more than just a number: 2015 reading goals wrap-up

Back in January, I listed six reading goals for the year in attempt to broaden my reading horizons. I wanted to read more classics, and to continue reading nonfiction and poetry. I'd never listened to an entire audiobook (that I can think of), so I wanted to try that out, too. It was an experiment, and, well, I didn't do that great, even though halfway through the year it seemed I would easily reach all of my goals. Overall, though? I think I did pretty well. Check out that grand total at the end of this post!

7 nonfiction -- 7

I expected to be reading a lot of devotional-type books, but instead, my nonfiction pile is all over the place. But maybe that's a good thing! I learned a lot from The Romani Gypsies and Unbowed, and I don't think I gave any of these lower than a four-leaf rating. Definitely not less than three leaves.

3 classics -- 2

Sadly, I never mustered up the courage to attack Les Miserables. I did, however, receive a big surprise in that I enjoyed Far from the Madding Crowd much more than I had expected to. On the other hand, I had been looking forward to reading Watership Down, and was greatly disappointed.

1 book of poetry -- 0
So, I read a few poems from several different books, and I had very good intentions, but this one didn't happen. I was already reading too many books at any given time (typically about three or four), and it seemed a book of poetry might be the straw to break the camel's back.

1 audiobook -- 0
I tried. And I fell asleep. Turns out audiobooks just aren't for me. Although, I still might try to "re-read" the Chronicles of Narnia via audiobook while continuing to teach myself to knit. It might work better with books I already know well.

The One Year Bible -- 1/2
Um, well, this is awkward. I'm still in the month of June, if I'm remembering correctly (it's been awhile since I've cracked that spine...). I kept missing days, and then I forgot about it altogether. This is going on the list to finish next year. But if you're looking for a good way to read the Bible in one year (and you're more dedicated than I am...), this is a good option! I do like the layout and organization.

miscellaneous fiction to add up to 35 books -- 40
Clearly, I read a lot of fiction this year. And much as I would like to paste an image here of all of the novels I've read in 2015, it would be a very large picture. If you would like to see all of them, check out my year in books.

grand total: 49 books

What reading (or other) goals did you set for 2015, if any? Did you reach them all, or fall short, as I did? How do you feel about audiobooks?


Christmas inspiration {a list}

Last week, I began collecting posts that inspired me on some level, realizing that though I haven't written a Christmassy poem this year, I can still share inspiration. And what better way to do it than to spread the cheer to other bloggers? Check out these wonderful holiday posts, with a few of my poems from years past tacked on the end because I just couldn't help myself.

a poem (this one's a must-read)
The Cwtch: Mountains and Mary's

Christmas recipes (gingerbread people, apple taffy salad, and more!)
Curious Wren: Holiday Recipes

a festive to-do list (if you're just not feeling the Christmas spirit yet)
The Quiet People: A Festive To-Do List

creative gift-wrapping ideas (eco-friendly!)
Hello Natural: 6 Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap Ideas

Jolabokaflod ("Christmas Book Flood" - a wonderful Icelandic Christmas eve tradition)
NPR: Literary Iceland Revels in its Annual Christmas Book Flood

from the archives (more poems)
Poetree: Blessed Elizabeth
Poetree: Gifts

What has inspired you this holiday season?



wake up, oh heart,
take note!
the world is not dead
the golden evening light
though fading
captivates you, enlivens you
reminding of the beauty held
in every atom waiting
to be noticed
the world is alive
and so should you be


living symbols of peace and hope {Unbowed by Wangari Maathai}

Hugely charismatic, humble, and possessed of preternatural luminosity of spirit, Wangari Maathai, the winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and a single mother of three, recounts her extraordinary life as a political activist, feminist, and environmentalist in Kenya. (from the inside flap)

Wangari Maathai has been a familiar name to me since I read it in a magazine article perhaps 10 years ago -- sometime during high school. I drank in every word about her organization, The Green Belt Movement, how she was doing the very thing I dreamed of -- planting trees to heal not only the earth, but the people who live here, too. And so, when I finally snatched up her memoir at the library, I expected a grand tale of planting trees across Kenya.

