Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Month in Reviews -- September


Whoa, September! This month came and went in a flash and I'm still kind of confused. I feel like I was just stepping back, shocked by the fact that summer was coming to a close, and here we are about to dive into October (one of my favorite months of the year).

September welcomed a busy season at my job that will continue keeping me on my toes into November. It also was a month of far too many dental appointments, schedule mishaps, and school work. I wrapped up my first graduate school course and started the next (so long, introductory courses, hello the real deal!) and the Washington, DC area all but shut down for three days while Pope Francis visited.

I also was extremely lucky to keep my tradition of travel during Labor Day weekend. This year, the beau and I drove to the Catskills of New York. I grew up there, nestled between trees in the woods, and it was important for me to introduce him to what I called home for the first twenty one years of my life.

It was a quick trip--we arrived on a Saturday and left by Monday--but it was well worth it. We visited my childhood home, saw the neighborhood I went trick-or-treating in, the lakes I used to fish at, my schools, and ate at our most favorite restaurants in the area. But best of all, we went hiking.

I'm a very low-level, inexperienced hiker. I enjoy going for walks in the woods, basically, and my "hikes" never last more than a handful of hours. This was perhaps our longest hike as it covered about six hours. It could have been much shorter but we took our time and paused frequently to look at the sites.

Minnewaska State Park is a place I meandered around as a teenager. I loved the white stone cliffs and "sky lakes." It was something magical and bringing the beau there, I found myself a little nervous. I had talked about this place repeatedly in the weeks leading up to our trip but what if it wasn't as good as I remembered?

Luckily, it was just as good if not better. I've realized that if I enjoyed a place as a teen, I'll likely adore it as an adult. I seem more capable of appreciating aspects of the area than I did as a teen and perhaps a better memory (with the aid of taking far too many photos). But more on Minnewaska later, probably in a Wanderlust Wednesday post.

On the way out of New York, we stopped at the Woodstock Festival site and picked up a baker's dozen bagels. New York bagels--you simply can't get such good bagels in Virginia.

Book Reviews:

Blankets by Craig Thompson
Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Everything Leads to You by Nina Lacour
Edward Scissorhands Volume 1: Parts Unknown

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Edward Scissorhands Volume 1: Parts Unknown

So I've been choosy, but slowly getting into graphic novels. I don't read them very often but I always enjoy them when I have a chance to do so. A few weeks ago, I hit a rough patch. It happens every now and then, I call it "one of my moods" and know it will be gone in a few days time. I struggle to be productive, I really struggle, and this is made all the worse when I must be productive for both work and school. My boyfriend was patient through my complaints then urged me to get out of my pajamas, pack my school supplies, and go to my Barnes and Noble to do my homework. He suspected if I were to just get there, the environment would get my school day needs rolling.

He was right. I got nearly all of my homework done while I sat in their cafe and he cheered me on. "Treat yourself. Go buy a book," he said. This meant a lot, as I've mentioned, [LINK TO SUMMER BOOK HAUL] I've bought a lot of books this summer and we're quickly running out of room for them all. With the reassurance that I could buy a book and it was okay, I went into the shelves of my interests and browsed. Everything seemed rather long, however, and I wanted a book I could devour that night and really feel like I had treated myself, so I went to the graphic novels. 

It didn't take long for my eyes to land on the spine of this. Edward Scissorhands? Yes, please! I have grown up loving Edward Scissorhands. It came out when I was a wee bit, only four years old, and I wasn't much older when my mother introduced me to it. I remember her saying, "It's like a fairy tale about a very nice man who looks different. I really like this story." We watched it together and I remember being so sad at the end, but I fell in love with the story and it quickly became a movie that we watched as often as we could. My grandmother lives near the community where it was filmed and on a Florida visit while I was a child, we drove through the community and pointed out the few homes that still displayed the bright colors from the film.

I love Edward Scissorhands. I love the music, I love the story, I love the acting in it. Gosh, I could go on for ages about this movie. Needless to say, seeing the graphic novel made me far too excited and I dove for it. Instant buy, basically.

I brought it home, curled up on the couch, and read straight through it. The story is quick, simple, and similar to the movie but still pleasurable. It manages to achieve the same feelings I have for the movie, although maybe with a lack of the beautiful composing of Danny Elfman.

