Sunday, April 26, 2015

Weekend Update for April 26, 2015: Readathon, Working Out, and School.

So, I participated in the readathon yesterday and while I didn't read as much as I intended, I still had a great time. I spent a lot of time cheering on blogs and on Instagram as an unofficial cheerleader, which was really fun and yes, time consuming. I've never signed up to be an official cheerleader, but for October, I certainly will. I had a blast. It was a great way to reconnect with the community!

I did read two full books-Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton and Anya's Ghostby Vera Brosgol. I also read 100+ pages in Mistborn and listened to 2 hours of Amy Poehler's Yes Please while I cleaned and did other things around the apartment (I have about an hour and a half left, so hopefully I finish it at the gym this afternoon). I'm really happy with what I accomplished yesterday, and while I feel guilty I didn't get a ton of grading done (actually...none), I have today to catch up. I needed the reading time!

And since I just mentioned the gym...

Matt and I are entering the third week of our "lifestyle change." Both of us are turning 30 this year (me in July, him in November), and we both need to make adjustments to how we eat, work out, etc. We made a game plan over Spring Break to join a gym, eat out less, and make smarter choices. For him, that mainly includes eating better. Matt isn't overweight, but he is diabetic and should be smarter about what he eats. His goals are just to eat better and gain some muscle. Oh, and to support me. :)

For me, I think I'm finally at the point where I want and need and understand the importance of shedding extra weight. I was also starting to reach a scary point on the scale. Coupled with a very "get it together" talk from my doctor, I'm finally emotionally and physically ready to make those changes. So, I finally set up my fitbit that I got as a present a couple of years ago, gave up diet pop and caffeine cold turkey, started making better choices about what I eat and when, and have been going to the gym a minimum of 3x a week. I already feel better about myself.

Giving up the pop has been difficult. I mean...I would stop on my way to work EVERY morning to get a large diet coke from McDonald's. And I would also drink pop all afternoon and evening. It was awful. But I was scared to stop drinking it because of the headaches, etc. Now, it hasn't been as bad as I thought, but I definitely have had some withdrawal symptoms. My headaches haven't been awful, but I did have quite a few the first week. I think that I will eventually pull caffeinated tea back into my diet, but for now, I'm still staying away. It's been about 2 weeks. Best decision I've ever made.

Coupled with giving up pop, I started drinking a mess of water. And now that I'm drinking what I SHOULD be drinking, I'm noticing some huge differences. First, my skin looks and feels much better. I still have dry skin, but it's much better than it used to be. Second, my lips are not as chapped. I think I'm finally giving my body the proper hydration. I've also noticed that while I don't have caffeine coursing through my body, water does enough to perk me up in the morning. I'll take it.

Going to the gym has also been great. I haven't tried to push myself too hard to start, but there have been a few times I have pushed a muscle group and felt sore after (my non-existent abs still hurt from Friday). I forgot how much I like going to the gym. It very much gives me "Me" time to relax and go over things I need to do. I also use the time to listen to audiobooks, which is another way to cram in some reading. And I find that all of the things I learned when I worked with a trainer have come right back to me (I worked with a trainer leading up to my wedding. That's the last time I lost a significant amount of weight).

I also have a few current students who work out at the same gym and we run into each other often. I love that they are supportive and have asked questions about what I'm doing. To be honest, the first time I saw them I was self-conscious, but I quickly got over it. I'm okay with them seeing their overweight teacher making better decisions. One of them will often walk by me on the treadmill or elliptical and give me a good high five when he comes in. I'll take it.

Since making all of these changes about 3 weeks ago, I've lost 12 pounds. I know a lot of that was just water weight and the chugging of copious amounts of water, but it's a great start.

I know this is going to be a very long journey as I have to lose 100 pounds to get into the "healthy" range for my age and height. But I'm okay with that. I doubt I'll talk about it often, but might update from time to time. Because here's the thing...for so long I have let my weight dictate who I am and what I do. I don't want to be bound to that anymore. So I'm working towards making that change permanent. And just being a healthier version of who I already am.

Switching gears, school is about to wind up for some crazy. While I have no intentions of stepping back from blogging or taking a break, I know it's going to get crazy once May gets here-that's when our seniors have all their events, plus my National Board Portfolio is due (and I still have a lot to do). I'm going to do my best to get as much done during the week as I can so I have time to read on weekends, and I'm going to try and get some posts prescheduled, but if there is radio silence for a bit, know I'll be back hard core starting near the end of May. I'm not working this summer either, so I have a lot of reading plans in store.

Speaking of those plans...a couple years ago I hosted a long Victorian Event in the summer. Would there be any interest in that again?

Have a happy reading week!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Classic Words of Wisdom Winners!

