January 2016 Wrap Up

For January I decided to try a new style of monthly wrap up (new if you aren’t familiar with what I would do on my old blog Books o’ the Wisp). This layout is inspired by Ely from Tea & Titles‘s wrap ups which I’ve long admired! I’ve never really tried to sum up what I watch and write, so I think it will be really cool to look back and see what I “accomplished” in those areas.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog! Thank you if you’ve subscribed this month and even if you’ve just randomly stumbled across this blog and are reading this one post! Hope you enjoy.

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Tooth and Claw // ★★★

An Ember in the Ashes // ★★

Bone Gap // ★★★

Six of Crows // ★★★★

This January, I managed to read four books. The first three were initially rated 3/5 stars, but since I wrote the review for An Ember in the Ashes I’ve changed my rating for that book to 2/3 stars. I think I was initially being generous because it is an author debut and it is such a unique entry into today’s YA genre. But ultimately I had one too many problems with it that made me decide I don’t even care to find out what happens next in the sequel A Torch against the Night. Unless, of course, I see a lot of people rave about it.

My favorite book of the month was easily the final book I read which was Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo! It was so beautifully written and I love everything about it. I have zero complaints! I was absolutely blown away by how unique a story it was and how intricately designed the characters were. I also could not believe how funny it was. It was the perfect book to get me excited about reading and writing again. I cannot wait for the sequel Crooked Kingdom.

To see read more about what I thought about these books, I’ve included links to the available book reviews that I published this month (click on the stars). Subscribe and stay tuned for the rest of the book reviews which are in the pipeline to come out in February.

wraptitles2Early this month, Parks and Recreation‘s seventh and final season premiered on Netflix. I’d been waiting for it to to be added to the website for the longest time! Unfortunately I was actually a little underwhelmed by it. I feel like the comedy took a backseat in this season to make room for sentimental goodbyes. I enjoyed how all the minor characters got personalized individual send-offs, but I didn’t like that the show writers felt the need to outline the major characters’ futures with such detail. I would have liked some things left open-ended.

This month I also started the BBC crime drama Luther starring Idris Elba. It was such a random show for me to start, and it’s so cool because Elba just won two SAG awards this weekend, one for Luther! I had a little trouble at the beginning understanding the British accents, which weren’t like what I’m used to hearing. But the first season was mind-blowing and I can now say I really like Ruth Wilson (who I’ve not enjoyed in other things I’ve seen her in). I’m now on the third season, so I’m almost finished with what’s currently on Netflix with no plans for what I’m going to watch next.

wraptitles4This month I started making writing more of a priority, but I did not write much of anything. I wrote less than 2,000 words over the course of about 2 weeks. What I’ve been working on primarily is EMatST which I introduce in my Writing Goals for 2016 and Novel Progress #1 (Working Title & Plotting) posts. I’d hoped to get around to working on my first short story of the year (I hope to write 12 this year), but it just didn’t happen. I do, however, have two ideas, so maybe by the end of February I’ll have drafted them both.

wraptitles1This month I started my second semester as a graduate student. I actually did not have a hard time getting myself settled into my new schedule. I actually think I’m still going to be able to accomplish a lot, despite my demanding course load. The biggest difference in my schedule is that I keep later hours. I used to love waking up early and starting my day when others were still asleep. Now I wake up closer to noon so that I have a few hours to things before my night classes and still make it through those three-hour classes alive.

Over all I’m pleased with how January turned out. I still feel like I’m getting back into the groove of reading and blogging so I’m not so sure that I’m happy with everything that went up this month, but it’s all trial and error right now anyway. I’ve been able to keep up with book reviews for everything I’ve read, but I’m honestly not too sure how long that will last. I’m thinking about switching to mini-reviews just so I can focus my blogging on other things as well.

I want to start doing more blogging tips & advice posts, as well as opinion pieces and critiques of what I see happening in the publishing industry. I’m also going to have to start figuring out what I’ll do for my Capstone project to graduate next year. So expect some more experimentation with what happens on Ink Keys and Other Things in February!

