Friday, January 29, 2016

Truthwitch {Book Discussion}


Happy Friday friends! If they would hand out awards for bloggers who constantly never post book discussions in the month they take place and we would win every time.  However, we are really working on being more consistent with our posts to bring you discussions right at the end of the month before the next book club pick. We really took it down to the wire this month since I didn't even finish the book until yesterday! Jen is a trooper and we busted out this discussion yesterday afternoon. Today we are discussing our January book club pick Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. For the first time on the blog, we had differing opinions on this one, but it was still really fun to discuss and to compare our reading experiences. Check it out below and let's discuss even more in the comments!


Book Description
On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.
Jen's Reaction in GIF form
Heather's Reaction in GIF form
Book Discussion
 
Heather
Ok let's do this! The book discussion of Truthwitch is commencing! How refreshing and awesome was it to read a book focused around the friendship of Threadsisters Safi and Isuelt?! 



Jen
 You know, it was really refreshing to read a fantasy book that is centered around a friendship instead of a possible romance situation.  There are time for love stories and time for ass kicking stories. I was glad to see this was more of an ass kicking story. Plus, I kind of pretended we were Izi & Safi the whole time I was reading it.




Heather
Yes! You are my real life Threadsister for sure! I do think it was very refreshing to read a story about kick ass women. I especially loved the focus on friendship. I loved that Safi and Izi never needed saving from men, they were the ones doing the saving for each other. I did love the slight hint of romance between Safi and Merick in the book. It was touching and kind of sexy without being cheesy. 




Jen
[I would agree with that completely. The romance wasn't cheesy at all. I love how Safi challenged Merick and didn't always follows his orders, like during the scene with the sea foxes.  She did whatever she had to do to save her Threadsister regardless of what a man told her to do,  And yea, the fact that those girls could hold their own and didn't need rescuing was pretty fantastic. 



Heather
[1):I think it was one of the more believable romances in fantasy books that we've read. I'm excited to see where it goes next. Oh man, the Sea Foxes were crazy! Such a cool monster to have in the books, for sure. I think another thing I really liked was the different types of witches and how they worked together in the world. Just learning about the different abilities was amazing. I think one complaint from me would be I would have liked to learn more about the history of the world and the Witchlands, more about the different kinds of magic. 



Jen
Oh man, I think the Sea Fox scene was my favorite scene in the whole book. Safi was kicking so much ass and for some reason Sea Foxes are intriguing as hell. And the oddest thing is, the very next book I picked up had Sea Foxes in it too.  I agree that the world building wasn't the best in this book. I think the author could have done a better job of explaining the history as well as the different types of magic. I did feel a tad lost about all the witches' magic in general.  I'm sure it will be explained more fully in the books to come but it would have been nice if the author could have slowed the pace of the story down a little bit to fit in some extra world building.  World building is pretty important for my fantasy reads.


H

Heather
Two books with Sea Foxes? Awesome! Yes, I think that this book would have benefited from a little extra world building. I think it did get kind of confusing at times. Like I can understand why a Bloodwitch should be feared, but a Truthwitch seems like such an unreliable power for multiple countries to be fighting over. I'm hoping for more clarification in the series as it goes on. Speaking of Bloodwitch, I am 100% into and on board for anything involving Aeduan. He is my favorite from this book, the best, most fleshed out character in my opinion. I'm most interested to see where his story goes as the series goes on. Did you have a favorite character?



Jen
Yea, I definitely couldn't understand why the Truthwitch was so much more in demand than other witches simply because it was very unreliable at times.  And yea, the Bloodwitch, Aeduan,was such a ruthless character and a force not to be reckoned with.  I really did enjoy his character! But I think my favorite character was Isuelt. The whole puppeteer storyline really had me intrigued especially since they had already kind of labeled Safi as the "special" one when it turns out Isuelt very much has her own thing going on.  I really enjoyed the scene where she had to flee from her mother's village. It reminded me of a cult and you know how obsessed I get about cults.



Heather
om):I really hope that the different types of witches and their values are mentioned more in other books as the series goes on. Aeduan is my #1. He's the best and I like that he is a conflicted villain who could turn out to be good. I also agree that Isuelt was the most interesting of the two. I felt like her powers and storyline were much more compelling than Safi's. I only wish she could see that her mother really did love her! I'm hoping that's resolved in a later book as well! 

