Books of 2016 (and my lengthy reviews)

Okay!  This is it…one last recap post and then onto more Star Wars goodness.  I promise.

I really thought that after the birth of my daughter I wouldn’t have any time to read books.  While I definitely slowed down, I was able to squeeze in a lot more than I originally thought.  Especially while breastfeeding!  When she was very little, she would feed every hour to two hours and for at least 30 minutes so I had plenty of time to catch up on a book.

In 2016, I read 26 books and 9349 pages.  The oldest book I read was published in 1952 (The Glitter and the Gold…which I didn’t even finish) and the newest book was the Star Wars Bloodline from 2016.

 

These are listed in chronological order with the first book I read in January through to December of 2016.

 

  1. A Turn of Light by Julie Czerneda. Oh my gosh, horrible memories keep flying back to me of this book.  I couldn’t stand it.  So many people loved this book on Goodreads so I’m completely baffled as to why I really struggled with it.  The cover captivated me, as did the description.  I mean, there was a dragon in it, c’mon…  But, oh, so painful.  The book was “yuge” at 800+ pages and I thought at least 600 of those pages could have been cut out.  It follows a main character, Jenn, on her day to day life for two weeks in a remote village in a fantasy world.  There is magic of course, but it’s slightly confusing on how it works.  And a little creepy too.  I wish I could give a good plot summary but I think I’ve blocked most of it out of my head.  The book does get interesting at the end and I feel like it finally began to pick up and pieces fell into place.  I just wish that momentum could have carried us throughout the entire novel as opposed to consistently dragging on with oh-aren’t-these-homey-farm-folk-cute and oh-they-have-unexplained-magic-in-their-land-too-how-cute.  Enough already.  The characters were way too complacent for even homey farm folk and their actions were boring.  Books like this are why non-fantasy readers do not pick up fantasy novels.  If only they would read books like Elantris or Name of the Wind, they may have a different opinion of the megahuge novels.  2/5 stars.
  2. Burma Chronicles; Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China; Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea; A User’s Guide to shenzhen-guy-delisleNeglectful Parenting; Chroniques de Jerusalem by Guy Delisle. I stumbled upon Delisle’s Burma Chronicles by mistake when I was looking in the graphic novel section of our library.  And I fell in love.  I quickly read all of his travelogue’s, plus his Guide to Neglectful Parenting (not near as good as his travelogue’s).  Translated from French, Delisle recounts his experiences in remote places of the world through drawings and sarcastic humor.  It’s also very insightful and the way he conveys his thoughts on places like North Korea comes across clearly in his little pictures.  He first gets placed in places due to his job and later on accompanies his wife as she works with Doctors Without Borders.  The best part is when his child is born and he becomes a stay at home dad in a foreign country.  Out of all these books/graphic novels/travelogues, my favorite was the Burma Chronicles and Shenzhen5/5 stars for all, though some fall closer to 4.5/5 stars.
  3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This novel was a bestseller a few years ago.  It was on my list to read for a long time but it was always taken out at the library.  I finally got the chance this February when I was on vacation and I loved it!  Circuses have always interested me from when I was very young and saw the movie Toby Tyler.  What made this book gripping was the extra element of magic that was thrown into it, plus the two main characters who were forced against their wishes to compete against each other to the death with their magic within the circus…but they fell in love.  How do you circumnavigate that?  I appreciated the ending to this book.  I think Erin Morgenstern gave us a happy medium.   It was frustrating to read it and know from the very beginning that one of the main characters had to die.  You couldn’t see a way out.  Then when the characters learn that one has to die, you wonder who is going to make the sacrifice since at this point they are both madly in love.  Some reviews complained that the ending was a cop out, but I did not feel like that at all!  I thought it was deftly played and I did not see it coming.  I really enjoyed this book.  It was a good blend of realism, magic, romance, and historical fiction without going overboard in any of those categories.  I would like to give a larger review but then I’d go into even more spoilers than I already have, so I’ll leave it at that.  5/5 stars.
  4. Nobody’s Princess by Esther M. Friesner. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when this book was over.    Talk about annoying!  I couldn’t stand the main character and felt like the entire storyline was taken too much out of historical and into the fiction realm.  Helen, based on the Princess of Sparta/Helen of Troy, was so unrealistic that I almost didn’t finish the book.  Thank goodness it was short.  Friesner obviously wanted to create this “strong” heroine who makes her own paths but it felt very forced. I see what the author was trying to do and the point of view she trying to bring to Helen but it felt immature.  The writing also felt unpolished and like a teenager had written it.  I would not recommend this book to any female young adult/teenager.  It’s just too unrealistic.  2/5 stars.
  5. Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn. This book was good.  A solid good.  Not great, not meh, but good.  I found that I enjoyed it a lot.  I loved the blend of a teenager in the modern world, but also the prevalence and acknowledgement that dragons were living breathing creatures right over the border.  It’s an easy read and perfect for just zooming through a book that has an urban fantasy feel to it.  The only thing that really bothered me was the focus on sex in this novel and losing her virginity.  In the end, Vaughn uses it as a plot point but I still felt like it was pounded into our head. Should she have sex?  Should she not?    I did love the main character however, despite her obsession with losing her virginity.  Other than that, she was relatable and a female heroine who wasn’t too obsessed with her boyfriend, could make decisions on her own, and level headed enough to make me understand her actions.  And dragons!  Real, talking dragons in the modern day world.  How fun is that??  3.5/5 stars.
  6. Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman. Um, loved this book.  Absolutely loved it.  Having been raised by a European mother, I had a hunch that I would not be raising ARM (or any of my
    children) like other American mothers.  Reading this book after skimming through some boring “Baby’s 1st Year” books was a refreshing, and much needed, change.  It reminded me a bit of my childhood.  I always thought my parents were overly strict, and they were…compared to most of my American friends.  It wasn’t until I was in high school and college that I realized the difference was my mother is European and my father is Australian and they both brought a unique, non-American cultural view to raising children.  My favorite parts of reading this is how many moments I had of “Oh, I never realized that, but that is SO TRUE!”  For instance – how much American kids eat.  How impatient children in our society are.  How we don’t follow through with our “No”s occasionally.  How our kids our picky eaters (and how to prevent that).  There are definitely some parts that are overgeneralized about Americans and there are parts of French society that would not make me want to live there (the pressure on having your body back and looking fabulous months after giving birth!), but the parenting style is to be commended.  I liked this book so much that I bought it (big deal) and read it again after Ayla was born on some of those long sleepless nights and tiring days.  5/5 stars.
  7. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. Em. Gee.  This book took forever!  I was simultaneously reading it alongside all the other books Silmarillionthat were previously listed here.  It took me 4 months.  I would get super into it, and then in typical Tolkien fashion he would blab on and on about something boring and I would drop it for a bit, etc.  I found that the book did not follow as quite of a linear pace as LotR does.  There’s also a lot of mythology to the novel, which lends well but at times can leave you confused.  The gods are there and then they disappear and leave everything to the elves…who have their own unique history.  I found that the elves read a little like a soap opera, but the problem was that we’d get a quick glance into one story line, and just when I found myself getting interested in the characters, they disappeared.  They *might* turn up again, or they might not.  This made it hard for me to read and remain interested.  I love LotR, but maybe I should read the rest of Tolkien’s work sparingly.  3.5/5 stars.
