Two Poems

I wrote two poems recently, and thought I’d share them here. Enjoy!

“Modern Poetry”

I’ve never cared for modern poetry.
The rhythm, the rhyme scheme, the entire thing,
Wrapped in a pretentious coating of description.
Set to music the whole thing changes,
Shifting into a new creation.
The story no longer tied to ground
Free to soar and float up to the sky.
But poetry is different
Speaking the words alone,
Trying to sound deep,
Filling a void that words cannot change,
That words cannot fill.
Music, it is said, speaks when words are not enough.
When words leave us behind
Music speaks, steps up.
Alone, this is a poem, pretentious word vomit.
A frantic attempt to fill the void.
Poetry can be epic,
Poetry can be beautiful,
But it can be trite,
Full of ways to wear a mask.
Either to hide pain or add more to a life.
Filling pages with “deep thoughts.”
Step back, hum a tune,
Allow the music to wash over you,
To fill your heart, to calm your soul.
I’ve never cared for modern poetry,
Unless it’s set to music.

“Thought Spirals”

Thought spirals, intrusive thoughts, panic attacks.
The world spins, faster faster faster, no chance to breathe.
Full of fear, scared of shadows, jumping at twigs.
And thoughts spin spin spin.
Spinning on as I struggle to keep up.
Another thought pushes in, breaking the chain.
Pausing the spin, freezing the spiral long enough to breath.
Long enough to remember
The thing that helps most.
Falling to my knees,
Looking up, crying out,
Breathing deep, the spirals done for now.
Soon, it begins again.
And always ends the same way.
With me on my knees.

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Book Review: the witch doesn’t burn in this one, A Spellbinding Sequel

So, I’ve been gone for a while. Hello! Sorry about that… Teaching really takes up a lot of my time. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but between teaching and freelance writing, there’s not a ton of time. Despite that, I have a few novels that will be published by the end of the summer, which is exciting 🙂

In the meantime, I’ve been reading a lot. I read the poetry collections of Amanda Lovelace, and loved them, so I wrote a review of each. One can be found on The Silver Petticoat Review, and the other is here. Enjoy!

“After I read the princess saves herself in this one, I had to read Amanda Lovelace’s second collection of poetry. This collection, the witch doesn’t burn in this one, is the second in the “women are some kind of magic” series. This collection of poetry pays homage to Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire. It follows the basic idea that women are magical and are more powerful than we think we are.

The Poetry

Looking at the poems in the witch doesn’t burn in this one, the majority were related to the issues that women can face in today’s world. The poetry looks at the battles fought in the princess saves herself in this one, and then asks the question, why? Why are these things that women are having to fight? How can we hold each other up and work together to fight a system that is, for some many women, broken?

Unlike the princess saves herself in this one, the witch doesn’t burn in this one deals with topics of social justice and politics, particularly as they relate to women. There are some radical ideas in here, and some that should not be as radical as they seem. One thing that struck me particularly was the idea that women should not apologize as much as we do.

The other thing that struck with me was that it’s okay to be a witch queen. These are the women who are done taking whatever life throws at them. They are fighting back, and holding each other up. I think the use of witch is because the witches in fairy tales tend to have more agency than the other female characters do.

Like the other book in the series, the witch doesn’t burn in this one does not shy away from examining the tough things in life. It is unabashedly honest in places but can be full of hope and celebration. There are also poems inspired by great artists, from Christina Rossetti to Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Final Thoughts

Like the princess saves herself in this one, the witch doesn’t burn in this one is a collection of poems that takes the ideas of fairy tales and turns them on their heads. Like in many fairy tales, the queens become the witches. But in this collection, the witches are banding together to fight against a system that is always trying to cut them down.

In a lot of ways, this is more of a celebration of women in general. It’s a way for one women to not only continue her voyage of discovery, but to encourage other women on their own journeys. Like the other things I’ve read by Amanda Lovelace, I find this beautiful.

Content Note: This collection deals frankly with a wide variety of topics including but not limited to, child abuse, partner abuse, sexual assault, self-harm, death, suicide, grief, cancer, murder, violence, and eating disorders. There are also quite a few swear words. This book also deals with more political poems than the princess saves herself in this one did.

