Sunday, December 29, 2019

2019 Books in Review

This year was a good one for reading, and I’ve found that I definitely enjoy setting my goal for types of books rather than number. I still managed to read a lot, 92 in total, which is close to what I would have picked for a number goal anyway. For a full overview of all the books I read this year, check out my Goodreads list.

I also delved more into the joy of audiobooks and e-books while traveling, and when I reached my new library, I found all the books! Okay, not all of them, but my new local library has nearly four times the selection of my last library and that’s not counting inter-library loans and all the book clubs. There’s just so, so many options to explore!

Goal: 1 Book 700+ Pages

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson—I know I said 700 pages, but this beast lies in the 1,200-page range. I had started reading Middlemarch but got bored, then my local book club had a theme “books outside of your comfort zone”, and I figured a thousand-page novel should fit. I really enjoy Sanderson’s works, and if you don’t mind a long narrative and are into fantasy novels, the world-building and the characters are excellent!

Goal: 2 Novels that were Adapted into Movies

White Fang by Jack London—one of my favorite books from when I was a kid. I used to listen to the audiobook over and over, and more recently, I read it while my own dog lounged about. Though she’s quite domesticated, she’s got the alpha personality and some standoffish traits like White Fang. If you enjoy the book like I did, don’t bother with the latest Netflix adaptation.

Anne of Avonlea (Anne of Green Gables, book 2) by L. M. Montgomery—This series is such a joy! While it’s been a while since I’d read the first book, I feel like I’m still familiar with the story, so it wasn’t hard to pick up where the last book left off. After I read the main trilogy, I’d like to re-watch the adaptations with Megan Follows.

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower (Hornblower Saga, book 1) by C. S. Forester—I remember enjoying the show Horatio Hornblower when I was in high school, and I only just recently found out it was based on a book series. All eleven of them. Not sure I’ll make it that far. This one was a big of a struggle to get through.

Goal: 3 Classics

To Kill a Mockingbird: A Graphic Novel by Fred Fordham inspired by the novel by Harper Lee—this totally counts. Or maybe I should list it as a book made into a movie made into a graphic novel? Send help.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy—a little predicable considering how familiar I am with some of the tropes and a movie based off a book based off this book. (Yes, I’m talking about Zorro.)  But still an enjoyable story.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo—technically several movies were based off this one, but it’s definitely a classic. Not nearly as good as Les Mis, though.

Goal: 5 Books I Own

Rulers and Mages and Healers and Warriors (The Order of the Twelve Tribes, book 2 and 3) by Daley Downing—I started off liking the third book best of the series, but then the plot took a twist I didn’t particularly care for.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan—good story, but I honestly don’t remember it very well.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness—also has a movie based on the book, but that’s such a broad category. Who’s counting? This was a wonderful reread, and I liked it even more the second time! If “liked” is an appropriate word for a book that made me cry. Twice.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson—I actually read this book three times this year. Once at the library as an impulse read, and again after I bought it at the bookstore. And they’re going to make a movie! Bring it one 2022!

A Conspiracy of Stars (Faloiv, book 1) by Olivia A. Cole—I reread this one before starting on the sequel, and I liked it even more than I remembered. Sci-fi fantasy is fun!

Goal: 5 Books Published in 2019

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee—kinda disappointing.

An Anatomy of Beasts (Faloiv, book 2) by Olivia A. Cole—technically I own this one, too, but it came out this year! Also, I totally thought it was a duology, but that ending needs another book. Wow, did I call that wrong. A trilogy perhaps? AaaAaahhhh! I need the next book!

The Boy Who Steals Houses by C. G. Drews—ended up liking this book a way more than expected. Sweet yet heartbreaking, Drews creates well-developed characters I found myself routing for.

Midsummer’s Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca—an interesting concept, a contemporary Shakespeare retelling, just not the book that spoke to me.

Sounds of Deceit (The Terebinth Tree Chronicles, book 3) by Hannah Heath—the third installment of a collection of short stories leading up to a novel. I can’t wait!