Folks, this is not a book about trees. This is a book about an incredible woman who, when she saw a problem, immediately began looking for a solution. And pursued it. Over and over and over again. It is a story of Kenya, of women, of politics... and if that sounds boring to you, I promise, it's not. I shy away from the words "politics" and "memoir," especially when paired together. But this book is not dry. It is rich. Rich with words painting images telling the story of one of the most incredible women to ever walk this earth. And it is written in such a way as to capture the mind and emotions so that even those who balk at memoirs may be swept up in the journey.

You know that question used in ice breakers and writing prompts: if you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be? I never had an answer. Because sharing a meal with a stranger -- and a famous one, at that -- sounds incredibly daunting to this introvert. But the more I read of Unbowed, the more I wanted to meet Wangari Maathai, to hear her tell more of her story, to simply hear her voice and see her eyes light up with a smile, to shake the hand that planted trees in both hope and stubborn rebellion.

And yes, there are also trees in this book. Lots of them, in fact.

"Trees are living symbols of peace and hope. A tree has roots in the soil yet reaches to the sky. It tells us that in order to aspire we need to be grounded, and that no matter how high we go it is from our roots that we draw sustenance. It is a reminder to all of us who have had success that we cannot forget where we came from."

If the name Wangari Maathai means nothing to you, look it up. Even if you do not read Unbowed (which you should!), at the very least, do an internet search. Read an article, read two, be inspired.

5/5 leaves!


surviving, and living

Over a month ago, I decided to attempt NaNoWriMo, even though I've never written a novel in my life. Fiction is not my forte, I'd decided. But guess what, folks? 25,020 words later, I'm well on my way to writing a fantasy novel.

Not only did I reach my personal goal of 25,000 words, but I wrote every single day for 30 days. And at the end of it all, I have something I'm proud of, something I feel is worth continuing. So even though NaNoWriMo is officially over for 2015, and many of my fellow writers are moving on to the dreaded editing stage (is it weird that I look forward to that?), I'm going to keep on writing.

My goal moving forward is a little less ambitious, though: to write at least once per week. Although I don't regret the tiniest bit having done NaNoWriMo, I did often feel like I was missing out on other things throughout the month. I did next to no knitting, and there's still an unfinished puzzle collecting dust on the kitchen table. And my husband might be feeling a tad neglected... (He's been super supportive through this whole ridiculous adventure, making supper and giving me uninterrupted time to write every evening and even encouraging me to go sit down at my computer.)

I want to finish this book, but I also want to leave time for life to happen. I want to meditate on devotions every morning (especially during this season of Advent), read, do yoga, travel, continue teaching myself to knit, bake, visit with family, hang out with friends, finally get that darn puzzle finished... There are so many things to fill the hours of our days, and I can't settle for just one!

I want to live.



some songs that make you happy
Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) | a beautiful, powerful song, even more so when sung as waves lap your toes
Come Thou Fount | violin and cello as I walked down the tree-shaded aisle in a white dress
Honey Bear | listen to this song without smiling. or dancing. I dare you.
Concerning Hobbits | rolling green hills, a peaceful life, I am a hobbit

some books that make you happy
Misty of Chincoteague | childhood, Mom reading to me, wild ponies
The Lord of the Rings | hobbits, elves, wizards, dwarves, ents, friendship, adventure
The Cloister Walk | unexpectedly beautiful, meditative, journal-like, poetic
DragonSpell | a serendipitous discovery of Christian fantasy beyond C.S. Lewis
Heartland (series) | horses, comfort read, my teen years
The Jesus I Never Knew | deep thinking, giving context to the Bible, new ideas
Summer Hawk | hawks, unexpected friendship, the book I almost wrote

