2018 in photos

I’m not sure about you people, but 2019 is already not what I thought it was going to be. I spent most of New Year’s Eve hanging out with friends and family then spent most of the first day of this year in a funk. Today, the second day, has been better. We’ll see how the rest of all this goes.

2018 was an interesting, somewhat insular year. I didn’t travel as much as I did in 2017, despite having, for the first time in my life, the means and the transportation to do so. I wrote more than I ever have before (I haven’t done an exact count, but it’s probably something around a thousand total pages) though only a few of the many pieces I completed were published. I didn’t take too many pictures yet the ones I did take aren’t very good (I think) yet are interesting all the same. I barely took any pictures of people. Most of my pictures are of landscapes or of my dog or of pages of books I read. Here are a few of those pictures. They are unedited. I’m not going to caption them and let them tell their own story. I hope your introduction to 2019 has been better than mine. Thankfully, new beginnings start every day, not every year. Bye for now, everyone.

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2018 Reading Round-up

Hello to everyone on this last day of 2018! I didn’t think I would get to this post until well after the ball drops, but I have time for it today. Yay! 2018 was a good, yet surprising, reading year for me. It felt like I didn’t read all that much, but my reading journal proves that is not the case. I read a total of 61 books, the majority of which were fantasy novels and graphic novels/comics. I feel like I grew quite a bit as a reader this year. I started listening to audio books. I read more hard sci-fi and horror, two genres which I haven’t dipped into much previously (but plan on dipping into a lot more in the future.) I reread quite a few books as well, which was really fun. I also started reading classics again, something which I haven’t done in a few years and find that I enjoy so much more now that school isn’t making me do it and I can set my own pace. Without any further rambling, let’s get to the round-up!

Image result for skyward brandon sanderson
Photo credited to Amazon.

1.What book was the biggest surprise?
I have to say it was the one I most recently finished, Skyward by Brandon Sanderson. Skyward is about a girl named Spensa who has always dreamed of becoming a pilot like her father. Her father disobeyed his orders during his last mission, the mission that gets him killed and branded a traitor and a coward. This stigma clouds Spensa’s whole life, especially as she tries to get into flight school. She makes it in and as she trains, she learns the true secrets of what happened to her father and picks up a few secrets of her own. I’ve never read anything by Sanderson before this, even though I own a couple of his books and knew of his reputation as one of fantasy and sci-fi’s current best. A reputation, I’m happy to say, he has totally earned. I have to admit that I was initially quite confused and I didn’t like Spensa all that much when I started reading. Sanderson, through his world building and amazing, action-packed yet deeply emotional plot, weaves story elements wonderfully and ties it all together in the end in a way that is both action-packed and brilliant. I also loved the character growth and depth we saw, not just in Spensa, but in most of the other characters, like Cobb, Jorgen, and Rig. This is a wonderful story and you can count on hearing some more of my thoughts on Sanderson’s other works in future reviews.

2. What was your biggest book disappointment?
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. For me, at least, this book suffered from overhype. I saw so much about it online and at work that I thought this book would blow me away. It sadly didn’t. The Cruel Prince is about three sisters who are half fae but they don’t know it until their fae father murders their mother and stepfather and whisks them away to live with him at the faerie court. The story started out really well but then faded into confusion. The story cuts from when the sisters are stolen from their parents to ten years later, which while I understand that choice, it was a bit jarring to the reader. The jacket copy says that Jude (the main character) wants to fit in in the faerie world despite the fact that she’s human, but with a time jump like that, the relationships she has with the fae are already pretty well established. I never got the sense that she wanted to fit in with them but that she hates them and wants to break their rules and annoy them as much as possible, which she and her sisters end up doing. I read that story back in February, so I could be wrong about those details, but I found what I had heard about the book and what was actually there a little misleading. The plot also wandered quite a bit and the characters were uninteresting until the last few chapters. I’m tempted to read the soon-to-be-released sequel, but I’m not sure. Regardless, this book was a miss for me.

Image result for the poet x
Photo attributed to Goodreads.

