new beginnings | #CuriousWrenCurrentAdventures

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Currently:

Today is a snow day of snow days (which means getting to stay home from work & sleep in) and everything outside is white + wild + beyond freezing cold. But inside the house it’s cozy, and I’m nestled in my favorite corner of our vintage couch. There’s a fluffy cat wrapped around my shoulders, and she’s begging for attention which means I have to stop typing every few minutes and give her pats or I get nothing done. At my elbow is a mug of mint hot chocolate with a candy cane perched jauntily on the rim–it smells like happiness. By mutual consent of everyone in the family our Christmas tree still stands, and the glow of its colorful lights add an extra layer of hygge to my surroundings.

(*note: I’m scheduling this post for tomorrow morning so this all pertains to monday afternoon)

Thinking about:

My future, a simultaneously thrilling and terrifying subject // the marvelous fact that baby bears exist + they are ridiculously adorable. my youngest sister has been watching a nature show (narrated by David Tennant using his Scottish accent!) so I have bears, seals, and sea otters on the brain // food, because I’m getting peckish and I still have some ramen stashed in the kitchen. It mightn’t be the healthiest life choice but it tastes, oh, so delicious // how important it is to portray healthy friendships in entertainment media… I think there’s going to be a blog series on my favorite friends in books, etc, sometime soon // comedy done well is a GIFT (see P.G. Wodehouse and Charles Dickens // refusing to worry about missing a day of work since I’ve been trying hard lately to re-cultivate a mindset of embracing life in the moment and not letting stress eat away my peace of mind or affect my enjoyment of small, simple pleasures. It’s an on-going battle, but it’s important for my mental health and how it affects the people around me.

Reading:

Pickwick Papers. Since it’s a giant book I’ll probably read Anne of Ingleside simultaneously. I’m following my winter TBR list closely which I’m happy about since usually when I make TBR lists I forget all about them after a few days. It’s taking a bit of time to re-adjust to Dickens’ writing style, but I’m starting to remember how much I enjoy his books (it’s been ages since I’ve read one of his doorstoppers). I’m only a couple chapters in, but the misunderstanding between a gentleman and Mr. Winkle that nearly resulted in a duel had me in stitches. Have I mentioned how much I adore the oddity of Dickens’ characters? It’s too delicious for words.

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Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

Listening to:

A playlist for my book about a young mute girl and her magical cat– there’s songs from the Piano Guys (What Makes You Beautiful, Over the Rainbow/Simple Gifts), lots of soundtrack music (mostly from Pixar + Dreamworks movies & Paddington), and a goodish amount of playful Kdrama OST selections. The playlist as a whole has a cheerful, mischievous vibe with a hint of melancholy. It reminds me of summer & ice-cream cones enjoyed at a zoo & the sound of rain pattering on rooftops & how tree leaves glow bright green when seen from underneath on a sunny day.

Words percolating:

These verses from the beginning of Proverbs chapter 3; “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” There’s such love and comfort in the beautiful promise these words hold. I’ve been clinging to them lately since this new year has shredded my confidence in some ways and revealed insecurities and fears I didn’t even know I had. Feel free to pray for me if you think of it, lovelies.

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Photo by Anton Kraev on Unsplash

Mood:

A cat when they’re snuggled up on a minky blanket and nobody is bothering them.

Loving:

Over-the-knee cabled wool socks // the breathtaking beauty of a snow-clad landscape // the fact that my entire family (including my Grandma) now shares my love for Kdramas–quality TV shows FTW // the way a stranger’s face lights up when you sincerely compliment them // my tiny niece when she slips up next to me after church and asks for a story-telling session // Christmas lights–I refuse to say goodbye to the festive season // books that crack you wide open and make you cry // songs that feel like home // this article about coffee shops in Ireland. the wanderlust is real and I want to go // impromptu meet-ups with friends you haven’t seen in months // unexpected mail // expected packages // when a sunday school student shyly gifts you a handful of pebbles they thought you’d like. excuse me while I have a melt-down over the sweetness // people who let you go ahead of them in the line at grocery stores // wandering in bookshops //

Thankful for:

Warm blankets, socks, hot chocolate, and hoodies the color of a Floridian sky // music // my laptop, even though I need a new one // being able to write books // we finally have snow! and lots of it // that my Heavenly father never gives up on me no matter how stubborn I am.

Anticipating:

New beginnings. I have a lot of plans & hopes for this year, and important changes that I’m already starting to implement // birdsong. even though I’m not ready for spring by any means, I do miss hearing the birds sing in the morning // the ramen I’ll be eating for supper in a few minutes // also after this I’m going to write a card to a friend which is always something to look forward to // a trip I’ll be taking in February. it’s just a little jaunt over a few days, but hopefully it’ll soothe my longing to travel for a bit.

