Posted in writing

The Writing Diaries pt. 11 – New Waters

Tides will turn, winds can shift, and at times even the rain changes direction. Sometimes, our inner well of creativity changes, too. One day you might draw up the pail from the well expecting to find water, only to be met with nothing. It can be shocking and even scary to realize that it’s no longer full. And for the first time in a long time, you’ll have to consider the idea of digging a new one. Even though the old place felt safe and comfortable, the water didn’t taste so fresh anymore. But when you find that new well, that untapped resource, you might just find that it was exactly what you’d been looking for.

Recently, my “well” of creativity has changed direction. The heart I had for a certain project began to taper off little by little, almost imperceptibly, until I was eventually faced with nothing. Then one day a new story, with it’s very own spring of water, much different than its predecessor started to gurgle up from the parched ground. This new story quickly turned into a rushing river carrying me away on its current. It was a current I willingly launched out on, and now that I’ve left, I’ve hardly looked back.

A while ago, I made the difficult choice to leave an unfinished story behind, and begin a new one. I’m on that journey now, and am already waist-deep in it. This story was fairly new on my idea roster, but there was something about it that made me want to pour all of my time and energy into it. It felt new, and exciting, but it also felt familiar, like it was waiting for me all this time.

This project has been much like treading new waters, but I’m enjoying the process. I didn’t rush the plotting, or outlining phase, and miraculously, it all came together fairly quickly. It’s also the most in-depth, and well developed outline I’ve ever written. Needless to say, I’m feeling good about it. I’ve also given myself a loose deadline to (hopefully) finish the first draft by the end of summer. After completing NaNoWriMo last November, I figured it’s not too much to ask of myself to try and finish this draft in three months. I can be an incredibly slow writer, so I figured adding a bit of pressure is a good thing. But at the end of the day, the first draft is only the first step. Arguably it’s the most important step, but there are many more steps to follow, and with that in mind, the drafting process has been less intimidating.

I’m also excited because I’ll be writing this draft entirely by hand. Why would I be regressing to such an archaic form of recording, you may ask? Because the greats, like Dickens, Austen, and Shakespeare, all wrote by hand, and I want to follow in their footsteps… I’m kidding, that was a joke. Really though, I chose to write by hand because it helps my overly critical, analytical brain, to take a hike. Writing by hand is a way for me not to overthink the words I’m putting down, and allows my creative thoughts to flow more freely. No delete key, and no backspacing key. I have no option, but to forge ahead. The first draft is always the most difficult part of the writing process for me, so if I find a way to make it easier on myself, then I’m all in. Even if it means I’ll have to transcribe several thousands of words from my scribbled notebook pages later, it’s worth it.

This new story is about an urban legend, a small town, and some strange happenings there. It has elements of many different movies, TV shows, and books that I have loved over the years. One of my inspirations was The X-Files, a popular show from the 90’s about two FBI agents taking on some strange, unexplained cases. I’ve had to do a lot of research for this project, but it’s been fun. I went to the library and grabbed several books on the topic I needed, and they have been really helpful. I’m learning a lot from this book already and I still have a long way to go. Later on I’ll probably do a proper, more detailed introduction for this story, but for now that’s all you get.

All in all, this move felt like a giant leap of faith, and with no regrets to speak of yet, I’m taking it as a sign that this was the right choice. A lot of us tend to stay in the same rut, afraid and unwilling to dig ourselves out and try something new. That’s where I stayed for a very long time. I was intimidated to make any drastic changes, but I realized that I am in control of my own writing. Who’s to say I should or shouldn’t write what I feel tugging on my heart, except for me?

* * *

I hope this post has inspired you to take the plunge, and start something new if a change has been knocking on your heart lately. Sometimes you don’t know what the right choice is until you give it a try. So fear not, my friend, and open up that door.

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in life

Pieces of Summer | Recommendations

What sort of images come to your mind when you think of Summer? For me, it’s blazing sunshine, melted ice-cream, hot pavement, big shade trees, green grass and long afternoons. The days and nights of summer are bright, vivid, and filled with so much spirit and adventure. And during these summer days, my taste in books, music, and movies shifts a little. I like to read and watch things that are able to match those nostalgic feelings. So I put together a list of books, movies, and music that I think are the perfect examples and offer the best of this season.

|| M O V I E S ||

Josee, the Tiger and the Fish – After a chance encounter, two strangers begin a reluctant, and unlikely friendship, as they learn what truly matters in life. A beautiful, and touching story about life, love, and friendship. For me, there is nothing that encapsulates the essence of summer more perfectly than anime. So if you want a little dose of summer-time joy, you should watch this movie. I first watched Josee, last summer when it premiered in theaters, and from the moment the very first scene played out, I knew I was going to love it. And it has since become one of my all-time favorite films.

