Monday, November 30, 2015

A Month in Reviews -- November

November is an interesting month. I really like the month and have liked it more as I've grown older. It's the last dregs of autumn but also a touch of winter. It's the excitement for family-oriented holidays and the start of the Christmas season. When I was a tiny little thing, my mother would get me in the car and we would leave New York with the destination of my grandparents' house in New Jersey in mind. We would descend on their big house, my cousins, aunts and I, and we'd take over it for Thanksgiving vacation. Together, my cousins and I would watch the Macy's Day parade while my grandmother, mom and aunts would begin Thanksgiving dinner. I would have my first run through with my Christmas dress as I would get to wear it for Thanksgiving dinner and we would somehow manage to break one wish bone up amongst seven grandchildren. 

That was my Thanksgiving experience from the very start of my life, so I always associate the holiday with good, happy things. When I was a teen, I lost my one aunt to cancer during Thanksgiving. A few years ago, we received the panicked call that my grandfather was rapidly deteriorating on Thanksgiving night. At least we were able to spend one more Thanksgiving weekend, the entire family together, before he was gone. 

So now I'm inching closer to thirty and I still find I love the month of November and get more excited for the Thanksgiving holiday than I probably should. But, there's those little sadnesses associated with it now that makes it a little hard to get through. Still, we make the best of it. 

This month has certainly been more calm than October, but it's also been more crazy--at least toward the very end. It was a lot of gently moving along up until the week of Thanksgiving.

For the first time ever, I partook and hosted a Friendsgiving celebration. I also cooked the largest turkey I've ever cooked. The previous three years, I cooked something that could feed two people max, but this year it was a twenty pound turkey and boy was I scared of that bird. I honestly had more fun prepping for the festivities by means of making decorations and table arrangements. 

The theme for our friendsgiving was hugge. It's a Danish concept, followed through out Scandinavia, and with everything going on, I've been really focusing on trying to bring hugge into my home. Not being Danish nor never living in Scandinavia, I don't know if I'm doing it quite right but it's worth a shot. I normally get winter doldrums so it's worth a shot. Maybe the Scandinavians have the key to winter happiness and hugge is it.

Beside Friendsgiving, we had three people visit us the week of Thanksgiving, putting our house at maximum level. All of this during my first week of finals! At least we're rolling along to Christmas, another favorite holiday of mine. On the blog I'm going to be taking "off" but still posting. All posts will be holiday oriented and end-of-year wrap ups so I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them.

Now, this week is my last week of class and my last final is due. Unfortunately, I only have two days to work on it instead of a solid week because we are heading to Pennsylvania on Wednesday for my mother's heart valve replacement surgery. Scary stuff, so I beg of you all to keep us in your thoughts.

Book Reviews:

Other Posts:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Fables: Legends in Exile

I've had this sucker on my to-read list for ages. So long, in fact, that I forgot completely about it until I was looking through a list of suggested graphic novels and this was what was offered. I then realized, oh right, I wanted to read this. Off I went to the bookstore and then back home with this in my hand.

This has a lot more dialogue than the other graphic novels I've read. While the other graphic novels seemed to lend a lot of time and detail to imagery, this was much more about the story. Wording was crammed into the pages and the images were more comic-book-like. 

The story is simple enough: all the fairy tales had to escape their realm due to an evil presence. They now live in New York and have different jobs while also intermingling with people like us. Snow White is the ruler of the gang and the Big Bad Wolf is an investigator. 

Right away we're taken into a 'who dunnit' scenario. Rose Red is missing, possibly murdered, and there's a ball to plan. I enjoyed that many of the "monster" characters came in and out of their monster appearances. The Big Bad Wolf has a shadow of a wolf and when he grows angry, he's more wolfish. The Beast of Beauty and the Beast becomes more beastly when he's stressed out. But overall, I found myself struggling with this story because I'm not really one to enjoy crime shows or story lines. 

I also find I'm still a stickler for the fairy tales I like. I love Little Red Riding Hood, I love Beauty and the Beast, I really have never liked Snow White. So having this comic centered around Snow White (her being a main character) was a real drag for me. Granted, this particular Snow White was much more bearable but I just... never found her that interesting and I am irritated that she often is made to be the top "princess" in fairy tale-based story lines. Why can't it be Belle? (Also, I  hated how snobby Belle appeared in this book). 

I suppose, if you're in for a good crime story and like fairy tales but aren't particularly disturbed by the story lines being twisted, or the characters you loved as a child appearing differently, this is a good read. If you're like me and you are nearly personally offended by anyone daring to make your favorite storybook characters act differently than how you see them, then maybe stay away.

I plan to give this book to a friend who was interested in reading the series. I think she'll have more enjoyment out of it. I certainly have read other books that play with fairy tales and make them unique and new that are better, but this just wasn't of my interest.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 1 Faust Act

We keep returning to graphic novels, don't we? 2015 should be considered the year I became a graphic novels fan. After so many previous posts where I say "I don't really read graphic novels," I think we're at the point where that would be a lie. I do read graphic novels but I'm just new to the entire thing. I'm still asking for recommendations and often a little lost wondering if I'm picking up the right book and whether or not there was a previous volume. Still, I'm reading graphic novels and actively looking for more. I get the sense of accomplishment when I read a graphic novel over the course of a night but I also have found I really adore the materials I've read and the artwork involved. 