some movies that make you happy
The Lord of the Rings | ditto the books
Spirit | mustangs, the West, music, animation
Amazing Grace | inspiring
Up | snipe, Dug, dreams, love, adventure
Les Miserables | painful, sorrowful, beautiful
Harry Potter | multi-week movie marathons

some foods that make you happy
cake | birthdays, icing, chocolate
brownie sundae | brownies, hot fudge, ice cream... what's not to love?
sweet potato casserole | sweet potatoes, gooey marshmallows, family
cherry pie | Nan-nan, sour cherries from the backyard, summer

some words that make you happy
journey | silence | peace | I love you | perhaps | serenity | beautiful | seed | root | branch | leaf | wonder | wander

some scents that make you happy
horses | long rides, pb&j picnics in the woods, barrel racing, my best friend has a mane
lavender | long hours picking herbs among the honeybees, my wedding bouquets
forest | rough bark, crunchy leaves, winding trail, soul rediscovered beneath a tangle of branches
food | baking cookies, grilling burgers, hot cider, warm bread...

some random things that make you happy
family | animals | trees | fuzzy blankets | sharpened pencils | sunrises | green | travel | walking barefoot | stories | hope

Months ago, Opal tagged me in The Tag of Happiness, and while I don't participate in many memes, I thought this one was too beautiful to pass up. And because I am hopelessly curious, I followed the tag back to the original creator at The Curiosity Collections (a fitting name, considering what landed me there...). I love the flexibility of this tag -- it doesn't specify how many items must be listed under each heading, or how many people must be tagged, and it even allows for more categories to be added. There are no "rules," just "guidelines," allowing each blogger to add their own flair.

Take the banner and put it in your post
List as many things as you want in each category
Come up with more categories if you wish
Tag as many people as you want

I tag:
Shantelle | A Writer's Heart
Kristin | Wool and Wheel
Britt | Encouragement for Everyday Struggles
Annie | Curious Wren
...and anyone else who wants to join in!


on reading books out of order {Airs and Graces by Toby Bishop}

The free-spirited Larkyn has found her place in the Duchy of Oc. She's a favored student of Mistress Philippa and has mastered riding her flying horse, Black Seraph.

Elsewhere, things are growing far more turbulent. Lark's old enemy, Duke William, is the new ruler of Oc. As he obsesses over his desire to ride a winged horse himself, his growing madness leads him to ignore his traditional duties to protect the Duchy -- leaving the coast open to Aesk raiders, who strike at will.
(from the back cover)

I bought Airs and Graces at a small local bookshop, not realizing that it was book two in a trilogy. Why don't books in a series announce that they're part of a series? I mean, really, how am I supposed to know if there's not at least a list of titles belonging to the series inside the front cover? Poor little unsuspecting me might read the books out of order! And the quote on the front announcing that "the Horsemistress Saga promises to be an exciting ride" is almost worse in that it misleads me to think this is book one. Which it is not.

Happily, I discovered my mistake when I added the book on Goodreads. But did I go out and buy book one? Of course not. I knowingly read this one out of order. Why would I do such an abominable thing? Because there are winged horses and I'm impatient. And it looks like a middle-grade novel, and I don't want to spend money on something that might be full of cheesy mediocrity.

Folks, I have learned my lesson. Never judge a book (solely) by its cover.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this is not a middle-grade book, but an adult or, possibly, a very mature YA novel. It's not inappropriate, but neither is it cheesy or angsty. Airs and Graces contains some mature themes, and the point-of-view rotates between several adults and teenaged Larkyn.

And morals. How wonderful to find a book that has good morals! Two or three ideas cropped up that went nowhere in this book, but that have potential to become beautiful subplots in book three. I really really hope they do.

