Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Fiction · Sci-Fi

Recent Reads (and Half-Assed Excuses)

Hey. Is this thing on? *taps mic* It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I wish I had some positive news to share with everyone. I wish I had a dozen fabulous book reviews to post. I wish I had pictures from all the fabulous vacations I’ve been on. I wish the Doctor had whisked me away in the TARDIS six months ago and took me to another planet…one without COVID and burgeoning fascist dictators. I wish I had something vaguely interesting to share. Alas, I do not.

I’ll write a separate post soon about everything that’s been going on, but for now let’s talk about books! I’ve been really slack on my book reviews the last few months, not because I haven’t been reading, but because I’ve been re-reading a lot of old favorites. Here are a few of the newer (new to me, anyway) titles I’ve read and really enjoyed this year:

Tithe by Holly Black – “Sixteen-year-old Kaye is a modern nomad. Fierce and independent, she travels from city to city with her mother’s rock band until an ominous attack forces Kaye back to her childhood home. There, Kaye soon finds herself an unwilling pawn in an ancient power struggle between two rival faerie kingdoms- a struggle that could very well mean her death.” (My Rating: 4 Stars)

Unbreakable Storm by Patrick Dugan – “After escaping the deadly Gauntlet, Tommy Ward and his friends struggle to come to terms with the price they paid for their survival. Still on the run from The Protectorate and Reclaimers, a visitor appears with a dire warning about their missing friend, dragging them into a conflict that has raged since the beginning of time. To rescue his friend and protect everyone he cares about, Tommy must face his toughest foe yet – the revenge-obsessed Grim Reaper.” (My Rating: 4 Stars)

Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri – “Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited. When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda. Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance.” (My Rating: 4 Stars)

I promise there will be some actual book reviews soon! What are some of your favorites from 2020 so far?

Life · mental health

K’s Tips for Surviving a Pandemic

It’s almost July and we’re still in a pandemic. IS EVERYONE HAVING FUN YET? I decided to share some (hopefully) helpful tips for surviving the rest of this shit show…I mean, 2020.

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  • Eat lots of snacks – Snacks are one of the best parts of life. So eat lots of snacks and enjoy them.
  • Pet all the animals – If you have animals at home you need to go pet them. Right now. I’ll wait. *waits* Seriously, one of the most comforting things you can do during stressful times is to play with/snuggle/pet your animals. They’re great at keeping you company, making you laugh, and listening to you, even if they have no idea what you’re talking about.
  • Do what makes you happy – Even if you’re working from home or taking care of your family, you should take some time to do something for you, too. Watch a dumb tv show, work on a project, play video games, bake cookies, etc. Doing things you enjoy will keep you from feeling so miserable when you’re cooped up inside your house.
  • Try not to kill the people you live with – Easier said than done. Trust me, I know. If everyone in your home is driving you insane, take a walk, do some meditation, or find some other way to “check out” for a while. Bickering with everyone non-stop isn’t healthy for anyone and it’s only going to make you feel worse.
  • Take care of your mental health – Check in with yourself. How are you feeling? If you are someone who struggles with mental health issues regularly this might be a difficult time for you. Even if you don’t have mental health issues normally, losing your job, not being able to socialize and see other people, and the fear of getting sick might be taking a toll on you. On top of all that, there are some very heartbreaking things happening in the world. It’s understandable that some people might not be handling things particularly well right now. I will be 100% honest with you guys and tell you that I recently started talking to a therapist again because I am definitely not okay lately. If you feel yourself slipping into a bad place, try to figure out what it is that you need. Therapy and medication are the answer for some people. Others might just need someone to vent to from time to time. Or perhaps you need to find some new coping mechanisms. Whatever it is, take time for yourself and your mental health. And remember, you are never truly alone.
  • Basic hygiene – I’m not suggesting that anyone gets up and puts real clothing or a full face of makeup on every day. (I pretty much live in yoga pants/sweat pants these days, except when I need to go into the office.) Showering, brushing your teeth, and putting on clean clothes can make you feel pretty good and help you feel like you have some normalcy. Plus, nobody in your house really wants to smell your dirty socks from across the room.
  • Eat real food – Lots of snacks and foods that make you happy are a good idea, but it’s also a good idea to remember to get your fruits and veggies, too. Ice cream is amazing and all, but you’ll probably feel like crap if you eat nothing but ice cream for a week. Try to balance it out.
  • Go outside – Taking walks and getting outside is good for your physical and mental well-being, so try to get outside and move around a bit, even if it’s only for a short period of time. Just because there’s a pandemic doesn’t mean you need to turn into a vampire.
  • Don’t beat yourself up – I think it’s safe to say that most of us aren’t thriving right now. And that’s okay. Do the best you can and don’t beat yourself up when you don’t feel productive enough or haven’t cooked in a few days. This is a stressful time and nobody expects you to be perfect right now. Be nice to yourself.
  • Stay safe and wear your mask – No further explanation needed.

