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.

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(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!

 

 

oh, look, she exists // #CuriousWrenhappenings + incidentally I am still on this planet

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Currently: today is a quiet, mellow day. Later I’m going christmas shopping with the Older Sister and I have a chiro appointment, but right now there’s a cup of hot mint tea at my elbow and out the window I can see the bare limbs of the birch trees and the heavy, dark-green boughs of the pines swaying in the blustery November wind.

Thinking: about all the books I want to re-visit. Little Women. Brambly Hedge. The Mistmantle Chronicles. David Copperfield. Narnia. Lord of the Rings. Tales of Goldstone Wood. Johnny Tremain. Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates. Wind in the Willows. Pooh Bear. Tintin comics. Can someone please tell me the way to Gallifrey so I can st–borrow a TARDIS? Time shall not be the boss of me! [she says as she keeps one eye on the clock so she’s not late for her appointment]

Words Percolating: this verse from Ephesians chapter 5; “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.”

Listening: Enya. Sometimes you just need soft, breathy vocals to enhance your happy place.

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Reading: Three books. Anne of the Island because I started re-reading the entire series a couple months ago. I’m almost done with the third book and am falling more deeply in love with the magic and simplicity of Montgomery’s writing. She understood people at a level few authors have. Jane Eyre, which is a traditional autumn read of mine. I’m taking it slow because I forgot how despicable her relations were and it riles me every time I read. The only things keeping me from flinging the book across the room is my reputation and the fact that I don’t want to ding the corners of my precious copy. Les Miserables. [insert silent bow at all the various humans in my life who’ve been badgering me to read it]

Mood: Poirot when he sits down with the Perfect Cup of Hot Chocolate.

Loving: Thomas Newman’s soundtrack for Little Women // Modcloth’s thigh-high fox socks // Autumn-autumn-everything-autumnal // flannel plaid shirts that are just the right shade of rich blue // gingersnaps // inside jokes with my coworkers and our boss // the crackle of dead leaves crunching under my boots // stories that give me a nostalgic glimpse of my childhood // studies on What It Means To Be Holy // people who do not hesitant to hug you back // spontaneous outings with friends // writing at coffee shoppes // being a Sunday School teacher // Panera’s chai tea // Spiderman: Homecoming. I am so here for awkward + adorkable young superheros who don’t want to kill people and have homework and strict moral compasses and will fight you even though they are terrified and just want their Hero/Father figure to come save them // customer service people who go out of their way to make your day amazing.

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Anticipating: christmassssssssssssss — there are not enough letters in the alphabet to express how much I adore everything about the christmas season // Blogging again. I’m so excited to have cleaned the cobwebs off the door and stepped back over the threshold of Curious Wren. I missed all of you! // Nadine Brandes’ newest novel, FAWKES. Check out that gorgeous book cover // WAR OF LOYALTIES COMES OUT ON THE 30TH IM NOT HYPERVENTILATING YOU’RE HYPERVENTILATING. #WW1SpyNovelsFTW

Thankful: for every single day I have to spend with all my precious humans. More about this topic + the Reason for my Hiatus in the next blog post, Lord-willing. [she said ominously]

What are your Current Happenings, friendlies?

In the mood for Gothic! Nostalgic! Whimsical! Magical! Mystery! Cozy Reads! // #AutumnTBRTower

  

Autumn. The nip of chilly air. Trees blushing rosy red. Dead leaves rustling like paper in the wind. The scent of bonfires and ripe, sweet apples. Something about the Fall season always makes my bones tingle with the longing to read, read, read….

— Me from this post last year.

I adore fall. Everything about it. The crisp air that makes you snuggle deeper into your flannel and pull out your wool socks and mitts and cozy things. Brilliant tones of scarlet, gold and orange painted across the landscape by a generous hand. Hayrides and pumpkin pie and cider so hot it feels like it burns your bones, art exhibitions and mission conferences and cute, heeled boots and geese flying off into the horizon.

I could go on for ages, but I shall refrain because a) you might fall asleep over the laptop and that would be all the sads + highly uncomfortable + Not Recommended, or b) we would never get to the truly important part of this post which, obvs, involves BOOKS and LISTS and (you guessed it) BOOKS.

Since after all, what is fall without a delightful, pretty stack of books that you probably won’t even read half of, but just looking at the stack and your list of said stack gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling right down to your toes?

