August Update & Goals Check-In

Update - 8 - August

 

Hello, August!!

Welcome to the first monthly update of my life as a 25-year-old. Yes, that still feels strange to say.

My vacation at the beginning of July was fantastic – the lakes in Maine are superb! – but then I had to come back down to Earth.

The last couple weeks have been intensely stressful, to the point where my brain has all but stopped working and my body has decided to make itself ill. I’m talking headaches, exhaustion, stomach aches, loss of appetite (which literally never happens), and especially in the last week, complete lack of sleep.

All this because I formally announced to my family and friends that I’m moving out on my own (with roommates, obv.). Apparently, my body is terrified, meanwhile until this past week my spirit and brain have been all “LET’S DO THIS!! FINALLY!” which is why I’ve been exhausted all the time. The first half of this month I spent every evening and day off going on apartment tours, and it wasn’t until yesterday that I signed my lease. I’ve been an absolute mess for the past week while I waited for my landlord to get around to sending me the lease. It was awful. But at least I have a place to live now!

On top of all of that, I started taking Accutane for my acne issues in June, and that has been a trip in and of itself. The first two weeks, basically all of my skin fell off. It was just as gross as it sounds. Not leprosy bad, but bad. My lips continued to peel for the rest of the first month as well, which made me very self-conscious for possibly the first time, ever. The lip-peeling eventually subsided when I started using vaseline on them at night, and the dry, flaky skin petered out on its own under my use of sunscreen and moisturizers. The Accutane also has all kinds of emotional side-effects, and the first week was just insane. Most of the chaos I’m dealing with right now is stress and fear-induced, but I’m sure the Accutane is magnifying it all to some degree.

With all of that going on, it’s no wonder that I completely failed at Camp NaNoWriMo. You’ve probably already noticed that I didn’t post a single update after my intro post, and that’s because I got sucked into the chaos of apartment hunting.

The next thing I’ll be focusing on is job hunting. Yes, I’ve been searching since July, but the vast majority of positions are open for submission until the beginning of September, which means I won’t hear about interviews until probably mid-September or get anything full time until October. This necessitates a secondary job search, for part-time positions. What are some cool part-time jobs you’ve held? I’ve worked in I.T., bridal retail, the restaurant industry, as a camp counselor, and as a campus police officer. I think working at a bank, a grocery store, or a book store would be interesting, as those are all things I’ve never done. Do you have one industry you like to stick to for part-time work, or you enjoy diversifying your resume? Maybe it’s the writer in me that loves to try different things all the time. It’s hard to write about something you’ve never experienced, right?

It’s been a long two months since I’ve updated you guys on my life. As September approaches, I’m getting really excited for grad school to start. I have two classes this semester: Intro to Magazine Editing, and Copyediting. I can’t wait to get started.

Before I go, let’s check out how I did on my July goals, and what I’m working on this month.

 

July Goals:

Walk more than 40 miles: I walked 51.57 miles according to my step-tracking app. Woohoo!

Read 10 books:
Scourge
Carry On
River Secrets
Forest Born
The Diviners
Ella Enchanted
All Signs Point to Murder
The Magnolia Story
Georgette Heyer’s Regency World
Jane Austen’s England

Yeah… I ended up not reading any of those except for Ella Enchanted. I did read The Little French Bistro (review here) and Someone to Love, however, so it wasn’t all bad. I’ve since started Carry On, but I’m just not feeling it.

Who’s idea was it that NetGalley manuscripts expire? My plan was to read the books the week before they released, but I went to start them and they were gone. ūüė¶ So now I will be borrowing them from my library so I can complete them and submit my reviews so that my NetGalley rating doesn’t go to crap.

Write 6 Reviews:
Enna Burning
River Secrets
M Train

Ella Enchanted
Scourge
All Signs Point to Murder

Write 10,000 words for Camp NaNoWriMo: Nope. Didn’t happen.

 

 

 

August Goals:

Walk over 40 miles: So far so good!

Read 8 Books:
River Secrets
Someone to Hold
Forest Born
The Diviners
Carry On
Fall of a Kingdom
A Man Called Ove
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

What I’ve actually read: A lot of romances.
River Secrets
A Knight to Remember
Getting Out of Hand
Forest Born
Knocking Boots
The Princess Saves Herself in This One

Review 7 Books:
River Secrets
Forest Born
Someone to Love
Carry On
Fall of a Kingdom
Getting Rid of Bradley
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

Secure an Apartment: CHECK!!

