Book: Horde

The horde is coming.

Salvation is surrounded, monsters at the gates, and this time, they're not going away. When Deuce, Fade, Stalker and Tegan set out, the odds are against them. But the odds have been stacked against Deuce from the moment she was born. She might not be a Huntress anymore, but she doesn't run. With her knives in hand and her companions at her side, she will not falter, whether fighting for her life or Fade's love.

Ahead, the battle of a lifetime awaits. Freaks are everywhere, attacking settlements, setting up scouts, perimeters, and patrols. There hasn't been a war like this in centuries, and humans have forgotten how to stand and fight. Unless Deuce can lead them.

This time, however, more than the fate of a single enclave or outpost hangs in the balance. This time, Deuce carries the banner for the survival of all humanity. (from Goodreads

Now, this was a 3rd installment of a trilogy that did not disappoint. I really enjoyed the first two books in this trilogy, Enclave and Outpost, but I was raw coming off of just reading Allegiant. (read about that book below this review) I was afraid Aguire was going to pummel me with her conclusion of the Razorland Saga, but my fears were unfounded. 

I loved this book. 

Loved it. And from my first glance at the Goodreads reviews, I am not the only one who feels this way. 

I was on-the-edge-of-my-seat terrified at times. I was googly-eyed over the romance. I was heartbroken. I was inspired. Deuce is just a kick ass chick. I loved that she had weaknesses, but worked through them with the support of Fade and her family. Oh, and let's talk about family for a hot second here - Her adoptive family is so amazing and I feel like Aguire did a fantastic job of showing that family is more than blood - it's friends, people who love you, soldiers you serve with, and more. This book was exhilarating, heartwarming, scary, and hopeful - everything I would hope for in a YA Dystopian novel. 

Veronica Roth - you should take notes. 

5 stars.  

Book: Allegiant

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories. 

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.  (from Goodreads

Oh did I want to love this book. So, so badly I wanted to love it. I pre-ordered this baby I was so excited about it. 

In all honesty, I now would not recommend this trilogy to anyone. I would tell people to read the first book and stop there. 

I, personally, think that she rushed the story development and went for a hail-mary-lets-shock-them-all play. To say the end of this book was upsetting is probably the understatement of the year. I thought that this story-line cheapened the first two books because of the direction in which she took it. She went Stephanie Meyer style and introduced a bunch of brand new characters, which only moderately impacted the lives of the veteran characters. I  also think she wanted to feel like she would be taken seriously as a grown-up (because she is really young) and decided that killing off characters was an effective way to do that a la George R. R. Martin (author of Game of Thrones - LOTS of people die in those books/shows). I am not a big fan of that in YA fiction - I mean, yes, life isn't fair, people you love die. Suzanne Collins did it. J.K. Rowling did it. (I am still not over Fred) They both did it way better. 

This book turned into a big allegory on racism and class-equality as well, which is an important topic to make young adults aware of, but it kind of came out of left field, showing up quite suddenly in the 3rd installment of a trilogy. Like, suddenly she wanted the book to stand for something more than what it already did. 

I was also upset by an account of a young fan who had gotten an early release copy and went to a signing of Roth's. She tried to talk to the author about her decisions on how she ended this series and that she was upset about it. Roth's reply, "Oh, do you need some ice cream?". 

Ouch. No need to be snotty Veronica. 

This book ripped out my heart and stomped on it. I will never trust Roth again, and this book makes me not want to read her work anymore. So that's that. 

A Christmas Tour

This year, I felt super-overwhelmed at the idea of Christmas decorating, and therefore decided to keep it to a minimum. We have a storage unit in our building, which has a bunch of our decorations tucked away in it, but we decided, we would just use what was actually stored in our condo closets and not make that dreaded trip to the storage unit (yes, it is in the same building on another floor, but it was just too stressful to think about sorting through all of that stuff!). Thankfully, our tree is stored inside our condo, so that was the main thing we wanted to put up.

For the first time in 5 married Christmases, we actually put up the tree together. In what has been a season of life full of stress and challenges, it was a great pick-me-up to bond over decorating.
Our crooked little tree

Kitchen table 

Mantle (Pre-sparkle branches)

I just chopped up a few faux poinsettia bouquets and shoved them in the tree, 

The entry-way

Mantle with Sparkle branches 

Finished product 

Everything that we put up was stored in 2 plastic totes (and yes, this IS keeping it to a minimum!). The only purchase I made this year was the red, sparkly branches for the mantle, which amounted to a whopping $6.

I hope you are enjoying your holiday today! Hopefully I am all cozy in Christmas PJ's and eating some pancakes right about now! Merry Christmas - wishing you and yours a very happy, healthy, and enjoyable season.