We're introduced to Megan, the granddaughter of Kim (I'm just going to assume you have seen the movie and know who I'm talking about). Kim has passed away and had been seen as somewhat of a crazy old lady in the town. If you recount from the movie, elderly Kim is seen recounting the story of Edward Scissorhands to her granddaughter as a bedtime story--so this is her granddaughter as a teen!

While in the movie it's snowing as she tells the story, since Kim's death (in the comic) it hasn't snowed at all. The town has somewhat gone back to its old ways by avoiding the mansion that Edward lives in and standing by the assumption that Edward is actually a monster and murderer.

But Megan disagrees. Seemingly, she's the only one who misses her grandmother and Megan pokes around until she finds Kim's diary. With it, and a spunky determination, Megan goes to Edward's mansion to discover that not only is he real, but he's as sweet as her grandmother made him out to be.

We don't only focus on Megan's point of view in this graphic novel, but Edward's as well as he too is digging about in his mansion and discovers that his maker had made another "creature" similar to him, prior to Edward's introduction into the world, but it had been discontinued.

Accidentally, Edward releases this creature into the world and discovers just why the creature was discontinued: it has a taste for blood, so to speak.

We falter back to the original story of Edward Scissorhands at this point. People get hurt, they blame Edward, they show up with pitchforks and Megan has to ultimately save Edward. It's a bit different from the movie, but to note those details will take away the reading pleasure so I'll hold back. In the end, Edward is safe and I'm left feeling the same feelings I always have when finishing the movie. I want more, I want to know how Edward is doing, and I wish I could give him a hug.

It seems that there may be a second volume that will be out in the future although I can't seem to locate any clear information on this. I know that I will surely buy it when its released and maybe this time I'll throw on the movie soundtrack while reading the graphic novel, just for additional emotions to be thrown into the mix.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Everything Leads to You

I received this book from Bookriot's YA Quarterly box. The description of the book Book Riot gave was along the lines of it being a sweet love story between two girls and a bit of mystery thrown in the mix. I have to say, I haven't read a lot of diverse books and I plan to do that in the future. I always, generally, end up enjoying diverse books so I assumed this one would easily be ranked high.

Alas, I was wrong.

When I began this book it was right away quite simple and I struggled to keep my attention on it. Of course, outside forces could have affected this by means of my busy work and school schedule leaving me with less reading energy so I was more susceptible to finding negative traits in this book. But as soon as this book was put down, I picked up another and happily read it with none of those issues, so I doubt any outside forces had anything to do with this. It's just... a poor book.

So the general idea is that our main character Emi is a lesbian. That's the first note of importance because right off the bat, the author is talking a lot about this girl's lesbianism and how her girlfriend has dumped her multiple times. Then we're introduced, briefly, to her brother who surprises her with a "graduation gift" (from high school): his apartment that she and her best friend Charlotte can live in for the next two months. Then the brother is out the door and the girls get comfy... no talking with their parents, no permission granted, it's just a-ok that these girls stay there (immediately) and they ease into apartment living with the ease of someone who has lived by themselves before. They also have these fabulous jobs with film companies, designing sets and setting up appointments... mind you they just graduated from high school. It's mentioned a few times that they are paid very little yet money never seems to be an extreme issue for these girls. Even if you're paid little, driving all over the place and eating out or even buying groceries for the apartment you were gifted for two months can get costly for someone who is paid nothing. 

They're thrown into a mystery which is solved within the first half of the book. They discover a girl who is the long-lost granddaughter of a dead Hollywood celebrity who also, despite only having ever acted in school plays, is a natural when it comes to the camera. She lands a role in a film, gets a ton of money from her long-lost grandfather, and falls in love with our narrator Emi. 

Let me tell you right away, this is entirely predictable from the start. Once the story laid out its framework I guessed all of the occurrences that were going to happen and I was right. It's never fun to read a book that has absolutely no surprises for you. Everything that happens occurs in perfect order like a tidy puzzle that fell out of the box already stuck in the right places. It reads like a fantasy novel for a thirteen year old. When I was that age, I wrote a "book" about how I went to see a Broadway show and they spotted me in the audience and knew I was perfect for a role on that show. So suddenly I was on Broadway and became famous. Everything worked out perfectly. There you have it, the mind of a thirteen year old, and that's how this book came across. All dreams come true and in a very tidy package.

