Freedom of Speech by Donalyn Miller

I rarely get really political, but our current president kind of demands it with all the uninformed and stupid decisions he makes to the detriment of the country. Freedom of speech is really important in times like these.

  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people…

Source: Freedom of Speech by Donalyn Miller

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Moments of Zen: Jan 9-16

Feeling a bit better this week, thankfully no longer as if I will drown in the curtain of mucus at the back of my throat and over my lungs, which makes me cough until I can’t breathe. Graphic description I know, but there it is. I am proud of myself for finally cleaning my house up as it was a gigantic mess. 

Mon Jan 9: Worked on DA2 story “The Librarian” that I just started a few days ago. Hopefully one of these days I can actually finish one (I currently have four started). I have mentioned my profession in other works I’ve done, but this is the first one where the main character is a part-time librarian. I also made her a two-handed warrior b/c that makes her pretty bad-ass and able to protect her future love interest. 

Tues Jan 10: Worked on a previous DA2 story “Elf-Blooded” I started awhile back after playing the in-game character on Monday night. I haven’t romanced Merrill before, mostly because she’s a blood mage, so this story has a half-elf main character. 

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Wed Jan 11: Finally got Liam back after five day break. We watched more Star Wars: Rebels and went to Liam’s parent-teacher conference where I learned how well he was doing in school, esp in regards to testing. Only needs a few more points in Math and he’ll be set to continue in the gifted program. 

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Thurs Jan 12: Finished Season 1 of Star Wars: Rebels and have been reading the prequel comic about the Jedi Kanan Jarrus from Rebels and how he got his name, with Liam. He’s my favorite character on the show, as he’s part scoundrel/part Jedi badass. 

Fri Jan 13: Finally finished the ARC of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Gods, review to follow soon. Thought it was a good retelling. Got two books I was waiting for, i.e. Bisco Hatori’s newest manga series Millennium Snow and the aptly named memoir, I am Brian Wilson, about the most famous Beach Boy (been fascinated ever since I saw Paul Dano/Jon Cusack as Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy – great movie by the way). 

Mon Jan 16th: Star Wars: Rebels Season 2 marathon with Boo plus snuggling. 

Moments of Zen: Jan 3-8

This week has been really slow for me because I came home from Alabama with a really bad cold/cough/bronchitis or whatever this horrible thing is. Not getting much sleep for the past few nights (well less than normal) hasn’t helped either. This is my first week back since my trip. 

Tues Jan 3rd: Honestly, it was napping after I dropped off my son at school because we got home so late from the trip the night before. Well that and playing Dragon Age 2 after a week’s hiatus. 

Wed Jan 4th: I had picked up a copy of Star Wars: Rebels animated TV show before Christmas intending on watching it with my son but we never got around to it. So we started it on Wed and enjoyed it so much, I let him watch 3 episodes. 

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Thurs Jan 5th: Watched a few more episodes of Star Wars: Rebels with my son and we both agree that Jedis are pretty awesome. I was pleased to find out that Freddie Prinze Jr, who also voiced Iron Bull from Dragon Age: Inquisition (one of my favorite game characters), also voiced the Jedi in Rebels.

Fri Jan 6th: Getting back in the storytime groove again as I haven’t done it since end of Nov 2016. Today we were talking about robots and a co-worker who was observing me today said I did a good job and called it “stand-up for 3 yr olds” which cracked me up. I had not been feeling great and it perked me back up. 

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Sat Jan 7th: Finally got a copy of Ouran High School Host Club Vol 18 by Bisco Hatori, though I am very sad the series is over. 😦 I also managed to find a copy of Star Wars: Kanan, the Last Padawan which I discovered while looking for some Star Wars: Rebels books on our library’s catalog. I think it is so cool that they did an origin story from the most interesting character on an older children/YA TV show. 

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Sun Jan 8th: Played pretty much the entire DA: II Legacy download and loved it. The final battle with Corypheus was nearly as hard than the final battle in Inquisition, even in Casual mode, in my opinion. I loved the dialogue between Hawke, Anders, Varric and Fenris in this premium content. I wish I had gotten the content sooner as this makes so much more sense to do before Inquisition because it explains so much of the storyline before you see Hawke in Skyhold. 