Summer Wars – During the summer holiday, a high school student takes an unexpected trip to the countryside, where he finds himself fighting for the fate of the world from the digital battlefront of OZ, a virtual reality game. (I meant it when I said that anime and summer were a perfect pairing, so you shouldn’t be surprised that I’ve added another one to my list.) This movie reminds me a lot of the book, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline; the difference being that I disliked that book, but I absolutely loved this film. It’s hilarious, and heartfelt, and everything you’d want a movie to be.

\\ B O O K S \\

At Night, I Become a Monster, by Yoru Sumino – To continue with my theme of Japanese films and summertime, I present to you a psychological high school drama about a boy who becomes a monster at night. (Obviously, wink, wink.) This story can’t really be described without spoiling most of the plot, so suffice it to say, if you’re interested in something that’s a little peculiar, but brimming with broad, unusual themes, you’ll probably like this book. It’s a slower paced story, but has all of the essence of school life you’ll find in anime.

The Summer We Forgot, by Caroline George – In a quiet and picturesque coastal town, residents are rocked by the unsettling secrets from a summer two years ago that begin to resurface. A group of teens find themselves at the center of it all. This story paints a vivid, sometimes jarring picture of youth, while navigating the murky waters of growing up, and coming to terms with one’s self. Caroline George is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors, and her newest book does not disappoint.

The Mermaid’s Sister, by Carrie Anne Noble – This story takes place in a secluded cottage, high atop a mountain, where two sisters live happily with Auntie, their guardian. Everything changes when one of the girls becomes very ill and it is realized that she is fast becoming a mermaid, and only the sea can cure her. It’s been a few years since I read this story, but I think about it often, and think it’s a most perfect summer read. It is set in a historical time period, with strong themes of sisterhood and a beautiful and charming atmosphere.

// M U S I C //

Lastly, we have the category of music, which is perhaps the most essential tool for enjoying summer days and nights. Nothing beats a good summertime jam, blasting in the car with the windows rolled down. I made a short playlist, with some of my favorite songs, that you can’t help but bop your head along to. Most of these songs have been on my summertime playlist for a while, and some are new additions that I had to include. Listen to it HERE!

So that’s it for my lists. There are many, many different themes and ways to enjoy summer but I simply wanted to share a few of my favorites. Now I want to hear from you. What are some forms of media that remind you of summer? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in life

“Living Like We’re Golden”

Once upon a time, there was a sad, and lonely, fan-girl. For two long years, she watched as the world tipped sideways, and everything unraveled. She was helpless, as postponed concerts and cancelled tours piled up all around her. It became harder, and harder, to feel the spark of joy she once had from her favorite musicians, and she was afraid they were feeling it, too. Nevertheless, she pushed through– and so did they. She awoke at the most unholy hours of the night to watch them perform halfway across the world, through the little screen on her cellphone. It made her happy, but it still wasn’t the same as being together. But one day everything changed, when she heard the news. “The wait is over, BTS is coming.”

I can still remember it. It was an average, even boring day when my sister stormed into my room with the news. I had to see it for myself, and there it was in black and white– BTS Permission to Dance on Stage in Las Vegas. I felt like I could finally see the light at the end of a very long tunnel. The only catch, was that tickets were going on sale next week, and the show would follow just a few weeks later. That left only a week to consider all the finer details that a trip like this would entail. But it didn’t matter. We didn’t have to think about it. It felt final, we had to go.

Fast forward a couple of weeks–and after having jumped though several hoops, registering for pre-sales, probably shaving off years from our lifespan– we got tickets. A sweet victory. This meant the count-down had officially begun, and all that was left to do was wait. But the weeks that passed, seemed to fly by and soon, it was D-day.

My sisters and I left bright and early on the morning of April 7th, the day before the concert. The road was long, and desolate, as it usually is in the desert. But that wasn’t important, because our destination was set. Eventually, the barren, and bleak, landscape gave way to a city–sparkling and glittering with neon lights. And then a funny thing happened. The city we found ourselves in, wasn’t what we thought it was. It had transformed, before our very eyes. It was no longer Las Vegas–it was now BORAHAEGAS. BTS and ARMY swept in, bringing with them a purple tide.

It was incredible. Wherever you looked, there were traces of BTS, and ARMY was everywhere. (BTS fans go by the name, “ARMY”.) Almost every building had a purple sign proclaiming Borahaegas. (Borahaegas is a play on the word borahae–a term BTS invented that means, “I purple you”. A mix of the Korean word for purple [bora] and the phrase “I love you” [saranghae].) The famed Bellagio fountains even had a special water show just for BTS fans. And nearly everyone on the streets was there for BTS. It was extraordinary to see so many people who had the same plan as me–who jumped through all the same hurdles to be there, in the same city, at that exact moment. But all of that was just a teaser, a small taste before the real thing– the concert.