What are your current happenings & adventures? Let’s chat!

hefty tomes + cozy children’s books // the Curious Wren’s winter TBR tower

Whenever I write my seasonal TBR lists I usually have a few books that, to me, are most suited for specific times of the year: The Wind in the Willows for spring, The Phantom of the Opera for autumn, etc. Winter, on the flip-side, is the only season when it’s not so much about specific books (although, I do re-read A Christmas Carol every December) but rather literature that’s quintessentially cozy + hearty. The biting cold + howling winds are perfect for making me want to burrow in a nest of blankets while I indulge in hefty classics, and children’s books that I’ve loved since I was a tiny munchkin. I’ve already re-read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and, even though they’re not written on the list, I’ll also be enjoying Agatha Christie mysteries (when am I not) and Angela Thirkell’s slice-of-life British stories.

winter TBR tower

(optimism and enthusiasm intensifies)

Les Miserables (Victor Hugo). I’ve promised myself I’ll finish Les Mis this year. That sounds like I’m struggling to read it or not enjoying it when I do, but I promise you when I pick the book up it’s amazing. The problem is I haven’t been reading it steadily and every time I tuck it back on my shelf I forget about it. Maybe I’ll have to lug it everywhere with me (never going to happen since it’s a massive doorstopper) or keep it somewhere conspicuous in our house.

The Great Divorce (C.S. Lewis). I’ve never read any of Lewis’ nonfiction books even though I’ve wanted to for years. Nonfiction (particularly the theological sort) intimidates me and makes me feel very smol + as if I possess only a single braincell. BUT I realise discomfort in growth is an important part of the process so I’m being brave this year. My plan is to read TGD in as hygge-like a setting as pos. (think cozy blankets, spiced apple tea, and fairy lights) because if my mind is wrestling with deep books I am absolutely going to be comfy whilst doing so. And after The Great Divorce, I have a whole list of intellectual reading to dive into.

Every time I discuss my plans to read nonfic books, I feel like Emma Woodhouse, “… so that I might not be so uneducated compared to Jane Fairfax.”

Sugar Creek Gang series (Paul Hutchens). ack, these books! I love, love, love them. They’re deeply relatable, humorous, easily devoured in one day, and probably taught me more about friendship + people + life truths growing up than anything else I read. It’s one of those series that’s so close to my heart, and influenced me in so many ways it’s difficult to put into words. I gifted myself a goodish portion of the series after Christmas–thus far I’ve already re-read two books and been bowled over by the happy feels.

Louisiana’s Way Home (Kate Dicamillo). Just thinking about reading another DiCamillo book gives me warm fuzzies. I’ve already heard such high praise for Home from my sisters (also this lovely) and I’m only waiting for the perfect day to make a cup of decadent hot chocolate + crack open my copy (it’s signed by the author. yes, I cried happy tears when it was gifted to me).

The Pickwick Papers (Charles Dickens). Good, old Dickens. I miss his books like missing a dear friend when you’ve gone months without a meet-up. Since I’ve never actually read Pickwick (I can hear Certain Friends of Mine sputtering in disbelief as I type this) I think it’s high time I change that before my badge as a Dickens fan is taken away.

A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens). No explanation required, but let me say that Sydney Carton breaks my heart, and this book is a masterpiece I will cry over for the rest of my life with no regrets.

The Wonderful Garden or The Three C’s (E. Nesbit). E. Nesbit’s books are the epitome of coziness + childhood nostalgia with lovable, heart-warming characters everywhere. I’ve only ever heard the audiobook of Three C’s (which is pure magic) on LibriVox, however, one of my sisters owns a copy which I’m going to stealthily transfer to my bookcase as soon as I have the opportunity.

Anne of Ingleside (L.M. Montgomery). I finally finished re-reading Anne’s House of Dreams in December (hopefully next time reading it will be less arduous) and Ingleside is next up in my read-through of the Anne books. It’s one of my favorites in the series–the children are all darlings–and the shenanigans and humor are wonderful. Montgomery’s books are a gift to this world, lovelies.

The Thief Lord (Cornelia Funke). This is here primarily to please my two younger sisters. They’ve been telling me I need to read it and I keep on forgetting the book exists so on the list it goes to remind me. I like Funke’s writing style and the Inkheart trilogy (Dustfinger! Be still my beating heart) and since Thief Lord is set in winter it seems apropos. also if I don’t read it soon I might never be heard from again, and you’ll know who the culprits are.

The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett): Have I ever mentioned how much I adore this book? It’s another of those childhood books that I’ve read multiple times, heard on audio during car rides, seen various adaptions of, and sat listening breathlessly with my siblings while Mother read it aloud. It’s woven into my soul in a special way that only books that came alive to you in your childhood can be. Technically it’s a book that ought to be read in the springtime, but I miss it. (If you’ve never read or owned Secret Garden before, gift yourself a copy of the edition illustrated by Tasha Tudor. They’re perfection.)

What books are you enjoying right now? Do you have specific reads you re-visit every winter?

chocolate chips + kdramas // a glimpse into my life currently, feat. Q & A session with Myself

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Hello, lovelies! Look who didn’t actually fall off the face of the earth!

really, I did, but the moon is lonely and there’s no pizza so I’m back

I’ve been absent from Curious Wren long enough that the idea of blogging is ridiculously intimidating, but here I am [rewards self with hot cider]. Because it’s been ages since I’ve blogged regularly and I wanted to re-introduce myself somehow to all of my lovely followers and friends (a.k.a YOU)…

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… I came up with the brilliant idea of a fun Q & A session with Yours Truly. But I didn’t know what questions to use so I asked for help on Twitter and you all were delightfully responsive. [virtual hugs + chocolate for everyone]

Never fear, I’m here to quench your burning curiosity about what books I’m currently reading, which Doctor Who companion I’d want to be best friends with, when I last ate chocolate chips, and what my Top Five Kdrama list looks like. Read on, my dear cacao beans.