I don't mind rotating POVs -- in fact, I often enjoy them -- but Toby Bishop likes her cliffhangers a bit too much. During the most tense parts of the book, she would end the chapter and switch to a different POV at the worst possible moment. This is ok on occasion, but every-other chapter for the middle third of the book is not much fun.

Finally, there was more emphasis on politics than I expected. Bishop wrote it well, though, and even the most political scenes were never dry. Which, granted, probably had a lot to do with the fact that everything related to the winged horses in some way. I'm definitely going to try to read book one, because I'm certain it will have more about the horses and less about politics.

I really want a winged horse now.

4/5 leaves

Have you ever read a book out of order? Did you do it on purpose, or were you deceived?


November cakes {book-inspired baking}

When I finished reading The Scorpio Races in August, I noted that I could "almost... taste the sticky-sweetness of November cakes." Well, now I can say that I have tasted the sticky-sweetness of November cakes. And they are delicious!

Maggie Stiefvater tortures her readers for 409 pages with tantalizing descriptions of these little hand cakes, and then kindly adds a recipe in the back of the book (yay!). But, naturally, I had to wait until November to try it! So, how did they turn out? What does a November cake actually look like? << Good luck figuring that one out; while I love baking, I struggle immensely with taking flattering pictures of my food.

I was a little skeptical when I finished mixing the dough and it seemed... thin. And sticky. But I followed the recipe to a T and let it rise as-is, thinking maybe it would magically be ok in an hour. Nope. I dumped it on the table to roll it out, and it sort of oozed into a doughy puddle. So I scraped it all back into the bowl and added more flour.

Tip: if your dough seems more like batter than the bread dough it's supposed to resemble, add more flour. If it doesn't look right, it probably isn't.

In the end, I still didn't add enough flour, apparently, because there weren't a lot of "nooks and crannies" for the glaze to settle into. But they were delicious and sticky and caramel-y nonetheless.

So, before you run out of November this year, go read The Scorpio Races (if you haven't already; if you have, it's definitely worth a re-read!) and then bake yourself some November cakes. They take a bit of time and effort, but believe me, they're worth it.

Have you ever made a book-inspired recipe? If so, what was it? And the all-important question: Have you read The Scorpio Races? (Hint: There are two correct answers here -- "yes" and "not yet." :) )


life is beautiful {a poem}

Life is beautiful.
If you don't believe me,
go outside.
Lie down under a tree and
stare up through the branches,
watch light dance through the leaves
as a breeze carries
the whisper of God
just out of reach -- 
listen to the thunderous pulsing
of chirping cicadas
and marvel
at the ordered tangle of branches.
Take nothing with you -- 
no book, no journal,
no distractions.
Just your soul.
You are alive,
and life
is beautiful.

Obviously, it being November, there are no cicadas chirping outside anymore. I wrote this poem months ago, and have been eager to share it with you since. So why did it take so long? I'm not entirely sure. Go outside and lie down under a tree anyway. Appreciate what you hear and see, even if it's just wind whistling through empty branches. Let me know what you discover. Your own soul, perhaps?

*Photo by my husband, Paul


Flashes of Ember: review and interview with Vicki V. Lucas

This 94-page middle-grade fantasy was published just last month, and it's a fun beginning to what looks to be an exciting series! Don't miss my interview with author Vicki V. Lucas below the review. I received a free e-book copy of Flashes of Ember for review as part of a Rivershore Books blog tour.

Twelve-year-old Geona drank in the beautiful sight of the moonlight shining on the horses around the large barn.

Shalock Stables. Home of the greatest racing horses in all of Eltiria.

And Papa now worked here! They lived just steps away from the biggest barn of the stables. It was perfect!

Only it wasn’t. She wasn’t allowed to help Papa with the horses. She couldn’t even ride. Tristan, her older brother, wasn’t permitted into the Razors, the massive mountains filled with peril and adventure.

