Books of the Month: March Edition

Another month has come and gone, and for my reading life it was very successful! I finished 7 books total (really wanted it to be 8, but the last week of March was threw too many adult responsibilities at me and I didn’t get enough time *harrumphs*).

  1. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  2. Among the Imposters by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  3. Among the Betrayed by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  4. Among the Barons by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  5. Among the Brave by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  6. Among the Enemy by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  7. Among the Free by Margaret Peterson Haddix

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Notice a trend?

For the past couple years I’ve been collecting books by Margaret Peterson Haddix, in particular the Shadow Children series. I read the first book, and wanted to complete the series, but I wanted to own all of them so I could read through them all at once. That time, obviously, finally came.

Favorite Book of the Month: Divergent

Why? See my full post on what I thought of the book here. But in summary, I was just so pleasantly surprised by this book. It drew me in, I had fun, I had not fun when I was supposed to, and I cared for the characters. I just really wanted a good YA Sci-fi Dystopian and this was it.

Least Favorite Book of the Month: Among the Free

Why? I’m honestly so sad to say this, but the last book in this seven book series disappointed me so much.   It was from my favorite character’s perspective, and yet he wasn’t the same character I had learned to love. It was like all the progress and growth he made was gone. He changed in a way I didn’t like and it really effected my enjoyment. But not only that, the ending just…. fell flat. It was too easy. I realize this is a Mid Grade book, but still. I felt cheated.

A Quick Look at the Other Books: 

Among the Imposters

  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Thoughts: By far my favorite book in the series (besides book one). Luke grows so much here, the mystery is great, and the kids act smart. It makes me happy.
  • Favorite Moment: Hard to choose… but I’m going to say when Luke looses his garden. It’s so devastating, and I ached for him. The emotions were perfect in that scene.

Among the Betrayed

  • Rating: 3 stars
  • Thoughts: Not my favorite by far. I really disliked Nina as a character in this book. Later on she became a favorite, but in this book she was very much different and I didn’t like being in her head. The other characters were a mixture of “okay I like these kids” to “gosh stop being jerks” and the whole book I felt myself skimming to just get through all this already.
  • Favorite Moment: When Alia whips out fake ID cards to Nina’s shock.

Among the Barons

  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Thoughts: I loved this book! We’re back in Luke’s mind, he’s so much braver and stronger now. He’s smart. The entire book kept me absorbed and was incredibly interesting. It probably ties in favorite book of the series place for me, come to think of it.
  • Favorite Moment: The final party before the… Big Crash. *whispers* Spoilers!

Among the Brave

  • Rating: 3.5 stars
  • Thoughts: I really enjoyed being with Trey. His character growth was beautiful and while I did find myself skimming a bit, I believe that was more because of the age difference between me and the target audience. Again, kids acting smart. I love that. And I loved that we got to see a lot of other characters in this one, and pieces of the puzzle start to fall together.  The only reason this one gets a 3.5 instead of a 4 is because of the few dry parts of skimming.
  • Favorite Moment: Busting out of a Population Police camp ❤

Among the Enemy

  • Rating: 3.5 stars
  • Thoughts: This one was incredibly interesting. Because I really enjoyed it. But there were parts that were very slow and bored me. And then it hit a point in the middle and it sped up and had me hooked again.  But I really loved how she took us into someone else’s head, but also away from the main action, and delved into the emotions of the bad guys a bit. It intrigued me.
  • Favorite Moment: There are lots of little moments I loved in this one. I think my favorite is just in general how Matthias’ grief and small actions caused such huge ripples in the enemy ranks.

Well, that’s it for this month!  April is proving to be pretty busy, but hopefully I’ll have more than just one book to show for it next month. Until then, happy reading everyone!

How many books did you finish in March? What was your favorite? 

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Tale as Old as Time

I sat on my parents’ bed, the time to leave for church fast approaching, watching Belle and Beast as they glided across the floor in their iconic first dance.

Something stirred inside of me then. Something big and beautiful that I didn’t have words for. As I put on my coat a short while later, about to head out the door, I realized that there was a word to describe it: Romance. That feeling, that pull, that longing for it to be me someday. Despite Ariel and Eric deciding my marital goals at an early age (I would of course be marrying a Prince named Eric and changing my name to match the Mermaid’s), it was Belle and Beast who first conveyed to my young heart what a beautiful romance looked like.