Hi everyone!

Had a small issue with my laptop booting, thus the delay in posting winners for my mini-challenge. First, a huge thank you to everyone who participated! I'm still trying to visit everyone to see your wonderful posts, but it'll take me a little bit.

There were 128 entries linked up, so I entered that into

Our winner is....number 59, Jessica Barnes! She chose a wonderful quote by C.S. Lewis. I will try and get in touch with you about getting you your Penguin Clothbound of choice!

I also decided to pick a second winner because I just can't help myself.

Congratulations to number 103, Amanda at Fig and Thistle! She chose a quote from To Kill a Mockingbird. :)

Thanks again to everyone who entered and participated. I hope you enjoyed the challenge and happy reading!

Readathon Mini-Challenge: Classic Words of Wisdom.

Welcome readathoners!

Hopefully by this early point in the readathon you're feeling inspired and full of love for your bookish pursuits today. I'm hopefully deep into my first book and chugging along right beside you. :)

For this mini-challenge, I'm challenging you to something I am super passionate about-the classics! I started my blog a number of years ago with the sole intention of reading as many of the classics as I could to better myself as a teacher. And while I certainly read an eclectic mix of books now, I'm always drawn back to the classics and their words of wisdom.

So, for this challenge, you need to create a post highlighting your favorite "Classic Words of Wisdom" and then explain their meaning to you.

The prize?

Here is my collection!
Your choice of any Penguin Clothbound Classic, shipped from (please make sure they deliver to your country if you're international-they ship to most places!).

To enter, write your post, then return here and link it up on the MisterLinky. Also, please comment with an e-mail so I can get in touch with you easily! When my challenge closes after Hour 4, I will pick a random winner. :)

Thanks for playing, and as inspiration, I offer you my own "Words of Wisdom."

These words, from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, are words that have become incredibly important to me recently. As someone with big dreams, I always tell myself "I wish" when things are difficult or problems step in the way of what I'm trying to accomplish. It's good to tell myself "I will" and be a person of action. That's a philosophy I've adopted over the last few months, and I'm amazed at how much stronger I've become.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Dewey's Readathon Master Post: April 2015. Edit 4x.

Happy Readathon!

I haven't participated in a readathon in at least a year or two, so I'm excited that I can dive back in this year. I have fond memories of reading with bloggers a few years ago, and I even hosted back in 2011 (that doesn't seem so long ago in my head....but it was!).

I'm not planning on reading the full 24 hours, but I'm hoping for about 8. I have a lot of grading to do this weekend (Sunday), so I need to make sure I don't kill my poor eyeballs. :)

I'm also hosting a mini-challenge during Hour 2, so I hope you'll participate.

I'll be keeping track of all of my reading, etc in this post throughout the day (just to keep my blog clean and uncluttered), so stop by periodically to see what I'm up to.

Here are the books in my readathon stack:

From top to bottom:

  1. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson: This is my current read, and I'm kind of addicted, so this will probably be my first book. I'm going to try and avoid jumping right into the sequel, but who knows.
  2. The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather: This is the next read for my Willa Cather project. I started it a few years ago, but never finished it. I've been craving some Cather, so this is a good option.
  3. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson: This is the last book I wanted to read prior to my 10th graders' book battle, since it has been a couple of years.
  4. So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba: I mainly picked this because it's tiny, but I also remember quite a few bloggers reading it a number of years ago and really enjoying it!
  5. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami: This is a new acquisition for me, but it's really long (and the text takes up a large chunk of each page), so I don't know if I'll start it or not.
  6. Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol: This is a new title to our media center, so I snatched it up On Thursday with hopes of reading it. I know it's gotten good reviews!
  7. Yes, Please by Amy Poehler (not pictured): This is my current audiobook that I'm listening to at the gym, and since I plan on going to the gym, I'm sure I'll listen for an hour or so. 
Happy reading everyone! I'll check in periodically!

Hour 1:
Opening Meme:
1. What part of the world are you reading from today?
I'm going to be reading from my couch. ;) But really, I'm from Metro-Detroit. It's set to be about 60 today, so it's a little too chilly to be reading outside.

2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
I'm going to start with Mistborn since I've already started it and I'm excited to keep reading it. Truthfully, it's a reread. I read it a couple years ago and never read the sequels, so that's my intention is giving it another go. I'm also going to dive into Anya's Ghost pretty early on.

3. Which snack are you most looking forward to?
We bought a bunch of veggies and veggie dip last night, so truthfully, I'm pretty excited for that! Ha! I'm trying to eat a little better, so all of my snacks today will be pretty healthy.

