2019 Goals and Resolutions

It’s about time I brought back my monthly goals and updates posts and what better way to start than by looking back over the last six months and forward to the next six!

Looking Back

Since my birthday in July, I’ve tried to live healthy, wealthy, and wise. And it’s been difficult. My schedule at work was always very helter-skelter. When I wasn’t attempting to catch up on sleep, I was working furiously on my homework.
On paper, the scheduling should have worked out. Most full-time jobs are at least 40 hours/week, and 8 hours of class/week is not all that much. To many, five hours of sleep and plenty of coffee is just normal, or even better than normal. But for me it was hell. I am someone who probably shouldn’t be drinking coffee at all, and there is just no amount of coffee that will make me as functional as real sleep can.

Walking away was not an easy decision. I enjoyed my job most days, and I liked the majority of the people I worked with too. But then my physical health became a real question without a real answer. I was only hitting one of my three goals. There was nothing healthy or wise about my job’s effect on my life. As a graduate student, I needed (No. NEED) to be working internships and segueing full-time into my field of study: Publishing. So, I did the healthy and wise thing. I quit my job. Yes, I was terrified. It was a solid position that paid my rent. But I’m excited about some announcements I get to make soon. Don’t worry about me. These next six months are going to be amazing. Hard, yes, but amazing.

In the last six months, I’ve seen my brother marry the love of his life, I’ve taken two amazing classes for graduate school, moved in with two fantastic roommates, started playing Dungeons and Dragons again, started reading regularly again, and built a little home for myself in Boston.

Looking Forward

Aside from a new job with better hours, I have a lot of things coming up in 2019. I’m starting my last year of graduate school, and one of my best friends is tying the knot at the end of June. Siblings and cousins are graduating college in May, and I have a few trips lined up to some pretty cool places and events. Most of all, I want to take more chances and not let fear hold me back.

Goals for 2019

  • Spend Less.

I want to tighten my budget on most things so I can spend money where it matters. On experiences.

  • Make More.

I don’t necessarily mean money. I mean creatively. I want to write more. I want to edit more. I want to make more dinners at home. I want to crochet more and complete a few other crafts I have sitting around unfinished.

  • Take More Chances.

I want to go after more things that scare me; apply for things even when I feel like I don’t have a shot in the dark of getting them.

Gift of the Shaper – D.L. Jennings

Source: Goodreads

Thornton Woods has always lived in the small village of Highglade, where he assists his father, Olson, in their forge. On a routine trip into the neighboring town of Lusk, Thornton and his best friend, Miera, barely escape from black-clad thugs who claim to want something other than money from the pair. Their return trip moves even more dangerous, and by the time they reach Highglade, Thornton’s father is nowhere to be found. Convinced the thugs have kidnapped him, the young apprentice will stop at nothing to find the only family he has. With the help of Ynara and Kethras, two of the near-mythical cat-like race known as Kienari, Thornton and Miera set off on the thugs’ trails. Along the way, they make discoveries about their world, it’s creation, and the parts they must play in it’s continued existence.


I first discovered this book through Instagram, of all places. The author had reached out to me about a book we mutually loved and later offered to send me a copy of Gift of the Shaper. I became wrapped up in the semester’s coursework, but we’ve stayed in touch and I was able to read his book during my Christmas break. You guys. This book is really well done. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve become friends with the author. Sure, there are a few moments where I’m pretty sure I missed a character walking into a room or mounting/dismounting a horse or two, but those are tiny things that probably only I would catch.

Gift of the Shaper is a debut, high fantasy novel, set in a world where select groups of people can channel the magic of creation or destruction to do their will. Into the middle of this conflict are thrust a young blacksmith’s apprentice and his childhood best friend, completely unaware of the danger lurking just out of sight. The world building is smoothly done, the reader learning about the land through characters and their actions, rather than being info-dumped on. The characters themselves are strong stock, each one an individual with physical differences and personality quirks that make this book one of the most racially and culturally diverse that I’ve read in a while.