When a beautiful chestnut filly is badly beaten, Geona has to do something. Her parents just say that Adoyni has a plan, but she can’t wait for Him any longer.
(from the back cover)

my review

Flashes of Ember is a fun, fast-paced, horsey adventure with a beautiful theme of faith woven gently throughout and just a hint of fantasy. The first chapter (or two) was a little slow for me, with a few editing mistakes to stumble over. But the story soon sucked me in, and I devoured this little book in one sitting.

Geona is such a strong, well-developed character, and her Papa and brother Tristan are equally well fleshed-out. Her two younger siblings are about eight or so years behind her, though, which I found a little odd, and didn't contribute to the story at all. They just kind of existed, as did her mother.

Having grown up with horses, I really appreciated the horsemanship in this book. It is a rare thing to find an author who knows their way around a horse. And Vicki V. Lucas includes a few tips in the back of the book for working with horses, which I would have loved as a 10-year-old.

I highly recommend Flashes of Ember to horse lovers especially on the younger end of the 9-12 age range, but with parental discretion due to the themes of animal abuse.

3/5 leaves

author interview with Vicki V. Lucas

1.     What was your inspiration for Flashes of Ember? 
I wanted to write a story of a horse and a girl. I had several ideas, but I realized that we see few fantasy stories with girls as the main characters. I grew up with a deep love for Narnia, and I wanted to give girls a chance at fantasy as much as the guys. Flashes of Ember came out of my love for fantasy and for horses.

2.     You seem to have a lot of experience with horses -- do you own any, or did you in the past?
I grew up around horses, although we didn’t own any until I was in my teens. My sister and I always found people who needed a horse or two ridden. When I was fifteen, I found a chestnut Arabian who I fell in love with at first sight. My friends who raised horses helped me buy her and train her. She was my best friend for twelve years. And even though she’s been gone for about ten, I miss her a lot!

3.     I see book two, Ember's Choice, was also published recently. Do you have plans for more books in the Tales of Shalock Stables series?
I do! I want to keep the story of Ember and Geona going. They have a lot to do yet, including winning a few races, if they can pull it together!

I also want to start a series with Tristan. I’ve really enjoyed his character, and I want to bring in more of his adventures into those dangerous mountains – the Razors.

4.     What, if anything, are you currently working on?
I have a series called Angel Warrior Series where I take real life events where people knew angels were battling around them, and God is glorified. The first one is called Bound. I’m finishing up the second in that series. Then I need to go back Eltiria, the world of Flashes of Ember, and finish the next book in a series that happens 9 years after Geona.

Of course, I just figured out the plot for the next book for Ember and Geona, so my fingers are itching to start that, too. Oh! I need more time!

5.     Why did you decide to be a writer?
I don’t know if I ever made a conscious decision... “I’m going to be a writer.” I started writing one book and can’t seem to stop! The stories haven’t either. I have a list of at least thirty more books I want to write!

6.     What do you enjoy most about connecting with readers?
Honestly, I normally use a lot of cliff-hangers in my writing, so I love it when people tell me that they can’t put a book down or that they’re dying for the next book in the series.

But my favorite thing is when they contact me asking for help on writing their own books – of starting their dreams. I’m a big believer in dreams, especially big ones. I get very excited whether the person is eight years old or eighty! If you have a dream of getting a book in print, I think it’s exciting, and I love chatting about their ideas.

7.     Many writers are currently neck-deep in National Novel Writing Month. Do you have a few pieces of advice you'd like to pass along to them?
I’ve done this a few times and loved it! One thing I did was to increase the amount of words per day so that I could take the days around Thanksgiving off. As for advice to stay strong, I think it helps to have a schedule. I’ve found my brain works better when it has a routine and it knows that it’s time to write. Then I try to visualize the scenes in my head while I’m away from the computer so that I’m ready to go next time and I don’t lose any time trying to figure out what happens next. If you’re trying this, keep it up! It’s well worth it!

