Curioussquared takes refuge in books in 2023, part 6

Discussão75 Books Challenge for 2023

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Curioussquared takes refuge in books in 2023, part 6

Editado: Set 27, 1:49 pm

Hello everyone! I'm Natalie. I have participated in the challenge on and off over my almost 15 years (!!!) on LT, and consistently over the past several years.

I'm located in Seattle, where I live with my husband and dogs. I do most of my reading curled up on the couch with my retired racing greyhounds Otter and Kermit, or listening to audiobooks while doing chores and walking the dogs. I am lucky to work from home full-time in HR communications for a large retail corporation.

I read mostly fiction, with a heavy emphasis on fantasy and sci-fi, romance, YA fiction, general fiction/literature, a scattered mystery here and there, and the occasional non-fiction title.

I've been keeping track of my books read since 2008, and I have traditionally aimed for 100, but I think these days I'm usually hoping to hit 150. Last year I hit 200, which was an all-time high and surprising even to me.

Another typical reading goal for me is to prioritize books off my shelves. Last year I was slightly weighted toward library books and I'd like to shift that back this year. I have a separate thread I maintain in the ROOTs group, and in addition, I have a selection of books off my shelves I'd like to get to this year, which you can see in a post below.

Otter screaming into the void:

Kermit lounging:

Kermit calculating how he can fit on the bed with Otter:

Editado: Set 27, 1:51 pm

I had over 30 new-to-me 5-star reads in 2022. I managed to trim it down to these favorites:

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Winter's Orbit by Everina Maxwell
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Faithful Place by Tana French
Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske
Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson
Little Thieves by Margaret Owen
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands by Kate Beaton
Paladin's Grace by T. Kingfisher
Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis

Editado: Set 27, 1:54 pm

Books read in 2023:

1. You Have a Match by Emma Lord (off my shelf)
2. Heartstopper vol. 3 by Alice Oseman (library)
3. The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun (library)
4. A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers (off my shelf)
5. Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres (off my shelf)
6. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (off my shelf)
7. Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells (reread)
8. The Maid by Nita Prose (library)
9. The Jewel Thief by Jeannie Mobley (off my shelf)
10. Chaos on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer (off my shelf)
11. The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold (library)
12. A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood (off my shelf)
13. Heartstopper vol. 4 by Alice Oseman (library)
14. This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron (off my shelf)
15. This Wicked Fate by Kalynn Bayron (off my shelf)
16. Possession by A. S. Byatt (off my shelf)
17. Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera (library)
18. Clockwork Boys by T. Kingfisher (library)
19. A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan (off my shelf)
20. The Wonder Engine by T. Kingfisher (library)

21. Enna Burning by Shannon Hale (off my shelf)
22. Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey (off my shelf)
23. The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling (off my shelf)
24. Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers (off my shelf)
25. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (off my shelf)
26. Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson (reread)
27. Mysteries of Thorn Manor by Margaret Rogerson (off my shelf)
28. To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers (library)
29. The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (off my shelf)
30. Everything For You by Chloe Liese (library)
31. The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (library)
32. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (off my shelf)
33. Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper (off my shelf)
34. The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells (off my shelf)
35. Exit Strategy by Martha Wells (reread)
36. The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie (off my shelf)
37. Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf (off my shelf)
38. Broken Harbor by Tana French (off my shelf)
39. Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier (library)
40. Garlic and the Vampire by Bree Paulsen (library)

41. The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert (off my shelf)
42. Scattered Showers by Rainbow Rowell (off my shelf)
43. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami (off my shelf)
44. Nick and Charlie by Alice Oseman (library)
45. An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole (library)
46. In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan (off my shelf)
47. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (library)
48. Othello by William Shakespeare (off my shelf)
49. All the Feels by Olivia Dade (library)
50. Healer and Witch by Nancy Werlin (library)
51. Ocean's Echo by Everina Maxwell (off my shelf)
52. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly (off my shelf)
53. Hither, Page by Cat Sebastian (library)
54. Forest Mage by Robin Hobb (off my shelf)
55. Spare by Prince Harry (library)

Editado: Set 27, 1:57 pm

Books read in 2023:

56. On the Way to the Wedding by Julia Quinn (library)
57. Icebreaker by A. L. Graziadei (library)
58. The Time Garden by Edward Eager (off my shelf)
59. Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (off my shelf)
60. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik (reread)
61. The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik (reread)
62. The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik (off my shelf)
63. Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells (reread)
64. Headlong by Michael Frayn (off my shelf)
65. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (off my shelf)
66. Well Played by Jen DeLuca (library)
67. Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola (off my shelf)
68. The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin (off my shelf)
69. The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite (library)
70. The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho (off my shelf)
71. The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren (off my shelf)
72. Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov (off my shelf)
73. The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather (off my shelf)

74. The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang (library)
75. The Emperor of Nihon-Ja by John Flanagan (library)
76. Five Children and It by E. Nesbit (library)
77. The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty (off my shelf)
78. What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher (library)
79. Happy Place by Emily Henry (library)
80. The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold (library)
81. Jane Austen Made Me Do It edited by Laurel Ann Nattress (off my shelf)
82. Delilah Green Doesn't Care by Ashley Herring Blake (library)
83. The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi (off my shelf)
84. We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds (library)
85. All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor (library)
86. A Restless Truth by Freya Marske (off my shelf)
87. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (off my shelf)
88. Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson (off my shelf)
89. Well Matched by Jen DeLuca (library)
90. Sula by Toni Morrison (off my shelf)

91. Something Like Love by Beverly Jenkins (library)
92. The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde (off my shelf)
93. The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo (library)
94. Jadie in Five Dimensions by Diane K. Salerni (library)
95. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (off my shelf)
96. In an Absent Dream by Seanen McGuire (off my shelf)
97. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel (off my shelf)
98. Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez (off my shelf)
99. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (off my shelf)
100. You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi (off my shelf)
101. The Martian by Andy Weir (off my shelf)
102. Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev (off my shelf)
103. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (library)
104. Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater (off my shelf)
105. Bravely by Maggie Stiefvater (library)
106. Queen of Urban Prophecy by Aya de Leon (library)
107. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes (library)
108. It Takes Two to Tumble by Cat Sebastian (library)
109. The Thirteen Clocks by James Thurber (library)
110. Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith (reread)

Editado: Out 2, 2:13 pm

Books read in 2023:

111. Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen (library)
112. The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green (off my shelf)
113. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (off my shelf)
114. Garlic and the Witch by Bree Paulsen (library)
115. A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas (library)
116. Only When It's Us by Chloe Liese (library)
117. The House With a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs (library)
118. The Missing of Clairdelune by Christelle Dabos (off my shelf)
119. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (off my shelf)
120. Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor (off my shelf)
121. Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon (off my shelf)
122. Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay (library)
123. Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn (library)
124. If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar (library)
125. Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (off my shelf)
126. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (off my shelf)
127. Love, Theoretically by Ali Hazelwood (library)
128. Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby van Pelt (library)

129. Akata Woman by Nnedi Okorafor (off my shelf)
130. The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez (library)
131. Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews (library)
132. Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley (off my shelf)
133. The Children of Green Knowe by L. M. Boston (library)
134. Painted Devils by Margaret Owen (off my shelf)
135. Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao (library)
136. Sherwood by Meagan Spooner (off my shelf)
137. Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy (library)
138. Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli (library)
139. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (off my shelf)
140. Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (reread)
141. All the Weyrs of Pern by Anne McCaffrey (off my shelf)
142. A Knot in the Grain by Robin McKinley (off my shelf)
143. Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories by Oscar Wilde (off my shelf)
144. The Three Dahlias by Katy Watson (library)
145. Built to Last by Erin Hahn (library)
146. The General in His Labyrinth by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (off my shelf)
147. The Hellion's Waltz by Olivia Waite (library)
148. Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros (off my shelf)
149. Love & Saffron by Kim Fay (library)
150. The Bodyguard by Katherine Center (library)
151. Long Day's Journey Into Night by Eugene O'Neill (off my shelf)

152. The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang (off my shelf)
153. Gullstruck Island by Frances Hardinge (library)
154. Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher (library)
155. Legendborn by Tracy Deonn (off my shelf)
156. Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden (library)
157. Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov (off my shelf)
158. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (off my shelf)
159. Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree (off my shelf)
160. Into the West by Mercedes Lackey (library)
161. Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert (library)
162. Well Traveled by Jen DeLuca (library)
163. Seasparrow by Kristin Cashore (off my shelf)
164. Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland (library)
165. The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix (off my shelf)
166. Furysong by Rosaria Munda (library)
167. Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik (off my shelf)
168. The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare (off my shelf)
169. The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid (library)
170. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (off my shelf)

Editado: Nov 22, 7:35 pm

Books read in 2023:

171. The Witch Is Back by Sophie H. Morgan (library)
172. In the Company of Witches by Auralee Wallace (library)
173. Network Effect by Martha Wells (reread)
174. Hard Times by Charles Dickens (off my shelf)
175. Rebel Sisters by Tochi Onyebuchi (off my shelf)
176. The Unfortunate Side Effects of Heartbreak and Magic by Breanne Randall (off my shelf)
177. Ruby Spencer's Whisky Year by Rochelle Bilow (library)
178. Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher (off my shelf)
179. The Guest List by Lucy Foley (library)
180. Enchanted to Meet You by Meg Cabot (library)
181. The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna (off my shelf)
182. A Really Bad Idea by Jeannine Collette (library)
183. The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen (off my shelf)
184. The Library of Shadows by Rachel Moore (library)
185. You, Again by Kate Goldbeck (library)
186. The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marais (library)

187. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (off my shelf)
188. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (off my shelf)
189. Swordheart by T. Kingfisher (library)
190. Spells for Lost Things by Jenna Evans Welch (library)
191. When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo (library)
192. The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake (off my shelf)
193. The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare (library)
194. Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George (off my shelf)
195. Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood (library)
196. Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn (library)
197. One Dark Window by Rachel Gillig (off my shelf)
198. Witch of Wild Things by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland (library)
199. Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (off my shelf)
200. Proper Scoundrels by Allie Theirin (library)
201. System Collapse by Martha Wells (off my shelf)
202. Better Than Fiction by Alexa Martin (library)
203. The Wake-Up Call by Beth O'Leary (library)
204. Icebreaker by Hannah Grace (library)
205. Small Town, Big Magic by Hazel Beck (off my shelf)


Editado: Nov 17, 1:25 pm

Last year, I identified a list of 61 books I own I wanted to get to in 2022, and I made it to 51 of them. This year, I'm being slightly less restrictive and still picking about ~40 books I want to read this year, but in some specific categories.

The first column on the left here is a stack of series continuations and sequels I own that I'd like to get to this year. From the top of the stack to the bottom, they are:

1. All the Weyrs of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
2. Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
3. The Time Garden by Edward Eager
4. The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang
5. The Missing of Clairdelune by Christelle Dabos
6. The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik
7. A Restless Truth by Freya Marske
8. Seasparrow by Kristin Cashore
9. Ocean's Echo by Everina Maxwell
10. Akata Woman by Nnedi Okorafor
11. Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
12. Rebel Sisters by Tochi Onyebuchi
13. Chaos on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer
14. Broken Harbor by Tana French
15. Forest Mage by Robin Hobb
16. The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel

And not pictured because I have them on my Kindle or forgot to include them in the photo and am too lazy to take a new picture:

17. Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik
18. Enna Burning by Shannon Hale
19. In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
20. Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

The second column on the right are books I've owned for a while (some as far back as 15 years or so!) that it's high time I get to. In order from top to bottom:

21. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
22. Headlong by Michael Frayn
23. Sula by Toni Morrison
24. Possession by A. S. Byatt
25. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
26. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
27. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
28. A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
29. Long Day's Journey into Night by Eugene O'Neill
30. Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward

The final 10 books are books off my Kindle. I tend to neglect these owned digital books in favor of physical books, so I wanted to prioritize some this year.

31. Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
32. The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin
33. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
34. A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
35. The Martian by Andy Weir
36. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
37. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
38. Hidden Figures by Margo Lee Shetterly
39. Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez
40. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

DONE: 39/40

Set 27, 1:46 pm

Welcome to my thread #6! New topper photos and touchstones coming soon.

Set 27, 1:47 pm

Happy new one, Natalie!

Set 27, 2:07 pm

>9 drneutron: Thanks Jim!

Set 27, 2:15 pm

Happy Wednesday! Today and tomorrow I am spending most of my day in 5 hour meetings that go from 8-1 my time. Very fun. Yesterday for dinner I made sheet pan chicken fajitas (recipe from Damn Delicious) and Spanish rice (recipe from Budget Bytes) and they were both easy and delicious -- will make again. Tim and I watched some TV before heading to bed.

Currently reading: About 20% through Cemetery Boys and enjoying it. Started The Witch Is Back on audio and am enjoying it a lot so far. As you can see I'm going spooky for October :)

Currently watching: S2E1 and E2 of Welcome to Wrexham

Currently playing: Nothing

Set 27, 3:05 pm

Happy new thread, Natalie!

Set 27, 3:51 pm

Happy new one!

Set 27, 4:41 pm

Happy Part 6, Natalie. x

Set 27, 4:56 pm

Happy new thread, Natalie!

>1 curioussquared: Always happy to see Otter and Kermit. That first Otter picture with the blanket over his head is so cute!

Set 27, 5:08 pm

Happy new one, Natalie! I love the pictures of Otter and Kermit.

Set 27, 5:13 pm

Happy new thread Natalie!

>1 curioussquared: Your boys are gorgeous, as always.

>7 curioussquared: You're doing well with your chosen books.

Editado: Set 27, 6:49 pm

Thanks Stasia, Anita, Paul, Anita, Katie, and Nina!

>15 FAMeulstee: The greyhounds love to be swaddled in fleece blankets, Anita :)

>17 humouress: Thanks Nina! Hoping to finish two more off my list in October and wrap with The Mirror and the Light in November.

Editado: Set 27, 7:56 pm

168 books read: The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare

Adunni is a fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl from a small village living in poverty. When her father can no longer pay the rent, he strikes a deal for Adunni to marry a rich man from the village -- a man decades older than her, who already has two wives -- despite Adunni's desperate wish to go to school and get her education. Trapped in a marriage she doesn't want, Adunni is terrified when something happens to the second wife, afraid it will be blamed on her, so she runs away from her husband, father, and village and manages to secure a job as a housemaid in Lagos. At first, Lagos is no better -- her new boss is abusive, and the boss's husband looks at her in ways she doesn't like. But Adunni's fierce determination drives her on, and as she makes a few friends, she sees a possible opportunity to escape the trappings of her life and achieve her dreams.

An inspiring and heartbreaking book -- Adunni's voice is powerful and keeps you turning the pages despite the hopelessness of her situation. 5 stars.

Set 28, 12:30 pm

169 books read: The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

Evike is a wolf girl, one of the pagan community who live in a small village on the edge of the forest. Among the wolf girls, she is shunned for her parentage and her lack of magic, the wolf girls' birthright. When the king's woodsmen come to the village to take a wolf girl for some nefarious purpose in the capital, and the village seer Virag has a vision that they want to take a seer, the village quickly comes together to make Evike, their most useless member, look like a seer so she will be taken. When Evike is taken by the woodsmen, she's terrified but defiant. Looming among her captors is Gaspar, the disgraced prince, and a mysterious presence. As Evike and the woodsman travel together, they begin to forge a tentative understanding of each other and their motivations. But when they finally make it to the capital, things will get even more complicated.

This book... didn't work for me. I loved it conceptually, but the comparisons I saw (The Bear and the Nightingale, Spinning Silver) I thought were much stronger novels. I listened to this on audio and I'm not sure if that was part of the problem. I don't usually have any issues following a novel on audio, but maybe as a function of the writing in this book, things kept happening that I would just totally miss were happening in the moment. It was very weird. I never really understood the characters, I didn't understand what they were trying to do, none of their growth or relationships felt earned. I thought the world was fascinating, but I just didn't understand how the characters were moving through it. I'm not going to write off this author entirely; I know many people love her other book, Juniper & Thorn, and I'm intrigued by her new release, A Study in Drowning, but if I do give her another shot, I'm definitely not going to listen to the book. 2.5 stars.