#AutumnTBRTower

(aka. all the excite + hyperventilating because FALL and GLORIOUS BOOKS TO BE HAPPY WITH)

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Jane Eyre — ugh, excited to re-read this, Booklings. So very excited. The atmosphere is perfect for autumn, all deliciously mysterious and creepy and simply overflowing with old English castles and foggy days and dark secrets and brooding masters-of-the-house. Jane is a heroine dear to my heart and her story is beautiful. #allthelove

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Dracula — I blame the Oldest Sister for this. She read Dracula this January and proceeded to rave all over the house about it like a cute, but hyperbolic maniac, and then bought me a copy for Valentine’s Day (we buy books for each other on this holiday. it’s great). Clearly I must read it for the sake of my safety from sisterly terrorizing, at least. she is the most lovable human, tho, really. i promise.  To be strictly honest–always a good thing–I started reading it during our recent holiday trip, but then I decided to wait until fall because for certain books ambiance is key. Actually, I am thoroughly looking forward to digging into it because the instant October arrived I’ve been in the mood for melodramatic, Gothic books and I want to read them allllll. The good ones, obviously.

Also, I have an allegorical vampire high fantasy in the planning stages which means research needs to happen. SO RIDICULOUSLY THRILLED ABOUT THIS STORY/PLOTSY THING. It’s been in percolations for a while + I want to smash all the sparkly vampire cliches to dust and show vampires for the dark, twisted, unlovely creatures they were. Not something to glamorize and swoon over, y’all. *gently nudges soapbox away from Self*

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Rebecca — speaking of Gothic literature, I have heard lots of good things about this from several friends and it sounds just like my cup of tea.

Jane of Lantern Hill — This was on last year’s list too… well, then, apparently I like re-reading favorite books in the fall. Nostalgic, cozy reads are in high demand currently, that’s for sure. I can’t wait to snuggle up with this book and immerse myself in the wonderful world of Jane and Dad and the ice-queen Grandmother, and cats with special names, and food descriptions that make me hungry every time I read them. I love this book so much it hurts.

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The Sherlock Holmes stories — for obvious reasons.

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The James Herriot books — I’ve known about this WWII era Yorkshire veterinarian all my life, we grew up on his books for children, and just recently my entire family fell in love with the BBC TV show (disclaimer: it has a goodish amount of swearing and some inappropriate moments, but other than that it’s wonderful). My Older Sister has read the All Creatures Great and Small series and I decided it’s high time I do too. They sound full of all manner of hilarity and good-old British culture and loveliness, and if they’re anything like the TV show I’ll not regret I picked them up.

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A Time to Die — How! Have! I! Not! Read! This! Yet?!! *crawls away in abject shame*

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Inkspell — I need more Dustfinger and Meggie and Mo and deliciously magical book quotes in my life.

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Scythe — I want this book for three reasons. 1) I love Neal Shusterman’s writing. He knows how to use the little details, how to grab a person’s attention and make them think. 2) have you even read that premise? NEED. BOOK. NOW. and 3) the cover is pretty. so pretty.

I fully intend to pre-order it at some point, but right now… *gestures at tweet*

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What is on your autumn reading list, Wrenlings?

 

epic villains (and the traits we love about them)

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(because we all have to agree that Kylo Ren has a pretty sweet helmet)

It’s no secret among the people who know me that probably about 50% of my favorite characters in books + film would be the villains. And I decided that a post looking into this was long overdue since, after all, I have class (*said in British accent*) and don’t just like any bad guy. I mulled over the villains I do enjoy reading/watching (incidentally I am listening to The Imperial March as I type this) and narrowed it down to the specific traits about a villainous character that makes them leave their mark on my memory.

(so if you want to know how to write bad guys that Annie will enjoy, read on)

Moriarty (BBC Sherlock)

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psychotic genius.

Not going to lie: mental people who are also brilliant terrify me, whether in books or movies or real life. You could argue that Jim Moriarty’s insanity stems directly from his abnormally high IQ level, but no matter what the reason is, this guy should have been put in a straitjacket long ago. But, he is clever and when a bad guy makes me slack-jawed in horrified awe because the twisted brilliance of their plan is nothing like I anticipated…. I love it, humans.

unpredictable.

Granted, Moriarty is predictably nuts, but you never really know how it’s going to break out and if he’s just going to start shouting mid-sentence or instead decide that he’s bored. And when Moriarty is bored, be very afraid.

humor.

He’s horrible, he has no sense of decency, he would force you to commit suicide and smile while you do it, but he still manages to make me laugh out-loud every episode I’ve seen him in. So, either he has some really funny lines or I have a messed-up sense of humor. (tell me I’m not the only one who cracks up laughing whenever Moriarty breaks into the Tower of London. #dramaKing)

creep factor.

If you have a psychotic villain it’s bound to get creepy real fast. Yay for bad guys who are actually frightening.

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Gollum (The Lord of the Rings)

wily, wily worm.

Gollum is a crafty character and all the more so because it’s easy to underestimate him. There’s nothing like being controlled by a magical ring for years to make an already sly creature even more cunning. And it doesn’t help that he does the puppy eyes so well.