Where to Read: the witch doesn’t burn in this one is available as a paperback book, a Kindle book, and an audiobook.

Have you read the witch doesn’t burn in this one? How did you feel about it? Let me know in the comments!

Summer is Here…

…and the living is easy.

I don’t know about your year, but my past year has been exciting.

I survived my first year of teaching, realized how much I love it, began to work more seriously as a freelance writer, and published three books.

I have one book that is almost ready to be sent to a publishing house, four more in development in my head, and am excited about the changes I’m going to make in my classroom next year.

Over the summer, I am going to blog a lot more, but for now, I am about to embark on a road trip of awesomeness.

Museums, tallships, good friends, and the ocean. I have weddings to go to and tall ship maintenance to help with.

Summer is here, and the living is… okay, it’s not easy. But it is a chance to relax, unwind, and reflect.

Math and Other Numbers

You may have noticed from reading this blog or following me on various social media platforms, but I am not a math person. At the risk of sounding like a braggart, I have degrees in history, English Literature, Education, anthropology, and a partial degree in museum studies. There is and has always been a clear method to the madness when it comes to my degrees and I have a definite plan to use each and every bit of knowledge that I have gained, but there is something that you may have noticed. These are all the social sciences, and the social sciences all have something in common.

They really don’t tend to use math that much.

That is really oversimplifying things; I use math in my role as an archaeologist and it’s something I’m glad I know how to do, but I noticed that my work tends to be more focused on the critical thinking, the basic math, and the logic puzzles than on the things I learned in geometry and pre-pre-calculus.

Full disclosure, I stopped taking math at that specific level, because I knew that it was not my strong suit and I wanted to take extra English, history, and music classes.

This topic does make me laugh, though, I can remember a friend of mine informing me when I was a lowly undergrad that, by becoming an archaeologist, I would become a “real scientist.” I laughed and said thank you, because what else do you say to that? I know that historians are not technical scientists, you chemists and biologists don’t need to rub it in!

Look Mother! I’m a real scientist!

But the main point of this post is math. I always hated it with a burning fiery passion, and now that I’m older I think I know why. I struggled with some of the more abstract concepts (to be fair, I also hate philosophy. Am I a drawing on a cave wall? Does it really change my life if I am? Nope. So I don’t care), and it was frustrating. I’ve always been fairly intelligent, and subjecting myself to something that I was horrible at was low on my list. Especially when I could be doing things that I was improving at and enjoying!

There are two major exceptions to my math saga, however. I adore logic puzzles; ranging from Sherlock Holmes to “Who Owns the Zebra.” I think this is because I am a social scientist, and we work in logic puzzles. Every other field seems to give you a set of clues, point you in the right research direction, and then you form your conclusions. While in English you can argue based on your opinion, in history and archaeology, there are actual answers. Something really happened, and other things did not. There is, in fact, a wrong answer.

I love that, when the answer falls into place, when the last piece of the puzzle fits perfectly and the truth (or as near to the truth as we can see) is revealed.

The other things in math that I love are equations. Not super complicated ones, but ones where you solve for x. For some reason, I’ve always found them relaxing. I would guess that this is because there is always a correct answer. X is something, and that is the way it is.

I wonder if this is because every day, I work with people. People aren’t always logical. There are emotions and there are messy situations that can be hard to deal with. My training has prepared me for that. It seems like that’s just what I do; no matter what my job is, I work directly with people. I love my job. I love most jobs that I have had, and I am very lucky to be able to say that.

But sometimes, when I find myself peopled out, thinking about some complex question about history, literature, anthropology or ethical museum practices, when I’m tired of wrestling with the big questions in my fields, I color.

Didn’t see that coming, did you?

You shouldn’t have, it was a weird fake-out.

But sometimes, I find some quiet math. I balance my budget and make a ten-year financial plan. I pull out some old equations or logic puzzles and solve those bad-boys, because sometimes it’s nice to be able to find the answer.