The next morning, despite the exhaustion of a long travel day, we were ready. We could hardly contain the nervous excitement as we waited. And when it was finally time, we left our hotel, bound for the stadium. This was not my first rodeo, so I was expecting a crowd. I was even prepared to embrace the crowd, but it still managed to surprise me. It was like standing before a rushing river of people, all flowing into the stadium. We joined the flow, and soon, we made it to our seats. The excitement, and anticipation was nearly bursting from the stadium, and you could feel it coursing through the air like electricity.

And then, it was show time.

As amazing a sight as Borahaegas was, it couldn’t hold candle to the glittering lights, and fireworks, during the show. And the seven members shone brightest of all. The ARMY bombs, (fan light-sticks), flashed a rainbow of colors on beat to the music. The cheers, and roars from the audience nearly overpowered the sound system. And I couldn’t blame anyone for cheering so loudly, because the show was that amazing. It was so fun to hear all of my favorite songs performed live, and not only that, but to see all of the members singing and dancing with my very own eyes, was unforgettable. And being surrounded by so many people, all sharing in their excitement for this night was such a memorable experience. But as the show came to an end, I was happy, yet it was a bittersweet feeling. I was so grateful to have seen the show, but it felt incomplete.

The next morning, as we went out for some shopping, neither I nor my sister could shake the feeling in our gut. We had to go to tonight’s show, too. The only problem was, we didn’t have tickets for the second show. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Thus ensued a very brief, but intense search for tickets to a sold out show. And in the end, we got tickets. We were going to see them again! The second night was just as spectacular, and stunning as the first night.

As I was leaving the stadium, I didn’t feel sad at all. In fact, I was struck by the fact that I felt so happy. There is so little left in this world that can bring joy, and a feeling of lightness to your heart, but after the show, I felt just that. It was strange, even alien, to see so many people, so happy, and so kind to one another, all in one place. It’s like there was an unspoken understanding among everyone there and we were all able to share these special nights, together. I realized how marvelous it is when people join together for something positive. For something that makes this world a little less bleak, and a little less sad, if only for a short time. Getting to know BTS, and listening to their music has changed my life in ways I would have never expected. And I’m truly grateful I was a part of it.

Finally, our trip felt complete. When I returned home, my bags were packed full of bright moments, and happy memories that I’ll cherish forever.

Borahae my friend, thank you for reading

-Lady S

P.S. You can watch a vlog from my trip HERE on my sister’s YouTube channel. Check it out!

Posted in writing

The Writing Diaries pt. 10 – The Art of Letting Go

One of the hardest things in life, is knowing when to let go. When to accept that it’s time take a step back. When to admit that something in your life is leading you in circles. Coming to that realization can often feel like failure, like giving up. But in reality, taking that step shows you are of a strong mind, and adept enough to meet those difficult realities head on. This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately, and has caused me to face some of my innermost struggles about myself and my writing.

Not my photo.

The novel I am currently working on, a.k.a., the “Big One” as I’ve come to think of it, is a story that has been very near and dear to my heart for years. I’ve mentioned from time to time on my blog, how this story has grown and evolved along with me, for several years now. The current word count is just over 80k, making it the longest project I’ve written to date, but also the slowest. I’ve watched as the word count crept higher and higher, (at a snail’s pace), and it is nowhere near done.

For the better part of four years I’ve worked exclusively on this story, and it’s been even longer since the idea first sparked in my mind. But out of the hundreds of hours I’ve expended on this story, most of them were spent agonizing over it in my head, instead of actually writing. I’d held off writing it for years, because I didn’t feel ready yet. And as the weeks turned to months, and the months into years, I’ve learned that I am still not quite ready for this story. And that’s okay.

Not my photo

It’s been hard. It feels like I’m failing, or like I’m letting somebody down. After spending the last four years of my life pouring so much time and energy into this project, the thought of abandoning it is quite painful. But I’m not really abandoning it. I’m simply putting it on hold– because I want this story to be “right”. I want to tell the story that my characters deserve, and I want to tell it well. But the time to tell that story is not yet.

If my story were a block of clay, to be intricately carved and sculpted, then at this moment my story is very much shapeless. There may be hints of a sculpture, in the way it curves here, or casts a shadow there, but it is still just a lump of clay. So, for now, I’ve made the choice to put a sheet over my unfinished sculpture and stow it away for safekeeping. And one day when my vision has cleared, and I can look at it, and no longer see an obscure form– but flesh and bones and a beating heart– then I will return to it. But in the meantime I will be patient, and I will wait until I feel a true sense of purpose for my story.

I wanted to write this post, to recognize and commemorate all of the time I have spent on this project and acknowledge that it has not been in vain. I have learned more from this novel, than any other writing project I’ve worked on so far and this novel will always mark a pivotal point in my writing journey. By allowing myself to take a step back from this project, I am free to work on other, new stories that have been waiting patiently in the wings. And though the future of my writing endeavors may seem a little murky right now, I am excited to face the challenge and see where it takes me from here.

