Top Ten Tuesday: Back to School Freebie

Hey guys!  So this week’s topic is kind of open ended.  We get to pick any topic that relates to school in some way.  I decided to tiptoe my way down memory lane and give you a list of books that I loved in middle/high school.  Now, we’re talking books that came out 6-10 years ago, so feel free to laugh or reminisce along with me.  #nostagliahigh  #vampsarecoolagain

toptentuesdayTop Ten Favorite Books I Read In School

1. Mister Monday by Garth Nix

I remember buying this book at like, Walmart and then coming home and devouring it.  I loved the fantasy world it created and how it was based on the story of King Arthur.  (It’s not even subtle about it, either.  The main character is named Arthur Penhaligon.)  It was inventive and fun, which I definitely loved.

2. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Ok seriously, who doesn’t love this book?  I read this in 7th grade and became obsessed with it, to the point where I was trying to determine which of my friends fit the different characters.  I have always loved historical fictions anyway, but throw in some magic and Greek mythology?  Goner.  Love at first sight.

3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The funny thing about this book is that I don’t even remember the first time I read it, probably because I’ve read it three more times after that.  But it’s such a beautiful story.  Liesl is a darling and I will never not cry at the ending.

4. The Fallen by Thomas E. Sniegoski

This story introduced me to the cool world of angels and nephilim when I was in high school.  It was awesome.  Tack on the fact that they made a movie of it around the same time I found the book and I was sold.  Ever since this book, I’ve loved finding books about angels, this fight between good and evil that takes on a moral/religious subtext.  It’s a strange category of story, but I’m so taken with this series.

5. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

What a weird story this one was!  A narrator that doesn’t have a name and a massive search to uncover secrets about her mother.  I don’t want to say too much about it if you haven’t read it because the twists are worth it, but it didn’t go the way I thought it would at all.  It gets weird.  And we know how I love weird.  Now imagine me trying to explain this book to my sophomore English teacher.  I still don’t know how I pulled that off.

6. Witch Child by Celia Rees

Another book about history and magic!  In high school, I was kind of obsessed with the Salem Witch Trials.  While this isn’t a Salem story, it does have many similarities.  A witch hunt, an innocent girl, those kinds of things.  I adored this story and I devoured its sequel with equal gusto.

7. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding

This was probably my first foray into the horror genre, and boy was it interesting!  Also semi-historical, it dealt with demons and possession.  I probably read this at least twice in high school because it was so good.  But weird.  Definitely weird.

8. The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Thought I was going to include a different Stephenie Meyer book, didn’t you?  Sure, I enjoyed Twilight, but I loved The Host.  The love triangle between Wanderer, Jared, and Ian was so much better than the one between Bella, Edward, and Jacob.  This book elicited so many different emotions from me.  I absolutely love rereading the parts where Wanderer first stumbles into their camp and is basically quarantined.  I get super into those feelings of loneliness and fear…which it now occurs to me sounds really weird when I type that out.  It’s relatable is all I’m saying.  You go somewhere new and you don’t know how people will react.  Ok, moving on.

9. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Favorite vamp series.  Bar none.  Seriously, how can you not love Rose’s sass and Dimitri’s duster and love of Westerns?  I’m swooning again.

10. Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantasky

I almost feel like this is a weird inclusion on this list, but I loved this book.  I still have it on my shelf because I can’t part with the good memories from it.  Jessica is feisty and she wants nothing to do with the vamp who ends up on her doorstep, telling her she’s a vampire princess.  It’s funny and sharp with many moments that made me hold my breath to see what would happen next.

What I Discovered About My Personality Type

Hey guys!  I thought I’d share a little self-discovery with you all, especially since I think there are probably more than a few of you in the same situation as me.  🙂

Throughout my life, I have dealt with a lot of things about me that set me apart from my classmates or made me feel super insecure about myself.  Let me give you some examples.  In 4th grade, I was inconsolable in school when I got my first F on an assignment (Perfectionism).  In middle school, I’d cry if a teacher miscounted papers for a row and I was left out (High sensitivity).  Even up to my current job, I’ve been told that I’m quiet and occasionally asked why I don’t speak up more (Introversion).  I knew I was different.  I knew that no one knew how to handle me when I broke out into tears over something seemingly normal.  I ended up telling myself a lot of crap in order to train myself out of some of it.  (“Don’t cry, you’ll look like an idiot.”  “Ok, so you got a B- on that assignment.  When it’s all factored together, it won’t matter more than maybe a percentage point or two.”  “Say something…NOW…nope, you missed your opening.  Great going.  Now they’re going to think you’re an idiot.”)