Ok let's get to our final thoughts. Any remaining things you want to mention that we haven't discussed? Also what would you rate this book out of 5 stars? 






Jen
I would be highly disappointed if the differently types of witches weren't completely dissected in the upcoming books. 

I think the only other thing I would like to touch on is how fast paced the book was. Even though I felt like the story did flow really well, I did feel like Safi and Izi were basically running from Aeduan the entire time and it was a little hard for me to catch my breath at times.

Even though the world building was a tad weak for my liking, I thought the story was super original and I still am in love with the notion of Threadbrothers and Threadsisters.  I honestly can't wait for the continuation of this story.  Honestly, it rang in around 4 stars for me, but I decided to bump it up to 4.5 because Sea Foxes are badass. I still can't get that scene out of my head. Where does it rank for you, friend?




Heather
I feel like I agree with everything you mentioned. I need more dissection of witches in future books, I thought the pace was a little too fast at times as well, and Threadbrothers/Threadsisters are such a cool concept. I also loved the concept of Heart Threads binding people in love.

I think for me, this book falls at 3.5 stars. I enjoyed the book and the story, but I had a hard time really getting lost in the book. I do want to mention though that this could be due to my mindset. You know that over the last week I was waiting to hear about a new job opportunity and found it very hard to focus on anything. It might just be that I was trying to read this book at a time in my life where I was not able to focus like I should, but until I reread it before the next installment, I'm going to leave it at the 3.5 stars. I would definitely say it was an enjoyable read. The focus on friendship was such a welcome change of pace from other fantasy series we've read in the past. I'm definitely glad we choose this for January and am very interested to see where the series goes from here. 


Jen
):It will be interesting to see if or how your review changes next year when you reread it before the next installment. And man, I really understand how hard it can be to focus and fully absorb a book when you have a lot of mental distractions going on.  I was able to read Truthwitch within a few days during a really calm time in my life so I was pretty much completely immersed in the tale. Also, this isn't my first encounter with Susan Dennard. I read the first book of her other series and didn't really care for it so I was pleasantly surprised I like this one so much. Susan has definitely redeemed herself with this bright start to a fantasy series.



Heather
):I am also interested to see if my rating changes if I read it at a different time in my life, a less crazy time. I don't want my rating or my saying I couldn't get as immersed in it as I had hoped to come across that I didn't enjoy it. I definitely think it's worth picking up and checking out. I'm impressed with Susan Dennard for sure and am excited to see where she takes this series!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Baby It's Cold Outside

Good day friends!

We are super excited to bring a long awaited outfit post to you! It has been a couple of months since we could schedule a time to squeeze one in.  Personally, we can't wait for daylight savings so we can do a couple of these posts a month.  If you can't tell by our curled up fingers or my red nose, it was really freaking cold that day.

Today, I thought we would talk a little bit about personal style.  I don't know if you know this about Heather and I, but we love to shop and we love fashion almost to the point of it being an addiction. I can't even explain how often we talk about clothing we are crushing on, have bought or outfits we make up in our head.  It is a constant on our minds. Like, professional help might be our only option. Anyway, our shopping style was basically, BUY ALL THE CUTE THINGS, but last fall we decided to start shopping more purposefully because we were ending up with the most random of pieces that weren't necessarily cohesive to our overall style.  Defining our personal styles really was a life changing moment for both of us. 

I defined my personal style as: Nerdy 90's Chic.  I'm completely drawn to the styles from my childhood and I'm hoping I'm putting a nerdy yet chic spin on a style that some would consider dated.  Bring me all the  florals, stripes, plaids, combat boots, jumpsuits, rompers, high-waisted bottoms, crop tops, maxi dresses/skirts, overalls, leggings/jeggings and joggers as well as cat print anything (obviously).  These fashions are my jam and make me feel the most comfortable in my own skin.  As a teenager, I always found myself trying to copy my peers in an attempt to fit in, even so far as to wear contacts every day because none of my friends had glasses.  In my 20's I decided that wearing glasses was part of who I was and something I wanted to own even if it makes me look nerdy or like a hipster (as my husband always says).  It feels really good to own your style and let go of what others think or feel about it because really I'm only dressing to impress myself and to feel good doing it. 