So here’s to love lost, lessons learned, and the great unknown. Let’s never give up on our dreams, you and I. For only when we step off the familiar path, will we learn of all the possibilities that lie ahead.

Yours truly,

Lady S

Posted in life

Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic Too

Hello friends, I hope you’ve been well. I realize I’ve been absent for quite some time, and I’m terribly sorry to have left you waiting. My usual quiet, and calm life has been anything but, as of late. I could say I’ve been “busy”, and move on, but I thought it would be better to have a little catch-up, instead.

Spring is a very full time of year for me, because that is when the greenhouse I work for opens up to the public. Most of the year we all work quietly behind the scenes, carefully planning and preparing flowers, and vegetable plants for the growing season. But all of that changes when opening day arrives, and my job shifts from planting, to working retail— an entirely different ballgame. Instead of plants flying from my hands, it’s now numbers, and totals, and answering all kinds of questions from customers. I’m really grateful for my job and I have been there for many years. My days are filled with very hard work, beautiful flowers and much sunshine, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Before our official opening day at the greenhouse, my sisters and I squeezed in a four day trip, for a very special, and highly anticipated event, which I’ll tell you about in another post. I don’t think I have to explain to you the stress level of travel planning and booking reservations and all that sort of stuff. It somehow has the ability to absorb all of your time, and drain you of all your mental capacity to think of anything else in the universe. Thankfully though, that is all behind me now, and I am getting settled back into daily living. It is the combination of work, and travel, and home responsibilities that has barely given me the time to brush my teeth at night before I literally fall into bed (let alone write a blog post). And for that, I apologize.

Needless to say, I haven’t been doing much reading either. Funnily though, a recent power outage prompted me to finally sit down and make some progress on my current read, The Summer We Forgot, by Caroline George. I’m really enjoying the story so far, and it kept me up till 1 a.m. last night because I just couldn’t put it down. I’m also in the middle of The Mysterious Benedict Society, which I feel like everyone and their brother has read but me. (My own nephew even told me I had to read it!) It’s a super quirky and fun mystery, and I can’t wait to get back to it and find out how it ends.

Since we’re on the topic of good-reads, my birthday passed a few days ago, and I was thrilled to have received so many new books as gifts! I worked a double shift on my birthday, but I was still able to celebrate with my family at one of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants, and open presents with so many BOOKS in them. Most of the books are cozy British mysteries, which I can never get enough of. And my sister got me a copy of Sweet Bean Paste, by Durian Sukegawa, a book I’ve heard a lot about, and has been on my TBR for a while. I’m looking forward to summer, when things quiet down a bit and I can finally get back into reading, and tackle my expanding TBR.

My writing has also been undergoing a major shift lately. I haven’t been able to write much at all for the past few weeks, but I’m using this time as a little pause, to reconsider some things. I’m working on a blog post to tell you more about it, but for now I’ll say that I’m in the process of beginning a new novel, which is exciting, and terrifying at the same time. I also wrote a short story last month, for a contest that I heard about last-minute. My story wasn’t chosen, but I still love what I wrote and if it wasn’t for the contest, it wouldn’t even exist. I had a lot of fun writing it, and that’s what it’s really all about, isn’t it?

Spring is in full swing, and I wish I could say that I’m enjoying it, but the allergies, and high-winds are sort of ruining that. Even so, it makes me happy to hear all of the birds singing so cheerfully, and watching the trees slowly wake from their long slumber. Overall, this month has taught me that life is wild. Sometimes it feels like I’m wading through a vat of peanut butter, not making any progress, and other times it feels like everything is happening all at once, and I’d give anything to slow it back down, and take things one at a time. But I suppose that’s the name of the game. Nothing ever happens exactly how we wish it would, and that’s how it’s meant to be. Taking the good with the bad, and appreciating every moment along the way.

What about you? How has your Spring been? Have you read any good books this season? Tell me all about, I’d love to chat with you.

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in WORDS

Cracked Spines and Wrinkled Pages

Tell me, do you read used books? Does your book collection contain a patchwork of miss-matched series, or numerous, old, mass market editions? Mine does. My shelves are filled with books that are out of print, worn and torn with yellowed pages, stains and spills. Odd copies that contain hand-written dates, love dedications, and even an occasional scribble or two in the margins. Used books, to me, are like finding a buried treasure– a diamond in the rough. Finding that treasure requires nothing more than a bit of patience as you comb through miles of shelving, and a keen eye.

I must admit, most of the stories I come across are entirely a mystery to me. Never before have I set eyes on them, nor do I know what lies within. It’s a risk to choose such a book, but the thrill of discovery is too great to pass up. Without the familiar comfort of reviews, or recommendations, I have only my most basic reader instincts to rely on. The cover, the title, the feel of the paper in my hands– those simple things will determine the fate of the book. The little tome of bound pages must speak for itself, and it is up to me whether I listen to its voice, or not.