Writing Work-Out 2

Ok - I can't actually believe I am back to have another go at this considering the emo-train wreck of soul baring nonsense that last trip turned out to be. I hope I have chosen better for my 2nd writing prompt attempt.

Alrighty then, 30 minutes on the clock.
And go!

Okie dokes - I have just started The Return of the King (the books that got me into this little mess inspired me in the first place). In my version, the first complete sentence on page 99 is "At last Beregond spoke with an effort." I am actually a little relieved because this would've been oh-so-difficult if the sentence had familiar character names in it or said anything about Mordor, the Shire, Rivendale, or orcs. Whew. Perhaps I've lucked out. OK - here I go! 

At last Beregond spoke with an effort. "Get this dang trap off of my leg, you useless little house mouse!" 
"I see that you are in pain, friend, but that is no need to be rude" Mitzi stuttered back at the big black rat as she darted from one side of the trap to the other. 
As a life-long house mouse, Mitzi knew about the dangers of the delightful little nuggets of cheese and peanut butter in the snapping traps. As tantalizing as they seemed, they were rarely worth the effort of the crack of metal on the tail, leg, or, gulp, even the head. She had lost a friend or two over the years to those metal jaws. Mitzi twittered nervously about, trying desperately to find a way to free the rude black rat, but her little paws were not strong enough to pull back the metal bar that was crushing Beregond's back leg, especially since he was thrashing about and wailing. "Dear friend, I need to get help if we are to get you out of this trap. I cannot free you by myself" Mitzi told Beregond and before he could reply she scampered away to her homey little hole-in-the-wall to get her litter mates, Myrtle and Mischief, to help her free the big black rat. 
Now, a less noble, less thoughtful, and more selfish little house mouse may have quite seriously considered the idea of leaving the big brute stuck in that trap. He had just barged into their home the week before without any regard for their rules, their humans or their routine way of life. A sewer rat in a house! It was unheard of! He ate through all of their winter stores in a manner of hours and made a huge mess of their hole, not to mention his very, very poor hygiene habits. It was no wonder Mitzi's humans had set out the traps, Beregond had absolutely no regard for secrecy or subtlety, and he smelled, well very much like the sewer he came from. It was quite in Beregond's favor that Mitzi was quite the sweet, tender-hearted, and selfless little house mouse that she was and never thought twice about freeing him from the trap he had quite stupidly got himself tangled up in. 
After her frantic flight to her hole-in-the-wall, she was breathless and when she tried to tell Mischief and Myrtle what was wrong, she couldn't get the words out and ended up gesturing wildly with her little paws, trembling to the very roots of her brown fur, and twittering her little pink nose at them (all universal mouse signs of alarm of course) until they followed her to where she had left Beregond.  When they arrived though, the trap sat empty. Mitzi was nearly overcome with a feeling of failure and sadness when she saw the empty trap, and began to cry little mouse tears over the very undeserving rat. Then Mischief, who always lives up to his name, noticed a trail leading away from the trap, that could've only been left by the very messy, and very hurt, Beregond.  He pointed this out to Mitzi, in between her sniffles, and the three of them set off to track down the big black sewer rat before he could get himself into any more trouble. 
found on Pinterest

Well, that was certainly more fun than the last go-around! I hope you enjoyed it, if you stuck around long enough to read it. I had fun writing it!

Scarf Brigade

Whoops - I missed Friday for posting - too busy being busy! This week was seriously the most stressful week ever! I am super thankful it is over and I have 2 long, beautiful weeks of stay-cation ahead of me.
It has been quite cold here in Chicagoland, so the scarves have been out in full force! There is nothing quite so cozy as a scarf in winter - I even wear them lounging about the house with my PJs.

I did some, alot, all of my Christmas shopping online this year in between writing papers, internshiping, and working. Bonus though, from I qualified for a bag of free swag worth $50 (can you even imagine how much one must shop at a website to qualify for that!) and this gorgeous scarf came in the order. I LOVE it. It is a beautiful infinity scarf that is super voluminous, just like I like my scarves. I may have worn it at least 3 times since it arrived. :) 

 I am not really a pin-on-the-scarf kind of girl, but this was a gift and I was going to the gifter's Christmas party, so I popped the cute little tree onto my scarf.

This dress was my birthday gift to myself. I call it the bumblebee dress, but I don't know what it's actual witty little name from ModCloth is... well hold on a tick, I can go find out. Ok, it's super fancy name is "Literary Luncheon" dress. Either way, I love it. The neckline is a bit low for work, so I tossed on this vintage scarf of my mama's to keep those girls in check. 

These next two weeks I am looking forward to airing some of my more casual clothes since I have been in work-wear roughly 6-7 days a week for the past 4 months. I am not even sure I remember how to dress casual! I am sure the scarves will continue to be a wardrobe staple no matter what!