Thank you for reading!
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Tooth and Claw | Book Review

Tooth and Claw

tooth

Released: November 1, 2003
Pages: 320 (paperback)
Theme(s): Family, religion, love, justice, loyalty
Genre(s): Fantasy, historical fiction
Age Group: 10+
Source: I bought it
Buy it: Book Depository | Amazon

Summary: A tale of love, money and family conflict – and everyone in the tale is a dragon, red in tooth and claw.

A family of dragons gathers on the occasion of the death of their father, the elder Bon Agornin. As is custom, they must eat the body. But even as Bon’s last remains are polished off, his sons and daughters must all jostle for a position in the new hierarchy. While the youngest son seeks greedy remuneration through the courts of law, the eldest son – a dragon of the cloth – agonises over his father’s deathbed confession. While one daughter is caught between loyalty to her family by blood and her family by marriage, another daughter follows her heart – only to discover the great cost of true love…

Here is a Victorian story of political intrigue, family ties and political intrigue, set in a world of dragons – a world, quite literally, red in tooth and claw. Full of fiery wit, this is a novel unlike any other.

My Goodreads Rating: ★★★

  My Thoughts  

Tooth and Claw is an slow-burning, but ultimately entertaining and worthwhile read! If you like the romance and societal critique of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and the cut-throat and imaginative realization of dragons, you’ll love this book. Jo Walton creates a unique and exciting world set with well-imagined characters who you can almost forget are dragons!

I do not know anything about Jo Walton or the background history of what went into the creation of this book, but it’s clear that in addition to being a family drama, filled with loss, romance, and revenge via due process (really), there are critiques of gender, inheritance, and religion that are worth looking further into. Not only is the world created in the image of the regency time period, Walton also endowed the world with a rich cultural history that is apparent in snippets throughout the book.

Things I Liked

  • The “comedy of manners” aspect being applied to dragons. I really enjoy stories that essentially critique the manners and customs of society the way that writers such as Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde did in their contemporary works of literature. Despite the fact that the characters are all dragons, there is a well-defined system of societal ranking and titles that Walton establishes throughout the book so that it’s hard not to keep up.
  • The humor. There are just some really easy-going laugh-out-loud moments throughout this book.
  • The alternating perspective. There is no one main character of the book. The narration follows each of the Agornin family members, but also side characters of varying important to the overall outcome to the story. I like how this added some depth to the situations of the story.
  • The variety of characters. I didn’t have a favorite character, and in this type of book that was entirely okay. Throughout the book, I felt the same about all the Agornins (except the eldest sister, her husband, and that retched parson of course)! But we are not supposed like them.

Things I Didn’t Like

There are only really two things I did not like about this book, the first relating to style and the second relating to plot. But I realize these things are just a matter of taste, as they completely suited the genre Walton was emulating.

  • The writing style used in this book is very reminiscent of literature written in the 18th and 19th centuries. There’s a lot more telling than showing. And the narration is partially restrained and a told from a distance, probably why I had difficulty truly connecting with any one character. But it works for the society about which the story is about.
  • The only complaint I have about the plot is the ending which was a little too convenient and tidy for me. Also it just wrapped up a little too quickly. I would’ve liked to see more of what happens to the characters after the resolution of the court scenes. Also, by the end the villains had a lot less bite to them.

Final Thoughts

I am happy I finally decided to give this book a read! I bought it from the Book Depository over the summer after seeing Jean Bookishthoughts talk about it on her BookTube channel. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes Jane Austen or dragons, and is in the mood for something a little different. Although there are some gory aspects to this story, this book is not a heavy read. It never gets too dark and it end very much in a happy and just place for all the characters you grow to care about.

There’s something for everybody to enjoy in this short read. My only warning is that it is a little slow, particularly if you do not connect with the story or characters early on!

Thank you for reading!
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First Week of the Spring 2016 Semester.