  8. The Glitter and the Gold by Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan. I picked this up because we live close to Newport, RI and I have visited the summer mansion of the Vanderbilt’s.  I thought the autobiography of one of the Vanderbilt children would be similar to a Downton Abbey season.    It was not.  Though I must say, her mother was an absolute bitch and therefore a delight to read!  But once she was old enough that her mother was no longer in the book, I got very bored and stopped reading it.  2/5 stars.
  9. Wild Within by Christine Hartmann. A romance novel written by my neighbor.  Enough said.
  10. Dealing with Dragons; Searching for Dragons; Calling on Dragons; Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede. In which Kiri reads all 4 books in the series before giving birth.  (All chapters in these novels begin, “In which…”)  I love these books.  I used to dealing-with-dragonsread them all the time when I was younger and even with a 10+ year break since I’ve read them…they still are amazing.  The characters are great, the storyline is great, the world building is great.  It’s all great.  I also wanted to read them to see if they pass the independent-female-heroine YA novel I could give to ARM when she gets older and they still do.  It’s the story about a princess who does not want to do what normal princesses do (embroidery, curtseying, marrying prince’s)…so she runs away from her kingdom and becomes a princess to a dragon instead.  The dragon admires her sense and intelligence and they become fast friends.  Meanwhile, wizards are trying to “steal” magic from the dragons and this is a mystery, but of course ends in a climactic battle.  That’s the first book.  The next three continue to follow the princess’s life, but from different point of views.  Book two is from her future-husbands point of view, book three is from her good friend (a witch), and book four is from her son’s point of view.  If you love YA, and even if you don’t, but want an easy read full of magic and fun – definitely read these! 5/5 stars.
  11. The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher. This book has a weird place in my heart.  I got it because I was getting induced into labor.  I heard that it can sometimes take 24-48 hours to even give birth when you’re induced and you could be bored out of your mind for a long time…so I wanted a gripping book to sustain me.  I was lucky and was only 8 hours so the book didn’t help much, but I read it during the endless hours of breastfeeding that come with a newborn.  That said, the book wasn’t amazing.  I liked it but I don’t think I’ll be reading the second book.  It takes a lot to keep me enthralled enough to read another book in a series.  My main problem with the book were the characters.  I did not get connected to enough of them to care if they lived or died.  In fact, my favorite character was a cat, Rowl, but only because he was funny.  In order for me to love a book, I have to love the characters.  This book had plenty of swashbuckling fun but if I don’t care if a character lives or dies, then I’m not going to rate it any higher than 3 stars.  3/5 stars.
  12. Cate of the Lost Colony by Lisa Klein. This historical YA novel explored the lost Roanoke colony from a fictional character’s point of view, Cate.  Banished by Queen Elizabeth for falling in love with Raleigh, it goes into the people’s first years in America and what could have happened to the people.  The book makes the assumption that half leave after a disagreement in hopes of finding a better area and the other half assimilate into the Native American culture and tribes.  What I enjoyed about this novel was we received two different looks at life from Cate’s view: Elizabethan England and the first colonists in America.  4/5 stars.
  13. Bloodline by Claudia Gray. See my review here3/5 stars.
  14. Broken Skies by Theresa Kay.    Meh…  I liked that the main characters, Jax and Lir, did not spend the entire book fighting but instead fell into a groove early on.  There’s nothing worse than YA teen novels where the two main characters ignore their feelings for each other and bicker throughout the entirety.  I also think Kay did a great job with creating characters and societies that were fleshed out as much as possible for a YA novel.  It was fascinating to see a dystopian world where you weren’t quite sure of the motives of either side – it was a breath of fresh air from most other dystopian novels nowadays.  The main problem I had with this book was that though Ms. Kay was trying to present Jax as a “strong female character”, she still needed a male (first her brother and then Lir) to help her overcome her difficulties and a broken past.  That’s why I give this a “meh”.  My one main problem was actually a big problem for me because it frustrated me the entire way through reading.  I felt the book could be a lot stronger and more beneficial to young girls if we didn’t have Jax so reliant on different men.  3/5 stars.
  15. Clan of the Cave Bear; The Valley of Horses; The Mammoth Hunters by Jean Auel. Clan of the Cave Bear was amazing.  It was unbelievably good.  It had a slow start, but once it got going, I couldn’t put it down.  The book goes into the story of a young girl named Ayla, who loses her family to an earthquake.  She gets taken in by a prehistoric group who calls themselves a Clan.  Ayla is the “modern” human: completely upright, smart/inventive, pale with blond hair, and can talk easily with sounds.  The Clan is prehistoric: hunched over, broad foreheads, bowed legs.  The book follows her life trying to fit in with these prehistoric people who are the only family she knows, while being so different..and because of that difference, facing hatred from some other Clan members.  She has a baby with one of them that is deformed and at the end, she is forced out of the clan to be on her own.  The next novel follows her living by herself and looking for others like herself, and also following the story line of a man named Jondalar who is like her.  Predictably, they both meet up towards the end and fall in love.  Then it starts going downhill.     Ayla was an awesome character.  Then she met Jondalar and he sucked which made the book almost unbearable. The final novel, The Mammoth Hunters, introduce Ayla and Jondalar to a new group of people and Ayla learns how to live with others like her.  The book also sucked because Auel decided to create a love triangle between Jondalar and another man.  It was excruciatingly painful to read.  How did a series that start off SO WELL end up SO HORRIBLY?  Just read the first book of this series if you are going to read it.  It’s hard, because it leaves on such a cliffhanger, but the last two novels were so disappointing that you’ll get as frustrated as I did.  Book 1: 4/5 stars.  Book 2: 3/5 stars.  Book 3: 2/5 stars.
  16. The Lies of Locke Lamora; Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch. I believe this is a trilogy but it didn’t hold my interestlies-of-locke-lamora enough to continue to book three. I learned my lesson with Clan of the Cave Bear.  I’m a little surprised only because the Goodreads reviews on this book are amazing and even my beloved Pat Rothfuss wrote a review on how good it is.  The book follows the life of a professional (and I mean really professional) pickpocket: Locke Lamora.  Think almost like Ocean’s Eleven heist-like novel.  The first novel jumped between flashbacks and current day which made it a little hard to follow but in the end, it was worth it.  The novel didn’t shy away from deaths of main characters, other characters getting screwed over, and nail-biting suspense.  It was long, though.  The novel had a lot of fluff that I think could have been cut out.  I remember debating if I should keep reading when I finished the first one, but I thought, why not?  I’ll try the next one.  It was not near as good and dragged a lot more.  But again, it did not shy away from deaths and I actually liked the main character, Locke, a lot more in the second novel than the first.  I would recommend these books to people who want something different while reading fantasy.  It had a tad of magic, but nothing was overdone and there was not a lot of romance either.  3/5 stars for both books.