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humor.

“Yes, perhaps, yes,” said Gollum. “Sméagol always helps, if they asks – if they asks nicely.”
“Right!’ said Sam. “I does ask. And if that isn’t nice enough, I begs.”

Just the way he puts his sentences together is funny. Then put him and Samwise in the same scene and comedy gold happens.

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 sympathy points.

“And so Gollum found them hours later, when he returned, crawling and creeping down the path out of the gloom ahead. Sam sat propped against the stone, his head dropping sideways and his breathing heavy. In his lap lay Frodo’s head, drowned in sleep; upon his white forehead lay one of Sam’s brown hands, and the other lay softly upon his master’s breast. Peace was in both their faces.
Gollum looked at them. A strange expression passed over his lean hungry face. The gleam faded from his eyes, and they went dim and grey, old and tired. A spasm of pain seemed to twist him, and he turned away, peering back up towards the pass, shaking his head, as if engaged in some interior debate. Then he came back, and slowly putting out a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo’s knee–but almost the touch was a caress. For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, an old starved pitiable thing.” 
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

I cry every time I read this scene. I’ve discussed Gollum’s character many times and at great detail with my various fellow Tolkienites and we all agree that the saddest thing about him is that he had potential to tear himself away from his dark path, but the hold of the ring over him was so strong that every time he considered it something happened to keep him back. He is such a pathetic, pitiable creature and his story breaks my heart.

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Kylo Ren (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

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unpredictable.

A (not-quite-Sith) who throws temper tantrums and wracks havoc on inanimate objects when he’s angry? Yes, please. Uncontrolled bad guys are great because you never can quite predict how they will react (except that it will be explosive) and if you haven’t seen Kylo Ren demolish expensive equipment you’re missing some LOL moments in your life.

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actually does bad things.

When there’s a villain you expect them to actually be, yunno, villainous. So Kylo Ren torturing Poe, killing people instead of just threatening to, and generally being the darker version of his grandfather at that age is satisfying. Even if it does break your heart when he commits some of the deeds he does. *calmly drops Ren off the edge of a cliff*

struggles with the light side.

Talk about intriguing. I love, love this factor of Kylo’s character. The psychology of a Sith is interesting anyways, but when you have one that’s drawn more to the light than they are to the dark, and hence is constantly trying to prove to themselves that they really are as bad as all that…. Excuse me while I do a happy dance over all the fascinating moral quandaries. Which brings me to:

potential for redemption.

You may or may not want him to be redeemed (I’m still torn on that score), but Kylo Ren has serious potential for either an amazing redemption arc or else the possibility of becoming an even darker and terrifying villain. To quote Mirriam Neal:

“Kylo Ren has so much light still left in him that he has to physically cause himself pain in order to keep fighting, because the Dark Side feeds off pain. He is the antagonist, the protagonist, and the battleground of his own story. One thing about true Sith is the fact they are ruthless when harming others to further their own ends. They don’t care if they’re hurting someone else, and this is obviously not Kylo’s case. Kylo isn’t fighting Rey with mere anger or a heartless, stoic demeanor – Kylo is on the verge of breaking down, he’s holding back tears, he is fighting with himself as much as he is with Rey, if not more.

I find it hard to believe that the franchise would present us with such an emotional, sympathetic character if they weren’t planning to give him a redemption arc or, at the very least, giving us an even larger conflict to follow in the coming movies. There’s much about Kylo that we as viewers don’t know and can only theorize about, but they have given us the most emotionally conflicted Sith in cinema history. There is more potential for light and goodness, for redemption, than ever before […]”

Loki (Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World)

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alllll the grey areas.

Conflicted villains are the best villains. That is all.

devilish wit.

Loki’s snark is the best. He is the “god” of mischief after all. And did I mention he’s just a bit clever?

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strong sympathy points.

I don’t even know where to start with this one.

His Dad has serious parenting issues, Loki has serious inferiority issues + family issues + deeply afraid + and this guy needs a therapist like a mosquito needs blood. He’s one of those frustrating characters where you can see exactly where they went wrong and you watch as they make bad decisions (despite your [mildly agitated] shouting at the screen). You root for them to make the right decisions and pull themselves off their dark path—and sometimes they do choose right, which makes it all the more difficult when they choose wrong the next time. His relationship with his adopted brother Thor breaks my heart, and his obvious affection for his mother is sweet and makes me cry without fail. I have strong emotions about this character, in case you couldn’t tell; I think I really must write a Loki analysis article sometime.

it’s not all his fault.