Despite the well-known saying, we all know that it is well-nigh impossible not to judge a book by its cover, especially when it comes to newer books. I won’t so much as breathe in their direction if I don’t fancy the cover. But when it comes to used books, I will pause and consider whether the strange colors, and illustrations on the cover are disguising some hidden treasure waiting to be found. Though I would never dare to crack a spine on any book, or mistreat a page, strangely, in old books, even those flaws cannot turn me away. In fact, when I see a book that is worn, and scuffed, annotated, or dog-eared, I find it to be a curiosity. It tells me that someone, somewhere, handled it, and maybe even enjoyed it.

Sometimes, I wonder if all the time it’d been left alone, unread, and covered in dust, was because it was waiting for someone like me to come along and give it another chance. Usually the books that find their way into second-hand shops are stories from bygone eras, or books that might have been underappreciated at the time of their release. Each has lived a long life, and I often wonder at the history of the lives they’ve led, and what brought them to the shops.

Books are much like people, too. Each has a character of their own, a personality that shines through the font on the pages, and the binding at their spines. And just like people, there is more than meets the eye at first glance. So next time you see an old, shabby cover on a book, perhaps you should pause for a moment, and look past all the dinginess. You may find a bright, and glimmering treasure waiting inside.

Until next time,

Lady S

Posted in writing

The Writing Diaries pt. 9: On the Outside Looking in

There are moments in all of our lives when we feel like outsiders. Times when we feel like an outcast, or the odd man out– watching from a distance, as everyone else seems to get along so easily. I’ve realized that in the world of writing, those instances happen quite a lot.

The other day I was thinking about the novel I’m currently working on, as well as a few other stories that have been occupying my mind-space, lately. I wondered if anyone would want to read them. I wondered if anyone would find them interesting, or boring or too weird. I wondered, what if my stories just don’t fit in anywhere?

It’s sort of like that feeling you get in school, or when you’re hanging out with friends and you hear that little voice in the back of your head that whispers doubts and fears to you. What if no one likes me? For a while I entertained that thought– worrying that not everyone would like my stories. But then I had a sort of epiphany, and I said to myself– so what? So what if my stories are different? So what if my stories aren’t like the ones on the shelves at the bookstore today? I realized that my entire life has been going against the metaphorical current– so why would the stories I create be any different?

I know that there are trends in publishing, just like there are trends in fashion. It makes sense that publishers would publish books that fit into that popular trend, and that writers would write stories that fit into that same trend. But here’s the thing, not everyone has to fit into the trend. I realized that I would be doing a great disservice to myself, and to anyone who might read my future work, if I tailored my stories simply to fit into the current mainstream trends.

The world has enough, nay, too many books that fit into the mainstream mold(s). I would dare to say that it is time for the modern book market to have a bit of a shake-up. As I was wrestling with all of these ideas, I remembered the quote that says, “Write the book that you want to read.” I think that is one of the most valuable quotes for any writer to remember. Especially if, like me, you spend much of your time wading through books that you hope to love, but don’t. Maybe it’s time for us, for you and for me, to write the books we want to read.

Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t always have to come in nicely packaged boxes, ready, and waiting for the taking. Your story might not have the typical main character, or the typical list of obstacles standing in their way. It might not be strictly YA, or middle-grade, it might be something in between. If you feel like your story doesn’t fit in, then here is your sign, your signal, to embrace it. Embrace what makes you and your story different. If you don’t love your story first, why should anyone else like it? And if you feel like your story doesn’t fit into the popular shape, then break out of it. Write the story that is carved onto your heart; the one inside of you that is begging to be written. People gravitate towards genuineness, and honesty, and your writing will show that. Though it might not appeal to the masses, that little spark of truth you sew into your story, may well resonate in the hearts of many a wandering soul.

Remember, stay true to yourself always, and don’t ever forget why you first chose to write. Thank you for visiting, and sharing in my thoughts today. I hope that you found this post encouraging, and I hope you never give up on writing the story of your heart.

Your truly,

Lady S

Posted in Book Reviews, reading

January Nights and What I Read

I think I’ve turned over a new leaf–or perhaps I’ve just hit a stroke of luck. Whatever it is, I mean to say, that I had a really good reading month. With these long, dark, winter nights, my favorite thing to do is curl up with a fluffy blanket, or sit beside the fireplace and read. I don’t know why, but reading in the winter makes me feel like the heroine in a Brontë novel, or some other classic work of literature. I wonder if anyone else feels like that? Back in my hay-day as a teen, reading was pretty much all I did, so I flew through most books. In more recent years, my reading habits have changed quite drastically. But this month, I read a book a week, which is more than I’ve read in a really long time. Some of the books I read were real gems, so I thought I’d share them with you.