 

My favorite book of this year would have been Bringing up Bébé and Clan of the Cave Bear.  I read Bringing up Bébé twice this year, so that definitely says something.  Clan of the Cave Bear was so thought provoking and took a subject that I thought would not be interesting at all and had me crying at the end of the novel.  It was so gripping that I was able to consistently read it, even while sleep deprived and having a newborn.  I definitely recommend it to anyone.  Even though it starts slow, it’s so worth it.

I read a lot of books in series this year, which is unusual.  I also noticed that I didn’t like a lot of the books I read, unfortunately.  Life is much too short to not read good books!  This means I’ll have to pick and choose better this year OR learn that it’s okay to put down a book in the middle of it, instead of wanting to finish because I think it’ll get better.

Mostly, I’m just happy to see that my reading didn’t slow down *too* much since having a baby.  Everyone said it would go out the window but I found that if I make time for reading, I can still enjoy it.

If you want to follow me on Goodreads, here’s my profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/3910665-kiri I’d love to follow you back!

 

What was your favorite book(s) of 2016?  I’ll put it on my list!

The Highs and the Lows: 2016

Another year has come and gone.  I always feel like 12 months is so long in the beginning of the year and then at the end, I feel like it was a blink of an eye.  “The days are long, but the years are short,” is what someone told me when ARM was a newborn and I totally get it now.

This blog didn’t have so well of a year as it did in 2015, primarily for two reasons:

  1. I posted a lot less, and
  2. TFA really helped out my blog last year.

That said, it didn’t do as badly as I feared either!  Only ~7000 views less than last year.  My most viewed post was Costuming & Characters on Princess Leia, followed by the Han Solo, and lastly Luke’s costume analysis.  I remember how long those took to write last year so I’m happy to see they are still getting traction.  My most viewed post that I wrote in 2016 was In Which I Defend General Hux and Speculate on Supreme Leader Snoke.

When searching the Internet, most people came to my site by way of “pregnant Padmé”, “Boushh Scene” and “Princess Leia Endor Ewok costume”.

 

2016, overall, was a great year for me personally.  In fact, there were more highs than lows which is always a GREAT thing, but I feel like the lows had longer effects.

 

The Highs of 2016

  • Obviously my daughter’s birth. With a middle name of Rey, I’m hoping this child grows up strong in the Force, independent; open to change, and a kind hearted person.  After having two failed pregnancies, it was nice to see this come to fruition and meet our own
    One of my favorite photos taken in Ireland

    One of my favorite photos taken in Ireland

    child at last.  I really was hoping she would come to this world on a Star Wars date, but alas, that didn’t happen.  I love her anyway though.  😉

  • We still traveled quite a bit this year: Florida in the earlier part of the year, Ireland and London in October, and Nashville in November.  I went by myself to NYC last month as well.  I’ve wanted to go to Ireland for years so it was nice to finally have that dream of mine come true.  I loved the Western Coast the best and we stayed in a beautiful, relaxing Airbnb right on the coast.  The backyard was a cliff to the ocean! London was way more fun than I thought it would be and I sincerely hope that I get to go back one day. We visited family and stayed for two days and I really wish I had stayed longer!
  • My business continued to thrive, despite having to figure out an unpaid maternity leave. I lost some clients, but also gained some!  I have also learned how to be picky on who I bring on as a client as my new schedule with a young baby does not give me as much availability as before.  But on the other end, I now am working very early in the morning and until late at night, so there is a darker side.

 