Again, but Better by Christine Riccio—I wanted to like this one. I really did. Alas, I did not. I expected a contemporary and got… a fantasy? Yeah, that was weird. So unrealistic too.

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim—lacked the depth that I was looking for, and it felt like the same girl meets boy and oh, look! They fell in love. Again. Somebody save me from the romances.

Strange Waters by Kyle Robert Shultz, E.B. Dawson, Hannah Heath, Beth Wangler, Nate Philbrick, J.E. Purrazzi, and K.L. + Pierce—probably my favorite Phoenix Fiction Writers Anthology (see book review).

Supernova (Renegades, book 3) by Marissa Meyer—I got my sister hooked on the first book, Renegades, then she got her boyfriend hooked, and he’s not even an avid reader. So yeah. All superheroes! I’m still deciding which is my favorite book in the trilogy, but Supernova has an excellent ending with some staggering plot twists. I should’ve seen them coming.

Forward Me Back to You by Mitali Perkins—this book was one that made it to my TBR simply because a dear friend recommended it and lent me a copy. Wow, was it amazing or what! A powerful story about blood and found families, the fight against assault and human trafficking, and culture, this one is a must-read for fans of contemporary YA.

Starsight (Skyward, book 2) by Brandon Sanderson—I’ve been on a huge Sanderson kick lately! From Hero of Ages (fantasy) to The Alloy of Law (western fantasy) to The Way of Kings (fantasy) to Skyward (YA sci-fi) to its sequel, Starsight. They’re just so engrossing! And Doomslug comes back!

Now Entering Addamsville by Francesca Zappia—I enjoyed Zappia’s other contemporary YA novels, but this one just wasn’t for me. Ghost stories just aren’t my thing.

If I’m completely honest, I try to read recently published works each year anyway, so this one wasn’t much of a challenge. But it was fun to mention!

Goal: 1 Book Published Before 1800

The Art of War by Sun Tzu—not my usual read, I will admit, but there are so many stories and shows that mention it that I just had to find out what it was all about. And sure, it was an interesting study. If I was more into military strategy, I could see its value, though some of the points seemed obvious. The book led to some interesting discussions with my dad. Overall, the book was a good change of pace and mental exercise.

Goal: 3 Nonfiction Books

March: Book Two and Book Three by John Robert Lewis

Background Noise: Poems, Vignettes and Word Explosions by Danielsen Jerry—poetry! Check out my book review here.

God in the Dock by C. S. Lewis—amazing! While some of the transcriptions didn’t seem as logical as the essays, I really enjoyed reading Lewis’ theological arguments. So fascinating and intellectually stimulating.

The Pilgrimage: A Contemporary Quest for Ancient Wisdom by Paulo Coelho—eh, not my cup of tea.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau—why is his last name so hard to spell? A book full of great insights and an interesting perspective on life and simplicity.

Look me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s by John Elder Robison—more engaging than I had anticipated. Definitely recommend, especially if you want to better understand the autism spectrum.

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman—honestly forgot this book was nonfiction until I was reading it. I might have preferred reading a first-hand account more because I felt like the narrative jumped all over the place.

Looking for Me by Betsy R. Rosentnthal—such a good little book based on the life of the author’s mother. Also a novel in verse!

I’ve enjoyed reading nonfiction this year. Who knew?

Overall: 20/20 Types of Books

Look, I actually did it this year! *throws confetti* *accidentally knocks over TBR stack* *shrieks*

Other Notable Books

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Fawkes by Nadine Brandes (see book review)
Kids Like Us by Hilary Reyl (see book review)
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke
Skyward (Skyward, book 1) by Brandon Sanderson (see book review)


Let’s chat! What were some of your reading goals this year? Did you meet them? Any books I read make it to your TBR or Read lists?