Secure a Job: Search in progress.

 

 

That’s all for this month! Check back next month for another update, and don’t forget to check out the weekly book reviews on Tuesdays, my Friday Files series on Fridays, and my other random Thursday posts.

Until next time,

~Amanda

Forest Born (The Books of Bayern, #4) – Shannon Hale

Books-Of-Bayern-Forest-Born-Shannon-Hale

Source: Goodreads

Rinna Agget has always belonged in the forest. Her family is vast, much¬†like the trees she climbs. Then one day the trees reject her, and Rinna must leave their embrace to search for a new identity in the harsh city. In Bayern’s capital, Rin is known as Razo’s sister, and in her position as waiting woman to Queen Isi, she begins to unravel her own identity for the first time. When disaster strikes, it is Rinna’s wish to stay close to Isi that sends her on a dangerous mission with the girls she thinks of as the fire sisters. They travel deep into the neighboring kingdom of Kel, where someone from the girls’ past waits to seal their doom. Along the way, Rin begins to unravel Isi, Enna, and Dasha’s stories as well as her own, and in doing so might just heal her rift with the forest.

 

When I read these books as a child,¬†Forest Born had not yet been published, so it wasn’t until this re-read of the series that I had the chance to enjoy it. The final book in Shannon Hale’s¬†The Books of Bayern series highlights a new character, Rin, the younger sister of Razo, whom we followed in the previous book,¬†River Secrets.¬†Forest Born picks up a few months after the end of¬†River Secrets, but being told from Rin’s point of view makes this story nearly a stand-alone. While you don’t¬†have to read the first three books to understand what’s going on, you definitely won’t get the full effect of everything that happens unless you’ve read them.

I’ve read a lot of reviews for this book in particular that say it doesn’t mesh with the rest of series, doesn’t make sense, etc. etc. I’m here to tell you that’s a lot of rot. This book adds so immensely to my love for this series. I absolutely adored the first book,¬†The Goose Girl, and while the war seemed to drag on forever through¬†Enna Burning and lingered in¬†River Secrets, I still enjoyed them.¬†Forest Born had the same feel and energy as the first volume and really brought me back to why I loved this series so much as a child.

Rinna fits in…until she doesn’t. She spends much of the book feeling like an outcast, trying to be invisible, trying not to hate herself. These are all things that people can particularly identify with. Whenever Rin discovers something and gains one bit of confidence, the reader does as well. The story is a lesson in self-love and understanding while showcasing some of the most interesting gifts we’ve seen in¬†The Books of Bayern. We still see our favorite characters: Isi and Geric, Enna and Finn, Razo and Dasha, Conrad, and baby Tusken; but we get the chance to see them all through Rinna’s fresh eyes that know nothing of wars or magic or betrayal. It was quite enchanting, and I had a hard time putting it down.

This particular cover was released in 2011 as a special edition to match the original three covers. The book was originally released in 2009 along with new covers for the whole series, each featuring a heroine on the cover. While I love the trend of putting characters on covers, it broke my heart not to be able to complete my collection of the beautiful original covers, which resemble antique paintings. When I was getting ready to start my re-read, I found this special edition cover and ordered it immediately, so now my collection is complete and I can enjoy the books for years to come without looking at my bookshelf and grumbling because the covers don’t match.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

 

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – The Goose Girl
Book #2 – Enna Burning
Book #3 – River Secrets

Top 10 Board Books I Read As A Nanny

For the last ten months, I have had the pleasure of nannying for my sweet baby cousin (A.K.A. Grandchild #20, or G20 for short). Now that he’s going on 18-months-old, he’s getting ready to start daycare as I prepare to start a more corporate job. Before my tenure as his nanny ends, however, I wanted to share with you all some of our favorite¬†board books. We read each of these upwards of six or seven times a day, often over and over again in a row. I know what you’re going to say, “Amanda! You’ve created a monster!” and I, of course, will reply to that by saying YES, I HAVE! A READING MONSTER!¬†MUAHHAHA!!! Because I am so proud of the little reading monster he has already become such a very young age. On that note and in no particular order, here are the top 10 board books that I read every day as a nanny.

 

 

#1 – Are You My Mother by P.D. Eastman

A baby bird hatches and cannot find his mother anywhere, so he leaves the nest to search for her.

This was one of my favorites growing up, so I bought it for G20 when he was born. It has quickly become a fan favorite, and I like to think that is t least partially due to my rendition of animal and machine noises to accompany the story.