The Lows of 2016

  • The election. I actually had a whole post devoted to this, but then scrapped it because I don’t want my blog to be about politics.  But I can write about it briefly here!  In a nutshell – I am a registered Republican, but was/am appalled by Donald Trump.  I am trying to keep an open mind now that he’s been elected, but I do worry about the direction our country is headed.  That said, I did not think padme-gifHillary Clinton was a good choice either…but I thought she was the lesser of two evils.  Trump reminded me of the Empire, in fact, many times uncannily so.  I am hoping I will never need to say Padmé’s famous line of “So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause,” during the next four years.
  • My health. My health has taken quite a beating this year and I am still having issues.  I got the flu back in March and let me tell you – when you have any kind of sickness and your pregnant and/or breastfeeding – life gets a whole lot harder!  Being pregnant with the flu was horrible.  You can only take Tylenol, and not a lot of it, but it doesn’t help much.  If I got a coughing fit, I would pee my pants due to the baby sitting on my bladder/extra pressure.  It took a good month and a half for me to feel well again.  Fast forward to mid-October, I get another cold…that hasn’t gone away.  I found out I had strep throat for a few weeks without knowing it.  I took the antibiotics and broke out in a horrible rash.  I stuck with them and though I am slightly better, I am not 100% and it’s been 3 months now.  I went to a naturopath Monday and am hoping I start to get better.  We are experimenting with cutting out lactose for a few weeks (ugh) and she has me on a few different supplements as well.
  • The death of my grandmother and godmother. I was not especially close with my grandmother and she lived in Australia, but it’s still a family member.  I have funny memories of her and she was quite a quirky woman (the complete opposite of my dad).  However, she was older, in a nursing home, and it was an unspoken thought that it was only a matter of time.  But I was close to my godmother, despite the distance.  She died unexpectedly and that is always hard to deal with.  I still have all her texts on my phone and even now, a few months later, I can’t believe she’s gone.
  • This blog and learning a new life with a baby. I’ve definitely been posting a lot less since having ARM.  I knew it would happen but it’s funny how fast the weeks go by.  I’ll have a draft started and it may take me 2 weeks to finish it!  Or, I work on a post and by the time I’m almost done, I change my mind and decide it’s now irrelevant (a lot of Rogue One posts had that happen).  I also haven’t been able to keep with other people’s blogs on WP as much as I would have liked either.  Having a baby is a total adjustment.  Not only with blogging, but with life.  If people joke around that marriage is a ball and chain, life with a baby is that x10!  My life revolves around her nap time.  If something wakes her up too early during her nap time…ugh, I’ve almost had break downs.  Nap time is my time and it’s interesting at how much I cherish those few hours now.  I love her, but it’s hard to take time for yourself.  (Please note that this is barely a “low” of my life – it’s more of a big change)
  • Carrie Fisher’s death. I guess 2016 was not content with the death of Kenny Baker, our beloved Artoo, it also had to take our beautiful princess from us.  I think anyone my age knew that we would be alive to see the main 3 OT characters die, but no one wants a shocker death.  I’m curious as to what this means for the other saga films (she was done filming VIII, but was slated to also appear in IX) and what they are going to do with it.  I don’t want more CGI Leia, but it may be the only option at this point.  Killing her off-screen would be cheap and CGI would suck.  So we’re left in a no win situation.

 

MTFBWY Carrie Fisher on your next adventure

MTFBWY Carrie Fisher on your next adventure

2016 was overall a much better year for me than the past two.  I had very little lows that actually connected to my life, other than the death of my grandmother and godmother.  The birth of my daughter, though an adjustment to my life, has been so amazing.  Now that she is past the newborn stage, I’m loving her more and more every day.  She’s the joy of my life and I look forward to hanging out with her (isn’t that weird?  She can’t even talk).

In 2016, I learned that time passes even when you think it’s going so slowly.  There were moments of doubt, days with little sleep, fatigue due to sickness, and so much but I did learn that the “days are long, but the years are short.”  It’s so, so true.  My goal in 2017 is to appreciate more, love more, complain less.  Easier said than done, but it’s been so easy for me to fall into the complaining trap, especially when sleep deprived.  Is a positive attitude that hard?  Is smiling a struggle?  My goal is to fly a little bit more casual.  I have so much to be thankful for; I am so blessed.  I need to remind myself of that every day.

Thanks to all you guys for sticking around as I posted less in 2016 and my life has continued to evolve.  Here’s to Episode VIII.  Let’s hope Rey is as awesome as she was in TFA and has more personality than Jyn (teehee).

 

MTFBWY.

The Highs and the Lows: 2015

I’ve decided this year to split the books I’ve read from this past year and my life recap into two separate posts.  It was getting to be too long with both (other than last years, where I wrote it and then somehow ended up deleting all of my reviews).  This way you don’t have to read the one post a year where I talk about my life if you’re more into books, haha!

This blog had a fabulous year!  I’m sure a lot of it was helped by The Force Awakens, but I’ll take it.  I had a secret goal of doubling my views from last year and though that didn’t happen, it still did very well.  I completed my one major goal of finding 10 things I liked about AOTC and wrote some other posts that I was very proud of: my three essays on costume analysis of Leia, Han, and Luke in the Original Trilogy.  My most viewed post was Environmental Attitude (I think because of the images, not the content lol), followed by my costume analysis on Leia.  The Jedi Code Absolutes did well again this year and took home the bronze.

My most commented post was the recent review on The Force Awakens and the highest day for views was December 18th (duh, release date for TFA).  My top commenters were Mei-Mei and Data Glitch.  Thanks for hanging around!

 

2015 was interesting.  It was more highs than lows, and for that I’m thankful.  2014 was very evenly balanced in terms of the highs were great and the lows were horrible so 2014 was a perfect yin and yang of duality.

The Highs of 2015

  • I went to Star Wars Celebration Anaheim in California. This was definitely one of the best parts of the year.  I bit the bullet, scraped together my money and headed off on an adventure with my reluctant husband.  Despite almost ruining my costume and standing in line for 15+ hours In line for IMAX TFAover 3 days, it was one of my favorite parts of this year.  And now my husband is used to standing in lots of lines for brief Star Wars panels, so there’s that too. 🙂
  • The Force Awakens was released! Finally!  After almost 3 years of waiting, we got the next installment in the Star Wars universe.  Overall, I liked it and was not disappointed.  I love Rey and continue to use her as an example in random parts of my life, mostly with mantras of, “If Rey can do this, I can do it,” even if Rey never had to open a particularly hard jar of olives in the movie.  Now that the foundation and storyline has been set, I’m interested to see where the universe continues to take us with the anthology movies and Sequel Trilogy.
  • I quit my full-time job and went solo with my Virtual Assistant business. It happened faster than I thought.  It’s been an interesting process and definitely is nerve wracking every time I try to renew a client’s contract.  So far, I haven’t lost anyone but I know it’s bound to happen so am waiting for that time.  Right now, I’m still working out kinks, dabbling in subcontracting, and trying to figure out how to grow my business but somehow not take on tons more work in the process (LOL).
  • We got a new dog! After we put Chewie to sleep last year, we waited out the winter (smart move, lemme tell you) and got Yogi at the end of March.  He is much crazier than Chewie and more of a handful but can also be the cutest little thing.  I wanted to continue the Star Wars naming tradition but he was too much of a cute Yogi Bear (though his size lends more to Boo Boo).
  • I’m pregnant! This is especially joyous as it’s take number three.  Many of you who read my blog post last year remember that I miscarried.  I also had an unfortunate, difficult experience with pregnancy this spring so finally getting news that this one is healthy and doing well is a relief (though I’m not near as excited as most first time pregnant people are – that’s been kind of been robbed from me and I’d like to describe myself as cautiously optimistic).  I am 4.5 months along and the baby is due in May.  You know what that means right?  MAY IS STAR WARS MONTH.  There are five auspicious dates when I’m hoping this momentous event will happen:
    • May 4th – duh. That is a little early for me and my doctor is actually hoping that won’t happen, but, you know, it’s Star Wars day.
    • May 16th – AOTC release date
    • May 19th – TPM and ROTS release date
    • May 21st – ESB release date
    • May 25th – ANH and ROTJ release date