4. Tell us a little something about yourself!
I've just jumped back into blogging after a couple years of random posting. It's been great to jump back into the community, and I'm excited that today I will be able to reconnect and find some new bloggers! I read a lot of the classics, but recently I've been branching way out from that. I'm a high school English and History teacher, so I like reading YA to help with suggestions for kids I'm teaching.

5. If you have participated before, what's one thing you'll do different today?
I have participated before, but not in a couple of years! I've never gone the full 24 hours, but the year I co-hosted I came pretty close. My goal for today is to read for about 8 hours, talk with members of the community, and have a good time. :) I'm trying not to stress too much about this whole thing! I am planning on cheering more than I have in the past, and I'm hosting a mini-challenge again! Huzzah!

Readathon Nonsense Stats (8:41 AM):
# of Pages Read: 0
# of Books Finished: 0
# of Ounces of Water Drank: I just woke up, so my water bottle is full!
# of Kitten Cuddles: 1 (Lily was cuddling on my feet this morning when I got up, so that totally counts)
# of times my Husband has annoyed me: 0 (He's still asleep)
Random Thoughts: I'm ready to start reading, but I'm going to hang out online until my mini-challenge launches. :) I'm excited!

Check-In 2:
Things are going pretty splendidly over here. I read for a bit, but took a break to cheer for people on Instagram. I also looked at quite a few entries for my mini-challenge, which has ended. I posted winners in a different post.

I read a good chunk of Mistborn, but I saw a photo on Instagram of someone's pile and noticed Ethan Frome by Wharton, and now I have to read it. So, that's what I'm settling in with now. :)

I'll probably read for another hour before eating some lunch and taking a social media break. Matt is still home (he goes to work at 4), so it's hard to stay focused with him bugging me all the time.  

Readathon Nonsense Stats (1:30 PM):
# of Pages Read:111
# of Books Finished: 0 (I was only about 50 pages into Mistborn and it is 600+ so I'm okay with that).
# of Ounces of Water Drank: 24. I'm slacking. I actually find it easier to drink lots of water when I'm at school.
# of Kitten Cuddles: -Lily joined me early this morning on the couch, then Hemi. Then Lily joined me again a little while ago, but Sparty kicked her out of her spot and is currently annoying me.
# of times my Husband has annoyed me: 2 I had to stop to go wake him up. And I had to make him breakfast because he's a whiner.
Random Thoughts: I'm ready to read Ethan Frome. Amazing how I never end up reading from my pile.....

Check-In 3:
I finally settled into reading for an hour or so, then had to shepherd Matt out the door to go to work (he's working part-time at a restaurant cooking). And now that he's gone, I thought I would take a few moments to pop in an update.

I didn't have the most productive few hours. I did eat a late lunch, then stopped to clean. Then I settled in with Ethan Frome, which was a random decision, but I read it in one long, delicious sitting. Ahhh, SUCH a good book. I think that was probably my 6th or 7th time reading it....

I think I'm going to tackle Anya's Ghost next, since it's a graphic novel and will be a fast read...How are you all doing?

Readathon Nonsense Stats (5:19 PM):
# of Pages Read: 210 (my copy of Ethan Frome was exactly 99....I find that amusing...)
#of Books Finished: 1! And a chunk read out of Mistborn this morning
# of Ounces of Water Drank: 72. I drank a full bottle (24 oz) with my lunch and have been sipping away ever since. 
# of Kitten Cuddles: Like....10? They seriously won't leave me alone. Currently Lily is perched on the back of my desk chair.
# of times my Husband has annoyed me: 4. The 2 new ones include him refusing to refill my water for me and the other was me trying to get him out the door so he would let me read! But now he's at work until 10, so I have the place to myself. Except for the cats.
Random Thoughts: Not sure what I'm going to make for dinner tonight. Also, I feel guilty not grading some I might try and read Anya's Ghost, then call it a night on the reading. :/ We'll see if the guilt continues...

Check-In 4:
Well, I finished another book in the last 2 hours! Truthfully, it didn't take that long to read, but I got sidetracked cleaning and just now decided to sit down and update (and do the mid-event survey). I'm still feeling a little guilty about reading when I have essays to grade, but I think after dinner I'm going to settle back in with Mistborn and try to get a little further. I knew going into today that I wasn't going to stay up through the night, but I do want to read more!

Readathon Nonsense Stats (7:39 PM):
# of Pages Read: 431 (Anya's Ghost is a graphic novel, thus the inflated # of pages)
# of Books Finished: 2! 
# of Ounces of Water: 80. I need to drink 20 more to hit my daily goal, so that's totally doable!
# of Kitten Cuddles: I've lost count. They seriously will not leave me alone today.
# of times my Husband has annoyed me: Not any new instances since he is at work. :)
Random Thoughts: I have no idea what I'm making for dinner. But I need something delicious.

