Rambling Recommendations: Brightly Burning

Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne was the 5th book I finished this year (because OF COURSE I’m counting) and it was such a delight.

It takes my favorite classic: Jane Eyre, teases out all the modern-day young-adult themes I know and love, and plops the storyline on a futuristic space ship orbiting Earth.

Stella, our main character, is a delightful young woman who is both bold and understands her “place” in terms of social structure. I could relate whole-heartedly to her, preferring to keep to her quarters and read or draw rather than socialize with her peers, getting brazen only under the influence of a few strong drinks, or once she’s comfortable. Hugo, the love interest (yes, that’s the role I’m designating for him–I suppose he could be a quasi-antagonist much like the Mr. Rochester he’s based upon), is mysterious and broody, maybe more handsome than the original but I let that slide. Personally, I liked the mysterious Mr. Rochester being so much older (maybe it’s my thing for Bruce Willis making age gaps feel so irrelevant), and so was a touch disappointed Hugo was around Stella’s age–but then I figured it’s way less ok for a 17-year-old to start a love affair with her older employer in this day and age than it might have been in Charlotte Brontë’s time.

I loved that this story had that comforting familiarity of a well-loved story, yet enough new twists/plot points to keep things fresh. More than once I found myself thinking “well Jane Eyre went this direction, but there’s no way for that to happen here” or “how will she handle X if Y is so different in this version?” so nothing felt stale.

If you like SciFi YA (that’s science fiction young adult, mom), hundo p–this book is for you. If you’re a fan of Jane Eyre, I’d also highly recommend this novel.

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Blood and Bones Mix 3

I may be hard at work typing my heart out, but there’s always time for music. I wouldn’t get through most days without it, let alone 30 days of isolation-style writing. So here it is. Back at it with my most recent mixtape list:

  1. Let’s Be Still – The Head and the Heart (One of the loveliest time-out-from-real-life songs I’ve ever heard)
  2. On the Line – Night Riots (My NaNoWriMo 2018 kick-off song! “Digging dreams out of the fire, feeling the doubt getting tighter, no backing down, take me higher!”)
  3. Unholy War – Jacob Banks
  4. *Starboy – The Weeknd, Daft Punk (for better or worse, this is now the song to celebrate my first draft of the Blood and Water manuscript–I just kept saying “look what I’ve done!” to the tune, which had to be followed by “I’m a muthafckn starboy!” PS those are pretty much the only lyrics I understand which makes me feel super-old but it doesn’t stop me from loving the beat)
  5. Stomp Me Out – Bryce Fox
  6. Smoked Out of Heaven – Saint Claire (“All of those tiny hollows”…Possibly my favorite song ever. Broken and beautiful and so poetic…and, not that this will mean anything to anyone but my mom–yet–but it is also a perfect song for my main character towards the end of Book 1/start of Book 2)
  7. The Sound of Silence – Disturbed (sorry Simon & Garfunkel, this version gives me chills every time)
  8. Come Follow Me Down – George Taylor (Fun fact: this music video has snakes in it, so now we’re all stuck waiting until enough time has passed for the video to end before I click back into YouTube to look for the next video…)
    snakes
  9. Bury Me Face Down – grandson
  10. Gladiator – Zayde Wølf (find me a better pump-up song, I dare you!)
  11. Marble Floors – Vian Izak, Through Juniper Vale (oh, the whimsy)
  12. Demons – Jacob Lee

You can find the full YouTube list here. If you missed my previous playlists and are interested, you can find Mix 1 here and Mix 2 here.

Some Pretty Awesome Lipstick

Everyone’s always asking me about my lipstick.

Ok, that’s not true at all, but I’m going to tell you about it anyway because people SHOULD be asking me about it. If you like matte lips, listen up!

On a whim, I gave this Maybelline SuperStay Matte Ink Lip Color a try (currently buy one get one 1/2 off on Ulta!) and GUYS! It’s pretty freaking awesome.

Maybe I should have said up front, but this is not a sponsored ad. I did not get payment or free products or anything of the kind to write this post (although, hey, Maybelline, I will gladly try any products you throw my way. Just sayin’). That is how much I love this product.

I purchased the shades Dreamer and Loyalist. Loyalist is a little *too* nude for my taste, but it looks great under an otherwise too-pink shade of lipstick I have.

Here are a few photos of me in my SuperStay lip color.

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Please disregard the SuperShine on my nose

 

(This is after I brushed my teeth!):

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(and this is me in real time — as of typing this — after a lunch of tacos and pizza [it was a great lunch day, okay]):

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It literally lasts all day. Full disclosure, I usually need to scrub it off with a muslin cloth and some make up remover after my normal makeup-removing-routine. But personally, I’d take that to having half-filled-in lips after my morning cup of tea.

 

February Fashion: Part 2

To see where this started, check out this post.

The second half of this month, I’ve tried to be good about re-wearing pieces I love to maximize the number of outfits I can get out of them. I also tried to get a grip on the athleisure trend (why can I not figure out how to look uber-casually glam? probably because I try too hard)…that’s one I’m still working on.

Basically just outfits with leggings…

The weather has been a little crazy…going from 70s to 30s in the space of a day (sometimes in the space of a few hours). Virtually nothing was off-limits in my closet this month. Lightweight cardigans and ankle pants to heavy sweaters and knee-high boots, I’ve worn it all!

2/15-2/19 (minus the attempt at athleisure over the weekend)

While challenging, the crazy weather also made outfit planning more fun, forcing me to get a little more creative than usual.