Q & A session w/Annie Hawthorne

I feel like I’m interrogating myself, yIKES

Your favorite summer order at a coffee shop? Your fave winter order?

Oh, help.

It depends on where I’m ordering. In the winter I gravitate toward chai teas and coffee with chocolate + mint. There’s a coffee shoppe not far from my workplace with an intimate, bookish ambiance–I frequent it often, ordering a 12 oz. latte because I’m a light-weight when it comes to caffeine, and cozying up at a table to read and write and people-watch. In the summer I adore smoothies, particularly ones with strawberries and citrus. Panera has a caffe mocha that’s illegally delicious when you get it frozen.

When was the last time you had chocolate chips?

Okay, best question ever.

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Yesterday afternoon I snacked on some of the leftover chocolate chip brownies I’d made for my sunday school munchkins, and my sister is planning on making cookies soon which means there’s choc. chip cookie dough in my future. Balm in Gilead, darlings.

What is your ideal summer aesthetic?

1) I’m in the car post-beach trip. The sun sets in a blaze of pinkish-orange glory on the distant horizon, the windows are down and I can smell hay fields + sun-warmed skin. Wind whips my hair in my face, so I hold it back with one hand and stick the other out the window. My siblings are there with me, and we sing along at the top of our lungs to everything from Disney songs to Gaelic music of which pronunciation we slaughter unabashedly. Probably the First Younger Sister is still finishing her ice-cream cone and by now it’s dripping down her wrist and all of us are cracking up with laughter because that’s what siblings do. We are happy, in love with life and God and each other.

2) it’s dusk, and we’re gathered around the bonfire, some people in lawn chairs, others on a dead tree trunk that’s been a fireside bench as long as I can remember. Maybe we finally got around to burning the Christmas tree or maybe it’s just a special friday night. The flames lick at hot dogs and marshmallows. As twilight deepens into night, the cats roam about in the shadows beyond the leaping fire like silent, friendly ghosts. We draw close while Dad reads a short story–the only sound his warm, strong voice and the crackle-pop of the fire. Someone breaks out the sparklers and someone else starts chasing fireflies while Mum cuddles the smallest nephew. My older brother and I have an impromptu race out into the fields behind our house, and finally end up far out under the vast expanse of the starry sky, laughing and stumbling–happy to do nothing but look at the milky way and remember how to breathe and imagine, for a few fleeting seconds, that we’re children again. Later we all sit in the dim glow of the flickering embers and talk, sometimes telling stories, sometimes reminiscing, sometimes just sitting in companionable silence. We are thankful and we are content.

At what age did you come to have a personal relationship with Jesus, and do you have special memories of that time or event?

My personal epiphany that I was a sinner happened when I was quite young (I was a rebellious, unholy terror & I knew it), repentance I also comprehended quickly since I was consistently regretful of my naughty self and always wanting to change and be better and different; realizing that my choice of heaven or hell was literally in my own hands took me longer to understand.

I ended up being six years old when I prayed & asked Jesus to be my personal Savior and friend. It was on a wednesday night and I must have been sick because Mum and I stayed home from church–I recall it was dark and Mummy was singing me to sleep when I started asking her questions about hell and heaven + how exactly I could avoid the one and go to the other, because I knew without a shade of doubt that I was going to hell and I wasn’t partial to the idea. I don’t have a lot of memories beyond my prayer, but I do remember how relieving it was to know that God forgave me no matter what I did and how comforting it was knowing that I was never alone and always safe–no matter how scary the dark was, or how intimidating other children were.

Now that I’m older and much more experienced in life–with my heart deeply hurt multiple times and my soul trampled on–I’m slowly beginning to understand the thankfulness + awe that’s shown in three of the most wonderful verses written in the Bible.

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 8: 38-39

“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” ~ 2 Corinthians 9: 15

What are you currently reading? Currently watching? Currently listening to?

Right now I’m reading far too many books: six to be exact. I have a bad habit of reading multiple books at once which means it takes me longer to finish anything, but I usually finish 2-3 simultaneously so hopefully it all balances out? Currently I’m re-reading Jane of Lantern Hill and falling deeper in love with the evocative, stinging beauty + truth + homey-ness of Montgomery’s writing. I recently picked up The Killer Angels at the Gettysburg Nation Military Park bookstore and I’m loving it to pieces. The story of Gettysburg is one I know by heart but actually reading Killer Angels brings the heroism and heartache of the Civil War alive in a way that’s already making me cry–I’m only in chapter three for goodness sakes. Besides those two I have bookmarks in Northbridge Rectory (Angela Thirkell), Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), Fawkes (Nadine Brandes), Les Miserables (Victor Hugo) and I’m going to start The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis) because obv. I need to be reading a seventh book. what is wrong with me, help

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I’m always currently listening to The Piano Guys, select songs by Celtic Woman, Peter Hollens, and Two Steps from Hell (despite the shocking name, about sixty percent of their music is gorgeous sweeping instrumentals that make you want to create beauty + fight battles + snuggle babies + cry). Right now I’m also compiling a playlist of Korean drama OSTs, etc.