xoxo

Jen






Outfit Details
Fringe Sweatshirt Dress (Forever 21) /  Tights (Rue 21) / Socks (Christmas gift) / Boots (Rue 21)


Hey guys! Jen had the awesome idea to talk a little about our personal style so here I am to share a little about my journey. In 2015 I got a new position at work where I made commission. This brought in a nice chunk of change each month that I promptly spent on clothes. I was seriously a little out of control with my spending and was ending up with a lot of things that either didn't fit or I didn't love in person. This lead me to really examine what kind of clothes I liked and to start really thinking if the purchases I was making were aligning with my personal style. One thing that actually really helped me was this post by Valery Brennan. Valery has one of the best personal styles I've ever seen so her blog on how to help define your own was a game changer for me. Using her worksheets, I was able to define my style as "Cozy Whimsy with a Twist." My personal jam is a lot of dresses, skirts, graphic tees, cardigans, and comfy but cute footwear. I also realized I need more cute tops and more jeggings to round out my wardrobe really well. I think personal style is always evolving, but know what I tend to wear and love has been a big help in less impulse purchases and now a huge closet full of things I love to wear. It can be hard to want to try all the trends but really making things work for my body type has been an big confidence boost for me. I'm still determined to conquer hats and jumpsuits this year to help my fulfill my dream of feeling like Beyoncé.

Cheers!
Heather <3







Outfit Details
Shirt (Rue 21) / Skirt (made by me!) / Cardigan (Target) / Tights (birthday gift from Jen) / Boots (Forever 21)




Monday, January 25, 2016

Lunar Chronicles {Book Discussion}

Cinder a/k/a Cinderella:




Scarlet a/k/a Little Riding Hood:


Cress a/k/a Rapunzel:


Winter a/k/a Snow White:



Seriously, if those book trailers didn't sell you, I'm not sure what I can say that will.

I started January off with another EPIC reread.  I've been reading this series since 2013 and have loved the entire journey. When Winter was released this fall I knew I had to make time for it. One of my 2016 reading goals is to reread some of my favorites and to finish up series I've started but never finished. This accomplishes both goals at the same time. 

Before I start getting reviewing, I want to disclaim that even though I tried to keep it as spoiler free as possible, it might get a little spoilerish.  I feel like that is hard to not have any spoilers when you love a series as hard as I love this one.

I've read a couple of other fairytale retellings but none of them even hold a candle to this retelling.  This series has it all. Cyborg princesses, biochemical warfare, handsome knights in shining armor, strong females kicking ass, EVIL queens, space exploration, androids with attitude.  I loved how even though this series is a fairytale retelling it was still very much it's own, original story.   My mind was blown once I realized who the 7 dwarves were.  Marissa did a really good job of tying all of the books together and the series was not short on action, which I love. I feel like I should mention how truly awful Queen Levana was.  It has been quite a while since I've had such extreme hatred for a character.  Oh and Emperor Kai was pretty ok too.  I'm glad Cinder had a political ally.  Man, this is getting pretty gushy.  If I got any of my fangirling on you, I apologize.

I think the only negative thing I have to say about this series is there is some instalove happening, which I usually hate.  However, I think it actually worked for this series since it is a fairytale retelling and falling in love is super prevalent in those stories and all the characters are a bunch of teenagers. Of course instalove is happening all over the place.  It was easy enough for me to look past because the story is so epic.

I give this series ALL THE STARS or 5 stars on a typical rating scale.  I think in the grand scheme of series rankings, I would rank it after Harry Potter, being the #1 series of all time, and Throne of Glass, being my #2 series of all time. I'm going to be so bold as to make that designation for Throne of Glass even though the series isn't yet complete.  It is that good people!!

Marissa Meyer is now one of my favorite authors and I will pretty much buy any book she writes from now on. She is definitely at Sarah J. Maas and Rainbow Rowell status for me! This makes me even more excited about the Bestie and my bookish plans and events of 2016!

Have you read this series yet? Let's discuss it in the comments!