Are-You-My-Mother-P-D-Eastman
Source: Goodreads

 

#2 – Jamberry by Bruce Degen

A boy and a bear go berry picking and end up in a land made of food.

Another childhood favorite, my mom sent this one for G20. His favorite part? Pretending to eat all of the berries!

Jamberry-Bruce-Degen
Source: Goodreads

 

 

#3 –¬†The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

A caterpillar is born and eats everything in sight until he becomes so tired that he builds a little house and wakes up to a miracle!

G20’s favorite part of this one is all the foods the caterpillar eats every day. Good for counting, and the foods all have little holes in them where the caterpillar eats through. Great for little fingers!

The-Very-Hungy-Caterpillar-Eric-Carle
Source: Goodreads

 

#4 –¬†Little Blue Truck – by Alice Schertle

Little Blue Truck makes friends with all of the farm animals, and doesn’t hold a grudge¬†against the big dump truck that runs him off the road and then gets stuck in a mud puddle.

An old neighbor sent this because their own boys were loving it. G20 is obsessed with all of the noises we make to go along with this one (especially the dump truck horn)!

Little-Blue-Truck-Alice-Schertle
Source: Goodreads

 

#5 –¬†Chicka Chicka Boom Boom – By Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault

The lowercase letters dare each other to climb a coconut tree, but will it hold all of them?

Anyone have this one memorized? *raises hand*

Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom-Bill-Martin-Jr-and-John-Archambault
Source: Goodreads

 

#6 –¬†Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

A little bunny says goodnight to all of the objects in his room.

This story always turns into a game of find the mouse.

Goodnight-Moon-Margaret-Wise-Brown
Source: Goodreads

 

 

#7 –¬†The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

A little blue engine volunteers to drive toys over a mountain when another train is unable to do so.

Teaching kids they can do anything they put their minds to, no matter their size, since 1930. Props to Piper for first realizing that ‘I think I can, I think I can’ actually sounds like a train going ‘chugga-chugga, chugga-chugga’ and thereby convincing the world’s children that trains are always giving themselves a pep-talk.

The-Little-Engine-That-Could-Watty-Piper
Source: Goodreads

 

 

#8 –¬†Good Night, Sammy by Cyndy Szekeres

Sammy the fox can’t get to sleep, so his parents sing to his twitchy tail and rocking chair until everything falls asleep, including them!

A good bedtime book, bringing everything down a notch so your child can get off the hyper train and go to sleep.

Goodnight-Sammy-Cyndy-Szekeres
Source: Goodreads

 

 

#9 –¬†Little Hoot – by Am Krouse Rosenthal

Little Hoot just wants to go to bed, but as an owl he must stay up late, late, late! How ever will he manage?

A bit of reverse psychology never hurts. You may recognize the author from being touted on various celebrity Instagram accounts, as her books are loved far and wide. Although Rosenthal passed very recently, she was in the news this past year for setting up an online dating profile for her husband. You can read her essay about it here, but be sure to have a box of tissues nearby, because I just re-read it sitting in the library and now I’m a mess.

Little-Hoot-Amy-Krouse-Rosenthal
Source: Goodreads

 

 

#10 –¬†Guess How Much I Love You – Sam McBratney

A father puts his son to bed, but first the baby bunny tries to convince his father that he loves him more.

This book is just adorable. Our grandparents sent it to G20 for his first birthday, and we read it frequently.

Guess-How-Much-I-Love-You-Sam-McBratney
Source: Goodreads

 

What books do your little ones love? Share them below!

 

 

 

Until next time,

Amanda

Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel (Tyme, #1) – Megan Morrison

Grounded-Rapunzel-Megan-Morrison

via Goodreads

Rapunzel has lived in the tower her whole life. Her beloved Witch brings her everything her heart desires and protects her from evil princes who want to steal locks of her golden hair. Then Jack shows up insisting that Witch is lying, and although she’s sure that she’s never met this mysterious thief before, he seems to know her. Before she has time to call Witch for help, Jack has run off with one of Rapunzel’s beloved roses, and the only way to get it back is to go after him herself. On the ground. What waits for Rapunzel in the wide world of Tyme is more magical and terrifying than anything she could have imagined, and she’ll have to survive it all if she wants to know the truth: about Jack, about Witch, and about her own hidden past.