What's your favorite cold-weather accessory?

PS - I have tested the comment section, and it is fully operational! ;)

Linking up with lovely Rachel for Passion for Fashion! 

Lena B, Actually

An exercise in writing.

I've recently discovered that Tolkien books were simply meant to be read aloud. I started reading The Two Towers aloud one night last week, mostly because I found I was reading far too quickly to appreciate the imagery Tolkien gives his readers. My internal dialogue was going something like "Oh that shady Gollum... blah blah black rock staircase... Sam and Frodo having a moment... blah blah more freaking black rocks and stairs". I had found the LOTR books to be a little slow for me (don't shoot me yet) but the second I started giving a voice to those words, it became a magical experience for me. I was immediately transported to the Middle Earth I know and love from the movies (also don't shoot, I was a movie-first on these, except for the Hobbit), and was inspired. Dude - it has been quite awhile since I was inspired by anything.

When I was in junior high and middle school, I wanted to be an author and write books. I loved, loved, loved my creative writing classes and creative writing exercises. It was great to delve into a world of imagination. As an adult, I think we all become jaded in one way or another and lose that innocence and imagination of childhood. We stop smiling.

See - it even happened to Harry Potter.

I don't want to lose my creativity and imagination. As an only child, I once had quite the vivid imagination. I don't want to be that kid that can't get back to Narnia because they stopped believing! I don't want to be a writer anymore. I don't want to write books or be an author anymore. Well, maybe that's not completely true, but it is a dream of which I've let go. However, I do want to be creative. I do want to be imaginative. In order to work my creative brain muscles, I am going to periodically (read: whenever I feel like it) find a writing prompt, give myself 30 minutes to write, and probably (read: maybe) post it to the blog. I don't really expect them to be any good, or even readable. I am not really asking for feedback, but I will take it if you want to give it. This is simply going to be an exercise in writing for me, like I am going to a literary gym for the mind muscles.

So, here we go. 30 minutes on the clock. Ready. Set. Go.

I am closing my eyes and trying to remember, trying to get back to that time, back to an age of blissful innocence, love, and laughter. It is bittersweet to remember a memory so precious that can never be replicated or revisited. There was a time when my family was whole. It wasn't always this broken, shattered thing that it is now, limping along just trying to get by. No, it was once a fully functional, healthy, overwhelming loving entity. Holidays felt like a safe, warm cocoon of happiness and wonder. Christmas mornings felt like they should feel for everyone; brisk air licking your nose outside of the warm blankets as you slowly open your eyes as you lay in your bed, anticipation and excitement to tear into the gifts under the tree building up in your heart, and complete and utter safeness. It hurts my heart to think about how happy we all were, and how full of sadness and darkness we are now. The pieces have shattered. We are like shards of glass, cold and cutting, no longer soft and safe. Is this what growing up is? Must people lose their softness and light? Or is that just me? 

What I have in my mind as a treasured holiday memory is like a slideshow of photos of all the treasured holidays of my childhood. Pictures flicker past my eyelids in my mind, speeding faster and faster. Memories of laughter. Memories of gift wrap and bows. Memories of children darting from room to room. Memories from a time before life jaded me. But mostly, well always, memories of my mother. Her laughter. Her smile. Her far-reaching, all-encompassing love. She had a light that shone through her, which must have been her soul shining out from her. She was like gravity for us.  She held us tightly together and kept us grounded and stable, even though the world was spinning out of control. When she was gone, the world went dark. We lost our footing. With nothing to hold us all together, we were flung apart by grief, by desperation, by sorrow with no inkling or direction of how to come back to one another. 

These memories I hide away in the deepest part of my heart. I stow them away from myself because they are too beautiful for me to bear. My heart of stone cracks and breaks at the sheer power of their beauty, so I don't look to hard. I can't. I must hold myself together and push forward, all sharp edges and hardness. But I know that secreted away, in my broken heart of hearts, is her laughter, her smile, and her love, which I carry with me always. And that, above all, is what I treasure. 

Well shoot. 30 minutes and 1 (much needed) glass of wine down.

I can honestly say I didn't know what would happen there and that there is not what I had expected. A little more emo than I thought, but hey, that's the direction that happy little holiday prompt took me. So this should be fun, right?

Book: Horns

Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples. (from Goodreads

I have mixed feelings on this book. It was dark, very dark. I was hooked and interested in the premise almost at once, but then it just got tragic. Religion and faith is addressed a lot throughout the book and that was just a bit draining for me to read. There are also extended flashback scenes that took away from the momentum of the book. 