I don't want to completely blame the author for this material because I know a lot of eyes see books before they're published so surely, someone along the line failed her. They should have seen the lack of sense the book made when three-fourths of the way through you finally get a description of what the narrator looks like (despite that she's quick to describe everyone else) and the fact that she apparently is a quarter black. That bit really left a bad taste in my mouth as I feel this random fact, never mentioned beforehand, was brought up so late in the book and seemingly only to tie the narrator to one of the characters and give them something to connect over. Her race was a plot device and that's just not cool.

I also really disliked the first quarter of the book which was entirely unnecessary. Emi seems very cautious about the developing relationship that starts later on in the book, but for the first quarter of the book you'd never suspect she understood the word caution. Her being a lesbian is shoved down your throat and apparently she was just the poster child of lesbian at her school. Everyone knew and everyone was 100% accepting as people literally lined up to kiss her. It would be great if this world was that accepting of the LGBT community, but it unfortunately isn't quite there yet. So this whole high school experience seemed quite unbelievable. Plus, the whole backstory of her lesbianism seemed so forced when it didn't need to be. Why can't Emi just happen to like girls, rather than her entire character be that she is a lesbian who happens to be named Emi? When it comes to straight characters, this doesn't happen. It's a passing note that Charlotte likes Emi's brother but not once is it mentioned "She's straight. She's dated a lot of guys." but it's all handled differently for the lesbian characters. The rest of the book it's more subtle, she likes someone, she wants to kiss someone, that someone just happens to be a girl and I feel that was much more casual and appropriate. 

The book had one strongsuit: whenever Emi would enter a room, she'd note all the tiny details of that room. You knew it inside and out and the author did just a marvelous job with this. The attention to detail was great and I wish this was in more YA novels. It's everywhere else that lacked.

When you weren't paying attention to the layout of the room, you were handed dialogue and conversation. The dialogue, generally, was simple and often unnecessary. Then often enough there was reference to dialogue, "She told him this" or "I told her about that." We were given a lot of this story rather than shown. I only had the opportunity to fantasize and dream up the story in my head when I was reading about the layout of a room and that's not enough.

I nearly gave up on this book multiple times. By the halfway point, I felt that it was becoming a waste of my time and figured I'd try and finish it as quickly as I could. A quarter of the book left, I almost gave up--remaining page count be damned. B convinced me to keep on reading and just finish the book to give it a better review, after all, it could surprise me.

It didn't. It didn't surprise me. Not once.

Actually, that's a lie, I was surprised at how awful it was.  Maybe this book just wasn't for me, maybe it is too young for me, maybe I'm a bitter and mean person who doesn't understand the "true meaning" behind the tale, either way I won't be pursuing this author's other books in the near future until the taste of this one is out of my mouth.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

I'll Give You the Sun

I'll Give You the Sun brightened up my Instagram repeatedly for some time. The colorful, happy cover was all over the place and everyone seemed to love it. I wasn't very inclined to read the book until this--obviously I am easily influenced by my reader peers--but I'm quite happy I had the opportunity to read the book.

I'll Give You the Sun is written in an interesting way: the book switches from chapter to chapter from the POV of Noah to Jude, twins who live in California and at different spectrums of their teens. Whenever Noah's chapter is in play, we're looking at the twins' early teens when they were still rather close. When we switch to Jude's chapters, we're at a more current time period where a lot has changed. Their mother isn't there, the twins barely speak, and the intense love for artistry that Noah had is all but gone, while Jude who had previously been popular and social is now deep inside herself.

Every time I read Noah's chapter, I kept thinking "what the hell happened to them" in regard to the twins. In these earlier years, they're relatively close but seem to be slowly drifting apart, yet they still have a connection. For Jude's later chapters, it's like the twins don't even know each other.

Bit by bit, you're given the backstory and understanding of what exactly happened and by the end of the book, you get it. It's hard to write this review without giving too much away because so much of what made Noah-Noah and what made Jude-Jude connects to the other twin and is a spoiler. So I'll try to focus on the writing of this book. Particularly, the imagery the author managed to provide when it came to artwork.

