2019 Reading Challenge: Accomplished!

Maybe it’s all this free time on my hands (definitely that) but I blew through 40 books this year. I’m also the sort of person who crams entertainment into every few minutes she can (reading for the 2 minutes it takes to brush my teeth, listening to podcasts while I get ready for the day, driving or cooking to Spotify playlists…) and I need at least an hour of unwind-reading-time before I fall asleep. I’ve made my stretch goal 65 books…let’s see what I can do to read 25 more books before New Year’s Eve!

To Recap:

  1. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
  2. The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins
  3. Wildcard by Marie Lu
  4. Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne
  5. Seafire by Natalie C. Parker
  6. Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer
  7. The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donad Maass
  8. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  9. Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart
  10. The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
  11. Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody
  12. Courting Darkness by Robin LeFevers
  13. The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  14. The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  15. The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  16. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
  17. “I Give You My Body…” by Diana Gabaldon
  18. Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
  19. A Question of Holmes by Brittany Cavallaro
  20. Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusa
  21. The Firethorn Crown– Lea Doué 
  22. Shatter Me – Tahereh Mafi
  23. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein – Kiersten White
  24. King of Fools – Amanda Foody
  25. Girl, Stop Apologizing – Rachel Hollis
  26. Legacy of Kings – Eleanor Herman
  27. Girls of Glass – Brianna Labuskes
  28. Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty
  29. The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe – Allie Condy
  30. Dance of Thieves – Mary E. Pearson
  31. Mirage – Somaiya Daud (A young woman is taken from her family to be the stand-in for an enemy princess–who just so happens to be her doppelgänger. Once at the palace, though, she learns things aren’t what they’d appeared)
  32. Queen of Ruin – Tracy Banghart (excellent sequel to Grace and Fury, all about girl power, sisterhood, and trust)
  33. Captivate: The Science of Succeeding With People – Vanessa Van Edwards (ever see the show Lie to Me? She discusses micro-expressions and how to read people quickly to overcome social anxiety and awkward interactions…I’m still pretty socially anxious, but I learned a lot of interesting things reading this!)
  34. Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo (A girl discovers she has a great power that’s been repressed her entire life, but could be the key to saving her people from the monsters who lurk in the darkness)
  35. Yes, Please – Amy Poehler (as funny and heart-warming as she is, Amy Poehler’s memoir is full of interesting life advice, anecdotes about Parks and Rec, and features a stellar cast of voices if you listed to the audio book)
  36. The Ladies’ Guide to Petticoats and Piracy – Mackenzie Lee (sequel to The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and just as charming and witty. Featuring an asexual leading lady who just wants to be a doctor and/or go on an adventure–and ends up getting much more than she bargained for)
  37. The Lost Girls – Heather Young (told from two POV, that of the sister to a young girl who went missing in 1930s Minnesota, and her great-niece trying to start a new life for her family. Family secrets are uncovered, long buried mysteries are solved, and a family finally finds peace)
  38. Wicked Saints – Emily A. Duncan (a girl is hunted for her ability to commune with the gods and combat the blood magic used by the heretics of an enemy country. She places her trust in one such enemy, with their joint goal of ending the war between their countries. But when she arrives at the enemy king’s court, she isn’t sure who she can trust)
  39. Mistress of the Ritz – Melanie Benjamin (told through competing POVs–that of Blanche and her husband Claude–we see the Nazi occupation of Paris during WWII and the lengths people go to in order to protect everything they love–including a glamorous hotel)
  40. Broken Things – Lauren Oliver (this was very much along the lines of Sharp Objects, Gone Girl, and Girl on the Train. Friends are accused of murdering their best friend when they were 13. Five years later, they’re thrown back together with a new clue to finding the actual murderer. Everyone’s a suspect, and everyone has something to hide. I’m usually good at figuring out these twists, but I didn’t realize who the murderer was until shortly before it was revealed, despite the well-laid clues.)

There you have it, 40 new books in 2019! My bookshelf is full in the Libby app, and I have four unread books in my den just waiting for me, so I’m looking forward to seeing how many books I can experience before the year is out!

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Sheet Pan Sausage and Veggies

Hi guys! We are all settled in to our new apartment in the Navy Yard area of D.C.–and I’m loving it so far! Our neighborhood is nicely walkable (even in this heat!) and really close to other fun neighborhoods like Capitol Hill and Eastern Market. Plus, our building has a pool, so I’ve been spending a little time up there, feeling like I’m on a true vacation (rather than technically unemployed).

Brown like Bey
#goals

Rooftop pool aside, I *love* my new kitchen. We’ve got almost double the counter space compared to our St. Louis apartment.

activities
me, every time I walk into the kitchen

I’m excited to start trying a bunch of new recipes and old favorites, but unpacking, applying for jobs, and exploring the new location has left me pooped most nights. The recipe I’m sharing today (based on this one) is a *lifesaver* for those days when you’re just too tired to get creative in the kitchen. All you have to do is chop up some veggies and sausage, toss it all with olive oil and spices, and pop it in the oven for a half hour. Presto, easy peasy, delicious dinner!

