I’ve Made A YouTube Channel!!!

OH. MY. GOSH.

Y’all, I do weird things when I’m living by myself apparently.  Like, I discover I can do handstands all of a sudden when I’ve never been able to do them before.  I complete massive numbers of sudoku puzzles.

And, apparently, I can also add “Created a YouTube channel” to my list.

I’M SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS THOUGH.

Making videos and being on camera are not my strong suits.  My apologies if the videos are weird, sound funny, or don’t really do much.  I’m hoping to get better with time, just like I did with this blog and my reviews on it.

I’m hoping, this summer to cover various topics like:

  • Blogging tips for newbies
  • Writing tips (for blogs or otherwise)
  • What I’m reading
  • Educational content (probably from my teaching background, but we’ll see)
  • Funny stories

I’m definitely open to suggestions, advice, or comments!  I’d love to make this more of a dialogue rather than me just talking into a little camera on my laptop.  So anything advice or critiques (if well-meant) are welcome.

Without further ado, here’s my first video!  Check out my channel on YouTube, conveniently called BelleoftheLibrary.  (Who would have guessed?)

Top Ten Favorite Books of the Last Ten Years

Hey guys!  So I’m actually really excited about this one because, at this moment, I haven’t done a lick of research yet to figure out what years books have come out.  But I know I’ve read some really good ones recently and I’m excited to see which ones I want to add to my list!  Thank God I’ve been on Goodreads for the last 12 years and I have a lot of data to dig through!  Obviously this list is not exhaustive and I could probably make a list of 10 or more for every year, but these were the ones that struck my fancy and maybe aren’t always as well known.

Here we go!

Top Ten Favorite Books of the Last Ten Years

2018 – A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

This one has such a fantastic message behind it that I can’t help but love it.  It’s sharp and witty while also giving me all kinds of flashbacks from my childhood.  (Dial-up, anyone?  What about when each text actually cost money and you had to count them?  Or when you were waiting until a certain time at night to make free calls?)

Honorable Mention: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

2017 – The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones

I actually had The Afterlife of Holly Chase in this spot and was about halfway through writing why I loved that book when I started to realize this one deserved my top spot because of its sheer surprise factor.  It’s a startlingly compelling urban fantasy where people make deals with demons and nothing is quite what it seems.  I devoured this book because it was so good and unexpected.

Honorable Mentions: On the Spectrum by Jennifer Gold, The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand, By Your Side by Kasie West

2016 – Scythe by Neal Shusterman

No question.  I just barely started looking through books from 2016 and this was a no-brainer.  Exciting, powerful, and clever, it’s a book I’ve been thinking about often lately because it’s just so brilliant.

Honorable Mentions: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas, Ruined by Amy Tintera, The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins, America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray

2015 – Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

Brilliant.  Absolutely brilliant.  I adored this book for its wonderful characters and unreliable narration while still being so absolutely fascinating.  Oh my God, if you haven’t read this, this needs to be on your to-read list STAT.

Honorable Mentions: Between the Notes by Sharon Huss Roat, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler, These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly, The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

2014 – On the Fence by Kasie West

I really like this book because of its main character, Charlotte or “Charlie”.  A tomboy with a bunch of guy friends, Charlie was a lot like me growing up in a way that I don’t normally see too many other heroines.  I loved that I felt represented in that way.  And it’s such a sweet story.

Honorable Mentions: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers, Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick, After the End by Amy Plum, The Taking by Kimberly Derting, Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord, A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

2013 – With All My Soul by Rachel Vincent

I have never read a smarter or better written ending for a series.  Even the final Harry Potter book, in all its glory, didn’t leave me feeling as satisfied as this book did.  I haven’t read this book in 6 years and I can still tell you exactly how it ends.  I can almost literally draw you a picture of what happens because it’s still that vivid in my head.  And if that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.

Honorable Mentions: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay, Dare You To by Katie McGarry, Still Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub

2012 – Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

This series overall is just so good.  But since this one kicked off the whole series, I figured it needed recognition the most.  Brilliantly written, fascinating as all get-out, this is such a fun read that will turn your world upside down.

Honorable Mentions: The Diviners by Libba Bray, Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard, Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson, Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

2011 – The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

This is the book that got me interested in fantasy.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d read some before this book.  But this book made it magical for me.  I finally got it.  I saw how it could be entertaining and a commentary on our world.  I saw how the characters could be almost more complicated than they are in our world.  I fell in love with fantasy, simply put.

Honorable Mentions: Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

2010 – Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

I don’t think I will ever forget reading this book in the car on a family vacation, trying not to cry too much.  It was beautiful and moving and so powerful.  I think there’s something in this book for everyone to take away from it.  And the movie is just as good.

