What I’ve Been Reading (December edition)

read YA books

The answer is…not much. Oops.

My boyfriend actually informed me the other day that I hadn’t recorded a new book review video in  3 months (also oops), and sounded pretty bummed out by it, so I’m working on clearing a space in the new house and getting some decent light to record reviews again. Any specific requests? 🙂

I have managed to read one or two books over the past few months though, as well as start a few others. Here’s a little taste of where my reading currently stands:

Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen | The first book in this series I liked, but it’s this second book that won me over. Kelsea grows into her own as Queen, still making some mistakes along the way. Secondary characters shine in this sequel just as much as in the first. But best of all? I couldn’t wait to turn the page and find one of many flashback chapters interspersed throughout the book. The dual timeline of Lily living 100-years prior is even better, in my opinion, than the main timeline. And the flashbacks totally give off an Orwellian/Bioshock vibe.

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey | This book wasn’t bad, but it was predictable in its plot and not earth-shatteringly different from other popular YA books right now. Echo is a human raised by a bird-like race called the Avicen, who have been warring with the dragon-race of the Drakharin. Only a mysterious legend of the Firebird can save them all, and wouldn’t you know, this teenage human thief can get the job done.

The Drakharin characters are the ones that were most interesting and I wish a little more time was spent exploring their paths. The writing is what simultaneously kept me around and made me cringe. It’s witty and blunt at points, and Echo’s certainly got some sass. But it feels like Grey just pulled a lot of the thoughts and dialogue straight from Tumblr. *Sigh*

All-in-all a fun read, but I don’t feel compelled to pick up the next book.

The View From the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman | I’m still working through Neil Gaiman’s nonfiction collection just because I’ve got to be in the mood for it. Some of the early pieces in the book are short essays and opinions, copies of speeches, etc. and are entertaining to read by nature. Mid-book has been lagging for me, since it’s a hefty section dedicated to introductions to books. It’s easy to want to read the intros for authors I’ve read, but for those books/authors I’m not versed in, it’s been hard to commit to reading their intros. There are some more personal essay-type pieces near the end, it looks like, so I’m forging ahead.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas | I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I just don’t like Sarah J. Maas. I did, however, like ACoTaR better than…oh, what’s the other series called? Throne of Glass? I’m a sucker for fairytale retellings, so that won some points, but the rest of the story just pained me. I might do a full blown review on this one eventually, since I apparently like complaining so much. Ultimately it felt perfect for a brooding teenage shiny and exciting supernatural other-world love-fest, but maybe I just wasn’t feeling it that day.

I did manage to pick up some books on Black Friday for a whole whopping total of $12. The Thirteenth Floor might be at the top of my list to tackle next! Here’s to more reading!

On Democracy, Empathy, and Understanding After the 2016 Election

I am a white woman with a college education and a job. I voted for Hillary because I thought her policies would be in the best interest of moving America forward without making strides backward. I have family and friends who voted for Trump. I do not think that they are unkind, hateful people.

Yet I have also seen unkind, hateful people use Trump’s victory as an excuse to commit injustices against others who are different, who are women, who are Muslims, who are immigrants, who are transgendered, who simply voted differently than them. That, I will never condone.

It’s true, I have a hard time understanding how people could vote for Trump. I do not believe that his policies take precedence over how he advocates treating others. Civil liberties are very important to me, and I won’t be swayed by demagogues who use fear to rile people up. I understand his policies are tempting to some, but to me, they’re not worth the cost.

I think the statement “All Trump supporters are racist and misogynistic” is not true, but I would like to know how Trump supporters reconcile the fact that there is a large subset of those supporters who do things like thisthis, and this. (I encourage everyone to be aware of the hate crimes that are being documented on Shaun King’s Twitter in just the first 24 hours of Trump’s election victory) I would like to know what you plan to do to address this, because I have students, kids, who are affected by this hate and violence.

I want Trump to succeed in making America a better place. I would love to see term limits imposed on Congress. I would love to see jobs return to this country, factory jobs too. But at what cost? Can Trump really deliver on the things he has promised? Can any politician? I can only hope that Trump is more competent (or can at least hire competent people) than he appeared on the campaign trail.

Yes, I’m embarrassed that he’s our president-elect. I’d like to think that policies and tangible results are more important than character, but I can’t say character isn’t important at all. What kind of example are we setting for kids? I’ve had students tell me that they’ve said or done something unkind because they saw a celebrity or Youtube star do it and thought it would be ok; how will it look when they can point to the President as a justification for this behavior? How can I feel like the President cares for my interest, when he apparently has no regard for half the population when he has no problem “grab[bing] them by the pussy”? I’m hoping I’m wrong, but can you understand why I’m a little hesitant to trust him?