Sheet Pan Sausage and Veggies

Ingredients:

  • about 8 small potatoes, cut into small cubes (I used small white, red, and purple potatoes)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into squares
  • a handful of green beans (sorry it’s not more scientific, I literally grabbed a hearty handful from the bag)
  • 1 medium head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 2 andouille sausage links, sliced into thick coins
  • 6 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs oregano
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • Pinch red pepper flakes (up to 1/4 tsp if you prefer more heat)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF
  2. Wash and prep the veggies and sausage. Cover baking sheet in foil and spray with cooking oil.
  3. Spread prepped veggies and sausage on the baking sheet in a thin layer.
  4. Whisk the olive oil with the spices, then drizzle over the veggies and sausage. Toss gently to thoroughly coat.
  5. Roast 30 minutes, stirring/tossing once about halfway through.

Notes: We enjoyed them over spiced rice (rice seasoned with a dash of ginger, turmeric, and season salt). This could be just as good on its own, or over a bed of quinoa, barley, or other grain of choice.
You can use any veggies you prefer–asparagus would probably be really good, a little onion, maybe some spinach added immediately after removing to wilt it just a bit.
The original recipe suggested garnishing with Parmesan cheese, which I *so* wish I’d remembered to do–it was amazing without it, but come on, everything is better with cheese!
This also reheated really well the next day–I popped a plate in the microwave for a minute, which was all it needed to warm through. The sausage was a *little* dry, but not inedibly so.

Enjoy! Let me know in the comments if you give this recipe a try 🙂

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Blood and Bones: Mix 5

I’m back with another playlist of songs that I’m jamming hard to! Some are new(ish), some have been around forever. It’s not the most cohesive list, but they all make me crank up the volume!

  1. Halfway Right – Linkin Park (“All you said to do was slow down, but I was already gone…”)
  2. Reflections* – Lucidious (I’ve got to have a Lucidious song on here–I’m convinced he’s me in rapper-form: “I ask myself would I write this shit if nobody loved it?”)
  3. Hostage – Griffin Oskar (the chorus gets me belting it out like “‘Cause love don’t wanna let me leave AND-I’M-A-HOSTAGE!”)
  4. BKCBD* – The Blancos (“And we don’t know who we are, just Broken Kids Chasing Broken Dreams”)
  5. Someone to Rely On – John Allred (from the first strum, this song *feels* as reliable as the title implies. Definitely a song for every couple I’ve ever written, but especially fits for my future piratey story)
  6. Play That Song – Train (so the melody of this song is totally “borrowed” from Heart and Soul by Hoagie Carmichael, which is my #1 song for my WWII series I’ve been working on, which immediately made me love it. That it’s so peppy and fun only makes it better)
  7. Old Town Road (Remix) – Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus (this one just makes me think of the OBC–my husband’s friends from business school)
  8. Secrets – Tribe Society (this song is really badass, and one I’m definitely saving for some powerful, dark character someday)
  9. bury a friend – Billie Eilish (another fun one to bounce along to, with a kind of dark twist. Also works for Solvi heading into Book 2)
  10. Someone You Loved – Lewis Capaldi (this song gives me all the feels. Also perfect for my pirate story, but could fit Einar/Solvi, too…)
  11. Never Really Over – Katy Perry (I *adore* this song. Every shift in the music is amazing, and I love bopping around to the “just-because-it’s-over-doesn’t-mean-it’s-really-over…” part)

Like I said, it’s a weird mix, but if you’re interested in listening to the entire playlist, you can find it here.

My Husband’s Gray Hair

My husband turned 30 last week and he just found a gray hair in his beard. He was distinctly unimpressed (possibly closer to depressed) but I was excited because I’m all about that salt-and-pepper look–even if he’s currently all pepper (minus 1), or more like paprika because his beard is weirdly red (weird considering how dark his head-hair is). Another thing I don’t complain about.

Basically, I like looking at my husband.

So I missed posting on his birthday about his birthday. He’s the big 3-0, and it’s a little crazy to think he’s been alive for three whole decades. I remember when thirty was so old but now it feels like thirty is when life just starts to really begin. I’m sure I’ll have a lot more philosophical thoughts surrounding turning the dirty thirty when my birthday rolls around near the end of the year, but for now, I just wanted to publicly say a belated happiest of birthdays to my handsome, barely gray-haired man. I’m super proud of all you’ve accomplished this year, and really looking forward to what your thirties will entail!

…And her nose stuck in a book

The other night after a (very) happy hour and dinner with my husband, we stopped at our local bookstore so I could run my fingers over spines and stare, starry-eyed, at all the lovely stories I’ve yet to read, and imagine *one day* my book joining them. They had a bunch of signed copies of several books by authors I love, so I decided to buy one (because it’s the next best thing to having it autographed for me, personally). My husband held it for me as I continued to drift around, admiring the beautiful journals and St. Louis-themed children’s books, until next thing I knew, he’d bought it for me.

