Shall I Read You or Shall I Not?

I have limited time. Between work and writing and school, my time to read books is not as extensive as when I could blissfully read every summer afternoon. (those were the days…) Since my reading time is so small, I don’t want to waste it reading books that I don’t like.

I DNF books all the time. (in case you don’t know, DNF stands for ‘did not finish’, I didn’t know that for the longest time and felt stupid for years. So there you go, you are allowed to feel smart again.) Well, not all the time. I do try and finish the books I pick up, especially if I bought them… However, I do not feel obligated to finish a book if I hate it.

I used to feel terrible if I didn’t finish a book. I kept a list of books I never finished in the vain hope that someday I would get back to them and actually finish them. It kinda worked, I finished a couple, but was often as unimpressed with the end as I was with the beginning.

In other words, it wasn’t worth it. So eventually I stopped worrying about it.

I still have a list of books I never finished, but that is because Goodreads doesn’t have a ‘read half of it’ button to push… Maybe someday I will get back to them, but I doubt it.

I often have a very good reason for stopping the book. If I am just bored by the book, or am in the middle of a part I don’t like, I make myself push through and finish. It might take me forever, but I finish it. I don’t want to give up on a book just because it isn’t fast paced or because a character gets in an embarrassing situation. (which, to be honest, is every character in almost every book.)

Usually I stop reading because the content is, well, shall we say R rated? I try to be very careful about what I put in my brain, so excessive language or steamy scenes turns me off of a book. Those words and scenes get stuck up in my mind, and I don’t like that. I can tolerate what would probably be about a PG-13 rating in a movie, past that I wrinkle my nose and cast the book aside.

There are plenty of amazing books out there to read without having to read that stuff. So I don’t.

At this point in my reading career I have read a loooot of books. And I have found out what I like to read about, and what I don’t really like to read about, but might if forced. I don’t like love triangles, and I am not a fan of star crossed romances. (I like happy endings okay?) I don’t like ‘the world against the characters’ trope where everyone hates the main character. So if those look very prominent in the novel, I just won’t pick it up.

Like I said, I am very picky. At this point it probably seems like I have a very narrow set of books I like to read, and will soon run out of those books. Not really. You would be amazed at how many books don’t have love triangles.

I read everything from the classics to middle grade adventures. My shelves boast of scifi, drama, and fantasy. I love high stakes adventure, but am happy to read a book set in one place the whole time. I read picture books if they look really cute.

I like books. I really really like books. Yet at this point, I agree with Hercule Poirot.

‘I am of an age where I know what I like and what I do not like. What I like, I enjoy enormously. What I dislike, I cannot abide.’

So there you go.

Shaina Merrick

Bookshelves and Ramblings

I just bought another bookshelf. Supposedly it is for my movies and other odds and ends. We all know it is going to house the books spilling over from my other bookshelf. Why else would I buy one? It is very pretty (thanks dad for putting it together). It will be even prettier when I have books on it. Obviously.

Somehow, somewhere in the back of my head, I was convinced that moving to this house would make me a better writer, a more organized person, and less stressed. Feel free to laugh all you want, I know it is ridiculous.

I leave dishes in the sink all. of. the. time. Sometimes I forget to switch the laundry and end up with damp clothes in the morning. It is a constant battle to keep my room clean, something I don’t remember dealing with quite so much before I moved out.

I don’t know if I thought I would have more time, or if I thought living alone would kick start those creative juices. Either way, I was wrong. Writing is still hard. I probably have less time for it than before, since there are dishes in the sink and school to do. I am the exact same person I was before I moved, just in a different location.

The same woman who forgets about the tea bags in her mugs until they dry and scatters books around her whole house in various stages of completion. Like supposing a new bookshelf will change how I organize my house but really won’t, I supposed a new location would change me.

My whole life I have wanted to be different. I figured that if I could only wear the perfect outfit, move to a different town, or switch churches, I would be different. That somehow I could escape the things I didn’t like about myself if I just moved far enough away. What if I went to England? Obviously I would be more confident, prettier, and a better writer there. It’s England for crying out loud! Well, I feel bound to inform you that I did not swap personalities just by crossing the ocean.

It kind of sounds depressing, doesn’t it? Here I am. Wherever I go, I come too. It doesn’t matter where my desk is, the same insecurities will show up whenever I start writing.