 

I hope you’re all hanging in there. ❤

Books · Fantasy

Book Review: Storm Forged by Patrick Dugan

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Tommy Ward just wanted to go through life like everybody else. Go to school, make friends, meet girls, play video games. You know, the stuff normal high school kids do. But Tommy isn’t normal, and the silver collar around his neck lets everybody know it.

Tommy is one of the Gifted, people born with special abilities that are locked down by the collars. But being a Gifted was outlawed after massive terrorist attacks destroyed half the world’s population. Now Tommy’s father is trapped as a participant in a terrible game show, where the only prize is death.

Tommy and his friends vow to save his dad, but without their powers, how will they do it? Tommy is about to find out that everything has a price, and sometimes you have to pay more than you can afford.
Goodreads

When I saw that this book was described as a cross between X-men and Hunger Games I was already sold. How can you go wrong with a lash up like that? I mean, I guess it could go horribly wrong if the story sucks, but fortunately that was not the case here. This was a fun and thrilling book from start to finish.

The themes in this book – Gifteds persecuted for being “different” than everyone else, the violence and hatred directed towards them, the indifference from the normal people – feel chilling relevant to everything that is happening in the world right now. I have respect for any author that can tell a good story, but even more so to ones who can tell a fantasy story in parallel to current real world events.

The characters in this story are all interesting and relatable. I enjoyed the sneak peeks we got at each of their special abilities and look forward to seeing how their gifts get used later in the series. Even more enjoyable were the strong relationships in this book. Far too often we are presented with stories about teens with either poor or no relationship with their parents and fragile friendships. That was not the case here at all. Tommy, his mom, and his friends all leaned on each other and valued each other, which was incredibly refreshing.

This one gets two thumbs up from me. I can’t wait to jump into book two!

(Here’s a link to the book’s Amazon page, in case anyone else is interested in checking it out.)

food · Uncategorized

Repost: Love and Unrest

I was going to write a separate post regarding the protests on here, but instead I’ve decided to share the post I wrote on my other blog. My other blog is a bit different than this one, as it’s a food blog, but the context of the post still apply.

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Unless you live in a cave underground, I’m sure you all know what’s been happening lately. The murder of George Floyd. The protests. The riots. All over the world people are fighting for equality and against racism and police brutality. There is so much heaviness, sadness, and anger that I just don’t know what to say. Every time I read another headline in the news I can’t help but ask myself “How did we get here? How did we let it get this bad?” While I don’t consider myself racist by any means, it’s hard not to feel guilty for all the injustice that has happened in this country for hundreds of years now.

It is not okay.

I’ve been doing my own part in helping to spread awareness of the issue, donating money, and speaking out whenever I can. You don’t have to be in the middle of the protests to take part in the action. (If you aren’t sure how, click here for some ideas.) It’s been mentally draining, to say the least, because no matter what I do it feels like it will never be enough.

I took the day off work on Friday to get some things done at home and to try to relax. As I often do during stressful times, I decided to bake something. I had some frozen berries hanging around in the freezer, so I pulled them out and decided to make scones. The recipe I used came from The Curious Chickpea. It’s a simple, yet reliable one. The only differences I made to the recipe was that I used both raspberries and blueberries and created a beet glaze to drizzle over the top. The flavor of the beet powder didn’t come through too much, but it did add a beautiful color to the finished product.