Solve the puzzle. Sometimes, this is the most frustrating part of math. There is a right answer and there is no room for negotiation. There are no additional facts to support your argument. 2 + 2 = 4, and there is no room for debate (unless you’re using fancy math).

So that, dear reader, is my personal journey with math. It’s fascinating, but I’m thankful that now I can just pick the parts I like, the parts that are fun (and the other things, like balancing checkbooks or doing taxes. Less fun, but still important).

Bring on the logic puzzles and the equations!

The math people can keep all the other stuff.

On Historical Fiction & Guilty Pleasures

First off, I should say that I am a proud historian. I may also be a proud English teacher, a proud archaeologist, a proud editor, and a proud writer, but I am also a historian. Other than maybe “writer,” being a historian was the first professional label that I got, and one that I am still very fond of.

Of course, there are problems with being a historian. The main one, I think, is that it kind of warps how you see things. Not only are you supposed to look for cause and effect, you are supposed to analyze things.

And at some point, you find yourself knowing way too much about a certain topic.

For example, my thesis looked at the railroad during the 19th century and a little bit forward (1800-1920, though the actual dates I was looking at in-depth were 1880-1930). Now, when I watch anything about the railroad or America during that time period, I know how things actually went.

Basically, I find myself nitpicking and being annoyed about the historical inaccuracies.

Which is a problem in historical fiction, since it is, in fact, fiction. When you’re writing, you have to take certain liberties with your setting and world(personally, I write in alternative timelines or in fantasy, just because of that. Someday, I will write a Western, and it will be gloriously accurate and boring as beige). These changes are put in place to make the story stronger, and this can be done very well, appealing to even the most nitpicky of historians, or very badly.

There are some historical fiction authors and films that I love. Lauren Willig is a historian who has done mountains of research for each book and manages to capture the spirit of the people and the setting. She’s like Michael Crichton, only for history (and with some scandalous moments). To me, that is quite high praise, fyi.

Other great historical things I love include “Hell On Wheels,” which looks at the building of the transcontinental railroad. HBO also has some fairly wonderful (though violent and graphic) shows that are accurate (ish).

So there are the positive historical fiction works. However, as you may have guessed from the title, there are some historical fiction pieces that I like, in spite of myself. I think of these as guilty pleasure films or books. They’re not historically accurate and I know I should hate them on some level, but I just can’t help but love them.

Here are, in no particular order, six of my Historical Fiction Guilty Pleasures.

MY HISTORICAL FICTION GUILTY PLEASURES

1. I want to point out that I have a soft spot for Westerns, so they are all included in this list in one place. This is because some are accurate, some are not, and even though I have an in-depth knowledge of that particular time period, I have decided that Westerns are okay, regardless. I love most of them, television or movie, new or old, accurate or not, this is one genre of film or show that I’m almost always interested in watching. Westerns can be cheesy, but they are also, in my opinion, fantastic (though there are some that make me roll my eyes at times).

2.”Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”-This one is obvious, mostly because it makes no real attempt to be historically accurate. Right there in the title, it tells you everything that need to know about the movie. Abraham Lincoln becomes a vampire hunter. Also, I have to say it, slavery was not the main cause of the American Civil War. This film plays hard and loose with history, lifting the characters, costumes, and settings from history, but I’m 99.99% sure that “historical accuracy” was not something that crossed the mind of anyone involved in the making of this film. It’s ridiculous, cheesy, and quite wonderful.

3. The History Channel’s mini-series, “The Sons of Liberty”-This one should really offend me. It was produced by the History Channel, and that gives it a certain air of respectability that other productions on this list might not have. It gets the basic timeline correct, and Boston was the powderkeg that started the American Revolution, but Sam Adams was not as attractive as Ben Barnes. Sorry, man. There are quite a few historical details that got mucked up. The team justifies their changes to history in the “Making Of” special, but still, these changes are kind of a big deal. Really, this mini-series should be really annoying-Sam Adams is a ninja? What?-but it’s really just cotton candy for the brain. Just, if you study the American Revolution, be prepared to be annoyed.