First Week of Class

It is Friday as I write this post and it has been a long, weird week. On Sunday and Thursday, the world lost David Bowie and Alan Rickman respectively, both 69 years of age and both to cancer. Weird, sad coincidence. In addition, this was the first week I had back to school. I am taking three classes this semester, all of which run from 7–10 p.m. So this week has consisted of me trying to get used to this weird schedule.

If there’s one thing I can predict about this semester, it’s that I will be very busy. All my classes appear to be pretty demanding in terms of reading. The class I decided to take as an elective (Creating Interactive Media) actually seems like it might be the most difficult of them all, which is a major bummer because I was lukewarm about it to begin with. I’d like to talk about these classes in more depth, but to be completely honest I’m still not 100% sure what they’re all about. My favorite so far seems like it will be my Monday class: Digital Textuality.

I’m hoping to stay on top everything this semester, so that I can read and blog without guilt or stress! I already have a substantial amount of homework to get done and I’m hoping I stick to the reading schedule I’ve designed for myself and it works out. After all, I still have other things I want to do!

Textbooks

This semester, I only had to buy three books. But two of the (most expensive) books are for my elective class (Creating Interactive Media) which is a class I have a feeling I will either end up loving or hating. Earlier today I placed an order on Amazon for the books I will need this semester, including:

Understanding-Comics-Scott-McCloud           about_face_the_essentials_of_interaction_design-alan_cooper-25327055-3770658108-frntl          large_9781592537563

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud.

This book is for my Digital Textuality class. The big project for the semester is a portfolio in which we select a story and translate it into four different modes: text, image, video, and sound. So I guess this Understanding Comics book is to get us to think about how the images/text of comics work in a way that will help us think about different modes.

About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design by Alan Cooper.

Since I don’t know exactly the point of this class or what we’re supposed to be doing, I have no expectations about this book. Hopefully it will end up useful in the future.

Universal Methods of Design by Bruce Hanington.

I have a feeling this book will be more important for the class because the instructor emphasized it in our first meeting this week. Since I’ve never taken a hardcore design class before, I have no background knowledge helping me form expectations about research in design beyond what little I picked up from my technical communication classes last year during my undergraduate studies at ISU.

future purchases…

Last summer I applied for the Amazon Credit Card because it seemed like a smart thing to do given that I shop on Amazon so much throughout the year and using it to buy things I’d buy anyway I could save up points to use towards Amazon purchases. Anyway, I have about $22 worth of points saved up that I almost used, but I’ve decided to save it for my birthday coming up in February.

I’ve not bought physical books in such a long time, since early October and, although I don’t need to, I’d like to treat myself soon! I already know what I think I’d like to buy: The Winner’s Curse and The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkowski in hardback. After the cover change scare that rankled the book blogging community a couple of weeks ago, I was so glad I hadn’t invested in the paperbacks (the way I normally do). And although I have my issues with these books, in particular the first one, I think the covers are gorgeous and I want them purely for vanity reasons!

Reading Update

Last weekend I ended up finishing two books! I didn’t read much over the break, so I’m really happy to have finally read and get this new year off to a good start. First, I finished Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton, a book I had started on New Year’s Eve I think. It was a pleasant read (★★★). It was very much reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice and that regency time period and had a very unique world (filled with civilized dragons). I only found it a little slow because of the way it was written. Also it ended all a little too conveniently for me.

Then I read An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, which I picked up from the library last Friday along with a few other books. I had actually read the first couple of chapters before leaving for Christmas break, but hadn’t had enough time to finish it. It was beautifully written but poorly plotted (in my opinion). I had several issues with it, leading to merely a ★★★-rating. 

I struggled deciding what I wanted to read next after two unique fantasy novels. So I randomly decided my next read will be Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. I think it will be a contemporary novel with some magical realism to it. I like magical realism so hopefully this is a pleasant read. My friend Ely from Tea & Titles enjoyed it so that’s a good recommendation!

