Thursday, March 1, 2018

Tag: Dreamy Book Covers

I was tagged by my best friend, Melody, on her blog Where the Words Take Me:

The Rules:

1. Thank the lovely person who tagged you, spread the love!

2. Mention me, Tiana @ The Book Raven as the (insert adjective here) creator of this book tag!

3. Use the original tag image in your post. (However, feel free to add whatever other graphics your heart desires!)

4. At least tag 1 fellow blogger for this tag. Even if you’re like me sometimes and feel a bit lazy. 😉

5. List the rules.

Thanks to Tiana from The Book Raven for creating this tag, and thank you Melody, for tagging me!

"A book cover that perfectly expresses the novel inside it"

I went literal with this one. These are two absolute favorite books from my childhood. I read Bud, Not Buddy when I was about 8-10 years old, and I read The Cay when I was 12. Both still have a huge impact on me. I need to revisit them again.

"A book cover that is so creepalicious you just want to eat it up"

Lololololol, I'm not interested in this at all, but it meets all the requirements for this category so........... Here we are.

"A cute cover that is so fluffy you want to give it a hug"

All of the Animal Crossing all of the time, please. I love this book.

"A book cover that stuns with the most minimalistic of design"

Both of these books are amazing and their covers are perfect. One is a painting cover for a collection of poems of living in the countryside. The other is a man, alone, on Mars. Seriously, check these out if you haven't.

"A book cover you wish you had on your shelves, but don’t yet"

Haven't read these yet, but I love the covers so much.

"A beautiful book cover featuring a country outside of your own"

I actually did not like this book. Magical realism is an amazing tool in literature, but this didn't do it for me. Buuuuut, I can say I read it, and it takes place in Mexico.

"A cover that showcases one of your favorite colors"

Haven't gotten to read this yet, but it's great - A+ art and it's blue!

"A cover change you absolutely adore"

This is one of my favorite series! All of the covers are wonderful, too, but this flip to character focus is both symbolic of the shift in plot and progression and story, as well as a change in aesthetic. Look at Redd. Killing it on that cover!

"A favorite cover of your favorite classic"

So, as much as I love the graphically beautiful, my absolute favorite type of covers are the takes on vintage/embossed/leather-bound books. Honestly, if I had all the room and all the money, I would buy every single favorite classic in their original, leather and embossed printing for $500 each and fill the shelves. Then I'd feel the gaps with modern classic reprinted as throwbacks to vintage bindings. Give me some gold or silver on the spine and I'm swooning.

"Which book cover mentioned above is your favorite?"

With everything I've said, this comic/graphic novel cover is my favorite art style in animation. And the pops of color really catch your eye. So for the sake of not just grabbing one of the classics above, I have to give it to this one. I have heard pretty good things about this series, and I can't wait to eventually read it.


I tag: Kristina from Eyre Effect!

Monday, February 5, 2018


I just got back from a cruise where my favorite parts - beyond the food, the view, the sun and the family - was my stop in Belize where 1 to 2-hours inland, we explored some Mayan ruins. I even climb some of the ruins to the very top where I got a large view of the entire remains.

I remember learning all about Mayan history - that of which we know - when I was in school, and it always fascinated me. That was probably one of my favorite history lessons back when I was younger. I never expected, when I was told I was going on a cruise with my in-laws, that I would get the chance to see it all up-close.

Beyond that, this last week was more than needed, and it was so nice to be so disconnected and far away from everything. I literally didn't have a chance to even worry about work or life outside of where I was.

Make sure you take enough time for yourself this year.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

What I Read in January

Occasionally I try to do posts about the books I've read, or whathaveyou. This is one of those times. I've been on a nice reading streak, and honestly, I'm already working on multiple books right now at the turn of February. It's been nice to be on such a streak as compared to previous years.

When I was a kid, I used to tear through books, because, well, I had nothing else going on. I was a kid. But I know that if I used my adult-time wisely, I could still do that. So here I am, starting 2018 off with more books. I'm going to give you a few quips about what I've read and my ratings below.

Title: Stephen Hawking's Universe
Author: John Boslough
Genre: Nonfiction
Rating: ★★★★★

This book reads like new journalism. It's a nonfiction following of Stephen Hawking's work, a recalling of his exploration of black holes in space. Boslough does a great job of recounting his time with Stephen Hawking in a way that is still captivating while being highly scientific and informative. The author finds a way to explain Stephen Hawking's - and other cosmologists and quantum physicists' - theories on outer space as they pertain to the physics and understanding of the stars and black holes. There is a chance that quite a few people might find this type of rhetoric and prose dry, but I really enjoyed it. Space is... For lack of something better to say, it's fascinating. I read this in conjunction with Heir to the Empire, and the influx of space and space battles really held my attention. On top of the conversations and explanations of the many theories of the galaxies outside of our reach, it was also humbling to see Stephen Hawking actually in a state of nerves as he tries his best to formulate his thesis about black holes and present it to masses of colleagues who so often scrutinize each other harshly until proven otherwise. With all of his wherewithal, prestige and genius, there was comfort in knowing that he still very much worried about legitimacy and being taken seriously in his field. If you enjoy space, I highly recommend this book.

Title: Heir to the Empire

Author: Timothy Zahn
Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi
Rating: ★★★★★

Heir to the Empire is a Star Wars book by Timothy Zahn. Zahn is a titan when it comes to Star Wars fiction. My best friend Melody purchased this novel for me for either my birthday or a Christmas, and I've been holding onto it since, waiting for the right moment to dive in. This novel takes place after Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi. Leia and Han are married, expecting twins. Luke is feeling the pressures of being a Jedi/Jedi Knight, and one of the few remaining that he is contact with. Leia is practicing her Force-sensitive talents. The droids are being my fav robot sons. Chewie is still large and in-charge, and the Empire is still trying to keep their momentum and take over the galaxies within reach despite their losses. The New Republic has stood up from the ashes of the war before it, to be the face of democracy in a time of little direction. And at the forefront of Zahn's novel, Grand Admiral Thrawn has assumed his position and taken on a full-frontal assault to track down the Skywalker twins. Zahn gives you a full-view of the worlds that were otherwise un-visited through just the films. Most SW fans, however, know that in order to get to know the full breadth of SW lore, we have to rely on more than just the films. My only "complaint" about this novel, is that the descriptions for these worlds were a little lacking in places. There were some settings that I could picture on my own - whether or not it was his vision or not - while some complete worlds I wouldn't have completely understood their makeup without having already known about those worlds from previous stories or games. But even then, you're building a story based on an already-existing world. Which isn't easy, because how can you ever do it clearly enough in a way that's new or helpful to an audience that will pick up the book? Overall, the book completely captures the attitudes, mannerisms, manners and speech patterns of our well-known characters while illuminating spaces of lesser-known characters. At the end of the day, that's the main reason to love and enjoy this series from its start. It feels familiar and true.

Title: Red Vengeance
Author: Margaret Stohl
Genre: Fiction
Rating: ★★★★☆

This is the second book in the duology for Marvel's Black Widow by Margaret Stohl. Honestly, I teeter on 3-4 stars for both books, but I chose to give this one 4 stars because it focuses more so on Natasha than it does the other character, Red Widow, Ava. In the first book of the series, Ava is introduced as another abused girl raised in Ivan Somodorov's Red Room - the same base of Russian illegal ops that raised and modified Natasha Romanova into the Black Widow known today. Ava is an interesting character in that she spends most of her life as an orphan after the Black Widow saves her from the Red Room. While SHIELD did their best to house and take care of the child, they did so in what was more aptly considered a cell - especially to Ava. Feeling more free on her own, she chose to live under the Y in the city, and eventually took up fencing with her best friend on a team. Ava found herself both drawn to the Black Widow and completely begrudged to the famous heroine for abandoning her. After a series of events - that I won't spoil - the two end up side-by-side again in what becomes an adventure for a young girl who discovers that the Red Room managed to do quite a bit of damage to her psyche, but afforded her the ability to handle her own in the field among the lead, ex-pat Russian, assassin, Natasha Romanova. Stohl does a great job of showcasing some well-known Marvel heroes' personalities in both books. My favorite, of course, being Tony Stark. I do believe that she captures a side of Natasha Romanova that we don't often see, though I did struggle with some of the ways in which Natasha lingered on some of the characters of her past. I am not completely sure that I believe some of the inner monologue that was in this particular book, but I also tend to give a lot more leniency and vulnerability to Natasha than most people will, so it's all forgiven. She is a strong, hardened assassin, but she has a soft side that makes her easy to get along with and a learned team player. If you are looking for a Marvel novel, definitely give this a try, but recognize that there is just as much focus on Ava, the Red Widow, as there is Natasha. I would love to see a story that's just Natasha, personally.

Title: Locke & Key, vol. 1-3
Author: Joe Hill (art by Gabriel Rodriguez)
Genre: Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★

I completely ate these up. Locke & Key is a graphic novel series written by Stephen King's son, Joe Hill. Honestly, it may not even be fair to qualify him as his father's son. With a work like this, he definitely stands on his own as an author. Locke & Key is about a supernatural house, a "keyhouse", in which multiple keys are hidden away that unlock different abilities and doors. Part of me wants to talk about each key, but I really don't want to ruin the experience of seeing them for yourself. This series is gritty, dark and violent. It opens with murder and trauma and every episodes hinges on some variant of that, or the finding of another key that could completely change the landscape of the story. Volume 3 ended on a strong cliffhanger that almost made me angry I didn't have the fourth volume. Honestly, that just means the story is doing its job! The art style of this series is honestly some of the best I've seen in a graphic novel. It calls to a quite traditional style of graphic novels, but the line work is so precise and well done. Nothing ever gets muddled in the action sequences. And the way that the artist plays with shadow during some scenes that actually plays with shadow as a theme is remarkable. Really, I just don't know what else to say without giving too much away. If you're looking for a good graphic novel, please consider this one. I can't wait to read the rest.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Not a Question of Faith

Mind if I ramble about religion for a second?

Succinctly, for the last ten years, I've found that I hate it more or less.

While I do believe in God - because I do believe something is out there - I don't believe in it in the way it's been poorly presented in church. It doesn't help that I've grown to pretty much hate the institution of church. In my experience, and in my opinion, it works as an commercial institution first and a congregation of people last. Most churches who carry the badge of evangelical often are 'charismatic' churches with lots of sweating, shaking, tongues and doe-eyed congregational members locked-kneed at whatever the pastor says. And the churches that claim to be 'relaxed' and do not follow those practices, often give nothing of substance in their lessons that I couldn't gain on my own.

After years of actually reading the Bible, and years of watching people corrupt others' faith through religion, I don't think I can stand by it any longer. I don't hold anything against anyone who enjoys church; I'm happy for them to have found a place that brings them solace and joy each week. (Honestly some days I miss the weekly ritual, but I'm just as happy to sleep in.) It's an easily accessible fact that you don't need church to have faith - churches are meant to serve the people and bring them closer in the community.

Churches, however, rarely do that any longer. They spend more time requesting that the people serve it, gaining money for itself and never reaching out beyond its walls. I grew up in the Bible belt; I saw it with every church I attended. Either they never fed their congregation in sermon, or they didn't feed the people of the streets. Sometimes both. I saw churches gain millions in tithes and instead of putting that back into the community, they just expanded or rebuilt parts of their buildings that were standing strong. I watched that same church have the highest dropout rate and drug rate in the county in their private schooling system. It just never felt genuine. And my family has been a member of a church that tried to force my father to pay 10% of his income when we were beyond poor and unable to do so.

After years of enduring that, but still believing there was something to it, I've finally had to face the music: there isn't. There is value to such gatherings and small groupings of people. You find a safe space and a home with each other. But I highly doubt I'll find my place there again. Which after being so heavily tied into the church - there two to three times a week every week from the age of 3 to 23, it's hard to imagine it just completely gone from my life.

But I'm happy to have a relationship with God that isn't built around guilt of 'not talking enough', 'not giving enough', 'cursing too much' or 'being too human'. I'm happier with the idea that God just loves me. And that he didn't come into the world and create the world just so people will serve him. But that rather we're all just here under a myriad of weird forces, and it's okay if we just want to live our lives. We have a free will to choose our own path, and I can't imagine a benevolent God that asks us to be only one type of person in order to be accepted into his secret club, when there is a world full of very good people doing very honest things for each other who also deserve some solitude in the end.

I don't know, I'm just rambling. But it's been a while since I've mentioned my faith here, and where I stand. So I wanted to say, yes, I still believe in God, but I don't care about denomination or religion anymore. And I'm okay with just leaving all of that out of it.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A *Chili* Christmas Eve

Y'all, past Jen did future Jen a solid on this Christmas Eve. Last night I got a hankering for chili - as I often do this time of year. So I made a huge Crock-pot full of vegetarian chili (if only I had had black beans, red kidney beans and okra to top it off, though).

Unbeknownst to me, however, the universe had plans for a White Christmas right here in my little city. I have to work this holiday - as I often do - and when I got out of my office at 6 p.m., it was snowing fairly hard and had already managed to stick a couple of inches. The forecast only says it will be about 2 inches at most, but still, I'm excited.

Because I mostly use the city bus to-and-from work, I had a beautiful walk to the bus stop and home this evening. And then I topped it off with some of that chili:

You can find out more about this recipe, and foods I'm making and eating, on my new cooking blog Thyme and Again. I revamped what I had originally, behind-the-scenes, been doing. I finally feel good about this approach.

Obviously I'm still here, and on my website, but feel free to check out what I'm cooking there.~

Merry Christmas everyone (happy holidays if you don't celebrate Christmas, and be safe and merry if you don't do holidays). You're awesome and you deserve an awesome end to the year. Get some chili and snuggle in a blanket.