Vicki V. Lucas published Flashes of Ember, the first of the Tales of Shalock Stables as well as two fantasy young adult books, a young adult supernatural novel, a short story series titled Angel Warrior Files, and The Truth about Angels: What the Bible Says. Explore further at www.vickivlucas.com.


when your to-do list is longer than 24 hours, and fun is no longer fun

I recently read a post by fellow blogger Rebekka about trying to do everything at once and failing. As I started writing a comment, I realized I had a lot to say on the topic, and that we probably weren't the only ones who have experienced this exhausting problem.

How do we get everything done -- whether "everything" is school, work, blogging, NaNoWriMo, reading, etc. etc. etc. -- and still have time to just plain relax? Have enjoyable pastimes moved from relaxing activities to looming to-do items? What do you do when your to-do list is longer than 24-hours, and fun is no longer fun?

I'm definitely no expert, but I have spent an exceptional amount of time pondering this over the past months, and I'd like to share a few tips that have helped me. Several of these pertain directly to blogging, but they can certainly be applied to other things in life.

1. Take a break...

...or just cut back. I recently took a month-long break from blogging, and by the end of it I was refreshed and excited to get back into it again. I had even stockpiled a few draft posts that I had felt inspired to write during the break, so I had some back-up for when I didn't have time or just plain didn't want to write a post.

If taking a break isn't possible or doesn't sound appealing, consider cutting back (at least temporarily). You don't have to post every day -- in fact, you could get away with once a week. Pick a day (I chose Tuesdays), and schedule your posts ahead of time. Again, if you have time and/or feel inspired to write an extra post, write away, and save those posts for when you lack time and inspiration.

2. Prioritize

What is most important on your to-do list? For some people, dividing to-do items into big rocks, gravel, and sand helps to put a visual on this. Top-priority things are big rocks; these go in the jar first. Gravel represents mid-priority items, and they fill in the gaps. Sand follows, seeping into whatever cracks are left over. Or maybe you just want to write a list and star the things that MUST get done TODAY. Whatever method works for you, make sure you know what your priorities are.

3. Use what you have

Use photos you already have (we'll never know!). You shouldn't feel obligated to take and edit new photos for every blog post when you probably have an enormous pile of them in your computer already. And no one will think less of you for using images from Goodreads for your book reviews.

Remember those posts you set aside for a rainy day? Use them. When blogging feels like a chore, publish one of those stockpiled drafts. Write when you feel like it. (I'm talking to all of my fellow hobby-bloggers out there -- if blogging is your job, then I guess it is sort of a chore...)

4. Set a bed time

Yes, we're all adults here (and teens), but I find routine immensely helpful, especially when it comes to sleep. If you don't set a specific time for shutting down, you could potentially go on all night, which leads to waking up late and/or feeling groggy and icky and generally all-around terrible in the morning. And that is not good for productivity. Also, by setting a bed time, you allow for also setting a reading time. I like to read for about an hour before turning in for the night -- not only does this ensure that I get to read, but it helps me wind down at the end of the day.

5. Set a wake-up time

...and do something you enjoy first thing in the morning. I struggle with this one, but I've found that waking up at the same time every morning is as helpful as going to bed at (about) the same time every night. Set your alarm, and challenge yourself to not hit snooze. If you have work or school to get to, leave plenty of time to not only get ready, but also to do something you enjoy. Go for a run, do yoga, read a devotional. This starts your day on a positive note, and gives you something to look forward to in the morning. And eat breakfast. Always, always, always eat breakfast.

6. Take breaks!

If you're feeling overwhelmed, you're probably not getting much done because you're too busy panicking over all the things you're not getting done. Go for a five-minute walk (or longer, if you have time!), take a bath, call a friend, grab a snack... even running an errand can be refreshing if you've been holed up in the house all day. Just make sure to set a time limit so your break doesn't turn into procrastination.