My reading supplies: quilts & kitties!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Simon vs The Homo-Sapien Agenda {Book Discussion}


Hello friends! Welcome to another book discussion that really should have taken place in December. I feel like I've said it before but blog planning is no joke. I have so many ideas and good intentions to stay caught up and then I'm falling behind once again. I'm working on getting us on a solid posting schedule (2-3 times a week) and mixing up our posts so we don't have only book posts every time, even though our blog is mostly book based. This discussion focuses on Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, one of the best books of 2015 in our opinions. Let's get this discussion started so we can let you know all the reasons you need to get your hands on this book ASAP! 



Book Description 

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.


Reaction Upon Finishing



Discussion Time


Heather
December book club discussion number 1 commences now! Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda was such an amazing pick to end the year on! What was your favorite part of this book? 



Jen
Oh man, it is really hard for me to pick a favorite part of this book because I loved it oh so much.  But I think I would pick that defining moment when Simon and Blue both come out to their parents.  They have such different home lives but both of their coming outs were met with so much love, support and respect, especially within a small town setting.  That was super heartwarming! What about you?


Heather
Agreed 100% on the coming out stories. It was so interesting to see how each of them played out. As a straight person who has never had to declare her sexuality one way or another, it was also a little heartbreaking reading their struggle on how to come out to family and friends and if that would change those relationships. I think my favorite part was just how realistically Simon and his friends were portrayed. They never felt like caricatures of real teenagers and even as someone pushing 30 I felt they were very relatable and people I would want to be friends with! 




Jen
Oh man, I agree so hard about how heartbreaking that is.  Also as someone who hasn't never had to declare her sexuality, that is something we take for granted because that is a legit struggle from some.  I'm hoping our society gets to the point where people realize sexuality, like anything else, is part of a spectrum.  I also agree with you about the teenagers coming off super realistic. Kids aren't perfect and this book did a great job of portraying kids in cliques and friends who actually disagree and sometimes fight which was refreshing. Lives aren't perfect, people!



Heather
I think this quote from the book sums it up perfectly:

 “Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it shouldn't be this big awkward thing whether you're straight, gay, bi, or whatever. I'm just saying.”


I really do hope that eventually straight isn't the default, that we don't assume someone
sexuality right away, which is something I know for myself I should work on more. I think this really was a great book  that was able to portray the awkwardness of high school and adding the element of coming out was such a great layer to add. I think especially with it being a small town vibe, it was easy to see their reluctance to really declare their sexuality. 
I also loved that the kids were not perfect, even Simon was a jerk sometimes and it was refreshing to have multi-dimensional characters who felt real and relateable. We are all jerks sometimes and no one is ever perfect. What did you love about the romance aspect of this book? I was in love with the sections of Simon and Blue's email correspondence thrown in there. 




Jen
Oh man, that is also my favorite quote from the book. It just rings so true to me. Hopefully as the LGBT community continues to gain rights the sexual norms will start to drop away too. People are just people and shouldn't be defined solely based on their sexuality. That is just a part of what makes them who they are.  But yea, from growing up in a small town, I can definitely see the reluctance of wanting to become the latest topic of gossip and/or reticule that can come along with ignorance.
I am always a sucker for email correspondence in books and this book was no exception.  I loved watching their relationship grow even though they didn't know who they were corresponding with exactly, other than they went to the same school. Towards the end it became pretty easy to pick out who Blue was, as least from a reader's standpoint. I can see how it took a little longer for Simon to figure out, but he was way closer to the situation and was also putting his own hopes on who it could be which I could see being tricky to try to guess who the correspondent was.  But I thought their love felt super authentic. They were dealing with issues I've never even dreamt of dealing with in my life and after some encouragement they both were able to conquer their fears and find acceptance at the same time. That was super magical to me. I seriously just wanted to hug my kindle once I finished this one.



Heather
Yes! I felt the relationship grew in such an authentic and realistic way! It was definitely easy to guess who Blue was towards the end, I felt like it definitely captured the uncertainty and anxiety that goes along with first love and first crushes in general. It was such a heartwarming read that made me feel like my smile was going to break my face in two!
To wrap it up, what would you rate Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda? 




Jen
I give Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda ALL THE STARS or 5 stars on a normal rating scale.  I devoured this book in one day and heart emoji eyes for days.  This is one of those books I can see myself rereading in the future!  It was a great debut book for Becky Albertalli and I will now be picking up anything else she releases. What does it rate in your world?