4. The Books of Lori Wick-Specifically, I want to mention her “Kensington Chronicles” series and her “The Californians” series. Lori Wick’s biggest problem seems to be that she writes these gorgeous settings and costumes that are historically accurate, but then drops modern characters into the novels. Basically, you have these locations that prove that she did her research, but the characters. Oh, the characters. In “The Kensington Chronicles,” set in Victorian England, the characters act and talk in ways that is much more modern than Victorians. It kind of drives me nuts at times. All of her books are still delightful and the characters are still engaging, but they are not historically accurate, putting them on this list.

5. “A Knight’s Tale”-Look, I know. This one really shouldn’t even count, since it seems to be pretty self-aware. But, as a Medievalist (I wear many historical hats), I’m aware of the flaws here. I have heard enough people tell me how awful this movie is. Actually, there were quite a few liberties taken with the story, and most of the costumes were also not accurate. That’s why it’s on this list, really, because it falls into the trap of using historical settings and then not quite following through on the whole accuracy thing. There are things that, in any other movie, would cause me to hate it. In this movie, it doesn’t work like that. I love it anyway, I just remember that it’s not supposed to be taken seriously.

6. The Books of Gilbert Morris-Specifically, I’m talking about his “House of Winslow” series, forty books that follow a family from their arrival to America on the Mayflower to the end of World War Two. Like Ms. Wick, Morris seems to be more interested in the settings. Although he sometimes manages it, this series has a tendency to feel like modern characters have been put into different historical contexts and left to deal with things in the past. Some of his characters act like people in that time would, but most of them don’t and it can be very frustrating at times. It’s Christian fiction that is clearly more interested in the setting than in being historically accurate.

And there you have it, my Top Six Historical Fiction Guilty Pleasures. These are mostly things that are set in the eras that I like most, so now I’m curious, do you have a historical fiction guilty pleasure?

Wait, How Long is a 5K?

Recently, I was thinking to myself that I wanted to find some sort of something that I enjoy doing, something that will keep me in shape and be fun. I had a few guidelines for this, however.

First, it needed to be something that I couldn’t hurt anyone else while doing, except on special occasions. As a fan of kickboxing and Shotokan Karate, it was important to me that whatever I added be different.

Secondly, it needed to be something I felt comfortable doing. I’m a bit of a klutz and I have an interesting relationship with the concept of rhythm, but there are things that you can use for this. Sadly, there is one thing that is challenging for the rhythmically impaired-dancing.

Add to this the fact that I’m about as full of grace as a witch hunt, and there you have it. Dancing is a dangerous, dangerous activity!

My arms tend to flap about like I’m trying to take flight. But, since I can’t fly, I look like Rocko in “The Pebble and the Penguin.” For those of you who are not compulsive watchers of cartoons, he’s a penguin who wants to fly.

But moving on.

On day, pondering this question and getting tired of laughing at myself and my jazzercise (which I not so secretly still love), I saw an ad for a thing called the Muddy Muggle Fun Run. Being the Harry Potter Fan that I am, I had to investigate.

Although it has since been renamed the Muddy Mortal (there was a copyright thing), this is a Harry Potter themed obstacle-course 5K, with prizes and all of the trappings you expect from your Harry Potter-themed events.

I didn’t run, but I knew I had to be part of this.

Of course, this meant that I had to start running. Oh gosh. Happy coincidence? I know have a solid reason other than a vague “it’s good for me” to run; I’m training!

Since I hate people seeing me run, this will be challenging, but the race isn’t until June, so I’ve got some time.

Being related to a runner, I got advice on my shoes, the best local trails, and even stole the unused treadmill from my parents. I had all the pieces to begin training for my 5K.

I figured that my running form was pretty terrible, so I enlisted the help of my brother. Apparently, I’m not the worst (I’m not good, but I could be a lot worse). And, I will get a whole slew of Harry Potter-themed prizes, a fun experience, and of course, good health. I’d call that a victory.

As I started running, I realized that this was a wonderful sport. When running outside, I could listen to music, see the beauty around me, stretch, and just push myself. When I run on my treadmill, I watch Disney movies, admire the artistry, and just push myself.

I feel like there should be an animation post here, somewhere.