So here we are, another graphic novel, and one that was suggested to me. When I looked up TW+TD I nearly got the wrong book (whoops) until I spotted the first volume. The cover alone captured my attention and it only was further captured as I read the blurb about it: 

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. The team behind critical tongue-attractors like Young Avengers and PHONOGRAM reunite to create a world where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever. Collects THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #1-5

Sounds awesome, no? When I grabbed the graphic novel I flipped through the pages and fell in love with the artwork. I am not sure if there's a difference between graphic novels that seem to worship art as much as the story, there definitely is a difference from them and some comics I've read, which are crammed with small imagery and a lot of dashed fonts, but I think I prefer the type of graphic novel that TW+TD falls into. The colorful, clean artwork is just so beautiful and bright!

For me, it took a hot minute to adjust to the full story. I wasn't entirely sure if we were being introduced to the gods bit by bit, if they were just arriving in this cycle on Earth, or what. As we start off the graphic novel, the gods have already been welcomed to the present day for this particular cycle. They were normal people, living their lives until suddenly they were informed they were gods. That's when the memories returned and people began to love and hate them. The world knows of this occurrence and the gods have many fans--people who flock to worship them and hope, desperately, that they may be one of the various gods that come back in cycles.

We're quickly introduced to a handful of these gods, while others remain a mystery, and it's to my utter surprise that I became completely enamored with Lucifer and the modern day interpretation of her (yes, her). The character development is a little sloppy at first because our main character (an utter fangirl named Laura) is already privy to all of the gods who are out in the open while we, the mere readers, are not. Slowly you catch on and before long, you're in the middle of it as Luci (Lucifer) is blamed for a murder and Laura tries to help prove her innocence.

It's fast paced and you're stuck from beginning to end and thank goodness I had chosen to pick up the second book when I bought the first because I dove right into that one as soon as I was done. But gosh, the imagery of this book, I fawn over it whenever I view it.

If you want to read this, be sure you have the second book close by!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Month in Reviews -- October

October was a whirlwind of good and bad. It was here and gone like a flash and here we are, entering the mid-range portion of November and I'm trying to wrap my head around that.

I took a bit of a hiatus on the blog during October because I wanted to focus my mind elsewhere. The month began with a lot of bad news: my mother needs heart valve replacement surgery, we were evacuated from our home in the middle of a cold and rainy night because there was a massive gas leak in our neighborhood, and we had to take one of our cats to the vet for an emergency procedure. It also was the start of one of the conference seasons at work, which is always pretty exhausting but this was the busiest yet. Add to that, I had graduate school class with lots of homework and a week-long trip to Louisiana to prepare for. Whoa. Just writing all of that makes me feel exhausted. Obviously, October was a busy time.

Despite everything, the fact still remains that October is one of my favorite months. With everything going on, with trying to get ahead with school work while also desperately needing breaks, we still managed to have fun on weekends and enjoy the autumn environment.

We went pumpkin picking at our favorite farm (I talk about that farm down below!) and visited countless farms for autumnal enjoyment. We were able to dive head-on into a huge corn maze and when that wasn't enough, we worked on a fancy costume that I planned to wear during Halloween. All of this plus lots of school work--I was so busy!

Then the end of the month finally arrived--the time I had been waiting for--my trip to Louisiana.

Two years ago I went to New Orleans to achieve a dream of sorts. Back when I was a teen I was a die-hard fan of Anne Rice and her Vampire Chronicles. I wanted to visit New Orleans, the location for many of her books, and see the restaurants and buildings that she so lovingly described in them. I fell completely in love with the Crescent City and I was so excited to return to it. This time, it was even better. When I was a teen and all involved in the Anne Rice community of the Livejournal days, I met a number of girls my age who loved the books just like me. We became friends through the Internet and over many miles, years passed, and some of us were even able to meet each other.

Ten years later, we're all still friends and over a year ago we thought, "Why don't we go to New Orleans together?" A girls weekend. I've never had one of those but this seemed the right time and for the right reason. So for over a year we pinched our pennies and planned our trip; finally, after all that planning, we were off to NOLA.

It was so fun getting to meet a bunch of book lovers that I've known for so long. When you're friends with people online for so long, you expect it to be weird that here you've known each other for a decade and you're only meeting each other now. Surely, it'll be uncomfortable, but what's odd about it is just how comfortable it is. Here you are, finally face to face, but it's so relaxed and normal--as if you've done this all the time. And you sort of have, it's just been online.

We dressed up and celebrated a rain-soaked Halloween on Frenchman Street. We ate a lot of great food, toured the Lafayette Cemetery, and adventured through swamplands and old plantations. It was a wonderful trip with great people. I can't wait to return to the city and I can't wait to see these friends again.

