IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!

LET’S PARTY!!

And by “party”, of course I mean “awkwardly avoid eye contact with everyone and wonder how long until it’s socially acceptable to find a quiet corner and read my book.”

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(When I wrote this post days ago, I legitimately thought I was joking about the party thing.  Who has a party at 27??  But my grandmother–who no one ever says no to–was looking for an excuse to get the family together…and I got a party.  And I’m pretty sure I looked like this above.)

I am now officially 27 years old and y’all, I’m going to tell you, the older you get the more you truly do forget your age.  At 14, 15, whatever, I was laughing at these people who forgot their age.   But for at least the last two months, I’ve already been thinking I’m 27 and then have to backpedal and tell myself that I’m still 26.  It’s the weirdest thing.

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Ok, I don’t actually believe that I’m “old” considering I’m in my 20s and spend most of my days at school laughing at my own jokes and my nights reading YA and watching animated movies, but like, there are differences.  I feel like I’m growing more into myself.  I know what I like and what I don’t; if someone doesn’t agree with that, then that’s their business.  I don’t find myself wanting to change because of what someone else thinks.  Not to mention I’m stubborn as sin myself, so them telling me to change really backfires.

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So what am I going to be doing today?  Probably melting.  It’s supposed to be ridiculously hot today with humidity through the roof.  (For those of you who don’t live in the Midwest, humidity is a villain.  It’s oppressive and makes it hard to breathe to the point where we legitimately have Air Quality Warnings on hot days.  You don’t mess with hot humid days.)

And like, I melt in the heat anyway.  Heat and I are no simpatico.

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Have a great day, you guys!  😀

Weekly Obsessions #4

And we’re back for another installment of Crap I Can’t Get Out of My Head.  Are you ready for this one?  It shouldn’t actually be that bad, to be honest.

Movies My Netflix DOESN’T Recommend To Me

I’m actually pretty tired of my Netflix account telling me what it thinks I want to watch, especially when half of it is Netflix original crap that I honestly have no interest in watching.  I mean, yes, I tend to watch historical TV dramas and romantic comedies, but even then, they don’t always show me the stuff I’d actually want to watch.

Image result for atlantis movieSo here’s what I do: I go to the “search” button and type in a random letter or two and see what comes up.  You know what I found that way?  Alice Through the Looking Glass and Disney’s Atlantis.  Like, WTF, Netflix?  Those are both completely up my alley but you won’t recommend them to me?  Losers.

I’m very emotionally charged when it comes to what I want to watch each night.  I could’ve had a million things on my to-watch list but if none of them hits the right chord with me, I won’t do it.  I’ll spend twenty minutes looking for something else.  So this search feature thing shows me movies I didn’t even know were on Netflix and that is definitely worth knowing.

Knitting

I don’t know if I’ve really said much about this before, but I knit.  When people first hear me say this, they usually start making jokes about how I’m grandmotherly and all that, but I’m fidgety and it gives me something to do with my hands.  I’ve worked my way up from scarves and cowls to my newest challenge: sweaters.

HalloweenNow, I’ve made sweaters before, including this Halloween costume of mine from last year as Hermione Granger.  (I made the scarf too.)  But that sweater was a learning experience and like 1000 degrees too hot for anything but sleeping in the woods on a winter’s night without a blanket.  And I’ve learned.  So now I’m making prettier, more wearable sweaters.

Right now I’m making this sweater from DROPS designs.  Mine’s a dark purple, though, which I like a lot.  But I really love that it’s almost done and then I can start working on something new!  (Most of the time I knit while I’m watching TV so I feel like I’m being productive when I’m actually not.  Two birds, one stone.)

But yeah.  If you’re interested in knitting, do it.  Learn it.  It’s not just something old ladies do and there are so many gorgeous patterns for things you will never find sold in stores.

Being Outside

This is kind of a double-edged sword because, let’s be honest, my skin tone is Edward Cullen.  I am the peach crayon and that will never ever change.  Because if I am not Peach, my skin on sun becomes Scarlet.

So by “outside” I really mean in the shade.  With a book.  Enjoying the fresh air that I need to take allergy medicine to be in.

But hey, summer only comes around once a year.

Still, it’s a different world being outside.  I was reading outside recently and discovered that a whole family of birds had moved into a hanging basket.  I watched them constantly bring food back to their baby.  I watched the mama come out of the next with a bit of paper towel in her beak and drop it as she flew off.  It was just kind of awesome.

