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Hopes and Dreams for 2015

1 Jan

2014 was such a great year for me that I’m struggling with leaving it behind. The previous few years had been filled with so many huge upheavals and periods of unemployment that it all felt like one big worry. This past year, on the other hand, was like a breath of fresh air.

In the Neuschwanstein courtyard.

In the Neuschwanstein courtyard.

I became a temporary resident of Australia.

I found a job that I can more easily balance with my passions.

I traveled, accomplishing a lifelong dream along the way.

I got more serious about editing this novel.

I read. A lot.

And blogged about it too.

Honestly, one of my biggest sources of pride in 2014 was seeing how much my blog grew. It’s so amazing to me that people want to read what I write (even if the most popular posts aren’t my book reviews, but visa-related advice!). I can’t wait to see what will happen with this blog in the next year, and how it will grow and change.

But the most important thing to me is that I’m sitting here on New Year’s Eve typing about my experiences and all I can really remember is the good: the joy of breaking through a particularly difficult section of my novel, getting lost in castle ruins in Germany, my favorite moments in some newly discovered books. Some not-so-nice things happened, but I love that my focus right now is on all of the fun, wonderful, exciting adventures that I had. I think it shows that I’ve learned to, well…

But seriously, I think it’s so great that for this year, and hopefully for upcoming years as well, I’ve learned to let go of the negative and focus on the positive. This is particularly relevant when looking at other people’s opinions and expectations of me. This year I blazed my own path regardless of what other people thought, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. Next year this might be even more important, because let’s face it, there’s always someone who disapproves of one decision or another. I just need to shrug it off because I know what I’m doing, and I know what makes me happy, even if it doesn’t have the same affect on other people.

But enough of that. My goals for 2015 are much the same as they are every year, but I’m spending today–New Year’s Eve–trying to sort them out and actually plan how they are going to be accomplished. It’s part of my first resolution.

I want to get organized. I’ve always felt like a pretty organized person, but since my husband and I have been working full-time out-of-home the last several months it seems like things have just fallen apart. The house isn’t tidy. Cat hair covers the floor. The dishes don’t get done. The laundry piles up. I rush around trying to make lunch in the mornings, running late. We eat take-out more often than not for dinner. It’s driving me insane.

This goal won’t be accomplished in a day, but I’m going to take some little steps. Sundays are going to be my organization days. I’m going to sit down and plan the week every Sunday. I’m going to get the laundry washed, dried, ironed, folded. I’m going to plan our meals, and in some cases, make them in advance. I’m going to do assign chores for the rest of the week: who’s doing the vacuuming, the mopping, the bathroom-cleaning, dish washing. Before I go to bed each night, I’m going to make sure the lounge room is tidy so that it doesn’t feel like there’s as much to get done the next day.

I want to eat more vegetables. A common goal, right? I’ve never been a health nut, but the last few months have been particularly bad in the eating department. While I’m not really seeing the result on the scale, I am seeing it in the spots on my face and my feelings of sluggishness. I can do so much better, and I’m pretty sure this goes right along with goal #1. If I can get organized enough to plan meals and make them in advance, I don’t need to worry about chopping vegetables throughout the week. Right now it’s easier to throw a granola bar or packet of crackers into my lunch than it is to chop a carrot in the morning–but what if the carrots were already peeled and chopped and in little baggies waiting for me to toss those in? Healthier options made more easily available is something I want to make a habit in this house.

I want to finish this book. Finishing and publishing a novel has been a goal of mine since I was seven. I’m about to hit that quarter-of-a-century mark and just feel like enough is enough–I need to push through, swallow my fears, and send this thing out. My goal is to finish this last, major edit by June. While I will hopefully be working on it throughout the week, Saturdays are going to be my novel days as much as Sundays are going to be my organization days. Each Saturday, I will dedicate a few hours to polishing, refining, and rewriting. I plan to write a little something about how the day went on this blog to keep myself accountable.