In addition to the rich world and cast, Jennings implemented some of my most favorite tropes, which I won’t discuss here to avoid spoilers. There were characters I loved, and characters I loved to hate, like Captain Durakas, who may be in the running for the most sexist person in Gal’Dorok. But every single person had a purpose and a connection to the story, and that’s what made me love every second of it. Now I just have to wait for Jennings to finish writing the sequel.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

Top 10 Reads of 2018


Despite working full-time and attending graduate school, I managed to read 36 books in 2018. I’m pretty happy with that number given 16 of those were in October or later. I think this means I’m learning to balance everything a little bit better. The fact that I’m getting around to sharing them before May is a visible improvement as well. You all just got gift certificates to bookstores for the holidays, right? Now you have something to spend them on! In no particular order, here are my Top 10 Reads of 2018.

1 – Sorcery & Cecelia, or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot – Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
Magic is in the air in Regency England, and I am totally into it. Kate and Cece are two cousins whose narrative is told solely through letters written to each other. The escapades these two get into rival some romance novels and magical adventure novels. The letter format is a little strange to get used to, but once you’re in it, it blows you away.

2 – A Dark and Stormy Murder – Julia Buckley
A struggling writer is handed the opportunity of a lifetime when her best friend sets her up with a job as the assistant and ghostwriter to her favorite author of all time. Chaos ensues when someone shows up murdered on the property. Small towns, Gothic houses, lots of mystery and a dash of romance set this series in motion. Always a recipe for success in my book.

3 – The Secret – Julie Garwood
If your name is some variation of Julie/Julia, chances are I read and loved your book in 2018. This one takes a well-born British lady and drops her into the Scottish Highlands. Secrets and midwifery abound, as do hefty doses of rivalry and romance. No secret that this is one of my all time favorites, and my mom’s favorite as well. A review is forthcoming!

4 – Supergirl: Being Super – Mariko Tamaki, Illustrated by Joëlle Jones
Aside from the obvious parts of this origin story, I’d like to take a moment to truly appreciate the diversity in the town of Midvale. Sure, Kara still looks like the quintessential American cheerleader, but her friends and colleagues have varying appearances, making Midvale much more realistic than in past renderings.

5 – The Bear and The Nightingale – Katherine Arden
As if you all didn’t already know of my love for fairytale retellings, let this be a testament. The Winternight Trilogy features god-like sorcerers, dangerous winters in the Russian highlands, and one girl who is the key to peace between life and death, should she accept her fate… And she’s not sure she wants to.

6 – Geekerella – Ashley Poston
An absolutely wonderful Cinderella retelling, bringing together all of my favorite things: fairytales, Sci-Fi fandoms, and food.

7 – Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
Except for a strange sex-doll scene that I could have done without, this book was exceptional. The 80s references are all on-point, and I’m sure I even missed a few that I might catch in a re-read. While the movie was a totally different experience later in the year, the novel was a Sci-Fi and Game lovers dream.

8 – Virgin River – Robyn Carr
Small mountain town chock-full of retired marines, check. Old Doctor who needs a young assistant, check. The Virgin River series is different from others because it’s not just about the romances, but about rebuilding a town that has all but gone to seed. Each book builds on the businesses and townsfolk in a new twist on a constant front-running genre. A review is forthcoming.

9 – The Lido – Libby Page
I can’t get over how wonderful this book was. Showing loss, depression, and anxiety in a completely understandable and real way while depicting a town on the verge of community collapse, it rocked my socks. Libby Page is a debut author and I am already dying to read anything and everything else she is willing to write.

10 – The Viscount Who Loved Me – Julia Quinn
This may be the second book in a series, but it is undoubtedly my favorite in The Bridgerton Saga. The characters are so colorful and their actions are laugh-out-loud funny. Kate and Anthony are hands-down my favorite Bridgerton couple, and my face always hurts from smiling while I read this one.


What were some of your favorite reads in 2018? I’m always looking for great recommendations!


Other Best of the Year Lists:
Top 10 Reads of 2017

TV Review – Carmen Sandiego, Season #1 – Netflix

Source: HMH

One of my childhood idols, Carmen Sandiego, returns to screens this month when Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt and Netflix team up to bring us an animated reboot of the world-class thief’s origin story.

Carmen, played by Jane The Virgin‘s Gina Rodriguez, must come to terms with her orphaned upbringing on a mysterious island when she makes contact with Player, a young hacker from the outside world played by Stranger Things’s Finn Wolfhard. As we learn more about Carmen’s past, the story takes some new and surprising turns that put Carmen more in the middle of the war between ACME and VILE than ever before. A colorful and diverse cast of characters brings Carmen’s fact-filled world to life, with many returning characters taking on new roles in a world dominated by a single red trenchcoat and fedora.


