Wednesday, March 1, 2023

February 2023 Wrap Up

February was… a month. We had some ups and downs, most of which I am not going to get into. Some has to do with work and some has been personal. Some possibly big things might be happening at work (some bad but some potentially very good) and I think I’m mixed up in it, for better or for worse, but probably better?

I’m also not going to get into all of my personal stuff. But Kevin and I had our sixth dating anniversary, which was lovely. I’ve gotten to spend time (in person, online, and via text) with friends. That has been a highlight for the month. Festus passed away sort of suddenly. I miss my dragon boy but it seems like he didn’t suffer too long, which I am glad for.

Books. It’s a good thing I read the rest of Fruits Basket this month or I would have fallen behind on my reading goals. My main problem was that parts of the month were hard and so I wanted to comfort read. Which I did in the form of listening to Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall over and over and over… I don’t even know (or want to know) how many times. But I find it so freaking funny and sweet. Then the characters all feel like friends I can’t get enough of so I start over again. Hopefully I will move past that within the next few weeks, but we will see. I'm only counting it once towards my reading goal.

I also casually participated in a read-a-long of the Raven Boys. This was a re-read, but it has probably been six or so years since I first read it. I forget how much I love Maggie Stiefvater’s writing and her characters. So that was great and kicked off a re-read of the series. And I plan to jump right into the Dreamer trilogy afterwards now that it is complete.

Since I read a few books, I will do some short reviews!

Title: Fruits Basket Volumes 4-12
Author:  Natsuki Takaya

Synopsis/Thoughts: Tohru's adventures with the Sohma family continue and conclude! I didn't know the whole story since I had only seen the anime, which doesn't go very far in the series. But it was so readable and I loved it. And the ending gave me warm fuzzies.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars

Title: Wild Beauty
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Synopsis: The Nomeolvides women have lived at and tended the grounds of La Pradera for generations. Each woman is bestowed with a gift to grow flowers. But the family is also haunted by a curse: if they fall in love too deeply, the object of their love will disappear.

Thoughts: This was an old Owlcrate book. I really liked it, maybe more than I expected to. I loved the Nomeolvides family and the book was sweet, sad, and lovely.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars

Title: Boyfriend Material
Author: Alexis Hall
Narrator: Joe Jameson
Synopsis/Thoughts: I have reviewed this book at least once before, possibly more. I love it. It is so funny and sweet (and occasionally so awkward in the most charming way). The narrator is great. And does anyone aside from me want more about Ben and Sophie and the James Royce-Royces? Because I would be 100% here for more of them.

Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5 stars

Titles: The Raven Boys and the Dream Thieves
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Narrator: Will Patton
Synopsis/Thoughts: I think I have reviewed this series before, too. I did a mix of reading the books and listening to them. It is the 10 year publishing anniversary of the Raven Boys so I participated in a read-a-long through Owlcrate. And of course, I love her writing and characters. I think I am liking them even better this time around. They have been holding my attention well so I am excited to finish this series and get into the Dreamer Trilogy.
Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5 stars

Favorite book read this month: They were all really good!
Least favorite book read this month: Honestly, none of them. 

I have now read 27 books towards my goal of 75. And I completed one Owlcrate book. Can I also count the Raven Boys since I bought the special anniversary edition from them? No, I don't think so. I still need to do more Owlcrate catch up.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

January 2023 Wrap Up

Just like that, January is over.

I wish I had more to report for this month, but I think I've just been working all of the time. The big study I am leading is underway and it requires a ton of my time and attention. Plus I have other studies that also need my time and attention. Constant prep work and paperwork, being on call and working late/long hours/weekends. I haven't even been able to do laundry which is desperately needed.

But things are starting to wrap up. By the end of February my time should be a little less chaotic.

Despite the craziness, I managed to read more books than I expected. I will keep reviews short since I know this post is already a bit late.

Titles: Cold Fire and Shatterglass
Author: Tamora Pierce
Synopsis/Thoughts: These are the last two books of the Circle Opens quartet that follow Daja and Tris, respectively, as they travel and take on students. More comfort reads of course, but these two books are some of my favorites by Tamora Pierce.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars
Title: Attachments
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Narrator: Laura Hamilton

Synopsis/Thoughts: I have read and reviewed this book a few times. It is a good read and I love the email communications between Beth and Jennifer. It is an easy, lovely read.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars
Title: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Author: Mark Twain
Narrator: Nick Offerman
Synopsis/Thoughts: I feel that this classic doesn't need much introduction. After seeing the Mark Twain house and museum in Connecticut, I figured I should read more than one story, so I did! It was a bit young, but still enjoyable.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5 stars
Title: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Author: Lewis Carroll
Narrator: Scarlett Johansson

Synopsis/Thoughts: Another classic that needs no real introduction.  Another one I had never read before and it was a fun little listen. While I didn't LOVE it, it was still good.
 Rating: 3 stars out of 5 stars

Title: The Ballad of Perilous Graves
Author: Alex Jennings
Narrator: Gralen Bryant Banks

Synopsis: In an alternate version of New Orleans, ghosts are real, zombies work in the town, animals speak like humans, and music is the magic that holds the world together. When the core songs that protect the city escape and someone begins killing them, Perry (Perilous) and his friends and family must save the city.