Set 28, 12:36 pm

Happy Thursday! I'm in another 8-1 meeting today, thrilling. I have a lot to do today because I'm out tomorrow -- Tim and I are going to a wedding on Saturday and are traveling to the location (a nearby island) tomorrow. After work today I'm going to try to pack some before I'm going to go see Bottoms with my best friend.

Currently reading: Making progress in Cemetery Boys but slower than I'd like. Ideally I want to finish it before the end of the month, but that's seeming a little unlikely. Listened to more The Witch Is Back yesterday and I'm having a lot of fun with it.

Currently watching: The latest episodes of Ahsoka and Only Murders In the Building.

Currently playing: Nothing.

Set 28, 1:21 pm

I hope 'Bottoms' is good! I still haven't made it out to see it. Maybe next week...

Set 30, 8:53 am

I hope the wedding is a fun time!

Out 2, 1:29 pm

>22 katiekrug: I really enjoyed Bottoms! Just so much fun. Very modern-day Heathers.

>23 MickyFine: Thanks Micky! It definitely was.

Out 2, 2:53 pm

Happy Monday! We had a nice weekend away.

Friday we traveled to San Juan island -- it's an hour and a half to the ferry, then an hour and a half ferry ride, so a decent trip away. We had lunch in town and then checked into the wedding location, which was a "resort" that had a mix of lodge rooms, log cabins, yurts, bunkhouses, and campsites available. The couple had rented out the whole facility and assigned lodging and we were very glad to be sharing one of the cabins with three of our friends as some of the other options (yurts, bunkhouses, etc) didn't have electricity or running water. Perks of being married to a groomsman! We settled in and waited for others to arrive before Tim and the other wedding party members had to go to the rehearsal before the evening's welcome party and bonfire.

Saturday was wedding day. Tim and the other groomsmen were mostly busy the whole day, so I went to brunch with some other wedding party partners and friends. These are mostly Tim's friends more than mine, but it was still a good time. We wandered around town a bit before heading back as the groom and groomsmen were using our cabin to get ready for the wedding, so we needed to give them ample time to vacate the premises :) Finally we made our way back and chilled for a bit before getting dressed ourselves. The wedding itself was lovely -- they got gorgeous weather for the outdoor ceremony and reception which is NOT a guarantee at the end of September in the PNW! It got a little chilly at the reception but we warmed up on the dance floor :) One hilarious aspect of the wedding was that the bride's main hobby is powerlifting, so a lot of her gym friends were there and there was a lot of flexing, posing, and pushups happening on the dance floor.

Sunday was my birthday! Tim and I said goodbye to everyone at the wedding venue and then spent the day on the island. We had brunch, stopped into a local gallery and picked out some cool prints for my birthday present, and then visited a few of the parks on the island. We saw some wildlife -- mostly harbor seals, but we were lucky enough to briefly spot a whale -- I mostly only saw the dorsal fin and the spout. I would guess it was an orca based on size, but I am not really a whale expert and we only saw one, so maybe not. We headed back into town for an early dinner (we shared steamed clams in a curry sauce as an appetizer, then Tim had a dungeness crab BLT and I had fish and chips -- sooo good) and then caught the ferry back to the mainland and drove home, stopping by my parents' house on the way to pick up the hounds.

Overall a fun but exhausting weekend -- lots of extrovert time with people I'm not super close to. But it was a good time and the island birthday day with Tim was great.

Currently reading: I did manage to wrap up Cemetery Boys before the end of the month and I read a good portion of The Unfortunate Side-Effects of Heartbreak and Magic on the return ferry ride. Still listening to The Witch Is Back on audio and need to pick up the pace -- I have 30% left and it's due tomorrow!

Currently watching: Nothing

Currently playing: Nothing

Out 2, 2:59 pm

That sounds like a really lovely weekend, Natalie. And happy belated birthday!

Out 2, 3:55 pm

Happy birthday, fellow Libran! It does sound like a lovely weekend and a lovely way to spend your birthday.

Out 2, 4:11 pm

Thanks, Katie and Nina!

Out 3, 9:09 am

>25 curioussquared: Happy birthday, Natalie! How lucky you got to see a whale! I was just reading an article about the return of humpbacks to Puget Sound but I imagine you'd know if that's what you saw

Out 3, 12:08 pm

>29 norabelle414: Yep, they're pretty distinctive :) I was lucky enough to see one on a random ferry ride a few years ago. Happened to be sitting on the right side of the boat when it started putting on a show so we had front row seats to the breach. So cool.

I did a little more research and I think the whale we saw was probably a Minke whale, which I had never heard of before! But the size and shape looked right and also the fact that it was alone seems to fit.

Out 3, 2:52 pm

Happy Tuesday! Last night I made teriyaki salmon with sesame broccoli and rice, which turned out really good for being thrown together. Plans today include a workout and takeout with my friend in the evening.

Currently reading: Sooo close to finishing The Witch Is Back and it's due in an hour so I need to listen while making myself lunch 😬 Read a few chapters of Rebel Sisters last night before bed.

Currently watching: A few episodes of season 2 of Big Little Lies.

Currently playing: Nothing.

Out 3, 4:34 pm

170 books read: Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Yadriel is ftm trans. For the most part, his family has been accepting, and they try to use the right pronouns, even if they don't always remember. But one place where his family won't budge is in his birthright to brujeria. Yadriel's family are brujos and brujas depending on their gender, and they have slightly different powers. Yadriel knows he is meant to be a brujo, but his family won't let him do his quinces ceremony to come into his powers because his father doesn't think their patron, Santa Muerte, will accept him as a brujo due to his transition. But Dia de Muertos is approaching quickly, and Yadriel is determined to be part of the ceremony welcoming the ghosts of their ancestors back to the living, so he and his cousin Maritza take things into their own hands and Maritza helps Yadriel perform the quinces ceremony himself. Yadriel is elated when the ceremony seems to work and he comes into his magic, but that elation is short-lived when that very same night, something happens to his cousin Miguel and he disappears, presumed dead. Yadriel and Maritza sneak off to join the hunt for Miguel in the family ceremony, but instead of Miguel, they find a strange necklace with a saint's medal that appears to be a revenant tied to a spirit who hasn't left the mortal world left. When Yadriel summons the spirit to release it to the afterlife, one of a brujo's responsibilities, he meets Julian, a boy -- or boy spirit -- his age who refuses to be released until he completes his unfinished business of making sure his family is OK. Yadriel doesn't have time for this -- he has to help find Miguel, and Dia de Muertos is coming, but Julian isn't exactly giving him a choice.

I tried to read this a few years ago and bounced off it, and I still found it difficult to get into this time around, which is why it's missing a star. But overall I really enjoyed this queer YA novel, especially the brujeria and latine cultural aspects. 4 stars.

Out 3, 5:14 pm

>32 curioussquared: Yeah, I bounced off this when I tried it. Obvious villain and teen angst! I don't feel the need to try it again, but I'm glad it worked for you this time.

Out 4, 2:22 pm

Wednesday! Recently I've had 7am meetings scheduled on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and I am very much not a fan. Today was no exception. Last night my friend and I did a workout and then got takeout. Today's plans are just working and tidying for the cleaners coming tomorrow. Not sure what we're doing for dinner... I should take some chicken out of the freezer.

Currently reading: Finished The Witch Is Back and moved on to In the Company of Witches. I was going to take a break from witchiness and listen to Lancelot in between, but I don't think I'll have time before In the Company of Witches is due back, so more witchiness it is. Also read more Rebel Sisters before bed but I'm not very far into it at this point.

Currently watching: An episode of All Creatures Great and Small.

Out 4, 2:31 pm

>25 curioussquared: Happy late birthday! And happy new thread! Glad the trip was so cool.

Out 4, 2:59 pm

>33 libraryperilous: Definitely plenty of teen angst 😂

>35 Ravenwoodwitch: Thanks Angela!

Out 4, 3:10 pm

171 books read: The Witch Is Back by Sophie H. Morgan

Emma was born into witch society in New Orleans, but has spent most of the past decade on her own in Chicago with her chosen friends and family, avoiding her abusive mother and the controversy that has surrounded her since her contractual fiance, Bastian, left suddenly, leaving her and their engagement behind. Now, she happily runs a bar with her best friends Tia and Leah and her familiar mutt, Chester. Everything changes, though, when Bastian returns from his far-flung adventures with a request Emma certainly wasn't expecting -- it turns out there was a curse involved in their marriage contract that will kill his mother, unless they go forward with the wedding. Suddenly re-engaged to the handsome childhood friend who left her behind, Emma isn't sure what to do next or if she can trust Bastian. Both of them will need to re-learn the other, and learn how to trust each other again, if they plan to succeed.

This was a cute romance. Not perfect, but fun to listen to. 3.5 stars.

Out 5, 2:00 pm

Happy Thursday! Last night was just some tidying for the cleaners, plus a little TV. We had pizza and salad for dinner. No plans today -- might play some video games or do a workout. Or both! I need to see if my chicken has defrosted yet; I'd like to make some kind of soup for dinner but not sure what.

Currently reading: Mostly the same stuff. In the Company of Witches is great. I still don't feel like I'm fully into Rebel Sisters; I hit the 50 page mark last night. I've also started a reread of Network Effect to prepare for the imminent release of System Collapse (!!!!!). No progress made in The Unfortunate Side-Effects of Heartbreak and Magic but will probably read some more if I get myself on the elliptical tonight.

Currently watching: S2E3 of Welcome to Wrexham and S5E5 of Love Is Blind.

Out 6, 4:13 pm

A very belated happy birthday and happy new thread, Natalie!

Out 6, 7:27 pm

>39 bell7: Thanks Mary!

Out 6, 7:31 pm

Not a lot of updates today. It's technically busy time at work, so I worked a little later than usual, but I'm so much less busy right now working in-house for a company than I ever was doing HR communications consulting that it doesn't feel right to call it "busy season." But anyway, working cut into my evening last night and I didn't do a workout. I did make an African-inspired peanut soup, though, which was delicious. Then we watched a little TV before bed. My plans tonight do include a workout with my friend and probably some takeout and TV. Tim is hanging out with a different friend.

Currently reading: Still working through Rebel Sisters and Network Effect in print and The Unfortunate Side Effects of Heartbreak and Magic on Kindle. I finished In the Company of Witches on audio and moved on to Hard Times.

Currently watching: An episode of Ahsoka, one of Welcome to Wrexham, and one of Love Is Blind, which feels like a weird combo but probably sums me up as a person pretty well 😂

Out 7, 9:17 am

A very belated happy birthday, Natalie. Sounds like it was a perfect day!

Wishing you a restful weekend after a full week.

Out 8, 4:35 pm

>41 curioussquared: Hope your weekend has been relaxing, Natalie :) Sounds like work is still keeping you on your toes, even if it isn't super busy.

Out 9, 12:20 pm

>42 MickyFine: Thanks, Micky!

>43 Ravenwoodwitch: Thanks, Raven! Work is busy, it's just not soul-crushingly busy like my life used to be every August-October at my old consulting job, so I can't complain :)

Out 9, 1:59 pm

Happy Monday! I had a nice weekend. Friday night my friend came over and we exercised, got takeout, and watched some TV. Saturday Tim and I went and got dim sum for lunch and then went and toured a house that was nice but not for us. The weather was ridiculously glorious for October (high 70s on Saturday, low 70s on Sunday) so I spent a few hours reading Network Effect outside when we got back, then made cheesy broccoli chicken rice for dinner and finished the day with TV. Sunday we headed up to my in-law's beach place to help with their annual apple cider pressing, then headed back to town for my cousin's birthday party. It was a busy day and we (including the dogs) were exhausted by the end of it!

Today is another busy day at work; benefits open enrollment starts November 1 and that's my team's superbowl every year, so things will be a little crazy probably until then, especially since we've had some turnover lately and a few people out on leave. In the evening I'm connecting with my best friend and we're thinking of planning a trip together.

Currently reading: Listened to more Hard Times; not my favorite Dickens so far. Finished Network Effect and read more The Unfortunate Side-Effects of Heartbreak and Magic which feels like it's picking up a little. I think I need to make a concerted effort to get into Rebel Sisters today or put it aside for a while because it's still not grabbing me.

Currently watching: An episode of All Creatures Great and Small, an episode of Love Is Blind, the season finale of Only Murders in the Building, and an episode of season 2 of Big Little Lies.

Out 9, 2:48 pm

172 books read: In the Company of Witches by Auralee Wallace

Bree Warren lives with her aunts and reclusive uncle in Evenfall, where she helps them run the family B&B. Bree is the last in a long line of witches, and her family has kept their powers secret for hundreds of years -- although Bree's husband, Adam, knew about her powers before his death. When a B&B guest, a local woman staying with them while her house is under repair, is found dead in her room, Bree and her aunts are under suspicion. Bree's aunts want her to see if she can speak with the dead woman's spirit, since that was always Bree's specialty. But since Adam's passing, Bree hasn't been able to connect with her magic like she used to, and she struggles with their request. But as the town grows more fearful and it seems likely that her aunts will be blamed, Bree must come to terms with the magic she has been pushing away -- and her grief -- if she's going to keep her family safe.

I really enjoyed this! Major Practical Magic vibes. I liked the family dynamic and the treatment of grief. 4 stars.

Out 9, 2:50 pm

173 books read: Network Effect by Martha Wells

Just as good as the first time I read it. I love Murderbot and ART and all of Murderbot's humans. So excited for System Collapse!!

Out 9, 3:40 pm

>46 curioussquared: This sounds like a unique spin on cozy mysteries! I have it on my TBR, and your review makes me want to read it for spooky season.

Is there a potential romance with a cop on the horizon? That always makes me nope out.

Out 9, 3:50 pm

>48 libraryperilous: It was a nice spooky season read! I have the second one on hold. I honestly went into it expecting more romance, and was kind of pleasantly surprised by the total lack of it -- not that I don't enjoy a romance, but it's nice to have a book that focuses on other types of relationships sometimes. So no cop romance to be seen at this point. I glanced at the summary of book 2 and it looks like that one might introduce a new romance for Bree, but I would be surprised if it was a cop because the police were really on the edge of the plot in this one and I don't think they were even named characters.

Out 9, 8:43 pm

Omg!! I just learned that Martha Wells is coming to my favorite bookstore during release week for System Collapse. *Cue Kermit the Frog happy flailing arms dance!!!!* Checking to see if my best friend wants to go with me (I'm sure she will, she loves Murderbot too) and then RSVPing ASAP :D

Out 9, 9:13 pm


Have fun! Squealing like Miss Piggy for you!

Editado: Out 10, 9:44 am

Wow, that's awesome!

Out 10, 9:42 am

>46 curioussquared: In the Company of Witches looks so cute! I'm making a list of Cozy Fantasy so I added it.

Out 10, 12:53 pm

>19 curioussquared: Adding that one to the BlackHole! It sounds terrific.

>46 curioussquared: That one too!

>50 curioussquared: That is soooo coooool!! I would be doing a Kermit dance too!

Out 10, 12:57 pm

Ooh that's exciting to have Martha Wells coming to your neck of the woods (and your favorite bookstore, even!).

Out 10, 12:57 pm

>51 libraryperilous: Thanks :D Now I need to retrieve my copy of All Systems Red from my mom so I can get it signed.

>52 drneutron: I'm pretty excited, Jim!

>53 norabelle414: Ooh, some of my favorites are on that list, Nora! I'll have to check out any others I've missed. My best friend is reading In the Company of Witches right now and she noted that it has big Stars Hollow/Gilmore Girls vibes, which is a great comparison.

Out 10, 1:14 pm

>56 curioussquared: If you think of any others, definitely add them to the list! I haven't read most of them, I just compiled the list from a couple external sources and the cozy fantasy tag.

Out 10, 1:18 pm

>54 alcottacre: Glad to add to the BlackHole, Stasia! I believe Martha Wells is based in Texas so maybe she will visit somewhere near you, too :)

>55 ursula: Right? I had already preordered the book from there and everything :)

>57 norabelle414: Will do! I was trying to think of some others. Garlic and the Vampire and the sequel would fit the bill. I keep wanting to add more T. Kingfisher to the list because her books give me cozy vibes, but a lot of them are actually pretty violent/gruesome, she's just somehow good at keeping the cozy feel despite the gore.