And I was in the shade the whole time, but I did stick my feet in the sun for approximately 20-30 minutes.  They felt like I’d stuck them in the oven.

But what’s summer without a little outdoor reading, right?  Maybe next time I’ll take a towel and a bucket of sunscreen and go read in the sun.  That’ll be a novelty.

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Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016 movie)

Image result for alice through the looking glassThis spring, it’s time for a little madness.

So, while I knit, I like to just turn on movies and pass the time that way.  This movie was one I noticed on Netflix a while ago but didn’t want to watch at the time.  And for some reason, this just got stuck in my head.  This time, I wanted to see it.

For the past few years, Alice has been captaining her own ship and exploring the world.  But upon returning home, she sees how much things have changed–and she learns that Hatter is dreadfully ill.  Determined to help her friend, she returns to Underland to save Hatter and to defeat the Red Queen and her companion, Time.  But this is easier said than done.

This movie brings back the entire star-studded cast from the first movie, though this time it’s not directed by the delightfully weird Tim Burton (who is instead a producer).  But we have the return of the talented Helena Bonham Carter (Red Queen), Johnny Depp (Mad Hatter), Anne Hathaway (White Queen), and Mia Wasikowska (Alice).  This was also the last role of the incomparable Alan Rickman (Absalom).  Bless that man.

We’re also introduced to a new character, Time, played convincingly by Sasha Baron Cohen.  He, like Depp, has a way of disappearing into his characters until they are indistinguishable.

There’s also a very small role in this by Andrew Scott, who is most well-known for his role as Moriarty in the BBC Sherlock series.  I legitimately gasped out loud when I saw him.  I may have even screamed a little, I’m not sure.

And with a cast as talented as them, the acting is certainly not an issue.  I felt that most everyone did a lovely job.  I was especially taken with Alice and the White Queen, but I will always always have a soft spot in my heart for the Hatter.  There is just something about that character, no matter what incarnation his comes in.

Image result for alice through the looking glassThe costuming and scenery were all I could have ever hoped for.  Everything looked beautiful in its own insane way.  Underland is, as always, a wonder.  Everything seemed like it was tailored to fit the characters.  For example, this outfit Alice wears is perfect for her.  It fits her time period with the ruffles and the buttons, but it’s also distinctly Alice.  She’s wearing pants rather than a skirt.  (Yes, those are pants, but I think they are meant to give the illusion of a skirt at first glance.)  The pink is far too bright to have fit in with the time period.  (We’re talking normally more pastel colors and fuchsia is distinctly not pastel.)  It’s these kind of quirky twists on the ordinary that are so appealing.

However, I didn’t think the story was the greatest.  I thought the themes were fine.  Family, forgiveness, being true to yourself.  All of those are fantastic things, especially in a “children’s” movie.  (Technically, I think this is a children’s movie, but…it’s Alice.)

Anyway, the plot just seemed odd.  And not Underland odd.  The Hatter is convinced his family is alive whereas everyone else knows they are dead.  So Alice needs to go back in time to rescue them.  The reasonings behind everything she does and the outcome of it all just sort of fell flat.  It wasn’t as interesting as I was hoping it would be.

But that doesn’t mean the entire story is bad and this movie is a wash.  It’s still incredibly funny.  There are brilliant time puns, given that one character is named Time.  But my favorite joke is this one where Alice says she’s been traveling the world and a society girl asks her how it was.  Alice just stares at her and goes something like, “The world?  It was nice.  You should visit it sometime.”  I love that kind of biting, backhanded humor.  And this movie is full of it.  It’s clever humor.

It was a fun movie to have on while I was knitting, but overall?  It probably wasn’t as good as I was hoping for.

Refuge for Masterminds (Stranje House, #3)

Image result for refuge for mastermindsFirst Lines: The oil lamp flickers and hisses.  It is late, very late.  The oil will run out soon.  Even though it is long past midnight, I continue working at my desk in the library, listing possibilities, drawing lines from one hypothesis to another, scratching out those lines and mapping new ones, trying to calculate which of the many options our enemy will take next.

