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2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
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rambling reader: what i’ve been reading & how I’m learning to be kind to myself

I have been making good use of my town’s library since they have upped their game in English books. There are many frustrations when living in a mostly French province and you want to read – for “free” – in English. Most of the public libraries in this province don’t stock English books, and they don’t really budget for them either. I broke up with the library in this town years ago, but something inspired me to take a look at their website over the summer and I was delighted with what I found. So I spend hours (yes, hours) on their online catalogue each week looking up books and authors, going through their new acquisition pages, and saving books I want to read to my account’s wish list. When I was on vacation this summer, I was at the library every 3 days or so. Now I’m going about once a week. The good news is that I am reading again, even though it’s still slow going.

Read: Audrey, Wait!; The Lost Hero; The Son of Neptune

I have been working on being patient with myself when it comes to books. Since I am borrowing these from the library, and not buying them, I am letting my body (mind?) tell me when it wants to continue reading a book, or if it wants to put that book aside and try something else.  I have taken some books out of the library more than once because I just couldn’t read them the first time I tried. There’s no rule that says I have to read a book I’m not quite feeling, RIGHT AWAY. There is a rule, but it’s mostly one my little ODC voice tells me I have to do. Why do I feel guilty about stopping a book when I am just not enjoying it? Why do I feel guilty when I stop a book I know I’m going to enjoy, but I’m just not that into it at the moment? Why am I putting pressure on myself for something this simple? Just put the book down. Walk away. Try something else and just borrow that book again when you’re feeling it. It’s a weird sort of pressure to put on oneself.

Read: Heir of Fire; Burial Rites // Did Not Finish: Dreamwood

I am a huge Mood Reader, and the fun I’m having with the library is that I can take out all sorts of things at once and then try them out. I have been checking out more non-fiction but I don’t always get to it while I have the books out. Unless I know I’m really eager to read something I didn’t get to by then end of my time with the book, I haven’t been renewing anything. I just bring it back and I’ll take it out some other time. I did learn from the books above that one book just wasn’t for me. I was not connecting with the writing or characters, so I won’t try that again. But the other books? I’ll pick up another time. I just wasn’t in the right mood for those books this time around.

Currently reading!

I honestly thought that the Thanksgiving long weekend that just past would have seen me plow through these books above, but I’m still trying to make my way through the first book I picked up. My long weekend was oddly busy and my brain did not want to settle down and escape in a book. So I’m slowing making my way through this bunch of books. One is due back next Friday and I have another 2 weeks with the rest. I might actually renew some of these because I know I want to read them all RIGHT NOW. Only not right now because I can’t seem to focus.

Over the last year, for various reasons (one of which was the fact that I just wasn’t reading anything), I have been very good at not buying books.  There has always been this urgency for me to pick up new releases as soon as they come out, and I’m not sure why that was such an urgent thing since it’s not like the books would disappear a month later. I would stockpile books I HAD TO GET NOW! and then not read them for months. I put an end to that, why spend the money and take up space in the house and not read something right away. It was a difficult habit to break, but I did. I bought books only if I KNEW I would want to keep them. The past month and a half I have actually bought more books than I have in the last year. Books I have been looking forward to and know I’ll keep. However they are sitting on a shelf right now because I want to get through the library books as much as I can. I’m at this weird point where I just don’t know WHAT I want to read next because I want to read ALL OF THE BOOKS at once. Heh.

So I am learning to be kind to myself about reading, and patient. The only pressure on me about finishing a book is a made up pressure that my brain has created. I’m not in a race. I’m not on a deadline. I can be leisurely about my reading and I don’t have to finish something if I am not feeling it. My entire being is still recovering from that stupid trauma and I’m not back to my normal (haha) self yet. I still need time to heal my brain and learn to focus on things and not always feel so…skittish. And eventually I’ll be reading a ton of books again without even thinking about it. And I’ll enjoy reading for fun and pleasure and not because I have to read something for a review, or for anyone else.

And occasionally I will treat myself to book purchases that I am really looking forward to because, well…

They are just SO PRETTY! (Kate Forsyth is one of my all-time favourite authors and these are UK editions of her last few books that used to be only in Australia and UK. I had to get them, I have been lusting after her new releases for some time!) (And: Sale!)