1. Spin the Dawn, by Elizabeth Lim

Book Review: "Spin The Dawn" (The Blood of Stars #1) by Elizabeth Lim –  Life of a Female Bibliophile

This story is a little reminiscent of Mulan, but with a lot more magic. When the Emperor holds a competition to find a new imperial tailor, to create a dress for his bride to be, Maia, must go to the palace in place of her father. Women aren’t allowed to be tailor’s, so Maia, must go in disguise in order to prove her skills. But that’s just the beginning of her story. Soon, strange enchantments, and a nearly impossible request pushes Maia to the limits of her strength, yet she doesn’t back down. With the help of a mysterious enchanter, she achieves the impossible to protect her own life, and her family’s–but it comes at a great cost.

Magic Book Olvely GIF

This book was a Christmas gift, and my first official read for 2022. I was really happy that this story lived up to my expectations, and I enjoyed immersing myself is this new world. This story read like an old legend, or a classic fairy tale, and the way it flowed was great. The setting, and characters felt a lot different from most current fantasy YA novels, so it was a refreshing read.

5/5 stars

2. Calculated, by Nova McBee

Calculated (Calculated #1) by Nova McBee

This story follows a teenage math genius–a prodigy. After graduating with a PhD at age fifteen, Josephine Rivers signs up for a special program in China where gifted teens like her can put their skills to use. But on the day she is set to leave for home, she is kidnapped. Everything Josephine has ever known, or dreamed of, is crushed–except for her special gift. This gift is the only thing that keeps her alive, but it becomes exploited when dark forces use her for their evil schemes. Josephine is tossed from one nightmare to another, until everything changes, and she is presented with an opportunity to undo the harm she helped create. Beginning in Seattle, this story takes you to a secret prison, and gang hideout in China, to the lux high-rises of Shanghai.

Magic Book Olvely GIF

This book has been on my TBR for a long time, and I was glad to finally cross it off. This story dealt with the extreme reality of smuggling, and millionaires, and the world they live in. My mind was completely blown when I realized the story was a re-telling of the life of Joseph, and how God turned his kidnapping, and terrible circumstances into something that would change the entire course of history. This story kept me thinking about it for days after I had finished it, and it’s one I think I’ll always remember.

5/5 stars

3. 100 Days of Sunlight, by Abbie Emmons

Amazon.com: 100 Days of Sunlight: 9781733973311: Emmons, Abbie: Books

After a car accident with a drunk driver, Tessa’s whole world is upended as she loses her sight from a brain injury. The doctors tell her the condition is temporary, but the struggle to come to terms with her trauma is almost too much to bear. That’s when Weston, a boy with his own skeleton in the closet, makes it his mission to help Tessa face the reality that there is so much more to life than merely–sight.

Magic Book Olvely GIF

This is another book that has been on my TBR for a while. I borrowed the audio-book version of this story from the library, and I really enjoyed it because the author herself, did the recording. This is a feel-good, contemporary novel that shows you that there can be joy in life, even in the midst of darkness. It was nice to read a lighter story, in between some of the heavier books I’ve been reading.

4/5 stars

4. What Lives in the Woods, by Lindsay Currie

What Lives in the Woods: Currie, Lindsay: 9781728245720: Amazon.com: Books

Ginny Anderson’s summer plans are ruined, when her parents tell her that they are going to spend a month in an old mansion that her father has been hired to renovate. She’s not happy when they arrive at the creepy old place, but soon, things get even worse. Ginny begins to experience strange events, and see disturbing apparitions throughout the house. With the help of her brother, and a boy from town, Ginny is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, and end their stay at the mansion.

Magic Book Olvely GIF

This is a middle-grade horror story that I wanted to read before I passed it on to a family member. It was a fun, spooky story, but nothing too scary. I liked the mystery surrounding the mansion, but I was underwhelmed by the character development, and story progression. I think a younger reader might enjoy it more than I did, but I was still a little disappointed.

3/5 stars

5. Every Bright and Broken Thing, by Brian McBride

Every Bright and Broken Thing: McBride, Brian: 9781798076729: Amazon.com:  Books

This is the story of two brothers, and the tragedy that overtakes them after the death of their mother. Caught up in lies, and the pit of substance abuse, their lives are slowly destroyed. As things come to a breaking point–they have the chance to be redeemed, but will they take the chance?

Magic Book Olvely GIF

I picked this book up on a whim, because I’d seen some good reviews on it and I needed something new to read. It deals with some very heavy topics, which was a little difficult to read at times. I have some mixed feelings about this novel, and while it did have a redemption arc in the end, it’s not something I would recommend to just anyone. Overall, the writer did deliver a good story, with some powerful themes.