It royally sucked.  I really struggled throughout school to stop telling myself these stupid little things.  Eventually, I outgrew crying at the drop of a hat, but now whenever I feel like I want to cry, I have to tell myself that it’s ok to let it out.  I’m not as harsh of a perfectionist anymore, but I still completely freak if I’m just average/below average at something.  And I still can’t always get up the nerve to talk in meetings, even if there are only six of us in the room.

I’m 25 years old.  I thought that by now, I’d more or less figured myself out.  I hadn’t.

Over the summer, my friend posted on Facebook the results of her Myers-Briggs Personality test.  I’d done that test before, but I couldn’t remember what my results were.  So I thought I’d try it again.

My result?  INFJ or “The Advocate” 

xinfjwordle-pagespeed-ic-rjlkuqm0ma(Factoid: apparently this is the same personality type as Remus Lupin.  I knew he was one of my favorites for a reason.  I just thought it was the chocolate.)

And it was scary accurate.  I always knew I was introverted (hello, I never went anywhere without a book and couldn’t speak up in a crowd), but some of the other things surprised me.  But what really freaked me out were some of the descriptions used to describe those with INFJ personalities were the exact same words I’d used to describe myself.  (“introverted extrovert” and  “emotional sponge”)

I discovered a lot about myself.  I learned that INFJ’s are the rarest personality type in the world and that they are a walking contradiction.  They are usually feelers, but can completely shut off those feelings and be thinkers.  They are usually introverted but can be extroverted when the mood strikes.  They like to help people but also need that time alone to recharge.  (I was having serious test anxiety when I started changing my answers halfway through the test, but apparently I played right into my type!)

1b6bc8b06ea7deccb94c9ac9598243a7But most of all, I learned that I wasn’t alone.  There were other people in the world who were also struggling with perfectionism, high sensitivity, and introversion all rolled into one.  I learned I wasn’t alone when it came to struggling to find a relationship that worked for me.  (INFJs can’t do casual relationships and we judge very quickly whether or not we think you’re “the one”.)  I learned I wasn’t the only person who absorbed emotions like a sponge from the people around me and retreated far far away from any conflict.

My newfound acceptance of myself has also been helped a lot by a new guy who has roared into my life.  His personality type, INTP (yes, I made him take the test as well and he had a similar revelation about himself) works really well with mine.  He’s practically a borderline introvert/extrovert, so he understands why I need my own time and why I’m sometimes quiet, but he also helps draw me out of my shell.  He’s creative, like I am, and likes to help others, like me.  He’s enthusiastic, which also helps draw emotions out of me when I’d rather stay bottled up.  Even his weaknesses, like the fact that he constantly second guesses himself, plays well into my strengths of wanting to help people.  It’s just really funny that we figured this all out so early on because we understand each other on a deeper level, especially when we send each other links saying, “This is so me!”

Something else that’s helped me is this website called Introvert, Dear.  In addition to having articles written by introverts for introverts, it also breaks down personality types, high sensitivity, and anxiety.  It’s a phenomenal website that has made me feel so much less alone and given me a greater appreciation for me being myself.  Like now, I have great comebacks when someone asks why I’m so quiet.  And I don’t feel as bad asking for space when I need it.

infjherculessyndromeTruly, if you haven’t found your personality type yet, I think you should try it.  It’s been a process, but you don’t understand how much better you’ll feel until you suddenly realize that out there are people going through exactly what you’re experiencing.  If the results from one test don’t seem to fit you (like my boyfriend’s first test), take a different one.  Take 3 or 4.  There are tons of free ones on the internet.  Find out who you are and embrace it.  It may not be the results you thought you were going to get, but that’s ok.  Have some fun with it!  Sure, maybe not every single bullet point sounds like you, but as long as the majority is you, it’s working.