Thoughts: I started reading this many months ago. It is actually quite good, but it didn't hold my attention well. That was completely on me, though, not the book. I just wasn't in the right head space for this type of story. It is one I will consider revisiting another time.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5 stars

Title: The Depths
Author: Nicole Lesperance
Synopsis: Addie, having recently survived a near-death accident, is required to tag along to a remote island with her mom and new step-dad for their honeymoon. But the island is inexplicably strange; beautiful and unsettling and covered in mysteries. As she gets deeper into the islands mysteries, the island and its inhabitants seem determined to keep her.
Thoughts: This was an Owlcrate book from September that I started in October since it is a spooky book. There are two "ghosts" on the island (they are called ghosts, but they are really zombies if you ask me). One is good and the other gave me the worst creeps. Spoiler: that ghost is also good, but we don't know it right away. I only mention it because I was glad of that when it came out. Parts of this books were definitely eerie and creepy. I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars 

Title: The Secret Garden
Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
Narrator: Carrie Hope Fletcher
Synopsis/Thoughts: Yet another classic that needs no introduction which I had never read before. I didn't actually know what to expect, I knew so little about this story. But it was a sweet, enjoyable read.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars

Title: Four Dead Queens
Author: Astrid Scholte
Narrators: Amy Shiels and Elizabeth Knoweiden
Synopsis: Quadara is a nation is divided into four quadrants (Toria, Ludia, Archia, and Eonia), each ruled by a different queen. Keralie is a Torian thief and steals comm discs from an Eonian messenger. When things suddenly go wrong, she watches the comm discs and sees the four queens each being murdered in different, horrible ways. She and the messenger, Varin, set out to save the queens. But they don't know who they are looking for.

Thoughts: This was an older Owlcrate book that I finally picked up. The mystery was super intriguing and I loved the twists. It was so much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. If you are looking for a neat, captivating mystery, I highly recommend this one.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars

Title: Something Fabulous
Author: Alexis Hall
Narrator: Nicholas Boulton
Synopsis/Thoughts: I ADORE Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall, so I thought I should read this, too. It takes place in the past and involves a Duke falling in love with the brother of his meant-to-be bride. So some parts were funny and entertaining and some of the characters were fun. But there were um... spicy parts in this book that were a bit much for me. That usually isn't my favorite thing to read anyway, but I don't normally have to actually skip parts of the book. Which I definitely had to do a couple of times. That probably says much more about me than about the book itself though. I will keep Boyfriend Material (and re-read it soooooo many times), but I think I will leave this one behind.

Rating: 2 1/2 stars out of 5 stars

Title: Lunar Love
Author: Lauren Kung Jessen
Narrator: Raechel Wong
Synopsis: Olivia is in the process of taking over the family match making business when she discovers a dating app that also uses the Chinese zodiac to match people. She infiltrates their app in order to meet the creator to try to bring him down. But Bennett is not quite what she expects and they keep getting thrown together. Then feelings happen.

Thoughts: This was a pick for the Happily Ever After group run by Jenny Lawson and it sounded interesting so I wanted to read it. It was interesting and I enjoyed some of the Chinese culture that we get to see. And the way Olivia and Bennett's relationship develops was different than most of these that I have read. But in a very good way.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars

Title: Fruits Basket, volumes 1-3
Author: Natsuki Takaya
Synopsis/Thoughts: Inspired by Lunar Love, I wanted to actually read these since they have the zodiac animals in them. I have seen the anime (many years ago, but still) and I have liked reading them very much. They are cute and fun and easy to read.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars
Favorite book read this month: Probably have to pick Four Dead Queens
Least favorite book read this month: Something Fabulous
I have read 14 books towards my goal of 75 for 2023.

I want to work my way through some Owlcrate books (including the extra classic books that they sometimes send) and I managed to read 4 this month. I have some others in progress.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

December 2022 Wrap Up

December has been quite a month. Normally it is my favorite month, but it really got off to a rough start until closer to the end of the month. Mostly because of work. Because work is hard and frustrating and all-consuming. So that is all I will say about that.

December means Hanukkah, which I celebrated by getting new electric candles for my little menorah. That was lovely. December also means my birthday, which work almost ruined, but I managed some days off and had dinner with friends, went to see a play with Kevin, and some other fun things. 

Kevin and I went out to Connecticut to visit his family for Christmas. Our flights were some that got totally messed up so we were stranded out there longer than planned, but it was a nice time. We went to see Mark Twain's house, which was very cool. And we went to the Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience, which was awesome. I posted photos and videos of that on my Instagram if you are interested in looking.