Sometimes you just need a new book to help make things a little bit better.

seven things on a sunday – thankful edition

Over the past few months I have been tagged in various FB memes for a number of things. I was tagged by a few people for the Thankful one, whatever it’s called. The last few months haven’t been the best and I have been avoiding much of the online world. I check in once in a while, and offer brief status updates, but really I haven’t been all that engaged in participating in social anything. So I thought it might be a nice idea to combine remembering to BLOG with listing things I am thankful for. What better time to do this than over Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. Right? Right!

1. I am thankful for my family. I had tossed about whether or not to even add this to my list because it seems so unoriginal and obvious, but then I thought, wait, I really AM thankful for my family. My parents, my sister, my in-laws… they have always been there for me. They help me when I am in need of help. They love me and take care of me. They make me laugh, pick me up when I am down, and are just wonderful, supportive people in my life. My parents raised two girls to be polite, respectful, loving, and to treat others well. We grew up in a house of love, sure there were some major blow-outs while growing up (girls are MOOOOODY, yo!) but my parents loved each other (much to the embarrassment of my sister and I), they loved us, and although my sister and I really didn’t get along well when we were kids, we did bond over the embarrassment of how mushy our parents were while in public. heh. Oh, and special shout-out to my amazing, dearly-departed grandparents for being cherry on top of family love and wonderfulness. It’s only been 6, and 5 years since they are gone and I miss them so much my heart aches, but they helped raise my sister and I and not a weekend went by without seeing them. So, yes, I am VERY thankful for my family and all they have brought to my life!

2. I am thankful for my husband! Again, obvious and unoriginal, but completely 100% truthful. There is not a day that goes by that I am not thankful for the amazingness that is my husband. Shawn is always there for me, no matter what. He’ll run out to the store if I notice I am out of juice, or bread, or — and this just happened — SAGE for the SAGE sausage stuffing I am making for thanksgiving dinner that night! I don’t even ask. He just gets up and goes. He makes me laugh so much, even when we’re both miserable and sad, he can find a way to find that laughter. He takes care of me so fully and unconditionally. I love this man with all my heart and I can’t imagine life without him. I am thankful for all the twists and turns that brought me to the place in my life where we met. He’s my rock and my heart. I love him more each day.

3. I am thankful for my friends. I grew up thinking no one would ever like me. I wasn’t good enough for friends. I was shy and insecure and didn’t realize the friends I had in my life didn’t actually hate me. It took me ages to trust people and believe that I did have friends who weren’t just pretending to like me, or spending time with me out of pity. I have some of the most AMAZING friends in my life these days and sometimes it just makes me stop and think, “Wow. I really DO have friends.” I have some long-time friends that I don’t see often at all, but when we do see each other, it’s almost as if no time has past. I have some newer friends (over the last 10 years) that I was nervous about at first, but am so, so thankful that they are part of my life. I have a support group for when I’m having trouble just living life, or need help with a mental break. I have friends who care about me, and I them. We love each other. We help each other. I trust them. And that’s a huge thing, because I don’t trust easily. I am thankful for the friends in my life who help make my life richer – either in person, or online!

4. I am thankful that I can drive. Ok, this might seem weird to most of you, but really, with my extremely long saga of learning to drive and then FINALLY getting that licence in 2011, this is something I am *newly* thankful for. I guess I should say that I am thankful that I can drive without a ton of anxiety now. I have been driving a lot lately, and so it’s freshly in my mind. On Fridays I have been driving all over the place for the past month. I drive after work to pick up Shawn from the bus terminus since he gets home late. I no longer have the steering wheel in a death grip. I am so much more relaxed when I drive and I at times I find that I actually ENJOY driving. Although, I am still thankful that Shawn prefers to drive, so when we’re together I just let HIM do it. Heh.

5. I am thankful that even though we’re not great, we’re ok. This one is a stretch, but it’s pretty true. Things aren’t the happiest right now, things are tough (not with each other, but in the rest of life) and well, we’re still ok. We’re both working, we’re both more-or-less healthy, we can pay the bills, we have each other, we have #NoSophie. We make each other laugh, and we have a ton of love. We are ok. Do we think that’s good enough for us? Not really. So we’re working on that, but right now? The things that aren’t great aren’t really the end of the world. We’ll get through it. Together. We don’t have anything super major to panic over right now though, and that’s ok. House over our heads, food on the table, clothes on our backs… we’re ok. And truly, I am thankful for that.

