things with wings {book haul}

It may seem a little late for one final Christmas post, but Paul and I only finished Christmassing last week, and I couldn't possibly share my holiday book haul before the lovely stack was complete! Not to mention, we finally un-decorated yesterday. Hence the tree in the photos. While I received most of these books (and all of the bookish accessories) as gifts, several were purchased and one was won, but all were acquired in December and early January, and as I'll explain below, they connect to Christmas in other ways, so, behold my Christmas book haul!

I'll begin with those received as gifts:

Dragon Haven (Rain Wilds Chronicles #2)
by Robin Hobb
I flailed over volume one, The Dragon Keeper, in my last post, and also before that on Goodreads when I discovered that Robin Hobb wrote 16 books in the same world. My brother bought me volumes two and three  of The Rain Wilds Chronicles to complete my trilogy. GUYS. THERE IS ONE MORE BOOK. Now I have to go hunt it down in a bookstore... darn.

City of Dragons (Rain Wilds Chronicles #3)
by Robin Hobb
Until about 30 seconds ago, I had believed this to be the final book in the Rain Wilds Chronicles. Besides the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed book one, I want to collect all four volumes because they have lovely, simple covers.

Airs Beneath the Moon (Horsemistress Saga #1)
by Toby Bishop
Remember that book that I read out of order? This is book one, which is going to feel like a prequel since I read book two first (whoops), and then book three will be confusing because by the time I get to it, I'll have forgotten what all happened in book two, but that's okay, because flying horses. Paul (my husband) bought me this one because he knows how much I enjoyed Airs and Graces.

The Small Backs of Children
by Lidia Yuknavitch
And finally, a standalone novel. I'd never heard of this one before, possibly because it was published only last July. Something about a photo, Eastern Europe, and a writer... I received The Small Backs of Children from my brother-in-law.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
by J.R.R. Tolkien
This is my (and Paul's) third set of LoTR, but my first copy of The Hobbit. I also have the trilogy in one paperback volume and as three separate paperbacks -- I promise, we did not intentionally collect multiple copies! But I was nonetheless very happy to unwrap this beautiful leather-bound (at least, it looks like leather) boxed set from my parents.

Recharge LED Book Light
by Mighty Bright
Even Paul's friends have figured out how much I enjoy reading (it may or may not have something to do with the hours I spend in Powell's City of Books...). This lovely little silicone book light they gave us recharges via a micro-USB charging cable. I have one word for you, folks: camping.

Paul's parents gave us the adorable little polymer clay owls, made by a family friend. I received the beautiful tree of life ribbon bookmark (with a dove in the tree and a hawk, I think, on the other end) from my mom.

The Dragon Quartet Omnibus, Volume 2 (Dragon Quartet #3-4)
by Marjorie B. Kellogg
Although I haven't yet read volume one, I do own it, and I couldn't help but complete my collection. The whole quartet includes The Book of Earth, The Book of Water, The Book of Fire, and The Book of Air. I bought this omnibus and three other books in the above stack at Powell's City of Books using a gift card I received from my in-laws for Christmas (plus the remaining balance on a card left over from my birthday), so technically, I suppose you could say they were a Christmas gift...

Les Miserables
by Victor Hugo
I've been wanting to read this for years -- ever since my high school performed the musical -- and, realizing that it will probably take several weeks (if not months...) to complete, I decided to snatch up my own copy rather than borrow it from the library. As of the writing of this post, I'm 114 pages in and loving it. This was one of the four Powell's buys.

Dragonsong (Pern: Harper Hall #1)
by Anne McCaffrey
I've been told that Anne McCaffrey is the "queen of dragons." Need I say more?

The Art of Losing Yourself
by Katie Ganshert
This book was a pleasant surprise, arriving on my doorstep unannounced, apparently the result of a giveaway I had entered and forgotten about. I call it an early Christmas gift from the publisher. I'm not really sure what The Art of Losing Yourself is about, but I do know that it is Christian contemporary fiction, and I have the feeling that it might be a good summer-y read. Perhaps I'll take it camping with my fancy new book light...

The Unexpected Dragon
by Mary Brown
I happily discovered this trilogy-in-one-volume at Powell's, and was immediately intrigued by the artwork on the tattered dust jacket. Again, not entirely sure what it's about, but it involves an orphaned 17-year-old girl who encounters a "raggle-tail assortment of creatures," including a flying pig and, if the cover is any indication, a dragon. According to Goodreads, this series is actually a quartet, and book one isn't included in the volume I bought. Good grief.

Did you get any books or bookish things for Christmas? Any new discoveries? And tell me, am I the only one who is continually deceived by quartets posing as trilogies?


mini book reviews: dragons, Ireland, and YA

The Dragon Keeper (Rain Wild Chronicles #1) 
by Robin Hobb

Too much time has passed since the powerful dragon Tintaglia helped the people of the Trader cities stave off an invasion of their enemies. The Traders have forgotten their promises, weary of the labor and expense of tending earthbound dragons who were hatched weak and deformed by a river turned toxic. If neglected, the creatures will rampage--or die--so it is decreed that they must move farther upriver...