Honorable Mentions: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, Nevermore by Kelly Creagh, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison

2009 – If I Stay by Gayle Forman

How could this not be the winner for this year?  It’s my favorite.  I love the movie and the book.  They’re so moving and powerful, in the same way that Before I Fall is.  Apparently YA at the turn of the decade was very much contemplating life and death.  It’s kind of interesting to see these trends.  Not to mention, these books all came out while I was still in high school, which seems so long ago.

Honorable Mentions: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Stolen: A Letter to my Captor by Lucy Christopher, The Season by Sarah MacLean, My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent

See How They Run (Embassy Row, #2)

Image result for see how they runFirst Lines: I don’t know where I am.  I don’t know why I’m here.  And as I study the woman who stands two feet from me, staring, I realize I don’t know her either.  Not even a little bit.

I’ve been reading Ally Carter for years and, even though I think she basically kind of writes the same style of story every time, they’re still interesting.  So I wanted to see how this second book compared to the first, which I’d thought was really good.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Grace can’t escape her past.  Even now, when she knows the truth about what happened to her mother, Grace keeps finding more and more secrets around every corner.  Cover-ups.  Betrayals.  And if she’s not careful, she could end up getting hurt.  In fact, someone seems intent on that very thing happening…

Man, from start to finish this is exciting and suspenseful. In fact, at times, it’s almost too stressful to keep reading in one sitting.

What I really like about this is Grace. You can tell how broken she is, but how she’s still a fighter. She can’t trust anyone–even herself. She doesn’t always know if what her brain is showing her is real or if it’s a part of a memory that feels real. Her struggle is so real that I just can’t help but feel for her and want her to come out on top.

The other characters are excellent too. Alexei, Noah, Rosie, Megan. And we get to meet Jamie in this one, which was nice. Most of the story focuses on Grace and/or the mystery she’s tangled in, but the other characters do make an appearance and it’s great to see their personalities.

The mystery is intriguing in this one. Unfortunately, everything leaves off on a cliffhanger, so there’s that. Still, it truly is suspenseful from like chapter 3 to the end. Every time you think you’ve got something figured out, it changes.

But I’m serious about what I said: sometimes it’s so suspenseful and stressful that it really was hard for me to read in one sitting. I could feel myself getting tense just reading it and I had to put it down to work out the kinks and remind myself it wasn’t real.

Having read at least parts of Ally Carter’s other series, I think this is by far my favorite and the best written of the bunch.

Top Ten Books I Refuse To Let Anyone Touch

Hey guys!  So this is actually a hard one for me and I won’t make it to ten, not because I don’t value my books but because literally no one asks to borrow my books in the first place.  It’s kind of hard to know what I won’t let someone borrow when it’s never really been an issue.  But I do have a few.  So let’s see them, shall we?

Top Five Books I Refuse To Let Anyone Touch

1. My collection of illustrated Harry Potter books, 1-3 (so far).

Dude, those books are like $35 each and so pristine that I have a hard time letting myself touch them.  They’re gorgeous.  No one messes with them.

2. My signed copy of The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

First of all, I love this book.  Second of all, I worked hard to get this signed copy.  I had to scale the Barnes & Noble shelves to reach it.  I’m not kidding.  I literally climbed the shelves to grab it.  And I’m not sorry.

3. My box set of Harry Potter

It’s a box set!  If someone borrows the books and bends the pages even a little, they’re never going to fit back into the box.  And the box is way too pretty to get rid of.

4. The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Ok, this one I actually did let someone borrow and I never got it back.  (The year was 2010…)  My mom, knowing I was upset about it at the time, bought me another one.  So since this is a replacement one, I am literally never getting rid of it.

5. Anything I just bought

Look, if I just bought a book, you’re not borrowing it first.  I’m reading it first, then maybe I’ll let you read it.  Or not.  I may want to keep that book in great shape and you’re not touching it.  Besides, my city has a fantastic library system.  It’d be easy enough to find the book there.

Maybe this is why no one asks to borrow my books…

Nah.  The people around me don’t read.  That’s why I need you guys.

Introverts: A Reminder to Take Time For Yourself

Hey everyone!  So I felt like after the day I had yesterday, I needed to share a little wisdom with you all.

I’m an introvert.  This is incredibly obvious to most people who cross my path.  I’d much rather be by myself with a book than making awkward small-talk with someone.  Even in big family situations, I tend to sit there silently and just listen to all the conversations.

Not only am I an introvert, I’m also an HSP: a highly sensitive person.  Loud noises, lots of chaos, bright lights, even being hungry or tired impact me more than other people.  This pie chart is really good at explaining what this means.