As for what I’m watching, there is a new slew of autumnal kdramas airing and I’ve picked up a couple, dropped some, and have plans to check out a few more as time allows. The Ghost Detective is thoroughly creeping me out in the best of ways and I can’t decide if I regret my life choices or not re: watching it (although, tbh, any drama ft. a scruffy, swoony Daniel Choi can’t be a bad choice). It’s perfect for curling up with a bowl of ramen but I refuse to watch it at nighttime to avoid giving myself nightmares. I just started Terius Behind Me last weekend and I think I’m in love. It’s espionage comedy at its finest with a semi-retired legendary spy babysitting chaotic twins for their extremely relatable widowed mother (Jung In-sun is flawless in every single one of her works I’ve watched) and there’s heaps of shenanigans + hilarious, heartwarming scenes everywhere.

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why do I get invested in things so fast, it’s embarrassing

Top book you’ve read this year?

Hmm… War of Loyalties. It has a special place in my heart and I can’t even talk about it without wanting to cry. I think because the characters are v. alive to me and I’m so fond of them it’s sometimes painful, and also because it’s written by one of my dearest friends and it is a genuinely beautiful, good book with one of the best, most lovable main characters I’ve ever encountered.

I want to hug it–oh, and adopt Starlin & be best friends with Ben & bicker with Jaeryn (because as much as I swoon over him, in real life we would be the type of friends who’d knock heads about everything but would probably die for each other).

Please tell us which is your #1 favorite Korean drama?

Land o’ Goshen, how do I narrow it down to one favorite??? I’m going to cheat and pick Top Favorite(s) per genre:

Mystery/Crime/Investigative: Bad Guys (not to be confused with Bad Guys: City of Evil). It’s gritty, fascinating, and the bromance is everything I hoped for. Runner Up, I Remember You or else Life on Mars both of which are shows to write home about. It’s probably telling of my tastes as a person that all three kdramas make me cry + have epic male friendships.

Action: Two Weeks. Sweetest Dad-Daughter dynamic in the history of tv shows + antiheroes + Lee Jun-ki. Excuse me whilst I fangirl over my favorite Korean actor for a minute.

Fantasy (ish): While You Were Sleeping. More thoughts on that here, although I need to devote a more thorough post to this excellent drama sometime. Runner Up, Goblin.

Science fiction: Circle: Two Worlds Connected. I watched it whilst it was airing and, let me tell you, my stress levels were at an all time high (those cliffhangers wHY) and I cried like a baby in the last two episodes. Probably one of the best stories about brothers that I’ve watched in my life. Runner Up, I am not a Robot (which is actually more rom-com than science, but, oh, well.)

Comedy: Woohoo Waikiki or Go Go Waikiki. Disclaimer: this show has a lot of crude humor and some scenes/side plots that it could’ve done without–nothing that can’t be skipped though. That aside, it’s possibly the most heart-warming, relatable comedy I’ve watched, showcasing wonderful, resilient friendships and actual dialogue gems about life that made me cry (I never expected to cry in this, but what can I say; apparently, I’m an emotional viewer). Don’t watch this while you’re eating, because the chances of choking from laughter are high.

School/coming-of-age: School 2013 which has basically the most precious, feels-inducing bromance/friendships that exist, besides Samwise and Frodo in LOTR. Runner Up, Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju.

Slice of Life: Your House Helper. I never knew a TV show could be so restful and healing. This is a beautifully crafted drama about life and learning to stand up for yourself + how to give yourself grace as a person (whether you’re struggling with mental health or job-hunting or loss or unrequited love). It’s just sweet, and because of it I have a few growth marks on my soul that weren’t there before.

This list will probably look v different in a couple years, ask me again in 2020. Also, if you’re interested in any of these dramas, feel free to ask me about them! Come to the dark side, we have cookies & crying sessions & intellectual discussions & way too many feelings.

What’s the story you’ve written/are writing that you are most pleased and proud about?

The story I’m most proud of is one I’m currently writing about a mute girl and a magical cat. Something about it feels right and I can’t wait for it to make friends with the bookworm world someday.

What got you into kdramas and what are your top five shows?

I blame Mirriam Neal for this. All my pain and tortured feels are 100% her fault. [blows kisses in her direction] At the moment my top five shows are, in no particular order:

  • Life on Mars.
  • I Remember You/Hello Monster.
  • While You Were Sleeping.
  • School 2013.
  • Bad Guys.

What are your favorite books of all time?