Yes, I am apprehensive about my future. I don’t believe that an ultra-conservatism government aligns with my ideals or what best benefits me. I don’t believe in a conservative-leaning Supreme Court or corporate-aligned leaders with their own agendas should be in positions of power. I’m worried about my friends’ safety and rights; they’ve already been met with hate and resistance. I hope my worry is misplaced. I hope people will treat others with respect and dignity. I hope judges will interpret the law fairly, not impose their beliefs on others. I hope corporations in power will not be as corrupt as politicians in power.

I’m not saying Hillary was perfect. She has had controversy, but what politician hasn’t? Don’t tell me that Donald Trump is exempt. But Clinton had experience where I don’t feel Donald Trump does. Some of the policies he presented during the campaign I agree with, but many of his “policies” were empty ideas. “We will bring back companies to America and give jobs to Americans!” Yes! That’d be great! But how exactly do you plan to do that? Plans to withdraw from NAFTA and impose tariffs on businesses who want to ship jobs overseas won’t necessarily bring lost jobs back. I’m all for a businessman to shake up politics, but Trump isn’t who I would’ve picked; I don’t feel that he is qualified. I hope I am wrong.

I will respect our government. I believe we all want to work for a better world. I am coming to the table with an open mind. We can disagree on what the best approach may be. Both Democrats and Republicans could stand to do more listening to the other side, to different opinions, to practicing empathy. But the moment ANYONE disregards listening, civilized discussion, and trying to work towards common prosperity and decency aside to spout racist, xenophobic, misogynistic hate, you no longer have my respect.

Democrats and Republicans: I ask that you try to listen to people who have different views that you. I ask that you not jump to conclusions or attack people. I ask that you have keep an open mind and try to learn something. I ask that you be critical of the media to which you listen. I ask that you try to find sources of information that are not biased, or at least try to get both sides of any story.

I also ask that you not make generalizations about me. Telling liberals to “stop crying because things aren’t politically correct and go get a job!” (Yes, I’ve seen it around Facebook) is just as bad as me telling “you rednecks to stop waving your Confederate flags and go get an education!” There’s too much hypocrisy in the world as it is.

Let’s be better than hatred.

If We Were Having Coffee…

coffee

Oftentimes I wish I could sit down with you and have a chat over coffee. It’s funny, how many of you I feel like I know from years online, yet have never met in person. It doesn’t dampen the friendship or connection any less, and in fact, there are times I’m excited to share news with someone in particular, realizing that they’re technically an “internet friend” in the process.

So for those of you I can’t meet for coffee this afternoon due to geographical constraints, and for those of you who are new around here and may not know me all that well, let’s sit down and have a “chat” over coffee. Even if it is in our own respective cities.

(Jamie of The Perpetual Page-Turner introduced me to this idea and I fell in love with it from the start!)

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you how I’m keeping a consistent journal for the first time since middle school and how it’s helping me cope with hard thoughts, mental confusion, and difficult decisions. The only “rule” I set was to write something at least once a month. It doesn’t have to be pretty or polished. While it’s nice to have a way to capture memories and moments that are important to me, it’s also freeing to have a place to stream-of-conscious write. The latter has been helping me with any anxiety and stress that’s crept up lately.

If we were having coffee… I’d show you all of the cute pictures of my dog on my phone. She’s technically my boyfriend’s dog, but I love her like my own.

bailey dog

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you about my decision to go “back to school” and learn front-end development on my own. I did a stint as a Computer Science major in college but calculus kicked my butt. I’ve been taking some online classes, though, and realized how much I love working with HTML and CSS, Javascript, and all of the cool new things the internet can do since I last built a website with <table></table> in high school! It’s one of those things that I just get a completely invigorating feeling of accomplishment, working through challenges, and I haven’t felt that rush in a long time.

If we were having coffee… I’d vent to you about my frustrations with the public education system. I’m not ready to talk about my experience quite yet, but it still irks me to see and hear some of the perceptions of teachers and distorted expectations of public education that pervades our society. Ugh.

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you about all of the exciting changes my new job in marketing has brought! For the first time ever, my hours are flexible and not governed by kids’ schedules. I can go to the bathroom whenever I want! I can drink more coffee! I don’t have to pack lunch! All of these things excite me (especially the meatballs from Emporio that Marissa and I lunch-date at frequently), but it is a change. I’m still adjusting to not being in the realm of public education, but I’m infinitely happier working where I’m encouraged to grow as a person and as an employee in a meaningful way. I’ve made a lot of incredible connections through my job, and have had some pretty incredible opportunities come my way. I’m excited to see where this takes me!

If we were having coffee… I’d admit that I haven’t been reading much the past few months. With all of the construction in the house, my schedule’s been disrupted. I am glad that I get some reading time on the bus during my commute, but am still trying to find a way to not get sick when I read on the bus. Advice?