After finishing the 2nd book in this series, I pretty much went right back out and found the 3rd.  I really wanted to find out what happened next.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Napoleon’s invasion of England has begun, and Jane Moore knows this is disastrous.  On top of that, someone at the Stranje House is betraying them to Napoleon–and Jane is determined to find out who is the traitor.  If anyone can do it, it’s Jane, the resident mastermind.  Only, Jane doesn’t think of herself as a mastermind.  She grasps problems quickly and sees possible outcomes–like a giant game of chess.  But can Jane rely on her wits to save England, save her friends, and save the dashing Alexander Sinclair?

This one didn’t have the same magic for me. There are a lot of charming pieces to this series, but I didn’t think they worked as well in this one.

Here’s why. First of all, the witty banter keeps me engaged. In the previous book, there were multiple characters engaging in verbal sparring. This time around, it wasn’t as present. The characters as a whole felt like they weren’t really interested in playing coy, even though that’s pretty much what society of the time demanded. I was a little bit disappointed this wasn’t as funny.

I will say that Jane’s secret was pretty good and was good enough to pull a lot of the story along, but the suspense/danger in this story felt muted. It never really felt suspenseful, even when it was supposed to be. Ok, there were a few times it was ok, but the big moments where you knew things were bad? Yeah, not so much.

I also didn’t see the romance in this one as much as I did in the previous books. Maybe it’s because this one sort of started in the previous book, but this book was fairly dull on that front.

It’s not that it’s a bad story. It’s not. It’s definitely interesting and I still have a soft spot for these characters, but I kind of expected more out of this book.

Top Ten Fictional Crushes

Hey guys!  For this Top Ten, I decided to have a little bit of fun with it.  So I was thinking about my dream guy the other day (because my love life is about as hopeless as actually reading all of the books on my to-read list) and I started thinking about how perfect Gomez Addams from The Addams Family is.  Seriously.  He’s passionate, a great father, caring, and totally supportive of his family.  And that got me thinking of who would be my fictional crushes from books.  Not just because they’re supposed to be cute or popular in pop culture.

Buckle up, sweethearts, because I’m about to make you think differently about who is swoon-worthy.

(P.S. I have actually done this post before, in 2011.  It’s been 7 years and literally hundreds of books later, let’s see how my tastes have changed.)

Top Ten Fictional Crushes

(In descending order)

10. Balthazaar, Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

I hesitate to say too much about Balthazaar because he’s not introduced until the last book in the series, but I will say this: he’s by far my favorite love interest in this series.  He appears at first like a dangerous man, but he’s actually sweet and fiercely protective of those he cares about.  And he’s incredibly gentle and kind.  I just…yeah, swoon.  Ok, now I want to reread his book for like the 12th time.  I’m not kidding.

9. Will, Angelfire by Courtney Moulton

If Balthazaar is a dark bad boy, then Will is kind of his opposite, seeing as Will is basically an angel.  Literally.  But he also has that fierce quality, seeing as he’s a warrior.  And he’s smart, which I like.  I always picture him as being something like a big bear that just growls whenever something/someone threatens his girl.  It’s a weird visual, I admit, but that’s the impression I get.  And while I object in real life to men doing that, it’s cute in books where there are actual monsters trying to kill you.

8. Cole, Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

Apparently I have a soft spot for bad boys.  Cole is pretty much the ultimate bad boy persona.  Tattoos, leather jacket, dangerous law-breaking attitude.  But he’s doing it all for a good reason: he’s trying to protect people from zombies that normal people don’t know exist.  He’s literally the most unlike any guy I would actually date, but that I still find cute.  Because with Ali, he’s not dangerous at all.  Unless you count stealing her heart.  (Ohh, see what I did there?)

7. Ian, The Host by Stephenie Meyer

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Oh, for a tortured soul

I’m going to bet for a lot of people, Ian would be on their list.  Throughout the story, Ian becomes more sweet and curious and protective of Wanda.  But he’s also self-sacrificing because he’s willing to do whatever’s best for her, even if it hurts him.  He’s charming, by and large.  And he’s got a quieter side than a lot of these boys have.  Of all of them on this list, Ian is probably the one I would actually date in real life.  There’s the least amount of danger in his life.

Holy crap, I literally *just* realized that of all of the guys on this list, not a single one of them comes from a contemporary romance book.  Everything has elements of fantasy or sci-fi.  Um…whoops??