I sat in the theater, tears welling in my eyes, hugging my husband’s arm, watching Belle and Beast as they glided across the floor in their first dance. Emma Thompson sang of the “Tale as old as Time”. The room around them burst into sparkles of light as they spun around.

Something stirred inside me then. A deeper understanding now of the type of love that is worth everything, and, perhaps, a breath of a future in which my daughter would watch this scene and feel an awakening inside of her. Perhaps she will grow up to draw inspiration from this story for her wedding. Perhaps I will watch her twirl around a room with her love.

 

Yes, Beauty and the Beast is a Tale as old as Time.

But more so is what it represents.

Divergent: A Pleasant Surprise

First off, I know this is old news. These books have been out for quite a while now, but I’m not giving a review or anything, just gushing.

I have avoided Divergent since the movies came out and everything I saw about them just made it look like this story was all about steamy teen romance set in a dystopian world trying to be the Hunger Games.

I was wrong.

Divergent sucked me in so hard, that I had it read in two days. I was delighted with this book. So much so I had to write about it here! It is so rare for me to find a YA novel that I really enjoy, that has a romance that doesn’t go into places I don’t care to tread. Really, I am still so impressed with the story and the characters and the romance without sex, and and and…. This book just made me happy (aside from being sad about sad things at the end).

So, there’s a little super delayed fangirl reaction to one of my new favorite YA books.

Is there a book you read thinking you’d be disappointed, and were happily surprised? I’d love to hear about it!

Books of the Month: February Edition

We’ve gotten through two months of 2017! And since January was so full of quality reading, I know you’re thinking I read at least ten books for February, right?

 

Well…

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Yes, folks, as you can see… I only finished one book this month. HOWEVER it’s technically two, as I was a beta reader for one of my favorite author’s new books!  But between my husband and I both getting sick twice this month, a host of life issues, and a really slow book as I’ll get into in a minute, the month of reading was just scarce.

But let’s continue along anyway!

Favorite Book of the Month: The one I beta read :3 When it comes out I’ll write a post on it, because trust me, you will love it!

Least Favorite Book of the Month: Dragon Rider.

Why?  I’ve been trying to answer that question for almost a month now. It wasn’t that it was bad… just… kind of boring. It was agonizingly slow, I got tired of it, and really didn’t care much about any of the characters (except for Twigleg and maybe that’s why I kept reading)  There was a rather large question that went unanswered, and that bugged me greatly.  I don’t know.  Perhaps it was merely the writers style that I disliked and that made it so hard to slog through. Whatever it was, this book only made it to 2 stars in my opinion.

Due to there only being two books, one of which I really can’t reveal any information about, we’ll skip doing our brief bullet point overviews this time. But be on the lookout next month for a recap of March! It’s already shaping up to be far more wordy than February (I’m halfway through a novel as we speak!)

What about you? How many books did you read in February? Let me know in the comments!

Adventures in Short Stories

I’ve never been very good at writing short stories. My attempts always stretched into something more along the lines of a novella. But this year I’ve made it a goal to get better at the art of short stories.

So far I’ve penned and edited two such tales. But I’ve also discovered a lovely resource that has me writing short bits and pieces every day.

Enter 642 Things to Write About

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Photo Credit: Charlotte Anderson, Spectral Star Photography

This book has looked so amazing for a very long time. But I never bought it because I didn’t want to spend $15 on it unjustifiably. But then, I had the brilliant idea of buying it for my wedding guestbook! And then in the spots left over David and I could have some fun.

Well not many people wrote in it at the wedding, leaving plenty of space for my creative ideas. Note I said mine…. I kind of took the book over and David hasn’t used it at all…. Oops.

Here’s what I’ve discovered through my daily use of this book.

  1. It’s completely worth the $15.
  2. I wish I’d bought it sooner.
  3. It is really beneficial for a writer. Every day I’m forced to think creatively, choose words wisely, and keep my word count at a minimum. It’s helping me to write short, and also has given birth to a lot of great ideas I’m going to be using for other longer projects.

I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to enhance their writing life, or anyone looking for a really fun activity. (And it does make a pretty unique wedding guest book.)

Do you have any writing resources that you’ve been using this year? Let me know in the comments!