3/5 stars

Pix - Album on Imgur

And that’s everything I read in January. Sometimes these dreary winter nights can feel a bit lonely, but with a good book for company, they become a lot less so.
So now I want to hear about your reading month.
What was your first read for 2022?
How many books did you get to?

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in life

Dreams and Disasters

It’s the beginning of a brand new year, the time when many of us are buzzing with new goals, resolutions and dreams for the future. That’s usually me as well, but for the first time in a long time, I don’t have any serious New Year’s resolutions.

branch4-motif - Smock.

In years past, I would glumly review the previous year, evaluate all the ways that I had failed at my goals and pledge to remedy them in the coming new year. For me, the new year always came with a feeling of dread, and fear of the unknown. I think I might have confused “end of the year” with “end of the world”. But the last couple of months of 2021 were such a whirlwind of events and emotions, that I wasn’t left with much of an opportunity to think so far ahead. Maybe that’s why this year, when the clock struck midnight, 2022, those old feelings weren’t there. It came as a bit of a shock to me when I actually felt calm. Perhaps it was due to the tumultuous couple of years we have all endured that lead me to a state of apathy, but I’d still like to give myself at least a little credit for this new outlook.

The other day, I was writing in my journal, and I wrote down these words, “It wasn’t what we planned, but it all worked out in the end, which is a recurring theme in my life.” I could list a hundred, maybe even a thousand times in my life, where I had envisioned something to go one way, when it ended up going in a complete different direction. Even though it wasn’t what I had planned, somehow, it still worked out. I usually try to view those moments with humor, and not take it to heart, but I was astounded when I realized how accurate that statement was–in all aspects of my life. So my resolution this year is not to plan so rigidly that my world may crumble if things don’t happen, just so. I could use the term, “go with the flow”, though that phrase is a little overused and doesn’t entirely convey what I mean. Another way to put it is, “trust the process”, which, for me, is trusting in the Lord.

You know the bible verse that says, “His ways are higher than our ways”? I’ve probably read it a dozen times, but I think it has finally struck a cord in me. I think it’s God’s way of letting us know that when something goes wrong, it’s still part of the “grand plan”, so to speak. It doesn’t mean that we should just give up on our plans, or our dreams. To me, it says that we don’t need to agonize so much over the future. It can be very intimidating to consider all the steps that will lead us from point A to point B, or ultimately Z. What I realized is that, right now, in this moment, even if my day goes awry I can still do small, even seemingly tedious things that can eventually lead to bigger things. My goal is to become a published author. Right now that prospect seems so very big, and scary. I don’t even have a polished manuscript yet that I can consider publishable, but I’m not going to fret over all of that. What I can do right now, and most importantly, is to simply–write. Sounds like a no-brainer, but contrary to popular belief, that’s a whole lot easier said than done.

In other words, I’m telling myself to take a metaphorical, deep breath. Relax. I can’t skip to the end. I have to follow the path that is laid out before me, and however that turns out in the end is anyone’s guess. But I have decided to walk that path calmly, with a joyful heart, and most importantly, trust the process. Life doesn’t happen in leaps and bounds, it happens one day at a time. The sun rises, and the sun sets, again and again. I think we should live as the sun does. Each day we are given a chance to simply try our best. And if we wake up on a cloudy day, that’s okay too. We can try again the next day, and the next, and the next, for as long as the world keeps turning.

Dove Flight by Phil Earnshaw on Dribbble

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in Book Reviews, reading

2021 – A Year in Books

Hey friends! We have arrived again at the end of another reading year, where we look back at all the of the wonderful worlds, and words, that crossed our paths in 2021. This was a much better reading year for me, than the past couple of years have been. It felt so good to get back to the joy of reading and immerse myself in so many amazing story worlds. So without further ado, it’s time to share my completed reading list for 2021. Let’s see how I did.

Rating: 1-5 stars (Favorites in bold.)

Classics:

  1. The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux – 5
  2. Dracula, by Bram Stoker – 5
  3. The Epic of Gilgamesh – 4
  4. The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery – 5
  5. Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy – 4
  6. Old Herbaceous, by Reginald Arkell – 4
  7. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson – 4

Non-Fiction:

  1. Bach Flower Therapies, by Mechthild Scheffer – 5
  2. A Different Shade of Green, by Gordon Wilson – 4
  3. The Right to Write, by Julia Cameron – 5
  4. The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben – 4
  5. The Successful Author Mindset, by Joanna Penn – 5
  6. Successful Self-Publishing, by Joanna Penn – 5
  7. As Far As You Can Go Without a Passport, by Tom Bodett – 5
  8. The Unseen Realm, by Michael S. Heiser – 5

Fiction:

  1. Dust, by Kara Swanson – 4
  2. Before the Coffee Gets Cold, by Toshikazu Kawaguchi – 4
  3. Dearest Josephine, by Caroline George – 5
  4. Hood, Stephen R. Lawhead – 5
  5. Greenglass House, by Kate Milford – 3
  6. The Forest of Wool and Steal, by Natsu Miyashita – 5
  7. Storming, by K.M. Weiland – 5
  8. Cinder, by Marissa Meyer (reread) – 5
  9. Scarlet, by Marissa Meyer (reread) – 5
  10. The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater – 4
  11. Blue Lily, Lily Blue, by Maggie Stiefvater – 4
  12. The Raven King, by Maggie Stiefvater – 4
  13. Dark Souls, by Paula Morris – 3
  14. The Rise of Kyoshi, by F. C. Yee & Michael Dante DiMartino – 3
  15. The Songkiller’s Symphony, by Daeus Lamb – 4
  16. At Night I Become a Monster, by Yoru Sumino – 5
  17. The Alchemyst, by Michael Scott – 3
  18. Six Crimson Cranes, by Elizabeth Lim – 5
  19. An Enchantment of Ravens, by Margaret Rogerson – 4
  20. Liar, Liar, You Are Hired, by Devin Joubert – 4
  21. Ignite, by Jenna Terese – 4
  22. Knight from the Ashes, by Shari L. Tapscott, and Jake Andrews – 5

Total: 37

Q & A Time.

Q: What was the biggest book you read in 2021?

A: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, coming in at 480 pages. This year I didn’t tackle anything over 500 pages. It wasn’t intentional, and I didn’t even realize until now.

Q: What was the shortest book you read in 2021?

A: Liar, Liar, You are Hired, by Devin Joubert. Sitting at 90 pages, this is actually the first part in an ongoing serial novel.

Q: What was the most surprising book you read in 2021?

A: I Would have to say, Hood, by Stephen R. Lawhead. This book surprised me in a number of ways. I thought it was a fantasy novel, so I was anticipating some form of magic, but as I reached the end of the book, there wasn’t an ounce of magic among any of the pages. It turned out to be more of a historical fiction, and I actually learned a lot about a time in history I knew very little about.

Q: What was the most disappointing book of 2021?

A: There were a few books I found rather disappointing this year, but if I had to choose one, it would be, Greenglass House, by Kate Milford. This book is quite popular in the book-community, so I felt let down when I finally read it. For a middle-grade book, I thought it was a little boring, and felt like it was written for an older audience despite being labelled for kids. It could have been a good story, but by the end of the book, it just felt dull to me.

Q: What book left the biggest impact on you?

A: Definitely, The Right to Write, by Julia Cameron. I read this collection of essays slowly throughout the year. Each time I read it, I found a new little nugget of truth, or inspiration to take away. Her writing felt like a hug and encouragement to a struggling writer. At times the author put me off by some vulgar references, and I considered giving up on it, but I’m so glad that I pushed through. I think this is a book I will return to again.

Q: What was your favorite book from 2021?

A: I would have said my favorite book from 2021 was The Blue Castle, but since I already raved about that book in another blog post, I’ll choose a different one. And since I also ranted about how much I loved The Forest of Wool and Steal, in the same post, I won’t choose that one either. I read a lot of books that I loved this year, but for the sake of this post, I’ll choose just one, and that is, Dearest Josephine by Caroline George.

I’m not quite sure how to label this book. Contemporary? Historical Fiction? I suppose the genre doesn’t matter, when it’s a book you really love. Dearest Josephine is told through letters, emails, and a shifting time-line that alternates between Josie De Clare, a girl from 2021, and Elias Roch, a boy from the year 1821. Dearest Josephine is about two broken-hearted souls that become strangely connected to one another, though separated by a span of 200 years. It’s a rare thing when a story can make you feel something so bittersweet, and heartfelt. I came away from this story with so many emotions, and warm feelings. It’s one of those books that after you’ve finished reading it, you just have to sit still for a moment, and appreciate all the little details that made you adore it so much.

Aside from that, my honorable mentions would have to be, At Night I Become a Monster, by Yoru Sumino. A fascinating story about a boy who becomes a monster when night falls, and a classroom overshadowed by bullying.

I was also completely blown away by Dracula, a classic that had been on my list for quite some time. I was not prepared for such a deep, and impactful story. This is another book I want to read again, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything the first time around. The memory of this story still haunts me.

In conclusion, I read a lot of great books, and found some that have become my forever favorites. I realized this year, that reading is a give and take activity. In years past, I wasn’t giving it enough time or attention, and so my attitude towards reading reflected that. This year, I made an effort to make more time for reading, and be very intentional about it, and in the end, I enjoyed it all the more.

9 Reading ideas in 2021 | book gif, animation, reading gif

I hope you read lots of great books this year, and I hope you read even more next year. What was your favorite book from 2021? Tell me a little about your year in books, I’d love to chat with you.

Happy reading,

Lady S