I want to decorate. I am tired of staring at blank walls. I want to put up pictures, posters, canvasses. I want to make this house our own. I’ve already started on this goal by putting up some of our wedding pictures in frames, receiving frames for Christmas, and researching where to get those posters and canvasses I was talking about. I’ve made up some sketches that show what I want this house to look like and now I just need to collect the bits and put it into action.

I want to keep reading. I already addressed this in my 2014 Book Review round-up, but I want to read another 35 books in the upcoming year–that’s about a book every week and a half. I know I could read more if I put my mind to it, but I like having an easy-but-still-somewhat-challenging goal to look to, rather than a mostly-challenging one. I can’t wait to see what characters I’ll meet this year.

All in all, I think I have a modest list of goals that are completely obtainable if I put my mind to it. I really want to try to make 2015 as awesome as 2014 was. Here’s to a new year!!

2014: A Year of Reading in Review

31 Dec

A few of you might remember my book review round-up from last year. I decided to make a similar list this year and reflect on all of the fantastic books I read.

I started out the year with a goal of reading 35 books. I’m pleased to say that I was able to accomplish this goal, despite six weeks of travel during the year and a few employment changes which threw my schedule off.

The year started with a bunch of books I found on NetGalley, a resource for bloggers looking for free advance copies of books to review, and I found quite a few gems, including Shattered Veil (Rebel Wing) by Tracy Banghart and later in the year its sequel, Storm Fall. Some of the NetGalley books weren’t quite as promising, such as the first book on the list below.

NetGalley is an excellent resource, but the lure of paper and ink is too strong for me, and I ended up going back to paper books for (most) of the rest of the year. I read quite a few sequels, including Witchstruck and Witchfall, books 2 and 3 of the Tudor Witch Trilogy, plus The Caller, the final book in the Shadowfell Trilogy, and the second book in the Scarlet series, Lady Thief.

Juliet Marillier appears to have been my favourite author this year–I read five of her books across three different series. The only other repeats were Victoria Lamb and Tracy Banghart, with two books each.

My favourite book this year was most likely Shattered Veil (Rebel Wing) by Tracy Banghart. She was an indie author who very deservedly got picked up by Alloy Entertainment; her books are excellent, and I can’t wait for the sequel to Storm Fall!

In 2015 I’m going to maintain my goal of 35 books since it worked well for me this year. We’ll see how I go–it would not surprise me at all to learn that 2015 will be filled with just as many disruptions as 2014 was. I am most looking forward to the releases of a few sequels: Lion Heart (Scarlet #3) by A.C. Gaughen, Shadowscale (Seraphina #2) by Rachel Hartmann, and SUPPOSEDLY The Gift of Power (Exile #1) by Tamora Pierce… but you’ll notice that last one was in LAST year’s hopes and dreams (then titled Arram), so who knows. I’ve been waiting since 2006, I guess I can wait a little longer.

Here’s to a new year!

Books I Read in 2014:

  1. Defy by Sara B. Larson *
  2. The Long Way by Michael Corbin Ray and Therese Vannier ***
  3. Endless by Amanda Gray ***
  4. The Commodore’s Daughter by Jaime Brazil **
  5. Quintspinner by Dianne Greenlay *
  6. The Tale of Mally Biddle by M.L. LeGette *
  7. Shattered Veil (Rebel Wing) by Tracy E. Banghart *****
  8. Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn ****
  9. The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood ***
  10. Set in Stone by Linda Newbery ****
  11. Lady Thief (Scarlet #2) by A.C. Gaughen ****
  12. Legacy of the Clockwork Key by Kristin Bailey *
  13. A Taste of Lightning by Kate Constable *
  14. City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster ***
  15. Witchfall (Tudor Witch #2) by Victoria Lamb ****
  16. Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl *****
  17. Copper Magic by Julia Mary Gibson ****
  18. A Drowned Maiden’s Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz *****
  19. Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters #1) by Juliet Marillier ****
  20. Son of the Shadows (Sevenwaters #2) by Juliet Marillier ****
  21. The Caller (Shadowfell #3) by Juliet Mariller ***
  22. Witchrise (Tudor Witch #3) by Victoria Lamb ***
  23. The Kiss of Deception (Remnant Chronicles #1) by Mary E. Pearson ****
  24. The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry ***
  25. The Mind’s Eye by K.C. Finn ****
  26. Child of the Prophecy (Sevenwaters #3) by Juliet Marillier ****
  27. Cattra’s Legacy by Anna Mackenzie ****
  28. Promised (Birthmarked #3) by Caragh M. O’Brien ***
  29. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier *****
  30. His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik ****
  31. Storm Fall (Rebel Wing #2) by Tracy Banghart *****
  32. The Thief (Queen’s Thief #1) by Megan Whalen Turner ***
  33. The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones (and Ursula Jones) ****
  34. The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman ***
  35. The Witch of Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper ****