Editado: Out 10, 4:55 pm

Happy Tuesday! Pretty chill evening yesterday. Talked with my friend about planning a trip, ate some leftovers for dinner, and finished the day reading. Same-ish plans for today except for the leftovers; I'll either cook something or go pick up some dinner at the new bougie grocery store that opened in our neighborhood.

Currently reading: Over halfway through all my current reads: Hard Times, Rebel Sisters, The Unfortunate Side-Effects of Heartbreak and Magic. Hopefully can knock some of these out in the next day or two. I have a bunch more spooky season reads I want to get to this month.

Currently watching: Nothing yesterday.

Out 10, 4:54 pm

Where are you and your friend thinking of going? I miss traveling and need to live vicariously (at least for now...)!

I miss having a bougie grocery store nearby with a giant chef's case of prepared foods.

Out 10, 5:08 pm

>60 katiekrug: We are all over the place and still trying to decide! Possibilities we're considering are Japan, Mexico, Peru, Greece, Portugal, Spain, somewhere in the Caribbean, London/UK. So yeah, first step is narrowing it down 😂

When we lived in a different neighborhood before buying our current house and I still commuted to work via bus a few times a week, my bus stop was about five blocks away from our house and directly across the street from a bougie co-op grocery, so it was deliciously easy to get off the bus, look inward and decide if I wanted to make dinner or not, and then swing into the store to pick something up if the answer was not. It barely added five minutes to my commute. I miss that!

Out 10, 9:46 pm

>50 curioussquared: Oh that's fantastic! I hope you have a great time and tell us all about it after :D

Out 10, 10:02 pm

>61 curioussquared: - Okay, well, all of those are on my list, though I've already been to the Caribbean, Mexico, and London/UK. And Japan for a very short time. The Wayne was just saying he wants to go back to the UK, but we were there last October, so that's doubtful. His work is crazy right now and for the forseeable future (it's an early stage start-up), so I don't expect any real travel in the near future. But next year will be our 15th wedding anniversary, so I'm hoping we can get somewhere interesting, even for just a short time....

Re: the Caribbean, I went to St. Lucia with a group of friends in 2019 and loved it. Beautiful scenery - not just beaches! - and the people were all lovely.

Out 11, 12:03 pm

>62 bell7: I definitely will!!

>63 katiekrug: Crossing my fingers you get to travel next year, Katie! On the list, I've been to some areas of Mexico, Portugal, Spain, and brief visits to London/UK (aside from Scotland, where I spent ~10 days in 2017). I think my friend and I have settled on Japan -- so now we just need to plan! St. Lucia sounds lovely :)

Out 12, 1:07 pm

Busy few days! I had to do a webinar yesterday and I'll do another one today -- always my least favorite part of my job. At least I have to do fewer this year than I did last year. Otherwise, spent some time doing more trip planning with my friend (we're thinking of using a travel agent since our trip would be coming up soon and we're both really busy right now) and stopped by the bougie grocery store. Dinner was sushi from said grocery store.

Currently reading: Finally wrapped up Hard Times (definitely not my favorite Dickens) and moved on to Ruby Spencer's Whisky Year on audio. Over 2/3 done with both Rebel Sisters and The Unfortunate Side-Effects of Heartbreak and Magic.

Currently watching: Episodes 8 and 9 of Love Is Blind (this season is a hot mess).

Out 12, 10:23 pm

>65 curioussquared: Travel agents can be so helpful. We used one for our honeymoon (Fiji and Hawaii) and it made the whole process much less stressful. Worth the money in that case (although I also love planning trips on my own).

Out 12, 10:26 pm

>47 curioussquared: Congrats on repeat reading. I remember you introduced me to the Murderbot series, a good reminder to get after the rest of the series.

Out 13, 10:22 am

>66 MickyFine: Yes, we used one for Costa Rica and it was a great experience. We spoke with one agent yesterday and came away from the conversation feeling like he didn't really understand our wants. We're talking to another one today so we'll see how it goes. If necessary, I can just spend a lot of time over the next week or so working on our itinerary -- my friend is visiting home right now so she doesn't have time -- but if we can get some help, that would be best.

>67 brewbooks: Thanks John! Glad you like Murderbot -- they are some of my favorites, and so easy to reread.

Out 13, 10:44 am

>68 curioussquared: I would be a terrible travel agent because I don't have a sales personality and can't wheel and deal. But I would make an excellent travel planner!

I hope the second agent is a better fit for the kind of trip you want. Japan is high on my travel list, and there's so much to do and see. :)

Out 13, 10:45 am

Phew, very happy it's Friday. Last night I worked late again so we ordered pho and binged the last three episodes of Big Little Lies. Honestly, not a show I'd normally gravitate to at all (hence why we're watching it years later), but so well done. Meryl Streep was incredible in season 2 (and it was pretty funny to watch her in this show and Only Murders at the same time).

Currently reading: About 25% through Ruby Spencer's Whisky Year and it's fun so far. Less than 100 pages left in Rebel Sisters and it just never quite came together for me, but I'll wrap it up hopefully today. Also hoping to wrap The Unfortunate Side Effects of Heartbreak and Magic today or tomorrow.

Out 13, 10:50 am

>69 libraryperilous: We had such a good experience with our Costa Rica travel agent; it felt like they totally listened to the type of trip we want and were super receptive to the feedback we gave on initial itineraries, so it didn't even feel like we were working with a salesperson, just a nice guy who had really deep knowledge of the country and had a ton of ideas for awesome stuff for us to do and the best way to do it. Some of the stuff we were least excited about ended up being one of the best parts of our trip (we had a white water rafting trip that we were like, eh, could take it or leave it, and then it was amazing. Originally they had us rafting into a hotel you could only reach by raft, staying the night, then rafting out, and we made them cut it down to the one raft day, but when we passed the hotel on our rafting day it looked incredible and we regretted changing it.)

The guy we talked to yesterday was trying to pitch all these activities/excursions to us that felt just so touristy and inauthentic (a sword-making class! a meal with a geisha!) and we steered him away from stuff like that but just still not sure he understood that we're fairly independent travelers just looking for some help, not people who want to be shuttled from tourist activity to tourist activity without really seeing the real country.

Out 14, 10:24 am

>71 curioussquared: Sounds like you should go back to you Costa Rica agent and - if they can't help with this trip - ask them to recommend someone good.

Out 14, 12:51 pm

>72 humouress: Unfortunately they were a boutique Costa Rica firm so I doubt they'd have specific recommendations for other countries. But the good news is we talked to another agent yesterday who was MUCH more our speed so we're feeling confident now 😊

Out 16, 12:43 pm

It's Monday! I had a nice weekend with lots of books and now must return to work, which is much too busy for my liking right now. More webinars and lots to do in advance of open enrollment in a few weeks.

Currently reading: Finally got through a lot of my current reads over the weekend and moved on to better things! Rebel Sisters and The Unfortunate Side Effects of Heartbreak and Magic were both clunkers for me. Ruby Spencer's Whisky Year was fun if nothing too memorable. I raced through Nettle & Bone -- started Saturday night, finished Sunday morning -- and absolutely loved it. T. Kingfisher doesn't really miss. Now reading: Ninth House in print, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy on Kindle, and The Guest List on audio.

Currently watching: The Love Is Blind S5 finale and reunion -- this season is definitely the worst so far, but I did end up rooting for Lydia and Milton in the end. I was NOT expecting Chris to be the surprise villain of the reunion. Also watched a few episodes of Good Omens S2, and an episode and a half of Outlander S3. The funniest part of watching Outlander is that Tim doesn't like the show, but he literally cannot stop himself from watching during the battle scenes or war strategy bits. Men.

Out 16, 1:16 pm

174 books read: Hard Times by Charles Dickens

In a small, industrial mill town, Thomas Gradgrind, a teacher, believes in the superiority of fact above all else, driving this knowledge into his students and eschewing any notion of fancy or nonsense. He educates his children, Tom and Louisa, the same way, and is proud of how they turn out, eventually marrying Louisa to a local factory owner in what ends up being a disastrous marriage.

Meh. Not the Dickens novel for me -- almost more a philosophical/moral treatise than a novel. There were a few moments of his trademark wit and talent for description that made me laugh or smile, but nothing else super redeeming. 2.5 stars.

Out 16, 1:55 pm

175 books read: Rebel Sisters by Tochi Onyebuchi

Following the events of War Girls, Ify is now living in space and is close to earning her medical license as a medical administrator for refugees. But when a mysterious plague coma starts affecting refugee children, Ify is nominated to return to Earth to see if she can find the cure. Along with her assistant, Grace, Ify returns to war-torn Nigeria, hesitant about what she might find or who she might see from her past. But when she gets there, things are stranger than she could have imagined, and Ify and Grace must be on their guard if they want to save the sick children.

I really liked War Girls when I read it a few years ago -- a reimagining of the Biafran war in the future with mechas and advanced technology that I thought was done well. This sequel just didn't work for me. I found Uzo's sections and the language conceits to be extremely tiresome to read and maybe I missed it, but I didn't understand the importance of those sections until the very very end of the book which made them even harder to read. Ify's bits were better, but the whole book should have been at least 100 pages shorter. The climax came quickly and was exciting, but took way too long to get there. 3 stars, most for concept and for some characters.

Out 16, 2:32 pm

>74 curioussquared: Your comment about Tim and Outlander made me laugh. Mr. Fine watches it with me and mostly enjoys it but he does joke about all the peril Jamie and Claire deal with on a weekly basis.

Out 16, 2:43 pm

>77 MickyFine: Lol. How would they keep it interesting without all the peril??

Out 16, 3:08 pm

176 books read: The Unfortunate Side Effects of Heartbreak and Magic by Breanne Randall

Sadie Revelare has lived in Poppy Meadows her whole life -- why would she leave, when her family was one of the seven magic founding families of the town? She runs a small cafe with her grandmother, Gigi, selling her magical foods -- scones that can lighten your mood, jams that can clarify your mind, and cakes that can bring you inner peace. Sadie knows how to do some much more sinister things, too, but those stay out of the shop. While the Revelares and the other founding families are magical, most folk in Poppy Meadows have no idea of the magic around them. Sadie was cursed when she came of age to experience four heartbreaks in her life, and she already has two behind her: the first, when her first love Jake left town, and the second, when her twin brother Seth pulled a disappearing act as well. But now, Jake and Seth are both back, complicating her life immediately, and Sadie has a feeling that the next two heartbreaks will be hot on their heels.

I was so excited to win this ER book -- cozy, witchy fantasy romance novels are high on my list for autumn reading. Add food magic to the mix? The details sounded perfect. And honestly, the details were the best part of this book. The food descriptions were perfect, I really liked Gigi's character, and the start with Jake coming back was a promising beginning. Unfortunately, things went off the rails quickly and I had a lot of issues with it in the end. First, you can tell it's a debut. The plot is all over the place, and Sadie's motivations are often unclear because the author is clearly just making her do things for the plot even if it makes no sense for her character. There's a bit in the beginning where she just... steals the love interest's puppy? And I think it's supposed to be kind of cute? But it's just weird? And I couldn't stop thinking about all the stuff you have to do to take care of a puppy, which Sadie was not doing and instead she was just leaving the puppy home alone all day, so that took me out of the story immediately. Anyway, the weird actions with lack of motivations made Sadie's character pretty annoying. Second, I fully did not understand the world of this book -- how the magic/non-magic folk fitted together, the weirdness of Sadie's whole family being far away and then coming home randomly midway through the book. If it was so easy for them all to move back and they all wanted to, why did they move away? I also thought it was weird that all the witches went to church -- like, sure, I bet there's a world where this makes sense, and maybe the author is from a small southern town or something and she couldn't conceive of a world where everyone in the town doesn't go to church, but I needed more explanation there. Finally, there's a bit where Sadie and Seth are working on a spell together, and Sadie says, "Seth, go get the Thieves!" Yes, you read that right. This book features MLM essential oil product placement! This explained a lot to me about the author and why this book is the way it is right away. (If this is coming off as judgmental, it should be -- I am extremely judgmental of any and all MLM product usage and getting pitched an MLM product will turn me off immediately.) So anyway, that knocked some points off too. I'm not even going to get into the weird romance of this book; just know it was kind of deceitful and not very satisfying. So 2 stars from me -- I did finish it, and I liked the cooking. Just very confused how this is getting good ratings and also how it got to be a Book of the Month pick.

Out 16, 3:19 pm

>79 curioussquared: How did that get past an editor?!!?!? That's truly awful. MLMs ruin peoples' lives.

This book sounds like an overall mess, lol.

Hope your next reads are fabulous and offset the recent duds!

Out 16, 3:38 pm

>80 libraryperilous: Right? Maybe it got taken out in the final version (I can hope?? My copy was definitely an advance proof and I caught some errors while reading). I'm so confused at the overall good reception. I guess people are just really desperate for Practical Magic dupes.

I still need to write reviews, but I also finished Ruby Spencer's Whisky Year, which I liked, and Nettle and Bone, which I loved, so the reading is definitely picking up :) That was a rough streak, though!

Out 16, 3:58 pm

>81 curioussquared: I was curious, so I searched inside through Google Books. It's a different line, but it's still selling Thieves :(

LOL, this is from a Goodreads review: "This book has a super weird, conservative energy for being marketed as a Gilmore Girls meets Practical Magic cozy read.

I, for one, would rather my cozy magic NOT be saddled with Christian ideology, and conservative small town firefighter hero energy."

Out 16, 4:10 pm

>82 libraryperilous: Yep. I was describing it to my best friend as "It's like it was written by someone from a small southern town who is unable to distinguish between the charming and not-so-charming aspects of small-town life." I don't have anything against a firefighter romance but had issues with the romance in this one for other reasons. I couldn't believe my review was the only negative one on LT, lol.

Out 16, 8:18 pm

177 books read: Ruby Spencer's Whisky Year by Rochelle Bilow

Fed up with work and life in New York, Ruby Spencer quits her journalist job with plans to spend a year in Scotland writing a cookbook. At first, a year seems like an impossibly long time. Ruby is charmed with the quaint village of Thistlecross and the characters who live there. But time flies when you're finding yourself, and soon Ruby starts wondering how she's ever going to leave Thistlecross -- and a particular attractive Scottish man -- behind.

Competent, cute, and fun, if not particularly inspiring. Ruby was boring but the rest of characters made up for it. 3.5 stars.

Out 17, 3:30 am

>74 curioussquared: I saw some murmurings about this season of Love Is Blind and decided to skip it - sounds like I made the right choice!

Out 17, 11:01 am

>50 curioussquared: OMG! You'll have to report back. How exciting!

>64 curioussquared: That sounds amazing! I love the idea of a friend trip. I have been to Japan once with the Chorale on tour and would love to go back with my husband. Maybe if you love your itinerary you'll share it??

Love your boys up top. Kermit looks so much like Whistler.

Out 17, 11:09 am

>79 curioussquared: Oh, I do love a good bad book rant.
But, ouch. As much as I try to have a "live and let live/ don't yuck someone's yum" approach to romance books, I don't think this one could get a pass. It sounds unorganized and predetory.

Out 17, 12:42 pm

>85 ursula: I still enjoyed it overall, but yeah, it was a lackluster season. Nobody to really root for and it sounds like there was some sketchy stuff happening behind the scenes. I'd wait for the next one!

>86 AMQS: Will do, Anne! My best friend and I have been on a few trips together and we're good travel partners since we move generally at the same speed. Would be happy to share our itinerary -- we should be getting an initial one to review from the travel agent today. Gotta love those brindle boys ❤

>87 Ravenwoodwitch: Yeah, I don't recommend it Angela!

Out 17, 12:48 pm

Forgot to mention that I went to my county library branch's Friends of the Library sale on Saturday! It was fine; smaller than in previous years, but I still managed to pick up a stack:

Tim and I own at least two other copies of LOTR between us, but this specific movie tie-in omnibus edition is the one I first read as a kid, that my brother then stole and lost, so it was a nostalgia buy :) I've also already read Rich People Problems and Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, but couldn't pass up my own copies for a dollar each.