Sunday, December 22, 2019

7 Popular Sci-Fi Novels I Enjoyed

These posts are fun! Last month I posted on 8 Popular Fantasy Novels I Enjoyed, and 
this month I’m here to talk about fantasy’s slightly more advanced albeit slightly deranged twin, science fiction. I couldn’t quite come up with eight novels, but that’s merely because I haven’t been reading sci-fi quite as long. Give me time, and I’m sure I’ll find more!

Now I’m not a dystopian fan, so you can automatically strike those of the list, with one exception. Sorry, dystopian fans. It’s just too depressing for my taste. What you can expect, however, is some space opera, superheroes, and AI’s. You’re welcome.

Books are arranged alphabetically by the authors’ last names.

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Many people have heard of the movie—which I hated—and it wasn’t until later on that I discovered there was a book, thanks to another blogger. (Thank you, fellow bloggers!) A collection of short stories strung together, I, Robot is set in a world where robots move from a focus on scientific advancement to a place of political influence. And some of the artificial intelligences of the book wind up being far more intelligent than those portrayed in the film adaptation. A thought-provoking read.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Funny story—I almost didn’t read this one, but I remember listening to my friends from college talk about it, so I gave it a try. Then I almost didn’t like it, but I picked up the rest of the series and liked it so much that I went out and bought the books. It’s probably time for a reread of Ender’s Game.

Thoughtful yet tragic, the story describes the ends humanity might go to in order to protect itself against a hostile alien race. And it’s about Battle School, a place where brilliant children learn to be military leaders. Though I don’t agree with many of the tactics used throughout the book by various characters, it is an interesting exploration of human psychology with compelling characters.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

An exploration of what it means to be human, the story of The Giver follows a young boy, Jonas through his training in a seemingly utopian society. Parts of the story I didn’t quite understand at first, like color first coming into Jonas’ understanding, which makes sense considering the point of view, but coupled with the beautiful interpretation of the movie adaptation, the story makes more sense. I still have yet to read the final book in the series, and considering how far apart I’ve read the books, I think I’ll go back and reread them all.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I have mixed feelings about this book and the llluminae Trilogy as a whole. On the one hand, it’s filled with less-than-admirable characters and profanity, albeit censored. But on the other hand, it’s got a unique format, a fast pace and great overarching themes, like standing up against tyranny. Overall, it kinda reminds me of Guardians of the Galaxy if you add a murderous AI who somehow manages to be a fan favorite.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Talked my sister into reading this gem, and now she’s more obsessed than I am. Focusing on events after the rise of superheroes, or prodigies as they’re called, the story explores what it means to be a hero or a villain. It’s not always as clear cut as some of the characters would like to think. With traditional superpowers and unique, new ones, Renegades is part one in a trilogy with the final book recently released.

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

I recently posted a book review for this superb read, which you can check out here. Set on a planet where humans have been forced to live in cave systems to survive the bombardment of an alien species, Skyward follows the daring expeditions of the new pilots in training both in holographic simulations and in real flights. Not to mention the excellent characters, the AI, and the cave creature that the main character, Spensa, fondly names Doomslug. I’m curious to see what direction the future books will take.

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

This book is a long-time favorite of mine. I was first introduced to the movies when I was a kid, and I later picked up the book in college. Next on my list of childhood favorite films based on books is Journey to the Center of the Earth.

The Time Machine, though, is quite unlike its film adaptations (1960 and 2002). While they do an overall good job of portraying the Eloi and the Morlock, the two races that human beings have become, the films superimpose more plot on the story than was in the original book. If you don’t mind a little more wandering and scientific speculation, the book is a fantastic read!


Let’s chat! What are some of your favorite popular sci-fi novels? Enjoy any of the ones I listed? What’s your favorite sci-fi subgenre?

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Poem: Copper Coated Autumn Leaves

As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve recently moved into our new house. Recent as in November, but that’s still pretty close to now. Before all the leaves blew off the trees and buried our yard, I sat down before work one day, contemplating my surroundings, and came up with another poem.