Try to set aside a day, or at least a half day, where you don't worry about being productive. For me, this is Sunday. I go to church in the morning, and then I have the rest of the day to read, bake, play board games, go for a long walk -- whatever I feel like doing! I'm not super strict about this; Sunday has also become laundry day, and I sometimes finish up a few chores that didn't get done on Saturday, but for the most part, Sunday is a day of relaxing.

Do you have an impossible to-do list? What tips do you have for getting things done and still having some time to do what you love?


why I was disappointed by this epic brick of a book

The Wise Man's Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle #2)
by Patrick Rothfuss

There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.

My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me.

So begins the tale of a hero told from his own point of view -- a story unequaled in fantasy literature. Now in The Wise Man's Fear, Day Two of The Kingkiller Chronicle, Kvothe takes his first steps on teh path of the hero and learns how difficult life can be when a man becomes a legend in his own time. (from the back cover)

This seems to be a theme, lately. Disappointing books. Boo.

I loved The Name of the Wind, and had been looking forward to this sequel for so very long. When a friend gave it to me for my birthday this summer, I carried it around the house for the rest of the day so that I could occasionally sniff the pages or give it a hug, or just to gaze at it's beautiful brick-like enormity (1,107 pages, folks). Finally, months later, I plucked it off the shelf and began reading. And it was awesome.

The first half contained all of the incredibleness of book one, and I drank it in. But somewhere just north of the halfway point, it started to fall apart for me. Nonetheless, I had already delved 500+ pages into this behemoth, and so I trudged in. There were yet lovely morsels to enjoy interspersed among the atrocities.

If you haven't read book one, go back and check out my review and read The Name of the Wind before you decide to write off the whole series based on this review of the second book.

As I said, there are many good things in this book. It's well-balanced with adventure, character development, wit, brilliant world-building, cultural diversity... There are just a few scenes -- chapters, even -- that I could do without. Honestly, they added nothing to the book. No one would miss them if they were removed. So what are they? Why were they so atrocious?
  1. Kvothe meets a woman who teaches him how to... "sleep" with her. It's not graphic, but he spends a lot of time with her. The best part: he claims to not remember much about this point in his life, that it's foggy to him, and yet it drags on for several chapters. Umm... right. Feel free to skip ahead a few pages if/when you reach this point. I certainly won't judge you for it. In fact, if you ask nicely, I'll even look up exactly which chapters you want to ignore. Except...

  2. This opens the floodgates for hormone-filled teenage Kvothe, and suddenly he has to sleep with every-other woman he meets. I was so excited when he finally left the above-mentioned woman, only to find we weren't done with this theme yet. Ugh.

  3. In an odd sense of irony, Kvothe rescues a couple of girls from slavery/rape, which is great. But he does it by slaughtering and then branding the group of people who had kidnapped them. He feels a twinge of remorse later, but is reassured by someone else that he did the right thing. People congratulate and thank him. Guys. THIS IS NOT OK. You can't just go around killing everyone who does something bad. I mean, how does this make Kvothe any better than the people he killed? Hint: it doesn't.
The verdict? The Wise Man's Fear is full of wonderful scenes, beautifully real characters, and impossibly amazing writing. But it is also full of some really sketchy morals. So if you loved The Name of the Wind and are desperate to read more, use your best judgement. Was it worth reading? I'm still not 100% sure, but I think so.

3/5 leaves

Have you had this problem before, reading one disappointing book after another? Does the madness end? (It does. My next review is much more positive, so stay tuned...)
Also, do you think my above complaints are valid? What is your perspective on these topics? The third is obviously an important one to me, and I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Dragon Heart {book review}

by Cecelia Holland

Where the Cape of the Winds juts into the endless sea, there is Castle Ocean, and therein dwells the royal family that has ruled it from time immemorial. But there is an Empire growing in the east, and its forces have reached the castle. King Reymarro is dead in battle, and by the new treaty, Queen Marioza must marry one of the Emperor’s brothers. She loathes the idea, and has already killed the first brother, but a second arrives, escorted by more soldiers. While Marioza delays, her youngest son, Jeon, goes on a journey in search of his mute twin, Tirza, who needs to be present for the wedding.