I find out the sex of the baby in less than two weeks.  If it’s a boy we will most likely name it Luke because my husband is the best person ever (it’s also not suspiciously Star Wars-y and he thinks it’s a strong name).  If it’s a girl, no idea.  Definitely not a Star Wars name because that’s too obvious and even I don’t want that.    

It's nickname has been "The Little Jedi"

It’s nickname has been “The Little Jedi”

The Lows of 2015

  • My second pregnancy. Unlike the first time in 2014 when I miscarried, this time I carried the baby completely through the first trimester…only to find out in the initial screening that there was something very, very wrong with it.  It was not growing correctly and not moving.  They sent me to specialists at a local hospital, who then sent me into Boston for further testing and genetic counselors.   After a discussion with my husband, and multiple doctors, we decided to get rid of it and have an abortion.  I know everyone’s political views are different and this was a very difficult decision (trust me), especially as we had to rush all of our evaluations since I was beginning to show.

The hard part was the doctors and specialists only had guesses based on ultrasounds, not any conclusive evidence though they promised me that they were 99% sure it was this one issue and it wouldn’t live past 5 years old.  The tests would take almost a month to get back so we had to make a quick decision.

Well guess what?  A few weeks after getting rid of the baby, they called me and told me that what they initially thought was incorrect and they were continuing to test the chromosomes.

My heart dropped and I freaked.  I had been doing okay, but when I realized there was a chance that I got rid of a baby that may have lived – I lost it.

Mercifully, two weeks after that news, they called me again to tell me they found out what it was and it’s something SO rare that only happens in 1 in 50,000 pregnant women.  It’s not genetic (thankfully) and completely random.  They said I would have either miscarried it later down the line or had a stillborn because it’s very rare these types of babies live.

It was a horrible time…the worst was the one month period when we had to make fast decisions, when dreams were shattered, and the first misdiagnosis left me in despair.  Once I got the final test results back, I felt more at peace and was able to move on with my life.  What’s done was done, and I like to believe everything happens for a reason.

This is a very, very short version of the month when it happened.  I wish I could go more in depth of how hard it is to carry and connect with your child only to make the decision to get rid of it, the guilt that follows, the debilitating, cruel jealousy over friends who get and stay pregnant with no problems, and struggling to be upbeat when no one knows what you are going through (only my husband and sister knew while it was happening…since then I’ve opened up to some close friends and my parents, but not while it was happening).

HOWEVER – I do want to say that if anyone ever struggles with pregnancy issues, please connect with me because I’ve been there.

  • The winter of this year. This seems lame compared to my last bullet point, but trust me – it wasn’t.  The winter in Boston was record breaking in many ways…and it also almost broke our backs when we shoveled.  Every week there was a snowstorm, which didn’t allow the previous snow to melt.  I pulled my back for the first time ever and it still gives me problems on and off since then.  It was very depressing and it took until April for the snow to melt.  I hope to never, ever see that kind of snow again.  We had a 7-8’ snow bank at the end of our driveway.
7 foot hill of snow at the end of my driveway. Fun times.

7 foot hill of snow at the end of my driveway. Fun times.

 

As you can see, I had two lows compared to multiple highs.  Though my second pregnancy took a lot out of me physically and emotionally, when I’m here in January looking back on 2015, I realize that I think 2015 was a good year overall.  The beginning of the year was horrible with our winter, but going solo as a business owner was huge for me and a big leap of faith.  Anything and everything Star Wars related were bright points that only shined brighter as the year continued.

2014 was a year of learning about myself, learning what I’m made of.  2015 was a year of learning how to feel, that it’s okay to feel and not resist (“what you resist persists” was one of my favorite sayings this year) and to be more empathetic to those around me.  You never know what other people are going through even if everything seems okay on the outside.

Thank you for bearing with me as I took my normal deviance from Star Wars posts to reflect on this past year.   I’m ready for 2016 (and a baby Jedi!).

Books of 2015 (and my lengthy reviews)

Honestly, this is one of my favorite posts to write.  Mostly because I love reading other WP bloggers posts on the books they read.  You never know when you’re going to see a book on someone else’s review and think you should read it…then it changes your life.

This year I’ve read 23 books and 9,432 pages.  This is my second highest reading year since I got married (2010) in terms of books and pages.  I guess I found a lot of time to read this year!  My record is 26 books in 2014 and 11,003 pages in 2011.

Most of the books I read this year were published after the year 2000.  The oldest book I read was The Fellowship of the Ring published in 1954.

These are listed in chronological order with the first book being what I read in January and the last book I completed.