The rats are getting along in years. Festus and Dion turned two in November. Eros turned two this month and Apollo turns two in January. Festus is having respiratory issues, but we have tried so many antibiotics and treatments and nebulizers. I think it is just a matter of keeping him happy until it gets to be too much and we need to put him to sleep. But he's doing OK. Dion is still on heart meds and not exactly healthy, but also fine. Eros might have some sort of autoimmune or genetic something? He has lost some fur in weird places and not grown it back and one of his feet occasionally swells for a day or two. Otherwise he seems happy and healthy. And Apollo has never had a health crisis and hopefully never will!

Mallow had his second Gotcha Day on New Year's Eve. Little demon. I guess he's OK mostly and we kinda like him. Sometimes. He's cute though, so there is that!

I did alright with reading this month. I am going to try to keep reviews very short so I can touch on goals for the coming year.

Title: Landline
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Narrator: Rebecca Lowman
Synopsis and thoughts: I don't need to review this one, right? It is one of my all-time favorites and yes, I read it more than once this December. I always love it so much.
Rating: 5 stars out of 5 stars

Titles: Magic Steps and Street Magic
Author: Tamora Pierce
Synopsis and thoughts: The first two Circle Opens books about Sandry and Briar becoming teachers. I have read these books many times over the years. These are comfort reads and I do enjoy them.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars

Title: The House in the Cerulean Sea
Author: TJ Klune
Narrator: Daniel Henning
Synopsis and thoughts: This was a re-read for me. After I finished Under the Whispering Door, I wanted to revisit it. It is a lovely, sweet story and I definitely recommend it.
Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5 stars 

Title: Eight Nights of Flirting
Author: Hannah Reynolds
Narrator: Emily Lawrence
Synopsis: Shira is determined to return from winter break with the perfect boyfriend. The only problem? She cannot, and I mean cannot, talk to boys without being totally awkward. Enter Tyler, her old crush and master flirt. They strike a deal where he will teach her to flirt and she will introduce him to her uncle for an internship. That will work, right?
Thoughts: A Hanukkah story! Yay! This was pretty cute actually. I didn't totally love everything (maybe because I am older than the target audience), but it was an enjoyable and easy read. And I am always interested in Hanukkah stories.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5 stars
Title: The Matzah Ball
Author: Jean Meltzer
Narrator: Dara Rosenberg

Synopsis: Rachel, good Jewish girl and Rabbi's daughter has a secret: she ghost writes Christmas romance stories. She loves Christmas, the magic of it. But she is about to lose her job if she doesn't come up with a Hanukkah romance. In her search for inspiration, she gets in with Jacob who is running the biggest, fanciest Hanukkah event: the Matzah Ball. Rachel just needs to get in and she is sure she will find her story.

Thoughts: A Hanukkah story! I always get a bit excited when I find Hanukkah stories. This story was cute and fun and chaos happens. The ending was definitely cheese-y, but you have to know that is coming when you go in. It was a nice story and worth a read if Hanukkah romances might be your thing!

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5 stars

Title: A Christmas Carol
Author: Charles Dickens
Narrator: Tim Curry
Synopsis and thoughts: Another one I read nearly every year that I probably don't need to really review. I still enjoy this every year, this is a great version, I still picture them as Mickey Mouse characters.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars 

Title: The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge
Author: Charlie Lovett
Narrator: Tim Gerard Reynolds
Synopsis: What happened to Scrooge after his life-changing Christmas experience? Well here is an answer for you. And he sets out to save other people like himself.
Thoughts: I was worried this would be bad. It was maybe a bit cheese-y and I didn't think that him needing to save the first and third people were really true to the story, but that's OK. It very much keeps the style and tone of the original story. It was a fun, quick read.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5 stars
Favorite book read this month: Landline? Always? I can't help it.
Least favorite book read this month: The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge, only due to it having the lowest rating.
I read a total of 91 books this year. My goal was 60.

Now for the new year!

My reading goal will be to read 75 books.

I also want to make a real effort to get through more of my Owlcrate books. They are almost always fantasy and I so rarely want to read fantasy these days, but I need to either read them or stop subscribing!

In non-reading goals:
  • I want to be better about saving money. I have already been good about contributing to my retirement (at Kevin's insistence). 
  • I want to cut down on the number of emails I am subscribed to. That sounds silly, but I am so tired of having to delete 50 ads in my email every day. I have already started this process. 
  • I haven't been great at keeping my journal the last few months, so I'd like to get back on that wagon. Part of my problem was adding book reviews into my journal. Doing them in there and on this blog got exhausting and then I didn't want to do it anymore. I just need to modify how I journal. 
  • I want to cut down on the number of stupid games that I play on my phone. 
  • Lastly, I want to go through things that I have and get rid of anything I am not using. It is something I have been working on and I sometimes do well and other times don't.

Anyone else have good goals for 2023?