3.What was the best audio book you listened to?
I have two answers for this one: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo and Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman, both of which are read by their respective authors. The Poet X tells the story of Xiomara Batista, a girl who’s grown up in Harlem and has been misunderstood by almost everyone around her. She discovers slam poetry and, through it, a new way to voice everything that’s been burning inside her. This book easily deserved winning the young people’s literature prize of the National Book Awards. It’s a wonderful, honest, gritty coming-of-age story of a young woman discovering the power within herself and the power within the words she has inside her. Elizabeth Acevedo is, herself, an accomplished slam poet and she unleashes the full spectrum of her talents in this audiobook. I can’t describe how much I loved this audiobook, so here’s an excerpt so you can listen to part of its awesomeness yourself.
Fortunately the Milk is a story that is about a dad who, having been left in charge of his two kids for the day, goes out to get some milk for their breakfast. He’s gone quite a long time and, when he gets back, he tells them the most extraordinary story about how he got their milk. This was such an inventive, whimsy, and wonderful story! Gaiman is a master storyteller for all ages, plain and simple. The whole audio book is actually on Youtube, so I’ll link it here.

4. What was the book that made you cry the most?
As someone who never used to cry at books, I’ve done that a lot this year. I can’t think of a way to describe these books without spoiling them, so I’ll just list them, tell a little bit about what made me cry, and how much they made me cry. 1) A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir. I teared up multiple times while reading this, but the thing that made me start crying concerned a baby and the only moment of humanity we see for a certain character. 2) Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray. I had to stop reading for a moment because of a certain character’s death toward the end of the book. I hadn’t realized I liked this character that much until she died in one of the most horrible ways possible. 3) Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak. Let’s just say that I purposefully made sure I was alone when I finished reading this book because I was fairly sure it was going to make me bawl just like The Book Thief did. And I did bawl. Even harder, especially when I learned why Clay kept a clothes peg in his pocket.

5. Top three books of 2018?
Narrowing down my favorite reads this year was really hard, so I just want to give an honorable mention to The Lost Queen by Signe Pike, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares, Fatal Throne by M. T. Anderson, Candace Fleming, Stephanie Hemhill, Jennifer Donnelly, Lisa Ann Sandell, Linda Sue Park, and Deborah Hopkinson, Carrie by Stephen King, and Vicious by V.E. Schwab.
3. Felicity by Mary Oliver.
This was the only poetry collection I read this year and I read most of it in the space of an afternoon. While I’ve read quite a bit of poetry over the years, I’ve never felt connected to a poet or have recognized my own thoughts and feelings so completely in another’s poems before. Oliver writes beautifully about nature and about the workings of the human heart and how those two intersect. I was smiling the whole time I read that collection and it’s a reading experience I hope I remember for the rest of my life.

Image result for the tenant of wildfell hall
Photo credited to Goodreads.

2.The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte.
While this summer was insane, the most I remember about it is laying out in the shade, reading this book. It tells the story of Gilbert Markham, who is fascinated by Helen Graham, a woman who has moved into the long-vacant Wildfell Hall. A friendship develops between the two, a friendship that deepens into love. She will not tell him about her past, though, and when he will not stop asking her, she gives him an old journal. He reads the story of her terrible past and tries to see how they can move together into the future. Anne Bronte does not get the same credit as her two sisters and that is, to me, a missed opportunity. While her sisters Emily and Charlotte focused more about extraordinary relationships trying to fit into an ordinary society, Anne focuses much more on ordinary relationships rendered extraordinary by society and its expectations. This is a wonderful classic and I highly recommend it!

1.Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak.
I bet this is no surprise, considering I mentioned it above and dedicated two poems to him during my October Poetry Challenge. This book tells the story of a family of five boys trying to pick up the pieces after their mother dies and their father leaves. One day, their father returns with a request, a request that will help them confront the past and heal and move into the future. This book is difficult yet wonderful, simple and complex, full of normal things yet is completely extraordinary. I absolutely loved it.

Wow, this post ended up being so much longer than I thought it would be! Thank you for reading, both this and all my posts in 2018. It’s been a haphazard blogging year for me and you all have stuck with me through it. Thank you so much! Happy New Year, everyone. See you all next year.

Photo attributed to the Tales of a Kitchen Witch Facebook page.

Four sentence book reviews #4

I thought I’d switch it up from the poetry that I’ve been posting throughout the fall and share my thoughts about some books that I’ve read. 

1.Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak.
The five Dunbar boys have lost their mother to cancer and their father has left them. A single day and a visit from someone starts a chain of events to both to reconcile the boys to what happened to their mother and possibly help them reunite with their estranged father. This book was worth the 13 year wait it took for Mr. Zusak to write it. Challenging, heartbreaking, and healing, this book is absolutely wonderful and was just what I needed at the time I read it. 

2. Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Perez.
Branwen is a lady-in-waiting to Princess Eseult and tries to help keep the unhappy and impulsive princess in check. When Branwen unknowingly saves an important figure of a rival nation, her powers will be tested, her motives questioned, and her trust shattered. This was a book I was eagerly looking forward to, so much so that I snuck it out of work before it was supposed to go on the shelf. While I think more attention could have been paid to the rivalry between the nations, this book was worth the wait, as I hope the second one will be.