If you know me at all, you know that I simply adore a good fairytale. I picked this one up by chance at the library in April 2016. The original hardcover came out in 2015 and the paperback was released in May 2016, but I still have yet to find a store with either in stock. I find this appalling because the book is so good. Barnes & Noble and Amazon both have it online, but it’s not the same as having it at the ready to buy for all of my friends’ birthdays and Christmases.

Obviously, my favorite part is how the author deals with Rapunzel’s lack of knowledge about anything outside the game of jacks, but the world building is phenomenal as well. I believe the idea behind the series is that each book will follow different characters, which is exciting, but I’m kind of attached to Rapunzel and Jack now and I wouldn’t mind seeing them fix other fairy tales during their adventures.

I am also obsessed with the kingdoms being named after colors. It reminds me strongly of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books (The Blue Fairy Book being the first and most well known), which are collections of fairy tales. There are a dozen books, and they were my absolute favorites growing up. Having Tyme’s kingdoms named after those colors feels to me like a nod of thanks to Lang and to all of our childhoods, regardless of whether or not that was the intention.

Goodreads tells me that Megan Morrison has been developing the world of Tyme with her friend Ruth Virkus, who is listed as the co-creator. So we might be able to expect some Tyme novels from Ruth as well. The second book in the series, Disenchanted, came out October 11th, 2016, and follows Cinderella. I’m beyond excited to dive into that book next.

HHC Rating: 5 stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella (Review Available 8/29)
Book #3 – Transformed: The Perils of the Frog Prince (To be published in Summer 2018)

The Friday Files #1 – Fashion Forward: How to Build a Grown Up Wardrobe Part One

If you’re like me, you’ve lived your life in what feels comfortable. Jeans and Tees, Sweatshirts and Sweaters, as well as the occasional Skirt or Dress when the opportunity arises. But how do you take that level of comfort with you when you transition to working in an office, or if you’re working from home, attending meetings, either in person or via Skype/Google? That’s where having an adult wardrobe comes in handy.

First off, what makes a wardrobe adult? I generally call a piece of clothing adult worthy if I can wear it for work or out for drinks. Things like skirts, trousers, and sweaters are my¬†go-tos. They’re easy to mix and match and still comfortable for daily wear.

Today, we’re going to start with bottoms. Specifically, skirts and pants.

In general, skirts should go no more than 2″ above your knee. Any more, and it’s probably not office appropriate, though feel free to wear it out for drinks or on a date!

Personally, I like my skirts to be knee-length, but I often have trouble finding any that long because of my height. I’m 5’9″, but I have the legs of an almost 6′ person, so I have to shop around to find the lengths I need. One of my favorite places for skirts is Modcloth. Check out these three midi skirts!

 

 

Modcloth-Prim-Class-Hero-Midi-Skirt-6499
Prim Class Hero Midi Skirt – $64.99 on Modcloth

 

 

Modcloth-Bugle-Joy-Midi-Skirt-5999
Bugle Joy Midi Skirt – $59.99 on Modcloth

 

 

^^ Comes in FIVE colors! ^^

 

Modcloth-Just-This-Sway-Midi-Skirt-4999
Just This Sway Midi Skirt – $49.99 on Modcloth

 

^^ Comes in SIX colors! ^^

 

More skirts that come in a million colors and patterns:
Amazon:
Yige – High Waist Flared, Pleated Midi Skirt – 18.99
Alaroo – Print Flared Skater Midi – 16.99
Face N Face –¬†High Waisted A-Line Street Skirt Pleated – 39.99
Grace Karin – Pleated Vintage Skirt, Multi-Color Print – 19.59
Taydey – A-Line Pleated Vintage Skirt – 18.99
Persun – Basic Flare, High Waisted Midi Skater Skirt – 22.99
Zeagoo – High Elastic Waist Flare A-Line Midi Skirt – 18.50
Kate Kasin – A-Line Vintage, Grid Pattern Plaid – 20.99
Paris Sunday – Midi A-Line Skirt w/ Self Tie – 39.50

 

 

When it comes to trousers, it’s nearly impossible to find a pair that fits in all the right places. Still, it’s good to have slacks/trousers on hand for those days when a skirt just won’t cut it. Here are a couple I’ve found and tried, or definitely will be trying, in the near future:

 

White-House-Black-Market-Seasonless-Bootcut-8900
Seasonless Bootcut Black Pants – 89.00 at White Houe Black Market

 

^^ On Sale for 62.30 right now! ^^
These are my favorite slacks EVER. Seriously, I think I own three pairs!