Thymara, an unschooled forest girl, and Alise, wife of an unloving and wealthy Trader, are among the disparate group entrusted with escorting the dragons to their new home. And on an extraordinary odyssey with no promise of return, many lessons will be learned...
(from the back cover)

This novel was every bit as wonderful as its beautiful, simple cover suggests. The narrative seemed a little detached, at times -- I didn't relate well to many of the characters -- but I loved Thymara and Alise, and reading the novel from multiple perspectives (yes, it alternated between more than two) was fascinating and surprisingly easy to follow. And goodness, what a unique plot! If the front cover didn't convince me to buy this book, the back certainly did! You may or may not have seen my flailing on Goodreads over the discovery that The Dragon Keeper is one of 16 books set in the same world, with characters that overlap here and there... I will definitely be reading more of Robin Hobb!

4/5 leaves

Only the River Runs Free (The Galway Chronicles #1) 
by Bodie and Brock Thoene

It was four o'clock on the afternoon of December 24, 1841, in the village of Ballynockanor, County of Galaway, Province of Connaught, Ireland. It was after mass on the first day of Advent that the old woman, Mad Molly Fahey, had told Father O'Bannon (as well as ever farmer, farmer's wife, and child) that a great miracle was coming to visit the poor of Ballynockanor....

When a stranger crosses the river and enters the village on Christmas eve, Molly proclaims that he is the herald of freedom and change. Is this quiet man the spark that will stoke the fires of Irish nationalism and bring freedom in a troubled time? Or will he bring the destruction of an entire way of life?
(from the back cover)

I really enjoyed learning more about Ireland's history -- specifically, the tension between Catholics and Protestants -- through this novel. Bodie and Brock Thoene have a wonderful talent for painting vivid characters that help bring a story to life. However, Only the River Runs Free has a strong emphasis on politics, and I found it a bit boring in places. Although I enjoyed it overall, I might stick with the Thoenes' biblical fiction in the future (The A.D. Chronicles is amazing).

3/5 leaves

Graceling (Graceling Realm #1) 
by Kristen Cashore

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight -- she's a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king's thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.
(from Goodreads)

I have some mixed feelings about this one. The first three chapters consisted mostly of info-dumping, and I was afraid I'd embarked on a very long, boring journey. But it got better! Katsa fleshed out and became human and relatable, humor reared its fuzzy blue head, violence was questioned, tension built, bad things happened, happy things ensued... In the end, I think it's safe to say I really really liked it. I love Katsa and Po and Raffin. And I'm really enjoying the sequel, Bitterblue, so far.

A caution, though: There is one paragraph of sexual content, and the overall morals regarding sex are a bit questionable, which is especially disappointing in light of the wonderful morals surrounding killing. I'd almost label Graceling New Adult rather than YA, due to the content.

4/5 leaves


a year of unkowns {2016}

2016 brings with it uncertainty. There is "I hope" and "maybe" and "what if," all wrapped up in a potential life change of somewhat enormous proportions. Enormous as in moving to another country. It all hinges on an application my husband and I sent in well ahead of the deadline, and so now we wait. And wait. And wait. We don't know specifics -- it's all pretty vague, but what happens if we are not accepted is even more so. I'm terribly impatient, and I like to have things planned out. But right now I'm reveling in these unknowns, trying to take advantage of this upcoming break from the monotony of routine. Life is happening. And whatever 2016 brings, I'm ready.

All that just to say: the below goals are dependent upon where I end up and what I end up doing and whether it leaves time for what I have planned, because, frankly (unfortunately?), reading and writing are not exactly top priority for me. They are hobbies. Seeing as how my specific reading goals didn't pan out so well last year, I'm sticking to good ol' fashioned numbers this time around.


35 books
I considered upping the number again, especially since I went well above 35 last year, but given the uncertainties, I figured a modest goal made the most sense. Keep track of my progress on Goodreads, if you like! Depending on how life goes, I might up the number in a few months...


100,000 words
In searching for a motivator along the same vein as NaNoWriMo, I happily discovered WriYe. It's a spinoff of NaNo, but it lasts the whole year, and you pick your own word count goal. If you decide to sign up, please do friend me! My username is SerenaPoetree.


spend more time outside
learn to knit socks
finish the One Year Bible
practice yoga regularly
start a healthy (early) morning routine
others... ?
I've been toying with the idea of monthly goals -- choosing something(s) to focus on for one month, rather than stretching a pile of resolutions over a full year and then watching them fizzle out somewhere around spring or summer. If this idea continues to nag me, I might have something more to say come February.

What does 2016 look like where you stand? Have you set any goals -- reading, writing or otherwise?