Isn’t this cover gorgeous? Photo credited to Goodreads.

3. Fatal Throne by Candace Fleming, M.T. Anderson, Jennifer Donnelly, Stephanie Hemphill, Deborah Hopkinson, Linda Sue Park, and Lisa Ann Sandell.
This anthology tells the stories of Henry VIII and his six wives: two he divorced, two he beheaded, one he lost, and one who lost him. I’m not too partial for anthologies (though I notice they’re becoming more of a trend in YA) but I knew I had to pick up this one due to the fact that both Jennifer Donnelly and Lisa Ann Sandell had contributed to it. While I expected to love their chapters (and I did), I did not expect to be floored by the rest of the contributions and to be wowed by this book as much as I was. Though the writing styles are as different as the people portrayed in the stories, they all interweave to form a new perspective on a fascinating part of English history.

This is another brilliant cover. Photo credited to Goodreads.

4. The Button War by Avi.
Patryk is a Polish boy who gets into a contest with his friend Jurek to see who can steal the fanciest button and whoever wins will be crowned the Button King. As local military struggles escalate, so does the competition until Patryk is left questioning if his contest and his friendship with Jurek is worth the risks he’s taken. While the characters and their development are good in this book, there still was a lot that could have been done to improve the story overall, especially in terms of plot and description. The ending, especially the last the reader sees of Jurek, is chilling enough to make me like this book more than I probably should.

5. Carrie by Stephen King.
Carrie has been bullied all her life by everyone in her life, especially her mother and the girls at school, though they won’t bully her if they knew about her secret gift. After a hazing incident and an attempt at restitution from one of the girls who bullied her, the world will know about Carrie White’s gift and just how destructive it can be. Like a lot of other people, I underestimated Stephen King’s talent. This book proves how wrong a lot of other people (and me) can be; it’s brilliant and captivating and eerie.

A very early Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you!

Balloons and burdens

Even balloons can be a burden

as weighted as millstones

if enough of them 

are looped to your limbs

and tied to your phalanges. 

The only difference

is that they pull you up

instead of down. 

Which hurts a person more? 

Being pushed down or pulled upward? 

Time will answer. 

It’s been a rough few weeks and I’m ready for things to settle down. Thankfully, they are, at least for the moment. Hope everything’s going well for all of you 🙂 

Our modern horror story

They sliced the quill nibs

de-bristled the brushes

scattered the families

and told all their crushes

that their loyalties were false

because they were “other”

because they don’t vote a certain way

and were not worthy, one after another,

to be thought of as human.

It’s a perfect tactic, fear,

an instinct and response

that has seen us through the years,

especially when coupled with someone to blame.

Will it win or will it lose?

Only time will tell

but it’s up to us to choose.

 

 

The current political polarity that’s infected not only my own country  but other parts of the world truly terrifies me.

Jolts, tears, and clothespegs

Sometimes it’s a gradual realization

and sometimes it happens in a jolt

like a gun at a racetrack

and then they’re off.

It’s the idea that stories

breathe and change

just as we do

and circumstance can turn

common things like

a typewriter, a bridge, a mule,

even a clothespeg

into so much meaning

as to stir the beating of our hearts,

causing our ribs to ache

and tears to flow.

If stories and the circumstances that make them up can do all that,

then please,

don’t make me put the book down.

 

Dedicated, again, to Markus Zusak, whose Bridge of Clay hurt deeply, caused a lot of laughter, and helped so much. Please read it. If you have and you’d like to discuss it, please leave a comment. Tomorrow is Halloween and the last day of my October Poetry Project for this year. Thank you so much for sticking with me.

Growth

Pearls start

as a tiny grit of sand

and a sour note

can flourish into a beautiful song.

All that is needed

is time and the chance to grow,

two things

people are incredibly good at denying themselves.

Don’t.

 

 

This is another reminder that I need. Sorry if this is a little too preachy. Have a good week, everyone.

Gifts and deserving

Today’s prompt is the word gift.

And in just today, there have been so many.

Family, a home, work for my hands

and my mind,

the chance to sow the future

in the midst of school applications

and to prune stories

and to worship in peace.

The last one is something

especially to be thankful for

today after that massacre

in the synagogue.

So many little gifts

that I did nothing to deserve.

May I always work to be deserving, regardless.

May we all work to be deserving

of the gifts we do not

even know we have.