This book is heavy in art. If you aren't an artist, I feel this book may be a bit boring for you, or it could be a marvelous introduction to what it's like to create art, what it feels like to be so focused on the work your creating, and that feeling when its complete. Falling into Noah's mind when he sketched and essentially placed his feelings into art, he sounds like he's dripping with talent and I wish, so much, that I could see the artwork he creates. His sister is much more of a hands-on girl who builds her art, whether from sand or from stone. While Noah speaks honestly through his art, his sister works through her emotions and lets them free.

There are many reasons people will make art and I feel that it being an opportunity for emotions to escape, or for unspoken words to be said, are definitely very common. Doodling, coloring, drawing, building, sculpting--it can all be so therapeutic.

Noah and Jude end up having to deal with an unthinkable loss, followed by unspeakable facts that change their idea of everything around them. They end up handling the situations given to them in different ways but through that, they grow distant, but it's also through so much misunderstanding. There's certainly a need for communication in relationships and not just romantic ones. If Noah and Jude had been upfront to one another at the start of it all, most of this would likely have been avoided.

Then again, we wouldn't have this book in our midst if the twins had chatted with one another.

I really enjoyed this book, although it was a bit slow in the middle and I found I was growing frustrated. For the length of the book, I felt like we went on a little too long before getting to the bottom line of what was going on. But the imagery was wonderful, I really felt like I was at their home, on their beach, in the artist's studio. I also felt the emotions of the characters through their artwork and thoughts to themselves. The author did a wonderful thing by bringing these characters to life.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Crimson Bound

The cover of this book is so beautiful that I would have bought this book for just the cover. Isn't is beautiful? I hope in future publications they don't change it, I really adore how this looks. But moving along, this book came into my radar based on the really decent promotional campaign the publisher/author was running through book blog tours. I read this off of my Kindle while on vacation and went through the book lightning fast. It was a quick read and not overwhelming or too hard to follow: the perfect vacation read.

Rachelle, our main character, was an apprentice to become something of a white witch in her land. She would protect the land from the evil that lurked in the woods. But, she's tempted to be brave and goes mindlessly into a trap, becoming "marked" and one of the evil creatures she was meant to fight against.

This artfully blends the idea of Little Red Riding Hood into this newly written story. Her red cloak was meant to protect her and she was lured into the woods by a "big bad wolf" of sorts. I found these people who were marked to be incredibly interesting but certainly lacking in details. They were evil and marked but just seemed like rich people, I was missing on their magic sense.

Rachelle is now fully submerged in this world and there's certain steps to the process: you're marked and in three days time you either die or complete the process by killing someone you love. Then, once you kill someone you love, you become a super human of sorts. Eventually, your heart gives up and you're called to the darkest of places. You accept a world where there is no love and your morals are squashed. Rachelle is in the middle: super human (the one thing that seems to show and knowing her time is running out. She still holds onto her morals and while a little bit touched by blood lust, she still knows right from wrong and tries her best to still protect the realm.

The king of this land picks Rachelle to protect one of his sons and while I found there relationship interesting: they work together and spar all at the same time, I was also disappointed that it ultimately became a love story.

Right when Rachelle is ready to become the worst of the worst, it isn't her kick ass ways or feminist values that save her, but her love for this dude. Of course, women can be feminist and still fall in love but what tires me is that this is a constant plot line in YA books.

But, ignoring that annoyance, I have to say that I loved the villains in this book, I love the world that Hodge created. It was aristocratic and just oozing of the mentality one would assume for the rich and famous. Rachelle is a feminist which I enjoy. She still has love to share and appreciation for the finer things in life, but she opts to be happy in pants and a sword. She allows her friend to practice make up on her and enjoys it and while she hates getting dressed up, she's not a baboon in the wardrobe of court ladies. (Something that always seems to go hand in hand: tough girls who look down on feminine wardrobes but once put into the wardrobe trips everywhere and just complains but Rachelle makes it all work in her favor). I only wish that I knew more about the darker world, that there was more back story to it all and a better understanding of the "evil." I feel that was somewhat rushed. We literally come face to face with it and maybe it went over my head but I just found I didn't quite click with what this other world was.

I really appreciated Hodge reinventing the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood (is it even considered a fairy tale?) I've always wanted to rewrite fairy tales myself but I've never been sure how to go about it. Any examples are worth a try and I feel this was a good example. Like I said, this wasn't a heavy read. It was perfect entertainment while at a beach or lazying around during a vacation, but I enjoyed it and certainly will consider this author in the future (especially if there are more book covers like the one for this).