I could stop there. Live my life moping over the fact that I can’t change who I am because I put a new dress. I don’t want to do that. Life is hard enough without crying over the impossible.

Here is my thought, if moving won’t change what I want changed, what will? Unfortunately, the same thing that has been staring at my face for the last four years. Hard work!

And everyone makes a face.

If I want to be an author, a fancy desk and a library will not make me one, a book will. A book that I wrote. If I want to be healthier, getting a new fridge or a new cookbook will not automatically make me so. Healthy eating and exercise (blech) will.

This isn’t to say that moving out didn’t change me at all, I am much better at cooking now (I think), and way better at sticking to my to do list. I am a better person for all these experiences, but not necessarily a different person. If I want to change things about myself, I will have to put in the work to do it.

Maybe I won’t like every step of the journey, but I know I will like the destination.

Hello me, are you ready?

Shaina Merrick

Liebster Award

So, I was nominated for the Liebster Award. Huh. This little blog has never been tagged for one of those, or really for anything. I guess there is a first time for everything! I am actually excited on the inside. I promise.

There are a few rules, and lots of questions, so hold on to your hats everyone!

Rule One: Thank the Blogger who Nominated you.

Thank you so much Bookmarked One! I am truly honored that you like my blog and tagged me for this! (and I apologize for being late, I, uh, didn’t check my email…)

Rule Two: Answer the Eleven Questions.

Is there a reason why there are eleven? No? Alright then.

What book/movie/pop culture thing do you recommend to everyone?

Well. All must read the Nevermoor series by Jessica Townsend! The series is a riot to read or listen to, and I love practically everything about it. If you like Harry Potter, you will like it. If you like middle grade, you will like it. If you like fantasy in general, you will like it. If you like to laugh, you will like it. So go read!

What are you reading right now?

*glances around house at all the bookmarked books*

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. That book is big enough to be a weapon. I fully plan to use it if my house gets broken into. Probably after the bear spray. Honestly though the whole book reads like a soap opera. So. Much. Drama.

Undaunted Courage by ???. A biography of Merriweather Lewis that mostly talks about the Lewis and Clark expedition. I have been obsessed with it (and Sacajawea), since I was little, so reading it all from his perspective has been really fun!

Hollowpox by Jessica Townsend. The latest book in the Nevermoor series. I have been listening to it on my daily commute. It is nice to laugh while on the way to work, instead of worrying about what the day will hold.

West From Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I just started this one, it is letters Laura wrote to her husband while she was visiting their daughter in California. I love the Little House books, so this is like revisiting childhood!

I think that’s it…

What is the coolest thing about your blog?

Um. I am not sure I am the best one to ask about this. But I think my sassy book reviews are the best part. Coming up with snide remarks (all in good fun) about the back cover blurbs is so much fun. I enjoy writing them, and people seem to enjoy reading them!

Why did you decide to start blogging?

I was a little teenager who had lots of opinions she wanted to share. But she didn’t really like speaking in front of people. ‘Nuff said.

What random thing about yourself do you want to share (can you yodel? Do you hate polka dots? Did you once sail around the world)?

I don’t know why, but I really hate the sound of people chewing. Honestly, if I hear people chewing really loud I have to leave the room. Sometimes I even irritate myself. Which isn’t good, because I can’t get away from myself… And then I decided to get a job as a preschool teacher. And half of those kids don’t know what it means to chew quietly. Can I just say that they all got a crash course in table manners?

Favorite travel destination (real or fictional)?

Ireland. As a desert girl, being in a country where almost everything was green was so amazing. The people were friendly, and I loved exploring the island.

But if I could hop inside a fictional world, at the moment I really want a cup of tea at the Hotel Deucalion in Nevermoor.

What piece of wisdom did you once really need to hear?

Ugh. This is a hard question. I have some wise friends who always have good advice during difficult times. It also assumes I have a good memory for specific occasions… However, one that stands out to me is when my friend told me that whatever happens in my future, the Lord will be there to sustain me. I was freaking out about what my future could hold at the time, and that steadied my wailing heart and helped me to remember that God will never leave me nor forsake me.

Where do you go when you need inspiration?

For my stories? Pinterest. I love looking at all the pictures and getting story ideas from them. I spend way too much time laughing at jokes or reading and saving writing prompts. If I have no idea what to write, I go look at my huge board of writing prompts, find something that catches my eye and imagination, and then write a short story. My sister and I used to do it together, and finding out the vastly different ideas we got from one prompt was really fun!