The Hobbit. Always The Hobbit first of all. I genuinely do not remember a time when I didn’t know about Bilbo and Gandalf and Gollum–I was four years old when we named a bunny after Bilbo and I was already well-acquainted with his character by that point so I assume I was a smol baby when Mother started her tradition of reading The Hobbit aloud to us each year. Other all-time favorite books are:

  • A Christmas Carol
  • The Wind in the Willows
  • Jane of Lantern Hill
  • Halo: Ghosts of Onyx
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • War of Loyalties
  • The Blue Castle
  • Lord of the Rings
  • The Code of the Woosters
  • Flora & Ulysses
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • Peter Pan
  • North and South
  • basically all the Pooh Bear books
  • The Secret Garden
  • The Silver Chair
  • Little Women
  • I, Juan de Pareja
  • Paddington
  • Jane Eyre
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
  • The Hiding Place

I suppose I should stop now.

If you could have one Doctor Who companion for a best friend, which one would it be?

As much as I love all the companions, I would probably pick Martha or Rory. I have too many negative similarities to Donna, Amy, and Clara so I don’t know if we would necessarily get along as best friends. Martha would be amazing though (she’s seriously underrated and it’s the saddest thing) and Rory is such a nice, lovable, down-to-earth fellow–I feel we’d be good friends.

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Do you listen to music while you write?

Nearly always, yes. Silence is too distracting because it’s like being in a hollow cavern with noises echoing everywhere. I like to write with people around me, but if I don’t keep my earbuds in they start talking to me and there goes my focus. I prefer instrumental music because lyrics distract me, but if they’re in a different language (say, Gaelic or Korean) then all’s fine and dandy. Some of my favorite instrumentals to accompany my writing are Doctor Who soundtracks, basically anything by John Williams or Howard Shore, and select songs by Two Steps from Hell (we just call it TSFH) e. g. Homecoming, For the Win, Compass, Never Give up on Your Dreams & Protectors of the Earth.

Cats? Dragons? Baby Griffins? Foxes?

All of them. I’m especially partial to merch with raccoons + red pandas + foxes. And I’m going to own no less than three cats someday. I have names picked out and everything; there’ll be the Queen of Sheba, Piccadilly, and Samwise. Other options include Kwazii, Mowgli, Incorrigible Creature, Pippin, Gentleman Tom, Professor Potts, etc. I think about my future felines’ names more than I think about my future children’s. this is normal.

What about you, friendlies? What are you currently reading? And what is your Book of the Year so far? Let’s chat!

mayhem and whimsy // the Curious Wren’s summer TBR tower

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Despite the fact that it’s already mid-July how can this be possible say it isn’t so I’ve finally written down a list of books I’m eager to read over the summer. Some are special favorites, some are brand-new (as in Just Published) and others are books I’ve been intending to finish for weeks now and this is my final nudge of “Annie, stop prevaricating (such a good, stimulating word) and READ THE bOoKs ALREADY.”

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This is one of my traditional summer reads–it has all the essence of childhood nostalgia, dripping glasses of ice-cold lemonade on sultry afternoons, cicadas singing, the low hum of a battered, oscillating fan, sepia-colored tones, and learning how to understand pain & people & hope.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes. I actually pre-ordered it which tells you everything you need to know about my level of excitement for this magical twist on the story of Guy Fawkes. Plus Nadine Brandes has the sweetest heart for her fans + she’s highly relatable so I’m over the moon about being able to support her. It’s a nice thing when one has favorite authors that are actually, y’know, alive and in the same century that felt dark oops.

The Unmapped Sea by Maryrose Wood. It’s the last book I have to re-read before I can pick up the finale of the series (silent flailing). The Incorrigible Children and their brave, kind governess “Lumawoo” are such precious gingersnaps, ohmyheart.

The Long-Lost Home by Maryrose Wood. (see above) I’ve loved this series since the first book caught my eye at the library nine years ago. I’ve counted down the days as each book was released, and I’m high-key emotional at the thought of the series ending. Excuse me whilst I go have a smol moment of weeping.

Joshua L. Chamberlain: The Life in Letters of a Great Leader of the American Civil War by  Thomas A. Desjardin. Chamberlain is one of my favorite historical heroes, to put it mildly. Since I might have the chance this year to visit some of the key locations in the life of this incredible man, I figured a bit more knowledge about him wouldn’t be a bad idea. Really though, the writer-side of me is squealing at the thought of reading someone’s private letters (a thing I’ve never done) and having the opportunity to discover fascinating insights about their character; how they thought, and felt, what their dreams and fears were. It’s like a treasure hunt, but better.

Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery. I’m re-reading the Anne series and I am Stuck. I devoured the first four books & loved them more than ever, but for some reason Anne’s House of Dreams aggravates me every time I pick it up. Even my perennial favorites, Captain Jim and Miss Cornelia, are not enough to entice me to finish the book. It’s terrible.

Mossflower by Brian Jacques. Per my Youngest Sister’s recommendation I’m reading the Redwall books for the first time BUT I’m reading them in chronological order. So far I’ve read Lord Brocktree and Martin the Warrior (this one scarred me forever but I love it). Now I’m in the middle of Mossflower and currently my favorite character is Gonff the King of Mouse Thieves… which probably means he’ll die by the end of the book. Brian Jacques is a cruel, cruel author, lovelies.