6. I am thankful I have (most of) my Halloween Whimsy back. Not quite at 100%, but I did take the decorations out of storage and put some up in the house AND at work. Last year at this time I was a falling apart mess (not realizing that I was dealing with delayed onset PTSD) and I didn’t decorate anything. I don’t even think I changed up my blog theme… did I? Either way, this year the pumpkins and candles have come out to play once more. I am kind of hoping to find a Jem costume to wear this year because I think three years in a row of Snow White is enough right now, but I’m still not sure what I’m going to wear to work. We get NO kiddies trick-or-treating here, which is a bummer, but that’s ok. I like to dress up for myself anyhow. I don’t have all of my whimsy back, and I am still having a hard time doing anything fun and creative, but this year as soon as October hit, I was raring to go with my Halloween decor! It is my favourite time of year after all. Next up? CHRISTMAS DECORATING!

7. I am thankful for sunsets. Don’t laugh. Or do. But it’s true. I have a great view from my front stoop of sunsets and I don’t know why I have become so infatuated with them over the last couple of years, but I love them. There’s something about looking up at the sky that calms me. I love the colours that explode through the clouds as the sun goes down. I am that crazy lady, out on her front stoop, in her jammies (or whatever), after the rain, in the snow, as the sun sets and changes colours over and over. I take photos with my phone and my Canon camera. I just can’t get enough of the sunsets. I don’t do anything with the photos afterwards, but I just feel like I have to capture those breathtaking moments forever. Even going back to look at them make me hold my breath and just think, “Wow.” I’m a dork, whatever. I love them to pieces. Thank you, nature!

hello, october

I could have sworn I’d posted at least once in September. Apparently not. Guess I just thought about posting a lot.

Well, it’s October, so my blog is happily sporting it’s Halloweeny frock.

I’m also in the middle of merging my book blog back into my personal blog. As I rarely seem to post on either one, there’s no point in my trying to manage two. It’s going to be a long work-in-progress because I need to re-categorize and tag posts. Not to mention all the book links that will eventually be obsolete when they aren’t pointing to the right place anymore!

My gods, my hair has been three different colours since the style in my profile photo. I’d better get on updating that, too!

So, I’m around. I’m just… busy? Exhausted? It’s been difficult to find time to sit and jot down thoughts. Once I’m on the couch, my brain is just burnt out. I have been reading more than I was last year, but I also fall asleep pretty soon after I get home, if I’m not out exercising.

Tomorrow a group of us from work are walk/running the Run for the Cure 5k. My plan is to blog about that after it happens. Probably next weekend because I’m pretty sure I’m just going to want to come home and sleep after this. ;)

I suppose I’d blog more if I had something happy to blog about. It’s been such a gloomy year that it’s hard to find something not all doom and gloom to write about. Bah.

seven things on a sunday – summer time

1. I used to think Summer didn’t mean much unless you were able to spend your days in the country, near the water. Summer time in the city was never appealing to me and I always moped around waiting for autumn and winter. But the last few years, thanks to the help of Jinx’s Garden and the way my body and mind have changed due to exercise, I’m appreciating the summer months way more. The more muscle I build, the less over-heated I am when it’s warm out. In fact, some days I can wear a light sweater because I’m chilly. I haven’t experienced this since I was a teen. I feel grounded and calm when I walk through the garden barefoot. I am spending way more time outdoors this year than ever before. Reading, walking, running, whatever. I still long to be able to do all of this near water, but at least I am learning to enjoy the season no matter where I am.

2. I have just finished the first week of my two-week vacation from work. There’s an odd sort of guilt associated with vacation time that I can’t seem to shake. I have done almost nothing productive this past week. I have sat  outside, inside, and read. I read nine books in the last 7 days. I keep feeling like I should be doing SOMETHING with my time off other than sit around and read, but right now, that’s all I want to do. Why do we feel like we need to do stuff around the house, or be productive when we take time off? I realize that it’s often during this time that we can get stuff done, but it should also be ok to just relax when you’re off from work. Without feeling guilty. Right? I will be home alone next week as Shawn starts a new job, and that’s when I plan on puttering around the house (getting ready for a garage sale, cleaning stuff, etc). But this past week, I just needed to recharge. Since I don’t have a body of water to gaze out over, I got lost in books. I haven’t been reading like this for a long time, and it’s just nice to get back into it.