Copper Coated Autumn Leaves

The deer come around here,
up where the trees shed
their copper coated autumn leaves
waiting for the oxidation of spring.

Here on the mountainside,
I can hear the wind whisper
to me
while the sirens below
struggle to break
the silence.


Can you hear it?
The twit of the red-breasted
Eastern Bluebird as it perches on a post
—the maw of the doe as it calls to the herd
—the tock-tocking of the chipmunk
that I once mistook for a dripping gutter
—the indecipherable hum of the stars.


Let’s chat! What did you think of the poem? What’s your favorite element about where you live?

Similar poems: At Night, Autumn, and Lost as a Leaf

Sunday, December 8, 2019

How I Survived NaNoWriMo (Plus a Job and a Move!)

Once upon a time I decided I was done with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I edited a novel, started another. I got a boring job, and then I hit writer’s block. While I eventually managed to finish the project, I thought it would be fun to have some extra motivation while working a fairly new job and we finally moved into a new house.

Back to NaNoWriMo it was!

How have I survived? Well, I’ve always enjoyed a good challenge and employing a few simple steps to cope.

1)     Prepare.

Back in June, I started outlining my next novel. I knew I wanted to write a sci-fi duology, and one of my dear writing friends gave me some tips on the kinds of questions I should be asking for world-building purposes. By the time September came around, I found I still hadn’t made as much progress as I would’ve liked. My characters got names for the most part, but my story wasn’t actually making any progress.

Around mid-October I decided I’d participate in NaNoWriMo. I even started writing a bit ahead of time because I just couldn’t wait, though I have done my best to include only what I’ve written during November in my word count.

2)     Cry.

You guys know I’m kidding, right? Right!?

October 30, two days before the start of NaNoWriMo I went to open my outline and got an error message: “profile corrupt.” What? I wondered. Why now?! After an already super stressful day moving from our lovely rental cottage back into the world’s worst hotel, taking the dog to the vet, and dropping my sister off and picking her up from school, I spent the next three hours on the phone with Microsoft trying to figure out what went wrong with my brand new computer.

We figured something happened during an update that corrupted my main profile, so I had to create a new one to get my Microsoft Office working again. While I didn’t have to take it to a shop or get a new computer entirely, it still meant hours of transferring data again, almost like setting up a new system.

So I cried, took a shower, and went to bed. I felt better the next morning. Not exactly optimistic, but better. It wasn’t until I started my story on November 1st that I felt like I could manage an entire novel again.

3)     Embrace the story.

Forcing oneself to write 50,000 words in a month may not exactly be the road most taken, but honestly writing helps me regulate my emotions. And it’s been so much fun to get excited about a story again! I almost forgot how much fun rough drafts could be, especially since I struggled with my last one.

Sure, I still struggle through some parts—like all those weird transition places in my outline where I’m just like “… and they went… somewhere? (Dear editing self, fix later.)” Yet I enjoy getting back into writing all the same, like that bit where I get excited about a certain part or a line and just have to tell somebody about it. I had forgotten how much fun that is!

4)     Postpone.

We have a house! *SHRIEKS* This may not seem like such a big deal to some people, but I’ve basically been living out of my suitcase since the Camino back in May. That’s nearly seven months. I finally have my sweaters back. And my books! Not to mention I painted my room and got a bearded dragon. Meet Thorin Oakenshield.

And our dog ran away, so I spent five days looking for her. It had been a wild, rather disappointing month. Thankfully, December saw the return of our doggo.

But I digress.

Sometimes life gets in the way of writing. As a result of all the goings ons, I found myself twelve days behind on my NaNoWriMo goals. Even before that happened, I did the calculations of how many words per day I’d need to write in order to keep up and I figured I probably wouldn’t be able to keep up. And that’s okay.

I may not be winning NaNoWriMo anytime soon, but I’m actually writing again, and I’m excited! I look forward to finishing my novel, possibly in December, and later sharing it with the world.