Heather
I also was a heart eye emoji for this book and it got the full 5 stars from me as well! I devoured it in a day and was just so happy after it was over. Becky Albertelli is a must read for me from now on. I agree that this book is one I can see myself rereading and maybe even buying a physical copy of. I'm so glad we read this and loved the point of view. One of the best reads of 2015 for sure! 
Any final thoughts? 


Jen
READ IT, YO!


Heather
YES! Get this book in your life ASAP! 

Monday, January 11, 2016

December Rewind {2015}



Read:  Man, I was all over the place bookwise this month. First, I discovered my new found love for comic books. I quickly devoured Lumberjanes Volume 1 & 2, Giant Days Volume 1 and Nimona which is more of a graphic novel.  These lovelies brought so much laughter and general happiness to my life.  In fact, any time I get crabby now, my husband suggest I buy a new comic book. They just put me in the best of moods! I can't even pick a favorite from them, they were all so great in their own ways! I also read a few contemporary YA novels: 99 Days by Katie Cotugno, Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway and Made You Up, by Francesca Zappia.  I had read another book by Katie Cotugno earlier in the year and LOVED it. She is really able to portray how messy relationship can be if you let them and 99 Days was no exception. You root for the characters but at the same time you are disappointed in their decisions.  Emmy & Oliver was a super cute read too.  It is amazing how one person's decision making can affect so many people around them.  But I've saved Made You Up for last because I loved it the most.  Mental illness is no joke and this book did a great job of portraying someone trying to get through life dealing with schizophrenia.  The brain is an amazing thing! Out of the 3, this is one I'd recommend to anyone.  The male character was also really interesting in a villianish type of way. I give all the stars to Made You Up! 

Watched:   Superstore.  In mid December, Charter put the first 2 episodes On Demand for people to view before the actual season started in January.  It is about people working at a store similar to Walmart (obviously) and the first couple of episodes were hilarious.  I also thought it was super cool that the show is set in St. Louis, which is super close to home.  One of the producers of The Office is also responsible for this show so I'm not too surprised I fell in love with it immediately. But man, I know what I'm starting this month! (See Heather's Watched below!)

Listening:  Demetri Martin comedy special on Netflix.  I have been a Demetri fan for years now.  I love his simply, play on words comedy that he does.  A good pun will always get a chuckle out of me.  He used to have his own show on comedy central 5+ years ago so I was super pumped to see he had a new Netflix special. And he didn't disappoint. He is still funny as hell.

Also this month: 
 
1. White Christmas Tree.  Friends, this might not seem like something super special but let me explain. As you know I have 5 cats. The first year the husband and I were living together I attempted to put up a tree.  Back then we only had 2 kittens.  It was a complete disaster. The tree was overturned and destroyed on so many occasions I eventually just put it away and said the hell with this tradition, especially since we adopted 3 more kitties.  Well, I've been drooling over white trees the last couple of years and toying with the idea of trying the tree thing again.  So this year I did and my kitties did great.  It is like they have matured or something.  They enjoyed laying on the quilt I impromptu used as a tree skirt so I obviously didn't have a lot of tree decorations.  The only compromise I had to make with the husband was only using cat friendly ornaments which was no problem since that meant I got to craft all new ornaments!
 
2. Work Christmas Party.  This year, Tracy was in charge of our work party and she did a fantastic job.  She organized a ugly sweater contest, had a photo booth and we had a horse drawn wagon ride with hot chocolate. I ended up crafting a skirt out of a Christmas tree skirt and added a petticoat to make it stand out. First, petticoats are one of the most uncomfortable fashion accessories.  Also, my outfit was deemed to cute to win so next year I'm really going to have to trash my outfit up more instead of going to cute and crafty.  Hands down, best work Christmas party to date.
 
3. Christmas Celebrations.  Ahhh, the holidays are always such a busy time for us.  To me, it feel like everyone wants their special time with everyone so it can be tricky to make time for everyone/thing! Overall I had a really good Christmas. This was the first year we didn't have any Christmas Eve plans so it was really nice just to hang out, play games and watch the 70's Show together before the ruckus of Christmas really started.  Both Moms in my life did a great job with respective Toms and Uggs gifts.  My husband told me to spend $200ish however I wanted to I bought AE jeggings, some Rue 21 and some Forever 21 including a pair of overalls I'm way too excited about.  Who knew watching Friends could get so expensive. I'm so obsessed with the fashion on that show.  My sister and I also was able to squeeze in our bow head tradition and the rest of my siblings decided to get in on that action which will hopefully become our new sibling tradition. 
 