The Day My Life Changed Forever

It was my first time at the Cincinnati homeschool convention. We were armed with the usual homemade packed lunches and snacks and enough water bottles to keep us well hydrated. Of course, we arrived early because that’s just who we are. Daddy I believe was volunteering and had to be there before the doors opened anyway.

While we waited for opening time Mom and I flipped through the brochure listing all the vendors, looking in particular for The One Year Adventure Novel, which we would be looking into that day. But it wasn’t listed! I was rather disappointed, thinking they had canceled. But I figured that if they weren’t there God didn’t want me to get that curriculum so no sweat.  I continued to wait with anticipation while staring at traffic through the large window in front of us. I happened to see a van painted up like The Mystery Machine and had a long fangirl moment.

When we were finally inside the vendor hall the familiar drone of hundreds of voices met my ears. The shopping commenced. We walked up and down the aisles, stopping to talk to interesting vendors. I had a couple booths I was especially eager to visit. But they all pale in my memory because of what happened next.

The One Year Adventure Novel was indeed there (under the name of Clear Water Press, though. It’s a confusing thing.). I thought the guy at the booth was just a representative, of course. I never dreamed he was Daniel Schwabauer himself. (I laugh about that so much now.)  Mom and I flipped through the curriculum books, studying the content for anything morally objectionable. I was a little wary about that chapter about Boy Meets Girl, because *gasp* romance!!?? (You get the feeling of how we were at that point? Yeah, thought so.)  Anyway, after talking with this “representative” guy, we walked around so more to think about it.

At the end of the day it was time to make our purchases, and Mom asked me what I wanted to do about the Adventure Novel thing.

That moment was the turning point of my entire life.

What if I, who so often struggles with decisions, had said no, never mind, it’s too much money I don’t know if it would really be fun or not. What if Mom had suggested I wait until next year?

Who would I even be?

I don’t have an answer to that question.

It is terrifying, really, to even try to think of it.  Because when I said “Yes, I want it.” I set in motion a complete life change for me and my family.  It was a moment that seemed so insignificant. Sitting at a table against the wall of a busy vendor hall, trying to decide if I wanted a High School English curriculum. Who would have thought that simple little insignificant moment in time would be the most important of my entire life?

But it was.

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My first critique group at my first ever OYAN Summer Workshop. This was one year after I bought the curriculum.  (We were the Laughing Lothlorien Ladies)

We bought OYAN that day. Got a yellow slip of paper in return stating our order and being assured that we would be getting it in the mail soon.  Mr. S even threw in a free T-shirt for me (that I didn’t realize he was giving to me at the time) because I wanted one of the old versions that they didn’t have much left of.  A week or so later it came in the mail. I started the curriculum that very day in my living room with the window open letting in the new spring air. And I listened for the first of many times to those blessed words… “What makes a story a story?”

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Favorite pic with fam

Today I can tell you that OYAN has effected every single area of my life. It has grown me spiritually. It changed how I viewed myself physically. It has put me through more emotions than I ever thought possible. I met the best friends I have ever had on this planet. I met my husband. My sister met her best friends. My family now makes annual trips to Kansas for the OYAN Summer Workshop. I gained confidence in my ability to be me by flying for my first time all by myself so I could go to Texas and sell OYAN at a homeschool conference down there.  I’ve written books and short stories and have a career path all because of The One Year Adventure Novel.

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At my first homeschool convention as an OYAN rep with the lovely Tineke.

It’s nearing seven years now, since I joined the OYAN community. Seven years that were more beautiful and more heart rending than I ever thought possible.  Seven years that I would not trade for anything, and I am so grateful for.

And it all balanced on the head of a pin, relying on a 14 year old’s decision about school books.

God works in amazing ways.

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At our wedding with our best friends, all students of The One Year Adventure Novel.

Books of the Month

Well the first month of 2017 has come to a close, and with it several books were closed in my snug little apartment as well. Yes, I’m back to making time for reading and it has filled me with intense joy. Nothing like turning the pages of a book being completely absorbed in the words.

This month I finished 8 books!