Out 18, 4:39 pm

Happy Wednesday! This week is crazy at work. I worked twelve hours the last two days. Today started with my normal Wednesday meeting I lead, followed by the all-Company town all that I had a slide on, followed by another webinar I had to present on. I am now a wet noodle. One more webinar this week tomorrow morning.

Currently reading: Finished The Guest List on audio this morning and moved on to Enchanted to Meet You. Have made a little progress in Ninth House over the past few days but have mostly been too tired to read much.

Currently watching: Some Outlander S3 on Monday night and some Welcome to Wrexham on Tuesday night.

Out 18, 5:06 pm

>90 curioussquared: - Work sounds grueling. I hope you can rest and re-charge over the weekend, at least!

Out 18, 5:40 pm

>91 katiekrug: Thanks! Add on top of work that Otter wasn't feeling well the past few nights and woke me up multiple times in the night to go out... I'm stretched a little thin :)

Out 18, 5:42 pm

>92 curioussquared: - Poor Otter. And poor you!

Out 18, 11:08 pm

Oof I'm sorry to hear life is stressful on the work and home fronts at the moment. Sending hugs and wishes for a restful weekend.

Out 18, 11:45 pm

Congratulations on reading so many books thus far this year! Incredible!!!

So sorry to hear that Otter wasn't feeling well. And, lack of sleep certainly does create feeling you described so well.

Take care of yourself. You are stressed in so many levels, work, Otter...and simple everyday life occurences.

But, the good news is the great books you were able to purchase at the Friends of the library sale!

Hopefully you are able to slow down and read some of the great books you just purchased.

Sending all good wishes to you!

Out 19, 1:54 pm

>93 katiekrug: >94 MickyFine: >95 Whisper1: Thanks for the sympathy, all! Today should be a bit better. I still have plenty on my list but I think (hope?) that yesterday was the peak.

>95 Whisper1: I love a good library sale, Linda! My friends of the library at my city library used to do a massive sale each year but they stopped during the pandemic. But, they're hosting a mini sale at my local branch this weekend, so I'll go to that one too :)

Out 19, 7:59 pm

178 books read: Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

Marra is the youngest of the three princesses of the small Harbor Kingdom. When her first sister dies shortly after her marriage to the prince of a neighboring kingdom, everyone assumes it is an accident. When her second sister marries the same prince, though, and Marra visits the neighboring kingdom for the birth of her sister's child, it becomes clear that something is off about the marriage, the prince, and the kingdom in general. Now 30 and raised mostly in a convent, conveniently tucked away from the outside world, Marra knows she is the only one who can help her sister -- even though she has no idea how, given that her primary skill is embroidery. But she's determined to try anyway. A dust wife promises to help her if she can complete three impossible tasks, and Marra begins right away, deciding that impossible is just a word.

T. Kingfisher really doesn't miss. For the first 80 pages or so I was worried this book was too dark overall to become a real favorite, but it evolves by the end into a lovely heartwarming story of underdogs and found family despite its very dark beginning. Also, who doesn't love a bone dog and a demon chicken? 5 stars.

On a related note, I saw that Tor just announced a new retelling of The Goose Girl from Kingfisher coming next year, and I for one cannot wait.

Out 19, 8:27 pm

179 books read: The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Jules and Will are getting married on a tiny, barely inhabited Irish island with a haunted past. As their guests gather for the celebration, it becomes clear that many are harboring secrets. There's Johnno, Will's old friend from school and the best man despite the fact that they've grown apart; Olivia, the bride's much younger half sister, who recently dropped out of Uni and is struggling with depression from recent events in her life; Hannah, wife of Jules' old friend Charlie, who feels dreadfully out of her league among the posh guests and jealous of Charlie's relationship with the bride; and Aoife, wedding planner and one of the island's only two inhabitants along with her husband, running the show -- this is the first wedding they're hosting on the island and they're hoping a feature in Jules' magazine will drum up business. As the weather gets worse and the night gets darker, things come to a head -- and someone turns up dead.

This one made the rounds on BookTok but I never felt the pull to pick it up until a friend recommended it a few weeks ago (while we were at that wedding weekend, lol). I'm glad I read it -- Foley pulled off the atmosphere to a tee, and I felt like I was there among the guests myself. I thought the multiple POVs and back and forth with the timeline worked well, too. I did feel like it was hard to really root for any of the characters, and there were maybe one too many twists/coincidences, but it definitely kept me reading and on my toes. 4 stars.

Out 20, 1:56 pm

Very excited to have reached Friday! Last night I got dinner with my SIL which was nice -- we had Chinese and chatted for a few hours. Started work at 7am due to meetings so hoping to sign off a little early today. My best friend is back from a trip home so we're going to hang out tonight, details tbd.

Currently reading: About 2/3 through Enchanted to Meet You on audio. Still reading Ninth House but I also started The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches a few nights ago because my brain needed something lighter. No progress in The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy.

Currently watching: A few episodes of Welcome to Wrexham on Wednesday.

Editado: Out 22, 11:58 pm

Hi Natalie! Catching up with various threads... Hope you've had a lovely weekend! How are you finding Ninth House? I really enjoyed it, but I'm kind of a sucker for almost anything set on a university campus.

Out 23, 10:36 am

>100 PlatinumWarlock: Hi Lavinia! I had a nice weekend and got a ton of reading in, but almost none in Ninth House. I am enjoying it so far and it's living up to my expectations, I've just been gravitating toward lighter stuff while I'm slammed at work. Still hoping to finish it by the end of the month.

Out 23, 12:00 pm

Happy Monday! Yesterday was pretty chill -- I exercised and read a bunch, then went to my grandma's for dinner for my aunt's birthday. Tim had plans with friends so didn't come. Today I'm running low on sleep -- Otter woke me up at 5 and I wasn't able to get back to sleep before I had to get up for a 7am meeting. Not my favorite way to start a week. Plus, I have to go into the office for at least an amount of time today to make an appearance at the benefits fair. Planning on staying for a few hours and then heading home because I don't get any work done while I'm there.

Currently reading: Finished Enchanted to Meet You on audio over the weekend and am now halfway through The Library of Shadows. Wrapped up The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches in print and loved it. Needed something utterly mindless while I was stressed and blitzed through A Really Bad Idea on Kindle, which... delivered on the mindless front and not much else. Then couldn't put down The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy on Sunday and wrapped that one up too. Read a teeny bit of Ninth House before bed last night.

Currently watching: Finished S3 of All Creatures Great and Small on Friday.

Out 23, 1:01 pm

I'm real sorry work has you stretched so thin; and that your boy isn't feeling so good. I hope this week gets lighter and that Otter feels better (and you can get some sleep.)

and seriously, that's an impressive book count; congrats!

Out 23, 5:07 pm

>103 Ravenwoodwitch: Thanks Angela! I think things are already getting better since last week so I'm hopeful it's improving. Otter is actually feeling fine now which is a plus! He will often wake me up in the night to go outside (even though he always goes out before bed 🙄); it's when he goes out multiple times that something is off.

Out 23, 11:11 pm

I'm stopping by to say hello. I'm sorry work is still so darn stressful. I'm glad Otter is doing well.

Out 24, 7:36 am

>98 curioussquared: I have seen this one at the library and never pick it up because I wasn't sure about it. Excellent review. Next time its available I will add it to my books to check out.

Hope you have a splendid week!

Out 24, 1:28 pm

>105 Whisper1: Hi Linda!! Good to see you. Work seems to be getting a bit better -- fingers crossed :)

>106 figsfromthistle: Hi Anita! It never appealed to me much either but I did end up enjoying it quite a bit. I hope you like it when you get to it!

Out 24, 2:24 pm

180 books read: Enchanted to Meet You by Meg Cabot

As a teenager, Jessica Gold found a witch's grimoire and learned to cast spells, including a memorable one that went wrong when she bewitched her crush into falling in love with her -- only to realize that the spell went too far. She mostly fixed that situation, but Billy was never quite the same, and Jessica learned the perils of magic. Now as an adult, Jessica runs a clothing shop in town and practices magic much more safely, although the World Council of Witches won't let her join because she doesn't have witch ancestry. So when a mysterious witch named Derek dressed in a sexy biker outfit shows up at her door and tells her she's the chosen one and she must find the bringer of light in order to save her town, it's the last thing she expects. With only a week before the rift tears open her town on Halloween -- and a week until the town Tricentennial Ball -- Jessica and Derek must work fast to save her friends and family and the only town she's ever known.

I've been reading Meg Cabot since I was a kid (The Princess Diaries are still great) so I was excited to see she had a new witchy romcom out. This was a little disappointing. It was fine if you didn't think too hard, but the plot fell apart as soon as you started squinting at it. The book seemed confused about whether it wanted to be high or low stakes and the characters weren't really reacting appropriately given the town-ending doom they were trying to avoid. I was excited to have a plus-sized witch protagonist but some of the descriptions of Jessica really hit me the wrong way and I definitely think that aspect could have been done better. 3 stars; it was definitely set up for more books in the series but I won't be reading them.

Editado: Out 24, 3:06 pm

181 books read: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

Mika Moon is a witch, and like all witches, she was orphaned young. Technically she was raised by a fellow witch, Primrose, but because bad things are supposed to happen if too many witches are in one place, she was really raised by a succession of nannies, none of whom knew the truth about her. As an adult, she's making her way in the world, but she's never felt like she's found her place, moving often and meeting up with her fellow witches in secret for a meeting every few months before they scatter to the winds again. When Mika gets a surprise job offer to come to a house in Norwich and teach three young witches to control their magic, she's shocked -- unsure how the girls' caretakers knew she was a witch, and uncertain about having so much uncontrolled magic in one place. But when she arrives at Nowhere House, not sure whether or not to accept the offer, she finds herself not wanting to leave. The girls are charming (except for Terracotta, who might want to kill her), but the adults who care for them are just as sweet, welcoming Mika into their group and making her feel immediately at home -- something she's never felt before. Except for Jamie, the librarian, who doesn't seem to trust her. Can Mika win Jamie's trust and get the girls under control before a non-magical visitor who could change everything arrives at Nowhere House on Boxing Day?

I went into this with high expectations and it met every one. This is a sweet, warm hug of a book, delightful to read, especially if you love a good found family trope. The stakes are not the highest and I suspected the twist for a while, but it didn't affect my enjoyment at all. I want to try Mika's teas! 4.5 stars.

Out 24, 3:18 pm

182 books read: A Really Bad Idea by Jeannine Colette

Meadow is 32 and divorced, working her dream job as a cardiovascular nurse practitioner at a practice owned by her childhood friend Christian and his father but not where she wants to be in her personal life and concerned about her lack of relationship options. When her mother plants the idea of freezing her eggs in her head, she decides to do it and also freeze embryos fertilized by a sperm donor since those have a greater chance of success. When Christian hears about her plan, he insists they have a baby together instead, as friends. Cue them catching feelings, etc.

I wanted something super light and mindless and had seen this recommended on TikTok. This... sort of fit the bill? But it was more mindless in the way of just being kind of bad. I don't usually read romances with these kinds of cheesy real people covers and this reminded me why. Also, it really wasn't as light as promised; when I want light I'm not looking for a subplot of parents with heart problems. 2 stars; I finished it mostly by skimming.

Out 24, 3:40 pm

>109 curioussquared: The author has one set in an inn publishing in 2024. Also, a semi-villainous talking fox. :)

Editado: Out 24, 4:03 pm

183 books read: The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen

Hart is a Tanrian marshal, protecting the magical wilderness from poachers and keeping civilians safe from drudges, dead bodies reanimated by lost souls. It's a dangerous job, but Hart is a demigod (though he doesn't know who his godly parent is) and is very good at what he does. He's worked alone for a while, and hasn't really wanted a partner since his mentor Bill died and his partner Alma left him for a desk job. He may be lonely, but he doesn't want to admit that to anyone -- least of all Mercy, the undertaker at Birdsall and Son (never mind that she's the daughter). Hart and Mercy got off on the wrong foot when they first met four years ago, and they've been at each others' throats ever since. Hart would go to a different undertaker, but Birdsall and Son is one of the few undertakers that takes unidentified bodies without prepaid funerary packages, and lately, a lot of drudges have been anonymous. At a loss one day, Hart does something stupid -- he writes a letter to nobody, to "a friend," unaddressed, not expecting it to go anywhere but just casting a line out into the universe. When he gets a response, he can't believe it. Little does he know his archnemesis Mercy is just as lonely as he is -- and he never would have expected that she is the one on the other end of the letters that feel like a lifeline.

You've Got Mail, but make it fantasy in a super original world. This was a shockingly delightful and cozy read for a book that features so many dead bodies. I loved not only Hart and Mercy, but all of the side characters (especially Duckers) and the nimkilim, and just the overall vibe of the book, which felt like nothing else I've read before. If pressed, I would describe the vibe as "mythological western." Who knew that's what I needed in my life? I wasn't intending to finish this on Sunday, but I literally couldn't put it down. Looking forward to the companion novel coming next year. 5 stars.

Out 24, 4:03 pm

>111 libraryperilous: I just saw that and I'm so excited :D

Out 24, 4:51 pm

>109 curioussquared: and >112 curioussquared: - Not my usual fare, but you've convinced me to give them a shot. Thanks? :)

Out 24, 4:55 pm

>114 katiekrug: I hope you like them! I am becoming a sucker for cozy fantasy romances :)

Out 25, 9:24 am

>110 curioussquared: Yeah a lot of these covers lately don't strike me as "bold" so much as cringe. And it sounds like the plot follows suit.

Out 25, 10:32 am

>116 Ravenwoodwitch: I think this is why I resisted reading romance for so long -- so many of the covers are so bad!! In this case, the book deserved it, but...

Out 25, 3:36 pm

Hi! I lost track of your thread for a while, but now I am back!

Out 25, 5:26 pm

>118 foggidawn: Good to see you, Foggi!

Out 25, 6:05 pm

>112 curioussquared: Ooooh, that sounds amazing! Adding it to the list.

Out 25, 6:46 pm

Happy Wednesday! This week is definitely better than last week but it has its own issues. Last night I went to my first in-person dance workout class since February 2020 and I forgot how much I enjoy these classes! I had a great time and am looking forward to going back again. Tonight we're going out to dinner with Tim's family for his dad's birthday -- a local Korean restaurant that's doing a special menu for restaurant week.

Currently reading: Still working on Ninth House. Finished The Library of Shadows on audio yesterday and moved on to You, Again.

Currently watching: Watched Hitch with my friend on Monday night and S2E1 of Loki with Tim last night.

Currently playing: A little TOTK on Monday but my wrist tendinitis has been acting up so I had to keep it pretty tame.

Out 25, 6:46 pm

>120 scaifea: I hope you like it, Amber!

Out 26, 6:36 am

>121 curioussquared: I've always sort of wanted to try a dance workout class, but just...never have? Maybe someday. It sounds both really fun and kind of terrifying.

I keep eyeing The Library of Shadows on the YA New Books shelves. I'll get to it someday - I hope you enjoyed it!

Ooooh, Loki. Charlie and I need to get round to that, too. I'm worried, though, because there were a lot of things about the first season I kind of hated. But, well, Loki. Can't not watch my boyfriend.

>122 curioussquared: Me too! I suspect I will.

Out 26, 12:46 pm

>123 scaifea: You should try a class! I find them so much more fun than any other kind of workout. They feel closer to a dance party than exercise. People are really encouraging and supportive, and you can stand at the back of the group if you're afraid of messing up :) My best friend and I regularly do dance workouts at home together (we just use the Just Dance video game, lol) but I love the community aspect of an in-person class -- not to mention having enough space to fully move around, plus being able to see myself in the mirror, which is the only way I feel like I am actually able to learn the dance moves. On the other hand, my best friend hates seeing herself in the mirror, which is why she doesn't come to classes to me and we only dance at home, so YMMV.

I didn't like The Library of Shadows as much as I hoped to, unfortunately. Full review to come, but it was just middling for me.