I discovered something strange. I like running. I like the feeling it gives me, the satisfaction of knowing what my body can do (maybe I couldn’t outrun a monster, but I could make it work for my death), and the feeling of clarity that I found I have when I run.

Running with other people is also, surprisingly, fun. But only in small groups. Let’s take this one step at a time.

On Superheroes

A few months ago, I realized that I was going through a bit of a bad place. I was unhappy at work, and with the general direction that I felt my life was going, and this made me angry. Actually, I was angry all of the time, and felt like most of my day-to-day activities were in place just to prevent that anger from spilling out and turning me into a rage monster.

If you’ve met me, you may realize that I am, generally speaking, a fairly calm person who it really takes a lot to actually anger. But I’ve been thinking about this a lot since that time in my life, and other than feeling like where I was in my life was turning me into a much more cynical, less trusting, hard-hearted person than I wanted to be, I realized that it’s the calm people who explode in a frightening way.

What does this has to do with superheroes? Well, I’m getting to that.

First, sorry comic book fans in advance.I’m the type of nerd who saw the movies/Linda Carter television show first, then thought, hmm. I’ll dig around in comic book lore. Do you have a favorite series on one of my favorites? Please share!

You see, my favorite superheroes have something in common. You have Captain America, who is an ordinary person who becomes extraordinary because of his compassion, his sense of justice, and his belief in freedom. All in all, he’s a stand-up guys and an all-around decent human being.

Then you have Wonder Woman, because, come on. She’s an immortal princess who fights for truth and justice, while protecting the environment and putting Batman and Superman into their places. Plus, she could probably do it all without her superpowers. She also works full-time. Okay, I might have made that up, but you get the drift.

Batman. Tortured, vigilante, determined to protect the people in his city from suffering what happened to him. Trying to do what’s best for Gotham, while understanding that killing is not the answer (usually).

But when I started thinking about myself, because my brain never sleeps and this is how it works, I remembered another guy. And while I can feel like I want to be like Captain America or Wonder Woman (and I am thankful to not be like Batman), I realized this guy was the one I related to most.

Bruce Banner, aka the Incredible Hulk.

Based on the Robert Louis Stevenson story, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Bruce Banner is a mild-mannered scientist who, when he gets angry, turns into a giant green rage monster. He smashes things, doesn’t recognize his friends at first…it’s a mess.

The Hulk movie, and Hulk’s part in the first Avengers movie, seems to focus on this incredibly smart guy, trying to avoid getting visibly angry, because it’s scary when he is. Now, I don’t turn into the Incredible Hulk, but when I get angry, I can feel it bubbling up inside of me and I imagine that it is not a pretty or comforting thing.

These days, I’m less angry. But my experience with the rage inside of me taught me something. If I’m going to act like a superhero (and not an actual person, because I am going to follow this metaphor to the bitter end), I should try to act like Captain America or Wonder Woman.

I shouldn’t be always angry, and unlike Hulk, I was able to remove myself from the situation that made me feel angry all the time.

But I also need to acknowledge that there is a little/large part of me that is Bruce Banner,  the shy, nerdy person who, like all calm people, comes complete with a boiling point that once reached unleashes a force of anger that may not frighten anyone else, but scares the heck out of us.

However, ignoring the anger only makes it worse (and gets things closer to the boiling point). Sometimes, life makes you mad, and I had to learn to recognize it.  Just like the Hulk learned to focus his anger and save his friends in the end, I learned to recognize my anger and remember that it’s okay to be angry(as long as I don’t destroy a factory or Harlem, like Hulk did).

I just need to remember to breathe, pray, and always look on the bright side of life.

And now that song is in your head. You are welcome.

 

Books I Have Read, Things I Have Seen

The funny thing about leaving a full-time job to go back to school, and taking a two-month gap is that it leaves you a lot of time to both clean and catch up on things. Personally, I chose to catch up on books, because that’s the way I roll, but I did finish a few wonderful televisions shows on Netflix as well.

 

So, here are the Top 10 Things-I-Read/Watched in December that I think everyone should read/watch (in no particular order). (All photos from amazon.com).