Image result for highly sensitive person

So that pie chart is 100% accurate, at least in my experience.  A lot of my time feeling overwhelmed come from being overly observant and caring about everyone’s feelings.  Once I realized I was an HSP, I’ve been able to embrace it more.  I know what my triggers are and when I need to walk away.

At school, we’re starting to wind down to the end of the year.  We still have a couple of weeks, but you wouldn’t know that from looking at the kids.  So it’s been kind of a stressful week.  We been planning a celebration for the good kids, I helped with the drama club after school, I met with the show choir director to talk about next year’s show, and of course there’s 5 days of teaching taking place in there.

Normally, this doesn’t get to me too badly.  I go home after school, enjoy my evenings alone, and I’m good to go the next day.

This week, especially yesterday, that wasn’t exactly the case.  I’ve been tired all week, partly, I think, from a new workout I’ve been doing.  Also, allergies suck so I’ve been struggling through those.  And my classes are working on a project, so I’ve been getting used to having some quiet work time each day in class.

I didn’t get that quiet time yesterday.  And it showed.

My morning started off stressful right from the beginning.  So much to do, so little time.  I stole a few minutes to read quietly before the kids came because I knew I needed it.  The rest of my morning went fine.

If you’ve never sat in a teachers’ lounge over lunch, then you have no idea what that looks like.  It’s loud.  We’re constantly talking about what stresses us out or whatever funny thing we can think of–families, students, sports, you name it.  There was a kid yesterday that a lot of teachers were worried about and they started talking over each other about different things they witnessed.

This is a trigger for me.  I can’t handle that much noise, that many people talking at once.  But I’m also a teacher and worried about my kids, so I sat through it and listened to know what I should be looking for.

Then I had three more classes after that where I needed to be mentally present.  One of my classes is more off-task than most, so I needed to be constantly walking around and watching them for the entire 45 minute class.  (Not to mention, a kid earned himself a detention at the end of this class for leaving class early.  He just walked out and it really got on my nerves.)  After that class is my prep, when I normally get to be alone in my classroom and do whatever needs done.

But yesterday was our celebration for our good kids.  We allowed them (if they haven’t gotten in trouble since Spring Break) to choose a class period to skip and play games in a bigger room in the school.  Any teacher on prep that period was assigned to supervise.  I was in there with two other teachers, one of whom is my really good friend.  But we had 75 kids in there, all playing ping pong, board games, Wii, or just generally throwing popcorn around the room.  Music was playing from a sound system, people were talking and yelling.

It was too much for me.

If I could have, I would have left about halfway through.  But as a sort of chaperone, I couldn’t.  I couldn’t leave the other two teachers with 75 kids.  So I stuck it out.

I knew immediately after it was over that I was in bad shape.  I was hungry, overwhelmed, stressed, and tired.  My last class of the day bore the brunt of it.  I lit into them early in class and they didn’t do a single thing out of line for the rest of class, which is unusual for them.  (For example, the day before, one of the boys in that class was blasting Justin Bieber’s “Baby” for a reaction from his friends and would not stop.  That was more important than working on his project.)

I couldn’t even escape after school.  I need to stay to help clean up the destruction from the celebration.  And after that, I needed to do some grocery shopping that I hadn’t realized I’d needed to do until that morning when I ran out of bread.

The poor cashier at Walmart kept trying to make conversation with me, but my brain was so sluggish I literally didn’t even realize what she’d said until she backtracked.  I felt bad, but I was barely functioning.

When I got home, I made myself one of my favorite dinners and laid down to watch some YouTube videos to unwind.  I ended up falling asleep for something like an hour.  After that, I fixed myself a drink, watched a movie I hadn’t seen in a while, and knit.  The longer I was doing my own thing, the better I felt.

This morning, getting up and getting around, I still feel a little bit off from everything this week.  I can still feel that I’d rather be alone than with other people, an unfortunate realization since I have a graduation party this afternoon.  But I also know I’m in a much better place than I was.  And I have all tomorrow I can stay home and clean and bake and read.  All of those sound heavenly right now.

I say all of this to say that if you’re an introvert or an HSP (regardless of whether you’re an introvert or extrovert), you know what you need.  You know when you’ve had too much of an experience.  So take some time to yourself.  Recharge your batteries.  Do what you need to do.  Don’t ignore the signs.

Image result for highly sensitive person

It’s self-care and you deserve to be happy.

You’d Be Mine

Image result for you'd be mineFirst Lines: If I die, it’s Trina Hamilton’s fault.  She’s hard to miss; statuesque blonde with angry eyes and tiny nostrils wearing top-of-the-line Tony Lamas so she can kick my ass at a moment’s notice.