  1. Choices of One. By Timothy Zahn.  Like I mentioned in my review earlier this year – how fun that 2016 started with a Star Wars novel.  It seemed fitting, what with a new era of Star Wars dawning.  I won’t put a real review here since you can read the longer one in my previous post.  5/5 stars.
  2. Blood and Beauty: The Borgias. By Sarah Dunant.  I don’t know much about the Borgias and their lurid mark on history, so I enjoyed this introductory novel to their lives.  It ended too early in the game for me and I’m not sure if there’s going to be a second novel about their lives.  The part that was in there though, was delicious, fun, and I liked the slant she gave to the characters.  The only part that I was truly disappointed in was how little Dunant actually spent with the main man – Pope Rodrigo Borgia.  4/5 stars.
  3. Empress of the Seven Hills. By Kate Quinn.  Kate Quinn has taken over Philippa Gregory’s place in my heart for historical novels empress of the seven hillswith romance, backstabbing, and politics.  I love almost any book by her.  Though this was not as good as Mistress of Rome or Daughters of Rome, I still really enjoyed it.  What set it apart a little from her other novels is that there was a lot of the betrayal and backstabbing, but at its core, there was a lot about loyalty and growth.  This book also had a different ending from the others, where the antagonist did not get what was coming for her, but shocker, she is not disgraced and she lives!  All the main characters lives get turned upside down and nothing ends how you want it to.  It reminded me of ESB in that way…and I loved every moment.  I would recommend this book for people who are interested in Ancient Rome but don’t know much of its history.  4/5 stars
  4. Red Rising. By Pierce Brown.  Hmmm…what to say about this novel?  Being hailed as a new bestseller about the dystopian future, I found it to be a mashup of Hunger Games + Lord of the Flies + Ender’s Game.  In essence, a little off.  The biggest problem I had is that I couldn’t remember what was going on each time I picked it up.  It was the kind of book that is great when you’re sitting down for long periods of time (like a plane ride), but not great when you read bits and pieces before you go to bed each night.  I think it was because the characters weren’t really memorable, there were too many of them, and they changed constantly.  But the ending…the ending was good.  If you like endings that kind of piss you off, you might want to give this a shot.  3/5 stars.
  5. A Mad, Wicked Folly. By Sharon Biggs Waller.  Predictable, and I got bored half way through it.  It was a typical YA novel of a beautiful girl trapped in luxury and wanting to be part of a bigger cause (she becomes a suffragette).  These books can be written well, but this one spent a ridiculous amount of time on the love story.  The main female protagonist did not feel as strong because you could never tell if she was making decisions for herself or her love interest.  3/5 stars.
  6. Chalice.  By Robin McKinley.  Yaaaaaaaaawn.  I actually was really disappointed with this novel and I like a lot of McKinley’s work.  But Chalice was so boring and really dragged.  I can’t even really tell you what it’s about because nothing happened. It was almost entirely composed of flashbacks.  If you like books that do a lot of world building, then you will like this book.  I feel like 70% of it was world building and having you get to know the environment and understanding the demesne.  30% was actually storytelling and plot.  The ending didn’t make sense either.  Needless to say, I put down the book feeling really disappointed.  When I read other reviews by readers, it seems like people either love the book or hate it.  I was in the latter camp.  2/5 stars.
  7. Secrets of a Charmed Life. By Susan Meissner.  First book I read by Meissner this year and it turned me onto her as an author.  I loved this novel way more than I thought I would.  Meissner does a great job of twisting past and present into a story.  She weaves together the lives of two sisters, Emmy and Julia, their separation due to WWII, and the guilt that follows both of them for 20 years of their life.  It’s a harsh, real look of someone who has big dreams and those dreams are snatched away because of war.  But not only does Emmy never pursue those dreams again, but it’s interesting the way it becomes Julia’s dream instead.  This story completely engrossed me.  I thought the characters were very well written; there was suspense, heartache, and Meissner combined so many styles of writing that it kept me on my toes.  4/5 stars.
  8. The Name of the Wind & The Wise Man’s Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicles). By Patrick Rothfuss.  Two mega huge high fantasy novels, both really good.  The novels follow Kvothe, the main character who seems to be a hero from stories but has changed his name and is a solitary bartender in a backwoods town.  Both books are almost entirely flashbacks, but when we go back to the present, something interesting always happens – to the point that you know the present will be important, but first we need to find out how he got there.  These books are huge so they are not for the faint of heart.  They are not fast paced either, but everything that happens is intriguing.  The worst part of these novels?  THE THIRD BOOK ISN’T OUT YET.  And there’s no news on the release date either.  This is possibly the worst thing about reading great books that are part of an unfinished series…now I have to wait.  4-5/5 stars.
  9. A New Dawn. By John Jackson Miller.  You can read my review here, but in short, I liked getting the backstory of Kanan and Hera.  I didn’t like how there was not as much about Hera or from her point of view as I was hoping.  3/5 stars.
  10. In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart. By Ruth Graham.  Written by Billy Graham’s daughter, Ruth writes about her struggles and how not to judge others and use God as a rock to help you through.    I thought it would be better is all I’m saying.  2.5/5 stars.
  11. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.  By Cheryl Strayed.  No, I haven’t seen the movie and don’t plan to.  At wild PCT trailtimes, I really liked this book, but most of the time I was bored.  Maybe it’s just me, but the parts that rubbed me wrong on this book was how it felt like a lot of whining and complaining from Cheryl.  She had plenty of moments to get her act together prior to her marriage crumbling, doing drugs, and drifting apart from friends and family.  Instead, she hikes the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) with NO experience whatsoever with hopes that it will heal her.  The funny thing is – we sit with her throughout the entire trail, but never find out if the PCT really pieced her back together.  As soon as she’s done with the PCT, we’re basically done with the book, except for a small few paragraphs about the rest of her life.  And by rest of her life, I mean, she immediately jumps 5 years later.  That was the part I was most looking forward to…how did the PCT change her life afterwards?  I thought it was an essential piece of the puzzle and we only got a slight whiff of it.  It’s a great book for those who like those introspective, figuring-my-shit-out kind of books similar to Glass Castle or even Eat, Pray, Love.  It’s a horrible book for avid hikers who dream of hiking the PCT or have hiked the PCT.  3/5 stars.