“Parks and Recreation”

Never have a watched a show and thought, “Oh my gosh, I can relate to that brand of crazy,” more than when watching Leslie Knope on this show. Leslie Knope is a woman who works in the Parks Department in a town Pawnee, Indiana, and she is determined to make life better for her citizens and co-workers, whether they like it or not. She’s always making lists, over planning, constantly having three backup plans…she’s wonderful.

parks and rec cover

But it’s not just Leslie’s story; we also have her boss/friend Ron Swanson, who hates the government (their friendship is amazing), her best friend Ann, her husband Ben (who can handle Leslie’s crazy and loves her for it), and her other coworkers (who I won’t list, because it would get too long), who round out the cast of government employees in this show, filmed like “The Office.” I laugh every time I watch this show. I just love it.

 “Hell On Wheels”

Normally, I am very picky when it comes to shows set in the 1800s; I kind of wrote my master’s thesis on this era, so I get very annoyed when things are too “off.” However, this show. I love this show. It follows a former Confederate soldier, who is seeking revenge on the Union soldiers that killed his wife and finds himself in the midst of Hell on Wheels, the town that follows the building of the transcontinental railroad.

hell on wheels

The dynamics in the show are fascinating. You have former Confederates who don’t trust the Yankees (and vice versa), the conflict between the African American workers and the Irish workers, and the conflict between the former Confederates and the freed slaves. All of these conflicts are historically accurate (and logical), and portrayed as such. The cast is fantastic, though I think Anson Mount’s Cullen Bohannan and Common’s Elam Ferguson are my favorite characters, because I love the relationship that they build through the show (plus, they’re two complex characters).

“M.A.S.H”

I don’t really have anything to say here, other than if you haven’t watched M.A.S.H., you’re missing out. It’s the story of an army hospital near the front lines in Korea during the Korean War, who deal with the reality of death and suffering all around them by turning to humor.

mash cover

It’s not always a hilarious show, but MASH is able to walk the line between making you cry tears of laughter and tears of sadness. It never forgets that it is set in a war, and the characters are wonderful. It’s just good.

“Last Man Standing”

This is the story of Mike, a man’s man who has been traveling the world for the Outdoor Man catalog, a sporting goods store where he works as Marketing Director. When his boss tells him that the catalog is scrapped (because funds), and his wife, Vanessa gets a promotion at work, Mike finds himself staying home and in a world dominated by women (his wife and their three daughters). He moves the advertising to focus on vlogs, and begins to be more involved as a “hands-on” parent, as IMDB calls it.

last man standing cover

The show is basically this family as they grow and change throughout the years, and the way that a very conservative father deals with his daughter’s boyfriends and neighborhood crises. One of the funniest episodes is where he tells his wife: “Of course I’m not happy, I’m raising three daughters. Two of them are democrats,” and realizes that he is raising strong independent women (and he married one, so he should have seen it coming).

Tim Allen plays Mike in such a way that even if you disagree with him, you can’t hate him. Nancy Travis as Vanessa is a wonderful foil to his character, and the two of them handling and raising their children is hilarious and often poignant to watch. Basically, it’s a really fun show.

“Scrubs”

Where has this show been hiding?! I had heard that it was funny, but I was not prepared for just how hilarious this show was. The story follows JD, a young attending doctor and his friends as they learn and grow. There are also moments where we see what is in JD’s head (musical numbers, fire-breathing bosses, that sort of thing).

scrubs cover

The characters are, even at their most annoying, still likeable and the show feels real, without getting overwhelmed in the sadness of working in a major hospital. It’s the hospital show I didn’t know I needed. It’s brilliant.

 “Legally Blonde”

legally blonde dvd

I realize that I might be many years behind on this one, but I’d only ever seen the musical version. Personally, I prefer my films to be musicals unless they involved Nazi punching or dinosaurs, so I still like the musical version better, but I did really like the film.