Let’s chat! Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? What are some tips you employ to survive? Any fellow writers who had to push back their goals?

Sunday, December 1, 2019

On Hiatus

Hi, guys. I’m on temporary hiatus while we search for our missing doggo. Writing requires too much thought and I can’t handle that right now. Prayers for her safe return!

I miss my Pfeffer.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Book Review: Skyward

“People need stories, child. They bring us hope, and that hope is real. If that’s the case, what does it matter whether people in them actually lived?”

This book was both inspiring and entertaining, and wow, just wow. Since I started reading Brandon Sanderson’s books last year, I’ve been hooked ever since. This one, however, has got to be my favorite so far. The writing style is clear, the characters are compelling, and the plot me had me on the edge of my seat. I ended up finishing the book in two days.

Book: Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Young Adult, Science-Fiction, Fantasy
My rating: 5/5 stars
One-word description: g-force

One of the reasons I enjoy Sanderson’s works is because the details of his world building are so rich, and the plot is so compelling. I really felt like he knew what he was talking about when he described space flight, especially with the added g-forces and coordinates.

He certainly did his research.

Yet, with Skyward, the story never bogged down like it seemed to with a few of his Mistborn novels. Sure, I found the beginning of Skyward to be a bit of a downer, but it picked up after the first fifty pages or so. That’s not to say that the rest of the book was completely happy—I don’t trust Sanderson with my favorite characters—but rather that I couldn’t help but read the rest of the book.

Another reason I enjoy Sanderson’s book is because of his ability to write multiple genres. The Mistborn trilogy is adult fantasy, The Alloy Era is its companion series but also a mystery/western, and Skyward is of course science fiction with a touch of fantastical elements.

Apparently female pilots are one of my favorite character types. They. Are. Epic. In this book you’ve got Spensa (callsign: Spin) who will gladly crash her simulated ship into her flightleader just to spite him and who talks like a hero of old. Then there’s Morningtide, Freyja (callsign: FM) who likes to point out and defy the status quo, Hudiya (callsign: Hurl) who is enthusiastic to no end, and Kimmalyn (callsign: Quirk) who’s a little on the timid side but makes an excellent friend.

It would be a shame not to mention the humor and the AI, and the AI’s quirky sense of humor. Oh yeah, and Cobb (callsign: Mongrel) is another of my favorites as he is probably the best teacher in the flight school, though he can be a little confusing. At one moment, after their first experience actually flying, he tells them, “That […] was somehow the most embarrassing and inspiring display I’ve ever seen out of cadets! You should be ashamed. And proud.”

That’s when I decided he was one of my favorite characters.

My only complaint right now is the way the cover design made Spensa’s hair look black, not brown. Like excuse you, cover designer, no. Wow, am I picky or what?

Interested in Skyward? Have you read it yet? You might also enjoy these books: A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia A. Cole, Renegades by Marissa Meyer, and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

Let’s chat! Has Skyward made it to your to-be-read list yet? Have you read it yet? Have any sci-fi recommendations?


Sunday, November 10, 2019

8 Popular Fantasy Novels I Enjoyed

Before I’ve written on 8 Obscure Books I Thoroughly Enjoyed, (some of which I should have classified as popular; oh, well) but today I’m here to talk about some of the popular ones. Obscure books are fun to introduce, sure, but popular books can help people find fellow readers with similar tastes, and you can talk with your bookworm friends about your favorite stories for hours on end. Here goes!

The following books are not books from my Treasured Books list. I originally had the books listed on this post, but the list got too long for one post. I rant enough about those anyway, so here are just a few books I may not mention much but deserve notice. Book are organized by author’s last name.

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

Though lesser known than his fellow Inklings and writer friends J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain are still read and enjoyed today with over 66,000 ratings on Goodreads. The second book, The Black Cauldron, was probably my favorite of the series, but The Book of Three does an excellent job introducing this strange yet endearing world.