I definitely binge-watched all nine episodes when they were released on January 18th, and loved every second of it. Ivy, Max, and the Chief are back in action, and ACME and VILE are up to their old antics. Carmen is still the brilliant and yet humble thief extraordinaire we all know and loved to look up to as young girls, and the red is here to stay. I’m all about the new twists they’ve put on Carmen’s world, and seeing everything from her point of view for the first time ever just makes her even more inspiring. I might even call this show the kid-friendly version of Alias. If you’re looking for a strong female character your children can look up to, look no further than Carmen Sandiego.

You can find Carmen Sandiego streaming now on Netflix.


HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

The Viscount Who Loved Me (Bridgerton, #2) – Julia Quinn

Source: Goodreads

Anthony Bridgerton has always known he would die young. He has no plans to fall in love because he can’t bear the thought of leaving someone like his father left his mother – alone. He will marry, of course, to bear an heir for the family line, but he knows he won’t live to see the child grown. As the head of the Bridgerton family since he was 18, Anthony is a hardened man with a healthy appetite for women. He just needs a young, pretty thing to raise his children and make his mother happy.

Kate Sheffield has been the head of her small family since her father’s death. She loves her stepmother and half-sister more than life but is overly protective of them, especially when her stepmother convinces them both to have a London Season. Overshadowed by her younger sister, the diamond of the season, Kate is happy just to attend the parties and make a few friends before they return to the country for good. Then Anthony Bridgerton, a Viscount and pronounced rake, not to mention the catch of the season, begins angling for her sister’s affection and Kate smells trouble. Her efforts to prevent Anthony from sullying her sister’s reputation or breaking her sister’s heart have an entirely unintended effect, however, when Kate quite suddenly becomes engaged to the man herself after he loses his composure in the presence of a bee.


This book is cheesy and adorable, and to two main characters are just like puzzle pieces looking for each other all their lives. I always start this series thinking I could never love anyone more than Daphne, and then along comes Kate, who completely turns Anthony’s world upside down and confounds him to no end. Kate is the kind of character who sticks with you for years and years after reading. She is quiet and calm, but also aggressive and outspoken when the moment demands it. She is no wilting flower, but even heroines need saving some of the time.

I return to The Bridgerton Saga again and again because it has the trifecta of great writing: magnificent world-building that doesn’t overwhelm the reader, vibrant characters that are interesting on their own but shine in the presence of each other, and plots that are personalized to each character’s unique personality and position in the world, drawing everything together with a little bit of the magic of fate.


HHC Rating: 5 stars.



Other reviews in this series:
Book 1 – The Duke And I
Book 3 – An Offer From A Gentleman (Review available 2/12)
Book 4 – Romancing Mister Bridgerton (Review available 3/5)
Book 5 – To Sir Phillip, With Love (Review available 3/26)
Book 6 – When He Was Wicked (Review available 4/16)
Book 7 – It’s In His Kiss (Review available 5/7)
Book 8 – On The Way To The Wedding (Review available 5/28)

Film Review – The Kissing Booth

Source: Wikipedia

I finally watched The Kissing Booth on Netflix. And I have to say… it has a lot of issues. And these issues are sugarcoated by the obvious choices of very good looking people to play the characters and the supposed true love they find with each other. But all those good genes and true love can’t completely cover up just how toxic 90% of this film is.

The premise of the movie (and the book it was based on, which I have yet to read) is that Elle and Lee have been best friends since the moment they were born — which was at exactly the same time at the same hospital, to mothers who had already been best friends for ~10 years. They have friendship rules, which in my experience is rarely a good thing, and one of those rules is that relatives are off limits romantically. Also from experience, you can’t dictate who people are allowed to fall in love with. That’s just not how hormones or actual love work.

Now, the weird part of these rules? Lee is the only one with an older brother. They also came up with these rules when they were six. SIX. Elle’s little brother wasn’t even born at that point, and anyways, who decides their friendship is threatened by a brother (who is only a year older, btw) at six years old? Everything about those rules was ridiculous. Obviously, Elle has been in a tizzy over the older brother, Noah, since forever. Noah has always looked out for Elle and Lee, but he is also shown as always getting into fights (and winning). The fights, for the most part, are presented at first as in defense of Lee and Elle, but throughout the film they become meaner and more aggressive.

