Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017 Reading Review

There are only 4 days left in 2017 and I wanted to share my progress on my reading goals for the year. I'm currently at 137/140 books for the year and I'm so close to reaching my goal. I'm currently reading two books, so that I can reach the goal. I also made a list of books at the beginning of the year that I wanted to read, and I managed to read 4/6, which is good enough for me.

And finally, I wanted to share my top 10 books of the year (in no particular order):

1. A Court of War and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
2. Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare
3. Geekerella by Ashley Poston
4. Skin & Earth by Lights (cheating and counting this as 1, because the graphic novel will be out in May)
5. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
6. Warcross by Marie Lu
7. Renegades by Marissa Meyer
8. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
9. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
10. Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

And that's a quick wrap up of my reading in 2017. If you're curious about the specifics of all the books I read this year, my Goodreads page has all the information. - Jessica

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and happy holidays! Here's a quick post with some photo's of this year's Trail of Lights. I wasn't able to get a ton of photos this year because my sister was more concerned with getting to the section of food trucks, but anyways I still really liked the above shots. - Jessica

Monday, December 18, 2017

Snow Day

It snowed in Austin for the first time in almost 4 years, earlier this month. Usually when it snows in Austin, it happens over night, but this time there were actual snow flurries falling down from the sky in the middle of the day. Unfortunately I didn't get to go outside and play while it was snowing, because I was working (booo!) but I did spend a good chunk of time crying on my way home, because everything looked so pretty. All of these pictures are from the next day, unfortunately all the snow was melting, but I still got some good shots.

And as usual, I had to take a lot of corgi shots. Fawkes and McCoy really liked playing in the snow, but they were not in the mood to take pictures.

So it was really only like an inch of snow and it had melted by noon, but as someone who has lived their whole life in an area that rarely snows, I get really excited by just a little bit. - Jessica

Thursday, December 14, 2017

San Francisco

My family is originally from the Bay Area, so when we would visit relatives in the area, we would always take a day trip to San Francisco. I always loved these trips because the city is filled with so much culture and diversity. I recently got to revisit the city and it had been almost four years since I've been back. Usually trips with my family to San Fran involve the touristy attractions (the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, Chinatown...), but I never tire of seeing them. 

Views while walking on across the Golden Gate Bridge. We always tend to luck out and visit the city on clear days.

The amount of succulents I saw while in California was insane. I thought they were everywhere in Austin, but they truly are everywhere in the Bay Area. 

There's so much to do in Fisherman's Wharf, I always loved going and eating ice cream at Ghiradelli Square and eating clam chowder. If you're ever at Fisherman's Wharf, I highly recommend visiting the Musee Mechanique, it's a fun place to kill time and play antique arcade games. I also freaked out when I saw this Sorting Hat fortune telling machine, cause I have no self control when it comes to cool Harry Potter things.

Here's some random shots from Pier 39. I didn't get any good shots of the sea lions, because they basically act like giant dogs.

We capped off the day by walking from the pier to Chinatown, and browsing the shops there. I have only ever been to San Fran during the summer, so it was really cool to see all the Christmas decorations up. This was an extremely last minute trip, but I would have loved to have seen Aladdin and gone to the Museum of Ice Cream, cause you can never spend enough time in San Francisco. But overall, this was a really fun day trip. - Jessica

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Books I Read In November

I had a decent month in November in terms of reading. I read 8 novels and a comic, which wasn't my best month of the year, but I still got to do a lot of reading despite being busy with life. So here are the books I read and some of my thoughts and opinions on them...

Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows - This book follows, Mira, a princess who has been thrown into prison, after learning about the illegal trafficking of dragons. This was a solid start to a trilogy, it covers a lot of backstory and sets up nicely for the sequels. I really liked the characters and I'm interested to see how this trilogy will continue.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao - This book follows Xifeng, who has been told from birth that she will become the empress, but in order to do so, she has to follow her darkness and hurt the people she cares about. This book is basically an Evil Queen retelling, and that element of the story is so well done, and I absolutely loved how the fairy tale aspect provided set up for the sequel. This is definitely a slow build novel, but the writing was so well done that I did not mind. I'm really looking forward to the release of the second book next year.

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia - This book follows Alex, who has schizophrenia, and how she copes with her mental illness and how it affects her life. I really enjoyed this book, I ended up listening to the audiobook in a day, because I wanted to know what would happen. The mental illness aspect of the book was really well handled. My only issue with the book was the development of the romance, but that didn't prevent me from loving this book.

Skin & Earth (Issue 5) by Lights - This is the second to last issue in Lights debut comic series, which ties into her latest album. I found that this issue took an unexpected turn, but I still absolutely loved it. As always, the art in this series is beautiful, and I listened to each song, while reading the corresponding chapter. I'm highly anticipating the release of the last issue (on Wednesday!), to see how the world and the story wraps up.