The Bookshelf Tag

16 Aug

I was tagged by Sarah at Paper, Pen, and No Plan. The rules of the bookshelf tag are quite simple: answer the following questions about books on your bookshelf and then tag five bloggers. You can answer the questions any way you, whether it’s on your blog, in a video, or a combination of the two. Then remember to let whoever tagged you know when your post is up so that they can read it. 🙂

Now, without further ado, the book tag!

1. Is there a book that you really want to read but haven’t because you know that it’ll make you cry?
Nope! I don’t buy books in the “sob story” aisle. There are books that I’ve read that have made me cry, but I certainly don’t know that they’re going to do that before I read them. With the possible exception of Deathly Hallows, but hey, I was never going to delay reading that!

2. Pick one book that helped introduce you to a new genre.
I’ll go with Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. It’s historical fantasy, which was a great transition into historical fiction. I’d read it before, but after reading Sorcery and Cecelia I now seek it out. I’ve been loving historical fiction lately.

3. Find a book that you want to reread.
I’ve been meaning to reread the Ascendance trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen–The False Prince, The Runaway King, and the Shadow Throne, the last of which I haven’t actually read yet. It’s been so long since I read the first one that I wanted to reread the first two before reading the last. It’s going to be my first reading priority after Europe.

4. Is there a book series you read but wish that you hadn’t?
Nope! I have no qualms with not finishing a book I’ve started if I don’t like it, and I certainly won’t go on to read a whole series if I don’t like it. There are some series that don’t finish as strongly as they began, but if I finished a series I can’t say I’d have any strong regrets about doing so.

5. If your house was burning down and all of your family and pets were safe, which book would you go back inside to save?
Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith. I adore this book and have for a long time! It’s one of the first books I read that really got me into the “sword and sorcery” fantasy genre with politics and character development and a rich world–I mean, what’s not to like?

6. Is there one book on your bookshelf that brings back fond memories?
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Which is interesting because POA is actually my favorite. But by the time I started reading GOF, I was more or less in control of my own bedtime. I remember staying up late at night at just ten years old to finish one more chapter. I reread this series (then just the first four books) over and over again in those days and knew the books cover to cover. I always stopped reading when I reached the Flesh, Blood, and Bone chapter, because it was too scary to read in the dark alone.

7. Find a book that has inspired you the most.
Anything by Tamora Pierce. That woman is amazing.

8. Do you have any autographed books?
Yes! Both Trickster books by Tamora Pierce, which I got signed when I met her in 2004, plus a Will of the Empress and a few Terriers that I received as gifts from my coworkers at the bookstore. And Eragon by Christopher Paolini, signed when I met him in 2004 as well.

9. Find the book that you have owned the longest.
Probably some of my picture books, honestly. I’ll go with I Know I’m a Witch or Possum Come A Knockin’.

10. Is there a book by an author that you never imagined you would read or enjoy?
I just don’t buy books that I don’t think I’d read or enjoy. I might take a chance on one from the library but I don’t buy books I think I wouldn’t like. Granted, I’ve bought a few I think I’d like that I don’t end up liking… but that’s a different answer for a different question.