This seems silly writing it out, because we’re married and what’s his is mine and vice versa (he even said that as he was paying), but there’s something so magical about being gifted a book, even if it’s paid for with the same account that my money goes into. I hugged the book to my chest the entire walk home. Naturally (because, St. Louis), someone sitting outside eating ice cream spotted me carrying my new book like a precious baby and asked what book it was, so I got to make a new friend (read: admit to a stranger I had almost no idea what the book was about but it’s signed by Ally Condie and the MC’s last name is the same as my #1 fiction love’s, so I figured I’d give it a chance, and it might be about pirates?). That’s around the time I *noticed* I was still carrying the book like I was Belle from the beginning of Beauty and the Beast which of course prompted me to sing the line “and her nose stuck in a book” all the way home no matter how many times my husband sarcastically complimented my excellent singing.

In case you’re curious, the book I purchased is The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie. She wrote the Matched series, as well as an interesting, quasi-mermaid tale Atlantia that was really good.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

…you Google things like “how long to recover from a stab wound” and don’t realize it’s shady until you get a bunch of forum results urging you to go to the ER.

…you chow down on dinner as you research said stab wound and only realize that might be gross when Google decides to give you some image results.

…you’ve had just enough whiskey to find all of this very funny, but not quite enough to reassure yourself you’ll feel fine in the morning. (Pro tip: another couple sips and you won’t have to worry about that hangover until it wakes you up. BETTER pro tip: stop drinking immediately and switch to water.)

…someone says depending on what area is stabbed, it could result in loss of arm abduction and you don’t know if it’s the whiskey or a typo OR if you should be concerned about arms being abducted and the people who would mourn the loss of the opportunity for such an arm abduction.

…you start to think these last few points would fit better under a heading like “you might have had enough to drink if…” and decide to call it a night.

…you laugh at that last one because the night is a writer’s time to shine. Or at least tell herself she’s achieving her dreams as she neglects sleep and curses the job that takes up so many hours of daylight.

2019 Reading Challenge: Halfway Point!

Refresher: One of my goals this year is to read 40 new (to me) books. Not to toot my own horn, but I am #crushing this goal…

toot toot

I’m already halfway toward said goal, and nowhere near the midpoint of the year. And before anyone tries to argue that maybe some books are short/superfast reads (like the graphic novel) I’ll have you know #20 on my list was a whopper of 500+ pages (which all flew by, honestly–LOVE me some Mark Zusak!). Without further ado, here are all the lovely tales I’ve met so far this year:

  1. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards – a child born with down syndrome is sent away to be raised by the nurse who delivered her, unbeknownst to the child’s mother.
  2. The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins by Clint McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, Griffin McElroy, and Carey Pietsch – it’s the graphic novel version of their amazing podcast!
  3. Wildcard by Marie Lu – a gamer/bounty hunter is enlisted to hunt down a hacker during a worldwide tournament
  4. Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne – Jane Eyre but with spaceships!
  5. Seafire by Natalie C. Parker – All-girl pirate ship on the hunt for revenge…until they learn the captain and first mate’s brothers may still be alive and in enemy hands
  6. Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer – a twist on the Sleeping Beauty fairytale, in which Aurora has a blind sister trying to find her true love to break the sleeping spell
  7. The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donad Maass – pure writing-craft book, but some really great insights for what attracts readers to story and character
  8. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery – see this post for all my feels
  9. Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart – sisters separated by bad luck and worse consequences fight to stay alive and find a way back to each other
  10. The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman – ’nuff said, these two are the cutest and their written “oral” history is a delight
  11. Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody – intrigue, a hunt for lost loved ones, high stakes gambling
  12. Courting Darkness by Robin LeFevers – a duology quasi-spinoff of her FANTASTIC His Fair Assassins trilogy
  13. The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg – see link for my thoughts on how adorable this story is
  14. The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg – the wonderful sequel
  15. The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg – the fantastic ending
  16. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn – two women’s stories intertwine–a young woman searching for her cousin after WWII convinces an older woman, a former spy during WWI to help in her quest. Really beautifully told story based on an actual female spy-ring
  17. “I Give You My Body…” by Diana Gabaldon – full disclosure, this one is about the craft of writing sex scenes. Incredibly helpful for dialogue and action scenes as well. Maybe not so much “for fun” reading (though there are PLENTY of steamy excerpts from her Outlander and spin-off works) wink!
  18. Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman – classic western, complete with a hunt for gold, gunfights with a band of outlaws, and a sexy cowboy who doesn’t realize our MC is a girl at first…
  19. A Question of Holmes by Brittany Cavallaro – the final in her Charlotte Holmes series, one of my favorite book series I’ve come across.
  20. Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak – I’ve already mentioned how much I adore his writing style. This book is full of his poetic language as well as heartbreakingly beautiful depictions of 5 brothers raising themselves the best way they can. Lots of fist fights, swearing, and love in this book.