Monday, June 26, 2017

Top Ten Book Read in 2017

I feel like this year's list of awesome books is rather more...eclectic than usual.  Which reflects my reading habits pretty accurately I suppose, but I for once have more than just YA fantasy on here! (Let's be real, it's still mostly YA fantasy)

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey

This book is hands down the most fun book Jane Austen ever wrote.  All of her books feature her wit, but this book is freaking hilarious!  It's silly and fun, and of all the Austen heroines, Catherine Morland is definitely the one I'm most similar too.  You can tell this was the first novel Austen wrote - it's got a lighter feel and it's a little less polished than her other novels, but this definitely a new favourite.  And now that I've read this one, I've officially read all the Austen novels!

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy

I've mentioned my...rocky relationship with Cassandra Clare's writing before, but I think after reading the Bane Chronicles (which now that I think of it I think I still have a few to finish - hence it not being on this list) and the last book in The Mortal Instruments series, Cassandra Clare has solidified herself as an author I will always read. I might not always love the writing/where the story goes, but over the past few books she has consistently surprised me. Usually with a big dose of gut wrench.  (I blame her friendship with Sarah Rees Brennan). She's also probably the biggest name in paranormal fantasy who consistently has representation of both multiple races (a main character too if you count The Bane Chronicles!) and different sexualities. (Feel free to correct me and then educate me with all your recommendations where this is also the case).  She also has world building that for me rivals Harry Potter in that we've got a world within a world full of different cultures and I LOVE that.  

But mostly Magnus Bane.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven

This is by far my favourite book I've read this year, and I don't see that changing at all this year. (Especially given the fact I'm averaging two books a month instead of a book a day at the moment).  The writing is gorgeous, and the characters are interesting and well-rounded.  The premise while not novel exactly stands out from others in the genre because of how it is executed - the time jumps, slowly drawing together how the characters are all interlinked, the fact that while it is post apocalyptic there isn't one set society or culture that has emerged.  It's just some really fantastic storytelling, and I know this is one I will be buying and rereading.

Goldenhand by Garth Nix

Goldenhand (Abhorsen, #5) 

I have been waiting for this book for YEARS. Literally.  And it is everything I ever wanted and I am so happy!!! What else is there to say?


Notorious Pleasures by Elizabeth Hoyt

Notorious Pleasures (Maiden Lane, #2)

Ok I know Elizabeth Hoyt has been around for ages, but I'd never read anything of hers before and she is definitely going to be a new go-to romance author for me.  It's got the happy ending and balls and everything I like in my romance novels, but the characters are really well fleshed out and there's a big story line outside of the romance which is something I really like (and that's a theme with all of the romance novelists I enjoy).  What really sets this one apart is that the big story line in some parts are much bigger than the romance line which is unusual.  I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series!

Saga Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Saga, Vol. 1 (Saga, #1)

The art is top notch, the characters are an interracial couple (if not in the sense like my own relationship aka they are rather more...interspecial, but the sentiment still stands) with an interesting premise and world laid out.  Count me in!

The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee

The Silver Metal Lover (Silver Metal Lover, #1)

I've been in a bit of a Tanith Lee mood these days, and this is one of her big hits (that I can't believe I've never read before).  It's got all my favourite things about her writing (many of which I wouldn't like in any other author - she's my exeption): completely unlikeable characters with complicated relationships that force them to evolve, sci-fi but almost magic realism like aspects, just....weirdness.  That's what I like most about Tanith - the writing gets weird, grotesque at times.  If you've never heard of Tanith Lee, she's both one of the most influential writers of the sci-fi/horror genre, and one of the most overlooked. It is a damn shame most of her works are out of print - this would be a good choice to ease her into her writing (it isn't TOO weird)


The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4)

Maggie Stiefvater has hands down the most beautiful writing of any YA author I've read. (And possibly any author - she's in my top 3 for most beautiful prose).  Most of you have heard all the heaps of praise on her, so I won't go on, but if you've been holding back on reading The Raven Boys...what on earth are you waiting for?  Magic realism/paranormal fantasy? Check. Beautiful writing? Check. Characters that will stay with you for days afterwards? Check. GO READ NOW.

The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

The Rose & the Dagger (The Wrath & the Dawn, #2)

While I liked The Wrath and the Dawn, it didn't do much for me so I hadn't been planning on finishing the series.  Then for whatever reason I decided to read this and I am SO glad I did.  Beyond the fact that it's an Indian/Arab inspired fantasy (can we PLEASE have more of this?) I felt like the characters really took off in this one. 

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2) 

This book was so close to being flawless for me. I definitely liked this series more than her Shadow & Bone one, and I love that she's expanding her world by writing more books set in different parts of the world she's built so I am absolutely down for more of her books! 

And that's my reading year so far!  How has yours been? Leave me a link in the comments and I'll stop by!