I am very much not a Marvel superfan so I'm not much of a critic when it comes to these shows -- it either holds my attention or it doesn't. I liked S1 of Loki and like you said, important to watch for the boyfriend ;)

Out 26, 7:38 pm

184 books read: The Library of Shadows by Rachel Moore

Este has been on the move with her mom, who doesn't like to be tied down, since her dad died. So when she gets admitted to the prestigious Radcliffe Prep school, where her father attended at one point, she jumps at the chance to have a stationary home. When she arrives, she's greeted by Posy, her ghost-obsessed roommate, who drags her along on a tour of the school library. On the tour, Este is distracted by a mysterious boy named Mateo, who convinces her to sneak off and access the library spire that has been closed for 30 years -- because Este unknowingly had the only key from her dad. Este follows Mateo and gets a horrible shock when he steals a book that was in the tower and then vanishes, leaving Este to deal with the furious head library, Ives. She barely manages to talk her way out of being immediately expelled by promising Ives she'll find and return the book Mateo stole (not that Ives believes she was working with someone else), work late hours as an archival assistant, and keep her grades at a 3.5 average. All easier said than done, as Mateo is nowhere to be found, the library is scary at night, and Este is struggling to keep up in classes. When Este starts to suspect that Mateo may not be altogether alive, she'll need his help figuring out the mystery at the heart of the past deaths at Radcliffe Prep -- which might help her figure out why her dad left all those years ago.

I loved the cover and concept of this book -- I am such a sucker for a fantasy library. Unfortunately, the plot didn't quite mesh enough for me to love it, and the library was the best thing about it while also not being a particularly great example of a fantasy library. I don't think I realized before I started that Este is a high schooler, not in college, and she definitely felt very young -- which isn't necessarily bad, but it wasn't quite what I was looking for from the book. I also wanted more out of the side characters, and I just kept repeatedly losing interest in what Este was trying to figure out. It felt like every realization was either a coincidence or a huge leap, with no in-between. 3 stars.

Out 30, 2:42 pm

Happy Monday! Life update: When I started my job early last year, one of the things I was most excited about was the unlimited PTO policy. Tim has unlimited time off at his job so I wanted any job I had to also have that so that I wouldn't be holding us back from traveling. Unfortunately, when I let my boss know about my upcoming Japan trip, she let me know that she couldn't approve the time off because apparently even though our Flexible Time Off policy was positioned to me as unlimited by the recruiter when I joined, apparently the "intention" of the policy is only for employees to take 3-4 weeks a year, even though those limits aren't written 🙄 So... I've given my notice and my last day will be 11/10. I'm lucky to have the flexibility to be able to be able to quit and travel -- very grateful for my husband and his job and health insurance. I'm bummed because I did enjoy this job overall, but honestly, I was thinking of leaving next year anyway for unrelated reasons -- I just don't like feeling like I was forced to make this decision before I was ready, even if I know it's the right one for me.

Anyway, that's that for big life decisions I've made lately! Had a pretty low-key weekend otherwise -- hung out with my best friend on Friday night and we exercised and watched some TV, went to a book sale on Saturday, and went to a dance exercise class on Sunday. Today I'm working and taking Kermit to the vet for his annual exam. Maybe a workout class in the evening if I feel like it, but I slept horribly last night so I might take it easy instead.

Currently reading: Still working through Ninth House, which I'm really enjoying but is taking me a while. Hoping to finish in the next few days. I also started We Have Always Lived in the Castle while on the elliptical on Saturday and I'm loving it. About 70% through The Witches of Moonshyne Manor on audio and I'm enjoying it for the most part, but it's not 100% resonating with me.

Currently watching: The first three episodes of S2 of Our Flag Means Death, which were excellent; Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, which was surprisingly good, and an episode of Loki.

Currently playing: Lots of Tears of the Kingdom over the weekend. Still avoiding the main quest line because I don't really like the temples, but having lots of fun exploring the depths and finding shrines.

Out 30, 3:31 pm

>126 curioussquared: - Good for you for not putting up with that bait-and-switch nonsense. Totally ridiculous!

Out 30, 4:06 pm

>126 curioussquared: That is some serious BS and good on you for not putting up with it.

Out 30, 4:33 pm

>126 curioussquared: A boss canceled my vacation days once because I didn't go to her dog's birthday party. Good for you! It sounds like, between this and the WFH backtracking, they're looking for employees they can push around.

Editado: Out 30, 6:08 pm

Thanks, all, for the support! I will admit, when I started the job, I thought it was a little fishy that the grocery store company had unlimited PTO. Trust your instincts, folks.

>129 libraryperilous: I'm gonna need more info on the dog birthday party incident, lol. And yep, that's the general sense I get. I also think my boss isn't a bad person, but she's under a lot of pressure from upper management, who I do think are terrible people. So good riddance I guess.

Out 30, 6:54 pm

185 books read: You, Again by Kate Goldbeck

When Ari and Josh first meet, they clash immediately. When they meet again years later, it happens again. And again another few years later. Ari is chaotic, commitment-phobic, all over the place, trying to make it in comedy in NYC and barely scraping by in a series of dead-end jobs. Josh is serious, driven, looking to settle down, working hard to be the city's next great chef, with no patience for mediocrity. But eventually, after running into each other once more, they... don't hate each other immediately, and end up connecting over their recently failed relationships. At first a little wary, their acquaintance develops into a friendship over trips to IKEA and late night movies, as they slip into the person-shaped hole in each other's lives. But when they can no longer deny that there's something else there, Ari might not be able to take it.

This is heavily inspired by When Harry Met Sally and definitely reads like a modern version of it. However, I don't think you need to love When Harry Met Sally to really enjoy this book. I would describe myself as a medium fan of When Harry Met Sally (I like it, but it's not a favorite romcom or a comfort re-watch for me) and I still really liked this. It's fresh and well-written and clever. 4 stars.

Out 31, 8:02 am

>126 curioussquared: Huh, well that isn't fair. If it was stated and the PTO is in writing (or the limits are not) then that's the job definition. But I suppose it's your bosses discretion to allow leave at a certain time. Good you can get out before you were too invested. Best of luck with your onward adventures!

Editado: Out 31, 2:39 pm

>132 humouress: Thanks, Nina. Her issue was less with the timing of the trip (I made sure I planned it at a reasonable time based on business requirements and my responsibilities) and more just with the total time I was taking. Oh well!

Nov 1, 5:03 pm

Well, my last two weeks at this job will certainly not be boring. We started Open Enrollment today and are busy running around addressing issues we've found since this morning. Lots of fun in addition to all the transition tasks I need to work on and the open items I'm trying to wrap.

Currently reading: I finished one more book in October and will post a review soon. In the final stretch on both We Have Always Lived in the Castle and Ninth House. About 10% into Swordheart on audio and loving it so far.

Currently watching: An episode each of Our Flag Means Death S2 and What We Do in the Shadows S5 on Monday, and the final episode and a half of Good Omens S2 last night.

Nov 1, 8:19 pm

Whew, look at you on the way to 200 books! Looks life you've had some good books and shows lately too. Best of luck on your last two weeks at the job - that sure sounds like a lot!

Nov 2, 9:56 am

Wow, lots of big news around here since the last time I checked in. Wishing you all the best with your last two weeks at the job.

You, Again sounds cute but I'm VERY fond of When Harry Met Sally so I'm worried it might disappoint in comparison. I'll stick it on the mental maybe list.

Nov 2, 10:34 am

>136 MickyFine: Thanks, Micky! I have seen You, Again very much recommended for big When Harry Met Sally fans. I think you would probably like it as long as you keep in mind that it's more "inspired by" the movie rather than a retelling.

Nov 2, 3:58 pm

>135 bell7: I missed you up there, Mary! Yep, I should hit 200 this month which means I'll have a new record total at the end of the year.

Nov 2, 4:00 pm

Still plenty of stuff going on at work. Going through my transition list with my boss in a few minutes. Doing my best to remind her while she'll regret not letting me go on this trip, lol.

Currently reading: Finished We Have Always Lived in the Castle last night and I absolutely loved it. Review coming soon! Inching toward the end of Ninth House; I should finish this weekend at the very latest. Almost halfway through Swordheart and loving it, although I don't think at this point that it will be one of my top Kingfishers.

Currently watching: A few episodes of S2 of The Bear last night, which both Tim and I forgot we had been watching, lol.

Nov 2, 5:25 pm

>139 curioussquared: That first one was one of my surprise favorites from last year. I'm trying to find a hardcover version for my personal shelf.
And yes, you are absolutely doing what you should be doing. Make her eat a slice of humble pie.

Nov 2, 5:54 pm

I love The Bear and was thrilled to hear there will be another season.

Nov 2, 6:09 pm

>140 Ravenwoodwitch: It was so good! I have loved The Lottery for years and this one was just as good in the same way.

>141 katiekrug: I love it too. Tim likes it, but it stresses him out for some reason (I think the character interactions are so well done that they feel too real to him, lol) which is why we haven't finished S2 yet.

Nov 2, 6:21 pm

>5 curioussquared: I just finished Thornhedge a few days ago. A very good re-telling of Sleeping Beauty.

Nov 2, 6:26 pm

I get Tim being stressed out by it. TW won't watch it for that reason. If you haven't gotten to it yet, episode 6 of season 2 is super stressful on many levels. Maybe give him a Xanax or a stiff drink before watching it....

Nov 2, 6:31 pm

>144 katiekrug: Was that the family Christmas one? That was the last one we watched last night... I had assured him it wouldn't be too stressful (with nothing to base that assertion on, lol) and he was not pleased. Oops.

Nov 2, 6:33 pm

>89 curioussquared: Great haul! I absolutely love Plainsong and just re-read it this year (along with Mark). I hope you enjoy it when you get to it, Natalie.

I am not even going to begin to try and catch up. I hope all is well there with you and yours!

Nov 2, 6:42 pm

>145 curioussquared: -Yup! It made my heart rate go triple time...

Nov 2, 8:39 pm

>146 alcottacre: Thanks, Stasia! It may have been your comments on Plainsong that inspired me to grab is at the sale, so thanks!

>147 katiekrug: I think I was making this face the whole time: 😬

Nov 2, 8:43 pm

>148 curioussquared: I hope you enjoy it! If not, the blame goes to Mark :)

Nov 2, 8:45 pm

186 books read: The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marais

When a sisterhood of aging witches learns they may lose their manor home on the eve of one of their sisters finally being released from prison, they join forces with a local young activist, Persephone, (who just so happens to be the mayor's daughter) to figure out a way to save the house. Accompanied, of course, by Persephone's Italian Greyhound, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the witches must stop keeping secrets from each other and play to their magic strengths to fight the forces of patriarchy in their town and save the magic from being forever destroyed.

I saw a review that described this as "unsubtle" and I think that's why it didn't quite work for me. I love witchy books, I love found family, I love Italian Greyhounds, I love fighting the patriarchy and supporting trans rights, but all of these things smushed into one story felt like a little much and the plot never quite meshed. Also, there are like five or six POVs, and the witches were just not distinct enough for me to keep track of them, especially in the first half. 3 stars.

Nov 2, 8:57 pm

187 books read: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Ever since the incident six years ago, when Constance Blackwood was accused of poisoning her entire family with arsenic in the sugar bowl at dinner, the remaining Blackwoods have been shunned by the local village folk and stay mostly to themselves on their estate. After all, they don't need much -- only Constance, her younger sister Merricat, and their poorly uncle Julian, the only survivor of the arsenic incident, are left. Constance withdrew entirely after the incident and no longer goes into town or shows her face, and uncle Julian is wheelchair-bound and does not leave the house. Only Merricat makes a weekly trip into the village for groceries and library books, enduring the jeers and bullying of the cruel villagers. Merricat finds comfort in the repetitive rituals of her life; things may not be perfect, but it is how they have always been, since the incident. But when an estranged cousin arrives at the house and Constance allows him to infiltrate their lives, Merricat is horrified -- and certain that his arrival spells their impending doom.

Ugh, Shirley Jackson is SO good. I loved every minute of this. Perfectly atmospheric; I was expecting more overt horror, but despite the lack of anything supernatural, the hair my arms still stood up several times while I was reading. I have loved The Lottery since I read it in 7th grade English class and this definitely has similar themes. 5 stars.

Nov 2, 9:04 pm

>149 alcottacre: Lol! Noted!

Nov 2, 9:42 pm

>151 curioussquared: I really need to read that one again. It has been far too long since I read it!

Nov 3, 4:12 am

>151 curioussquared: I read that one earlier this year and really enjoyed it too! I hadn't really any Shirley Jackson until a few years ago when I read The Haunting of Hill House.

Nov 3, 7:48 am

>126 curioussquared: Congrats for having the courage to quit. It is quite annoying when a company tells you one thing and expects another.

I have Ninth house on my shelf as well. Looking forward to your thoughts.

Happy weekend ahead!

Nov 3, 10:37 am

>143 ocgreg34: I missed you up there, Greg! Wasn't Thornhedge good? Not my favorite Kingfisher, but the bar is high :)

>153 alcottacre: I imagine it would hold up well, Stasia. It's just so impeccably crafted.

>154 ursula: This is my first novel from Jackson, Ursula. I need to read The Haunting of Hill House too.

>155 figsfromthistle: Thanks, Anita. I feel very privileged that I am able to push back with my employer like this when they change the terms we agreed on; I know most people are not in this situation, so I am grateful for sure. I finished Ninth House last night so stay tuned for a review!

Nov 3, 12:55 pm

T minus 6 days left at my job! Working on wrapping stuff as well as I can before I leave. Last night my friend came over and we did a workout and got thai takeout. No real plans today!

Currently reading: Finished Ninth House last night; review to come. Probably will start The Atlas Six next. Started the first few pages of One Dark Window on Kindle. A little over halfway through Swordheart on audio and still enjoying it.

Currently watching: An episode of Our Flag Means Death. Was also in the room while Tim watched episode 1 of Generation V and it's not my thing. I didn't really like The Boys either.

Nov 3, 3:51 pm

188 books read: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Galaxy "Alex" Stern has a secret -- she has seen ghosts, or Grays, her whole life, which led her to get involved with the wrong kind of people as a teenager when she discovered that drugs and alcohol dulled her otherworldly senses. After a mysterious, catastrophic event in her past, Alex was recruited for her powers by Lethe, a secret magical society at Yale. Now, Alex is a freshman struggling to keep up with both classes and her duties as Lethe's Dante, second in command to Virgil, aka Daniel Arlington aka Darlington. Together, Darlington and Alex are tasked with keeping Grays from interfering with rituals. Alex feels like she is starting to get a handle on her Lethe duties even as she continues to learn more about the dark, privileged underworld of Yale's magical societies. But when Darlington disappears before her eyes and nobody is sure how to get him back, Alex is at a loss. And when a girl shows up dead on campus, Alex is determined to do right by her, even if she'll need to look for allies where she never has before -- among the dead.

This started off a little slow for me, and I also found it a little stressful to read while I was stressed in other areas of my life, so it took me a little longer to get through. However, that didn't affect my enjoyment at all, and I ended up loving this and staying up late to read ~50 or so pages every night even though I've been having to wake up early for meetings the last few weeks. I think it starts slow because of the way the timeline is formatted -- your first glimpse of Alex is in Spring of her freshman year, then you bounce back to Fall, then Winter, then Alex's past as you learn more and more about Alex, Lethe, Darlington, and what exactly happened. It all comes together quite masterfully, in my opinion, but I could see the book losing a few people in the confusing beginning (I rather like being thrown in in media res, so it worked for me). 4.5 stars and I might be picking up book 2 sooner rather than later.

Nov 4, 9:32 am

>150 curioussquared: Too bad, the witches book sounds like a promising premise that doesn't deliver. I'll give it a pass. Thanks for taking one for the team!

>151 curioussquared: Shirley Jackson is so good, isn't she? I liked that one as well.

>158 curioussquared: Glad you liked it! I read it and the sequel earlier this year and enjoyed them both.

Nov 6, 11:12 am

>159 foggidawn: Hi Foggi! Yep, on paper I should have loved Moonshyne Manor, but it just didn't work for me. I'll definitely be looking for more Shirley Jackson. I have a lot I want to read in November, but I might take advantage of my newly unemployed status as of Friday to slip Hell Bent in soon.