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?
As I just finished Anya's Ghost, nothing. Although, now that I'm staring at my pile...I have another REALLY short book that I could probably finish tonight........

2. How many books have you read so far? I finished 2-Anya's Ghost and Ethan Frome. I also read 100 pages of Mistborn. I also listened to a few minutes of Yes Please earlier when I was cleaning and will probably listen as I cook dinner and do a few cleaning things around the apartment. Saturdays are typically my cleaning days, so I can't avoid it!

3. What book are most looking forward to for the second half of the Readathon?
I really love Mistborn, even though it's technically a reread, so I am happy to get back into it. I left off at the beginning of "Part 2," so it should be easy to jump right in. And now that I looked at my pile....I might grab So Long a Letter to read this evening after dinner.....It's only 89 pages...

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
Let's be honest....I interrupt myself. I keep finding chores to do or silly things around the house. But hey, I am glad to be participating and while I might not be reading as much as many other readathoners, I'm having a good time with the book blogging community today. :)

5. What surprises you most about the Readathon so far?
Hmmm, no surprises. Well, I guess I'm excited to see a large presence on Instagram. I spent about an hour this morning liking pictures and commenting and didn't even make a dent. I'm glad to see how big this readathon has gotten. The first one I did, way back in October 2009, was only semi-successful (I also didn't blog about it). My second attempt, in April 2010, was much better (I read A LOT). I know there were only a few hundred participants, so I'm happy to see the event growing and trending on twitter. :) Book nerds rock.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver.

“That's what life is, pretty much: full of holes and tangles and ways to get stuck. Uncomfortable and itchy. A present you never asked for, never wanted, never chose. A present you're supposed to be excited to wear, day after day, even when you'd rather stay in bed and do nothing.” 

So, I had really high expectations for Vanishing Girls, and while it didn't meet all of them, I still really enjoyed it. There is something very...warm and familiar about Oliver's writing so that even though I may not love the story, I love the writing (the same happened when I read Panic and Requiem). 

I'm not saying that this is a bad book. By all means, it isn't. There are so many wonderful things here to love. First, Oliver has a very lyrical and musical style in her writing. It makes reading one of her books a joy because you get a bit sucked in by the language. Every once in awhile I stop to mull over her word choices, but I always enjoyed the way she strings things together.

Second, this book had, what I consider to be, the strongest sibling relationship I've seen in quite some time. And I'm not talking about siblings who love and support each other to the ends of the earth, but the real gritty kind of relationship-where there is jealousy and competition and comparison. I found myself totally absorbed in learning the relationship between Dara and Nicole. Both are resentful of the other, but will barely admit it to themselves, let alone each other. That competition and jealousy fuels a lot of the action in the novel.

As I was reading about Nick being jealous of Dara, or vice versa, I was reminded of my own relationship with my siblings. I have two older brothers and a younger sister. I'm closer in age to my brothers than my sister, so we were closer in school and other things that brought about a lot of silent competition in our house. Both of my brothers are incredibly intelligent, particularly in math and science. They were also very athletic growing up, where I struggled in team sports (I danced through the ninth grade, but I also played softball). Once the 3 of us were all in high school (as a senior, junior, and freshman), there WAS competition between us. They excelled in different areas than I did, so it did create a lot of resentment and jealousy on my part. Thankfully I grew out of that, but I could relate so well to Dara and Nicole.

With my own sister, who is 6 years younger than me, I never had to feel that jealousy. I don't know if she ever felt that towards me, but we were so far removed in age and experiences (I was in college by the time she was in high school) that it never became a problem like is does in Vanishing Girls.

Back to the novel, the story basically follows Nick and Dara through a summer after a horrific car accident. Both girls were injured and had been kept apart by their divorced parents. Most of the book is told from Nick's perspective, as she returns home and tries to rebuild a relationship with Dara, who ignores her sister and hides in her room. As the reader, we follow both girls around town and learn more about their relationship before the accident and after. Their rivalry is uncovered and we begin to piece together what happened.

But then a girl named Madeline Snow disappears, and a few days later, so does Dara. In a panic, Nick begins to search for Dara and pulls the pieces together. 

It really is a well done and steady piece of YA, but my one complaint....well, the ending. There is a twist that I won't talk too much about, but I didn't like it and felt like I was taken out of the narrative a bit too much by Oliver. I actually had to stop reading and go back to other passages in the book to verify what I had thought I read (and I was right in my interpretations). It just threw me in a way I didn't like. I am writing this right after finishing, so perhaps my opinion will changes as I let the book simmer for a bit, so I will edit if that happens.