Crowning Heaven by Emily Hayse. a) portal fantasy with one of my favorite heroines, b) I had the privilege of beta-reading this when it was still in the refining stage–there’s something special about holding a book in your hands and knowing you helped it become the best version of itself.

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. Anybody acquainted with me knows how much I adore Alice in Wonderland and, therefore, is likely as perplexed as I am that I haven’t read the sequel yet. Bring on the mayhem & whimsy.

Am I being overly optimistic with this list?

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Am I hyped to take it on anyways?

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What’s on YOUR summer TBR list? Let’s chat!

 

 

Blog Tour: Crowning Heaven // feat. the evolution of a character in the words of her author

When my lovely + talented friend Emily Hayse asked for volunteers to help out in a blog tour for her debut YA portal fantasy novel, I jumped at the chance. Ever since I had the privilege to beta-read Crowning Heaven a year or so ago, the heroine Heaven (let’s just appreciate the unique beauty of that name for a moment) has been one of my favorite characters; shining out like a steady, sweet light amongst all the other book-people that have laid claim to my affections over the years.

Today we get to find out how Heaven came into existence and enjoy a glimpse of her journey into the world of Grown Up + Published Books.

Introducing Heaven (as written by Emily Hayse)

Crowning Heaven Aethetic - Heaven

I distinctly remember: I met Heaven on a cold, gray afternoon in December. I stepped into a small, empty establishment called Madelyn’s for a hair cut with my younger sister. She went first, and I sat down to wait.  “You can look at the magazines,” encouraged the stylist. “See if any styles in there strike your fancy.”  I knew what I wanted, but I picked them up anyway.  After a few minutes I realized that Carrie Mulligan, sporting a lovely blonde pixie was in almost every one of them.  I had seen her in a couple things before. A friend had mentally casted her as a character in her book. I thought it was cute and set down the magazines to get my hair cut.  But the vision of a smiling girl with dimples and a blonde pixie followed me around for the rest of the day.

fun fact: Heaven has no middle name, and her mother was originally a morally gray character who deliberately abandoned Heaven on Earth.

I was restless. I had just finished NaNoWriMo, I was working on a historical fiction tome set on a British Ship in the seventeenth century. But there was something, something big, lurking in the back of my mind.

That night it clicked into place in my mind. I never remember the clicks really–the moment where it turns from random floating pieces to a solid project that I can build on is usually a black hole of vagueness. But that night, the small blonde girl in the pixie with the dimples got a story.  And I wrote, swiftly, in a beautiful blue notebook that had been gifted me for Christmas, before I forgot the words as they flew into my head: I write in feverish haste. The world is slipping away. I am greeted by the light of a million unknown stars…farewell, Earth! Farewell! 

I wrote notes frantically on note-cards before church the next morning, after church I started a Pinterest board. When a book takes me, it really takes me. I kept the project secret for a while as I usually do, and slowly Heaven and her world took form.

fun facts: Heaven had a temporary foster brother named Chan, who was adopted from China. She loves books, especially fiction, and she does not like fake cheese.

Heaven is a cellist. She is an ex-foster child. She is a lover of vanilla lattes. From a very young age she’s had to fend for herself, even in the context of foster care, and so she’s quite independent by the time we meet her and she has come to terms with grief and regret. Her music is her refuge and a good deal of her income. I do not consider myself a cellist, but it is agreed on by many musicians I’ve met that if they could start over again, they would become cellists.  Maybe in that way I made her the coolest thing I knew how to make. But it was not a conscious decision. She literally walked into the book with her cello over her shoulder and ordered a vanilla latte and I’ve been trying to keep up ever since.  If you want something fun, most of the songs Heaven plays on her cello are on my Official Crowning Heaven Spotify playlist, so you can look them up as you read the book.

fun fact: Heaven came to love vanilla lattes because her foster father, Mr. DeKlyen would buy her one on the way home from cello lessons if she practiced every day that week.

cROWNING

It was February when the very first person besides myself met Heaven. I was going to a friend’s concert with my older sister, just the two of us, and she, being a clever sort of girl, could tell that I had been keeping a new project under wraps and had not been sharing it. She always figures it out. We were in a clunky van on a cold day, listening to Homecoming, because though I had heard it and fallen in love in the context of Crowning Heaven, everyone else liked it because it was pretty.  We were listening to it on repeat when she asked. I had the notebook with me, I carried it everywhere. So I read the beginning, and she met Heaven. And she fell in love.  “Emily, this is the book you should publish first, I’m serious.”

It was that simple. The real journey began.

Heaven’s birthday is on June 24th. After writing along (rather slowly at times) for a while, I decided in May that I was going to finish the book on her birthday, which I did. It was a beautiful, long day where I wrote 7K by hand and finished at one in the morning, crying over my manuscript.  To me, Heaven personifies quiet and gentle courage. Not the sort that draws attention to itself, but that tries in its small way to do the right thing when given a choice, and I really wanted to show that and its ramifications on a large scale.  She and many of the other characters are examples to me of what I would hope to do if I was in their situation. And I hope it is a similar inspiration to many others.