Baking always gives me a sense of peace and happiness, which is why it is one of my favorite hobbies. Every time I step into the kitchen to bake something I pour a lot of love into whatever I’m making. I know plenty of you can relate.

Can you imagine what kind of world we could live in, how much better off we would be, if we all poured that same love and energy into supporting others?

#blacklivesmatter

Games · Life

Animal Crossing: Where is the Hatch?!

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Accolades Trailer - Nintendo Switch ...

A couple of weeks ago I bit the bullet and purchased Animal Crossing for my Switch so I could see what the big fuss has been about. (Because why wouldn’t I want to watch another human, albeit a pretend one, mull about doing nothing all day and having little social interaction?) Now that I’m a seasoned islander allow me to share some of my thoughts on the game.

  • My initial response to the game was “Aw, this is cute. It’s like the Sims, but you have to actually work for stuff and it’s on an island…I bet this will get boring after a few days.”
  • After a few days I was pretty excited to see my character’s progress on catching fish and bugs to donate to the alleged museum that was said to be opening. If this had been real life I would have had diabetes already from all the peaches I had to eat. Why didn’t the Nooklings stock food on the island for residents to purchase? My poor character just wants some damned peanut butter.
  • Tom Nook is a shady dude. He’s either one of two things: a) A cult leader and I am probably helping him to create a compound for his future followers, or b) Just a useless, money-hungry tycoon. Either way, I don’t like this guy…er, raccoon.
  • I am enjoying the daily routine that my character has gotten into and the new goals that pop up every day. It makes me feel somewhat accomplished. Within a week I already paid off my debt, got my own house, and helped start up a museum! I’m doing so much with my free time! (Even though in reality I’m just sitting on my ass at home eating Hippeas and chocolate.)
  • I’m crafty AF! Look at all the cool DIY projects I’ve completed and all the cool stuff I built out of sticks and grass. Someone give me my own YouTube channel.
  • I have yet to dig up a secret hatch in the ground, inhabited by a slightly off-kilter, socially deprived Australian man. I confess that I am very disappointed by this. (I’m pretty sure he would have peanut butter.)

Ryan Leston on Twitter: "Quarantine Tip: Put on some music! I ...

Books · Life · Television

The latest in nerdy COVID fashion

In my last couple of posts I mentioned some of the things I’ve been doing to help pass the time during quarantine. Since then I have found another new hobby: making masks. It’s practically impossible to find disposable masks anywhere unless you’re a healthcare or food service worker so I made a couple of my own for those times where I am forced to be in public. Luckily I already had lots of fun fabrics on hand for this project!

Check out my Avengers and Explodng TARDIS masks!

In addition to creating masks, I’ve been working my way through a couple of books. I just finished Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows last week. (Yes, I read it again. Stop judging me!) This week I’m reading Empire of Sand, which has been fantastic so far.

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I also finished binge-watching Marvel’s Runaways. Even though the last season wasn’t quite as good as the first two, I still really enjoyed this show. I wish it hadn’t been cancelled already. I guess I’ll have to go re-read some of the comics to hold me over.

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Did you watch Runaways yet (It’s available on Disney +)? Let me know what you thought!

 

Life · mental health

Life in the Time of COVID: A Timeline

7:30 a.m: Wakes up and makes oatmeal and tea for breakfast.

8:00 a.m: Makes a half-assed attempt to feel like a person. Puts on clean-ish clothing. Sorta does hair and makeup, in case I have any Zoom meetings.

8:30 a.m: Signs on to computer to check in with work. Notes that it’s going to be a long fucking day.

9:30 a.m: Has a cupcake for second breakfast. Is this a good or bad start to the day? Does it even matter?

10:00 a.m: Joins conference call. Pretends life is going swimmingly and that I am not ready to tear my hair out. Already thinking about what to have for lunch.