6. Tod, the Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent

And we’re back to my dark side!  Tod is a reaper, so there’s that, but he’s way more than that.  It doesn’t matter who it is, if he loves them, he’s going to try to protect them.  And I really like that quality about him, that he will make life-and-death decisions to protect his family and friends, even if it makes him bitter.  But Tod’s also clever and incredibly sarcastic, which I also like.  It’s been a long time since I’ve read this series, but I still keep a soft spot for his hopeful darkness.

5. Rhys, A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Of all of Maas’s characters, everyone from Dorian to Chaol to Tamlin, Rhys wins my heart by a mile.  Now, he didn’t at first, but once I was won over, oh boy, I fell hard.  Rhys has a dark past that he works to overcome, and he keeps a lot of secrets that he shouldn’t, but  you never doubt his feelings.  He’s insanely clever, protective, ferocious (and sometimes scary-good at being bad), but he’s also gentle and caring and loyal.  I just…ugh, now I want to reread his book too!  Maybe doing this list was a bad idea because I’ve just tripled my reading list.

4. Adrian, the Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead

Oh, Adrian.  He is one of the most flawed boys on this list, but I can’t help but love him.  He’s sarcastic and flirty, bipolar (I think, it’s been a while since I’ve read the books), impulsive, and dark.  But with the right people around him, he’s devoted and real.  He’s not the smartest (especially compared to Sydney), but he only tries to be the best him he can be.  But it’s that dichotomy between that flirty-fake side and his real side that gets me.  Because when someone suddenly drops that mask and you see behind it, it’s magical.

3. Dimitri, the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead

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Dimitri *hair flip* Belikov

I believe this is the only one on my list that was on my previous list 7 years ago.  You don’t understand–I have a serious soft spot for Dimitri Belikov.  Sweet Jesus, the boy is hot.  Russian, tight-lipped, an amazing fighter, and passionate, Dimitri is basically a young Chuck Norris with a Russian accent.  Which doesn’t sound hot, but it kind of is.  I started reading this series when I was in middle school or high school and I just cannot get it out of my head.

2. Henry, The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

This is the last you’ll see of my dark side on this list.  Henry is the equivalent of Hades, so we’re basically talking about the God of the Underworld here.  That’s not weird, right?  I’ve been fascinated with the story of Hades and Persephone since the 6th grade and this modernization of the myth is by far my favorite.  Henry, even though he’s a god, is uncertain, soft-spoken, careful, and closed-off.  He doesn’t know how to be open with Kate and he makes lots of mistakes.  I really loved that he wasn’t this arrogant, macho god.  It’s his insecurities that make him more real, and that’s what melts my heart.

1. Jamie Fraser, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

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So…when can I travel through the stones?

I wanted to keep this all YA, but I just couldn’t keep Jamie off the list.  (To be fair, my last list had True Blood on it, so it wasn’t all YA either.)  When you’re reading literally thousands of pages in a matter of weeks to read all 8 of these books in a single summer, yeah, I’d say you’re hooked.  And that’s exactly what I did.  I fell for Jamie from the very beginning, with his charm, self-sacrificing ways, open attitude, humor, and so much more.  Not to mention he wears a kilt, which was not a “thing” for me until Jamie rode into my life.  These books–and Jamie–plucked so hard at my heart strings that during one brutal chapter in the series, I was crying so hard that I literally could not keep reading.  I couldn’t see through my tears to read what happened next!  I cried more then than I have over actual real breakups in my life.

Um…that’s normal, right?

Did I leave anyone off of this list that I should have added?  Did I include any of your favorites?  Share comments down below!  I’m always looking for another swoon-worthy read!

Restore Me (Shatter Me, #4)

Image result for restore meFirst Lines: I don’t wake up screaming anymore.  I do not feel ill at the sight of blood.  I do not flinch before firing a gun.  I will never again apologize for surviving.

As I was walking around the library, I came across this.  Now, I know I’ve been out of the YA game for a little while (like an 9 month hiatus to read mostly nonfiction), but I was a little surprised to see it.  And more than that, excited to jump back into Juliette’s world.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Juliette Ferrars thought it was over.  She’d won Sector 45, was named Supreme Commander, and had the love of her life by her side.  She can still kill with the touch of her hand, but her control is strong.  But suddenly the ground is shifting underneath her.  Juliette thought ruling would be easy–but when the realities of the job and tragedies all strike at once, what is she going to do?