 

 “The Lunar Chronicles” by Marissa Meyers

I’ve actually written an entire book review on each of the five books in this series, so I’ll try to keep it to basics here. Basically, “The Lunar Chronicles” takes our favorite fairy tales, “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Rapunzel,” and “Snow White,” reworks them, and sets them in a technologically advanced dystopian society.

cinder cover

There is also a kingdom on the moon, made up of people who have magic powers and are ruled by the cruel Queen Levana, but are secretly hoping that the long-lost Princess Selene will return to save them (a wish the people of Earth share). The story follows Cinder, a cyborg mechanic who is more than what she seems, and her friends (new friend added in each book or so), as she learns about her destiny and fights to save her people.

It’s clever, witty, engaging, and not just a tired old retelling. If you haven’t check out “The Lunar Chronicles,” give them a read.

 “The Land of Stories” Series by Chris Colfer

This series was one that I was very pleasantly surprised by. Not that I doubted Chris Colfer’s abilities, I just wasn’t sure how a series about a pair of twins who are sucked into a fairytale book, find themselves trapped, have to journey on a quest to be freed, and learn that they may have close ties with this worl–okay, I lied. I knew I would love this book from the get-g0.

the land of stories cover

As soon as I cracked the pages, I was sucked into the world that Colfer had created. It’s witty, often hilarious, and ties the fairytales that I know and love beyond “happily ever after.” It’s a fun and engaging series that is still being written right now, so I’m excited to see where Colfer takes it.

“The School for Good and Evil” Trilogy by Soman Chainani

The series follows the adventures of Agatha and Sophie, two friends who are chosen to go to the School for Good and the School for Evil. However, they do not go to the places they are expected to go to. I hardly ever review books on Goodreads, but I made an exception here, and below are some snippets from those reviews:

“This trilogy was genius, to me. The first book while looking at the power of friendship and the love we have for our friends. It also reminds us that sometimes appearances can be deceiving, while the second one shows our heroines that actions have consequences, and sometimes a Happy Ending can be re-written. The final book in the series was a satisfying conclusion to a wonderful series of fantasy books. With Evil running amok (the classic villains are re-writing their stories), the school now just for Evil, and an Evil Queen crowned, Good’s numbers are dwindling. How can a girl who doesn’t feel worthy of her role as Princess and who just wants to save her best friend, work with her Prince and the legends of Good to save their world? Bonds will be tested and secrets will be revealed in “The Last Ever After.”
the last ever afterThe ending of “The Tale of Sophie and Agatha,” and the series, is wonderfully written and discusses, choice, love, destiny, fate, good versus evil, love of friends and love of soul mates, choice, loving others and loving yourself, the nature of good and evil, and loyalty.

Another thing I love about this series is that Chainani writes his female characters very well (probably because they are characters who happen to be women). Content Note: It was in the Juvenile Lit section at Hastings, but the series is “Heroes of Olympus” or “Goblet of Fire” dark, with the third book reaching “House of Hades” and “Deathly Hallows” levels.”

“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

This book had been on my radar for a while, and I finally said, okay, I just need to read this and see what the fuss is about. The story follows Santiago, who is searching for treasure. On the way, he learns and grows and finds a treasure worth more than he could have dreamed.

the alchemist cover

 He learns how to listen to his own heart, to see opportunities before him (and the wisdom to act on them), and the importance of following his dreams even when things seem impossible. Short, sweet, and very thought-provoking and inspiring, if you haven’t read “The Alchemist,” I would do it.

 

Things I’m Currently Obsessed With

So, as a fun and hip blogger, I wanted to share with you the top ten new (to me) things that I am currently obsessed with (not the usual things, extra things).

Again, these things are relatively new to me, so take that with a grain of salt. These are not necessarily new things (I may not actually be that hip).

10. Coloring books. I have always loved coloring, so this recent trend of more complex pictures has been great to me!

9. The Gilmore Guys Podcast. I know, I’m listening to two guys talk about the show Gilmore Girls, and probably going way more depth than probably needs to be spent on even that wonderful show, but oh my gosh. These guys are hilarious, the show is fun, and there are worse things to play while walking to school.

8. My car. I have a Prius, and it is fantastic. It runs like a dream and gets great gas mileage.

7. Quite a few books, but that’s a whole other post (if it’s not up already, it will be soon!)

6. Pearls. I recently rediscovered the pearls that I got from my grandmother and great-grandmother (two separate strings!) and remembered just how classy and ladylike my pearls made me feel.