The Rose & the Dagger (The Wrath & the Dawn, #2)

the-rose-and-the-dagger-the-wrath-and-the-dawn-2-renee-ahdiehFirst Lines: The girl was eleven and three-quarters.  Three very important quarters.  They’d been of consequence when her father had left her in charge this morning, with an important task to accomplish.

I grabbed this at the library some time ago, meaning to finish off this duology and cross another series off my list.  Only it languished on my shelf for most of the summer.  I hate having to renew books, so when this came up for renewal again, I decided I needed to read it and be done.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

There once was a time Shahrzad thought that the Caliph of Khorasan was a monster and a killer.  But now, ripped from her husband’s arms after a brutal storm and a curse that threatens to keep them separated, Shahrzad can’t help but miss the man she now knows Khalid to be.  Reunited with her family, Shazi is far from safe.  Deep in the desert lie enemies, waiting for the right moment to strike the battered Caliph where it hurts the most.  Shazi finds herself trapped between loyalty to her family and friends from before she married and her husband.  Using the magic inside of her, Shazi sets off the break the curse…but she have to dodge enemies of her own making along the way.

I’m just going to come right out and say that my review of this book is tainted by the fact that I really don’t remember much of the first book, apparently.  As I started reading this book, I realized how little I remembered of the plot and characters.  It made it dreadfully hard for me to sink into the story and enjoy it.  So read my review with a grain of salt.

Things that I loved: the strength of the female cast.  And we’re not just talking about Shazi here, though she’s definitely a fiery one.  All of the females, even the quiet ones, had a moment to show either their physical, mental, or emotional strength in one form or another.  I adored that.  I’m all for giving girls awesome role models like this.  What was super awesome was that even the girls who consider themselves “mousy” in this story still found ways to stand up for themselves.  And I truly think that girls need to see that as a strength.  The older I get, the more I find that quiet strength inside of me.

This story is totally a tangled web of intricacies, which was fun to try to untangle.  Loyalties are constantly being called into question, relationships aren’t as clear as you think, and events constantly overlap unexpectedly.  It was fun to read because there was always something to pay attention to.

I did think the plot was interesting, but I found myself also getting bored at times because I couldn’t remember the first book very well.  Like, I enjoyed what Shazi was trying to do.  But then the narrator would shift to a minor character, like Irsa who I didn’t remember in the slightest and then I just couldn’t get into the story as much.  It wasn’t until closer to the end when the action picked up that I finally started getting back into the action.  And, of course by then I knew who the characters were again.

I guess I was expecting a lot out of this book too, given how good I remember the first book being.  Not that this one was bad, but I wanted it to be this epic romantic saga and it…wasn’t.  Parts are pretty awesome, maybe close to being epic, but it was never able to sustain that power.  And I didn’t feel like the romance was really there either, except for a few cute moments in the story.  Again, far from the romantic story I was expecting.

I know I’m probably in the minority here, but I just couldn’t get into this book.  It had many redeeming qualities, so it wasn’t a waste of time, but I wasn’t thrilled by it either.

The Female of the Species

the-female-of-the-species-mindy-mcginnisFirst Lines: This is how I kill someone.  I learn his habits, I know his schedule.  It is not difficult.  His life consists of quick stops to the dollar store for the bare minimum of things required to keep this ragged cycle going, his hat pulled down over his eyes so as not to be recognized.

I received this ARC a little while ago (official release date is September 20, 2016).  I wanted to catch up on my ARCs because hey, it’s kind of fun to read books before everyone else (sorry about your luck).  This one grabbed my attention, so I thought I’d start with it.

Three years ago, Alex’s sister Anna was murdered and the killer set free.  That’s when Alex learned what it takes to kill someone.  But because she knows she’s dangerous, Alex keeps herself separate from other people.  She lives in the shadows, forgotten.  Until Jack Fisher, the boy everyone wants to be.  Jock, valedictorian, and shoe-in for Prom King.  Jack hasn’t gotten over his guilt from the night Anna was found in the woods, but he finds himself drawn to Alex’s strange demeanor.  So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid.  When Alex and Peekay start working together at the local animal shelter, Peekay sees something in Alex that she’s sure no one else does.  But this newfound friendship between Jack, Alex, and Peekay is threatened after a night of partying in their tiny town.  Can their friendship survive the darkness in their town and in Alex?

