall art. I haven’t gotten my studio’s walls to a place I really love, and even though I could DIY something, I’m still looking.

Hobbying //  I added this category because my knitting has to fall somewhere, right? Right now I’m working up some ear-warmer headbands, and have multiple scarves-in-progress. I’m in serious considerations to attempt socks, starting with something chunky and fast.

…I didn’t promise this would be a very exciting  category, did I?

Photo Jan 20, 12 49 40 PMPhoto Dec 28, 3 45 03 PMPhoto Jan 11, 4 17 15 PM

Anticipating // I am really looking forward to some warm weather. I am desperate to wear skirts and dresses without tights, and to put away socks for awhile. I am also really looking forward to the release of Shadow Scale, the sequel to Seraphina, a beautifully written YA fantasy with really great dragons.

Because if I can’t have decent weather, I can at least have some decent dragons.

Books, Lately [January]

Welcome to Quick Lit! This is where I partake in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up and share short (sometimes) and sweet (cavities not included) reviews of what I’ve been reading lately.

So let’s talk about how I obsessively read ten books in 31 days, which is likely a new record for me.

(And then have only finished one book in the two weeks after).

Actually, “I obsessively read ten books” is just about all there is to say. It was sort of magical. And since it was only January, my “Am I reading enough?!” stress was mostly absent.

Which reminds me: I tried not to set a goal for this year, but when Goodreads won out (85 books for 2015, go!), I unofficially set another: to stop letting reading and reading goals be a stressful thing.

We’ll see if I manage.

WHEN SHE WOKE

Hillary Jordan

Back in July when I mentioned The Handmaid’s Tale (which I loved) in a post, When She Woke was recommended to me as a sort of mix between that and Scarlet Letter. Now, I honestly hated Scarlet Letter, but the comparison makes me wonder if I would like it better now that I’m not 13.

Jordan tells the story of a young woman who’s skin is colored bright red as punishment for having an abortion–and refusing to give up the father when caught. She’s now a Chrome, part of a system intended to ease the jail system in a sort of dystopian, future America by forcing convincts to ingest a virus that paints their skin and makes them walking billboards for their crimes. Reds are murderers. Her story weaves throuh a twistedly religious “home” of sorts for female Chromes, an attempt of her life by a religious cult/subsect who consider it their duty to murder women who have committed abortion, and her rescue and journey to freedom through an underground railroad of sorts constructed by a group of hidden pro-choicers.

Regardless of your pro-life or pro-choice stance, it’s a fascinating dystopian look into the cultural and societal issues of discrimination, adultery, rape, the right to privacy, and women’s rights.

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE
& DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT
& DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS
(also: NIGHT OF CAKE AND PUPPETS)

Laini Taylor

For  whatever reason, I had been expecting these to be frivolous, throwaway urban fantasy. It makes no sense: they were beloved by several book bloggers, so there’s no reason I shouldn’t have expected more. I definitely got more.

Given that this is three books, I’m not going to put myself through the agnony of trying to summarize it. Just this: fantastic so-called “monsters,” magic, other worlds, great characters, teeth, “angels,” and wishes.

And the best follow-up novella I have ever read.

STATION ELEVEN

Emily St. John Mandel

I read this for one reason: to read something recent. I’m not even certain I knew it was post-apocolyptic, or anything else about it, when I put it on library hold: just that it had come out in the past few months and was at the top of a few lists for the year. Those aren’t the best reasons to read something, so thank goodness it all worked out.

I almost surpised myself by how into it I was by the end, and now much I wanted it to continue, because it took me a little bit to get into. The author jumps around in time quite a bit, both before and after the epic virus that nearly wiped out humanity, but I didn’t have a problem following her.

THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS

John Connelly

I struggled to finish this one. I may even have only done so because I got this from paperbackswap and it seemed a shame to waste a spent credit. It seems to be quite a love it or hate it book for most people, so at least I’m not alone.