In all, this was a good piece of YA that still makes me want to read more by Oliver (and this was way better than Panic). If you're looking for a bit of a thriller with a very dynamic sibling relationship, this is your book. 

“This is it: somehow, in these pictures, the mystery of the accident is contained, and the explanation for Dara's subsequent behavior, for the silences and disappearances. Don't ask me how. I just do. If you don't understand that, I guess you've never had a sister” 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Inspiring Quotes from Books.

Another Tuesday, and another top ten list from the folks at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week asks us for our top ten inspiring quotes from books, which I am all over. I keep a small pack of post-it tabs near me when I'm reading, so I am constantly marking favorite passages and lines.

I hope you enjoy what I picked-I think there is a wide variety here!

In no particular order....

from "All the Bright Places" by Jennifer Niven

Edith Wharton's "The House of Mirth"

from "Looking for Alaska" by John Green

from "The Odyssey" by Homer

from Kate Chopin's "The Awakening"

"Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte

"Moby-Dick" by Herman Melville

from "The Great Gatsby"

from Arthur Miller's "The Crucible"

from Charles Dickens' "David Copperfield"

Monday, April 13, 2015

Landline by Rainbow Rowell.

“You don't know when you're twenty-three.
You don't know what it really means to crawl into someone else's life and stay there. You can't see all the ways you're going to get tangled, how you're going to bond skin to skin. How the idea of separating will feel in five years, in ten - in fifteen. When Georgie thought about divorce now, she imagined lying side by side with Neal on two operating tables while a team of doctors tried to unthread their vascular systems.
She didn't know at twenty-three.” 

I have loved all of Rowell's books, and Landline is no exception to that love. Truthfully, I put off reading it until well after the debut out of fear that it wouldn't live up to her other titles. And while I do have one small complaint about it, I really loved this title (more on that complaint in a bit).

Essentially, Landline is about Georgie McCool and her husband Neal. They married relatively young and while Georgie undoubtedly loves her husband, she's not the best at showing him how much. The novel begins when Georgie has to back out of a family trip to Neal's childhood home for work, and Neal decides to leave without her, taking their two daughters with him. For whatever reason, Georgie cannot get in touch with Neal once he leaves, and she is forced to face the fact that perhaps their marriage isn't as solid as she once thought. The book follows her thoughts throughout that separation (with a bit of magical realism thrown in), and shows her thinking back to the beginnings of their relationship.

This book was one of those titles that hit me at the right place and in the right time. I think, had I read this before I got married, I would have been bored by the very real marriage parts of this. And I think a lot of Georgie and Neal's relationship as a married couple is realistic. My husband and I discussed the other day that we sometimes go in waves in terms of commitment and energy invested into our relationship. When he was working his incredibly stressful job, I took on more responsibility and care for us and our home. When he was unemployed, that responsibility shifted to his shoulders. Now we're pretty even as he is back in school. I think that kind of give and take is normal in a relationship.

What's abnormal is when one participant in the relationship takes more and more without ever giving, which is the situation Georgie finds herself in. As Rowell writes,

“Nobody's lives just fit together. Fitting together is something you work at. It's something you make happen - because you love each other.” 

I find that to be very true after 5+ years of marriage and 13 years of being with Matt. And while I know that might seem insignificant to some, I do know that we have learned that making a life together is all about that balance and that we must work to maintain that balance. For that, this book really resonated with me in my current (happily) married state. It was just an affirmation of something I already knew-that love and fitting together takes a lot of work. If you expect it to just happen and be fine forever, you have some struggles in the future.

I also loved the flashback between Georgie's current relationship with Neal to her memories and conversations with Neal as a young twenty-something. The portions about long conversations on the phone for hours and hours made me melt a bit, as it brought back memories from my senior year of high school, right after Matt and I started dating. There were a few times I fell asleep as we talked into the early morning hours. :)

I found myself making comparisons between that part of their relationship and my own, as I know how hard it is to be young and in love. I also know that as you grow older, you do change and mature. You've got to accept those changes.

The other aspect of the novel that I enjoyed was Neal's attitude toward Seth-Georgie's co-worker and friend since college. There were a couple of times in the novel where I thought that Neal was finally going to flip on Georgie for still being bonded to a male friend, but when he treated Georgie's relationship with Seth as important to her and her happiness and goals...well, I found it refreshing. How often do we read about a male imposing restrictions on their wife and her relationship with other men? Too many. For that, I really gained respect for Neal.

My one complaint? I felt that at times some of the scenes dragged on a little too long. The puppies? Not really necessary. Some of the whining? Not needed either. But neither was distracting enough to pull me away from finishing this in two sittings.

In all, I found Landline to be refreshing and as hopeful as some of Rowell's other work. I think she has a knack for creating relatable characters (Heather! I would love more about her!). I look forward to seeing what else Rowell has in store!