 

I’m horrible at tags. I’m just going to tag anyone who’s reading this! Feel free to do your own bookshelf tag–I’d love to see what’s on your bookshelf!

What I’m Doing Monday

14 Apr

Woops, forgot to do this last week! I fell a little behind last week due to not feeling great toward the end, and I’m behind already today because my husand’s off work and I never get anything done when he’s around. There WAS some Game of Thrones watching though, so there’s that… 

What I’m Writing
Last week, I wrote a series of articles about the origins of the states/provinces/counties/territories of most of the English-speaking countries: United States, Canada, Australia, England, Scotland, and Wales and Northern Ireland. I think I should probably suggest New Zealand and Ireland so they don’t feel left out…

What I’m Reading
The Taste of Lightning by Kate Constable

I also went to the library and stocked up. I’m in another book rut… I keep starting books that end up not interesting me. I feel like I’m getting caught “in-between” genres. YA is losing its appeal with all of its vampires, werewolves, and over-the-top romances; but adult books are boring, with too many characters and too complicated of a plot. I hate thinking when I’m reading. Anyway, here’s a pile of hopefuls I picked up:

Just a Girl by Jane Caro
City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster
The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett
A Novel of Intrigue and Romance by Michaela MacColl (yes, okay, I do know what I just said… but it’s Queen Victoria!)
The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

Camp NaNoWriMo
Is at a virtual stand-still… writing never happens when I’m in a reading-rut. 😦

What I’m Doing Monday

31 Mar

As I mentioned last week, I’m going to copy my friend at Paper, Pen, and No Plan and post “What I’m Doing Monday” each week. I can’t believe it’s already time for another one of these–the days go by so fast!

What I’m Writing

Yeah, so, I didn’t make nearly as much headway last week as I should have done, and as a result I’m going to be short of my quota this month. I really ought to have worked on things this weekend. Oddly enough, I’m going to be short the three articles that I missed in the first week or about which I said, “Oh, it doesn’t matter, I can make them up later.” As you can see… no. This week also starts a brand new month, which means starting fresh with the targets. I’m aiming for extra this month as I’m going to be in the States for three weeks in May, and while I’ll certainly have time to do articles–unlike when we go to Europe in September (which I’ll be preparing for in June, July, and August)–I want to have a stash prepared just in case. So, without further ado, here are the articles I finished last week:

  • The Origin of the Phrase Quitting Cold Turkey
  • Why Some People Are Morning Birds and Others Are Night Owls
  • The Short Life of the U.S. Army’s Camel Corps
  • The Actress Who Played Elaine in Seinfeld is the Daughter of a Billionaire

What I’m Reading
I suppose, technically, it’s still The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman. I barely read anything at all last week. This happens toward the end of each month when I’m stressed about meeting targets! I actually ordered two books last week that I’m looking forward to: Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen (sequel to Scarlet) and The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen (last in the Ascendance Trilogy). Hopefully those two will be able to get me back on track with reading!

What I’m Doing Monday

23 Mar

My good friend Sarah over at Paper, Pen, and No Plan started doing weekly posts called “What I’m Doing Monday,” and I’ve decided to take it up as well–at least for this week!

What I’m Writing
As I’ve fallen a bit behind, I need to write 9 articles before the end of next Monday. Doable, certainly, but I’m hitting myself for not getting a few of them done sooner (my usual week is 5-6 articles)! I’m hoping this What I’m Doing Monday will hold me more accountable in the months to come. I don’t know exactly what I’ll be writing about, and we’re supposed to choose our topics one at a time, so I’ll leave a list of articles I wrote last week. Some of them haven’t been published on the site yet, so I won’t link them, but you can Google the titles if you’re curious and those that are published will pop up.