 
{From top left: STL Wild Lights with my favorites, festive photos by the tree, seeing The Force Awakens, and my Christmas gifts being put to good use} 


Read:
  I read a few books outside of book club picks this month. Rant by Chuck Palahniuk, which was strange, and The Sister's Brothers by Patrick DeWitt which was great. I might try to talk about both of them in a solo book chat sometime this month. I also checked out the Calendar Girls series by Audrey Carlan, which is completely out of my usual reading zone. It's about a woman who decides to be an escort for a year to help clear debts for her father. While escort definitely conjures up negative connotations, and I won't deny that parts of it can be steamy and sexy, she isn't always sleeping with the men and I found the series interesting and a pretty feminist read if you are looking for something along the lines of Fifty Shades of Gray but actually sexy. The books came out one per month for 2015 and I stopped with July, because I'm not sure I love where the story is going. But at less than 200 pages each I'm sure I will finish it up at some point. 

Watched:   Making a Murderer on Netflix. OMG guys this show is straight up bonkers. If you haven't caught on to the hype yet or seen everyone you know talking about it on social media, it's a Netflix original documentary series that follows the story of Steven Avery, a man wrongly convicted for a crime who spent 18 years in jail. After being out for 2 years, he is again convicted of a crime, this time for murder. It follows the trial and the story is crazy. It even sucked Jarrett in when I started the first episode without him. If you were obsessed with the Serial podcast or find true crime interesting, this is for you. I actually think everyone should watch it, it's just so crazy and never boring. 

Listening:  The Hamilton cast recording is still on a pretty heavy rotation in my house, but I also got back into podcasts this month and have been catching up on Faculty of Horror. Andrea Subisatti and Alexandra West tackle different horror movies in a variety of ways, sometimes using compare and contrast, sometimes just going over interesting parts of movies. I'm on the 17th episode right now and really loving the feminist perspective on different horror movies, while also finding new movies I need to check out. I'm also finding myself going over my opinion on different movies and revisiting them and really thinking about them in ways I haven't before. This is definitely a podcast for horror fans. 

Also this month: 

1. St. Louis Zoo Wild Lights I've lived an hour from St. Louis almost my whole life but this was the first year we went to the Wild Lights they set up for the holidays. Jarrett scored us a Groupon and we went on a Thursday night, which was perfect. My beebs loved it and we all just had a fantastic time. The lights they had set up were all really beautiful and definitely worth seeing. Most of the animals were not out to see but we did get to go in the penguin house and check out those guys. 

2. Turning 29 At the beginning of December I turned 29. It was a blast coming up with new goals for the year and I've really felt more reflective than normal on my life and the direction it's going. I feel like I'm ready to make some big changes this year and even just making that decision has felt so freeing. Jarrett also took my out in STL for a birthday dinner at Rooster, a place we enjoyed brunch at earlier in the year but unfortunately dinner was only ok. I got some gnocchi that rocked my socks but we went with our vegan friends who didn't have as many options, which was a huge bummer. I'm still marking Rooster down as one of my favorite brunch spots in the city. 

3. Christmas and Chinese Food  This year it worked out that the girl's dad got them for Christmas. Our usual plan since we split up is doing Christmas morning together, which their dad and his girlfriend joined me and Jarrett for a Christmas morning extravaganza that the girls loved. Once they left with their dad for the day, Jarrett and I had a super chill Christmas. We ended up going to the Chinese buffet in town and it was actually pretty fun. I've never spent Christmas at home like that before so it was really nice to exchange gifts and just relax and have fun together. I'm hoping it might become a tradition we continue. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2015 Book Club Review

{Note: We did not read either of these books this year :P} 

Starting this blog over the summer and being able to share our book club and monthly reads with the world has been some of the most fun we have had! Blogging is hard work and I'm still working on staying on top of it! If I could get paid to only blog I totally would but I've got to work and make that money, so you guys are stuck with our infrequent posting schedule for now :)

We both have been wanting to go back and post the book club choices from the past year. We won't be reviewing them beyond a brief sentence about each month and star reviews, but it is still nice to put them in a list showcasing all 28 books we read this year! I don't think either of us realized how big book club would be this year with the addition of a second book each month, so I think we are both looking forward to the slower speed of one pick a month. As huge book nerds, we are happy that you took the time to stop by this year and look forward to more books and bookish discussions in 2016!