“Nothing good is easy.” 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Weekend Update for April 12, 2015: End of Spring Break and Reading Binge.

Hi everyone! It's hard to believe that we're halfway through the month already, isn't it? Since today is the 12th, it also marks that I have exactly 2 months until the end of the school year. Our third quarter ended before break, so we only have a short time left before glorious summer. :) I have a lot to get done in that time!

But I digress...this last week was my spring break. We had a little bit of a longer break since we had the Friday before off as well (it was our "Records" day). I had a lot of plans for over break-reading, doing some work on my National Board Portfolio, cleaning, and grading. To be honest, I spent a lot of time doing domestic things-doing a bit of spring cleaning, catching up on laundry, as well as cooking and spending time organizing some things that needed organized. I also read quite a bit (I think 4? Maybe 5?). I did a little grading...and read through some materials for my NB stuff....

Today, after I finish writing this entry, will be spent on a bit of a grading binge. I started a bit last night (and totally forgot how much I had to do). I have some things that NEED to get on third quarter, so those will be my priority. I also have....96 essays on The Crucible that I should get to soon.

But I did enjoy my break and spent it as a break. I needed it. I was feeling pretty negative before this week, so I'm ready to get back to work refreshed and ready to go. I also need to set a little more time aside for get my NB stuff done-I'm thinking next weekend will be spent catching up on that so I can enjoy the readathon the week after!

Speaking of reading, I read some good things this week. Here's the list (I had to double check on Goodreads to make sure I'm remembering correctly):
  • Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall
  • Fables Volume 3
  • Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  • Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
  • Fables Volume 4
Sure, 3 of them are graphic novels....but who cares? :) I also (finally) got a copy of Battle Royale by Koushin Takami yesterday, so I'm excited to read that as well. I didn't expect it to be as long as it is, but I'm sure it will be a fast read.

I really need to get back into some of the classics. I've been neglecting them the last month or so. I did start Lady Audley's Secret a couple weeks ago, but set it aside. I think that might be my next big read.

Anyway, the piles of grading are calling me. Have a wonderful Sunday!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Fables V. 1 and 2 by Bill Willingham.

I first read Fables a few years ago (I actually believe I read the first 6 or 7 right after we moved into this apartment). I remember flying through the volumes my library had available, and enjoying them, but beyond that, my memories are pretty hazy. They came back to my attention a month ago, when I started to notice the comics everywhere on social media. It seemed like everyone I follow on Instagram and twitter were posting about the series. So, I was inspired.

After the first two volumes arrived a couple weeks ago from Amazon, I flew through them both. While the story in each was familiar, I was still surprised and fascinated by the world Willingham created.

The first volume, titled Legends in Exile, introduces the readers to the modern world of the Fables. Years before, the Adversary rose up in their homelands and many escaped to our world in exile. They set up a government in New York City for those in human form, while their animal counterparts found residence in an upstate farm.

The first volume focuses on some of our main characters (and from what I remember, their arc lasts for quite some least through what I read before). Snow White works as the administrative assistant to King Cole, the leader of Fabletown. Although, Snow really just runs the show. The Big Bad Wolf is now known as Bigby and he is the sheriff of sorts. From the beginning, there are many references to their original stories, but obviously modernized to fit this new world.

The first volume follows the story and investigation of the murder of Snow White's sister, Rose Red. It's through this investigation that we slowly get introduced to some of the big names and faces on Fabletown. I think the author does a great job of honoring the original fairy tales and stories so that readers feel comfortable with the characters, but he also takes it further and modernizes their lives to fit his new world. I was drawn in immediately and read the volume in one sitting (it is pretty slim compared to some of the others).

Volume 2 continues the story as events go down at the northern farm for the non-human Fables. Sick of being secluded to the boundaries of the farm, many of the non-human Fables are ready to rise against the human occupants of Fabletown and reclaim their places back in their homeworlds.

Unlike the first volume, this did not feel like an introduction. Since the lead characters were mostly familiar, it was very much a continuation of the story established in part one. I also liked that it was brought to a resounding close. I mean, I know the story continues, but this very much felt like a complete story on its own (again, if I remember clearly, I don't think that is the case later on).

I also enjoyed that Willingham also brings in characters and stories that aren't necessary fables or fairy tales. There is definitely some influence from mythology in both volumes, as well as literary texts. It makes for interesting reading, as you are;t quite sure who's going to pop up and where.

In all, I'm enjoying my little reread of this series. While I did order 3 more volumes (3 and 4, as well as the standalone companion, 1001 Nights of Snowfall), reading through the whole series will take me some time. These are titles I want to own and keep, so purchasing will need to be spread out, as they are a little pricey.