Thank you for reading!
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Hello January 2016 (Life Update + TBR).

Life Update

Yesterday I made the three-hour journey from Houston to Dallas, effectively ending my holiday retreat at my parents’ house. In past years, the end of the holidays had always been more sweet than bitter. This year I’ve found myself indifferent. I feel more carefree when I’m staying at my parents’ home, but I also feel like it sets me back. I have trouble being productive there. Also, I feel tethered to my parents’ schedule.

One would think returning to my apartment in Dallas would have been met with a bit more joy, but I can’t stop thinking about tornados since the devastating outbreak this past Christmas that destroyed hundreds of homes not far from where I live. I live on the third, topmost floor of my apartment building. If a tornado hits I’m not sure I’ll make it. (Am I being dramatic? I’m not sure.)

If I’ve learned anything over my past semester at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), it’s that I don’t want to live in Dallas past graduation. Unless a dream job comes up, but that’s unlikely.

Next Monday classes start back up for me again. All my classes will be in evening from 7–9 pm, but I’ve still not finalized my schedule. I’m certain only on the two classes required for my degree program which are only offered in spring: Digital Textuality and Digital Culture. But I’m taking one more class, an elective, for which I have two options from which to choose: Creating Interactive Media and Information Design for New Media. I do not want to take both (primarily because I don’t want to take four classes this semester), so I’m squatting in both classes right now as I wait patiently for the syllabi to show up which will hopefully help me decide which will best serve my interests/needs.

With the rest of my time before classes start, I’m just trying to work on getting myself on a productive schedule. I haven’t been reading as much as I like, I haven’t been writing, and I haven’t been blogging because there’s been so little to talk about. It feels like I’ve been static for too long and I’m ready to come back to life again.

 January 2016 TBR

This year I am trying to live by the motto “slow and steady wins the race.” I’ve always been someone who gets hooked on something and then quickly burns out and loses interest. Last year I read the bulk of my books early in the year. This year I’m not going to push myself so hard. Especially as reading more was my primary goal for the year (which I achieved; I read well over 50!). But this year I have more things I want to do, which I’ll explain in my New Year’s Resolutions post later today or tomorrow.

Also, I’m trying not to buy too many new books this year. My living situation is precarious and I don’t like buying books that then get left at my parents’ house before I can read them. As I’m now a graduate student I have a new library to utilize, which is very good about stocking new releases! So there’s no predicting what I’ll be able to get my hands on. 🙂

So the only books I know I want to read from my personal library are:

toothmiddlesex

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton

I’m a little over 50 pages into this book and it’s been off to a great start. The brilliant characters and conflict grabbed me immediately. I’m reading it fairly slowly as I’ve been preoccupied with other things in my life and I’m out of reading shape. 🙂

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

I can’t really explain my interest in prioritizing this book. I just feel like the summary is intriguing and I’m attracted to the depth I’m expecting of this book. Also I love the movie The Virgin Suicides and I’ve never even read that book so I’m excited to finally experience this author’s writing. I’ve also not read fiction set in the real world for a while so this excites me.

Others…

I also have four digital ARCs from Edelweiss that I need to get to by the end of the month for review.

AND I have my writing buddy’s first draft of her first novel to read! She sent it to me on Christmas Day and I can’t wait to read the story we’ve been talking about for well over a year and provide her with feedback. 🙂

End Note

I will be posting my New Year’s Resolutions for 2016 late today I think, or I might schedule it for tomorrow morning (CST). I’ve not yet posted my official announcement on Books o’ the Wisp. I don’t expect too many people to follow me here from there, but I worry I’m letting people dangle over there. And I do intend to make that blog completely private once the premium features expire.

I have lot of posts planned for this new blog. I’m going to try and pre-schedule things so that everything doesn’t come out all in January and I have nothing left for February (“slow and steady”). Hope you enjoy my new blog! If you’d like to receive notifications of when I post new things, please check out any of my other social media links below!

Thank you for reading!
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