Last Week's Review:
Next Week's Review: I'll Give You the Sun by

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Bookish School Days

When I was accepted to my grad school program, I had a lot of thoughts cross my mind. It was seven years since I had previously been in school and working toward a degree and a lot had changed and was continuing to change. Unlike my undergrad experience, I was now working full time and had bills to pay. I wasn't going to be going to school full time but, instead, focusing on one class per term. I wasn't entirely sure how I would be juggling it all and it stressed me out a little. And yet, there was a light at the end of the anxiety tunnel: going back to school also meant I could go school shopping.

From the age of five straight through to my senior year of college, I was always jumping with joy when the school year began winding down. I loved summer vacation but, like clockwork, once August hit I began being antsy. As a kid I would play school constantly and I eagerly awaited back to school shopping. I loved everything about it. There were only two times a year that my mother would take me out to buy a lot of clothing: at the start of the school year and when the weather warmed up in the spring. Beside this, I loved buying school supplies. The smell of erasers and pencils filled the air and I eagerly clutched my school shopping list while going through the aisles of my local Walmart. I'd pick out my folders and favored Trapper Keepers and Lisa Frank when I was young (Five Star as a teen) and organized and reorganized my book bag up until I went to school that first day. I always felt a little sad when my new school supplies "broke in." You know, the first crumbled corner of a folder or lost pen, things like that.

During the six autumns that came and went while I wasn't attending classes, I would always go out of my way to browse the back to school aisles for that comforting smell of new supplies. I rarely had any need to buy any of the products, although I'd always pick up fresh pens (I hoard them) and post-its. Now, this year, I had a real reason to go school shopping!

But I'm an adult that likes order and consistency. I like things to match as best as they can. So I decided, what better way to welcome the new school year and the start of graduate school than to make a theme of my school supplies? A bookish theme seemed obvious considering I'm studying creative writing!

My boyfriend purchased the Pride and Prejudice bag and notebooks as Christmas presents back in December. This was long before I had decided to pursue my master's but I held onto them all with the intention of putting them to use. Maybe it was a sign. Like the dork I am, I put my name and classes on my first notebook of choice. This way, once I fill multiple notebooks with school notes, I'll be able to easily see what class notes are in each notebook.

As earlier mentioned, I hoard pens. I really love gel pens and just about anything that has a smooth, even line that makes writing effortless. I have a collection of Sharpie pens which I really love, but earlier in the summer I was introduced to Staedtler Triplus Fineliner pens. These pens are fabulous and come in an array of colors. I picked mine up at Target -- the only one they had on stock! -- and have been switching back and forth from color to color for each week's lessons. I also have started color-coding my planner which has been a great help for me to differentiate all that I have going on from day to day.

The Simplified Planner by Emily Ley has been a godsend. I'm particular with my planners and always have been; I favor the academic planner feel because I like being able to list all that I need to get done. Crossing off each item gives me a high and I certainly need that push sometimes when I'm exhausted from work but still have reading and writing to do. What's great about the Simplified Planner is that you get the best of ALL planners: a monthly calendar for your full outlook, a to do list for each day, and an hour-by-hour breakdown list as well.

There's also nothing better than little pick-me-up coffee cups. If you're going to be working full time, going to school full time, doing a little bit of one and the other, or doing both (how can you handle it? I can't imagine taking more than one class per term!) you're likely going to need a caffeinated fix if caffeine is your thing. I love coffee that has mostly creamer but I also enjoy various teas. Luckily, I have an assortment of really fabulous coffee mugs that I've purchased over the years. My Shakespearean insult mug is one of my most used mugs as it is huge. If I could, I'd collect coffee mugs like I collect my pens.

Decorating my bag is always something fun. Bags are cute, they hold a lot of personality, but I don't see why we can't add more to them. Adding pins to my bag is something to spice it up and bring a little bit more of my personality to the bag as a whole. I also like keeping odds and ends handy in case I need them for any reason. A book light in case there's some dim reading or note taking and a handy writing notebook that my friend gifted me. This notebook is fabulous as there's inspirational quotes as well as daily writing advice, which I may need as I am quite acquainted with writers block. And needless to say: a USB drive is your best friend. I like emailing myself documents I right but I've had poor experiences with that method in the past where important documents have gotten lost in my inbox or deleted completely. Having everything saved on the USB drive is a great help for having the assurance there are multiple copies pigeonholed through out my internet realm, but I also find it helpful to be able to switch between my laptop to my desktop if need be.