The Book:

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Heaven Cassidy has only ever wanted one thing: a family. But when she opens a letter from her long-lost mother, she finds herself running for her life. Swept into a world of proud queens and ancient feuds, Heaven must decide whether her dream is worth taking on the responsibility of two kingdoms, one of which wants to crown her and the other to kill her.

Available on Amazon – Add it on Goodreads

Meet the Author:

As long as she can remember, Emily Hayse has been avidly in love with story, a love that has only grown with time. A fascination with human nature and an ongoing quest for courage, hope, and beauty drive her writing passion.

When she isn’t writing, she can be found working with dogs or horses, studying historical tall ships, or trying a new recipe in the kitchen. Her hobbies include learning Maori and Gaelic, playing the bodhran, and trying to restore a classic car.

And don’t forget to check out an exciting giveaway soon to be announced on her website, www.emilyhayse.com!

Let’s talk about OTPs // in appreciation of slow burn + healthy relationships

Today we’re going to talk about slow-burn love stories which happens to be one of my favorite types of relationship development under the sun. It’s right up there with enemies-to-lovers and friends-to-lovers. I will freely admit that I am basically giving myself a chance to rave (hopefully with some semblance of intelligence) over two couples that caught my attention and inspired my writer self last year.

The OTPs (One True Pairings) I am talking about today are from two Kdramas (Korean TV shows) that I watched in 2017. I’ve been percolating over this article for a good few weeks now–hopefully I can express my thoughts coherently and do it justice.

tiny, wee spoilers to follow

I Remember You/Hello Monster Couple: Lee Hyun and Cha Ji-an

This police procedural drama is all about psychopathy and estranged brothers and “are monsters born or created?” and it’s fascinating; but the core of the story and what makes the drama’s resolution even possible is the main couple.

Cha Ji-an carries the weight of being a criminal’s daughter, but she is also a detective with a strong sense of justice who consistently puts others before herself. She is a protector–sometimes to the detriment of her own safety and emotional health.

Lee Hyun watched his father die and lost his little brother in one night. As a result of that childhood trauma he is closed-off and fighting to prove to himself that he isn’t the monster that his father believed he was.

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The romance starts out gradually. It is literally slow-burn with a dash of enemies-to-lovers as Lee Hyun and Cha Ji-an butt heads at every turn. Something I really appreciated about the start of their relationship is that, even though they are continually at odds, they’re not dismissive of each other as people and the clashing of their characters comes more from the fact that Ji-an is a detective and Hyun is a criminal profiler, hence they see things from completely different perspectives.

Of course, once they are forced to depend on each other their relationship gradually morphs into reluctant friendship. Then they start to be concerned when the other person is hurting or in danger and that’s when my favorite aspect of this particular relationship kicks in. The mutual respect and strong concern for the other person’s well-being slowly deepens into love and it’s precious. The feels are real with this one, y’all.

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Their romance is reminiscent of the famous Austen quote: “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. You hear nothing but truth from me.”

I honestly don’t remember them even saying the words “I love you” other than Hyun’s adorable and swoony way of telling Ji-an that she ranks highest in his heart. Not that it isn’t important for a couple to express their love in words, but the thought with Lee Hyun and Cha Ji-an is that at a certain point there is no doubt in their mind how the other person feels about them. Hyun knew without even having to ask that Ji-an loved him because she showed him as clear as daylight in the way she looked out for him and believed in him. As for Ji-an, once Hyun confessed to her in the adorable way previously mentioned, she understood how much he cared about her.

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Lee Hyun and Cha Ji-an are important as an OTP to me because even though they have their own personal struggles, even when they are drowning in their own hurt: they stand by each other no matter what. Ji-an’s steadfast belief that Hyun is not a monster like he fears (but just a very damaged person who needs help) has a huge influence on him and essentially jump-starts his road to healing. At the same time Hyun’s constant, quiet care of Ji-an and how he is there for her when she is overwhelmed by grief or fighting a moral dilemma (such as taking the law into her own hands) is one of the best aspects of his character.

They are each other’s anchors, not in an unhealthy I-will-go-to-pieces-if-you-are-not-here sort of way, but as a safe place for the other person. It’s heartwarming and precious and I just really, really love these two.

Disclaimer: I Remember You/Hello Monster is a crime show that deals with psychopathy, somewhat graphic crime scenes, serial killers, etc. Minimal swearing. No indecent scenes. Possible danger of sobbing into your ice cream. Swooniness guaranteed.

While You Were Sleeping Couple: Jung Jae-chan and Nam Hong-joo

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Saving the best for the last. [happy sigh]

Modern love-stories that are sweet + healthy + stable without all the misunderstandings and emotional upheavals/drama actually do exist. I knew they did, but they are few and far between and my list is Very Small. So when I watched While You Were Sleeping last September-November the love story took me completely by surprise.