  12. The Buried Giant. By Kazuo Ishiguro.  I thought I would love the storyline when I started out, but then the style of writing really got under my skin to the point that it made it hard to concentrate on the plot.  When I began the novel, the premise was so intriguing that I couldn’t wait to keep reading it the next night.  An elderly couple (when do you ever read about that in fantasy novels?) as the protagonists realize something is very strange in the fact that this “mist” keeps robbing their memories.  So they leave their village to find their son, meet up with a warrior, orphan boy, and the Sir Gawain (yes, that Gawain, from Arthur’s round table) and get entangled in their adventures, which is also somehow tied to the mist.  Premise sounds okay, right?  Well, the writing was deliberately old fashioned and halting with random stories thrown in here and there, that I couldn’t get as into it as I would have hoped.  I got bored or frustrated and wanted to give up.  I didn’t, and I’m glad I didn’t, because I thought the ending was quite touching, but it didn’t make up for the rest of the novel.  3/5 stars.
  13. Failed Moments.  By Robert Allen.  The author, Allen, contacted me over Goodreads and sent me a free copy of this book in order to write an honest review.  The novel basically asked the question, “If you could go back in time to do the right thing, would you do it?” And the novel asks you to believe we have multiple lives.  My main qualms with this book is that the endings of his different lives seemed so rushed compared to the fleshing out of the story in both instances.  They almost were anti-climactic because you could see the ending before it came.  Allen took a longer time developing his characters and giving us historical context with background, but the ending always flew by and then all of a sudden, he was back at the hotel. I kept getting jarred out of the novel at times, a feeling I don’t like.  Story was good, but a little bit more work could make it great.  3/5 stars.
  14. The American Heiress. By Daisy Goodwin.  I picked up this book because some of the story had to do with the lives of the rich and famous in Newport, RI…right down the road from me and I’ve visited the mansions quite a few times.  It’s a YA novel of a fictional wealth American girl whose mothers would try to find them matches in titled English aristocrats.  The English dukes and barons needed the money and the Americans loved the title it gave them.  In this book, she marries a duke and becomes a Duchess.  Though the characters weren’t that interesting (and sometimes their actions didn’t make sense), I loved the contrast between the American “fast money” and the English “old money” and the differences between their points of views on money.  3/5 stars.
  15. The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King. By J.R.R. Tolkien.  Do I even need to write a review?  These are some of my favorite books.  It had been years since I read them, mostly because I had built it into my head that they were so long, forgetting that the last time I read them was in college.  When you don’t have papers and other reading to do – these books go by quite fast.  It was fun to reread and see what had been changed from the movies.  5/5 stars.  All of them.
  16. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. By Marie Kondo.  If you know me, I’m obsessed with organizing, scheduling, and “whenlife changing magic of tidying up book in doubt, throw it out”.  This book made me realize there are crazier people than me.  Quite a relief, actually.  That said, I do recommend this book if you are lacking motivation to clean your house.  She make some good points, such as a) if it doesn’t bring you joy, throw it out; b) Sort by category, not by room (books, clothes, kitchen utensils); c)  don’t become obsessed with fancy organizers; d) make sure everything has it’s “place” in your house; d) the more you clean out your house and keep it just to what brings you joy, the happier and more transformative your life will be.  But I warned you – she is really cray cray sometimes.  4/5 stars.
  17. The Mistress of Spices. By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.  A novel about a woman transformed by magic and tasked with using her spices in a modern day San Francisco shop to help other people.  It took a while to get used to the way Ms. Divakaruni writes with run on AND fragmented sentences but it ended up being enjoyable once I got into the flow.  The magic was different from a fantasy novel, and I enjoyed that it was different from what I normally read.  But I wouldn’t read it again and I’m not sure I would recommend it either.  3/5 stars.
  18. A Cast of Stones. By Patrick W. Carr.  I haven’t done this in a long time, but the book I wanted hadn’t come into the library so I browsed the stacks until I found one that looked good.  And this is what I came up with.  (I should do that more often)  This was a stereotypical fantasy novel plot line.  An outsider protagonist (male, of course) with no hope for a future ends up on a quest where he does not know what is going on.  He’s hopeless in the beginning but slowly learns how to fight and think.  Ends up in a place where he takes a rest and rids himself of his inner demons, as well as becomes an amazing fighter.  Moves onward with his journey after the resting point and learns about love, betrayal, greed, etc., before finally coming to the place where he was supposed to end up in the beginning.  Once he’s there, he’s reunited with his friends, there’s a climactic battle, and he becomes the hero.  Yes, it was predictable.  But, yes, I also liked it.  The book appealed to my side of wanting to go off on a quest and feeling like an outsider.  Yet it also had more interesting subplots, which is what kept me reading this novel.  Such as the stones and reading them, and trying to find out if the group he was with was really on his side or just after their own ends.  Pros for me was there was not a lot of romance, there was fighting, and a sense of intrigue and mystery.  I believe this is the first novel in a set, but I’m not sure if I’d read any more.  I’m curious, but not curious enough.  3.8/5 stars.
  19. Four Sisters, All Queens. By Sherry Jones.  Funnily, this is the second book I read on the Provence sisters.  It’s not that I meant to, I just didn’t realize it was both on the same subject.  I almost gave up reading when I saw it was the same subject line as The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot (read it in 2014).  Where I think that Perinot’s novel was stronger, I like how Jones’ novel went into all four sisters and their lives.  Perinot only focused on Marguerite and Eleanor, the two most famous sister queens.  I appreciated that Jones wrote about all the sisters and their dynamics.  Overall, I learned a lot and enjoyed it but Sherry Jones really shied away from writing dramatic events.  Just as the chapter got really good, it would end and switch to another point of view.  You’d then return to that same sister a year later.  A good book and I enjoyed learning about that era in history…I only wish she would not have shied away from the important details.  3/5 stars.
  20. Lady in Waiting. By Susan Meissner.  Second book by Meissner this year.  I’m not a fan of modern fiction but Meissner did such a superb job with intertwining a modern day Jane going through a rough separation and Lady Jane Grey’s history.  I didn’t think they would relate, but she did a good job.  The “life lessons” were a little shoved in my face (and that’s saying something for me) but I didn’t mind it because I liked the novel.  I would recommend this book to those who enjoy historical fiction but want something a little off the beaten path. 4/5 stars.