Editado: Nov 6, 3:52 pm

Happy Monday! T-minus five days until I'm done with this job. Lots to get done in the meantime. I had a nice weekend -- Tim and I went out to dinner on Friday. Saturday was pretty low-key -- I relaxed and did some reading and gaming. I realized I was feeling like my wardrobe is out of date so I went shopping and did well at Marshall's -- I picked up some sweaters, a trendy shacket, and some wide-leg cords, which feel too cool for me, but they fit really well and I'm going to give them a shot, lol. For dinner I made African chicken peanut stew. Sunday I went to a dance workout class in the morning, then relaxed until my friend picked me up to go to Costco. We had cuban sandwiches for dinner.

Today the plan is work and maybe a workout in the evening.

Currently reading: Finished Swordheart over the weekend and now listening to Spells for Lost Things. About 2/3 through The Atlas Six and enjoying it. Read a few pages more of One Dark Window on Kindle.

Currently watching: Tim and I started Deadloch on Saturday night and omg, we are LOVING it. Thanks Nora for the rec! Watched a few more episodes of Our Flag Means Death S2 with my friend on Sunday night and very sad that we only have one more :(

Currently playing: Some TOTK. Finally started the lightning temple in earnest, lol.

Nov 6, 1:18 pm

Happy first day of your last week at the job!

And thanks for the reminder about Deadloch. I might slot that in before the last season of 'Happy Valley'...

Nov 6, 2:34 pm

>161 curioussquared: I had to look up what a "shacket" was, and now I want one.
I hope work isn't trying to keep you too busy out of spite. I know some places do that.

Nov 6, 3:06 pm

>162 katiekrug: I think you'll like Deadloch, Katie. It's some of the best black humor I've seen in ages.

>163 Ravenwoodwitch: No, it's not out of spite, we're just actually that busy right now. This is our busiest time of year -- I actually considered giving a longer notice period because of it, but I feel like nothing good ever comes out of an extended notice period, so I decided not to.

Nov 6, 3:51 pm

189 books read: Swordheart by T. Kingfisher

Halla, a respectable widow in her mid-thirties, unexpectedly inherits everything from her late husband's uncle -- including, unfortunately, his awful relatives. The relatives try to force Halla to marry gross, clammy-handed cousin Alver to keep the inheritance in the family. When Halla refuses, they lock her in her bedroom. Halla is at a loss -- she's just a housekeeper, she doesn't have any skills to help in a situation like this. The only thing she can think of is to kill herself -- at least if she does that the inheritance will go to her nieces instead of slimy Alver and his horrible mother. But when Halla unsheathes the decorative sword on the wall of her room to give running herself through a go, she's shocked when a warrior suddenly appears in her bedroom when she draws the sword. Turns out, it's an enchanted blade, and now that she's drawn it, Sarkis, the warrior in the sword, is sworn to protect her. Seizing her opportunity, Halla and Sarkis escape from the house and start traveling to the Temple of the White Rat, where she can engage the services of a lawyer priest to help her gain control of the inheritance that is rightfully hers. As Halla and Sarkis travel together and get to know each other, they both are drawn to the other -- even though she's a middle-aged, widowed housekeeper who asks too many questions, and he's a hundreds-year-old immortal warrior from a distant land who lives in a sword.

Another delightful romp from T. Kingfisher set in the same world as the Clocktaur wars books and the Saint of Steel paladin books. I think this is my least favorite of her books set in that world, but it's still excellent and just so much fun. 4 stars.

Nov 6, 3:57 pm

>161 curioussquared: Happy last week at work! I'm glad you're enjoying Deadloch ... it's definitely not for everyone but it's really well done. The pacing is so good that I was sure I knew who the killer was at the end of each episode...and was always wrong

Nov 6, 4:44 pm

>165 curioussquared: I reallly have got to get some of Kingfisher's books read!

I hope you have a wonderful last week of work at your current job!

Nov 6, 5:21 pm

Hopefully the last week at your job flies by, Natalie!

Nov 6, 6:27 pm

>166 norabelle414: Thanks Nora! We're only two episodes in but I've already recommended it to my best friend and I think my mom (and maybe even my dad? He is the pickiest) will like it too.

>167 alcottacre: I think you'll love them, Stasia! And thanks!

>168 MickyFine: Thanks, Micky!

Editado: Nov 7, 11:47 am

Happy Tuesday! Still have lots to do at work but I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Things are such a mess right now (our first Open Enrollment in a new system and there are innumerable configuration issues with said new system) that it's going to be a little bit of a relief to leave, lol. Not my problem after Friday!

Last night Tim had plans so I had a quiet night in -- walked the dogs, made an easy dinner, and watched some TV before retiring to bed to read. Today should be similar; depending on how late I work I might try to fit in a workout. I bought ingredients to make a beef stew this weekend but I forgot potatoes so I might put in a grocery order so I can make the stew tonight. Oh, and I need to vote. (Thanks Katie for the reminder!)

Currently reading: Close to the end of The Atlas Six and should wrap it today. Over halfway through Spells for Lost Things on audio and enjoying it, but the female narrator has a few pronunciation quirks that keep bugging me. (I have never heard the "o" sound in coven pronounced like "oh.") Finally made some significant progress in One Dark Window (~10%) and am intrigued by the premise.

Currently watching: A couple episodes of The Flatshare -- I think I have one more left. Man, they really screwed up this adaptation, at least IMO. This is one of my all-time favorite romances and the TV version somehow strips all of its charm. Also, it wasn't apparent at the beginning since they don't meet for so long, but the two main actors have zero chemistry, even though I like them both for the parts -- might just be bad writing. I'll finish the series, but I'm disappointed.

ETA: I have a bunch of preorders ready to pickup today! A Power Unbound, Iron Flame, and Bookshops and Bonedust. Not sure if I'll make it to my favorite indie to pick them up today or not.

Nov 7, 12:38 pm

Yay for voting!

That's disappointing to hear about the adaptation of The Flatshare. I also loved the book...

Nov 9, 10:15 am

>171 katiekrug: Right? I have one episode left and will finish it, but it feels like very little that I loved about the book made it into the series.

Nov 9, 10:44 am

Happy Thursday! T-minus two more days of work. Too busy yesterday to check in -- lots to wrap before I'm done. I am leaving at a really bad time, and I don't feel bad for my boss (coulda just approved my vacation!), but I do feel bad for ditching my team.

Tuesday night I got most of what I wanted done -- got the beef stew in the instant pot and then was able to run out to drop off my ballot and pick up my pre-orders at the bookstore while it was instant potting. Got back a mere 5 minutes after it had finished and needed to be transferred to the broiler for a few minutes, so perfect timing.

Yesterday my friend came over and we did a workout and ordered takeout.

Not sure what today will bring -- I have some chicken I need to cook in some way, and that's all I know at this point.

Currently reading: Finished both Spells for Lost Things and When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain on audio and moved on to The Duchess Deal. Wrapped up The Atlas Six in print last night and am trying to decide on my next print read -- leaning toward Small Town, Big Magic for something light before diving into Nona the Ninth next. No progress made in One Dark Window.

Currently watching: Tim and I watched an episode of Welcome to Wrexham and one of Deadloch on Tuesday. Yesterday my friend and I wrapped S2 of Our Flag Means Death (😭).

Nov 9, 1:02 pm

190 books read: Spells for Lost Things by Jenna Evans Welch

Mason has bounced around in foster care since his mom lost custody due to her addiction issues. His new foster family in Salem, MA is a little different -- Emma and Simon have three young daughters of their own, and offered to take him in because Emma and his mother are old friends. They seem nice, but Mason can't stop thinking about his mom, who he hasn't heard from in a few years now. Meanwhile, Willow has lived in LA with her distant, perfect event planner mom ever since her parents' divorce. When her mom suddenly reveals that she had a twin sister who recently passed away, Willow is shocked -- and she's more shocked when her mom asks her to come with her to Salem to settle the estate. In Salem, Willow is astounded by the existence of MORE family she didn't know existed, including three kooky aunts who appear to think they're witches -- it is Salem, after all. Then there's the house -- the ancestral home that Willow immediately falls in love with and that her mom just wants to sell as quickly as possible. When Willow and Mason meet by chance (Simon is Willow's mom's realtor), they have an instant connection, trusting each other more than they've trusted anyone else in years. Mason is happy to help Willow dig into the family history treasure hunt she's discovered, and even opens up to her about his mom. But underneath it all, he can't quite settle or stop searching, and when he gets a lead to his mom's whereabouts, he's willing to risk everything to try to find her.

I really enjoyed this! This is my second book by Welch (the first was her more popular Love and Gelato). This has a lot of similar themes to Love and Gelato, actually, but it felt more mature and like a slightly more complex story -- I think I enjoyed it a little more. Willow and Mason were both well-drawn, believable teens, and I was rooting for both of them. I liked the witchy aspect a lot, and all the side characters -- particularly Mason's foster sisters -- were great. I had two minor quibbles: First, the family history aspect fully failed to engage me. I liked the treasure hunt part, but the letters from Sage were weird and uninteresting to me and I found myself zoning out during those bits. They weren't a huge part of the book, but it was the only part that felt extraneous. Second, Willow's audiobook narrator could have used some pronunciation coaching. She pronounced "coven," "unbridled," and "piety" fully incorrectly, as well as pronouncing the "s" in the French "pas" in "c'est pas possible," which is more forgivable but still easy to look up. It wasn't a huge deal, but I can't remember listening to a book where a narrator needed so much help in a long time, and it did take me out of the story several times. 4.5 stars.

Nov 9, 1:48 pm

191 books read: When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo

In this follow-up to The Empress of Salt and Fortune, we once again meet Chih, a cleric of the Singing Hills, who is attempting to cross the mountains with the help of a mammoth corps member and her mammoth. When Chih and their companions are beset by fierce tigers, Chih must stave off the tiger attack through the power of storytelling.

I read the first novella a few years ago and figured I would try listening to this second one. I think I liked it even more than the first one. 4.5 stars.

Nov 9, 1:58 pm

>174 curioussquared: Adding Spells for Lost Things to the BlackHole. My local library "has" a copy (I use the term loosely), but it has been overdue since January 2023, so I will have to look further afield.

>175 curioussquared: I will have to check out Nghi Vo's books!

Happy almost end of old job!!

Nov 9, 3:36 pm

>176 alcottacre: I hope you like them, Stasia! And thanks :)

Nov 9, 3:40 pm

>177 curioussquared: I found a copy of the book online, which I am going to read and then promptly donate to my library to replace the missing copy.

Nov 9, 5:15 pm

Nov 9, 6:15 pm

192 books read: The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

Six young magicians, or medeians, are invited to join the prestigious ranks of the Alexandrian Society -- the keepers of books and knowledge stretching all the way back to the Library of Alexandria. There's Libby and Nico -- recent graduates of the prestigious NYUMA, rival physicists who competed and pushed each other throughout school. There's Tristan, son of a notorious London crime lord, who can see through illusions, and who wants desperately to distance himself from his father. There's quiet Reina, a naturalist living a peaceful life in Japan, more interested in her scholarship than in the powers she has with plants. There's Parisa, a beautiful mind reader who has been hurt before and uses her powers to ensure she won't be hurt again. And there's Callum, the emotionless, detached empath, who can use his influence to make others do as he pleases. Together, they must spend a trial year together at the Society's headquarters, protecting the archives and learning and researching. As the year goes on, the six start to realize that their initiation might ask more of them than they first thought. But Atlas Blakely, the Society's caretaker, isn't revealing anything...

Great concept, OK execution. This keeps you reading but doesn't seem to have much substance once you finish, and I didn't really love the characters. I did think the twist was fascinating. I think I'll continue reading, but I might listen to the next book. 3.5 stars.

Nov 10, 12:29 pm

Happy last day at work, Natalie!

Nov 10, 12:36 pm

>180 curioussquared: Great concept, OK execution. Too bad about that! I hope your next read is better for you.

I hope your last day of your job goes well, Natalie. Have a fantastic Friday!

Nov 10, 12:45 pm

>181 MickyFine: >182 alcottacre: Thanks, Micky and Stasia!

Nov 10, 2:02 pm

Hope your last day is uneventful!

Nov 10, 2:55 pm

>180 curioussquared: Hmmm, this one was getting a lot of buzz and it's on my TBR list. I'll go in with more cautious expectations.

Nov 10, 3:13 pm

>184 katiekrug: Thanks Katie! So far so good. Wrapping a few last tasks and then I will be done :) Still haven't received the promised label and packing materials to ship my equipment back, though...

>185 bell7: It was definitely very hyped to me, Mary, so hopefully tempering your expectations will help.

Nov 11, 8:05 pm

You are now free as a bird. Enjoy!

>180 curioussquared: I had similar feelings about that one. I tried the second one in the series and realized I did not care enough so I returned it to the library unread. Perhaps at another time I will want to read it. Definitely a series to borrow from the library rather than buying.

Nov 12, 9:52 pm

How does freedom feel? : )

Editado: Nov 12, 10:25 pm

Now on the TBR pile and I'll be looking for it at the library next week.

Nov 13, 9:05 am

Hey Natalie!
First day off your job, right? I hope you're feeling good and best of luck moving forward.

Nov 13, 9:08 am

Hope you took some Me-time to chill with the boys. Seconding the best of luck wishes moving forward.

Nov 13, 3:38 pm

>187 figsfromthistle: Thanks, Anita! Good to know about book 2. I will probably wait a bit and then listen to book 2. I find I am generally more forgiving of a book's flaws on audio.

>188 Berly: OK so far, Kim :)

>189 Whisper1: Hope you like it, Linda!

>190 Ravenwoodwitch: Thanks, Angela! Yep, first day off. They finally delivered the big box to ship all my stuff back today, though, so I do still need to do that.

>191 humouress: Thanks, Nina!

Nov 13, 3:50 pm

First day of no job and I am feeling... ok? Struggling with some anxiety over having nothing to do and not contributing, but I think establishing a routine will help me with that. I just don't like change very much in general, lol. My mom is going to come over in a bit and I'll help her with some website/tech stuff for her business, and then my friend will come over in the evening and we're going to do a workout.

Currently reading: Finished The Duchess Deal and Check & Mate on audio over the weekend and moved on to Georgie, All Along. Over halfway through One Dark Window on Kindle and enjoying it so far. A few chapters into Nona the Ninth in print and so far so good. Just as weird in a very different way from the first two.

Currently watching: Tim and I wrapped up Deadlock on Friday night and we both loved it. The reveal of the killer scene was incredible. Wanted something familiar and good last night so I rewatched Easy A.

Nov 13, 5:21 pm

Two years later, and I still struggle with a bit of anxiety about leaving my job. Routine does help. When do you leave for Japan?

I look forward to your thoughts on The Duchess Deal and Georgie, All Along. I loved them both, but GAA was not a winner for some of my romance-reading friends.

Nov 13, 6:47 pm

>193 curioussquared: >194 katiekrug: I agree with Katie. Having a routine does help. I know that when I retired, I was kind of at a loss as to what to do every day, but once I had an established routine, I was good to go.

Nov 13, 7:50 pm

Hi Natalie! Checking in after several weeks out of touch - lots going on in your world! Congratulations on finishing up the most recent work chapter and looking forward to your trip... as someone who (mostly) spent the last 20 years as a "soccer mom", I understand feeling like maybe you need to justify your existence somehow. I also concur that routines help! I'm glad for you that you have the freedom to wait and look for your next ideal thing, rather than having to rush into something for the salary or the benefits.

I added several books to my TBR list, while catching up with your thread: Nettle and Bone, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy, and You, Again - thanks a lot!! 🤣 The list is getting Seriously Out Of Hand.

Hope you have a good week!

Nov 15, 2:23 pm

>194 katiekrug: Thanks, Katie! Glad to know I'm not alone. Feeling a little better a few days on. We leave for Japan on 11/28, so have a few weeks. I finished GAA yesterday and owe several reviews!

>195 alcottacre: Thanks, Stasia. I met an old coworker who is now retired for a drink yesterday and she shared that she had a goal of accomplishing one thing per day, which I like :)

>196 PlatinumWarlock: Hi, Lavinia, and thanks! Yes, I think complicating my feelings is the guilt of feeling anxious about not working when I feel like I SHOULD be feeling lucky and grateful that we have the means for me to take time off when many people can't do that and would love to. And I do feel lucky and grateful, I just need to get past the other stuff 😅 sorry not sorry about the book bullets!