This is where Loki becomes a “sympathetic” villain for me because, despite all his bad choices and wrongdoings, so much of the blame for who he became lies at his father’s doorstep—that does not absolve him of his sins, but it does give us as viewers a connection and level of empathy with him. The need to be loved and valued is an inherent part of humanity, and who hasn’t been disappointed by people they look up to? Loki’s desperate hope + his fear of trusting because he’s been hurt so often gets me in the gut every time.

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potential for redemption.

So. Much. Potential. Don’t let me down here, Loki Laufeyson.

The Master (Doctor Who: series 3 finale, series 4 Christmas special)

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humor.

He is twisted and messed up and ohmystars he’s hilarious. I love it so much when villains have a sense of humor or when they’re given witty lines—half of the reason The Master is funny is because he’s such a nutcase. Parliament execution scene, anyone? *copies his double-thumbs up*

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smart factor.

Manic brilliance is how he rolls and it’s a blast to watch. Not to mention, terrifying. The Master has legitimately scared me on more than one occasion and not a lot of villains do that. When a Timelord goes dark + insane it is not a pretty sight. Take note my Timelordy readers.

it’s not all his fault.

The Master is psychotic-killer genius but (SPOILER ALERT) he was made that way through no fault of his own. His dark path was created for him by some seriously twisted people when he was just a child and a recurring four-beat rhythm was placed in his mind to play on a loop non-stop–is it any wonder he went completely mental? The moments when you see him fight against it, when you see his agony and desperation–they’re gut-wrenching. The Master and the Doctor were best friends as children and it’s heartbreaking whenever they go down memory lane or whenever the Doctor tries to get through to him and help him–basically all the time.

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There’s nothing like a broken friendship that gets repaired slightly (only to be shattered all over again) for taking my emotions through the ringer. The potential for redemption and light is strong in this one. Which is why the last scene with the Master in the Christmas special makes me sad/happy all at once. (You Whovians out there know what I’m talkin’ about.)

Anakin Skywalker (Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith)

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struggles with the light side.

Anakin is equally torn between the light and dark side of the force. He cares deeply for people and he’s always trying to save or protect–it’s his gut reaction when anyone is in trouble: “How can I help them?” At the same time the abilities to protect and the freedom of choice that he believes the Dark Side could give him pull at his attention like a moth to a flame. His struggle against the dark, against doing what he knows is wrong, and what he’s tempted to do, is painful to watch and still hurts me every time I see it.

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actually does bad things.

Once he turns to the Dark Side there’s no denying that Anakin does some horrific stuff. That scene with the Younglings in particular is heart-wrenching. It’s deeply saddening and almost frightening to see the change in him, but as writers don’t you just love it when a villain fulfills his potential and actually is dark? I get chills every time he makes his march–not because it’s epic but because it’s how a villain is supposed to be. They’re supposed to be a threat, they’re supposed to be menacing, they’re supposed to frighten–otherwise what impact does it even make when the hero overthrows them? i will now get off my soapbox. 

potential for redemption.

As a twelve-year old writer Anakin is the first character I was attached to who spiraled onto a downward path. Even though I was 95% sure it was going to happen, I still spent the entirety of Revenge of the Sith rooting for him to pull through, to see where he was going and why it was such a very bad thing. It’s hard to articulate since he meant so much to me (and still does) but Anakin was the character who taught me that feeling empathy for someone does not mean you condone them or excuse them, villains are not two-dimensional, that as a writer I should never make them two-dimensional, and that everyone has a story.

Check out this article for a more in-depth look at Anakin Skywalker. There are much spoilers. Ye be warned.

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Peter Pan (Once Upon A Time)

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“Oh, the cleverness of me!”

Can I just mention that I absolutely love that the writers of OUAT took the potential for darkness in Peter of Peter Pan and ran with it? Peter Pan is devilishly clever and overflowing with sharp wit + manipulation + fake innocent-boy charm. He’s easily one of my favorite villains in the history of ever. And he is dark, people.

humor.

Did I mention the sharp wit and just general sassy one-liners?

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feels-inducing.

I had not expected this element at all, but when you think of a boy-villain and what exactly that means, it’s sad to begin with. Then you find out about his past and, while you detest him even more, it also hurts your heart and makes you wish, wish, wish that he could go back and make everything alright again. If only for the sake of the people he hurt.

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Darth Vader (Star Wars)

Does this even require any commentary at all???

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To sum up: villains with humor + unpredictability + dark deeds + grey areas + cleverness + potential for redemption + sympathy points, or a blend of the above traits, those are the bad guys who stand out. That make a hero work harder, and a reader happy. 

Which is the sort of villain that everyone wants.

Okay, Wrenlings, ‘fess up. Who are your favorite villains? Why do you like them? Or are bad guys just not your cup of dark (very dark) coffee?