Like basically everyone, I assumed this series was over after 3 books.

I sort of wish I could go back in time.

I’ve always respected Juliette in this series. To have risen from her horrific beginning to become the strong, incredible leader she was was amazing. And her metaphorical, lyrical way of describing everything was nothing short of beautiful.  Like, I would get some of her quotes tattooed on my body beautiful.

So it’s really unfortunate that basically everything I loved about Juliette wasn’t present in this book. As the Supreme Commander of Sector 45, Juliette is now treated like an imbecile because she doesn’t know how to rule a country. And that completely disregards the fact that no one is telling her anything. They’re making her look stupid, so she feels weak and stupid rather than the brave, powerful girl she is. It was disheartening and difficult to read.  Not to mention her lyrical observations are also gone.  I don’t know if that’s a reflection of her sanity, her practicality as a ruler, or laziness on the author’s part.  But I missed it.

And as far as the other characters go, I feel like we saw remarkably little of any of them besides Warner, who was really the only one that I actually liked reading about in this book. Even Kenji, who is so hysterically funny when he wants to be, seemed muted.

The plot, to me, seemed fractured. If you asked me to summarize this story, I’m not sure I could. There’s so much going on that I wouldn’t even know where to begin. And the fact that none of them are really resolved only makes it worse. But it basically started to focus on one thing, then, because the story flips between Juliette and Warner narrating every like 10 pages, it jumps to whatever the other one is doing at that time. Like a broken mirror, the pieces of this story were everywhere and it was hard to keep track of all of the parts.

It just seemed forced. So much of this story was, “Oh, you’ve never heard of this? Yeah, it’s been around forever.” Which, in a way, was understandable given Juliette’s background. However, it seemed so fake.  No one treated her–the Supreme Commander–like she was worth respecting.

What I will say for this book is that, as always, the suspense is there. Even when I didn’t want to keep reading, I was still thinking about where the story would go. And that ending…let it never be said that Tahereh Mafi doesn’t know how to end a book on a cliffhanger.

But all in all, I kind of wish I’d just let Juliette’s story end before this.

Exile for Dreamers (Stranje House, #2)

Image result for exile for dreamersFirst Lines: I run to escape my dreams.  Dreams are my curse.  Every night they haunt me, every morning I outrun them, and every evening they catch me again.  One day they will devour my soul.  But not today.

It’s been a while since I had read the first book in this series, A School for Unusual Girls, but this was a book I’d bought for cheap to put in my classroom library and I really needed to be making a dent in reading those.  So even though I wasn’t sold on the series, I was going to read this.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

It’s 1814 and Napoleon has escaped exile on Elba.  Britain is at war on multiple fronts, and at the Stranje House, young ladies are being trained as spies.  Tess is one of these girls, though she’s admittedly more strange than her friends at this unusual school.  Every night, Tess has prophetic dreams of things to come, dreams of death and destruction.  Tess refuses to accept that she will eventually lose herself to the same madness that swallowed her mother.  But then, the dreams may be the only way Tess can save her friends at Stranje House and Lord Ravencross, the man she loves.  Lady Daneska (Tess’s old friend) and Ghost have returned to England to pave the way for Napoleon’s invasion.  Can Tess and her friends stop them and save England?

As bad as it may sound, I didn’t really want to like this book. The first book was decent, but for some reason, I just felt meh about this book.

But like it I did. It was charming. Tess is a different character than Georgie, so whereas all of this was new to Georgie, it’s old hat to Tess. She’s more confident, better trained, and more sarcastic. She was a main character I could understand more, better empathize with.

What I absolutely adored about this book was all of the witty banter.  I like people who are clever and quick on their feet, so when we have 2, 4, 6 characters constantly slinging barbs and insults at each other that could also be flirting, I love it.  I mean, it was virtually every chapter where sharp wit was flying and it was just so much fun.

This story deviates from history a bit because of the way the first book ended (which wasn’t exactly historically accurate). So historically speaking, we don’t really know how this story is going to go.

But the characters are so charming. Each of them has their own quirks, and it really does feel like a historical romance series for YA. You know what I mean. Different main characters each book, a new suitor, but all the same overall plot as it unfolds. It’s a way of keeping everything fresh.

It was cute. I liked it.