If you're interested in the items shown above, check out the handy links to where you can purchase these for yourself. As a note: this isn't a sponsored post but totally my own opinionated thoughts. Have fun and happy school year!

School Supplies

Staedtler 20 pack marker pens
Out of Print notebooks: banned books, library card, and Pride and Prejudice
Out of Print tote bag: Pride and Prejudice
Simplified Planner: academic planner - happy stripe
Shakespearean insult mug
French Bull reading lights: mosaic
The Creative Writer's notebook
Doctor Who pins have been picked up at various places, the "Open Books" pin was picked up at City Lights in San Francisco.
USB picked up at Target, I like that there's a little pattern on it!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Wanderlust Wednesday: Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire

What: The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire
Where: Manheim, PA
When: I go every autumn -- it's open every weekend in August, September and October


I absolutely love Ren Faire. I make it a point, yearly, to visit one of the various fairs we have in the Virginia area and surrounding states. The first date I ever went on with my boyfriend was, in fact, to a ren faire. It's a magical place and appeals to the little kid that is still a part of me. Gosh, if only I could have gone as a child, it would have been a fantasy land. So while I can have my pick of faires to go to, my absolute favorite is the Pennsylvania Ren Faire. 

Located in Manheim, Pennsylvania, just outside of Hershey (yes, like the candy) in the middle of Amish country is the Shire. The Shire is a permanent town on the land of the Mount Hope Winery where Ren Faire is celebrated each year (as well as an assortment of other events through out the spring and summer--more events are done at the winery itself through out the colder parts of the year). The Shire holds a stable town with little houses that provide food, clothing, items for purchase and entertainment. Staffed by a slew of people who are all dressed in period garb, you quickly are sent back in time once you enter the gates to the Shire.

Each weekend has a different theme, so while I've been to a number I haven't been to them all. If you're thinking about going, check out what the weekend themes are for the year, but really--every weekend is fun so please don't let the theme make you give up on a weekend that you can visit. Also, buy your tickets online for a discount. There's also, typically, coupons at various chain joints (I've seen them at Burger King in the past and this year we snagged some coupons at a Turkey Hill gas station) or discounts if you show up in costume. Basically, the price is nearly $30 per person for the day but there are many, many avenues you can take for a cheaper ticket and if I had to pay a full $30 I would still go because it's well worth your money.

I am one of those faire goers who enjoys dressing up. Whether it's in an outfit I've put together or one I've rented, I love getting in costume. This is pretty typical for all faires but for many, you don't quite fall down the rabbit hole as you do for the PA faire. At the Pennsylvanian faire, actors roam the streets and often interact with customers. I seriously can't go down a path without seeing an actor interacting with a group of people. They're always pleasant, fun, a little bit raunchy for the adults and sweet, SO SWEET, to children. If you dress up, you're even more likely to have interaction with the actors, even if it's as small as a curtsey.

The various themes I've been to have been the wine harvest festival, Oktoberfest, children's fantasy weekend, and myths and legends. My experience at Oktoberfrest was probably the most unique. We were surrounded by drunk German men singing songs while swinging beer steins back and forth all as it torrentially rained. The Shire had rivers of water running along the (paved) sidewalks and many people were hiding from the storm. It didn't give up so people ate and drank some more until, eventually, the faire closed early.

So that was a shame, we only got to experience the smallest amount of the faire before we were booted due to the weather, but the faire gave us tickets to return to the festival during the season without having to pay the ticket price again. Awesome!

Generally speaking, I really enjoy going to the faire in October. It's a bit chillier and wearing a full outfit isn't quite so hard. The leaves are full of color and there's that autumn scent to the air. Bread bowls full of soup and hot cider is at hand and it just seems more perfect.

The best thing about the faire is that you can easily spend the entire day there (11 am - 8 pm) and not get bored. There are multiple scheduled events going on at different locations, as well as a game area where you can try to throw an ax or shoot arrows, and even a few "historic" rides. The entertainment is the real fun, though. Beside entertainment performed by the actors of the faire (all are pretty hilarious), there are also the seasonal guests who will do performances here and there.