Let me know your thoughts on this series if you read them, and if there are other comics series I need to get my hands on!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Characters to Check In On.

Every Tuesday, the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish pick a topic for us zany book lovers to create a list on. This week's topic is about our top ten characters we would like to check up on.

At first, I was going to skip this week's topic, as I very much agree with John Green when he says that after a book is finished, it is up to the individual reader's interpretation about the fate of the characters. But then...well, I wanted to play along. And while I certainly do respect that characters are different in everyone's eyes when they finish a book, there are some that I wouldn't might knowing more about. And the sappy part of me wants to know if they got their happily ever after.

I only picked 7, as these are the ones I'm most curious about. :) In no particular order...

1. Lawrence Selden from The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton: For anyone who has read the book, you have to know why I wonder about poor Selden. This book is my favorite of all time, so of course I have always wondered what became of Selden....

2. Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: I would love to check in on these two...make sure they're happy and alive and well. They deserve it, you know?

3. Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: I find this fitting as I am set for a little readalong with some fellow bloggers in the near future. But wouldn't you love to know what Scarlett has done since the end of this saga? I do!

4. Katsa and Po from Graceling by Kristin Cashore: Cashore hasn't published anything in a few years, which is probably why I'm craving to return to these two characters (I actually just want to reread Graceling). Katsa is one of my favorite female characters, so I would love to see what she's up to!

5. Miles from Looking for Alaska by John Green: It's fitting that I talked about John Green earlier and now picked one of his books, yes? :) This is my favorite Green novel (it was also the first I read, long before he blew up into superstardom). I think Miles would make a fascinating adult...

6. Harry Potter: I don't think I need to explain this one.... ;)

7. Eleanor and Park from Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell: I'm a worrier, so I worry about both of these teens. And I would love to make sure they're both okay after the events of the novel.

There you have it, my shorter than usual list. :) Let me know what characters you would like to check in on!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

March 2015 Makeup Favorites.

Before we get into all the pretty colors and fun items, just a little backstory.

I've always been a huge fan of makeup. When I was younger, I actually danced, so putting on stage makeup for recitals was always a huge highlight for me. Because when you're 6 and get to slap on a bunch of red lipstick...I mean, that's a fun time. However, I always wore makeup pretty minimally in middle and high school. I usually slapped on one eyeshadow, some mascara, a bit of blush, and a clear lip gloss. I began really playing around with makeup in college, but my "collection" was always relatively small (hello, college student), and I stayed with things from the drugstore or that I knew worked for me.

Over the last couple of years, I've been really playing around with not only makeup, but my skincare. Since being diagnosed with Lupus, I have found that if I take care of my skin, I can keep a lot of my skin-related Lupus issues at bay. But when they do flare up, makeup is a great way of disguising them. And while I'm fortunate that I don't have a prominent butterfly rash, as my Lupus case is pretty mild, when I do break out, I can cover it.

So, I've really been into playing with makeup and branching out of my comfort zone. I know there is this common discussion that women should embrace their natural beauty and avoid heavy makeup. And I agree, but makeup is also fun, and allows women the chance to be creative. For myself, it also allows me to hide some of my rashes (which are not made worse by makeup), and feel a little more comfortable and human when I'm not feeling like myself.

Anyway, since I started to branch out into different brands and kinds of makeup over the last 3 years, my collection has grown pretty the point where my husband has noticed. But it makes me happy and hey, I like the pretty colors. ;)

I thought that I would stop from time to time to highlight some of my favorites and share some tips and tricks. I am by no means an expert in makeup application, but as someone who wears a full face everyday that I'm working, I have some products that I know work for me and what I need.

Without further ado, here are my makeup favorites:

I took this in my bathroom, so some of the reflection is from the mirror.
I'm going to talk about products from left to right, and I will link them when I can.

1. Stila's "In the Know" Eyeshadow Palette: When I went to look up a place to purchase this palette, imagine how heartbroken I am to see that it's now discontinued. I did link you to the "In the Light" palette, which I also own and love. Anyway, this palette is all matte shadow, which is a great addition for anyone who is into makeup. I own a total of 3 of these Stila palettes and love them all. The shadows are pretty smooth and easy to blend, and when you're a beginner, that's super helpful!

2. ColourPop's Snap Dragon (teal) and Girl Crush (brownish taupe): I love ColourPop Shadows, which are relatively new. You can only buy them on their website, but they're $5 and come in a million shades. I own quite a few of them (probably about 15 or so), and find them to be pretty pigmented and easy to apply. I also like that they have bright shades, like Snap Dragon, so that I can branch out. They have a lot of matte colors in addition to shimmers and super glittery shades, but I find the mattes easiest to pull off. I also like that you can apply this with your fingers!