3. On Tuesday, it will be three weeks since we said goodbye to Jinx. It’s been a very difficult thing to get through our heads. Since it was so sudden, it almost feels like it never happened. We’re both constantly looking up and thinking Jinx is there, in the room with us. Jinx’s absence has made it hard for me to tend to the garden. I feel like the wind is knocked out of me each time I go down to check on the tomatoes and coocumbers. In fact, the cucumbers just aren’t growing much this year. It could just be a bad crop, but honestly, I think it’s because Jinx wasn’t down there walking through them and snuffling them. This is the first year they have not thrived. I also find it so empty when I am outside on the back deck reading. Jinx would also come out with me and just lie on the deck, enjoying being outdoors. He’d watch for squirrels and protect me from them. He’d wander down and snuffle his garden. I keep looking up from my book to talk to him and tell him he’s handsome, and a good boy. But he’s not there. Sophie does not like spending time outside at all. I’ve tried having her out there while I enjoy the air, but she just paces in front of the backdoor, waiting to be let in. It’s sad. I’m trying to find peace in the outdoors without Jinx at my side, but it’s a painful process. Still, the backyard, and Jinx’s Garden are healing me, slowly.

4. Summer time means sitting on the back deck, in the evening, with a cigar and a beer. Or wine. Or a rum and coke. Not often. Very occasionally. But it’s still something we like to do when the evenings are warm and the crickets are chirping away, and the sun is setting. It hasn’t been too humid this summer, in fact, I feel like this summer has had the most perfect weather (but that’s because it hasn’t been humid and 30C+). There have been very few mosquitos this year, which makes sitting outside in the evening a blissful experience. The spring was late and wet, so the bugs were bad then, but so far, July and August have been lovely. Shawn and I laugh and talk about everything and anything. We cry over missing Jinx. We listen to playlists on music streaming apps. We decide we need to groom Sophie. (Sophie isn’t as big of a fan of these ideas as we are.) It’s peaceful, and although we bring our phones outside with us (to capture these moments on instagram), we are disconnected from our computers for a while and we just enjoy being with each other.

5. I love the sounds of summer. Chirping birds, chirping crickets, wind in the trees. Lawnmowers in the distance. Kids playing (as long as they aren’t screaming and really loud). The distant sound of motorboats on the river. I like those sounds better when they are closer and I am near a beach, but still. The sounds of summer make me happy. The best part about this cooler-than-average summer is that we have been able to have our windows open more often and these sounds drip in throughout the day. The summer breeze brings in sweet smells of grass, water, flowers and boat fuel (I like it, ok?) and sounds of summer. Much better than the constant drone of the air conditioner (which is actually on today because it’s humid and hotter than it has been. Totally ruining the point of this post. =P)

6. I long to spend my summer in a cottage, near water. That hasn’t been a reality for years (since I moved out on my own), but I know that one day it will happen. Even if we just rent a cottage for two weeks somewhere. It’ll happen eventually. We’ve had too many summers of having our vacations not line up, or not having employment or money to do anything when we do have time together. I’d love to own a cottage, but aside from being a lot of money, it would be a lot of WORK and to really make it worth it, it would have to be close by so you could get the most out of it during the summer months. One day. We’ll have a cottage summer one day. It’s a goal.

7. For many, August marks the end of summer. And while the official season end isn’t until the middle of September, August is so different from June and July I can understand why people feel this way. August’s colours are more golden and darker greens. Shadows bathed in golden sunlight. Yellows and oranges. Not the same as fall colours, but August isn’t bright yellow, blue, and green days like June and July are. I have always loved August. It fills me with this inexplicable hope, even though I don’t seem to ever hope anymore. It fills me with an energy that makes me feel like I can accomplish anything. It’s a wonderful time to take vacation from work and just reset. I love August and its golden glow. It’s calming and perfect for lazy days of summer.

August is perfect for bath time! Even if Sophie doesn’t agree. ;)

Middle Grade Madness: The Magic Thief series

Stolen (Magic Thief, #1)
by Sarah Prineas

Hullo! I’m actually going to blog about some books. Can you believe it? In fact, I’ll be blogging about a few series I think. I have been on a huge Middle Grade reading roll thanks to my newly awesome library and I have discovered a few series that I can’t believe I waited this long to check out.

The first amazing series I discovered–and devoured!–is The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas. The first book, Stolen, introduces us to Conn, a young boy who lives in the gutters in Twilight. He is a pickpocket and a thief. He has quick hands and is somewhere between the age of 12 and 14 (he doesn’t know). He semi-successfully picks the pocket of Nevery, a Wizard. From there a relationship is formed, although slightly one-sided. Conn is certain that Nevery took him home to be his apprentice, whereas Nevery  was under the impression he was taking Conn on as a servant. Conn does NOT make a good servant.