A few favorite forms of entertainment? The peasant dance, which I'm not sure if they still have but it's a blast. You get to partake in a dance class with some of the actors! The human chess match is essential and always fun. Drama, fighting, chess! There's so much going on and it always is the prelude to the day's final joust, which leads me to my favorite moment of entertainment: the final joust.

The PA Ren Faire goes all the way with the final joust. You have, obviously, quite a bit of jousting but then there's dramatics! Fighting, blood, explosions, it's lively and exciting! Maybe don't take your babies or small children who are afraid of loud noises, but it's a blast for kids and adults alike.

When we take a look at the food options, they're pretty hilarious and generally not "historic." Mac and cheese, for instance is sold here. There used to be Chinese food and pizza and it very well may still be there but I've never gone looking for it. I always go for the sandwiches, soup bowls, and turkey legs which are all fabulous and so, so good.

The mead and wine the festival offers is also top notch. I mean, it comes directly from the winery the Shire is located at!


  • If you're trying to get the best experience for the final joust (the seating area fills up QUICK so if you are trying to get a close and personal experience, it's worth getting there early), leave someone in your party to save your seat at the jousting field and bit by bit, go get your dinner. Eat it at the joust field and by the time you're finished eating the joust will be kicking into gear. 

  • Another pro-tip, bring little hand wipes if you plan to eat turkey legs. There are working bathrooms at the faire (well, for women. Men's bathrooms are a little less refined) but the turkey legs are MESSY and if you plan to make your way to the bathroom to wash up, you may find it a lot less frustrating or sticky to just wipe off with some hand wipes first. 
  • There's also a severe problem with yellow jackets. These buggers are everywhere and can be very aggressive. Don't eat close to the trash cans, they like hanging out there. It seems the more remote of a place I go to eat, the less I'm bothered by the bugs. I have a particular dislike for them as I may or may not be allergic to them (my mother swells up and I have yet to be stung, so we'll see) but the fact that they're so insistent to get to your food is a bit unnerving. This year, they began selling sippy cups with lids for mead which has been a marvelous help. The yellow jackets love meade but with the covers, they aren't as attracted as they used to be and left me alone!
  • Wear comfy shoes! There's a lot of walking up and down minor hills. Everything is paved, so it's very wheelchair friendly, but it can be hard on feet during a full day. 

  • Dress up! There's a costume rental if you're so inclined but also plenty of shops where people sell costume pieces if you want an established costume you can come back to each year. There are plenty of places to get your hair braided or little flower crowns, even tiny dragons to wear on your shoulder or pointed ears. Bring some money (or a credit card) and have a blast! It's like adult Halloween every weekend from August through October so enjoy it! Also, don't be surprised if you see half-undressed people in the parking lot. A lot of people get into their costumes there because who wants to drive three hours while wearing a corset?

On that note, I'll see you soon, Ren Faire! I'll be there in October for one of the Halloween Daze and Spooky Knights weekends.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


I first was introduced to Blankets through Tumblr. A beautiful cover, a beautiful spine, it was often in photos of blue-gray mornings, comfortable quilts, a sleepy cat and snowy skies. A candle would flicker by it and the imagery just welcomed me in. Come, read this, the photos said. Relax, find comfort, you're in for pleasure and peace. I assumed it was a book due to its thick size but upon searching for it on Goodreads, I realized it was a graphic novel. I haven't much experience with graphic novels: I've read a few here and there but I certainly wouldn't say it's a large percent of my reading. To be fair, I've begun reading more graphic novels recently, but that's only a very recent change in my reading temperament. It made me pause, uncertain if I'd like to read it, but just as soon as I posed that question to myself, I shot it down. Of course I want to read it.

And then I didn't. I didn't read it for years. The book sat on my TBR list and I would swoon over every cozy photo where the book was displayed. "Right, Blankets. I really need to read that." I would see it at comic shops while out and about and think it again. "I should buy this, but it's over $30. I could buy two books for this price." So continued this cycle for years.

