November Reading Wrap Up

carry on rainbow rowell

What. A. Month.

I feel like I’ve run a marathon. A mental marathon. Real marathons and I don’t get along too well. For some reason or another, October and November are the busiest months in the entire year for me, melding into one long gauntlet of events, tasks, and deadlines. This year? The end of a marking period, professional development deadlines, an ongoing editing project, helping to produce a stage show, and that’s not including the little day-to-day stuff (like unpacking boxes from my move. Yes, still.)

Nevertheless, I managed to finish two (two!) books this month, ones I very much anticipated reading. And also the Odyssey with my kiddos — that counts too, right? While I celebrate this little reading victory, I thought it might be worthwhile to share some mini-reviews of the books I read with you all. Maybe you’ll find a gem in the list!

Psst! If you really dig these books and want to read, you can use the links below to purchase a copy, but note that these are Amazon Affiliate links.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell | I’d been itching to read this book ever since it was mentioned in Fangirl. Luckily, Rowell decided to make it a real thing, and it did not disappoint. While not my favorite book of Rowell’s, it’s a fun, quick read while still having solid storytelling. “The Chosen One”, Simon Snow, must figure out a way to defeat the evil threatening the magical world all while trying to survive being roommates with his archenemy, who just so happens to be a vampire.

For fans of: Harry Potter (which, speaking of, the #NovelTeaBookClub will be rereading during the whole month of December! Join us for #HPDec and all of the Harry Potter love!)

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor | The podcast translates into a book surprisingly well, capturing all of the oddities that you would expect. All your favorite characters make appearances, including Cecil and snippets of his radio show. Equal parts weird and touchingly truthful. If you wanted to know the mystery of the man in the tan jacket, here’s your chance. If you don’t know who the man in the tan jacket is, well…

For fans of: the Welcome to Night Vale podcast…? Lovecraft. Orwell.

Lumiere by Jacqueline Garlick | I tried so hard to like this, I really did. Actually no, I didn’t. I kind of gave up when things just started feeling awkward. The story itself has a strong premise: Eyelet is on the run, looking for her father’s invention — the Illuminator, the only thing that can save her from her seizures. But the story takes a sharp turn from interesting to unbelievable an un-endearing, reading more like an awkward and not-at-all-cute Beauty and the Beast (and normally I love Beauty & the Beast and fairytale adaptations in general). Did not finish.

For fans of fairytale retellings, people with patience, those looking for a quick read with little commitment

Comic books (single issue): Lumberjanes #19 (mermaids!), Gotham Academy #11, Batgirl #45

Don’t forget to head over to YouTube to watch my full-length reviews and stay tuned for an in-depth look at Carry On and Welcome to Night Vale!

What books have you read this month?

Stickers for Book Lovers (+ a giveaway)


It’s hard to believe that the second full year of the NovelTea Book Club is coming to a close. Reading with all of these wonderful folks has led to many thoughtful discussions, new book recommendations, and an endless source of reading motivation.

Over the past year and a half, we’ve read everything from fiction to nonfiction, gushed over our shared love of Neil Gaiman, and swapped bookish goodies with a pen pal swap. Last month marked a “just because” celebration with the #BooksandTeacups photo challenge, and December will see the return of the annual Harry Potter reread with #HPDec. In other words, we’ve been busy!

The great thing about an online book club is that we’re always accepting new members, and there’s no scheduling commitment! Pop by and comment when you can, and otherwise enjoy the reading! If you’d like to join us in December for Harry Potter or are looking for some new reads for 2016, you can find the NovelTea Book Club on Facebook and Goodreads. We’d love to have you!

Speaking of the NovelTea Book Club, Shawna of Hello Quirky created some incredible book-themed stickers just for the group and I’ve been sticking mine on every surface imaginable. Not only are they a pleasant surprise peeking out of my work folders, they make for great Filofax decorations!

We’re giving one reader a chance to win a pack of their very own, but if you can’t wait that long…

noveltea book club stickers hello quirky

Snag your own NovelTea Book Club stickers or give a set to your favorite book lover this holiday!

Hello Quirky is giving readers 20% off with the code HOLIDAYCHEER through December 1st (order soon – not just so you’ve got some awesome stocking stuffers, but Hello Quirky will be on hiatus for the holidays!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Link Love


This week’s links don’t make for terribly light reading, but they’re ideas I find tremendously interesting, ranging from what makes good literature to new approaches in the digital humanities. Take a moment today and, even if you just read one link below, explore something new.