If we were having coffee… I’d also admit that I don’t really care that I fell off of the blogging planet. I was fed up with the blogosphere for the longest time, feeling pressured to monetize my life and tried to rationalize the competing ideas of blogging about useful, value-oriented, evergreen posts and LiveJournal-type personal stories. I think I do want to stay active in the blog world, but not necessarily in the way that the culture’s been going lately. I’m ironing out the kinks and trying to figure out my own path. Eventually.

If we were having coffee… I’d show you a preview of the editing site I’m building. I’ve been working with some clients over the past year to build some more experience in non-fiction, and realized that My Life as a Teacup is not a good place for an editing company. So, ta-da! It’s called Red Ink Editing! The site’s not live yet, since I’ve been determined to build the whole thing from scratch myself, learning more about coding along the way, but you can follow along on Twitter and via @redinkediting on Instagram, & bookmark the site if you want to polish up your NaNoWriMo novel down the road!

If we were having coffee… I’d ask you to please not spoil The Walking Dead! I somehow survived not hearing any spoilers about the new season, despite only being on Season 4. I’m working on catching up ASAP!

What are you up to these days? If you want to comment or send me an email and chat, I’d love to hear from you!

Summer Reading Bingo

Today is the last day of the school year, so for me, summer has officially started! I’ll admit, I’ve yet to go to the library and pick up a massive check-out stack, which is probably for the best, considering I’ve still got 17 books on my nightstand that I have to read. But a hefty TBR pile won’t stop me from having some fun getting through all of those books (or maybe sneaking in one or two more new ones from the store…)

Playing Book Bingo last summer with Kards Unlimited was such a great way to track my summer reading, and a challenge to branch out and read books I may not normally read. This year, though, I figured, “Why not create a Book Bingo” of my own?

Voila!

book bingo

Download the bingo card above, print it out, and play along!

The rules are similar to pretty standard bingo: fill all of the spaces in a row, either up, down, across, or diagonally to win! Four corners is also fair game. When you get a bingo, snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@noveltea.books) with what books you read. For each bingo you tally you’ll be entered to win a little book-themed prize bundle that includes a $20 credit to Book Depository, a POP Funko figure, and more!

I know, I know, you want to see the goods. That’s the exciting part. It’s a mystery (not really. Things are just still in the mail/in the works). I’ll update you with a photo soon.

So whether you’re looking for a fun way to tackle your unmanageable TBR pile or want an excuse to stop at the bookstore, join in on the Summer Reading Bingo fun!

Little Moments + Plum Deluxe Tea Review

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There’s nothing I love more than curling up on a rainy day, when the house is quiet, and reading — uninterrupted — for hours on end. Fluffy blankets, fluffy cats, fluffy feelings (or let’s face it, usually tears) make for the ultimate feeling of serenity.

It’s been a while since I’ve had one of these days. While it’s nice to have the relaxation of such a stretch of time, there are certainly little moments that give me the same feeling of contentment. And those moments don’t need to be extravagantly planned things. Most often, they happen in the peripheral, coming out of nowhere just to wash over you for a minute or two and are gone again in an instant, leaving just a fleeting impression behind.

I’ve been trying to be more aware of those little moments, those little washes of feeling lately. The little differences between joy and awe and contentment. To be mindful of each enough to recognize and make time for the feeling. And I’ve come to realize just how many intentionally enjoyable moments I make time for in a day.

For reading and taking in the emotions and perspectives of another life. For feeling the breeze as the seasons shift from bitter to welcoming. For reuniting with a friend you haven’t seen in ages and swapping stories over Thai noodles. For walking into a crowded room on your own and feeling proud. For seeing dear family succeed and make plans for the future. For the little morning joy of playing a game, which really feels like a tiny, happy tradition. For cat naps — literally. For a meaningful conversation that leaves a lasting impression.

I feel like I had forgotten about those little moments for a while. Lately, though, I’m more aware than ever.

Speaking of little, intentional moments…

You know how much I love reading?
You know how much I love hot beverages?
You know how much I love both together on a rainy day?

Plum Deluxe kind of nailed the hot beverage side by having tea that’s not only perfect for curling up with, but a tea that’s book-themed!

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Book-bonding aside, I was touched when the owner, Andy, explained that his reason for creating Plum Deluxe was to strive for the same ideal his mom lived by before succumbing to breast cancer.

“My mom taught me that no matter your circumstances, you can choose to create moments that matter, every day. And some of the most enjoyable moments are the small things – time to sleep in, relaxing in a reading nook, going on a neighborhood walk, or catching up with an old friend over a cup of tea.”

I couldn’t agree more, and I think that’s an amazing mission to have, for any company or individual.

It also didn’t hurt that I immediately thought, “Subscription tea box? Where have you been all of my life!” I already have a tea problem, but getting to try a new flavor of tea every month sounds like a nice, manageable way to branch out from my buying the same stuff all of the time.

Check out Plum Deluxe’s tea selection and to learn more about their Tea Club!