Moment of Zen: Travel Edition

I rarely go on vacations, mostly because I can’t afford them or the time off from work. But for a week after Christmas I traveled by car with my mother and son to Alabama, to visit my grandfather, who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. I also hadn’t been to his house in about seven years, nor seen my brother and his family, so it was very overdue. Let me just say first off that I will never spend 25 hrs in the car with anyone again, as it was way too exhausting, especially as we were spending 13-14 hrs in the car per day. Discovered a few things about the states in the process, for example my thoughts on West Texas (as we drove through pretty much the whole bottom half of the state) were a ton of dead skunks on the road – which smelled horrible, bad natural gas smell from all the refineries, and a whole lot of nothing for miles and miles (which doesn’t change in the daytime). Whereas Louisiana had miles and miles of bridges b/c it is all swampy, including the longest one, a five-mile causeway across Lake Pontchartrain (see satellite image below). Most of my happy moments involved food. 

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Tues Dec 27: I found this cool visual map for my son to keep track of the states we were visiting during the course of our journey, as we were going through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. That way he was involved with our progress and learned something about each state. It was very popular and he really got into it. 

Wed Dec 28: Got to have Cajun food in Louisiana. My mom had Crawfish Etouffee and I had a Crawfish Po-Boy. 

Thurs Dec 29: Got to have Zaxby’s for the first time since we left South Carolina (about 5-1/2 yrs before). Not sure what they use on their chicken or in their Zax sauce, but it is damn tasty and hard to replicate. 

Fri Dec 30:  Got to see my brother and his family for the first time in seven years, and meet his daughter Kayleigh, who I’ve never actually met before. It was nice catching up with them. 

Sat Dec 31: Had boiled peanuts today and next day – the one Southern food I actually miss and can’t get over here. They were pretty good for being from a gas station. 

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Mon Jan 2: Prettiest sunset of the trip driving through New Mexico. It doesn’t quite capture it in the picture, but it was gorgeous with all the orangey-reds, pinks and purples reflected off the fleecy clouds. 

Best Books I read in 2016

I am so glad 2016 is over! Though I didn’t read as many books as 2015 (mostly because a lot of what I read was fan-fiction, which I love, but doesn’t count towards my reading goals for the year), I still read a decent amount of good books (232 total). I read a ton of mangas (71 – impressive when you think they’re about 2oo pgs each) and there were a lot of really good ones there. This is the first year I’ve had a separate category for mangas on my end of the year list. The theme for this year appears to have been romances, though not intentionally, mostly just because of issues in my personal life reflecting into what I chose to read. 

Picture Books

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  • Jack Frost (Guardians of Childhood #3) by William Joyce – I love William Joyce’s books and this one was a visual masterpiece. I love the Guardians of Childhood series and this is graphically amazing younger children’s version before he brings out the full-on book for the chapter book series. A new interpretation of the Jack Frost myth, and it is this book whose story was featured on The Rise of the Guardians movie that came out in 2013. 
  • I Love You Already by Jory John – brought to you by the same guy that did Goodnight Already!, which I adored. Hilarious sequel about Bear and his neighbor Duck, who annoys the crap out of him but who he still likes. Reminds me of parents and kids. 
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  • Mother Bruce written/illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins – funniest book I read this year, hands down. Goose baby-wearing by a grumpy bear, enough said. 
  • It Came in the Mail written/illustrated by Ben Clanton – Picked it up after discovering his other adorable comic, Narwhal and Jelly (described below). An adorable book and very imaginative. A little boy, aptly named Liam (like my son), wants desperately to get something in the mail. So he writes a nice little note to the mailbox begging for something and gets a surprise, a dragon in the mail. So he asks for more and chaos ensues, but he comes up with a clever solution.

Children

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  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson – I read this for our tween book club and really enjoyed it, but it is a 337 page verse novel, which can kind of be scary for some kids. It is an autobiographic poem essentially about the author. 
  • The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co. #4) by Jonathan Stroud – I love pretty much anything this man writes, but this one was a great continuation of the Lockwood & Co series. I have described this as “Ghost epidemic in the UK with kids as ghost hunters but the ghosts can actually kill you, and only kids can see them”. Glad Lucy finally got back with Lockwood, George and Holly. 
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  • Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh – tells the story of one of the most famous Mexican illustrators who created a lot of the images we know today about Dia de los Muertos (one of my favorite holidays, along with Halloween)
  • The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock – a wonderfully creative biography of abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky, whom I discovered last year, who could hear colors and see sounds
  • Narwal: Unicorn of the Sea (Narwhal and Jelly #1)  written and illustrated by Ben Clanton – a recent discovery that was too cute for words. How can you not love a Narwhal and Jellyfish who love waffles, imagination, reading, and creating their own unique pod full of friends?
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  • The Marvels by Brian Selznick – this one had been on my to-read list for ages and finally got read it. It is a masterpiece like pretty much all of his work, which he writes and illustrates. Everyone should read this. The book, which starts in 1766 and ends in 2007, is about the Marvel and Nightingale families and their connection to each other. But it is also a story about love in all its forms, acceptance, understanding, and the complicated relationships within families (which really hit home for me this year). 
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  • A New Hope – The Princess, The Scoundrel and the Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken – picked this one up as a way to get my son who loves Star Wars more into audiobooks. I loved it, more than him. It had all the cool sound effects, a lot of the movie dialogue, and a whole backstory on Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker. Am definitely listening to the other two adaptations. Highly recommended as an audiobook, though more suited to 9-14 yr olds than 5 yr olds.