5. Hunchback of Notre Dame, the new musical. Oh. My. Gosh. It has all the magic of the Disney movie (let’s be real here, that movie has a fantastic score), while adding in some of the darker elements of the amazing novel by Victor Hugo. It’s well worth a listen.

4. The Book of Ruth. In my Bible Study, we recently finished the Book of Ruth, but for a short book, there’s so much to dig into! I haven’t quite moved past it (like, I bought a couple commentaries. That’s how interested I got. Now, I bought them for three dollars a piece, but still).

3. Con Man. Staring Alan Tudyk, it follows this actor who played a pilot in a tragically canceled Sci-Fi series that only lasted one season, but has hardcore fans. It’s just delightful, and Nathan Fillion is also involved. It calls to mind the amazingness of Firefly, and though there is some bad language (PSA), it’s pretty funny.

2.The “Cize” workout with Shaun T. It’s hiphopping your way to fitness, which sounds like exactly the thing I could hurt myself doing. I’m sure I look hilarious, but it’s a ton of fun and I’m loving it!

1. Hamilton the Musical. I can’t begin to explain how much I love this, but I’ll try. I’m a historian who loves musical theater, so Hamilton, which takes the two and puts them together in a fun and foot-tapping way, was destined to become one of my favorite things. Just, if you haven’t listened to Hamilton yet, do it. Just jump on that bandwagon.

Bonus: I am also obsessed with this particular VlogBrothers post, where Hank rants about books. Go to this link: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBPAJERpn6Q&gt; and have a wonderful time listening to this rant.

 

What Does “Ladylike” Mean, Anyway?

I have a confession to make. I love hockey.

This always seems to surprise people, because apparently most people don’t love hockey AND the miniseries North and South. I can’t understand why, there’s violence and a touch of social commentary in both!

But seriously, it always makes me laugh a little bit when people find out I like hockey and are surprised. No, I don’t play hockey (mostly because I doubt my ability to stay upright on ice skates), but it is one of the funnest things to watch.

It’s also really amazing, because despite the fact that the guys are always fighting they are incredibly graceful. Skating is not easy, and they have to wear a ton of gear to prevent injur-, well, let’s say to prevent life-threatening injuries.

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The Hawaiian Chieftain Photo: Author’s Collection

 

I love romantic comedies, my favorite being The Decoy Bride, and I also love period dramas like North and South, musicals like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and White Christmas, and quietly reading. In addition to loving hockey, I also enjoy Game of Thrones, Supernatural, and the Walking Dead, Zombieland is one of my favorite movies, I’ve worked on a Tallship and I’m an archaeologist.

The former is what you would expect from a woman in her mid-to-late 20s, the later, not so much.

There is really a societal pressure, I think, on what being a lady is. There is an idea that either you like pink and chick flicks or you don’t like either. And frankly, that’s ridiculous. Why can’t I like blue and pink, Zombieland and North and South, Game of Thrones and The Mindy Project, and wearing jeans and wearing dresses (depending on the situation)?

I can. So take that, gender stereotypes! This may not be groundbreaking to other people, but I’ve been mulling over this for a while now.

So I have come to the conclusion that being ladylike is really just manners, and honestly, I like being a lady (but not while I’m watching hockey. That just doesn’t work). Being a lady shouldn’t be something that I find offensive or wince at, but something that I can smile at, because walking in heels is hard for me, and I practice it.

Though my grandmother calls me a lady, so I grew up hearing it as a compliment of the highest order.

I mean, do I know how to sit in a skirt? Yes. Can I walk in heels? Yes, if I have to. Can I sit quietly? Yes, if I have to (or it’s the right situation). If a gentlemen hold the door open for me, do I retort that I can open my own door? No, I say thank you. And I hold the door for other people too.

Being a lady doesn’t mean that I’m not a strong and independent woman. I like wearing skirts. Sometimes, I still twirl in them in my kitchen, while wearing Wonder Woman Socks that come with capes.

But that’s a whole other post.