How income disparity affects romantic relationships
♥ Sara shares some tips for how to read more books
♥ If you line up these page markers correctly, they can create whole scenes! Godzilla strolling through rainbow-laden Tokyo? Yes please!
Inside Amazon’s first physical bookstore 
What makes good writing? I don’t know that I have the answer, but it’s something I think about with every review I write.
Shakespeare and the Suffragettes
♥ I don’t post too many long-form scholarly articles, or in this case, books. But Hacking the Academy: New Approaches to Scholarship and Teaching from Digital Humanities aligns with what I focused on in college, and is such an important look at our state of print consumption today.

P.S. Did you see that I’m back on Youtube!?

What fun links have you found lately?

Writing Case Study: Open Road Summer

open road summer writing

As some of you have pointed out, I read a lot. While most of this reading is for fun, there is an element of “I am reviewing this” to a good number of the books I read, too. Reading doesn’t look quite the same when I’ve got a review to film or post instead of cracking open a book for pleasure. Just how different are the two?

Spoiler: not drastically. But there are far more copious notes to take when reading for a book review. Today I’ll give you a glimpse behind the scenes as I truck through one of my more recent reads, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord. And after talking about the concept of “show don’t tell” earlier this month, it felt appropriate to see the idea in action. (Need a refresher on what Show Don’t Tell is all about? Look no further!)

The Scoop
I’m only at 45% progress on this novel. I started reading it with moderate hopes, but am dangerously close to putting it aside forever. Obviously, being only partway through, I’m unaware as to whether or not my problems with the novel will be resolved by the end, but as it stands, this book is a pretty solid violation of show don’t tell.

Open Road Summer starts with an interesting premise, but quickly falls flat due to clunky narration. (Sadly) this book is a prime example of too much blunt narration and not enough development of characters and their motivation. It’s got other redeeming qualities, but its issues with overpower its rewards.

The Offenders

1. He hands me the notebook, and I can’t help but ask. Not only am I curious, but I’m also trying to get his attention. I can’t seem to stop myself.

“Tattoo, huh? Can I see it?”

Maybe this is a brazen thing to ask, but hey — he’s the one who had his shirt off in the first place. He tugs his shirt up and turns to the side. I lean closer, peering at the carefully inked letters. Clearing his through, he says, “It’s from the second verse of—”

“‘Forever Young.’ Bob Dylan,” I finish.

Matt’s tattoo is lyrics from a song I love, written by a singer I love. And I do not use the word “love” lightly or often.

I really can’t tell that Reagan loves this song, or Bob Dylan, or even music for that matter. Come to think of it, the only reason I know she’s associated with music is because she’s friends with Dee. The conversation here happens, but aside from her hasty response, Reagan doesn’t convey her love of “Forever Young” through anything other than her direct narration to the reader.

This could be a great moment to see Reagan’s reaction, to see how she reacts when she loves something, supposedly, so much. Not to mention the fact that she’s an interesting, “angsty” character, for lack of a better term, who’s trying to suppress her personal reactions as well as her growing feelings towards Matt.

2. “So I’ve spent the past two months atoning, keeping to myself as I carried my own brokenness beneath the heavy plaster of a blue cast. This whole time, I’ve been trying to figure that girl out — the one who got too drunk at parties just for attention, the one who dated a loser pothead because it seemed cool.”

Has she now? Reagan’s character is little more than a narrator in the direct sense of the word. She’s got a troubled, rebellious teen girl attitude, but most of her bad girl cred is implied and never shown. As much as I love the idea of her character struggling with a dark past, her characterization is all talk and no action. Up until this point in the story, I caught no real sense of this withdrawn Reagan, of a girl who is punishing herself in her own way for past behaviors that she doesn’t now approve of.

Reagan doesn’t even really cry for attention throughout the early pages of the story, making her statement about seeking attention at parties little more than empty words.

3. “Most reporters haven’t realized that Dee doles out face time based on respectfulness. If a reporter is especially nice to her, with thoughtful questions, she always remembers.”

Earlier, Dee remembers a little girl’s name in the crowd and gives the girl a very personal shout out in the middle of her concert. It’s a sweet moment that perfectly characterizes the singer and the attention she pays to her fans. Yet pages later, that moment is eclipsed by a matter of fact statement of Dee’s niceness that was more effectively portrayed earlier in the story. The earlier endearing moment of indirect characterization was better left alone.