The books are narrated by Conn, though broken up by journal entries by Nevery, Rowan (the Dutchess’ daughter), and letters between Conn and Nevery. These little interludes are artistically done, so it feels like you’re reading handwritten pages. They break up the narration nicely and add to the story. Conn eventually becomes the apprentice he hopes to be and searches for his own  Locus Magicalicus (magical stone) so that he might be a real wizard. Odd things tend to happen around Conn, and he seems to have a connection with the city’s magic that no one else has.

The narration is humourous and Conn is such a likable character. He’s not very talkative, and I love the way his responses to what people say to him are actually more to himself, inside his head. He isn’t a typical protagonist in that he’s not surprised that he has magic, or whining that he has to undertake tasks or quests. He is very matter-of-fact about what is presented to him and it’s refreshing in some ways to read a book like this. He is so certain that he’s Nevery’s apprentice that it ends up being so. As though Conn knows what should happen, and what will happen (not in a telepathic way) and it just takes others a little longer to see the logic of Conn’s original thought.

Lost (Magic Thief, #2)

 Conn is convinced that the magic in their city is alive, yet the other Wizards (including Nevery for a time) don’t believe him. Conn can hear the magic speak to him when he creates explosions. Only explosions are illegal in Wellmet and to be caught would mean being exiled from the city. Of course Conn isn’t one to follow rules he feels are illogical, so he continues to do his own thing. And although I thought I would find this bratty, I was never once annoyed by something Conn did. He wasn’t the sort of main character who makes stupid decisions. All of his decisions, you learn quickly, are actually logical and he’s never out to harm anyone or cause trouble. Not intentionally. Conn just has a way of looking at things that make sense to him. If something seems out of tune, he can figure out how to tune it back up. The problem is everyone else doesn’t see his path and therefore think he’s up to no good. Eventually Nevery, along with Rowan, and Nevery’s bodyguard/cook/housekeeper Bennet, clue in to Conn’s intelligence and they try to help him in his own way.

In the second book, Lost, Conn is exiled but takes this opportunity to travel to another city, the city of Desh, because that seems to be where the magic is telling him to go. The magic keeps Conn out of Wellmet, exile or not. Until Conn can figure out what the Magic wants from him in Desh, he’s going there on his own. He does spend some time in the company of Rowan and her diplomatic envoy, but mostly, he’s up to his own devices and almost gets himself killed a few times.

This poor boy ends up in so many dungeon/prison cells. Oy.

Found (Magic Thief, #3)

The third book in this series validated my own guess about what the magic was back in the middle of book one. I was quite pleased with myself about this you know. Heh. Again, this series surprised me with how the “unoriginal” plot ended up being original. I was certain that Conn was going to have some sort of magical connection with all dragons and that he and Pip would be fast, fast friends. In fact I thought a dragon was going to be Conn’s new (and second) Locus Magicalicus. I was slightly wrong. He’s no dragon whisperer, but he still approaches dragons like he does everything else. Logically – to him. He thinks something should be a certain way and he just acts as though it already is, even if it isn’t.

I don’t know if I am explaining this correctly, but it’s the only way I can think of to verbalize it.

All three books have those fun letter/journal snippets breaking up the narrative and I just adore them. I love Nevery to pieces. He’s so grumpy and gruff, but he’s got this soft heart that he tries to hide. The manner in which is journal entries are written always made me giggle and just made me love the character more. I think it helped that he reminded me of someone I used to work with. ;)

There is so much adventure, magic, humour, and fun within these pages. I am shocked that I didn’t look into this series sooner. I think I was just sceptical that it would seem too Harry Potter-ish (it’s NOTHING like HP), or too unoriginal, but it’s not. Unlike the Septimus Heap series (which is a little too Harry Potter-ish, and silly for my tastes), this book held me captive. I only borrowed the first two books of the three the library had. Just in case I didn’t like them, or someone needed the third book. (Don’t ask. I feel greedy if I take out an entire series at once.) but I read those two books in less than 24 hours and I headed right back to the library to pick up the third book. I am thrilled to find out that the fourth book – Home – is due out in about a month’s time. I think I want to buy this entire series for my niece. Or, you know, myself.

I tried writing about these books without giving too much away, but since I seem to be one of the last people to actually read them, you might not be spoiled by anything. But if you haven’t read them, and you’re a Middle Grade and Fantasy fan? Go out and get yourselves some copies now. They are amazing. Enchanting. Magical. Super fun and entertaining!