  • Why Native Americans Didn’t Wipe Out Europeans With Diseases
  • The Differences Between Rabbits and Hares
  • In the Original Story, Pinocchio Killed Jiminy Cricket, Got His Feet Burnt Off, and was Hanged and Left For Dead
  • The Man Who Parkinson’s Disease Was Named After Was Implicated In A Plot to Assassinate King George III
  • Why Do We Cross Our Fingers For Luck and When Lying?
  • The Year’s Free Wages That Resulted in the Novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”

What I’m Reading
The Ruby in the Smoke (Sally Lockhart #1) by Philip Pullman

Camp NaNoWriMo
Camp NaNoWriMo starts in one week, and I’ve only just decided to jump on the NaNo train once again. I’m not so much planning as I am continuing to write the story that I’ll be working on in the month of April–don’t want to lose momentum and all that. I like that Camp is a bit unconventional, as it allows me to write beforehand without a guilty conscience!

Book Blogger TMI Tag

6 Feb

How old are you?  
This month, or next month? Because I can give you a different answer for each.

What book are you reading?  Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn. I’m just over a third of the way through, and I’m really enjoying it! If you caught my Brisbane Bookfest post, you’ll know that I’ve been looking for this book for ages. It was one of those that I found randomly on Amazon, felt guilty about buying on Amazon when I worked at an independent bookstore, but for some reason couldn’t get through our distributors, then I moved to a new country where it wasn’t in stores and cost a fortune to ship from Amazon… but it must have been meant to be, because there it was hidden among a million books at bookfest, just ready to be snatched up.

 What are you wearing?  
Pajamas. Summery ones. Because I’m in Australia and it’s summer.

OTP?
  I had to look up what this meant. At first I thought it was Other Than Pie, but that didn’t make much sense on a book blog survey. So then I thought maybe there was another o missing, because “Order the Phoenix” didn’t make much sense either. Then I looked it up and found it means “One True Pairing.” Are there rules for this? Are you supposed to pick characters that don’t end up together or characters that do? I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a relationship that I’m like “Grr, no, you belong with him!” Hasn’t the author already written pairings? Why would they be wrong? (Don’t even get me started on the Ron/Hermione thing going around. Seriously.)

I guess the relationship I like best is Will and Lyra from His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. If you don’t know why, you should read the books, but here’s a taste. Let’s just say we used bits and pieces of this in our wedding vows:

“Oh, Will,” she said, “What can we do? Whatever can we do? I want to live with you forever. I want to kiss you and lie down with you and wake up with you every day of my life till I die, years and years and years away. I don’t want a memory, just a memory…”

“No,” he said. “Memory’s a poor thing to have. It’s your own real hair and mouth and arms and eyes and hands I want. I didn’t know I could ever love anything so much. Oh, Lyra, I wish this night would never end! If only we could stay here like this, and the world could stop turning, and everyone else could fall into a sleep…”

“Everyone except us! And you and I could live here forever and just love each other.”

“I will love you forever; whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead, I’ll drift about forever, all my atoms, till I find you again…”

“I’ll be looking for you, Will, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you…We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pin trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams…And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we’ll be joined so tight…”

Blogger or WordPress?
  Wordpress. I was on Blogspot or wherever for a while before being converted over here. Let’s just say WordPress allows people to find my blog a lot more easily than Blogspot ever did!

Going outside being active or staying in and reading a book?  
Staying in and reading a book pretty much always, unless there’s adventure to be had.

What is the last book you read?  Shattered Veil by Tracy E. Banghart (I know, I’m falling behind on my book reading goal! So much has been going on.)

What is the book you’re going to read next?
  One of my other Bookfest books, that’s for certain. I’m debating between Painting Mona Lisa and Set in Stone at the moment, but that could change.

Ebooks – yes or no?
  Ugh, okay, so here’s the deal. I am a book lover through and through. And by book, I mean print book. I railed against e-books for years. Then I decided I should actually try reading one, and I still didn’t like it. However, I do see their uses—I’m planning on getting my own e-reader rather than stealing my husband’s before we go to Europe, so that  I can have a few books without having them take up room in my backpack. Plus, I have absolutely been loving NetGalley and the ability to read books before they’re released, provide reviews, and help promote the books. But I will never ditch real books. A home is not complete without a library, and I don’t mean a little square electronic device.