Y’all, I love a good dark story (hello, Poe), but this is almost unsettlingly dark.  Big game dark.  We’re talking drugs, sex, murder, and violence of other kinds.  I wasn’t expecting that.  Anyone who’s pretty sensitive to this kind of stuff should probably steer clear.  I’m totally not one for censorship, but this is probably inappropriate for younger readers.  Like, if you thought this would be awesome for your little sister/cousin/friend whatever, maaaybe you want to read it first yourself.  That’s all I’m saying.

These characters are different, but in a good way.  I can’t help but compare Alex to Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory because she’s usually pretty well-meaning but she completely misses social cues.  She’s lived in this bubble for three years and now that she’s emerged, she’s lost. But it’s also kind of adorable.  Jack is a small town hero who feels trapped by the county lines.  I thought that approach felt realistic and it helped to explain how Jack could be jerkish and admirable at the same time.  It was Peekay, though, who really won me over.  This preacher’s kid hides her heart of gold under a fine finish of sass and sarcasm.  It was glorious.

I was really surprised by a lot of chances the story took, and the direction it went in.  The darkness was for sure a surprise, but even some of the other plot events just shocked me.  I definitely didn’t see the ending coming.

I had a slight issue with the narration.  It rotates between Jack, Alex, and Peekay, which I understood.  These three are from vastly different social groups and they all had personalities that made them notice different things even when they were all in the same place at the same time.  So I understood that. But the chapters are super short, so the narration is constantly changing.  For a casual reader who maybe only reads a few chapters at a time, I can see where this book would get confusing.

Overall, I found it to be a scary–and a scary depressing–look at small town teenage life while maintaining a great cast of characters.

Top Ten Tuesday: The Long Forgotten Books

Hey everyone!  It’s Tuesday, which means we are another day closer to FRIDAY!  (Ok…not really, but it feels more optimistic!)  So here we’ve got a super interesting Top Ten Tuesday with a super long title.  Like one we had a few weeks ago, let me know if there’s anything on this list I need to read ASAP!

toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday: Ten Books That Have Been on My To-Read Shelf Since Before I Started Blogging

(I started blogging in 2011, so these are going to be old ones.)

1. Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

I love fairytales, so this should be a given.  Yet I have probably 10 of them still sitting on my list.  But this has been there since 2008, so it kind of holds the record.

2. Forever… by Judy Blume

I feel like I really need to read some class Judy Blume because of how she helped pioneer YA lit.  And Forever… was, I think, one of the first books to truly deal with teens getting intimate.  It revolutionized the genre, and I just want to read it for that reason.

3. Kiss Me Kill Me by Lauren Henderson

This book has always caught my attention.  I mean, what are you supposed to do when your boyfriend just keels over dead when you’re kissing him?

4. The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz

Been on my list for so long.  I love stories about music, so I figured I’d give this a shot.  I decided that back in 2009.  Clearly, I’m on it.

5. By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

Part of the reason I never got around to reading this was because I never really wanted to check this out from the library.  I didn’t want librarians to start getting concerned about me.  But now that half the library is digital, I suppose that’s not really a concern anymore.

6. Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

One of my friends from college has been pushing me to read this series, though she hated the way one of the later books ended.  That’s made me a bit leery about starting this series.

7. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

Oh my gosh, it’s been so long since I’ve read The Maze Runner that I really don’t remember it.  Which is why I keep putting this off.  Nothing worse that reading a sequel and not remembering the first book. (Just saying, I read The Maze Runner before it was cool.  The Scorch Trials has been on my to-read list since 2009.)

8. Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender

Again, another book that keeps cropping up and catching my attention.  But I’ve never gotten around to starting it.

9. Eve by Anna Carey

For some reason, I feel like one of my early Spotlight Fridays was about this book.  And it totally could be, since this book has been on my list since 2010.

10. Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter

I’ve had students who have read and loved this series and I still haven’t started it.  Sigh.  I almost don’t like it when my students have read books that I haven’t, even though that doesn’t make any sense at all.

Uppercase Has Arrived!