 

My favorite book of this year (other than the LotR trilogy) would probably be a tie between The Name of the Wind/Wise Man’s Fear and Secrets of a Charmed Life.  Nothing blew me away like 2014’s Ready Player One, but the Kingkiller Chronicles surprised me with their depth and layers.  Secrets of a Charmed Life had me crying at one point, but also filled me with joy.  It was a surprisingly, satisfying read and I look for that in novels.

There you have it!  2015 in books.  If you want to follow my reading all year round, you can come hang out with me on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/3910665-kiri

What was your favorite book of 2015?  Should I put it on my to-read list?

The Highs, The Lows, and The Books I Read In Between (2014)

2014 is a year that will stand out.  It started with highs and ended in lows.

This blog had a great year!  I posted 109 times, with most of my posting being in April (my haikus!).  My most viewedBlog post of 2014 was a post from last year, the Jedi Code Absolutes, but the most viewed post written in 2014 was actually not mine at all – but Megan‘s Facts in Fiction: Conspiracy Theories for Star Wars.  LOVE IT!  Yay, Megan!  Thanks for writing that great guest post! 🙂  My most commented on post of this year was actually April 10th’s haiku post where we had a friendly discussion about Count Dooku and clones.  Over 2014, Mei-Mei commented the most, followed closely by L. Palmer (we miss you!).  2014 also saw a year where I was able, for the first time ever, ask for guest bloggers when I went to Australia and it actually happened!  Megan and Null posted, with Icarus’ post ending up coming a little later.  I hope to continue this great streak in 2015, but I’ll be hard pressed, especially as I continue to work on my business.

Now here we are…time for the reflection that is always so important when a new year comes around.

The Highs of 2014

  • My business is doing great!  I have 3 clients and 2 that I’m hoping will sign onto a contract by end of January (knock on wood).  It’s been exhausting working on it every. single. day.  But you know what?  I hope it’ll be worth it and I think it will.  I’m often too hard on myself and don’t see all the little achievements that I have brought about.  But honestly, I have done SO well and every day is a learning process but I think it’s going to be fine.
  • I traveled.  I traveled a lot for me!  Miami in April, Bahamas in May and Australia in July.  Next year I already have
    Me at the Great Barrier Reef!

    Me at the Great Barrier Reef!

    travel lined up for Arizona in February for a friend’s wedding, Miami in April again, and hopefully Anaheim for the Star Wars Celebration!

  • We got the Episode VII cast, title and our first trailer!  It’s just been adding to the suspense but even though I feel like we know more, I still feel like I know the same amount as I did in the end of 2013.
  • I’ve learned more this past year than I have in a while.  This year has been the most challenging for me in terms of mind (my business), body (a fitness challenge I did during the summer), and soul (emotionally up and down).   I’ve learned what I’m made of and what I can become when I push myself.  I feel like before 2014, I was coasting.  I challenged myself, but only just enough so that I could give a little spurt of effort and then lay back and coast for a while.  This past year, there was not a lot of coasting.

The Lows of 2014

  • I’ve debated putting this on here, but it wouldn’t be truthful without it.  I unfortunately miscarried in November.  When I found out I was pregnant, I was terrified and felt like I wasn’t ready.  I look back on that with regret and wish I had appreciated it.  I hope that none of you ever have to go through a miscarriage because the emotional roller coaster it puts you through…I’m still suffering from it.  I’m a lot better, really I am, but November and most of December was full of crying, anger, guilt, and fear.  I’m still scared and unsure if I want to try again because of the constant fear I know I will feel if I do get pregnant.  But if there’s one thing I have learned from Lord of the Rings and Star Wars (but mostly LOTR) is that there is always hope.  So who knows?  When I feel ready to try again, maybe this time it’ll all be okay.
  • We put Chewie to sleep on December 6th.  (Yeah, end of the year sucked)  We found out in February that she had a
    The last photo ever taken of Chewie :(

    The last photo ever taken of Chewie 😦

    disease which marked her much older than the 4 years we all thought she was, including our vet.  Turns out she was a senior dog, probably over 9 years old.  We watched her slowly deteriorate from February to the point where she could not go up and down the stairs without falling, peeing in the house a lot, not eating, and her stomach ballooned with either a kidney problem or a tumor.  Testing would be thousands of dollars, which we were unwilling to do, so we ended up making the decision to put her to sleep.  We only had her for a little over a year and a half, but we know that she lived a really good life for the end of it and that’s the most we can hope for.  We will get another dog soon, but will another dog ever come to us from the shelter with a Star Wars name?  It made her so special.

  • I stopped doing the Big Sister program.  This is not really a low low, but I had a lot of hopes for the program and the relationship I would develop with the girl.  Unfortunately, we were not matched well and something that should have been fun, instead turned into an ordeal.  I dreaded meeting with her on the weekends and came to the decision to end visiting with her. She never showed her appreciation and our likes were so dissimilar that it was hard to find things to do.  I still believe in the program, but after I miscarried, I began reevaluating a lot in my life and to let go of things that were putting a strain on me and this was the first to go.  So it’s a low because I was really excited about it, but it ended up being disappointing.
  • I didn’t go to any conventions this year.  Okay, not a huge deal but it was still slightly disappointing since I went to four last year, including the big NYCC.  I would have liked to go to one but either 1) I didn’t have the time or 2) there were no panels that interested me.  Hopefully I can make it to Star Wars Celebration in April! 🙂

So there you have it.  My year in a nutshell.  Exhale breath.  Let’s hope 2015 gives me a year where I slow down, focus more on myself and my business….AND READ MORE BOOKS!

Okay, this is my favorite part, really.  I love looking back on my year and seeing what I read.  HERE WE GO.

Well guys, I just spent 30 minutes going into all the books I read, hit something funny on my laptop and it all disappeared.  Thankfully this much was saved of my post (really, WP, you need to learn how to autosave every few seconds like word documents and gmail do).  So if you really want to see what I read, you can go to my Goodreads.  I’m not writing all of it again.

ready player oneIn a nutshell: I read 26 books (that’a a lot for me and I think it’s due to all the traveling I did) and 8782 pages.  The best book I read was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  I didn’t expect to like it, but instead loved every moment of this gaming novel.  A novel about gamers who are trying to solve a master video game, it was also a love letter to the 70s and 80s, chock full of geeky references.  The worst novel I read, but didn’t finish, was The Shadow Reader.  It was Urban Fantasy and a stupid love story where I got so frustrated with it that I just stopped reading.

So there we go.  2014, it’s been…a ride.  Good, bad, and everything in between.  What books blew your mind this year?  How was 2014 for you?  What are your resolutions, hopes, and dreams for 2015?

Oh and guess what – WE’RE SEEING THE FORCE AWAKENS THIS YEAR!!  Here’s to that.