Monday, June 5, 2017

A Day in the Life #48 (In Which Elizabeth Returns from the Dead)

Guys I have missed  this (and you all!) so freaking much!  I've been too exhausted to post, but I've at least been thinking of the blog so I know I'm not ready to put it down forever which is good :)  I know it's not Sunday, aka the day I traditionally post my Day in the Life posts...but I also haven't posted in literally 6 months so who even cares about a schedule at this point?  Unsurprisingly, a lot of things have happened:

1. I taught high school..and I actually liked it.  After all that fuss I made!  There's way less preps - I only taught 4 different courses (a total of 6 classes though) instead of the 10 different courses I taught at the middle school. The kids are challenging in a totally different way.  It's challenging in the sense you've got to make sure your lesson is engaging enough (but not overly stressful) to keep kids in a room, but you spend a lot less time dealing with classroom management than you do with middle schoolers.  It's not necessarily easier, exactly, just different.

2. I took a class to my first ever assessment which was SUPER STRESSFUL.  For those of you who don't know (or call it adjudication like we do back home) that's when you have to travel with your kids and play in front of judges and then that score is what your school is known for.  Trust me, these scores matter a lot.  Teachers in the entire state have access to those scores and judge you as a teacher accordingly.  And unfortunately we did really, really poorly.  In my defense, we only had 20 kids in the band (most bands are at least double if not triple that size)....and four of them were unable to go to assessment. THAT'S ALMOST A QUARTER OF THE BAND.  And that included 2 of my 3 trumpet players which meant that 75% of our pieces no longer had a melody.

Needless to say it was a disaster.  On the upside, last year they scored the lowest score too so I literally couldn't do worse. (And we scored the second highest score on sight reading which was a great improvement, so that's something)

3. I have now taught middle school band and orchestra, high school band and orchestra, steel drums, computer music, African drumming, and American rock.  If there's one thing I've learned in the past year, it's that once I stop the initial panic (wtf even is that instrument how am I supposed to teach it?!?) I am capable of doing anything that's thrown at me. 

4. I was offered a job at the high school I taught at. 

5. I found out two weeks ago I no longer have that job.  It turns out there's this thing called "priority transfers".  Basically what happens is if a school has had to cut a teacher's position or hours, the county is required to find a spot for that teacher and they get first dibs.  And that's what happened to what was originally my job.  What's really shitty though, is that I was never told this. I literally had no clue that could happen. So instead of continuing to take interviews in other counties just in case, I stopped applying for things....seeing as I'd been "hired".  So now it's so late in the game I can't interview at the other counties since they've completed those interviews.  And I'm out of a job. So instead of having a salary and benefits starting in August...I have literally nothing.

I...may have been watching a lot of Parks & Rec to console myself. What? It's totally normal to watch Parks & Rec twice. In a row. In the span of a month. 

On the upside, I can get my name on long-term substitute positions in other counties, build my contacts, and hopefully I'll get long term substitute jobs in the next year and something will work out the year after that.  Either way I'll be certain to get my applications in all the counties and take all the county interviews this time. The last five years have taught me that I'm resourceful and adaptive and I will always find a way to make ends meet. So I'd rather take those skills and wait another year with no salary instead of jump at the first school that makes me an offer.  (I interviewed at a school and if they do offer me the job I'm going to turn it down since I don't think it would be a good match between the two of us).  Did I mention the contract you have to sign?  Yeah, you have to commit to a school for a minimum of three years. You break that can't teach in the state of Maryland for a decade. So yeah, I want to make sure I'm in a place I feel at least a little certain I'm not going to hate because that is a loooooong time with no guarantee of being able to transfer out afterwards anyway.

6. I'm going to Mexico City with my grandmother and cousin at some point this summer!!!!  Going to Mexico City has been a dream of mine since I was in high school and traveling with my family is THE BEST and I'm SUPER CRAZY EXCITED ABOUT THIS.  I'm also going to be in Wisconsin for a couple weeks which is gorgeous so I at least have an awesome summer lined up!

In summation:  I don't know what I'm doing next year job-wise, but it's all going to be fine and I have a plan (which is more than I can say for most of my past life). And in the meantime I'm going to have a freaking awesome summer and I have an adorable cat who is cuddling with me so basically everything is the best right now.

Now: I have done my best to at least check in a couple times a month and read some post...but considering I've been stock piling posts for the link round up for 6 months this is a decidedly meager selection.  Hopefully I'll be back on my link collecting game next post!

Blogging Links

Cassie drew the American Gods as cats.
Gillian discusses When the Movie is Better Than the Book.
The Book Wars put together a shout out for #DiverseBloggers.
Heather asks why diverse books aren't published?
The Tor staff put together a list of the most important books they were given for Christmas.
Gillian asks if you review with your head or your heart?
Heather muses maybe the problem is white thinking.
What type of book reviewer are you? Take Cait's quiz to find out!

Author Links

Intisar Khanani shares her family's history: A Heritage of Seeking Refuge.
Megan Whalen Turner talks fantasy inspiration and her new Queen's Thief book!
Ursula Vernon always has entertaining wildlife photos.
Nonbookish Links

Mari discusses Fish Parenting and Disability: Finding Nemo.
La La remembers Chris Cornell.
Dana asks How Gay is Your Geek TV?