Heather-January was such a fun month to kick off 2015. Both of the books we read this month were wonderful! I'm planning to reread both some time in 2016 as well.

Jen-Yea, January books pretty much kicked ass. Poehler is hilarious and I fell in love with Stephanie Perkins.  I need more, Perkins!


Heather-Shiver was a reread for me, and as much as I LOVE Maggie and the Raven Cycle series, Shiver is just not for me. Uninvited was good from what I remember, but I am not remembering a ton about it so maybe it wasn't as good as I thought?

Jen-Oh Maggie, I'm so sorry. I love The Raven Boys so hard but the Shiver series just doesn't even compare to that masterpiece.  I remember thinking Univited was ok when I read it but honestly, I think it is a very mediocre dystopian.



Heather-March was another great month! The Stand was SO LONG but really good and creepy and just great. I'll Meet You There was definitely one of my favorite reads for the whole year.

Jen-Gah, this is the month I fell in love with Heather Demetrios and became super fearful of biochemical warfare. And what I said to Perkins goes for you too Demetrios. I need more!


Heather-Meant to Be was only ok. I don't remember much of it but I remember when we were reading it that we both agreed it wasn't the best. Red Queen was good, not great. It felt really similar to a lot of other books we've read, but the cover is fantastic and I'll probably stick with the series for now to see where it goes.

Jen-Mean to Be was super blah to me. I think I was expecting another Anna and the French Kiss and man, it did not deliver for me.  I enjoyed Red Queen. I think it has the possibility of being a good series. But I also read Red Queen after coming off the high from The Winner's Curse, which it just doesn't compare to.




Heather-Maybe every other month is amazing for book club because May was full of two great reads! ACOTAR is fantastic and I loved this new world that Sarah J Maas created. I'm counting down the days to the next book in the series already. I also loved The Shining and think it's a million times better than the movie. It was legit scary and had me freaked out multiple times.

Jen-ACOTAR was probably at the top of my favorite fantasy list this year, that and Queen of Shadows. Basically Sarah J. Maas is a boss. Her world building is astounding.  Gah! The Shining was so freaking creepy. At one point, I chucked the book across the room it creeped me so bad. Kind of like Joey on Friends who always hides it in the freezer when it gets too creepy. 



Heather-None of the Above is fantastic and an important read I think everyone should check out. However, Finnikin of the Rock was a book I hated. Which was so weird, since it had so many great reviews from people whose opinions I usually trust on Goodreads. Just not for me I guess.

Jen-None of the Above is a book that made me want to be a better person, and throat punch anyone who is a bully.  If you check out one "real" book this year, make it be None of the Above. Finnikin of the Rock was a huge disappointment which I actually DNF, with Heather's guidance.  I was SUPER disappointed about this one because EVERYONE gave it such high reviews on goodreads and I bought the whole series in anticipation of how good it was supposed to be.   


Heather-Dorothy Must Die was a book I DNF. I put it down after about 100 pages and after talking to Jen who agreed that I wasn't missing anything by putting it down. It was such a shame since the premise was so interesting and has a lot of potential. What in God's Name was really funny and light. I've never read anything by Simon Rich before but this was such a good pick and I'm glad I finally got to it!

Jen-Man, I was also super disappointed about Dorothy Must Die.  It has the best alternate Wizard of Oz premise that just did not deliver for me.  What in God's Name was pretty funny and quirky.  I think this was the weakest month out of the year.





Check out our book discussion on the series and for Queen of Shadows







Check out our Rainbow Rowell book discussion to read all our fangirling thoughts on our favorite author












Finishing School series discussion will be posted soon! {Shame on me for not having it done yet!} 







We are still working on finishing up our December book discussions! Stay tuned for those next week :)
Simon vs the Homo Sapien Agenda 
The Rest of Us Just Live Here 


Monday, January 4, 2016

Etiquette & Espionage {Book Discussion}


Welcome to another book discussion that is only a month late! We've got some serious book discussion catch up happening soon so stay tuned! These posts are seriously some of our favorites and the thing that inspired us to start blogging in the first place. For November we decided to tackle the Finishing School series by Gail Carriger. It follows Sophronia, a 14 year old girl who is sent to finishing school which turns out to be a school for espionage (obviously). It was such a fun series but for the sake of keeping these posts as spoiler free and short as possible, we will only be discussing the first book in the series. However, we will give an overall rating for the entire series at the end of the post! After that short and sweet introduction, let's get started! 