I didn’t care much for the protagnoist (spiteful little boys can be grating, even when the book keeps telling you they are actually quite clever and probably good at heart), and the book didn’t really give me stakes I cared about till near the end. That said, I did enjoy the last quarter or so, but I’m still suprised I got there.

THE HUSBAND’S SECRET

Liane Moriarty

I hesitantly expected this to be really good, coming from the author of What Alice Forgot and Big Little Lies, and while I’ve heard that her earlier work doesn’t live up to those two latest, The Husband’s Secret totally does. (And while looking for release dates, I just read that this was the first book that went big for Moriarty. I can see why.)

Secret follows three womens’—and their families’—lives as they intertwine around a decades-ago murder. I definitely see a resemblance in style and framing with Big Little Lies, but didn’t feel it detracted from the story at all.

Ok, so that’s only 7 books (and one Novella): but I swear I did read ten. Maybe I’ve decided that  less reviews is better. Or maybe I’m too embarrassed to review my first romance novel and not quite sure what even to say about the brilliant, dark, squirm-in-your-seat graphic novel from Neil Gaiman. Or I’m lazy. The first one definitely sounds more legitimate, so we’ll go with that!

Happy reading!

5 things saving me this winter

For the first 18 winters of my life, “winter” was the few weeks my family spent in the Chicago suburbs every year. During of the rest of December through February, “cold” was 60° and “bitter cold” was maybe 45°.

Even in college, despite the months of horribleness, I was able to escape to Florida for the brilliant 4 weeks of winter break.

So these past two years of permanently living up north? Big, heaping doses of “meh.”

Lamp Title

 

I could list all of my dislikes about winter—the things that are “killing me”—but that would be a) depressing b) whiny and c) a wee bit boring. Unless, of course, you want me to rant about stuffy noses, vitamin D deficiencies, and too much sock laundry.

(If I wrote it, at least. I’ve seen this post well done elsewhere, but we all hear enough of me complaining in real life already)

Instead, here’s a few things that are “saving” me this winter, idea kudos to Modern Mrs. Darcy and her linkup.

Tree

 

An extra month of Christmas lights
If you want to make fun of me, just do it when I’m not listening: my little Christmas tree is still up. I am planning to take it down this week, but being able to switch on the lights now and again has kept my little studio from feeling too dreary on some darker afternoons in January. (Plus, it’s a small tree on a side table. Since it’s never in the way, I have such little motivation to make it go!)

Knitting
I started knitting again in the last few months, and it’s been perfect. There’s something extra relaxing about a hobby that doesn’t require much prep to begin a new project—and none at all to pick up a one of my many works-in-progress. It’s occasionally stressful when a gift has a deadline, but for the most part it’s just good to be creating.

Ducks

 

Walking the last stop or two
This one is a new habit, or at least a potential habit that I have as a goal for this month. I’ve resigned myself to getting off the bus one or two stops early every single day. Earlier in January, I realized that I was getting little to no daylight, and very little exercise either. A few extra blocks every day is a little thing that helps. I’ve even brought out my camera to take shots of the park nearby, and getting me to use my DSLR is killing a second bird with that same stone. (But no geese were killed, I promise.)

Evernote
“I need to be cooking more.” This has been a constant refrain for the past few months, and last month I finally found a system that works for me: meal planning on Evernote. I can keep notes with meals plans and move clipped web recipes around when I want them, as well as having categorized notebooks of recipes I want to try. Being able to do this on my phone is a plus, as I can spend my bus ride home Monday, or any day, planning out a week of meals (“soup” and “frozen things from TJs” count!). Cooking more is one of my initial steps in a long-term plan to being healthier overall, and Evernote is helping a lot.

Skates

 

Remembering to enjoy it once in awhile
Ice skating, going for walks when it’s decent out, enjoying having a variety of scarves, wearing cute boots—occasionally winter doesn’t totally suck (especially this year, since we aren’t getting Chiberia 2.0 after all), and it helps to remember that and take advantage of it.

What’s saving your life—or just saving your winter?