2/20-2/25

Now for a couple of shameless plugs: most of my wardrobe comes from either ThredUp or Stitch Fix. Shop either site using those links and we both save some dollars! I love that I can find great prices for (gently used) quality clothing from ThredUp — most recently, that dusty pink sweater I’m obsessed with came from ThredUp for about $10. And Stitch Fix is a great service that helps me push my fashion boundaries and try new trends in pieces that are flattering on my body (that mustard shirt is one I never would have thought to try for myself). Look for my follow up post tomorrow with more details about each site!

 

2/26-2/28 — Not my favorites

 

Rambling Reviews: Secondborn

**This contains a few spoilers, though — as I’ll go into more below — nothing really felt like a “big reveal” enough to qualify protecting the details**

For July’s “Kindle First” book, I chose Secondborn by Amy Bartol. An aside — Kindle First is possibly my favorite part of being an Amazon Prime member, since I get a free book each month before it’s released to the public. It’s currently $4.99 otherwise.

I love the concept of the story: Firstborns are basically royalty, secondborns are servants and soldiers, thirdborns are illegal and therefore destroyed. Of course, Secondborn follows one such secondborn, Roselle, as she acclimates to her new life as a member of the Fates Army. Since she’s the daughter of one of the highest leaders of the society, she’s something of a celebrity, making her transition into the ranks that much harder.

Bartol’s world-building is pretty phenomenal. I love the different “trees” everyone lives in, and the imaginative technology. After finishing this book, I read that she is well-known for her fantastic worlds, and this time was no exception.

World-building aside, this book felt more like a rough first draft than anything. The relationships are hurried and there is very little depth to Roselle. I liked Hawthorne as a potential love interest, but as soon as I’d thought that, he was declaring his love and they were in this intense physical relationship that just felt strange. Then a year passes (denoted by “one year later”), in which an actual relationship could have developed more naturally between them — complete with the slow, delicious build up of more and more physical affection — and I might have felt more invested when he was suddenly ripped away from her.

She seems to attract every handsome male in her vicinity. That didn’t exactly bug me — after all, her life had been broadcast since a child, and it’s insinuated she’s very pretty — but I couldn’t tell how she felt back. There’s a lot of exposition and “telling” rather than showing, but I don’t feel like I ever really saw inside Roselle’s head.

The whole thing ends rather abruptly, in what feels like the middle of a conversation. There’s no resolution of a goal — and in retrospect, I’m not even sure what Roselle’s goals as a character were for this story. Too many questions were left unanswered, and more cropped up with such a quick ending.

All that being said, if the second book shows up as a free option, I might check it out. There’s so much potential for a great series. The characters can be fleshed out more, given actual motivations and backstory and their relationships and interactions to flow more naturally. The underlying concept of the story has potential to generate enticing plot lines. And like I said earlier, the world itself is fascinating. The first book was just too rushed and disjointed for me to recommend it.

Writing vs. Typing

I’ve made a commitment to myself to write 200 words or more each day. For the past two weeks, I’ve kept it. Most days, I’m able to write a lot more than 200 words, which is great. But on those days where I’m busy or exhausted or not feeling it for whatever reason, 200 is a pretty small number I can reach fairly quickly, even if I end up scrapping everything in a revision. It’s a way to hit a goal no matter how great or blah I’m feeling each day.

When I say I’ve done it every day, I should clarify that some days I hand-write and other days I type, so I don’t get an accurate count on the hand-written days. My husband and I share a computer and he has school work to do, so we have to take turns and the computer isn’t always available when I’m feeling most creative.

I used to hand-write everything for a first draft. I have entire novels in smudged ink and loose-leaf pages, packed away in boxes. I’m not sure if it’s laziness or efficiency that has shifted my preference toward typing. It saves time — I’m not writing essentially the same thing twice — and makes editing, tracking progress, and fitting together story bits so much easier.

But this week, being “forced” to return to handwriting parts of my story has reminded me of the art I fell in love with. There’s something beautiful about the connection between ink and paper, the power and vulnerability of a creator.

For the sake of time, especially when I have a long scene developing in my mind, I’ll choose typing into a computer, but when I have the time to let my mind — and pen — wander, I’ll indulge in the art form of my predecessors and carry the inkstains on my fingers for days.

The Meaning of Burnt and Toasted

Question for you: when you pop bread into the toaster, at what point do you consider it “toasted”? And what constitutes “burnt”?

I ask because, to me, it’s pretty straightforward: burnt is black and toasted is golden brown.

To my husband, anything darker than the lightest yellow-gold color is burnt. He likes his “toast” warm, maybe a tad hardened, not-quite-golden. When I make grilled cheese and the bread turns brown in the pan, he says I’ve burned it.

Somewhat related, we’ve been on a pretzel-kick lately. It started in Charleston, were we visited many brewery-type places offering pretzels on the menu. My favorite in Charleston came from the Lagunitas Charleston Taproom & Beer Sanctuary (yes that really is the name of the restaurant. I’m sorry, “Beer Sanctuary”). The pretzel was dark brown, crunchy on the outside, steaming hot and chewy on the inside. Perfection. My husband was not impressed. He enjoyed the pretzels we ordered at the Gin Joint: the lightest shade of gold, soft and fluffy throughout.

Recently, we were in Rehoboth Beach, DW, at Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats when (of course) we ordered the pretzel bites. They came out golden to dark brown, a slightly hard coating with a hot, chewy center. The way a pretzel should be. My husband took one bite and said “Too bad they’re burnt.” I explained that pretzels aren’t meant to be like a buttered roll any more than toast is meant to be slightly warmed bread. This led to a discussion of the definitions of “burnt” and “toasted” and the fact that sometimes it depends on a person’s preferences and sometimes said person just doesn’t understand facts or cooking terminology or what makes a damn good pretzel.