Now I'm back in Virginia and gearing up for the next few months. Thanksgiving and Christmas are my two of my favorite holidays (Halloween is the third). I really love Thanksgiving because I'm able to be surrounded by family and friends. I also love the traditions it brings. In my household, we cook the turkey carcass after the holiday into a soup that lasts us for awhile and is the right fix to the chilly incoming December weather. For the past few years, it's meant seeing my boyfriend's family, which is always a good time. For the holidays, they've been unique and crazy since I moved out of my parents' home. Last year was an insanely busy day: Christmas gifts in the morning, lunch at my boyfriend's parents' house, and dinner at my aunt's home in Maryland. This year may be much of the same but with a friend joining the fun. All of this but also my mother's upcoming surgery and the end of one of my classes (and the start of the next one).

But what happened last month on this blog? Let's take a look.

Book Reviews:

A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith
Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

Other Posts:

Homestead Farm in Maryland

So here we are, it's November and I have a lot to get done. Posts are ready for December but not as much for this upcoming month. Bear with me as I get back to the swing of things and throw more reviews at you!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Wanderlust Wednesday: Books to Travel By

Books can do marvelous things. If you're a book reader, you already know that they can provide a means for escape from the regular life. As a teenager, I often read my free time away. It was my means of escape from my small town and the stressors of school. In books, I discovered new worlds and lands. I made friends and learned new things. It helped me become who I am today and I'm grateful for that.

Now as an adult with my own income and no need to ask my parents' permission to do things, I read books with a different view of escape. I gobble them up to get away from the stressors of the work week, sure, but I am also fantasizing things that I wish I could do and visit places that I very well may see myself.

I have a strong case of wanderlust that has been heightened over the years. I've always had wanderlust, if I'm being honest. I've always wanted to travel and see different things. My father, a truck driver, has seen most of America and I certainly inherited his desire to be on the move. Even when I am already plotting out one vacation, my mind is considering where I'll go to next. It excites me to see so much, and while I have yet to be out of the United States, I'm lucky enough to see the different regions of America.

Boy, does America have a wide range of sights and landscapes. It's amazing and beautiful and I feel so lucky to be able to experience it all.

But, unfortunately, I also have a job and without that job, I wouldn't be able to travel. I have to work to have the money to travel and the vacation days. I am not one of those people who can travel and "not worry about money" as some travel blogs promote. So what do I do when I'm stuck at home working up time off? I read. Well, not while at work but you get the idea.

I've been lucky to discover a number of books that, for me, really capture the feel of movement that comes with traveling. They both quench my desire to travel (temporarily) and ignite it into a feverish need. They expose me to different landscapes and give me that dreamy sense of being far and away. Interested in escaping? Check out these reads.


Wild takes the reader to the west of the United States to the Pacific Crest Trail. Cheryl Strayed's life has built up to this moment of hiking from the Mohave Desert to Oregon and Washington state. Life sometimes has a way of getting out of control and dragging you along for the ride. When that happens and you finally have a chance to put your feet down and try to stabilize everything, it can be a little daunting and you may feel the need to get away--just like Cheryl did. While this book is very much a personal experience and the tale of Cheryl figuring her life out, it also has wonderful detail of the many ecosystems of the west coast that you can feel growing around you as you read each page.

Travels with Charley

Steinbeck is so often paired with school assignments that many people are left with a bitter taste in their mouths when they think of reading his books for pleasure. Travels with Charley should not be a feared book; it's actually very enjoyable and at times utterly hilarious. Steinbeck recounts his journey across America and back with his dog; not only do you get to hear about the different sites that are seen, but the different people he meets and how people behaved/were treated during that time period.

Traveling with Pomegranates

This book, written by a mother and daughter team, crosses the Atlantic to France and Greece. It's here that both women (with an age difference of thirty or so years) are both set to rediscover themselves and the world around them. There's a lot of personal growth and appreciation in this book, but you're also given the opportunity to see other countries in ways that I have yet to discover (and maybe you have not seen yet yourself).

Scorpio Races

Located on an island in an unnamed area, part of an unnamed sea, the Scorpio Races gives you the taste of saltwater and scent of ocean air. I felt as if I was right up against the shore and hearing the thrashing of waves while reading this book. The lack of specific location for this book is appealing because you can picture it to be just about anywhere (I picture it being an island somewhere between America and England, but closer to England than anything). 

Little House in the Big Woods

A childhood favorite of mine: Little House in the Big Woods brings us back to America and the deep woods of Wisconsin. This, of course, is set many years ago and the world was much different back then. Depending on horse and cart to get around (otherwise, it's by foot), providing your own food through hunting and farming (sometimes purchasing if you're lucky), and protecting your home from the elements (this including wild animals). What I really loved about this book as a child and an adult is that you can so easily submerge into that past world. While simply written, there's accuracy and clear understanding to how the world was and the elements of Wisconsin (especially winter).

View other Wanderlust Wednesday posts.