Book Description
It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.
 



Our reaction in GIF form after finishing Etiquette and Espionage


Discussion Time
Heather
So for the Finishing School series we will just be discussing the first book, Etiquette and Espionage. At the end we can rate the whole series but hopefully this helps avoid spoilers for the whole series! What was your first impression of this book?

My first impression of this book was feminism to the max! Well, at least as feminist as one can be in the 1800's attending a finishing school of espionage learning to be women of qual-i-tay.  I thought is was super cute and super silly, especially with names like Madam Barnacle Goose and Bumbersnoot! What about you?
Heather
I feel like having read Gail Carrigers other series, I was just kind of reminded of this fantastic world that she built in that series. It was so fun to jump into a world where young women are sent to Finishing School which really turns that concept on it's head, making "finishing" code for espionage. I really loved that. Did you have a favorite character or event in the book? 

Jen
I think Gail did a great job with world building! I think the main character, Sophronia was my favorite part of the book. She was so brave, sneaky and kick ass.  I loved how she made it her business to explore the entire floating school and it was pretty sweet how she made friends with all the Sooties, even though they weren't in the same class as she was.  And man, if I could pick a 2nd favorite character, it would seriously be her mechanical dog she uses as a handbag. Bumbersnoot came in super handy at the most important times! And him pooping ash all over everything was pretty hilarious too!!
Heather
I agree with those choices! I did also love the feminist aspect, kind of taking women who wouldn't have had a lot of choices in that time in history and empowering them to be spies was such a cool idea. I loved Bumbersnoot and wish I had my own mechanimal to follow me around all the time. I think another one of my favorite characters was Vieve. I remember her from the Parasol Protectorate series and it was so fun to see her as a kid who always loved menswear and was great with inventions. I think Gail did an amazing job with all the side characters. They were all so rich and well developed that it was just such a fun read. Talking about it makes me want to bring up so many characters, like Pillover and Lady Maccon but really all the secondary characters were a blast! 

I agree. The premise for this book is AMAZING. And man, you are making me want to react the Parasol Protectorate series so bad (next time I see you, I must borrow them!) because just talking about this series makes me want to fall right back into that world. Vieve was great since she wasn't they typical kid or girl for that matter. I agree! Those side characters had me laughing so hard.  Pillover was such a pill and his sister with her constant feinting at the site of anything unladylike. And we also can't forget about  Mademoiselle Geraldine, and her lack of knowledge about what was actually being taught in her finishing school.  I think the silliness of this series is really why I love it so much! 
Heather
It's a very silly read in the best way possible! Sometimes you need something light between series or heavier books and this fits that perfectly. It has so many perfect characters, most of them super feminist and badass.  I'm rereading Soulless now, the first book in Parasol Protectorate series and it's been so fun to jump back into this world and kind of see the ties that Gail made with the Finishing School series. How would you rate this book and then the series? You can use the regular 5 star ratings or make your own up 

Jen
Man, I agree so hard about needing lighter books at times! And man, I can't wait to borrow Gail's other series from you! I remember finishing the first book and basically just hugging my kindle afterwards. Yea, it is a tad silly and on the lighter side, but it was such a badass story/world that I still stick with  my original rating of 4.5 stars. This is a series I could definitely see myself rereading in the future and man, it gave me heart eyes while I was reading it so that is how I justify my high rating. haha!  But for the entire series, I think my rating comes in more around 4 stars.  I think the first book is the strongest of them all and then they slowly get sillier with each following book in the series.  I did think the series ending was hilarious though! Now, your turn!
Heather
I'm going to rate the first book as 4 stars and the rest of the series at 4 stars as well. It's the perfect light funny read to pick up between things or when you just want to laugh at something silly. I loved this choice for book club! 
I agree. I'm really glad we squeezed this series in this year!