AAHHH!  It’s that time again when I get my Uppercase Box!  I thought I’d share this with you guys because I AM STOKED!

Screenshot 2016-08-18 19.52.57

So awesome, right?  First of all, picking a Kasie West book is perhaps the MOST BRILLIANT DECISION EVER.  I’ve been looking forward to this book, but I hadn’t had the chance to go out and find it at the library.  Only now I own it!  And did I mention IT’S SIGNED?!  *faints*

The other things are also exciting.  The bookmark on the left is another of those where as you read you can enter in different codes to access extra material from the author, which is sweet.  The pink page is simply a quote book plate thing, but I like the saying and I think it would be awesome if I could find a frame or something to put it in.  On the right is a new stationary pad with books and tea and other things on it.  On top of the notepad, I put the necklace I got, which I think is my favorite thing right now.  It says “Once Upon a Time” on it and, given my obsession with fairy tales, this is perfection.

Have I mentioned yet how pleased I am with Uppercase?  There may not be much in it, but I know that I’m going to be using all these things that I get.  How could I not?

The Passion of Dolssa

the-passion-of-dolssaFirst Lines: I must write this account, and when I have finished, I will burn it.

This book caught my eye for a couple of reasons.  First, I knew of Julie Berry.  I have one of her books, The Amaranth Enchantment, on my bookshelf at home.  As a cute take on a fairy tale-esque world, I’ve read it a few times and enjoyed it.  But this book looked vastly different from that, as a historical fiction charged with potential heresy, the equivalent of a witch hunt, and the dark side of religion.  I was intrigued.

Dolssa, a young gentlewoman with mystical abilities to communicate with Jesus, is being hunted.  On the run from a friar obsessed with burning her for heresy, Dolssa must stay one step ahead of him.  When Dolssa meets Botille, a wily matchmaker in a small seaside town, she’s found the ally she’d been looking for.  In 1241, these lands are struggling to recover from a bloody Crusade that destroyed most of Provensa (what we now call Province, France).  Hiding from the Catholic church will not be easy.  Can the girls put themselves at the mercy of a town that could betray them in an instant?

I thought the setting and subject matter for this story was incredibly unique and interesting.  I haven’t read much from the Middle Ages, especially in France (or Provensa, if we’re being technical), but I have dipped into the *lovely* record the Catholic church had around this time.  (To be fair, societal rules from 800 years ago are vastly different from our societal rules now.  But it’s still really hard to imagine a church being this ruthless.)  Also it was just fascinating to read about how a girl who claimed to talk to Jesus was treated.

I liked the cast of characters.  Botille is primarily our narrator for most of the story, and she’s a great mix of strong independence and the humility required of women at the time.  I liked that she was fierce while still realistically fitting into her time period.  Dolssa had more of this kind of humble strength that hovered just below most people’s radar.  Truly, what I liked about these girls was that they were clearly very strong without being physically strong, like most of the butt-kickers we admire.  They were clever and a bit sneaky, but that’s what they needed to be to survive.

As I kind of alluded to above, we do get to see the dark side of Christianity in this book.  This isn’t the church you see on Sundays.  This is more “grab your torch and pitchfork” when it comes to evil.  Souls who haven’t committed a terrible sin like heresy can be redeemed, but others are lost forever.  It was hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that Dolssa, who is performing miracles on command, is being hunted for conspiring with the devil.  But that’s just how it was back then.  And it was truly frightening to see the impact of the church on people back then.  There’s an awesome and extensive author’s note at the end of this book that shows some of this in more detail.

I also thought the action kept the story interesting.  The pace moved well and never really got slowed down by anything.

The only real qualm I had with the story was that there were a lot of characters and by the end of the book, there were a few I had given up on remembering who they were.  I liked the characters, don’t get me wrong, but it was a lot to keep straight, especially when I can’t remember the names of all my students yet.  Oh, and they speak a language called Occetian or something similar to that which basically looks like most other Latin-based languages.  Mostly a cross between Spanish/Italian and French.  And while that was cool to see that language, the words weren’t always fully explained for what they meant.  Still, after a few times seeing the word, I usually figured it out.

Overall, I thought it was a fascinating story that managed to be both hopeful and horrifying.  Which is a weird combo, but it worked.