11:00 a.m: Prepares/heats up lunch. Does a mini photo shoot of lunch for Instagram. Spends 10 minutes editing photos to post on Instagram while eating.

11:30 a.m: Tries to get more work done. Cries in frustration because it’s only 11:30.

12:00 p.m: Takes a short walk outside to stretch legs. Contemplates running away but there is nowhere to fucking go.

12:30 p.m: Watches the cat stare out the window for 5 minutes. Cat eventually realizes I’m creeping on him and leaves.

12:35 p.m: Makes work phone calls. Explains for the umpteenth time how remote access works and how to download the Zoom app to multiple people.

1:15 p.m: Pounds head on wall.

1:30 p.m: Makes tea and a snack even though I’m not hungry.

3:30 p.m: Cat farts on the forms I brought home, signaling that it is time to give up on working for the day.

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4:00 p.m: Does a yoga video because it’s one of the few things keeping me sane.

5:00 p.m: Makes dinner.

6:00 p.m: Takes walk with Boyfriend around the neighborhood. Laments over the fact that there are a lot of dogs outside, but I can’t pet them because I need to stay away from their owners. Life is not fair. 😦

6:30 p.m: Tries to coax the rabbit in the yard to play with me. Rabbit runs away, so I give up and go inside to play Zelda.

8:00 p.m: Reminds Boyfriend for the 300th time that I’m bored. Eats more food.

8:30 p.m: Showers and gets ready for bed.

8:45 p.m: Reads and/or stares at phone in bed, wishing that sleep would just come already because I’m fucking bored and don’t want to be awake anymore.

*Tosses and turns all night*

 

That’s it in a nutshell. There’s been a lot of cooking/baking, video games, and frustration at our house. I imagine things aren’t terribly different for the rest of you. It’s a rough time for everyone in general, especially people who struggle with mental health issues, like depression and anxiety. I came across an article earlier that I found pretty helpful, so I’m going to link it here for anyone who might want to check it out.

What have you guys been doing to keep yourselves busy? Whatever it is, I hope you’re all safe and healthy. ❤

 

Life

Isolation Update

Yesterday I sprained my toe and today I accidentally dyed my hands purple. How’s your self-isolation going?

I’ve been thinking of something to post for days, but with all that’s going on in the world right now it’s hard to even know what to say. So I’m not going to. You’re all aware of COVID-19 already and are being affected by it without another reminder from me.

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I hope you’ve all been finding ways to stay sane and healthy during this crazy time. I’m hanging in there, although I confess that I’m getting a tad cranky about being stuck in the house so much. I’m a really weird introvert. I don’t necessarily like interacting with people and being social, but I can’t stand being cooped up either. (Hence the reason most of my out-of-the-house activities involve going to bookstores or drinking coffee somewhere. By myself.)

When I’m not working I’m trying to keep myself occupied with books, yoga, taking walks outside, and cooking up a storm. I also touched up the purple in my hair since I won’t be able to get it done for like another month. I wish I could say that I’ve been doing more writing and work on my book, but things have been at a standstill for a while now. *sigh* More on that later.

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For now, I’m just checking in. I just finished re-reading a couple of favorites to give me some comfort. Now that I’m done with those I’ll be starting on something new and will hopefully have some book reviews to share.

What are you guys reading at the moment? What other things are you doing while you’re stuck at home? 

Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Favorites

Book Review: Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

When Jack left Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children she was carrying the body of her deliciously deranged sister–whom she had recently murdered in a fit of righteous justice–back to their home on the Moors.

But death in their adopted world isn’t always as permanent as it is here, and when Jack is herself carried back into the school, it becomes clear that something has happened to her. Something terrible. Something of which only the maddest of scientists could conceive. Something only her friends are equipped to help her overcome.

Eleanor West’s “No Quests” rule is about to be broken. Again.

Goodreads

I was pretty excited when I heard this book was coming out and that we would be returning to the Moors – the setting we had been first introduced to in Down Among Sticks and BonesWhile I have immensely enjoyed all of the books in the Wayward Children series, I felt like the Moors was the one world that was still shrouded in the most mystery. Getting to go back and discover a little more of it was an absolute treat.