As Jeon and Tirza return by sea, their ship is attacked by a shocking and powerful dragon, red as blood and big as the ship. Thrown into the water, Tirza clings to the dragon, and after an underwater journey, finds herself alone with the creature in an inland sea pool. Surprisingly, she is able to talk to the beast, and understand it.

(from Goodreads)

Overall, I found this book incredibly disappointing. I wanted to like it, and even though I decided early on that it wasn't any good, there were aspects of it that kept me reading in hopes that it might improve. It did not. Rather, it continued on in this mediocre state, woven entirely of the very very good and the very very bad.

the good

1. There is a dragon.

2. The protagonist is a mute princess, who the dragon holds captive/befriends (it's complicated).

3. Good family relationships -- mostly between siblings, but the mother is also present and loved, and they reminisce some about their father.

4. The author is not afraid to kill off key characters.

5. The premise? Brilliant. The execution...

the bad

1. The dragon appears in the very beginning of the book, then is hardly mentioned at all throughout most of the rest of the book while the focus switches to the princes and their convoluted battle with the emperor's sons for the crown.

2. Why hasn't the mute princess learned to write, or to communicate through gestures or drawing? Why isn't this addressed?

3. The death scenes are described matter-of-factly, and tend to be rather gruesome.

4. There are two or three very sensual scenes that were all entirely unnecessary -- not only did the author give too much detail, but in each case the whole paragraph or even entire scene could have been left out. They were not at all necessary to the plot or character development.

5. My biggest issue with this book is that it should have been 100-200 pages longer. It was far too choppy.

2/5 leaves


library sale! {book haul}

I had been looking forward to my local library's massive book sale for weeks (as some of you are very well aware), and I finally came home with this lovely stack of eight paperbacks last week.

Black Beauty
by Anna Sewell

As you can see in the photo above, this isn't the edition I bought. Mine is actually a plain boring red on front, but the spine is beautiful! And yes, I have read this book before. And seen the movie (countless times). That little red paperback captured my attention, though, and I thought maybe it's time to re-read this wonderful classic!

Only the River Runs Free
by Bodie and Brock Thoene

I love Bodie and Brock Thoene's biblical fiction (what I've read, anyway), and I've been meaning to read this Irish series forever. Because Ireland. Honestly, I'm not even 100% sure what the plot line is...

Holding Up the Earth
by Dianne E. Gray

This one was a new discovery -- it's about a girl in foster care who falls in love with a farm. The cover is beautiful, the title is beautiful, and it involves a farm. I thought I'd give it a shot.

Riding Lessons
by Sara Gruen

I've seen this one on Goodreads and have been waffling on whether or not to read it. But it's a horse book, so of course I finally caved. Hopefully it's a good one -- adult horse books are few and far between.

Flying Changes
by Sara Gruen

I doubly hope Riding Lessons is good, because I bought the sequel, too...

West Wind
by Mary Oliver

It's about time I picked up a book of poetry by Mary Oliver. I have read few of her poems, but enjoyed them all. I look forward to reading more of her work in this little book!

The Two Towers
by J.R.R. Tolkien

Before you ask: yes, I have read this before. LotR is one of my favorite series -- both book and movie -- ever. I already had all three books in one volume, which makes it unpleasantly heavy to hold while reading, and my dad recently gave me a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring. And do you see that cover? It's beautiful. Plus...

The Return of the King
by J.R.R. Tolkien

...they also had book three, which is possibly even more beautiful. And both books are in pristine condition.

Have you bought/borrowed any new books lately? I've heard that some libraries don't have sales (gasp!) -- does yours? Also, I'm curious: do you consider Black Beauty a children's book?