Young Adult

  • The Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlett, Cress, and Winterby Marisa Meyers – probably the best series I’ve read in a while. I love fairy-tale retellings and this one is an awesome sci-fi version with cyborgs, genetically-engineered wolfmen, space pilots, and psychotic Lunars (as the name suggests, people from the Moon). Plus the romances are fantastic and varied. 
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  • Fangirl and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell – definitely two of the absolute best books I read this year. I adore all the stuff I’ve read so far from this author, and look forward to reading more in the future. You should read Fangirl first and then Carry On, though they can both stand on their own, as Carry On is literally a big part of the first book. I was totally Cather Avery and wished I could find someone like Levi. Sigh…

Manga see this post for reviews for most of them

  • Kamisama Kiss Vol 20 – 22 by Julieta Suzuki – I love this series, so anymore books I get to read are awesome. See my initial reviews of the series here. 
  • A Silent Voice Vol 1-7 by Yoshitoki Oima – I have never read a manga about bullying, esp as it was about a deaf girl, and that is what drew me to this book. It really was unlike anything I’d ever read and was a very unconventional romance. 
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  • Wolf Children: Ame and Yuki by Mamoru Hosoda – another unconventional fantasy romance (seems to be the year for them) about a half wolf/half man who meets the love of his life and their children. Great anime as well. 
  • Library Wars Vol 14
  • Library Wars Vol. 14- by Kiiro Yumi – I love the craziness of this manga. I love the ideas of a militarized librarians protecting censorship. 
  • Ouran High School Host Club, Vol 1-11 by Bisco Hatori – loved the anime so decided to read the books to see if there was any extra awesome and there is. 
  • Kimi Ni Todoke (From Me to You), Vol 1-25  by Karuho Shiina – This is one of the sweetest mangas, heck romances, I’ve read in awhile. I can identify
  • Demon Love Spell, Vol 1-6 by Mayu Shinjo – the most ridiculous idea and worst name ever for a manga, but it made me LOL and keep reading till I finished the series. 
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  • Horimiya Vol 1-5 by Hero – another great manga romance series on an unconventional topic; Two high school students, who are not all they seem, fall in love and start a relationship. They are seriously the cutest, most awkward couple ever, which makes it so fun to watch the story unfold. 

Adult

  • The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick – an ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) I picked up because it reminded me a bit of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson (another awesome aging adult book). It was a bit of a romance, journey to lead you to new discoveries – i.e. your self after a traumatic event, in this case the death of Arthur’s beloved wife. 
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – read this one for my bookclub and just loved the story of two very different sisters in the French Resistance during WWII
  • Dragon Age: MageKiller (Magekiller #1-6) – An ARC I was lucky enough to review this year, I want to read the whole series now. 
  • The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende – I’ve loved her books for years and so gladly picked this for my bookclub and enjoyed it as well
  • Poison or Protect: Delightfully Deadly #1 and Imprudence (Custard Protocols #2) by Gail Carriger – 1st one is a novella about one of her characters from the Finishing School series, which was a fun little romp. 2nd one is all about her dad going crazy, a bit of sex education, and the crap really hitting the fan in regards to the G0d-breaker Plague (a continuation of events that happened in her first series, my favorite The Parasol Protectorate).
  • The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman (The Saxon Stories #1-2) by Bernard Cornwell – fabulous series, that they also turned into a miniseries, about life in King Alfred the Great’s court. It is set in the 9th century and told from the viewpoint of a young boy raised by the Vikings who is actually a Saxon lord. Very much looking forward to reading more books in this series