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

Can we just take a moment to appreciate the author’s last name with the book’s title? I was one of those kids who grew up watching the movies, wishing I could be a great warrior like Atréju and befriend a luck dragon. In college I read the book and fell in love with the story all over again, and more so. While the movies wrap up their plots with a neat little bow, the book just keeps going, reinforcing the title in a new way. The book is much better than its adaptations.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Pretty sure I rant about this one a lot. A really quirky and kinda dark fantasy with one of those movies that’s just as good as the book, though listening to Gaiman read his own book is rather enchanting! I particularly enjoyed the way the story included multiple types of fairytale tropes from the hapless (and somewhat idiotic) romantic to clever women (not all of whom are good) and greedy princes, all within the land of Faerie.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

A magical realism novel that left me wondering what was real and what was magical—this book is heartbreakingly beautiful. The story combines the myths surrounding Russian folklore of the snow child with the harsh reality of winter—and life—in rural Alaska. Not only is it an excellent portrayal of the harsh beauty of nature, but it’s also a profound story about the loss of a child and found love.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I enjoyed this one way more than I thought I would, considering it’s length and how I initially didn’t make it past the prologue. But I’m glad I made the effort to read it. Like The Naming, the story features a musician, but from there on the stories differ. The main character Kvothe, as it turns out, is a troublemaker but will still go to extreme measures to help people. The only problem is that I didn’t care as much for the sequel, and the third book still isn’t out yet.

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Do you ever have those go-to authors? You know the ones, when you don’t quite know which genre you’re in the mood for, but you always enjoy X’s work? Sanderson is one of those authors for me.

While his writing style gets better with each book in the series, The Final Empire is still my favorite because the magic system is so well thought out, the characters are incredibly dynamic, Elend is a cinnamon roll, Vin is a beast, and Kelsier kinda scares me but I like him.

But let me warn you before you start… EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW IS A LIE! All right. You’ve been warned. Enjoy!

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

Never judge a book by it’s cover. Hahahaha! (That is 12% authentic laugh.) I may have read this book because I saw it’s cover in England, thought it was so intriguing, then went back to my library in Italy and checked it out. That right there is effective marketing at work.

While the book reminded me a little bit of The Lord of the Rings—beware the evil trinket—and an even tinier bit of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell—haven’t we met this mad king of England before?—A Darker Shade of Magic also manages to have an intricately-built world. Or shall I saw worlds? There are four Londons after all.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

"I'm not a girl. I'm a shark!"

This graphic novel was an impulse read at my local library and later an impulse buy. 99% of the time my impulse reads or my impulse buys, when I haven’t read the book yet—those impulses are terrible. Nimona was that brilliant 1% exception. The art is quirky yet beautiful, and I enjoy the way the story confronts the definition of what a villain is and what a hero can be.

Let’s chat! What are some of your favorite popular fantasy novels? How about favorite characters? Enjoy any of the ones I listed?


Sunday, November 3, 2019

Poem: At Night (Audio)

I’m working two jobs now, both part-time positions. One is substitute teaching, which can be nice depending on the role I sign up for that day, and the other deals with space, which is pretty awesome, especially since I’m working on a sci-fi novel now. I particularly like how it’s pushed me to research more and ask questions I wouldn’t have initially known to ask, like “How many people are going on the Mars mission?”

Oh, and did you know we’re going back to the Moon, and then we’re planning on building a space station that orbits it called Lunar Gateway? Super exciting stuff.

If you couldn’t tell, I really like my job, which is such a change from working retail. I may not work as many hours as I did—not yet anyway. I’ll be pushing for full time. But I am super passionate about what I do, which has helped the transition from Europe back to the States be all the more bearable.

At Night

I used to feel robbed
by the way the night crept in
and stole my light—
my time to tend my plants,
time to read in the warmth
of the sun.

But now, I see the stars
once again.
The light is still here
if I take the time to look for it—
to spot the International Space Station,
to let the land rest,
to read in the warmth
of the fire.


Let’s chat! What did you think of the poem? What’s your take on nighttime?