When Noah is a senior (and of course on the football team) and Elle and Lee are juniors, the Dance Club hosts a Kissing Booth at the annual school fundraising fair, and Noah kisses Elle while she’s blindfolded. She takes off the blindfold right after and they start making out, which is nice and all, but he’s also spent the first half of the film basically calling her his little sister and telling all the boys in the school not to ask her out or he’ll break their noses.

After a beach party post kissing booth, Noah gets into a fight with a dude who tried to drag Elle off to a hot tub. When Elle runs off Noah follows her and tells her to get into the car. She continues walking away and he pounds on the hood of the car and yells at her, demanding that she get in the car. I don’t care that he said please after that. Elle stopped walking away the second he yelled, obviously scared. And then she lets him drive her home. Not only that, but he doesn’t even take her home! Noooo, they go to the Hollywood sign and decide they’re going to date in secret until Elle figures out a way to tell Noah’s younger brother and her only friend that she’s breaking their friendship rules. Then they make out and sleep together. On their first date. Because you should always sleep with someone who got into a fight, screamed at you, said they would drive you home and then didn’t, and then agreed to date you in secret while lying to their brother and your best friend about it. WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

When Lee eventually finds out, he insists that Elle doesn’t know what Noah is like, or what she’s getting into, and that is just the most ridiculous piece of crap in the entire film because A) She grew up with both Lee AND Noah. There’s nothing she doesn’t know. and B) Even if she hadn’t grown up with them, she’s gone to school with them both forever, has seen Noah in fights every other day, and has spent the better part of four months dating him every second they’re not at school. There’s no one that knows him better. And yet when Lee sees a cut on Elle’s face he jumps to the conclusion that his brother punched her?! Where does he get off? Sure, Noah has anger issues and gets into fights, but Lee would get into a lot more fights if Noah didn’t keep stepping in and ending them before Lee could get a swing in.

I appreciated the beginning, which was cute, and the ending, which was also cute. The whole middle though — which the entirety of the plot — was a mess. Noah’s anger issues became full-on terrifying and were probably toned down from the novel if I had to hazard a guess. Lee has his own anger issues, but what got me the most about him was his inability to share. When he finds out about Elle and Noah the thing he is most upset about is that Noah always gets whatever he wants and that the only thing Lee had that Noah didn’t was Elle. And he can’t stand it. That, to me, is just disgusting.

This is a film that only gets by because of its good-looking actors. Even I was eventually drawn in to watch it, despite thinking the premise sounded like bad news since the first trailer. And reader, the chemistry was there… but so was the violence. 3/10, would not recommend without a trigger warning for violence attached to it. Might be good fodder for a psychology class though.

If you would like to judge it for yourself, you can find The Kissing Booth streaming on Netflix. Trailer below.

HHC Rating: 3/10, or 1.5 Stars.

Trailer for The Kissing Booth

The Lido – Libby Page

Source: Goodreads

Kate Matthews has lived in Brixton, London, for a year and knows no one. She’s a writer for the local paper, and she loves interviewing people, but she’s yet to be assigned anything she can sink her teeth into.
Rosemary Peterson has lived in Brixton all her life. She’s seen the neighborhood change as wars, love, and businesses came and went, and every day she swims at the lido (an outdoor pool), where some of her dearest memories were made.
Kate and Rosemary’s worlds collide the day it is announced that the lido will close. Kate has been assigned to write about the closure and it’s effect on the town, and she starts her story by interviewing Rosemary. A single meeting changes both of their lives, and the two women come to realize they will do everything within their power to keep the lido from closing.

I picked up this book by accident. My friend Hannah and I went to the movie theater to see Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, and they were handing them out for free at the ticket counter. Why, I may never know. Hannah and I went home and devoured the book. It was heartfelt, deep, and shockingly real. Rosemary deals with the loss of her husband, and Kate deals with crippling anxiety. They both find their focus and community by swimming at the lido, and it’s threatened closure sets their lives in downward spirals. The two women find meaning in their mutual friendship and build new lives in a town they thought was falling apart around them.
I still can’t believe Page is a debut author. Her writing speaks of years of experience, and the way she gets into characters’s heads is enchanting. I had trouble putting this book down and nearly started it over again when I finished, it was that good. I for one can’t wait to see what Page writes next.
Stay tuned for a live video discussion between Hannah, myself, and our friend Hallee once she finishes reading it. We’ll talk plot, writing style, and marketing strategies.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.