While the story itself is intriguing, the abundance of direct characterization and narration make Open Road Summer a lackluster read. There are plenty of opportunities to provide insight into what are pretty interesting and complex characters, but the writing makes them forgettable and annoying. Being likable does not mean being perfect, but it does require readers to understand the character’s motivation and believe that it is honest, which is where Open Road Summer falls flat.

I won’t lie — this book frustrated me to the point of putting it down. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it, and until I can muster up the energy to sift through dry, direct characterization all day I’m putting it on hold for books that do a better job of exciting me. Despite its flaws, I do like Open Road Summer‘s depiction of female friendship, plus Dee’s got this Taylor Swift vibe going on, which is a major bonus and makes for an enjoyable aspect.

Like this post? Want me to break down my entire reviewing thought process?
Tell me what book would you like to see broken down next!

7 Things That Make Me Feel Like An Adult (with JORD Watches)

Things That Make Me Feel Like an Adult

Every now and then I run into people I went to high school with and think “Wow, you’ve really aged.” Which I realize makes me sound like kind of a horrible person. What I mean is that they are a far cry from the baby-faced, naive-looking student that they were years ago, and really look like an adult.

I know “looking like an adult” is a vague and baffling statement on its own. What does an adult look like, exactly? Are they precisely 5′ 6″? (If that’s the case, I’m doomed.) Have a certain percentage of their face covered in facial hair? (gentleman, obviously.) There comes a time when people just start to look older. They have more of a presence, seem more sure of themselves — responsibility streaming from their eyes.

And here’s me, getting stopped by building security and asked where my hall pass is.

I know I’m petite in stature and have the eternal look of a middle-schooler. But after a while, hearing “You’ll appreciate your youthful looks when you get older” becomes frustrating in itself. Maybe it’s because I can’t see myself as others see me, but I don’t feel like I’ve physically changed much since I was in high school myself, much less look like the substantial “adult” that others do.

JORD Wood Watch

There are a few little things in life that make me feel like an adult, however, and I’ve come to appreciate them greatly. Not because they make me feel any more validated, but it’s nice to feel – internally — like I’ve accomplished things. They may not seem like much, but these are the moments that make me stop and really feel like I’ve “made it”.

  1. Talking about insurance and interest rates over dinner, among other things. A captivating conversation for sure, but talking about what’s going on in your day-to-day life takes a turn for the more boring when you reach a certain age.
  2. Hearing my footsteps click on the hard linoleum floor. This conjures up images of adults from my childhood and, for whatever reason, just screams adult to me. Maybe it’s the association my brain makes, or the fact that it’s harder to be confused for a student when you’re wearing professional shoes.
  3. Walking into a car dealership and negotiating a deal on a new car. Chalk this up as one of my biggest accomplishments this year. Buying used just isn’t the same as walking into a big, intimidating dealership and holding your own.
  4. The urge to clean the apartment before company arrives. A dirty, disorganized house just isn’t okay. Cleaning is beyond a chore and while I still don’t like it, I recognize when it needs to be done. Having a scrubbed and dusted house complete with candles burning makes everything feel more homey and put-together.
  5. Sensible shoes. I don’t have the patience for shoes that I can’t move in. Call me crazy, but I’m all about comfort and practicality.
  6. Shopping for candles becomes a thrilling adventure. The candle store is exciting! I have places to put candles! I must smell all of the candles! Twice! There was once a point when shopping for CDs was my primary interest, but those days are long gone. Give me candles or give me death!
  7. Checking my JORD watch for the time. Phones are great and all, but a watch has the added bonus of making you look classy and put together.

For whatever reason, of all of the things that scream refinement and maturity, I love a good watch. Maybe it’s because we’re so reliant on our cell phones nowadays, but raising my wrist to look at the time feels like a nod to an earlier generation. It’s a little luxury, even, and a welcome motion that I know won’t turn into my getting distracted with a text or notification from Instagram.


I love that JORD’s watches are unique while still looking timeless. A wood watch is quite a statement in itself, but JORD’s manage to take classy to the max. My style leans more on the traditional side, but the burgundy hue of the Cora watch caught my eye immediately. The mother of pearl face paired with the purpleheart wood is sophisticated enough while still making the subtle statement that makes my high school goth phase giddy.

Burgundy is just so darn classy.

Can I add a color to a list of things that make me feel like an adult?

*I received a complimentary watch from JORD to review. All opinions, however, are my own.

Watches Made From 100% Natural Wood by JORD

What little moments make you feel like an adult?