Over the summer, I visited my local Barnes and Noble and discovered they had performed an overhaul of the store, rearranging where everything was and making me utterly confused. B (the beau) and I have "date nights" and the book store that are pretty straight forward: we go to the store and immediately separate. He goes to sci-fi and I meander from section to section. Eventually, we find each other (usually I track him down in sci-fi) and review the books we have before checking out and heading home. These are some of the best dates. I love it. We're together but in our own worlds and it's awesome. But I digress, on this particular bookstore date I was left meandering not due to browsing over various titles I wanted, but because I had no idea where anything was. Up and down aisles I was making mental notes of where various subjects had been placed, and eventually I found myself in a graphic novel row. 

I honestly couldn't tell you with 100% accuracy where the graphic novels were before this. I sent in requests for the Graveyard books so that all I had to do was pick them up at the front of the store. But now, graphic novels were right next to fiction. There had been a lot of talk recently about graphic novels that found its way into my life and grabbed my interest, I mean, Thor being a woman? Yes, please.

But on this particular trip, rather than speeding through the graphic novels section, I lingered. I looked over the different graphic novels and eventually remembered Blankets. It was always relatively large in the comic book stores so surely I'd find it in these shelves of thin books. I didn't search long before finding a beautiful hardcover copy of Blankets--the only copy the store had. I grabbed it, looked at the price, and groaned. It was so pricey, was it worth it?

So I found B over in the sci-fi section (one of the few areas that hadn't been rearranged) and showed him the book. "I've wanted to read this for years but it's sort of expensive. I don't know if I should get it." He looked at the book, looked at me, and replied, "Get it." It was decided.

We went home and I settled onto the couch with a cozy blanket and opened the book up. Immediately, I dove in and four hours later, I closed the book after reading the final page.

This isn't unheard of and I assume it's quite common for people when they read graphic novels, but I always fly through them. I think it helps that there's a lot of picture viewing and not as much text to read. It's visual and, for me, that doesn't take as long as reading worded descriptions of visuals. Often enough, I'll go back and reread graphic novels, or just flip from page to page and gaze at each photo.

Most of the scenes in Blankets happen during the winter and I want, badly, to read this again during a snowstorm (come on El Nino, bring us some snow this winter! Give me a white Christmas!). Our writer, Craig, begins the story by introducing himself and his younger brother, as well as their various antics while they were little and shared a bedroom. They grow and become teenagers, sent to Bible camps and dealing with the typical teenage woes.

Craig is awkward and somewhat of a loner. He's an artist, always drawing away, but he's also quite religious. These two things could go hand in hand but Craig begins to feel guilty about his artwork, that it's taking away from serving God, and he pushes it to the side to focus on religion even more.

Every Christmas vacation, he goes to one of the church camps and meets a girl. Quickly, they develop feelings for one another. They grow close and a long-distance relationship blooms. Where the book takes place, Wisconsin, winter lasts a bit longer than it does here in Virginia so it could seem like a blip of a thing when in actuality the story spans out over time. But Craig goes to Michigan to visit his "sort of" girlfriend and they become closer than ever before.

I really love that much of this book has the most pivotal moments happening in bed. Secrets are shared, memories made, and all while nestled around blankets. The title is very appropriate but it gives you a cozy feeling of looking at your past and the events that unfolded which made you the person you are today.

Craig's life isn't necessarily easy. As I mentioned, he's a teenager. What teenager's life is easy? But he's a teenager who begins to question his faith and that's something I certainly identify with and witnessed. I was raised Catholic and as a teen, I witnessed all of my friends who were also Catholic begin to question their faith. Some continued with the religion, others faded away, some stopped believing completely. I think it's totally understandable for teens to question their beliefs and it's an honest depiction in this book. Really, Craig's thoughts hit me right in the feels. It's all so similar it's almost painful.

Watching his relationship with his girlfriend grow then fade while his relationship with his brother is reflected by how close they were as kids to practically strangers as teens was an interesting comparison. The presentation of both reflected the stages of relationships and how one went out of fashion while another became prominent.

It's all just so... lovely. I may not have been going to Bible camps as a child or taking trips to see a girlfriend. I wasn't a teenage boy. Yet... I identified with this and it settled in my heart. I got it, I got the emotions and all that was going on, and teenage years are so horrible yet so memorable--the author got that.

Last Week's Review:
 Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry
Next Week's Review: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge