Friday, November 18, 2016

Thanksgiving TBR List

Thank goodness Blogger autosaves my password. It has been so long since I have blogged that I was afraid Blogger would deny me access simply on principle. Though, honestly, I do not know how I am supposed to follow Lesley Anne's incredibly poignant and perfectly beautiful post about sweet baby Gabe's birth. (If you missed it, read it here. It will make 2016 seem a little less hopeless.)

Here is a gratuitous picture of Gabe to make your heart melt.

Okay, moving on. There has been a significant change in my own life as well but this is not the post for that. We are the Pathological Readers, after all. We want books! Life stories are all well and good, but what about the books?

Glad you asked. Here are the books that are going to keep me company next week when I AM OFF FOR THE ENTIRE WEEK.

Jenny's Thanksgiving TBR List (in no particular order)

1. Wonder by R.J. Palacio. A friend recommended this book about a month ago, and since then, I kid you not, no less than 4 other people have mentioned it. The universe is telling me to read it.

2. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. This is our book club read for November. If anyone has a copy they would let me borrow I would really, really appreciate it!

3. Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine. Lauren got me the first book in this series for my birthday and I devoured it. I immediately ordered the second one and am trying to exercise self-control and not read it until I am free.

4. Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright. Technically I have already started this one but I am only able to read a chapter here and there. I want to be able to dedicate serious time to finishing it because it is really good.

5. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. This is my favorite book and I re-read it every year. I have not done so this year and I do not want to be rushed while I am savoring it. (Side note: anyone else slightly disturbed by my constant use of food metaphors in relation to books/reading?)

This is it, my lovelies. I hope your Thanksgiving includes plenty of time for reading books that make you think, books that entertain you, and books that make you glad to be alive in this crazy world. I hope you get enough time with friends and family to feel well-loved and thankful for your life. I hope you eat a meal (or two or three) that is filling, memorable, and out of the norm. I hope you look at the world through a lens of thankfulness, rather than bitterness, even if it is only for a day. Be happy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Gabe's Birth Story

I didn’t fully realize what a life changing experience Gabe’s birth would be. His birth story was nothing like we expected, but looking back on everything now, I’m so glad things didn’t go according to “plan.” Throughout my pregnancy, I had to continually surrender my plans and fears to the Lord, and I learned to surrender to him in a very real way during Gabe’s birth.

Gabe's birth story actually begins 3 days prior at my 38 weeks appointment. My doctor did the usual cervical exam, and I was expecting to hear I was 2 cm dilated, maybe 3 at the most. Needless to say, when my doctor said I was 4 cm dilated and 80-90% effaced, we were definitely shocked. My doctor immediately looked at me and asked, “Are you sure you’re feeling ok? You’re still walking around and smiling right now?” I hadn’t felt any real contractions at that point, only a few sharp pains and a little pelvic pressure. Most women are at least in early labor at that those numbers, but apparently not me.

From there Kyle and I had a million questions. Should we go to the hospital now? If not, should we come in sooner than when contractions are 5 minutes apart since we live 45 minutes away? Do you think I’ll have time for an epidural once I go into labor? We weren’t sent to the hospital that day since the non-stress test they had me on earlier didn’t show any regular contractions, and I was still only 38 weeks. The doctor said things would progress quickly once I did go into labor, and advised us to come in once contractions were 10 minutes apart, or if my water broke. She added that she would be surprised if Gabe didn't come within the next week, so to be prepared at any moment. After the appointment, knowing the progress I had already made, I began to mentally prepare myself for the possibility of not having time for an epidural. I told myself to let go of the expectation of a medicated birth, but I still clung to a little bit of hope. After all, we had heard of some women who walked around at 4 cm for weeks, so it was possible things would not go as quickly as we thought.

We went home and not much changed over the next couple of days. I still was having Braxton Hicks contractions and lots of pelvic pressure. On Friday, July 29, I woke up at 6 am feeling restless. After I ate a quick bite to eat, I decided to go on a walk around our neighborhood to calm my thoughts. I listened to worship music on my phone as I walked, and it was a really sweet time with the Lord. An overwhelming peace came over me, and it was like a small part of me knew. Today was probably going to be the day.

I came back to the house with the intention of sitting down to read my Bible, but as soon as I sat down on the couch, it hit me. I was SO tired. I hadn't felt this tired my entire pregnancy, so I immediately laid down to take a nap (little did I know my body was getting ready to do the work of labor and delivery later that night!). After I woke up from my nap, I got some work done, and then decided to go eat lunch at my mom and dad’s house. After we finished eating, mom showed me the decorations for my sister, Ashley’s, 30th birthday party they and my brother-in-law, Alan, had set up the night before in their finished basement. Alan had put so much thought into planning a celebration for my sister, and everything looked great. I was really looking forward to the party later that night, and I wouldn't dream of missing it.

After I got back from my parents’ house, I got some more work done, and then had to take another nap before I started getting ready for Ashley’s party. I had just finished curling my hair around 5:25 p.m. when I suddenly felt a warm gush of liquid run down my leg. At first I didn't think anything of it, because honestly, bladder control is something you really don't have when you're pregnant, especially in the third trimester. But then something about it felt different, and I wanted to call my doctor and make sure it wasn't my water breaking. After I described what happened on the phone, she asked if I was having any contractions, and I told her that I wasn't. Since she suspected that my water possibly broke, she told me to come to the hospital anyway to get checked out.

Right when I hung up the phone, I heard our garage door opening, which meant Kyle had just gotten home from work. I went straight to the garage and told him that we needed to go to the hospital. As I began to describe what happened to him, and that I still wasn’t having any contractions, we started to second guess it was my water breaking and thought that I was overthinking things. So we started to load up the hospital bags in the car with the intention of still going to my sister’s party, but we would have everything we needed in case things changed and we had to head to the hospital.

And that's when it happened--my first real contraction. This was definitely more intense than any of the Braxton Hicks I had felt before, and it was like my entire stomach was hardening. I rushed to our bedroom where Kyle was changing and told him we had to go to the hospital NOW. We quickly finished loading everything up in the car and started the 45 minute drive. Let me tell y’all, this was the most intense car ride of my life. I’ll never forget it. We had just turned out of the neighborhood when I felt the whoosh of my water really breaking. It was so gross. Thankfully we already had a towel on the passenger seat of the car for this very scenario (though I’m pretty sure it was soaked through in minutes). Kyle had me call my mom to tell her we weren't going to make it to my sister’s party after all, but after that, I couldn't talk to anyone else. The contractions were coming fast and I was already having to breathe through them. Kyle made the rest of the phone calls, and paused when he was talking to his mom to ask me how far apart my contractions were. I was timing them on an app on my phone since I knew the nurses would ask once I got to the hospital, and between the first two they were 4 minutes apart. But for the rest of the drive, they were much closer together: 

I didn’t clue Kyle in to this fact since I wanted him to focus on getting us to the hospital safely and not about not getting there in time. We were given a small mercy by coming up on a group of cars going 80 mph down Highway 78, and Kyle just stayed in the middle of that group of cars, which made the longest stretch of our drive much less stressful since we were able to go faster than normal. Meanwhile, not too long into the car ride, I started shaking real bad. Thankfully Kyle reassured me it was just a response to the pain, and that it was ok. I don't know what I would've done without Kyle there to talk me through everything. With his knowledge as a physical therapist, I trusted every word he said. As I breathed through every contraction, he held my hand and told me I was doing great.

Once we arrived at the hospital, Kyle had to drop me off at the ER entrance since it was after normal business hours and the main registration desk was closed. I hobbled into the ER with the towel between my legs, trying to keep fluid from getting everywhere, though it was probably pretty useless at this point. Since we had already pre-registered (and I had been admitted earlier in my pregnancy for a high blood pressure check), all I had to do was sign a few forms and wait for them to print out my admission bracelet before they took me upstairs to labor and delivery. The ER nurse took me to the third floor in a wheelchair since walking at this point was not going to happen, and thankfully she used a shortcut only accessible to medical personnel to get us up there faster.

Once I got to triage I changed into a hospital gown and laid down on the bed for the nurse to start my IV. They asked if I wanted an epidural, and told me that I would have to finish the entire first bag of fluid and be starting on the second in order to get one, and that usually took about an hour. While another nurse was drawing my blood to send to the lab, Kyle was telling jokes to distract me from all the needles and the pain from the contractions (if you know Kyle, you know how “funny” his jokes are lol). The nurses botched my first IV, so they tried a second one. When that one didn't work and they had to try for a third, that’s when I knew I wasn’t going to have time for an epidural. It was hard to come to terms with initially, and I let myself feel the fear of what was ahead. We hadn’t taken any of the weeks-long natural childbirth classes like Bradley Method or Lamaze to prepare, and it made me nervous that I didn't know what I was doing. But I knew God had brought me to this moment to face the fear head on, and he would give me the strength I needed to get through it. It was time to put my big girl pants on and do whatever I needed to do in order to get Gabe here safely.

Finally the third IV worked, and the nurse said she needed to check me in order to move me to a delivery room. This was pretty painful, but I was glad to hear I had made good progress and was 7 cm dilated. We were in the triage room for a few more minutes before they moved me, and I remember writhing on the bed, trying to find a more comfortable position. I tried to remember the pain coping mechanisms we learned in our brief childbirth class, and the only thing that helped me was to pick an object to focus on and to breath in and out really strongly. Thank goodness for the small grace God gives us with the break in between contractions. I’m pretty sure birth would be physically impossible without them! 

Once we got to the delivery room, I tried to get in the most comfortable position possible, and ended up squatting on the edge of the bed. I was leaning on Kyle through the excruciating pain and said, “I need you to tell me I can do this.” He looked at me and confidently said, “If anyone can do it, you can.” The nurse told me to let her know when I felt the need to push, and they would call the doctor in. About two contractions went by when the urge came over me--I was ready to push this baby out. The nurse quickly checked me again and I was fully dilated. They called the doctor on call, and since this was my first baby, she said she would be there in about an hour. But thankfully the nurses told her how quickly things were progressing, and that she needed to be there in 10 minutes.

The nurses started prepping all the equipment needed for Gabe to be born, and told me to not push if possible to give the doctor time to get there. I don’t know why they even bother telling women this. Once you feel the urge to push, there’s no stopping that train. I did my best to not do anything, but with each contraction, I couldn’t help it. Before I knew it, my doctor was there, they were putting my feet in the stirrups, the curtain up, and more nurses came flooding in the room. As soon as I made the decision to embrace the pain no matter what happened, I felt peace and determination like never before. It was go time. Every ounce of strength I had left, I gave to pushing. After two or three contractions, Gabe’s heart rate began to drop, and it became obvious we needed to get him out quickly. The nurse on my left told me I needed to change the way I was pushing, and I started holding my breath and pulling on the handle bars on the side of the bed. And I was squeezing the heck out of Kyle’s hand and arm. And let me tell you, the pressure you feel while pushing is the most bizarre thing. I pushed for about twenty more minutes (it’s hard to really know how long in the moment), and Gabe was here!

Gabriel Kyle Fenton was born at 8:09 p.m on July 29, 2016. 

I’ll never forget the moment I first saw him, and the tremendous relief I felt. Meeting my baby boy was one of the sweetest, most incredible moments of my life. They wiped him off a little before they laid him on my chest, and it was the most amazing feeling to hold him for the first time. The miracle of life gets me every time. What a privilege it is that we get to participate in bringing God’s creation into the world. And I’m so thankful it wasn’t the perfect birth I had planned out in my head. There was no birth photographer to capture every moment, and our families weren't even waiting outside the delivery room door because he came so stinking fast (but they came later that night to meet him of course!). God had better things in mind, and I learned that He certainly does give us more than we can handle. But He is faithful to never leave us and gives us the exact strength needed for the moment. Thank you, Jesus, for this precious gift of life. We feel unworthy, but oh so grateful. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Adventures With Baby Fenton: 34 Weeks

32 Weeks | Photo by Linds on Life Photo
How far along are you?
34 weeks 5 days

How's baby doing?   
He's doing great! According to my pregnancy app, he's the size of a pineapple, weighs about 5 pounds, and could be anywhere between 19-22 inches long. We have an ultrasound scheduled in two weeks, so we'll get a more accurate measure on things then, and also get to see which position he's in. I'm so excited to see him again! He gets the hiccups almost every day, and I can feel him move pretty regularly throughout the day. He especially loves to lodge his foot in my right ribs, which makes it hard to breathe. But I honestly love feeling him move!

28 weeks | 29 weeks
How are you feeling?
I've been doing ok. We had a bit of a dramatic visit at my 32 weeks appointment, and my doctor ended up sending me to the hospital because of some blood pressure issues. Thankfully all is well now, but I think my body has had a hard time recovering from the stress of it all. I've been really tired lately and can't get through the day without taking a nap, just like in my first trimester. Other than that, and just feeling large, I don't have much I can complain about!  

How's the weight gain? 
Speaking of feeling large, I've been pretty steady at 29 pounds for the past two weeks. I never imagined I would gain that much weight with pregnancy, but surprisingly, I'm totally ok with it. My doctors said because of my pre-pregnancy size I could potentially gain up to 40 pounds, so it looks like I'm right on track. ;)

First Baby Shower at 29 Weeks
Any stretch marks?  
Nope! I've been using Burt's Bees belly butter and it has worked wonders to keep my belly from itching and stretch marks at bay.

How are you sleeping?  
At this point, it's hard to get 100% comfortable at night, but thankfully things have stayed pretty consistent as far as sleep goes. I still have to get up once or twice to use the bathroom, and the only nights I don't feel well-rested are when I have crazy vivid dreams. I'm still struggling with initially falling asleep, so I've been trying to jot things down before bed to keep my mind from racing so much.   

30 weeks | 32 weeks
Maternity Clothes? 
I pretty much live in the same five dresses these days. My maternity shorts and white jeans occasionally get worn, but honestly the panels make me so hot!

What have y'all been up to? 
Kyle and I have taken three classes at the hospital where I'll be delivering - breastfeeding basics, childbirth, and newborn care. We've already met with little man's pediatrician and LOVED her! A couple weeks ago we had maternity pictures done with Linds on Life Photo. We've already gotten our photos back and we loooove them! Can't wait to share more! I've had three baby showers, one with family and friends from college, one with church family, and one at work. So. Much. Fun. We've hired someone to come deep clean the house before my due date, which has helped me cool it on the nesting front. I got my Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccine this week, and we've told all our family members to make sure they're up-to-date on theirs as well. We've been busy, busy, busy, but life is good.  

Church baby shower at 32 Weeks 
Nursery progress?    
The nursery is really starting to come together! The crib bedding is washed and set up, artwork is on the walls, and the dresser is all set up as his changing table. We've only got a few things left on the to-do list: install the ceiling fan, buy fabric for the window valence, install and style shelves on the wall over the glider, and organize the dresser drawers. I feel like I'll never be at a point where I feel like it's "finished," but his room is quickly becoming my favorite in the house!

Any signs of labor? 
I've had Braxton Hicks contractions here and there, but nothing consistent. It's so weird to be experiencing contractions, but I know it's just my body's way of preparing for the real deal!

33 weeks | 34 weeks at my work baby shower!
Looking Forward To:
Little man's 36 weeks ultrasound! Also, getting our hospital bags packed and installing the carseat next week. Things are getting real! 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Our Favorite Podcasts

As lovers of stories, naturally Jenny and I love getting lost in a good podcast. You might have heard 2016 declared as "The Year of the Podcast," but these mini radio shows have been a big part of our lives for a while now. Podcasts are great for stimulating your brain during those fringe hours--while you're driving to work, cooking dinner, doing the dishes, or out for a walk. Today Jenny and I are sharing just a few of our favorites!    

Lesley Anne's Favorites

1. Around the Table Podcast - This is my #1 can't-miss podcast right now. When I first discovered Around the Table, I went back and listened to their entire backlog of episodes--it's THAT good. This podcast is chatty and fun, and I love the dynamic of Jacey and Maggie's different personalities. If you like conversational podcasts, then this one is for you!

2. The Relevant Podcast - Whenever I've just finished a really serious audiobook or life is getting a little mundane, this is the podcast I like to listen to. It's guaranteed to make me laugh out loud, and everyone needs a little ridiculous humor in their life. This podcast is also a great place to discover new music and books, but a warning: this podcast tends to be LONG. Episodes average about an hour and 45 minutes, so make sure you have plenty of time on your hands when you listen in.  

3. What Should I Read Next -
If you read Modern Mrs. Darcy's blog, then you already know about Anne's brand new podcast. We're only twenty episodes in, and I'm in love. Host Anne Bogel asks each of her guests a series of questions, and based on their answers, gives them suggestions on what they should read next. Hi new favorite! 

4. Pregnancy Perfect -
I actually discovered this podcast before we started trying to get pregnant, but after listening to a few episodes, I had to stop. I realized it wasn't good for my heart to think so much about pregnancy before I was actually in that season. That was totally a personal decision, but I'm glad I decided to wait. Now I seriously can't get enough! Hearing about other women's pregnancy and birth stories is so fascinating to me and I've learned so much in the past few months. I highly recommend this podcast if you are pregnant or have an interest in women's health!

Jenny's Favorites 

1. RadioLab - I have no idea how to even begin to describe this podcast. If there is something new, cool, or mind-blowing out there, RadioLab will find it.

2. In Our Time - Definitely an egghead podcast. It is a round table discussion of a historic topic in which some of the preeminent minds in the field give a general overview of it.

3. Serial - This podcast took over the world last year. It is about crime that was solved but, perhaps, was solved incorrectly? You be the judge.

4. Just Thinking + Let My People Think - Christian apologist, philosopher, and thinker Ravi Zacharias is the mind behind these podcasts about how Christianity and modern thought (or really any thought) go hand-in-hand.

What are your favorite podcasts? Which episode would you recommend as a first listen? 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Adventures With Baby Fenton: First and Second Trimesters

If we're connected on Facebook or Instagram, then you've known the exciting news for a while now--there's a baby in my belly!  

Sometimes I can't believe this is real life, that there is a precious little baby growing inside me. This pregnancy has brought so many emotions to the surface, but I've been resting a lot in the fact that God is SO so good. I constantly find myself thanking Him and entrusting me to be a Mama. He has taught me so much about unmerited grace over the past 7 months, and I know we have a lot more to learn on that front in the days ahead! 

As I'm now in my third trimester, I've realized how important it is to capture the anticipation of waiting on our sweet baby. So while this post deviates from our normal blog topics, I hope you'll bear with me as I document our excitement over the next few months! 

I'll start with questions I get asked the most often, since I know many of you may be curious:    

How far along are you? 
28 weeks 5 days

How did you find out?
We found out on November 30, 2015--forever one of my favorite days! This happened to fall on a day I was working from home, so Kyle had already left for work by the time I got up and took the pregnancy test. I had barely sat it on the bathroom counter when the word "Pregnant" popped up--I could NOT believe it! I stood there for a minute to make sure my eyes were working correctly, and then that's when the happy tears started to flow. It's so hard to describe how surreal that moment was!

How did you tell Kyle?
Since we had been trying for a few months, it wasn't a total surprise for him, but I don't think he was expecting us to get pregnant when we did. After seeing the test was positive, I wrapped it up in a gift bag and placed it under our Christmas tree. I initially was going to wait until the end of the work day to give it to him, but when he got home for lunch, I just couldn't help myself! He was so excited, but pretty shocked too. I'm pretty sure he said "Really?!" about 5 times in a row. Such a sweet moment I'll never forget!

8 Weeks
How did you tell your family? 
This was so fun since we got to tell our families at Christmas! We spent Christmas Eve with my family, and after we finished opening presents, we watched a slideshow I put together of family pictures and videos from the year. At the end of the slideshow, we had the picture of my pregnancy test with "Baby Fenton, Expected Arrival August 2016" written underneath it. Their reaction was priceless! There were plenty of hugs and happy tears to go around. With Kyle's family, I bought a little green and red onesie that said "Santa's Favorite" and wrapped it up to give to Kyle's parents over Christmas. We told them we had one more gift for them to open together, and they were SO surprised and excited, especially since this will be their first grandbaby! Kyle's dad in particular was so shocked that he barely said a word for the rest of the night. I always laugh when I think about it because speechless is definitely not a word I would use to describe my Father-In-Law. But no worries, he has plenty to say about his grandbaby on the way now! ;)

10 Weeks  |  13 Weeks
Are you having a boy or a girl?
We found out in February that we're having a boy and we're SO excited! I'll never forget the anticipation as we headed to our gender ultrasound. I had a feeling the entire time we were having a boy, and sure enough, there was a little boy in there! I can barely describe the feelings of happiness that have swelled up in my heart for our little guy. Obviously we would have been happy either way, but I'm so excited for our family to start this way and for our future kiddos to have a big brother!

19 Weeks
Have you decided on a name? 
Yep! We had a boy name and girl name picked out before our gender ultrasound, so from the minute we found out we've been able to call him by name. We've shared his name with family and close friends, but won't be posting it on the Internet until his birthday. :)

Did you have a gender reveal party?
I'm in the minority when it comes to gender reveal parties and not the hugest fan. We decided to do a small one with just family, and it was perfect! We knew we wanted to incorporate our Weimaraner, Doc, into the reveal, so he was wearing a pink bandana and a blue bandana all throughout the evening. After dinner, everyone waited in the living room for Doc to come out of our room wearing only the pink or blue bandana to announce the gender. Obviously he came out proudly wearing the blue!  

Gender Reveal at 16 Weeks
How have you been feeling?
Great! I've been really surprised at how my body has handled pregnancy so far. I thought for sure I would struggle with morning sickness, but by the grace of God my first trimester passed without any severe nausea. I did experience a lot of exhaustion though. It was so strange to feel at any moment during the day I could fall asleep, since normally I'm not a napper. And most nights I could barely stay up past 8:30. I was so glad to get my energy back in my second trimester, but I did have an episode with low blood pressure/low blood sugar at 24 weeks and I passed out during church. After a checkup with my doctor the next day, she's had me aiming to drink a gallon of water a day, and that has made such a huge difference in how I feel. Now that I'm in my third trimester I can feel the fatigue coming back a little bit, especially since I'm not sleeping the best at night. But overall I'm still feeling good!

21 Weeks  |  25 Weeks
Have you had any food aversions or cravings?
Not much has changed for me in this area. I can still eat pretty much anything, but there are certain smells I'm really sensitive to, like vinegar and collard greens (of all things!). The only time I've gotten sick so far was right after I had been at my sister's house and she had been cooking collard greens in the crockpot. So weird! As for cravings, I haven't had any strong, I-will-kill-you-now-unless-I-have-X kind of cravings, but I've certainly had more of an affinity for donuts. Give me ALLLL the donuts. But like I said, not really anything new about that. ;)

26 Weeks  |  27 Weeks   
Have you felt him move yet? 
Oh yes--we've got a little kickboxer on our hands! He's constantly kicking and punching every internal organ possible it seems, and it's getting to the point where it hurts occasionally. Little man is big enough now for us to see him moving on the outside too--such a neat (but also kinda weird!) feeling. Overall this has been one of my favorite parts of pregnancy--the reminder our little guy is healthy and strong (and obviously loving life in the womb)!

How are nursery plans coming along? 
We've got all the major things done! Kyle installed the board and batten and painted everything himself, and we've got the crib, dresser, and rocker set up. We aren't going with a particular theme, but when people ask me about it, I usually just say we're going for a rustic outdoors look, very similar to this inspiration board. I'd love to do a separate post on the nursery progress so far, but I won't make any promises. Baby boy wears me out by the end of the day and it's hard to find motivation to blog!  

What are you looking forward to most in the third trimester?
Besides the obvious of meeting our son in August, we've got baby showers, maternity pictures, and 3 more hospital classes on the calendar. And of course I can't wait to finish decorating the nursery! There's a lot left to do, but so much to be grateful for in our house. :)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

March Goals Recap

Goal: Join the library + read 10 library books
Outcome: Complete failure

I do not know why this goal is so hard for me. It has been on my list of things to do for 4 years now. Yes, you read that right: FOUR YEARS. At this point I can't help but think I have a mental block or something. Am I secretly sabotaging myself? Maybe. Kindle has been offering some good books lately for 1.99 so I am just buying them rather than getting my self together and joining a library. What does this say about me? Very unflattering things. 

This is where accountability comes in. I am telling y'all that I am joining the library this Monday, April 11th, come hell or high water. It is going to be the first thing I do so that I do not get busy doing other things. I have literally put it on my calendar.  

It is always so embarrassing to admit that I am not a member of a library. This has got to stop. Knowing that y'all know what I am supposed to be doing on Monday is exactly what I need to push past myself. Feel free to text me encouraging or taunting things to make sure I am doing what I said I would do. It is time. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter!

"'O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?'

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."

1 Corinthians 15:55-58

Jenny and I are praying you have a Happy Easter, and that you may know the victory we have in Christ Jesus today! 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

February Goals Recap

Well, March came in like a lion this year for me. The month started off awesome with a trip to Boston that I will blog about later (I am in the middle of a serious love affair with Boston). I ended the awesome trip with the flu. Can I just tell you that the flu officially sucks as an adult? I feel like a 90 year old smoker who just ran a marathon. It has taken me a week just to recover from having the flu, not to mention the week that it ravaged me like a plague. The good news is I am (almost) back to 100%.

More good news: I accomplished my February Reading Goal! I reviewed 5 books on the blog, which is actually harder than it sounds. Well, harder is not quite the word, maybe more like time-consuming. Believe it or not, I do not just sit down and write whatever comes off the top of my head. And y’all should be thankful for that. I do not think any of you want to read a review that comes from the comparative literature part of my training. Well, maybe a few of you would, but for the majority it would be too much like school and I want you to try the books I recommend, not run screaming because you are suffering from PTSD due to high school English.

Anyways, I tried to review books that did not fall into the same genre. It is nice to read things outside of your comfort zone. It makes you a better thinker, better reader, and a better person (most times). I have a bit of a reputation of being really smart; the reality is I am really well-read. That in and of itself covers a multitude of shortcomings. Try it sometime. Start a sentence with, “I heard on NPR…” and see if people’s perception of you doesn’t change. I chose to review one nonfiction book, one classic retold, a YA fantasy, a book of short stories, and then the best book I have read in a long, long time. If you have time to read only one book this year please, please, please read Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I am posting the link to the reviews (though I am sure all of you already read them) below so you can check them out. I hope it encourages you to read a book that you would never have picked up, whether it be one of these 5 or one that has been recommended to you or one that has an interesting cover.

Next month’s goal has been one of my reading goals for the past 3 years. Will I finally manage to accomplish it? Stay tuned to find out :)

Books Reviewed

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Jenny Reviews: Trigger Warning

 The Vitals

 Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
 Release Date: 3 February 2015
 Page Count: 310
 Genre: Fantasy/Horror/Poetry
 Target Audience: Adult
 Series: No
 Source and Format: Purchased :: eBook
 Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (From Goodreads) 
In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction—stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013—as well “Black Dog,” a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods, exclusive to this collection.

Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion. In Adventure Story—a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane—Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience A Calendar of Tales are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year—stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother’s Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale The Case of Death and Honey. And Click-Clack the Rattlebag explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we’re all alone in the darkness.

Notes on Trigger Warning
Let me start off by saying that short stories are not my favorites. I am a drawn to completeness and to characters, both of which are hard to manage well in short stories. More often than not a short story has a comprehensive, cohesive narrative or it has well-devolved characters; it is very difficult to accomplish both. Neil Gaiman is an author who has worked long and hard on his craft, constantly pushing himself (and his readers!) by exploring all sorts of storytelling formats so I knew that if there were short stories for me I would more than likely find them here. Are all the stories and poems wonderful? No, but that is okay. There is much good here to be read.

Overall, I enjoyed this book even more than I thought I would. There are a lot of stories and poems that make it worth the price and time. Not everything has the same format or the same genre, though the majority would be classified under fantasy. The introduction alone is worth the price of the book (yes, I read introductions and yes, you should too). It would be nice if he developed it further into a talk or paper. It has the potential, in my opinion, of being very influential in literary and academic circles. Plus, it is something that needs to be said and he says it very well and very kindly, which goes a long way in getting people to listen. If you get the chance to read this, whether borrowed or bought, I highly encourage you to do so. 

Some of my favorites:
  • "The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains..." - I am not sure why I like this one as much as I do. I think because the narrator is so compelling. Plus, the twist at the end is awesome. 
  • October Tale from "A Calendar of Tales" - A sweet story about love, obligation, and contentment. This one is very profound for being so tiny. 
  • "The Case of Death and Honey" - A Sherlock Holmes story that is, in my opinion, flawless. It would fit seamlessly into the Conan Doyle canon.
  • "The Sleeper and the Spindle" - This has been turned into a book with wonderful illustrations. Probably my favorite, it is a retelling of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty (y'all know how I love retellings!) and I am going to buy it on its own so I, too, can have the illustrations.
  • "Feminine Endings" - This one was not one of my favorites but the title is, hands down, one of the most perfect titles I have ever come across. It actually enhanced the story for me, which I do not think has ever happened.
I fully admit that this book will not appeal to everyone, but if you are looking for something out of your comfort zone or just something different, then you should give it a try. 

Memorable Quotes:
"What we read as adults should be read, I think, with no warnings or alerts beyond, perhaps: enter at your own risk. We need to find out what fiction is, what it means, to us, an experience that is going to be unlike anyone else’s experience of the story."

“Better to have flamed in the darkness, to have inspired others, to have lived, than to have sat in the darkness, cursing the people who borrowed, but did not return, your candle.”

“In my family ‘adventure’ tends to be used to mean ‘any minor disaster we survived’ or even ‘any break from routine’. Except by my mother, who still uses it to mean ‘what she did that morning’. Going to the wrong part of a supermarket car park and, while looking for her car, getting into a conversation with someone whose sister, it turns out, she knew in the 1970s would qualify, for my mother, as a full-blown adventure.”

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Jenny Reviews: Jane Slayre

 The Vitals

 Jane Slayre by Charlotte Bronte and Sherri Browning Erwin
 Release Date: 13 April 2010
 Page Count: 391
 Genre: Fantasy/Classic
 Target Audience: Adult
 Series: No
 Source and Format: Purchased :: Paperback
 Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (From Goodreads)
Jane Slayre, our plucky demon-slaying heroine, a courageous orphan who spurns the detestable vampyre kin who raised her, sets out on the advice of her ghostly uncle to hone her skills as the fearless slayer she’s meant to be. When she takes a job as a governess at a country estate, she falls head-over-heels for her new master, Mr. Rochester, only to discover he’s hiding a violent werewolf in the attic—in the form of his first wife. Can a menagerie of bloodthirsty, flesh-eating, savage creatures-of-the-night keep a swashbuckling nineteenth-century lady from the gentleman she intends to marry? Vampyres, zombies, and werewolves transform Charlotte Brontë’s unforgettable masterpiece into an eerie paranormal adventure that will delight and terrify.

Notes on Jane Slayre
In order to enjoy this book you must have a sense of humor. Actually, you must be able to appreciate cleverness. It also helps if you already enjoy the story Jane Eyre, though that is not necessary. I have read 2 other books in this literary mashup genre, both by Seth Grahame-Smith, and enjoyed them far more than I thought I would. The first, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was really good. I picked it up on a whim at 2nd & Charles and devoured it in 2 days. I then read his Pride and Prejudice and Zombies which I did not enjoy as much but I enjoyed more than the original (Matt and I saw the movie a couple weekends ago and it is pretty good - definitely worth a rental). 

I expected to like Jane Slayre more than the previous two books because I really like Jane Eyre. It is my favorite novel from that period and I knew I already liked this horror/fantasy/classic genre, so I was pretty confident going into it. I will say I enjoyed it. It started off pretty well. Jane is being raised by a vampire aunt who does not allow her children to eat those of common blood, only the nobility, thus preventing Jane from becoming one. When she gets to Lowood she discovers they are creating zombie servants that are fine unless they eat meat. This, too, is fairly well done and fits well into the original story. When Jane moves to Thornfield Hall, however, things get less cohesive. 

Throughout the novel Jane is slowly realizing she has a talent for sensing and dispatching the supernatural. It isn't until she hooks up with St. John and his sisters that she is able o get answers and to fully explore her Slayre heritage. While it makes sense that this is where she gets answers, the problem is it comes late in the narrative (not Erwin's fault, she is following Bronte). She is randomly dispatching vampires during her time at Thornfield Hall with Mr. Rochester and he seems completely oblivious, which is rather disappointing. He notices everything except that one tidbit? Unlikely and unbelievable. The supernatural is inserted rather haphazardly during this portion of the novel, which makes up quite an important part. Aside from the werewolf, no one at Thornfield Hall seems to even be aware of the supernatural creatures that cohabit their world. It is all very odd.

All in all it was an enjoyable read. Will I read it again? No, definitely not. I wanted it to be the same caliber of narrative as the Grahame-Smith novels and it was not. Had I not read them first I might have enjoyed it more. The cover, however, is fabulous. If you do not have high expectations you will be pleasantly surprised, I think.

Memorable Quotes
“Sighing, he paused a moment as if to take in my essence or to gather his wits. As he had no wits to gather, it must have been my essence giving him pause.”

“Nothing like a little zombie beheading to take the edge off staking one’s aunt.”

Friday, February 19, 2016

Jenny Reviews: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

 The Vitals

 Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
 Release Date: 16 June 2015
 Page Count: 277
 Genre: Non-fiction
 Target Audience: Adult
 Series: No
 Source and Format: Borrowed :: Hardcover
 Goodreads | Amazon

Summary (From Goodreads)
At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?

Some of our problems are unique to our time. “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?” “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos?!” “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan. Who’s Nathan? Did he just send her a photo of his penis? Should I check just to be sure?”

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically. A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before.

In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world.

Notes on Modern Romance
Before I begin, I hope y'all were able to make it through the summary. That is seriously the longest summary I think I have ever seen. 

Okay, the book. I really enjoyed this book. It is not a memoir or even Ansari's views on love. This is a research book, written with a sociologist and has actual notes in the back of the book. My kind of book :) It is a study of love in the modern age — What do we think love is? How do we show love? When do we feel loved? How do we find love? It is a fascinating look into the modern human psyche and it definitely stings at times. He talks to a wide range of people about love, from senior citizens to college kids, people who live in big cities and people who live in small towns. The most fascinating chapter, to me, was the chapter on love in foreign countries. The world does not see or approach love the same way. My other favorite part was the role of technology in the search for love. He had some very interesting things to say about that, some things I was saying, YES! to and others I was like, Huh, never would have thought that. This is an easy read that will make you laugh and make you think, but not too deeply. (If you are a Parks and Rec fan then you will definitely hear Tom Haverford in some of the writing)

Memorable Quotes
Why do we all say we prefer honesty but rarely give that courtesy to others?”

“When I've really been in love with someone, it's not because they looked a certain way or liked a certain TV show or a certain cuisine. It's more because when I watched a certain TV show or ate a certain cuisine with them, it was the most fun thing ever.”

“For me the takeaway of these stories is that, no matter how many options we seem to have on our screens, we should be careful not to lose track of the human beings behind them. We’re better off spending quality time getting to know actual people than spending hours with our devices, seeing who else is out there.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Happy Birthday, Coach Medlin

Today is my (Jenny) husband's 35th birthday so I thought it appropriate to embarrass him on the blog. This has nothing to do with literature (other than the great quote above) so if you do not want to keep reading I understand. You will only miss out on how awesome my husband is.

I was subbing for an English teacher the other day and the class was discussing dating. I mentioned that I am more classically "male" brained, while my husband, Matt, is more classically "female" brained. One student said that seemed to be the case for most marriages where the wife's default mode is logic instead of emotion. Of course this made me reflect on Matt's personality; what parts of our personality mesh well? Which parts are more sharp and prone to hurt?

After mulling over this for a couple of days I have come to this conclusion: I love him more now, today, than I did the day we got married. His emotion-driven personality was such a mystery to me when we were dating and even into the first couple years of marriage (and still is at times). He saw things so differently than I did it was hard to reconcile with the way I understand things. I am just now, 9+ years into being together, getting a handle on his thought patterns and what drives him. Does this mean that I understand him completely and we never argue? Heck no. It does mean that living life with him is softening and molding me in ways I never thought possible or desirable. We are much more different than I initially thought we when we started dating and I am so thankful for that fact. He is constantly challenging me; most times he does not even realize he is doing so.

Matt Medlin does not do anything half-way; he is either all in or all out. He wanted to start an early morning P.E. club like he had in elementary school; it now has so many kids that the fourth and fifth grade have to do it on different days because there are so many kids that want to be a part. He started deejaying the father/daughter dance at his school and enjoyed it so much he bought some nicer equipment and now does all type of events. This all or nothing also carries into his personality. I do not know anyone as stubborn as him. Up until last year he insisted he did not like Moe's. Every time I went and offered to bring him back something he would not want anything. I eventually stopped asking and, lo and behold, he has suddenly started like it and wants to go there every. single. day. Stubborn. He is also the most loyal person I know; if you are one of his people he will never give up on you. This is both wonderful and hurtful. It is hard to watch him value people that do not value him. He is generous in ways that most people never know unless you are on the receiving end. He understands people and what motivates them almost from the moment he meets them. He is super competitive and can turn anything into a game. (On a recent trip he somehow turned a game of skipping rocks into a competitive rock-golf game)  If he is excited about something then everyone else around him is excited, too, because his joy is infectious. The world is lucky that he has always wanted to be a P.E. teacher and not a lawyer - he could convince an eskimo to buy snow.

I will stop here, but suffice to say my husband is a complicated, wily, funny, sensitive guy and I am the better for it.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Jenny Reviews: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

 The Vitals

 Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
 Release Date: 10 January 2006
 Page Count: 247
 Genre: Literary Fiction
 Target Audience: Adult
 Series: Gilead #1
 Source and Format: Purchased :: Paperback
 Goodreads | Amazon

 Summary (From Goodreads)
Twenty-four years after her first novel, Housekeeping,   Marilynne Robinson returns with an intimate tale of three   generations from the Civil War to the twentieth century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America's heart. Writing in the tradition of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, Marilynne Robinson's beautiful, spare, and spiritual prose allows "even the faithless reader to feel the possibility of transcendent order" (Slate). In the luminous and unforgettable voice of Congregationalist minister John Ames, Gilead reveals the human condition and the often unbearable beauty of an ordinary life.

Notes on Gilead
This short novel blew me away. I was compiling a list of people to recommend it to before I was even half way through with it. It is an epistolary novel (a novel written in letter, diary, etc. format) whose narrator is an old man who has reached the end of his life. He did not have a son until late in life and wants his son to be able to know who he was in his own words. As he reflects back on his own life and the events and people that shaped him, he is working out his thoughts, feelings, and salvation in the events that are happening in his present (as he is writing the letters). 

This is a book that you savor. It is not meant to be read in one sitting, though there is a great temptation to do just that. The reflective, self-aware tone of the novel is lost if one does not respect it and adhere to the pace Robinson sets for the reader. John Ames is one of the most honest, clear-thinking characters in modern literature. His is an honesty that soothes and convicts, that alternately tears and heals. I hope everyone is able to experience just a fraction of the self-awareness Ames has. To be able to see ourselves clearly, even for just a bit, is truly life-changing. I say this with full confidence, having survived my own season of self-awareness not too long ago. It is exhilarating, humbling, and defeating. But totally worth it. 

Even if you are not given to contemplation I think you should read this book. Learning how to think critically of yourself is a gift (and burden) that should be nurtured. When we strip away the lies that we believe about ourselves we are, finally, truly, able to grow into who we were meant to be. Is it painful? No doubt. Is it worth it? Read Gilead and see.

Memorable Quotes
“Love is holy because it is like grace--the worthiness of its object is never really what matters.”

“There is no justice in love, no proportion in it, and there need not be, because in any specific instance it is only a glimpse or parable of an embracing, incomprehensible reality. It makes no sense at all because it is the eternal breaking in on the temporal. So how could it subordinate itself to cause or consequence?”

“I don't know exactly what covetous is, but in my experience it is not so much desiring someone else's virtue or happiness as rejecting it, taking offense at the beauty of it.”

“Nothing true can be said about God from a posture of defense.”

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Jenny Reviews: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

The Vitals

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Release Date: 21 May 2015
Page Count: 438
Genre: Fantasy
Target Audience: Young Adult
Series: No
Source and Format: Lauren B. :: Hardcover
Goodreads | Amazon

Summary (From Goodreads)
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood's powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost to the wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows - everyone knows - that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia - all the things Agnieszka isn't - and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.

Notes on Uprooted
I loved, loved, loved this book. It is, to me, fantasy at its finest. It has one of the best first lines of any book I have read - "Our Dragon doesn't eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley." You're intrigued now, aren't you? It only gets better from there. 

This book is, at its core, a book about community. Agnieszka's village is in close proximity to the Wood, a malevolent forest that tries to kill anyone it can. The Wood is sentient; it is actively trying to do the villagers and, as we find out later, the whole kingdom harm. Terrible things live in the Wood that come out on occasion and snatch unsuspecting villagers. The Wood sends harmful seeds and winds to infect the village's crops and livestock. It is a dangerous place to live, which only serves to strengthen the ties of the community. The one thing helping to keep the Wood at bay, besides the villagers sheer stubbornness, is the Dragon. He is a wizard, sent by the king, to help to combat the Wood. His purpose is to keep the Wood from claiming more ground, a task he has been at for a long time. The measure of his success is the fact the Wood has not been able to move further, though it has not been forced to retreat, either. 

My favorite part of the book is the relationship that Agnieszka and Kasia have. They are best friends who have grown up together knowing Kasia would be chosen by the Dragon because she is beautiful and brave and smart; you know, all the classic heroine attributes. They refuse to stop being best friends even though they will not see each other for 10 long years, after which most girls the Dragon takes are so changed they cannot stay in the village for long and move away. Their bond is one of the main driving forces of the book. Real, solid friendships like these two share are so rare in books these days, which is terribly unfortunate. Part of what makes books like The Lord of the Rings so wonderful is the friendships the characters forge. Novik does an excellent job of giving her girls the type of bond that is so crucial to quest-type narratives. Having been blessed in my own friendships I love being able to read about healthy friendships that are not romantic. Too often (it seems to me, anyway) characters cannot be just friends, they have to be something more. Or if they are just friends then that relationship is not a central part of the book, but rather an after thought. That is not the case in Uprooted and it is the better for it.

What does the Dragon do with the girls? Why does he need them? Why is the Wood so bent on destruction? You will have to read to find out. You will not be sorry that you did.

(Side note: This is the UK cover. It is more beautiful than the American edition and Lauren was awesome and ordered this one for me.)

Memorable Quotes
“I don't want more sense!" I said loudly, beating against the silence of the room. "Not if sense means I'll stop loving anyone. What is there besides people that's worth holding on to?”

“But she hadn't been able to take root. She'd remembered the wrong things, and forgotten too much. She'd remembered how to kill and how to hate, and she'd forgotten how to grow.”

They all had stories. They had mothers or fathers, sisters or lovers. They weren't alone in the world, mattering to no one but themselves. It seemed utterly wrong to treat them like pennies in a purse. I felt the soldiers understood perfectly well that we were making sums out of them-- this many safe to spend, this number too high, as if each one wasn't a whole man.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

January Goals Recap

As I shared earlier here, I (Jenny) am doing monthly reading goals rather than year-long ones. January's goal was to read only classics and non-fiction. Well, I failed. I was doing well until I got a really nasty cold about mid January. I did not realize how much comfort I draw from reading <insert nerd joke of choice> until I could not read something mindless. Classics and non-fiction tend to require greater concentration and I just wanted something easy while I laid on the couch. I broke and read a  book that was a kindle daily deal which was, of course, the first book in a series that got me hooked so I needed to read the other two that are currently out. It was a slippery slope that I, honestly, did not try too hard to avoid.

I did not realize how difficult of a goal this was going to be when I made it. I am trying to be more disciplined in my reading but I think I went a little overboard for this month. Good news is that I gave myself more leeway in the rest of the months so I am feeling pretty confident about them. Oh, there was one fiction book that I was allowed to read this month - Uprooted by Naomi Novik. It was the book for book club (for me) in January so I was allowed to read it. I LOVED IT. I will be posting a review soon. In interest of full disclosure, here is my reading for January.

  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, Non-fiction. This book has been on my TBR list for a long time. Very easy to read, super fascinating material. I recommend it for anyone who likes to think. Not necessarily deep thinking, just thinking about the whys and hows of life. 
  • The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, Classic. I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would! It is creepy and dramatic in a fun way. The Phantom is much scarier in the book than the movie. 
  • The Lost World of Adam and Eve by John Walton, Non-fiction. Walton's The Lost World of Genesis is one of my favorite books about the Bible. It deals with Genesis 1, whereas Adam and Eve deal with Genesis 2 & 3. I did not enjoy it as much but I still really liked it. 
  • Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman, Non-fiction. This is the story of an heiress, Huguette Clark, who lived through the entire 20th century. It was a sad, sad story. I would not read it again. If you are interested in American history, however, I think you might enjoy it. 
  • Seven Viking Romances by Anonymous, Classic. I really, really enjoyed this book. Medieval romances are adventure stories that contain elements of the fantastic, much like modern fantasy stories. They are not romances the way we think of the genre in modern literature. They are way better.
  • Marie de France Poetry (Norton Critical Edition) by Marie de France, Classic. I have been waiting for this edition to be published for 2 years. Norton Critical editions always include essays by leading scholars on the work, as well as contemporary works for intertextuality. Love, love, love intertextuality. 
  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, Classic. This book was so good. I am not a huge fan of American fiction but Wharton is someone I could easily enjoy. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys American history/fiction or well-developed characters. I do not think I would have ever picked it up on my own if my friend Ashley B. had not raved about it. Thanks, Ashley!
  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, Fiction. I started this book in December but did not finish it it before January so I put it away. I flew home from Portland on a red eye so I blame lack of sleep on my picking this back up before the month was over. I ended up not liking it at all, which serves me right.
  • The Others series by Anne Bishop, Fantasy. I really, really enjoyed this series. It is a solid fantasy series with lots of fun supernatural creatures. Bishop stays true to the world she has built, not letting hard characters become softer as the series goes on. The second one was the strongest so far, with the third being my least favorite. I am hoping she finds her stride again for the fourth. 
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik, YA Fantasy. I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH I HAVE TO SHOUT IT AT YOU. Review coming soon!
So, that is my very long, very involved recap. My goal for February is to review 5 books on here. I already have two that I am planning on doing. Hopefully this goal won't kick my butt the way January did!