One thing, which I did not know prior to reading some of the other reviews out there, is that Joe Hill is actually Stephen King's son. Given that comparison, this book is fairly mild, and I can understand more of the reason for the dark tone. Some other reviewers seemed to think there were two separate stories here; one about a man dealing with the tragic aftermath of his girlfriend's murder and another about a man who wakes up with horns. Mashing those two together made for a sometimes confused book. 

Overall though, I liked it, but it was emotionally draining because of the outrageously dark tone - books that examine a person's deepest, vile secrets are always a little rough and this book definitely goes there. I also wasn't thrilled with the end. It wrapped things up, but I was slightly let down. I would be on the fence about recommending this one. I would go with 2.5/5 stars and 'read at your own risk'. 

Christmas Eve Attire

This year for a special Christmas outfit I wanted to get a dress that I could wear often throughout the Fall/Winter season. I also was not feeling the typical red/green this year. I found myself gravitating a lot towards a rich oxblood color and found this budget friendly option from 
Christmas Eve Attire

I am also trending a little darker and moodier than last year's cheerful little red number

(also a Modcloth find) so I plan to toughen up the look with my black booties (similar), gold details, and some fun tights I found at Target. The ones I have aren't as dramatically embellished as the ones pictured, they just have little metal gold polka dots on them. It has also been sub-zero here in Chicagoland recently, so I threw in a black snood (ah - I love British terms) to keep my neck and shoulders toasty in this deep freeze. I may even get crazy with the scarf and twist my black scarf together with a matching oxblood scarf to tie in with the dress - we shall see!

It isn't quite as festive as I would usually go, but I think I am going to love the more casual, but tougher feel of this year's look. What do you think? Do you already have your holiday outfits planned? 

Linking up with lovely Rachel for Passion for Fashion! 

Lena B, Actually

Book: Once Upon a Marigold

Christian is gaga for Princess Marigold. But he's just a commoner, and no match for royalty. Heck, he lives in a cave with a troll! And now he's discovered another reason to put his love-soggy heart on ice: Queen Olympia is scheming to take over the kingdom--and she'll bump off her own daughter to do it. Can Christian foil her diabolical plans? (from Goodreads)

If I had to describe this book in one word it would be delightful. 

It is a very easy read, probably jr. high level along the lines of Ella Enchanted. It was whimsical, light, humorous, and innocent. Sometimes it is nice to just read a fairy tale, and that is exactly what this is. No dystopian setting, no zombies, no love triangles - just pure fairy tale fun with a love story and characters that just want to do the right thing. It was refreshingly delightful. 

Or as my favorite review on Goodreads from Rachel says:  "This book was a bunny rabbit. Cute, fluffy and made me want to snuggle."   5/5 stars from me. It was exactly what I expected (and needed). 

Back at it!

Whew - well the last four months have been outrageously busy. I am extremely thankful that I gave my final class presentation yesterday, worked my last Saturday/6-day week, and am *this close* to being complete with my class for this semester.

Just a quick re-cap: Since the end of August I have been working 6-day weeks due to an internship requirement for my graduate work, despite the fact that I am already working in a gerontological career, I could not do my intern hours at my job site. I have had weekly assignments, a major project, and real life work as well over the past few months. I had to put the blog on pause for a bit and made decisions about my priorities this semester (basically homework is more important than what I am wearing). I have continued reading and commenting on my favorite blogs as much as possible, but had no time to write on my own.

I have also been struggling a bit with 'blog identity' and probably my own personal identity as well. I changed the name a few months back and I love it. I just found a beautiful new layout which I am in love with as well! I like that I have varied interests, but that can make it hard to have a solid blog identity. I have also been a little conflicted about the idea of posting a bunch of photos of myself. I love, adore, and am a little bit addicted to fashion blogs and I personally don't find it strange at all to look at photos of other women in their adorable, chic outfits. However, I have had a few people question my choices regarding the "selfies". It is a strange voyeuristic culture we live in I suppose, but I don't want to come across as (or become) self-absorbed, vain, and shallow. I have a very real fear of being perceived in this way by people I know, probably because of people who have bullied me in the past.

Has anyone else out there experience this kind of self-doubt and second-guessing with your blogs?

I have found the blogging world to be a beautiful, safe place for self-expression, so I am going to forge ahead with my fashion posts and self-portraits. Another goal for BPS 2.0 is going to be for a better balance of postings. So, I am going to try to move forward as a better blogger, but even if I fail horribly at that, it will be OK, because I've tried! :)

As for me right now, I am going to continue to bask in the bliss of being curled up on my couch, in my jammies, with two snuggly pups, a cozy blanket, and a cup of chai tea! (sorry I don't have a blog-worthy artsy photo to plug in here! It's only my first day back)

It's been a great day to relax and recharge and right now, that is exactly what I need.