(disclaimer: While You Are Sleeping is a drama that deals with crime. Minimal swearing. No immoral scenes. Much sweetness. May kill you from the hilarity. Or from the crying. Features Best Secondary Character in the history of Kdrama)

I’m used to OTPs killing my feels with all the pain and tears (coughFitzSimmonscough) or giving me heart-attacks with the dramatic, sweeping gestures. When I started watching WYWS I kept on expecting a drawn-out denial of feelings + emotional turmoil culminating in a declaration of love that (probably) takes place in a burning building or during a stunning sunset. Therefore, I was surprised as the story progressed and Jae-chan and Hong-joo fall in love with all the softness and sweetness of a light summer rain. At first I am ashamed to admit I was actually a bit disappointed. “Give me the Doctor and River Song! Give me Margaret and Mr. Thornton! Give me Han Solo and Leia!” (I demanded).

oh, silly annie.

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I remember the scene when it hit me how perfectly the love-story was crafted. Hong-joo has a special gift, or curse depending on how you look at it. She can see the future (usually a catastrophic future) in her dreams and she and Jae-chan–who is a rookie prosecutor–work together to prevent her dreams from happening or to change them if they can. Naturally, I thought this was much too contrived and convenient. They were clearly meant to be together as a couple, hence where was the suspense? where were the sparks? “I need the chemistry” (I grumbled, completely forgetting that not all chemistry between couples has to be electrifying).

Then THAT scene happened. I won’t say what scene it is because spoilers are the scourge of happy people everywhere, but I was floored. It’s such a quick moment that if you’re not paying attention you might not even realize the significance, but I sat there stunned as my epiphany hit me and everything about Jae-chan and Hong-joo’s relationship clicked into place. From that moment on I was toast.

I think one of the marks of a good OTP is the ability that it has to move you to tears, and after that scene I cried multiple times. But here’s the thing, I wasn’t crying because the love story was sad or gut-wrenching–I was crying because it was beautiful. There is a special quality of trust and belief and actual, real understanding between this couple that I have seen in very few romances. River Song had no idea just how much the Doctor loved her until years after they had been married. Even Amy and Rory–as much as I adore them–struggled with knowing just what the nature and strength of the other’s feelings were.

Jae-chan and Hong-joo know each other so well and understand each other with such clarity that there is no place for dramatic angst in their relationship. Instead the conflict comes from elsewhere, e.g. opposition to their relationship, Hong-joo’s dream about her future death, etc. And through it all they are there for each other as beacons of hope and faithfulness.

The romance in While You Were Sleeping doesn’t have the dramatic flair of many love stories, but it’s that much sweeter for its steadiness and strength. Jae-chan and Hong-joo taught me an important lesson about OTPs, i.e. love doesn’t always have to be portrayed as fire-works and grand gestures and feels-inducing angst and passionate kiss scenes as the world goes up in flames. Sometimes it is simply a couple knowing each other inside-and-out, steadfastly standing by their sweetheart + believing in them and trusting them no matter what.

And I think that is beautiful.

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What about you? What are some of your favorite slow-burn romances? Also, by all means, give me a list of your fave healthy relationships. I WANT ALL THE RECS MY PRECIOUS GINGERSNAPS

dare to move forward // feat. annie’s word for twenty-eighteen

 

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Twenty-eighteen marks the third year in a row that I’ve chosen a word to sum up everything I hope for in the coming months. 2016’s word was brave and my word for 2017 was others. With both words, I knew almost as soon as January rolled around exactly what I wanted.

But not this year.

I had a specific idea of what I wanted to see happen in 2018 but there didn’t seem to be any words that fit with my thought to perfection. I toyed around with venture and focus and bloom and none of them felt right, although focus came close. I prayed about it and searched in the dictionary and made lists.

The word I kept coming back to still feels a bit odd, like a puzzle piece that won’t quite fit where it’s supposed to go, but in the end it expresses my over-arching goal + desire for 2018 better than anything else I mulled over.

for·wardadverb

  • toward the front; in the direction that one is facing or traveling.
  • onward so as to make progress; toward a successful conclusion.

Last year felt like a time where I went in circles. I was processing the aftermath of two deaths in my life, and several things slowed to a snail’s pace as a result–specifically writing and Curious Wren. It was a hard+ fulfilling year in terms of my spiritual growth as a Christian, and I know I’m a different, better person for it. But looking back over 2017 in regards to my writing life and my dreams, I didn’t make much progress.

So, this year I’m taking my dreams back in my hands.

I’m going to write. I have a magic realism book I can’t wait to explore–I’ve already written the first couple chapters and I’m head-over-heels in love with the charries and the story. It’ll be a bit like Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures in the feeling of bittersweet nostalgia and whimsy, I hope.

I’m going to focus on reading more, because we all know that to be a good writer we need to be immersing ourselves in wonderful literature. #tornbetweenRereadsandmyTBRtower

I’m going to create a regular schedule for blogging. I have all sorts of articles up my sleeves that I can’t wait to share with you darlings.

I’m praying about attending a writers’ conference. I have plans already to travel and go on several road-trips. I’m going to be more intentional with my time (already working on that. which YAY) and study and learn, and challenge myself as a sunday school teacher and child of God.

I have so many plans for this year, it’s making me giddy in the best of ways.

God-willing, in twenty-eighteen I will move…

FORWARD