3. Urban Decay's "Naked Basics" Eyeshadow Palette: This is probably my most well-loved and well-used makeup item. I find myself using it on a daily basis, and I've almost hit pan on 2 of the shades (even though that's hard to see in my collective picture). This is another great little staple in my collection with almost all matte shades (the lightest is a shimmer). I can create some gorgeous basic looks with this, so it is a winner in my book. I don't own the second version of this palette, but I do want it. :)

4. Maybelline's Master Prime in Blur and Redness Control: This has been a favorite the last two months as I flared and my face went crazy. I've always had really red patchy skin on my cheeks, but when I flare, it gets out of control. This has helped tame some of that redness and really helps the rest of my makeup go on smoothly.

5. Maybelline's Master Conceal in Fair: It's a little sad that I have to buy super light concealers to cover up my horrible dark circles, but I do. haha. Anyway, not only is this a great concealer for dark circles and blemishes, I also use this to cover up my butterfly rash (when I have it). It's pigmented enough to do the job, and I don't know where I would be without it.

6. Urban Decay's "Naked Skin" Foundation: This is my favorite "high-end" foundation as it is really light but offers a good amount of coverage. The only downside is that is smells a little when you first pump and apply, but the smell does go away. I like that I can build it up to give more coverage in certain areas, and it leaves my skin feeling awesome. I wear shade 2.0.

7. Maybelline's Dream Liquid Mousse Foundation: This is my favorite drugstore foundation and I'm nearing the end of my second bottle. It's a great foundation-a bit heavier than my UD Naked Skin, so it covers well when I'm having a really bad day! It also comes with a pump, which is a little rare for a drugstore product and it helps keep things sanitary, which I much appreciate. I also wear shade 2 in this line.

8. Loreal's Infallible Eyeshadow in "Amber Rush": I own quite a few of these shadows, as they are super pigmented and pretty shimmery, but Amber Rush has been a long time favorite. It's a gorgeous rose gold color that looks great all over the lid!

9. ColourPop's Blush in "Rain": See that bright purple blush in the middle of that picture? I bought it on a whim when I decided to go for something different. It's gorgeous. And easily my favorite blush of all time. It goes on pretty light, but you can build it up to some intense purple on your cheeks. I've found that dabbing it on with a stippling brush works best, and it looks SO GOOD. You can tell on the cheeks that it isn't a normal blush color, but it looks great! I have two of their other blushes and like them just as much...Rain has just stolen my heart.

10. Milani's Baked Blush in "Luminoso": Luminoso is a bright peach blush with a touch of shimmer. It's also pretty pigmented, so I have to go in with a light hand. This is a blush I can only use when my skin is pretty clear (it's so light that if my skin is red, it doesn't show well). It's another gorgeous shade that I normally wouldn't have gravitated to before, as it's so light.

11. Bobbi Brown's Illuminating Bronzing Power in "Santa Barbara": I doubt I will ever use this product up as all I have to do is lightly tap my brush once into the pan and I can put it on both cheeks. This is a supper pretty pinkish blush with a ton of goldish shimmer. It's sold as a bronzing powder, which I really don't get because of the color, but it's gorgeous and BAM in your face.

12. Julep Lipstick in "Chit Chat": I originally joined with Julep for their nail polish, but they have been killing it with their beauty products over the last year or so. Chit Chat is a great nude lipstick. I'm not a HUGE lipstick wearer, as I'm not a fan of the clown lips look, and I feel a bit silly wearing bright colors, but this one works so well for me!

13. ColourPop's Lippie Stix in "Westie" and "Bound": Like I said above, I'm not a big lipstick fan, but I have been branching out. I love these two colors, as both are muted pink and look great on-almost natural, if you know what I mean. I have a few other Lippie Stix from ColourPop, including a couple brighter ones for the summer months, but these 2 have been in heavy rotation. It also helps these are only $5!

14. Tarte Amazonian Clay Bronzer in "Park Avenue Princess": I have a really hard time finding bronzers that work for me, since I have fair skin, but this Tarte bronzer is pretty amazing. It's a bit shimmery, but once I blend it out, the shimmer disappears. I use this every day, and if you look closely, you can see that I'm about to hit pan. eek!

15. Elf Baked Highlighter in "Moonlight Pearls": I own a couple of highlighters, but this one is my favorite and the cheapest (only $3!). I don't like a ton of shimmer on my face (I think it makes your skin look oily, which is odd for me since my skin is so dry). But this is a great highlighter. I find it easiest to apply with my finger-across the top of my cheekbones and on the bridge of my nose.

There you have it, some of my current beauty must haves. What items do you use and love? I'm looking for a great mascara if you have any suggestions!