Release by Patrick Ness - This book takes place over the course of a day, following Adam, who is struggling with his sexuality and his religious family. This was a solid coming of age novel, with a little bit of magical realism thrown in (and in typical Patrick Ness fashion). This book just served as another reminder that I need to read all of Patrick Ness' books.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer - This is the first book in a duology, and the main premise is a superhero and a villain falling in love. I absolutely loved this book, and one of my favorite elements was the representation. Nova, one of the protagonists, is half Filipino and even though this ends up being a minor detail in the books, it is so fulfilling to see characters that have the same background as I do. I really loved the world that Meyer creates and I can't wait until the last book comes out.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust - This is a Snow White retelling and it focuses on the relationship between both the princess and the queen figure. I really enjoyed this book, it has such a unique application of the fairy tale elements, while still maintaining a sense of individuality. I also loved the added LGBTQ+ elements. This was a great standalone read.

Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi - This is a companion to Mafi's Furthermore and follows a girl that washes the bodies of the dead. Just like in Furthermore and Mafi's books in general, the writing is absolutely beautiful, and it was my favorite part of this book. I was not as invested in the story or the main character in this book, as I was in Furthermore, but I still really enjoyed this book.

Undercover Princess by Connie Glynn - This book follows Lottie, who finds out that she is rooming with a princess, and in order to protect the princess' identity, Lottie starts to pose as her. This book was all over the place, there are elements of fairytales, boarding schools, mysteries, magic and romance. That being said, it was still a fun read and I'm looking forward to following the rest of the series.

And those are all the books I read in November. I only need to read 10 more books in December to hit my reading goal, which I'm optimistic that I can achieve! - Jessica

Thursday, November 30, 2017

November Snapshots

1. Princess Serenity keeping me company while I read Renegades by Marissa Meyer.

2 & 3. Tried a new coffee place and bubble tea place (Lucky Lab Coffee Co & Mango 8). Both were really good and my friend and I were freaking out over the lightbulb glasses at Mango 8.

4. I finally saw All Time Low live, I was a massive fan of the group when their first two albums came out and it was so cool to finally hear them play those songs live. I also met the bassist, Zack, after the show! - Jessica 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Books I'm Thankful For

It is officially Thanksgiving break for me and I thought it would be fun to share the books that I read this year that I'm most thankful for. So without further to do...

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling - To be fair, I'm always thankful that I first read Harry Potter as a kid, but this year especially because it was my first time rereading the series in its entirety in 6 years. This reread reminded me how much I love the series and I'm already thinking about when I'll be able to reread it again.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - It is not often that I come across a book that is incredibly powerful. I was absolutely blown away by this book and how it handled such a sensitive topic. I listened to this book on audio and the narration is so well done, I could not recommend it more. 

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green - I'm so grateful for this book, because of how it deals with mental illness. I really felt like I was in the narrator's head and experiencing her thoughts while reading this. I love when books have the ability to transport emotions, like that.

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare - This book had so many twists and turns and I'm still reeling from it all. I'm especially thankful that the release date of the sequel was moved up, and the last book in the trilogy will be coming out next December.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer - I rarely see Filipino characters in YA literature, let alone Filipino protagonists. So when I saw that one of my favorite authors was writing a book with a Italian-Filipino main character, I started freaking out. Although that aspect of the book is pretty small, I'm so thankful for the representation in this book.

And those are the books I'm thankful that I've read this year. - Jessica

Friday, November 17, 2017

Instax Diaries #9

It has been almost a year since I've shared my last instax post, and I had a ton of shots building up to scan. I finally got to try out the monochrome mini film, and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on some monochrome wide film. The above photo was taken with my Lomo'Instant wide and it was actually an accidental shot, but I really like the effect. The rest of these photos were taken with my trusty Lomo'Instant.

Some b/w shots. I haven't had the chance to fully test out this film, but I really like the results so far.

The last two images are some of the most interesting shots that I've taken in a while. The first of the two was taken in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey storms. Austin was only hit with floods from the hurricane and whenever the storms stopped, the sky turned a crazy, orange color. And the last photo is a shot of a dead butterfly, I'm always on the lookout to capture living butterflies, but it never works out, and I get to photograph the sad ones instead. 

I bought a ton of film last week and I'm looking forward to shooting through it. I still need to buy film for my Polaroid One Step (I keep holding off cause it's twice the price of instax film). - Jessica

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Books I Read in October

In October, I read 12 novels, a graphic novel, a comic and a novella. In total, I read 15 works, even though it really doesn't feel like I read a whole lot. One of the books was for school (Women Without Men) and I won't get into it below, because I already had to write about it. Like last month, there were a lot of new releases that came out, and I was excited to get to those. So here are the books I read and some of my thoughts on them...

The Dire King by William Ritter - This is the final series of the Jackaby series. This was a really satisfying ending to the series. Overall this series is a fun read; it's a cool blend of mystery and monsters, and it's got a great female protagonist.

Hunted by Meagan Spooner - This is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, with elements of Russian fairy tales. I was surprised by how much I loved this book, I thought it would draw a lot of similarities between A Court of Thorns and Roses, but that was not the case. I absolutely loved the elements of the Firebird and how they were weaved so well into the narrative. I'm a huge fan of slow burn stories, and this was a highly addictive read.

Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo and illustrated by Sara Kipin - This is a series of fairy tales set in Bardugo's Grisha Verse. This is honestly my favorite work that Bardugo has published, I would rank it higher than Crooked Kingdom. Each story is so unique and captivating. The stories are accompanied by a series of drawings that evolve like flipbooks with the story, and the whole presentation is perfect. I highly recommend reading this, if you're a Grisha fan because you won't be disappointed.

Ringer by Lauren Oliver - This is the second book in the Replica duology. This series follows two girls, Lyra and Gemma, who's stories can be read individually or together in alternating chapters. Like the first book, I read this in alternating chapters. I enjoyed this a lot more than the first book. In this book, Lyra and Gemma's stories are more separated than in the first, and so the story felt less repetitive. I really enjoyed the direction that this book went in and how the series wrapped up.

Skin&Earth (Issue 4) by Lights - This is the fourth issue in Light's comic series, that ties into her album of the same name. I've mentioned lately how obsessed I am with both the comic and album. I love this comic series so much, because the story and the music are interwoven so well, but are also amazing on their own. I absolutely love the direction that this narrative is going in and I was blown away by the ending. I keep listening to the rest of the album, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about potential directions the next issue will take. I'm counting down the days until the next issue, only 6 more!

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green - This is John Green's newest novel, following Aza, a girl with anxiety and OCD, and how she gets caught up in the search for a missing billionaire. I have been anticipating this book since it was announced, but I was also skeptical because I wasn't sure how this book would live up to TFioS's shadow. I absolutely was blown away by this book, Aza's issues felt so relatable and John Green did an amazing job of describing her train of thought. There were so many points in this novel where I related to Aza and I was in tears because of it. I absolutely just love this book, and I loved the writing which is beautiful, it's full of brilliant metaphors in typical John Green fashion.

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King - This story follows Lucky Linderman, who is constantly bullied and as a coping mechanism has dreams that he is rescuing his grandfather, a MIA POW from the Vietnam War. This is one of those books that I have heard a lot of hype over and it's been on my shelves for ages, that I'm finally getting too. I ended up really liking this book, although I did have a few issues with the narration.

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy - This book follows Willowdean, an overweight teenager, who enters into the beauty pageant her mother won as a teenager, and now runs. I really enjoyed this book, I listened to the audiobook in less than a day because I didn't want to stop reading it. The only thing that stopped me from absolutely loving this book was the love triangle, which just felt unnecessary. But overall this book is great, and I'm really looking forward to the movie adaptation, that's coming out next year.

There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins - This is a mystery/thriller, following a small town high school, that is shaken by a series of murders. I think this book needs a warning label attached to it, there's a lot of gore and description of hazing. It took me almost two weeks to read this book (I usually read books in a couple of days), because of some of the triggers. That being said, I did like this book, I felt that it was something different from what I normally read and it was a good slasher book to read before Halloween. I honestly was surprised with how well the romance elements were weaved in to this story.

Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach - This book follows Parker, who stopped talking after his dead dies, after he meets Zelda, a girl who claims she's older than she looks. This is another book, that I've had for ages and I really wanted to like this story, but this book just ended up being okay. I found that Zelda's character felt like a plotpoint and her only objective in the story was too heal Parker.

Amid Stars and Darkness by Chani Lynn Feener - This book follows Delaney, after she is mistaken for an alien princess and she has to pose as the missing princess. I randomly bought this book, because although it sounded like it had a ton of common YA troupes, I thought it would be a fun read. I've been having a lot of trouble finding fantasy/sci-fi books to read lately, and this one was a good fit. I ended up loving this book, it's a fast paced read and I breezed through it. I really enjoyed the characters and I found the romance addictive. I honestly can't wait until the second book is released next summer.

Life After Legend by Marie Lu - This is a novella, and is Day's persepctive of the epilogue of Champion, the last book in the Legend trilogy. Legend is one of my favorite all time series and I was so excited to hear that this was being released. Even though this novella is so short, I ended up in tears because of how much closure it adds to the trilogy.

Monstrees, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda - This graphic novel follows Maika, a girl who has an unusually psychic connection to a monster. This graphic novel has been on my radar for over a year now, and after getting into Skin&Earth, I've been in the mood to read more comics/graphic novels. The art in this series is absolutely stunning, and is the best part of the story. Unfortunately the story is really confusing, but I think as the story progresses, it will become clearer. I really like how this story is set in an Asia-inspired dystopian, matriarchal society, and how it deals with race.

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Steifvater - This story follows the Soria family, who's members are able to preform miracles. I really liked this book, the writing is absolutely beautiful and outshines the overall story, which I didn't find as nearly as enticing. I also really enjoyed the diversity of this book, and I think the author really handled the culture well.

And those are all the books that I read in October. I'm honestly amazed with the fact that I'm four books ahead of my Goodreads challenge for the year, and I only have to read 20 more books. Plus there are some new releases out soon, that I'm hoping will help me finish that challenge. - Jessica

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

October Snapshots

1. Fawkes is really cute and I'm always taking photos of him. /// 2. I'm really obsessed with bookish candles and I've been burning the Phoenix Riders candle from Meraki Candles. It is inspired by Warcross by Marie Lu and I got it in the Fanmail box for the book. 

3 & 4. I bought the Nerdy Post "Back to Hogwarts" box and I loved it. Here's some of the artwork included. The journal is coincidentally by Cara Kozik, who designed the Owl Crate mug I shared in my last post. I also wanted to show off the exclusive Harry Potter wand pen that I got in last month's Wizarding World Loot Crate. It's made by Noble Collection, who also has another version here, I compared both and the WWLC pen is of much higher quality. /// 5. I also modified a section of my Harry Potter wall so that I could fit in all the new art from Nerdy Post, including this Hogwarts print, that I'm in love with. My wall is a hodge podge of various HP prints, so comment down below if you want to know where I got something.

6 & 7. Here's some random shots with some fairly lights that I've had for a while. /// 8. I finally tracked down physical copies of every issue of Skin & Earth. I was going to hold out until Lights published the graphic novel and just get the ebook for each issue, but I love the story and the album so much. I spent a little too much money to get the first two issues from her Canadian store, but it was worth it, and I was able to get the third and fourth issue at my local comic book store. I also recommend that if anyone is looking for the issues and can't find them at their local comic book store, to get them from her website. - Jessica

Thursday, October 26, 2017

October Owlcrate: Find Me in the Forrest

It's been a while since I shared an Owlcrate unboxing so I thought it would be fun to share since it's been a year since I got my first Owlcrate box. I also wanted to share because this is my all time favorite Owlcrate. I've been an avid fan of Owlcrate since before I was a subscriber, and I've been a fairly loyal subscriber since then. I did skip out of the August box, in favor of Litjoy's Wonder Women Warbringer box, and I'm still upset that I didn't get it cause it combined two of my all time favorite things, Harry Potter and coffee. One of the things that I love about Owlcrate is that they secure exclusive covers for all of the books involved and all of the items fit each month's theme so well. So here is the October Owlcrate, the theme is Find Me in the Forrest, and if you don't want to be spoiled, I suggest you stop scrolling here!

My favorite item in the box (and probably my favorite Owlcrate item ever) is this Harry Potter themed mug. It is an Owlcrate exclusive design by Cara Kozik. I can't wait until it get's colder here so I can use this mug everyday, but at the same time I never want to use this mug because I'm scared of breaking it. Anyways, I'm going to be taking pictures of this mug forever.

To go along with the mug, there is an adorable coaster. This features another exclusive artwork by Kirstin Askland. Fair warning, I do not recommend placing an ice beverage on this coaster, cause it dried a little weird. Yeah, I'm upset with myself for ruining it already. Another exclusive item was this Raven Boys themed candle by In the Wick of Time. I've developed a massive obsession with book candles, and I've been really happy with all the one's I've gotten.

The box also featured these adorable Where the Wild Things Are bookmarks by CraftedVan. I've wanted some bookmarks from that shop for a while, and I was really happy to see them included in this box. Also my bookmark problem has gotten out of hand lately, I have way more than I need. Tthe box featured this Robin Hood inspired tea from Riddle's Tea Shoppe. Riddle's Tea Shoppe also has a ton of Harry Potter themed teas, that I've been wanting to try. I love how three of the items in the box tied together. The box also featured a cute Princess Mononoke print, which I forgot to take a picture of...

And finally, the book of this month is Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore. My new Luna Funko Pop decided to join in on this picture. I've heard a lot of great things about this book and I'm excited to read it. All I know is that it is a magical realism story, heavily centered around a family garden. The box also included these some seeds to plant, and I'm looking forward to planting them next spring.

So that was the October Owlcrate. Next month's box is themed Castles, Courts & Kingdoms. I'm already really excited for it, because the details sound amazing. If you're interested in subscribing to Owlcrate (which I highly recommend), here's my referral link and you can use the code KINGDOMS15 for 15% off. They also have some past boxes on there website, although this one unfortunately sold out. - Jessica