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!

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!

February Book Wrap Up

bookshelf

What did I do to make the book gods smile upon me this month? I don’t think I’ve gone a full month basically loving all of the books that I’ve picked up in a very long time. February was a great month for reading, in that regard! Not only did I enjoy every book that I picked up, I managed to pick up a lot! Chalk that up to a weekend of plane travel (I’m guaranteed to read at least one book in its entirety every time I set foot in an airport), in my opinion.

On with the mini reviews!
(Which are Amazon affiliate links – help a girl out!)

Read

  • Sailor Moon vol. 3 and vol. 4 by Naoko Takeuchi – For some reason I’ve been on a kick with reading the rereleased manga these days. I might’ve accidentally bought two copies earlier this year, but now that I’ve got that all sorted out, I can enjoy the series. Spoiler alert: it’s still good.
  • Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger – I’m a big fan of Gail Carriger and read the first in the series, Etiquette and Espionage, a few months back. This series isn’t my favorite, but I feel like book #2 really delivered. It’s like a fun, hour-long jaunt through a steampunk, supernatural girls’ school with lots of snark and pastries. Always a yes in my book.
  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – I blew through the February NovelTea Book Club pick and was pleasantly surprised. It gets a little spiritual at times, but overall is one of the best creative non-fiction I’ve read in a long time.
  • Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari – Sometimes it’s hard to separate the character from the stand-up comedian from the real person, so I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with Ansari’s book. I was delighted to find myself with an immensely funny yet academic take on dating in today’s world, mainly because I, like everyone else, wanted to know what the standard rule is for how long to wait in between sending text messages.

Started

  • Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard – IT CAME IN THE MAIL! YESSSSS!
  • Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen – eBooks I’ve downloaded tend to be the first books I forget about. Luckily, being on a plane seems to be a prime time for rediscovering those books you bought for $2.99 months ago. I’ve been meaning to read this and was feeling some fantasy after all of that non-fiction
  • Caretaker by Josi Russel – I was asked to review the second in this sci-fi YA series but felt weird not having read the first. It sounded like an interesting concept, involving space travel, stasis, and alien lingustics, so I figured what the heck.
  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey – I bought this on Black Friday for $5 and used it to help me hammer together my bookshelf. I figure it’s about time I read it. I think it’s been a good hiatus from YA post-apocalyptic novels, so I’m willing to jump in again.

Still Reading

Vengeance Road and The Familiar vol. 1 are still sitting on my shelf. Oops. I’ll get there, but not this month.

Overall, not a bad month. All of this cold weather gives me an excuse to stay in and read!

Booktube Guilt

filofax printable library haul

The Booktube community, like most communities online, is a wonderfully magical place for people of a common interest to unite and chatter excitedly about the things that they love, to create and make and share. But just like any online community, just like any anything, for that matter, there comes with that idyllic outlet a sense of guilt and comparison.

I’m not huge in the Booktube community, and frankly, am too busy with my own life, blog, and business to spend the amount of time required to try to “make it big”. Those community “celebrities”, or bloggers and vloggers who have made a name for themselves in this niche? Awesome! I’m glad for them! Even though that’s not where I’m at and I recognize the need to do what’s best for me, there’s still a silly little nagging comparison that crept out of the woodwork when even didn’t expect it: book buying guilt.

Shiny new, hardcover pre-orders. Perfectly maintained, yet overflowing bookshelves. Multiple copies of books.

All my life I’ve enjoyed my local library for the access it’s given me to books — old, new, obscure, popular. It was a community resource that meant that I never had to be without a book I wanted. I’m not going to get into the value of libraries as community resources in general today, but it’s worth noting that libraries do a heck of a lot.

But for some reason, when I started filming Booktube videos and reviews, the little call number sticker on the spine of my book started bothering me. No one else’s videos had library stickers on them. It’s not like I couldn’t afford buying the books, or didn’t have the space. Every time I read a book, it became a race to film the review before I had to return the books. Excuses, excuses.

One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was dropping ridiculous amounts of money on new books at the bookstore. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, local stores — it didn’t matter where.

About a solid year later: I haven’t noticed a difference. My channel isn’t more popular because I own a copy of a book versus borrowed it. I haven’t magically been able to read more books or be a more awesome person. I just own more books.

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What do I really get out of owning more books? Sure, I love my bookshelves. I like collecting books. But having a physical copy of a book I end up not even liking doesn’t mean a thing. And like it or not, one day I will run out of space.

And you know what? The more I think about it, the more I realize I miss my library.

With the library, I don’t have to commit to buying books I’m not sure if I’ll like. I don’t have to clear room on my bookshelf. I don’t have to spend money unnecessarily. I can check out mostly anything on the planet. I have some added motivation to finish books. The book isn’t “better” because I own it.

That’s not to say I won’t ever buy a book again, it just means I’m becoming more mindful and selective of what I buy. The next book in a series I already know I enjoy? A special collector’s edition or signed copy of a favorite? A book that the local libraries don’t carry?

I’m not saying buying books is bad. Don’t get me wrong — I love the Booktube community, and what people decide to spend their money on is their business. I know I’ve had feelings of guilt, however, through my time participating, just because comparison is a thing that we humans do. I know I’m not alone in feeling this “buyer’s guilt”. But feeling as if you can’t participate in a community or aren’t good enough because you don’t have the means to/want to/alien abductors won’t let you buy a book versus check it out from the library shouldn’t cripple your desire to want to participate in a community. Guilt shouldn’t dictate what you do.