 

More staple black pants options:
Target – Merona Bi-Stretch Twill Flare Leg – 27.99
Target – Merona Bi-Stretch Twill Straight Leg – 27.99
Macy’s – JM Collection Studded Pull-On – 49.50
Macy’s – INC International Concepts Pull-On Bootcut – 69.50

 

Modcloth-Delighted-Foresight-Pants-5999
Delighted Foresight Pants – 59.99 on Modcloth

 

Add some pep to your step with these colorful options:
Target – Zac and Rachel Women’s Slim Pant – 34.99
Macy’s – Alfani Faux-Leather-Trim Slim-Leg Pants – 69.50
Macy’s – Charter Club Slim-Leg, Tummy Control Ankle Pants – 69.50

 

 

Modcloth-Collectif-High-Sass-Neighborhood-Pants-5999
Collectif High Sass Neighborhood Pants – 59.99 on Modcloth

 

Show your wild side with patterns:
New York and Company – 7th Avenue Palazzo Pant Navy Stripe – 59.95
New York and Company – 7th Avenue Palazzo Pant Floral Print – 59.95

 

When it comes to business, your outfit doesn’t have to be the same every day, even though some people swear by their uniforms. You need to find your own style, and figure out how to adapt that into your grown up wardrobe¬†and your work attire. Feeling more like yourself at work will help give you that little confidence boost you need to ask for that raise or speak up during that meeting.

What are some of your favorite ways to dress up the bottom half of your wardrobe?

Happy shopping!

 

 

River Secrets (The Books of Bayern, #3) – Shannon Hale

Books-Of-Bayern-River-Secrets-Shannon-Hale

Source: Goodreads

 

Razo, Finn, and Enna have been chosen to accompany Captain Talone and the new ambassador into Tira, the land to the south Bayern. The war is officially over, but whispers say the Tiran Assembly will vote to start up the fighting again at the end of the summer. Ambassador Megina’s job is to work with the Tiran people to convince them of peace, but her task becomes nearly impossible when burned bodies start appearing around the palace grounds. Desperate to find the culprit before they all end up dead, Razo must use all of his talents and put his trust in someone he never thought he would: a Tiran.

 

The third book in Hale’s Books of Bayern series follows our heroes into enemy territory, where tensions still run high after the end of a war won by magic. Unlike the first two installments, this one doesn’t follow a magic user. The beginning is slow, as it catches us up on what’s been happening since Enna’s trip to Yasid, and sets us up to follow a sneaky little fellow named Razo on his journey to find purpose in his tumultuous life.

I personally love Razo, who up until now has been the comic relief in the often tough situations Hale’s characters find themselves. With this book, he really takes shape and becomes his own man, not just a background friend. The latter three-quarters of the book flew like a shot from Razo’s sling, hitting upon the exact things I needed from this book.

Overall, it was a fun read, and for once I didn’t remember what was going to happen from when I read it as a child. Hooray!

 

HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – The Goose Girl
Book #2 – Enna Burning
Book #4 – Forest Born (Review Available 8/15)

The Little French Bistro – Nina George (T: German-English by Simon Pare)

The-Little-French-Bistro-Nina-George

Source: Goodreads

 

 

Marianne feels lost after 41 years of marriage. After a failed suicide attempt she heads to the Breton coast on a whim and leaves everything she knows behind. Once in Kerdruc, Marianne faces not only the daunting task of learning a new language, but also an internal battle that will define her life and determine her fate.

 

Having absolutely adored George’s¬†The Little Paris Bookshop, I couldn’t help but pick this book up from my local library as soon as it became available. As with her earlier work, the main character has already lived a full life, yet yearns for something that remains a mystery to them. For Marianne, this means diving into the possibilities of who she would be without the parameters of the life she has built thus far. With an edge of mystery ever present, the reader is introduced to the townspeople of Kerdruc and it’s surrounding artisans, each of whom has their own story to tell.

There were many layers to¬†The Little French Bistro, and I think that is what makes it feel whole. Marianne’s life is just the tip of the iceberg, under which resides love, loss, myth, magic, and good food. The villagers of Kerdruc will never be the same after Marianne has touched their lives. While I personally feel the ending is open to interpretation, the journey our heroine takes carries quite the heavy message that lives on long after the pages and words have run out.

Recommended for ages 16+ due to adult content.

HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars