Book of the Month: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy

smokeandbonecoverBLOOD-STARLIGHT_510dreamsofgodsandmonsters

(Warning: This post contains mild spoilers.)

The first two books in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy blew me away. I get up really early for work. 5:45 AM early (which is especially painful if, like me, you are not a morning person). I am pretty adamant about getting to bed at a decent time. It is never after 11. But Laini Taylor made me stay up well past midnight on more than one occasion. I just have to finish this chapter. Ach, I just have to know what happens, I’ll finish this one, then go to bed. Oh no, that did not just happen!! I tore through those books like a tornado through Kansas.

Immediately, I put the third and final book on hold at the library. Even before it had been released. I checked back almost every day to see whether or not my position in the hold queue had moved. It was positively crawling, and I was nearly crawling out of my skin in antsy anticipation. More than once, I talked myself out of buying it. But last week, I caved. Bryan and I were in Edmonton for Everything Edmonton, killing time in the Whyte Ave Chapters, and there it was, and I absolutely had to have it. So it came home with us.

In the beginning, Karou is a normal girl, living in Prague, going to art school. Except that her family is comprised of chimaeric demons who live in a magical in-between place and frequently require her to go on missions abroad in order to gather…teeth. This is only one of the mysteries that plagues Karou’s life, however. She constantly feels incomplete, like there is a large aspect of herself that is missing, a hole that has been hollowed out inside of her and she doesn’t know how to fill it. When she encounters an incredibly beautiful angel who seems hellbent on killing her, all of the threads holding her life together begin to unravel, and there are worlds she never knew about, and a history that she could never have imagined, where angels and chimaera have been waging a thousand-year-long battle that she herself was a part of, and that she finds herself sucked into once more.

The first book is a heartrending, jewel-bright love story that ends with a knife twisted in the gut. The second is a barren wasteland of despair interspersed with glittering threads of delicate, almost impossible hope. And the third is a slow burn building to a breathtaking finale that, while not the explosive finish I envisioned, seemed fitting and right nonetheless.

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy is peopled with incredible, awful, good, complex characters. None of them are black and white, and many of them are women. Liraz, in particular, intrigued, frustrated, and charmed me. There is love, to be sure, but there is love of all sorts. The love between Karou and Akiva, chimaera and angel, may be the nexus around which the story centers, but there are other loves that are equally important: Mik and Zuzana, Karou and Zuzana, Karou and Brimstone, Akiva and Liraz and Hazael, and on and on. The trilogy is not particularly longer than any other trilogy, but it feels like it contains magnitudes where others do not. It is deliriously plotted, with twists that had me gasping for breath and hurtling on to the next page, the next chapter, the next book. Taylor’s prose is delicious and layered, meaning upon meaning upon meaning, forever and ever and down further than you think it could go. I cannot wait to read them again, to start picking up on the myriad things that I surely missed.

All of this to say: Karou’s story is one that captivated me, took me hostage and accepted no ransom. If you like a good story, regardless of whether you are a fantasy fan, or a young adult fiction fan, or whatever kind of fan you are, these books are undoubtedly for you.

Go forth and read them.

Book of the Month: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy

Meaningful, Not Big

The other day, I was reading Anna’s beautiful post about her mother, and one thing she said really stuck out for me:

8. Life doesn’t have to be BIG to be meaningful. She never held a high-powered job. She never went on a single exotic vacation, traveled the world, or met famous people, but she is still remembered all of these years later for how she made people feel.

This really struck a chord with me. I have a lot of big, big dreams: travel the world, live abroad, publish a book, do this, do that. The list doesn’t seem to end. And I get anxious sometimes that I am not going to achieve those things, and worry that I will regret it deeply one day, at that proverbial deathbed moment.

What I am starting to realize more and more is that life’s meaning isn’t found in the grand things. It’s found in the every day things: in the look my mom and I shared when we realized we had found my wedding dress, in the quiet satisfaction of a clean kitchen, in the giddy anticipation of Bryan returning home from being away for a week.

I don’t know about you guys, but I am constantly inundated with messages about “live your dreams” and “never settle for less” and “live life to the very fullest” and those are all great things, but I think that we often get confused about what they mean. I know I do. Absolutely we should chase our dreams, but it would be very detrimental to do so at the expense of the other things that really matter in life: family, friends, love.

I always thought that living life to the fullest meant squeezing the juice out of every single moment. Sometimes, when we are having a quiet evening or weekend at home, I look at Bryan and say, “I feel like we should be doing something right now.” Like I am failing because I am not wandering the streets every evening trying to find some grand adventure that I haven’t experienced yet. Even though we try new things and go new places, we go to the mountains when we can and try new restaurants. Those are adventurous things! But living life to the fullest doesn’t mean constantly having to try new things and go new places. It simply means being fully engaged with every moment. It means being mindful and aware of everything that you are doing and experiencing, whether that is washing the dishes or stepping off a plane in a new country you’ve never visited. That’s it. It’s paying attention to how important every moment with the kids I work with is, and how precious every day with Bryan is.

My travel and living-adjacent-to-the-ocean-while-learning-to-surf dreams have not died. They are still important, and I will still strive for them, but they shouldn’t be causing me to be discontent with the beautiful life I already live. Life doesn’t have to be grand to be meaningful. We just have to look a little closer at our daily lives to see the meaning that we have been missing.

Meaningful, Not Big

Current Obsessions: May 9, 2014

Pictures.

Printstagram. Obsessed with the prints that I got from them. Even better, when I was having issues, they offered me excellent customer service. I was using the app, ordering about 160 photos, and it was consistently crashing in the middle of the upload. I contacted customer service and Jenny gave me a few tips as to what I could do to make it work better. I tried them all, and it was still doing the same thing, so I asked if it was possible to make two orders and only pay shipping once. Jenny was extremely accommodating of my request, and immediately made that happen for me. Less than a week later, I got my prints in the mail, and I’m so pleased! If you are looking for prints of your Instagram photos, I definitely recommend Printstagram. Just remember that Instagram’s render quality can be pretty low, so if your photos come out grainy or whatever, that’s why.

Brooklyn Nine Nine

Taylor Swift.

Related to the above, I’ve been rediscovering Taylor Swift’s Red album. It has been playing non-stop in my car to and from work, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Does anyone else remember this?

 

Current Obsessions: May 9, 2014

When The Universe Speaks, You Listen

I am not a religious person. I am not even sure that I believe in a god of any sort. However, I do believe that there are forces outside of our comprehension that work in our lives in ways that we aren’t even aware of. And when these forces start talking, I think it’s in our best interests to listen.

For a while, I have been struggling with what steps to take next. Though I love the life that I am living quite a lot, still, it felt like things weren’t quite right, like I was straining to figure out which direction to turn next, like I wasn’t quite all in, not quite all there. Bryan and I discussed moving back to Edmonton. I was constantly looking for an escape hatch, a trap door I could throw myself down where nothing was permanent and I didn’t have to make any decisions.

Then, during my informal performance review last week, I was told that I was “killin’ it.” Notes from the universe, volume one.

The next day, during my time with the kids in the afternoon, three of the girls said to me, “Ms Jess, are you going to be here next year? You’re soooo nice, we’ll be so sad if you aren’t!” Okay, universe, I’m listening.

Then, this week, I was informed that my name had been put forward for a position at work that I never would have considered for myself, that would be an intense challenge, and would require us to stay right where we are, for at least a year.

Hmm. Now I’m really listening.

I haven’t made any decisions yet. Maybe some people make major life decisions in a day, but I’m not one of those. But the universe has certainly caught my attention.

When The Universe Speaks, You Listen

Found Writing

From last year, three weeks out from leaving Ireland. 

* * *

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A cool breeze lifted the leaves on the trees. the sky was grey, not steel grey or threatening grey, just unassuming, dreary grey. It made the multri-colored buildings all around stand out like brightly packaged litter in the gutter, but with more charm. There is the hint of rain in the air, just a hint, because there always is in Ireland, even on the sunniest of days. Rain lingers, like a thought in the back of your mind, present in its absence.
*
She stood by the railing on the little bridge, one of many in the city. It was so different from home, where the river rushed by through a deep-cut valley, inaccessible, unless you wanted to tumble in. Unless you knew where to go to access it. it was wide and daunting and could be crossed by only a few bridges throughout the city. Here, the river was close, like a friend. You could reach out and touch it at high tide, when it could reach as high as the bottom of the bridge. It glistened, reflecting back the rundown, quirky buildings in its surface, looking like an oil painting. Bridges crisscrossed all over the place, one every 500 meters or so. The city was so walkable because of this.
*
Thinking of home was painful. She longed for it like she had not known she could long for anything. She longed for the comfort of her own bed, the warmth of her boyfriend against her back in the night, the familiarity of streets she had walked for years, the accessibility of food items she loved, like peanut butter and perogies. She had been dreaming of going home since she had landed in Ireland, and now she was going, in three weeks exactly, and the pain that thought engendered had  little to do with longing for home and everything to do with the confusion of feeling  like she had found another home and had to leave that too.
*
She loved the warren of streets that comprised downtown, alleyways veering off into wide sweeping streets that branched off into other side streets, all packed with stores and restaurants, pubs and cafes, tattoo parlors and gift shops. Every inch bursting with character in its brightly painted facades, brick faces, run down wood and ancient majestic stone. Turning a corner was an adventure, where you were sure to come face to face with something interesting, whether it was the grand columns of the courthouse or the chrome and glass monstrosity of the Topshop store. She loved that there was a point less than a block from her apartment where she could stand on a bridge and see the imposing spires of three different churches in three different directions, all within a five minute walk.
*
She loved the way things glittered at night, reflected like magic in the river. She loved how the night felt safe, even in the sketchiest areas. She rarely clutched her bag protectively, only in moments of personal anxiety that had little to do with her surroundings.
*
She loved the friendliness of the Irish people. She hoped she would never forget the night in Cissie Young’s pub when the bartender, laughing and friendly and open, had offered to charge her iPhone for her because he noticed it was low. She walked back from the pub in a light drizzle, stopping at a chip shop for the best french fries of her entire life.
*
She felt a deep connection to Ireland. She felt like she could belong there, like she could have a life there, like it would embrace her as much as she had embraced it.
*
But she was going home. She knew it was the right thing to do, she could tell by the way her heart sang at the thought. But part of her felt bereft too, like an infant being pulled from its mother’s breast before it is done suckling. She wasn’t finished here. She did not know if she would ever be finished here.
*
Staring moodily into the river, she promised herself fervently hat she would come back. She would make sure that she set foot on this amazing island again one day in the future, and maybe this time she would have Bryan with her and all of the things she needed to make a real go of it here. Not forever, but for a year or so.
*
The thought made her smile, and she pushed off the railing and turned to go home. She looked back in the direction she had come, tracing every detail with her eyes, committing it all to memory, stamping it upon her heart. Still smiling, she walked home, eagerly observing everything, remembering the absinthe green glow of the pharmacy across the street, the rush of traffic, the quaint delight of walking down her tree-lined street and seeing all of the colorful doors waiting to admit people. She let herself in through her own red front door and let it slam shut behind her.
Found Writing

Florida in Instagram

Back in March, my family and I went on a trip to Orlando, Florida. It was our first vacation all together in something like ten years, and my first trip to the USA since my 21st birthday sojourn to Vegas four years ago.

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A wingshot. I never take these! And I have no idea where we were flying over. I was too busy fighting off a panic attack in my non-aisle seat.imageOn our third day, we drove out to Merritt Island. We stopped at the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge on our way to Playalinda Beach. There was a baby alligator, but I couldn’t get a decent picture of it. He was barely visible to the naked eye anyway, all tiny and black. We hung around for a bit, hoping to see a mama alligator, but no such luck. image

A man playing a tuba on the beach, because doesn’t everybody do that? It was SO windy that way, it was a bit hilarious watching him try to wrangle his sheet music. image

We could have frolicked in the waves for hours, laughing hysterically as they knocked us over and tried to suck us back out. There is nothing in the world like sisters. <3image

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The first two days, we spent wandering around Universal Studios. The first day was rainy as f*ck, but the second day was beautiful and sunny. Two very different experiences, let me tell you. On the first day, we basically had the place all to ourselves, riding rollercoasters and immediately running back to the front of the line and riding again. The second day mostly consisted of walking around and eating, since the lines were much crazier. image

Frozen Butterbeer! I tried both varieties: cold and frozen. I liked them both, but I think the frozen one was a little bit better; it seemed to temper the tooth-aching sweetness a bit. For those wondering, it sort of tasted like butterscotch-y cream soda. image

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See? RAINY AS F*CK.image

I somehow managed to convince everyone to stand in a circle so I could take a picture of our feet. I have a thing about foot photos. imageNot Instagram, but aren’t we the cutest?

Have you ever been to Florida? What did you do?

PS. You can find my Instagram account here.

 

Florida in Instagram