The tables have turned and Jack is no longer trying to save her sister, Jill. The complicated and strained relationship they already share is further explored in this book in a way that will make you question who you’re supposed to be rooting for. In addition to Jack, some familiar faces from Miss West’s school make a reappearance. Christopher, Sumi, Cora, and Kade once again jump into the role of playing the fearless heroes, even though it’s not their own worlds they are trying to save.

As always, McGuire does a spectacular job at immersing the reader in a world that is both beautiful and terrible. The concept of death is fleeting. Love knows no boundaries. And there is nothing that a little bit of lightening can’t fix. By the end, you’ll wonder if everything you thought you knew about “monsters” has been wrong.

 

 

Life · travel

Wizarding World of Harry Potter weekend!

I did it. I finally got my letter to Hogwarts. And by “got my letter” I mean I paid a bunch of money for tickets to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. I’ve been a fan of the series for 20 years now and have been dying to visit the theme park ever since it opened. Let me just tell you, after years and years of waiting, it was everything I hoped it would be.

For my first day I got park-to-park passes, which allowed me to ride the Hogwarts express between the two theme parks. Walking thorough the brick wall and stumbling onto Diagon Alley was exactly like I always imagined it was in the books. It felt just like Harry’s first visit where he was simply in awe of everything and didn’t know where to look next. Standing there, looking at all the shops around me, with the sounds of the workers inside the Daily Prophet spilling out of the door next to me, children wearing their house robes and waving their wands, and seeing the dragon perched atop Gringotts in the distance, my eyes honestly got a little teary. The only thing missing was Hagrid.

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I spent my morning walking around Diagon Alley, checking out all the shops and amazing window displays. I heard the bird chirping from inside the vanishing cabinet at Borgin & Burkes, where I went to look at dark and dangerous artifacts. I chuckled at the U-No-Poo and Puking Pastilles display at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and watched a toy version of Delores Umbridge wheel overhead on a unicycle, shouting “I will have order.” I watched the wand ceremony at Ollivanders, spotted a Crumble-Horned Snorkack in the Magical Menagerie, and had an enchanted mirror tell me how lovely I was in Madame Malkin’s. I had my very first butterbeer (and butterbeer mustache) and ate lunch at The Leaky Cauldron. I also rode the Escape from Gringotts ride inside the bank, which was super cool! Every detail in the park was so spot on and true to the books that I was simply blown away.

Outside Diagon Alley were some other familiar sights. I caught a glimpse of Kreacher in the window at number 12 Grimmauld Place and took a look inside the Knight Bus before making my way over to Platform 9 3/4 in King’s Cross Station. The short train ride was a fun, mini ride (although the voice they used for Hermione sounded nothing like her), which brought us right into Hogsmeade station.

To be honest, I was slightly less impressed with Hogsmeade overall. It was cool to check out, but there was less to do there and less stuff to look at. I did pay a visit to Honeydukes while I was there though to buy some fun sweet treats to bring back to my hotel room. (I tried the exploding bon bons and peppermint toads.) Of course, the piece de resistance was a visit to Hogwarts castle. *squeeee* The ride inside Hogwarts was awesome (despite the fact that I got slightly motion sick, lol). I wish I could have gotten a video or some photos of the Quidditch pitch, the whomping willow, or the dementors for you guys. Just trust me that it was a fantastic ride. You’ll need to ride it yourselves some day if you can stomach it.

I went back to Diagon Alley my second day and revisited some of my favorite spots. I also decided to give butterbeer softserve a try…at 9 in the morning…because I can do whatever I want on vacation. 🙂 Honestly, I liked the butterbeer ice cream even more than the liquid version, which was a little too sweet for me.

I checked out a little bit of the rest of the Universal parks while I was there, but none of it was as special to me as the Wizarding World parts of the parks. I was exhausted and a little tired of people and lines by the time I went home Monday morning, but I loved every minute of my visit and can’t wait to go back someday.