I put this on my to-read list when I realized it was about country music.  Even though I lived in the ‘burbs growing up, it was a lot more rural than my new house.  Anyway, the point of that is to say that I grew up on George Strait, Toby Keith, Faith Hill, and Shania Twain.  I read all the magazines and had their pictures on my walls.  So this book really appealed to my sensibilities.

Annie Mathers knows how dangerous fame can be.  The daughter of two country mega-stars, she’s seen the dark side.  Which is unfortunate for country bad-boy Clay Coolidge, who needs to convince Annie to join his summer tour to salvage his reputation and his music contract.  All Annie’s done since her parents’ tragic death is post YouTube videos of her band, but Clay’s label sees promise and they want her.  Swayed by Clay’s good looks, Annie joins.  And from the very beginning, fans want something more to be between Clay and Annie.  But with a front-row view to her parents’ destructive celebrity love story, Annie’s more than a little hesitant.  Could her feelings for Clay be real?  And if so…is it worth it?

This was cute.  I appreciated the country references and the details about how the industry works.  It was interesting and I found it hard to put down.

The story doesn’t shy away from the dark side of fame, though, and that was darker than I was anticipating when I started this book. Annie and Clay are young and both still early in their careers. But both have seen the worst in life and fame is only making their weaknesses worse. This wasn’t a downside for the book–in fact, I loved that it highlighted all this. It truly was a look at mental health in a way that we’re not used to seeing and I liked that.

And the romance was cute in its own way. It doesn’t necessarily go the way you expect it to, but again, because it was different I respected it all the more. I always knew what I hoped would happen next but I didn’t always get what I wanted.

This was a book I had in my bag for a couple of days, just looking for a moment to read it again, even if it was just for 2 minutes at a time. It was so engrossing and I fell in love with the characters for their flaws as much as for their strengths.

Top Ten Freebie: Page to Screen

Hey guys!  So I had kind of a hard time deciding what to do for this one.  Should I do my favorite books to movies?  Should I pick the books I want made into movies?  It was a tough call.  But in the end, I decided to look at my favorite books turned movies.

Don’t worry–a few of these will be unconventional.  As I like to be.  I picked these movies exclusively from my movie collection, so it’s a little eclectic.

Top Ten Favorite Books Turned Movies

1. The Book Thief

Definitely one of my favorite reproductions.  It’s faithful while still putting its own twist on things because of time and/or resources.  Geoffrey Rush steals the movie, for sure.  I adore it.

2. If I Stay

This is such a gut punching book, but the movie is so much more heartbreaking.  And in its own way, I love it too.  It’s lovely, wonderful, and sentimental.  And the soundtrack is pretty good too.

3. Tuck Everlasting

Oh my God, I’m starting to see a trend here.  Yes, I admit that I’m a fan of existential questions and these first three definitely have those in spades.  But this book/movie was probably one of the places where that really started.  Would I want immortality if offered?  It’s fascinating to see how it impacts both sides.

4. Les Miserables

*cough* The uh…the death cycle continues.  And I haven’t read this book yet (it’s on my summer to-read list), but this musical is quickly growing on me.  I watched it for only the second time back in March (the first time was in 2013), but I’ve probably watched it 7 times since.  I’m kind of obsessed with it right now.

5. Holes

Dude.  I truly don’t think you can have a movie adaptation list and not mention Holes.  This was the OG, one of the earliest and greatest adaptations.  (And have you SEEN that cast list?)  It’s funny, remarkable, and so special.  And we can all quote at least part of it.

6. Much Ado About Nothing

With this one, I’m talking about the Joss Whedon version.  It’s black and white, and the coolest thing about it was that it was filmed at Whedon’s house.  He and his wife could have gone on vacation for their anniversary or made this movie with a bunch of their friends.  They made the movie.  It’s hilarious and sweet.

7. How the Grinch Stole Christmas

By far, one of my favorite Christmas movies.  Oh, and I’m talking about the Jim Carrey 2000 version.  Live-action, baby.  It’s funny, heartfelt, and entertaining.  I have the entire movie memorized.  I love how they added to the Grinch’s backstory.

8. The Princess Bride

I watched the movie before I read the book and I have to admit I love the movie more.  (It may be in part to my undying love of Cary Elwes.)  It’s a classic!  I’m so glad my friend guilted me into watching it in high school.

9. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Gene Wilder.  ‘Nuff said.  But really, this is another one where I like the movie better than the book.  Wonka is so bonkers in this movie that I love him for that reason.  And even though he’s entirely off his rocker, I think he’s more reasonable than book Wonka.  It’s weird.

10. 10 Things I Hate About You

Since this is based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, I’m counting it as an adaptation.  It’s ironic I thought of this while filling the 10th spot.  That was honestly a happy accident.  But I love this take on modern Shakespeare.  It’s funny, dirty, and weirdly lyrical at the same time.  I enjoy that.