  1. Linger by Maggie Steifvater
  2. Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee
  3. Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee
  4. The Girl’s Still Got It by Liz Curtis Higgs
  5. How America Lost Her Innocence: A History of the Sexual Revolution by Steve Gallagher
  6. The Quest of the Fair Unknown by Gerald Morris
  7. The Adventures of TinTin Volume 1 by Herge
  8. Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

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Favorite Book of the Month: The Quest of the Fair Unknown

Why?  I love the Squires Tale series more than any other book series I’ve ever read. It is beautiful, whimsical, charming, and full of characters that breathe life into every volume. The Quest of the Fair Unknown is the only book in this series that I hadn’t read yet (I had started to when I was reading through the series for the first time, but I was wary of it dealing with children being born out of wedlock  so I decided to put it down. I am very sorry now that I did.) I fell in love all over again with the world of King Arthur and his knights. Especially Gawain. Always Gawain. ❤

Least Favorite Book: Linger

Why? After reading Shiver and chomping at the bit to delve into the next book in Maggie Stiefvater’s series, I was met with great disappointment.  While it was still amazingly written with characters you cared about deeply, I was unhappy with how my emotions were manipulated. Grace’s parents were the bad guys. Even though what she and Sam were doing was horribly wrong, I hated her parents for saying so, for doing what they did (granted they weren’t totally in the right either).  For me, there was too much struggling against my since of morality, justifying too much for the sake of True Love, even if there were super bad circumstances.

A Quick Look at the Books:

Linger

 

  • Rating: 2.5 Stars
  • Thoughts: See above
  • Favorite moment: Admittedly… it was when Cole stopped Grace’s dad from punching Sam in the face again and then yelled at him saying Sam had more right to be in the room than he did.  That’s the moment I loved Cole completely as a character. *sigh* See, it was very upsetting for me to have feelings this way. *harrumphs*

 

Demon

  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Thoughts: I’d been waiting quite a while to immerse myself into Tosca Lee’s first novel. I’m a huge fan of her work, and as usual, she didn’t disappoint. Demon is a strong, powerful, creepy (at least for me) book that, though it started a little slow, actually had me up until midnight reading with a flashlight so I could make it to the end.  Also, she took an element from my childhood and incorporated it in the most terrifying way. I have never been so scared while reading a book to be honest.
  • Favorite Moment: Other than the mention of my old favorite book There’s a Monster at the End of This Book, it would probably be the ways Lucian keeps popping up. I know that isn’t one specific moment, but the details Tosca weaves into each person he appears as is amazing, and he fits each one and yet they are so different. I loved that.

Havah

  • Rating: 4.5 stars
  • Thoughts: Havah was immersive, emotional, deep, and breathtaking. Tosca twists such an incredible story, that sucks you in completely.  I expected a great book. I got even more than I expected.  Following Havah through her entire life was a roller coaster of emotions for me. The details Tosca sets up put me firmly in the beginning of the world, longing for the perfection that was Eden, devastated when it all came to ruin. I mourned for the anger and tension between Adam and Havah, rejoiced at the triumphs of their children. Dreaded so hard the dark moments I knew would come. It is an incredible book. Second favorite read of January.
  • Favorite Moment: When Adam rejoiced over having one of his own kind.

 

The Girl’s Still Got It

  • Rating: 3.5 stars
  • Thoughts: Since this is a devotional I’m not looking at this the same as my fiction reads. But this book was a breath of fresh air. Liz takes you on an in depth journey verse by verse to get to know the women of the book of Ruth. With her big heart and engaging humor, Liz makes the journey a truly memorable one. Definitely recommend.

 

How America Lost Her Innocence

  • Rating: 3.5 stars
  • Thoughts: This book was sad and hard to read through. I ache for America and the horrible things done in her, especially to children.

 

The Quest of the Fair Unknown

  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Thoughts: See above
  • Favorite Moment: Either when Terrence shows up (because Terrence ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ) or when Gawain and Terrence and Beaufils are traveling back to the world of men.

 

The Adventures of TinTin Vol.1

  • Rating:3 stars
  • Thoughts: Not as good as later volumes I’ve read before. A little too many convenient escapes there, TinTin.
  • Favorite Moment: When TinTin says goodbye to his new found friends in China. Even though it’s really sad 😥

 

Gregor the Overlander

  • Rating: 3.5 stars
  • Thoughts: I was really impressed with this book. I didn’t expect much from it to be honest, but I found myself swept into a world and a story that kept me hooked until the last page. I thouroughly enjoyed my experience, even if there were spiders *shudder* (I just skimmed spider parts.)
  • Favorite Moment: Boots screaming for a cookie and being a secret weapon.  Also her recognizing the roaches. That was precious.

 

What books did you read this month? Which was your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!