Nov 17, 1:08 pm

193 books read: The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

Since his horrible accident during the war that left him scarred and disfigured, the Duke of Ashbury has withdrawn from society, breaking off his engagement with his fiancee who finds his new face disgusting, and living a quiet life at home, occasionally taking out his frustration on ne'er-do-wells around his Mayfair home. But he knows this cannot last forever -- at some point, he must take a wife in order to produce an heir. Meanwhile, Emma, a country vicar's daughter who ran away to London to escape her father's strict domain, is working as a seamstress, struggling to make ends meet. When the order for the duke's fiancee's wedding dress is cancelled, she's devastated -- she was counting on that money. What else to do but to put the gorgeous gown on herself and march over to the duke's home in Mayfair, demanding payment? Her plan mostly works, although the duke insists on coming to her seamstress's shop to pay instead of handing over the cash then and there. But when he arrives at the shop, the duke has a proposition for Emma that at first seems absurd -- then maybe like kind of a good idea? He proposes a marriage of convenience -- she's living in a state of disgrace, of course, but she's from a good family, and all the duke needs is someone to father his heir before they can live apart for the rest of their lives, since nobody would want to live with his deformed self anyway. Emma is appalled, but the idea of her own house in the country, where she would be taken care of for the rest of her days, and where she can invite her friend who is in the family way to stay with her to give birth to the child away from London's prying eyes... that settles it. Emma and the duke are hastily married and she moves to his Mayfair home, along with a mischievous cat named Breeches. But neither Emma nor the duke are prepared for their marriage of convenience to evolve into something else.

This was my first Tessa Dare and I had so much fun with it! The plot was just silly enough to be fun without being entirely unbelievable, and the characters were well drawn. I loved the banter and the smart dialogue, and all-in-all couldn't stop listening. My first Tessa Dare but it definitely won't be my last. 4 stars.

Nov 17, 1:23 pm

Happy Friday! I've managed to stay fairly busy this week. On Wednesday I spent a lot of time tidying for the cleaners, who were coming at 3pm, and starting in on some organizing tasks I've been putting off. In the evening I made pumpkin mac and cheese with roasted brussels sprouts and cauliflower (recipe from Skinnytaste) and Tim and I watched a few episodes of TV.

On Thursday I did some laundry while also trying to finish up Nona the Ninth and start System Collapse before going to see Martha Wells in the evening! I only made it about 60 pages in but read some more before the event while saving seats for my friend and me and then while standing in the signing line. Martha was fantastic -- I think it's so interesting that she had this decades-long career before writing Murderbot and suddenly being catapulted into the spotlight. She was smart, interesting, and deadpan funny. The event was pretty much entirely audience questions; people asked about her take on AI, aspects of the books, if any other series of hers will be continuing (probably not), media she has been enjoying recently (she mentioned Zen Cho, Nghi Vo, K. Arsenault Rivera, Only Murders in the Building, and Deadloch, among others), and my favorite question of the night: would you consider Murderbot and ART's relationship to be a romance? She said yes, definitely: it's an asexual, aromantic romance. Love!

Today I'll do more laundry and some other assorted chores and maybe try to get back into the t-shirt design stuff I was doing for a bit last year. And I'll read more System Collapse. I might do a workout with my friend tonight, or Tim and I might go out to dinner. TBD!

Currently reading: Finished Georgie All Along as well as Witch of Wild Things on audio; now about halfway through Proper Scoundrels. In print, wrapped up Nona the Ninth and moved on to System Collapse. On Kindle, I finished One Dark Window and moved on to The Wake-Up Call.

Currently watching: A few episodes of Loki with Tim. We're not loving this season.

Nov 17, 2:06 pm

194 books read: Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

Princess Celie lives with her parents, the King and Queen, and her older brother and sister at Castle Glower. Castle Glower is special -- it creates and takes away rooms, and rearranges the castle to suit it. It also has a say in the line of succession. Celie loves Castle Glower, and Castle Glower loves her; she spends much of her time roaming the castle creating an atlas. When Celie's parents leave on a journey to visit her oldest brother Bram for his graduation from wizard school, she and her siblings have things under control at home. After all, her brother Rolf is fourteen and already taking on some kingly duties, and her sister Lilah is bossy enough to keep things in line. But when news come that the king, queen, and Bram were ambushed on their way home and presumed dead, Celie and her siblings are horrified. The castle hasn't changed things in a way that suggests it believes the king is dead, but what if it's wrong? Meanwhile, the council is pushing Rolf to hold his coronation ceremony, and delegations from two nearby countries are refusing to leave. Celie and her siblings will need to trust the Castle and do their best to to find more allies until their parents come home -- and they MUST come home.

This was a lovely middle grade fantasy; Castle Glower is a fantastic concept. It reminded me of the house in House of Many Ways. I wasn't quite as in love with this as George's Dragon Slippers, but I enjoyed it quite a bit and may continue the series at some point. 4 stars.

Nov 17, 2:08 pm

Hooray for Tessa Dare! She's my favorite historical romance author. All of the books of hers I've read have that wonderful banter and sense of humor.

Nov 17, 5:20 pm

>200 curioussquared: Adding that one to the BlackHole. I received a copy of Spells for Lost Things today, which I bought on your recommendation. Not sure when I will get to it, but at least I now have it!

Have a wonderful weekend, Natalie!

Nov 20, 10:52 am

>199 curioussquared: That sounds like a great book event!

Nov 20, 12:55 pm

Have a marvelous Monday, Natalie!

Nov 20, 5:08 pm

>201 katiekrug: I have Any Duchess Will Do checked out on audio and am looking forward to more Tessa Dare soon :)

>202 alcottacre: I hope you like it when you get to it, Stasia!

>203 norabelle414: It was great! I've been going to author events at this store since I was a kid and they never disappoint. Fond memories there of seeing Terry Pratchett, Tamora Pierce, Markus Zusak, and more :)

>204 alcottacre: Thanks, Stasia! It's been decent so far :)

Nov 20, 5:32 pm

Happy Monday! I had a nice weekend. On Saturday I lazed around reading System Collapse and then Tim and I went out and got lunch (ramen, yum) and stopped by Best Buy. I picked up a docking station for my laptop; most of my desk setup belonged to my job, so I'm slowly getting myself set up with my own equipment so I can still work at my desk. I got a deal on a second monitor already. I have a keyboard and mouse, but they're both secondhand and not great and I might splurge on nice, cute ones. Spent the rest of the evening playing some video games and then Tim and I watched a movie.

Sunday I started out the day at a workout class, which was great. Came home and relaxed with TV and cross stitch and then went to my grandparents' house to get my hair cut by my aunt. I desperately needed a cut and I think I love it so far. Was also good to see my grandparents, aunts, my cousin, and my aunt's puppies; they are HUGE (Newfoundland/St. Bernard mixes) and just giant idiots right now. Came home and did a small workout with my best friend and watched an episode of Taskmaster. After she went home, Tim and I watched an episode of TV before bed.

Today I've been puttering around tidying and doing lots of dishes and laundry. Going to try to catch up on some reviews here and then I'll probably run to the store. We're going to two Thanksgivings and I'm making huminta -- my family's traditional Bolivian corn and cheese casserole, basically. I'll make one for Tim's family's gathering and three for mine, lol. I have some chicken I need to cook in the fridge and I still might do something with it tonight, but Tim's friend is going to come over to watch the League of Legends championships tonight (not my thing, lol) and they are probably going to want to order takeout, so I might wait until tomorrow. I'll probably get some reading done while they are nerding out :)

Currently reading: Finished System Collapse on Saturday and moved on to Small Town, Big Magic in print. Still working through The Wake-Up Call on Kindle and should finish today or tomorrow, especially if I get on the elliptical soon. On audio, I wrapped Proper Scoundrels and Better than Fiction and I'm thinking I'll tackle Death of the Necromancer or Icebreaker soon. (Very different vibes, lol.)

Currently watching: Friday I finished the TV adaptation of The Flatshare. It... was fine. The last episode was better than some. But I still feel like they screwed the whole thing up. I just learned they're adapting another one of O'Leary's books, The Road Trip; I didn't like that one, so I won't care if they ruin it. Saturday Tim and I watched Quiz Lady which was a lot of fun. Sunday I watched an episode of Outlander (I am literally going through this TV series at a glacial pace; this was S3E4) in the afternoon, then the first episode of the latest season of British Taskmaster with my friend (loving this cast so far) and the first episode of the live action One Piece with Tim.

Currently playing: A good amount of Zelda: TOTK over the weekend. I completed the side quest to obtain the Cece hat ( and am now enjoying making every one of Link's outfits a total slay.

Nov 20, 5:44 pm

>206 curioussquared: I am starting System Collapse tonight. I do love my Murderbot!

Editado: Nov 20, 6:01 pm

195 books read: Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood

Mallory LOVES chess. Or rather... she loved chess. A former chess prodigy, all of that fell by the wayside when her father spoiled everything -- first with something she witnessed at a tournament, then when he left Mallory, her sisters, and her mother, and then when he went and got himself killed. Now, years later, Mallory has sworn off chess. She's is done with high school and stuck in a rut. Her mother's crippling rheumatoid arthritis means Mallory can't go to college since she's the one in charge of taking care of her sisters and her mom with her meager car mechanic's salary. Before her best friend leaves for school in Denver, though, she convinces Mallory to take part in a charity chess tournament so they can spend some time together before she goes. Mallory is hesitant, but agrees, not expecting much from the event since she hasn't played in years. But Mallory shocks herself -- and the entire chess world -- when she's paired against Nolan Sawyer, the current world champion... and she WINS. Mallory really was done with chess after what she went through all those years ago... but it turns out, chess might not be done with her.

This is Hazelwood's YA debut and I loved it! Lots of fun. Sort of like a more romance-y Queen's Gambit, minus all the drugs. 4.5 stars.

Nov 20, 5:55 pm

>207 alcottacre: Yay! I hope you love it, Stasia. My review is coming soon.

Nov 20, 6:32 pm

196 books read: Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn

Until recently, Georgie was working as a successful personal assistant out in LA, doing whatever the rich and famous needed her to be doing. Until her boss decided she was done with the fast life and went to find her joy living in the desert and creating things, and telling Georgie that she should take a break and find herself, too. Good luck with that. Georgie doesn't know where to begin with finding herself, so she decides to go home to Virginia for a while, see her parents and spend time with her best friend, who has just moved back and is about to pop out a baby. Her parents are travelling, and she's looking forward to spending a little time in their empty house... but then, the house isn't empty. Turns out, her parents accidentally offered the house to her... AND to Levi Fanning, who Georgie mostly remembers as the town bad boy of her youth -- AND the older brother of her high school crush. Georgie and Levi work out an awkward truce and both stay in the house for the moment. Coming home has raised more questions and answers, and as Georgie starts trying to figure out what, exactly, she wants out of life, she turns to an old notebook from high school where she wrote fictional stories about herself and her friends. To figure out what she wants out of her future, she'll start with her past -- and Levi might be able to help, too.

I enjoyed this overall even if I wasn't totally enamored. I think I enjoyed listening, but trying to write this review, this book felt like it was a little all over the place -- probably because Georgie really is all over the place. I liked Georgie working on the stuff from her past, and I liked Levi's POV. I particularly liked Georgie's friend Bel. I'm not sure the romance made sense to me at first but I did enjoy how it developed. Pretty good, not my all time favorite. 3.5 stars.

Nov 20, 6:47 pm

Have you read any other Clayborn? I loved GAA but some of her other stuff is less all over the place (I totally get what you mean by that). I thought Love Lettering was good, and her trilogy about 3 friends who share a winning lottery ticket was also really solid. I think Beginners Luck is the first. (Apologies for lack of touchstones - on my phone!)

Nov 20, 6:51 pm

197 books read: One Dark Window by Rachel Gillig

As a child, Elspeth was infected by the illness that is a death sentence -- not because it kills you, but because it leaves the infected person with illegal magical powers and the crown does not let those infected live. Elspeth was sent to live with her aunt and uncle after her mother's death and her father remarried, and her family concealed her illness from the royal guards who would have taken her away. After she recovered, Elspeth seemed to have been spared the illness's magical curse -- until one day, she heard her uncle talking about his new Providence card, the only legal magical items. The card he had discovered was the Nightmare, and while he was distracted, Elspeth snuck over to the card and touched it -- when her magic activated and she absorbed the creature on the card into her mind. For years, she has lived with the voice of the Nightmare in her head, mostly keeping to herself and staying near her uncle's house. But one night on the way back from Market Day, Elspeth is beset by highwaymen, and she must use the Nightmare's strength to fight them off and escape. A few weeks later, when she goes to court with her family for the holiday, Elspeth is appalled to realize that the highwayman who grabbed her is none other than the king's own nephew, Ravyn, and he recognizes her. Drawn into a conspiracy to unite all the Providence cards into one deck, Elspeth must use her powers to help Ravyn and his co-conspirators find the cards they are missing. But every magical gift from the infection has a price -- and Elspeth isn't sure how much longer her mind can bear up under the Nightmare's occupancy.

I had trouble summarizing this -- I felt like it was fairly straightforward reading it, but writing it out was complicated 😂 Anyway, I enjoyed this overall! Felt like a well-done fantasy; it does feel rather YA in the writing, but I think it was published as an adult novel. The magic system felt like it was allllmost there where it could have been unique, but instead the cards came off as a little contrived to me. Overall, though I liked this and am planning on reading the sequel. 4 stars.

Nov 20, 6:52 pm

>211 katiekrug: I haven't read any other Clayborn! I'll check those out :)

Nov 20, 7:04 pm

198 books read: Witch of Wild Things by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

All the women in the Flores family have gifts. Sage Flores can commune with plants, but that didn't help her save her sister Sky from dying in a hiking accident 8 years ago. Sage left town after the accident, leaving her other sister to live with their aunt who raised them. Now Sage is back, working at a plant nursery alongside Tennessee Reyes, her old flame who broke her heart -- not that he knows it. Sage and Tenn only ever talked over instant message, and she kept her identity secret until they were supposed to meet and she arrived to find him kissing another girl. Forced to work together, Sage and Tenn grow closer. But things are complicated by the fact that Sage has begun seeing her sister Sky's ghost -- only, is it really her ghost? Ghosts don't change, but Sky seems to be growing and changing. Sage isn't sure if she's crazy, but if there's even a chance her sister is still alive, she's going to do anything to help her.

I liked this a lot. It's less "witchy romance" and more "magical realism family story with some romance in it." The family gifts reminded me of some of the greats in magical realism -- Like Water for Chocolate and The House of the Spirits. I wasn't expecting the direction this took and it was all the better for it. 4.5 stars.

Nov 20, 7:08 pm

>214 curioussquared: Huh, I haven't heard of that at all but it sounds really good.

Nov 20, 7:11 pm

199 books read: Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Nona lives on a planet with Camilla/Palamedes and Phyrra. She is six months old now and much more advanced than she was when she was only a month or two and couldn't do much. She works as a teacher's aide at the school and is looking forward to her six-months birthday party at the beach. She wants to invite all of her friends to the party, including her school gang members -- Hot Sauce, Honesty, Born in the Morning, and Kevin -- and the Angel and her dog Noodle, as well as all the other dogs she sees out and about. But Nona can see that things in the city are getting worse -- the blue light in the sky is there, and Blood of Eden activity is intensifying. Are they really going to ruin her birthday party? And who is Nona, really?

If you haven't read Nona yet, the above paragraph won't make any sense to you, even if you've already read Gideon and Harrow. Each time I read one of these books I am astounded by the scope of Muir's vision. Just... how does she come up with this stuff? Nona was excellent, just like Gideon and Harrow, and totally different. I loved it and am eagerly awaiting Alecto to finish ruining my life. 5 stars.

Nov 20, 7:14 pm

>215 bell7: It's been making the rounds on Cozy Fantasy TikTok which is where I heard of it. I should say, it doesn't have the same heft as those magical realism books I name dropped -- it's definitely a lighter story. But I thought it was a lovely little book and I had a lot of fun with it.