Where do you prefer to read?  
At home, on the couch or in bed. I struggle to read in any public setting, whether it be on a bus, in a park, or even in a library. I get too distracted by people. I need a quiet space to read, without people intruding on my bubble.

Who is the last person you tweeted?  
I don’t tweet—well, my blog is hooked up to a twitter account, but it just posts my new blog posts automatically, I don’t actually tweet anyone.

Whose blog did you look at last?  Kathryn at Nine Pages, who tagged me in this survey!

 Who is your favorite blogger?  
You want me to choose?

Who is your favorite book-tuber?  
I’ve always thought about trying to become a booktuber but I never actually sit down and make videos. I don’t watch many either, that’s probably part of the problem. As such, I can’t say I have a “favorite” but I am intrigued by the whole concept!

What do you do when someone tells you reading is boring?  “You just haven’t found the right book yet!”

Who is the last author you spoke to?
  Actually spoke to? I can’t remember, probably someone who popped into the bookstore where I worked. But I’ve commented on Tamora Pierce’s facebook statuses much more recently than that!

Who is the last person you texted?  
Cal. He’s the only person I text.

Who is your all-time favorite book character?  
Oh goodness. I have a huge number of book crushes. There’s Numair from Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce, Vidanric from Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, and Christopher Chant from Chronicles of Chrestomanci.

United Kingdom YA or United States YA?  I think it’s pretty evenly split now, but back in the day I leaned toward UK. There was J. K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, Diana Wynne Jones, Anne McCaffrey (lived in Ireland anyway), Eva Ibbotson… probably others I can’t think of right now. Now, it’s pretty evenly split, but I have a soft spot for British YA.

What is your preferred drink whilst reading?
  Tea.  Any kind, though I particularly enjoy mint green tea.

If you hated reading, what would you be doing instead?  I wouldn’t hate reading. Problem solved.

How many bookshelves / bookcases do you have?  
We only have two huge ones that are built in. They span almost an entire room. I’m not sure if they’d hold all of my books if I brought them back from the US, but they serve us well at the moment.

If you had the choice to meet all of your favorite book bloggers or all of your favorite authors, which would you pick? You can only pick one.  
Authors! Most of the bloggers I follow are my real-life friends, and I see them often enough. 😉

Insta-love: yes or no?
  No. I prefer hate-then-love. It seems more believable that way. See: Meliara and Vidanric.

Favorite author?  
Tamora Pierce. I love more of her books than I love any other author’s books. Plus, she’s pretty darn funny.

What is the number-one book on your wishlist?
  Exile by Tamora Pierce. It isn’t finished yet. It’s about Numair, though, and I love Numair. I’ve been waiting for it since it was first listed on her website, back in… 2006? (!!!)

Do you prefer books with female or male protagonists?  
Female, hands down.  I have, of course, enjoyed some books with male protagonists—Harry Potter, anyone?—but of those, I tend to prefer male protagonists written by female writers.

Which is your favourite book-to-film adaption?  I live by the philosophy that the book is always better than the movie. I’ve been dithering over this question for a little while… I can remember a movie that I walked out of thinking, “Awesome! They used so many direct quotes from the book!” but for the life of me I can’t remember which one it was. So rather than take a stab in the dark, I’m going to go a different route entirely and say Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was pretty good, and I seem to remember liking The Thief Lord as well.

What is the last song you listened to?  Do you want to build a snowman? Or ride our bike around the halls? I think some company is over due, I’ve started talking to the pictures on the walls! Hang in there, Joan. We used to be best buddies and now we’re not…

Which do you enjoy reading more – negative reviews or positive reviews?  Honestly, I prefer critical reviews, whether they be negative or positive. I like knowing why someone thinks what they do. “THIS WAS THE BEST BOOK EVER” doesn’t tell me anything, and “THIS BOOK WAS SO AWFUL” doesn’t tell me anything either.

Who are you going to tag?
  So many people have already done this, so I’m going to take the easy way out and say, “Anyone who wants to do this survey!” I’d love to see your answers to these questions!

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