Nov 20, 7:17 pm

>217 curioussquared: I went to add it to my TBR list and discovered it already there - guess I should move it up a notch!

Nov 20, 7:24 pm

200 books read: Proper Scoundrels by Allie Therin

Sebastian de Leon hasn't been himself since he was released from his blood magic slavery, struggling to come to terms with the atrocities he was forced to commit when his body wasn't his own. But when corpses start showing up that remind him of a vampire legend in his family, he's forced to pay attention and step in. He and his magical friends plan to work together to stop the creature. But when magical hitmen go after the non-magical Viscount Wesley Fine, Sebastian must step in to save him, and then stay with him so that Sebastian's own magical protection extends to Wesley. Wesley has long accustomed himself to being alone and disliked as a matter of course. But as he and Sebastian get to know each other as they are forced to spend time together, both men might learn things about the other that surprise them.

This was a fun, magical historical mystery; it reminded me of A Marvellous Light, although I'm not sure the writing or plot quite rose to that level for me. Still, an enjoyable read and I will probably get to the sequel at some point. 3.75 stars.

Nov 20, 7:25 pm

>218 bell7: Ha! I love it when that happens.

Nov 20, 7:34 pm

201 books read: System Collapse by Martha Wells

Immediately following the events of Network Effect, Murderbot and its humans are back on the same planet, working to protect the rights of the colonists there before Barish-Estranza can do what corporations do best and force them all into indentured servitude. Murderbot, though, is not at its best, due to (redacted). Something is wrong with Murderbot's internal systems, and it doesn't feel reliable like it usually does. Too bad it doesn't have time to worry about that -- with Barish-Estranza up to its usual tricks, Murderbot and its team will need to work fast to outwit the corporation.

Ah, the bliss of sinking into an unread Murderbot book. So good. I almost feel like I need to reread this to fully absorb it, but of course I loved it overall. I will say it was difficult reading Murderbot not at its best, but it made for some important character development, too. Not my favorite of the series (I think that's probably Network Effect) but excellent of course. 5 stars.

Nov 20, 7:43 pm

202 books read: Better than Fiction by Alexa Martin

A year ago, Drew's grandmother died and left her The Book Nook, her independent bookstore. Drew spent hours and hours working on the bookstore with her grandmother before she died and lots of time after school there, so it only made sense. The only problem? Drew... doesn't really read. She prefers a good podcast, or getting outside on a hike and taking photos of her beautiful state of Colorado. But since her grandmother's death, she's felt tied to the store and making it succeed for her grandmother's sake. When her grandmother's meddling friends set up an author visit from popular romance author Jasper Williams, Drew is surprised but accepts it, especially when she sees how many people the event draws in. But she's less enthused when the meddling friends set HER up with Jasper, offering up her services as a travel guide so Jasper can explore Colorado as the setting for his next book. Jasper and Drew make a deal: She'll organize travel adventures, and he'll make her a list of books to read and organize excursions based on them. Spending time with Jasper makes Drew feel like she's finding herself again, but her desire to get back to her dreams of being a travel photographer still feel like a betrayal of her grandmother's memory. How can she reconcile the person she wants to be with the person she wants to be for her grandmother?

This was fine. I never really believed in the characters, and was never really charmed by the setting. Books about books usually do it for me, but it's tough when your protagonist doesn't even like books. Somewhat cute, but not a keeper. 3 stars.

Nov 20, 7:43 pm

Phew! I think I'm all caught up with reviews. Time to go do some more reading :)

Nov 20, 9:54 pm

What a reading round! Looks like none were duds. I need to start reading Wells soon. Perhaps in January, I will start with the series.

Happy reading week ahead.

Nov 21, 12:07 pm

>206 curioussquared: The huminta sounds delicious! I started my Thanksgiving baking this morning -- so far, we're definitely having pumpkin pie. :-)

Nov 22, 7:34 pm

>224 figsfromthistle: I hope you like Murderbot when you get to it, Anita!

>225 foggidawn: Yum! I'm not someone who craves pie all the time, but Thanksgiving is never complete without a slice of pumpkin :)

Nov 22, 8:26 pm

Dear Natalie,

Happy Thanksgiving from an appreciative non-celebrator.

Nov 23, 8:40 am

*sigh* I've taken a BB for One Dark Window. I might succumb to Witch of Wild Things although I haven't ventured into the witchy genre yet. I'm going to have to take a look at The Locked Tomb series sometime, with all the LT love it's been getting. The Martha Wells's I already have - or, rather, I've got some books in both the Murderbot and Ile-Rien series. I just have to read them.

Nov 27, 12:08 am

>227 PaulCranswick: Thanks Paul! That sounds like the kind of gang I would form, too :)

>228 humouress: Hope you like it, Nina! I think it's a better example of the very popular "romantasy" genre. The kindle version of book 2 was on sale yesterday and I snagged it.

Nov 27, 12:40 am

Hi friends! Turns out I'm much worse at keeping up here when I'm not in front of a computer all day :)

A brief overview of my week:

Tuesday I did some puttering around the house, then some shopping -- I needed stuff to make the four humintas for Thanksgiving and I realized I needed an additional 9x13 pan. (I had one and had borrowed two from my grandparents, but the other pan I had that I thought would work was too small.) So I bought some fun stuff including a pan at HomeGoods and then went to the grocery store. We were supposed to do trivia that night but some people were sick so we canceled. Tim and I watched some TV instead and I finished the cross-stitch pattern I've been working on for a million years, lol.

Wednesday I did more puttering around the house and then made a baked ziti for my brother who is back in town for a while. I assumed he would come over to eat it but he instead bamboozled me into bringing him some at the bar where he was hanging out with his girlfriend and some of my cousins and uncles. Classic brother behavior.

Thursday we had a hectic Thanksgiving. I got up bright and early to make the humintas (very glad we have two ovens so I could bake all of them at once). We headed out around noon to my grandma's house to drop off three of the humintas and take the picture for my grandma's Christmas card. The dogs got to come along to this part and they had a great time playing with the family pack -- we have 13 dogs total in my mom's family, lol. Then we ran home and dropped off the dogs, then headed over to Tim's family's Thanksgiving, which was very nice. We had dinner there then went home to feed the dogs dinner, then headed to my grandma's house again to hang out with the family for a few hours. Lots of fun and a long and exhausting day, lol.

Friday I did the only kind of Black Friday shopping I really care about and went to my favorite indie bookstore. They were doing a spend $50, get a $10 gift card deal and I had no issues reaching that total and more, lol. I also got some book presents for some people for Christmas: Check & Mate for my teenage cousin who is really into reading lately, Last Call at the Hotel Imperial and There Will Be Fire for my grandpa, and Winter Counts, The Secret Hours, and The Marriage Portrait for my dad. I came home and my friend stopped by to give me part of my birthday present that had just arrived -- a gorgeous special edition of Paladin's Grace. I'll have to post a picture. Finished the day with some pho and TV.

Yesterday I woke up early to get on the road to my in-laws' beach cabin to make holiday wreaths with them and my sister-in-law. She was late so it was just me and the in-laws for a while. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we all enjoyed hanging out outside in light sweatshirts watching seals and birds float by -- it did NOT feel like late November! Came home late afternoon and then Tim and I decided to go get Mexican food for dinner.

Today I lazed about in bed finishing my book and then Tim and I walked the dogs. Spent the rest of the day starting to pack for my trip and getting some needed laundry done. Finishing up with some TV :)

Nov 27, 12:53 am

203 books read: The Wake-Up Call by Beth O'Leary

Izzy and Lucas both work reception at The Forest Manor Hotel, and they both have their own reasons for deeply loving their job -- almost as deeply as they hate each other. When the hotel falls on hard times, Izzy and Lucas must set their differences and disagreements aside in order to save it and to find the owners of lost wedding rings left at the hotel over the years.

I thought this was good, not great. Enemies to lovers never really works for me in a non-fantasy setting. This takes a solid fourth in my ranking of O'Leary's novels (better than The Road Trip, but nowhere near her best). 3.5 stars.

Nov 27, 1:05 am

204 books read: Icebreaker by Hannah Grace

Stasia is a competitive figure skater at UC Maple Hills along with her skating partner, Aaron. Nate is the captain of the UCMH hockey team. When someone sabotages the ice rinks and puts one out of commission, the figure skaters and hockey players have to spend more time together sharing the rink, and Stasia and Nate are drawn together despite initial clashes. As Stasia learns to trust Nate -- and to trust herself -- she'll learn who who true friends are.

I'd seen this around TikTok and other platforms and wasn't really super interested, but my 13-year-old cousin reading it prompted me to pick it up because I had a feeling it really wasn't appropriate for her age, lol. (Spoiler alert: It really, really isn't, lol. There is a LOT of sex and while it's very healthy sex with a lot of emphasis placed on consent and boundaries, it's still just a lot of sex, lol. Oh well, it's not my place to spill the beans to her parents, and I was reading plenty of inappropriate stuff at her age.) Anyway, I'm glad I read this -- it was a cute, fun romance. I hope Gen Z hockey players are really as sweet as the guys in this book; when I was in college, Hockey House was a scary place where people went to get roofied. I didn't care for the surprise pregnancy ending, but otherwise I had a good time. 3.5 stars.

Nov 27, 1:20 am

205 books read: Small Town, Big Magic by Hazel Beck

Emerson Wilde loves her town of St. Cyprian, and she works hard to give her best to her town every day. She's descended from witches, but there's nothing magical about her or the town -- or so she thinks. When Emerson is attacked by dark creatures, a power is awakened within her and she and her friend Jacob are able to fight them off. Turns out, Emerson is a witch -- and until she was 18, she knew it. But on her 18th birthday, she failed the test of her powers, and was given the choice of either banishment, never to return to St. Cyprian, or a memory wipe. But something was clearly wrong with the test, since Emerson has powers, and the memory wipe is now failing. Supported by her coven of friends, Emerson must figure out how to truly save St. Cyprian from magical threats before it's too late.

I liked the idea of this book a lot, and I will admit to being drawn in by the gorgeous cover. I liked aspects of it, but could never quite get over Emerson herself. She's self-righteous, type-A, confident, and entirely sure of herself -- and it all ends up being a little annoying, unfortunately. I wanted to like her since she stands for all the right things, but just never quite got there. The side characters are all great, though. 3 stars.

Nov 27, 1:27 am

206 books read: Lancelot by Walker Percy

Lancelot Lamar narrates the tale of his demise to a psychiatrist in a mental institution. First intending only to find out the reasons and details behind his wife's infidelity, he ends up burning his family estate to the ground.

I don't know why I bought this; it's been on my Kindle for ages. I assume I recognized the author name from quizbowl and bought it sometime when it was on sale. Anyway, I regret that. This was trash. I was hoping for more Arthurian symbolism but that never came to be. Feels like something only a man could write and appreciate (derogatory). 1 star.

Nov 27, 1:30 am

207 books read: Into the Riverlands by Nghi Vo

In this third volume of the Singing Hills Cycle, cleric Chih travels into the riverlands alongside a pair of sworn sisters and an older couple to record stories of some of the famous martial artists in the area.

Lovely to listen to, if slight. I don't think I liked this one as much as the first two. 4 stars.

Nov 27, 1:36 am

208 books read: Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare

When Griff's mother kidnaps him to Spindle Cove to demand that he select a wife and start fathering heirs, she does NOT expect him to choose... Pauline, a humble serving girl. But she's willing to make do. Pauline, meanwhile, doesn't want to leave her younger sister, who is mentally disabled and depends on her. But Griff makes her a deal -- come to London, just for one week, and be as awful as she possibly can so his mother gives up these foolish notions. Pauline is reluctant, but the promise of 1,000 pounds is too much to resist. But what happens when Griff and Pauline start falling for each other?

Another very fun Tessa Dare novel. I'll be seeking out the others in the series! 4 stars.

Nov 27, 3:15 am

>234 curioussquared: Have you read The Moviegoer by Percy? I read it on the recommendation of a friend and felt the same way, although that one is supposed to be a classic.

Nov 27, 8:32 am

I rated The Wake-Up Call the same as you.

I'll have a look at the library for Icebreaker. Your description is giving me The Cutting Edge vibes :)

So glad Tessa Dare is working for you!

Nov 27, 10:09 am

>231 curioussquared: I'm waiting for my hold to come in for The Wake-Up Call, so when I get it I will see where I rank it in O'Leary's oeuvre.

Nov 27, 2:27 pm

>237 ursula: No, but I think that's the one I remember from quizbowl that I would have known Percy's name from. I'll never read it now!

>238 katiekrug: I've never seen Cutting Edge! Is it worth watching? Hope you like Icebreaker :) I checked out the next book in the Girl Meets Duke series!

>239 foggidawn: Hope you like it, Foggi!

Nov 27, 2:43 pm

>240 curioussquared: - It's a cute movie. Or was when I was about 13 or so :) I'm thinking I should rewatch it...

Nov 27, 3:35 pm

>241 katiekrug: I'm adding it to the list of romcoms my bestie and I maintain to watch together :)

Nov 27, 3:41 pm

Happy Monday! Today is all about packing. At some point I'll hit up the grocery store for some last-minute toiletries (Japan is very strict about bringing in any medications so I want to get little correctly labeled bottles for everything I usually bring on a trip, even advil and benadryl, instead of mixing everything together in one beat-up bottle like I normally do) and some provisions for Tim while I'm gone. I also want to fit in a workout (I think that's next up) and tidying up the house, so I better get moving.

Currently reading: Forget Me Not on audio, and Let's Get Quizzical on Kindle. Finished up my last print read before the trip yesterday -- only Kindle is coming with me :)

Currently watching: Tim and I have been enjoying the live action One Piece show, not that we've watched the anime or know how fans of the anime responded to the live action version. But it's silly and fun.

Currently playing: TOTK :)

Nov 27, 3:47 pm

209 books read: Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

This fictionalized account of Shakespeare's family focuses less on the bard himself and more on his wife, Agnes -- their meeting and early marriage, told in flashbacks, and then the period of their life directly before and after the death of their young son, Hamnet, from the plague, and their subsequent grief.

What an utterly gorgeous book. It doesn't sound like the most compelling material, but I couldn't put this down thanks to O'Farrell's captivating prose. The last 100 pages had me crying several times. 5 stars.

Nov 27, 3:58 pm

210 books read: The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller

Alva Webster is the notorious widow from the papers -- rumors have swirled of her scandalous behavior and affairs ever since she left her husband Alain in France and his subsequent death. In reality, she was a scared woman fleeing an abusive relationship, and she was rather glad to hear he died -- and none of the scandal actually happened. Now, Alva is back in New York, determined to make her own way in the world -- and she's secured a publishing contract for her upcoming account of the renovation of her new house, the crumbling mansion Liefdehaus. There's only one problem -- Liefdehaus is haunted, and her work crew has already quit once. Meanwhile, Sam Moore is the first son of America's foremost inventing family, and when he runs into Alva on the street, he's immediately captivated by her supernatural problem -- and by Alva herself. Despite Alva's protests, Sam is determined to study the supernatural happenings at Liefdehaus and figure out their cause -- and if he and Alva happen to grow closer because of it, that wouldn't be a bad thing. But while Alva's worried about real ghosts, she also needs to worry about the ghosts from her pasts who won't seem to go away...

This was a fun historical romance -- not anything super special, although Sam is rather swoony, but a fun supernatural twist. It was pitched to me as gothic, though, and it didn't really get there for me. My new fun fact that I learned after wondering whether or not the book was historically accurate is that rubber condoms have been mass-produced since the 1850s! Lol. 3.5 stars.

Nov 28, 5:40 pm

Greetings from the airport! Our flight to Japan takes off in about an hour. I'll probably check in a few times while I'm gone but won't be posting much. Talk to you all when I'm back!

Nov 28, 5:54 pm

Have a great trip! Can't wait to hear all about it when you get back :)

Nov 28, 6:12 pm

Have a great time!

Nov 28, 9:52 pm

Have a wonderful trip!

Nov 29, 10:10 pm

Enjoy your trip!

Dez 3, 6:27 pm

I hope you're having a fabulous trip so far, Natalie!