What is the most beautiful place to you (your couch, a meadow under the stars, etc.)?

The desert of Western Colorado in early spring. The desert surrounding my town is varying shades of brown. Even the few plants that struggle into life are brown from the constant sunshine and lack of water. When the wind blows, the dust blows with it, stinging the back of your legs if you are foolish enough to wear shorts. During the winter, everything is brown. The trees, the mountains, the desert, the buildings. Just when you feel as if you will go crazy from all the brown, it rains. The spring rains coax the seeds just under ground to the surface. Whispering that there are fresh breezes and gentle sunshine if they would only push up toward the sky. Up they come, giving the whole desert a greenish tinge that rests the eyes after the monotony of the last few months. The air feels fresh from all the growing things. It doesn’t last long, but those few weeks every year remind me why I make my home here, and why the desert is so beautiful to me.

What would you love to try (crochet! Yodeling! Sailing around the world!)?

Someday, I want to try sky diving. It seems like the closest thing I can get to flying in this world, so it sounds great. No, not bungee jumping, that looks like something straight out of my nightmares. (literally) My sister and I want to go sky diving when she turns eighteen. Though we may just tell our parents after the fact… (shoot, my mom is going to read this.)

Favorite dessert (everyone should have at least one)?

Cheesecake please and thank you. Plain is just fine, though I do also love other kinds. Homemade is the absolute best. I also love white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. And chocolate covered strawberries. And brownies. And pudding. And lots of other sweets I am not going to bother listing out here. Suffice to say I really like sweet things.

Rule 3: Nominate eleven more bloggers for the award.

Um. I don’t follow eleven bloggers? Sorry guys… (in my defense half of the blogs I used to follow sadly stopped writing)

However, I will nominate as many as I can!

Christine Smith at Christine Smith Author She is such a lovely person, and her blog is one of my favorites!

Tracey Dyck is where I get quite a few good book recommendations. My favorites are her Subplots and Storylines posts.

Sabrina Frantz at The Story Alchemist. She has some great fanfiction on her site. And she might be my sister…



Rule 4: Ask your eleven nominated bloggers eleven questions

Oh dear, this might be the hardest part of this entire post. I have to think of interesting questions to ask??!?!?! Great.

  1. What is your favorite genre of music and why?
  2. What was your last read and what did you think about it?
  3. If you could hop inside any fictional world, where would you go? One catch, you have to stay there for your whole life.
  4. What is your favorite aspect of writing and/or creating?
  5. What is your least favorite food?
  6. Would you rather listen to a book or read a book?
  7. Do you listen to podcasts? If so which is your favorite?
  8. What is one book you want to see a movie made out of?
  9. What is your favorite fantasy creature?
  10. If you could travel back in time, where would you go?
  11. What draws you the most to reading?

Phew, we made it! And I have now realized that I need to go find more blogs to read. Excuse me while I search.

Shaina Merrick

Book Review: Nevermoor

No, I am not making a bad pun about Poe’s poem. Now that we have that out of the way, shall we get to the book review?

Morrigan Crow is cursed.(we think) Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. (tough luck kid)

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, (no kidding, they were super freaky) he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.

It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. (waggles eyebrows) In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each with an extraordinary talent that sets them apart–an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests–(or just trust Jupiter knows what he is doing, that tends to be a good idea) or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.

This fast-paced plot (oh really?) and imaginative world (absolutely) has a fresh new take on magic that will appeal to a new generation of readers. (excuse me? I don’t look that young)

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor Series Book 1)

First, can we all take a minute and just enjoy the cover? With all the colorful umbrellas and the giant cat in the back ground. You know, the big cat looking out the window, just wanted to make sure you saw that.

I was introduced to ‘Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow’, by a good friend of mine. She basically told me I should read them and I, being good natured at the moment, said yes. I will never regret that decision.

One of the reasons I am drawn back to fantasy again and again as a reader and as a writer is the sheer amount of possibilities of it. Anything is possible in fantasy, from talking animals to fairies to castles in the sky. I know when I open a book that there is no such thing as giant cats that talk, but while I am within the pages, I believe there is. Even if it is only for those brief moments.

Nevermoor captures the possibilities and wonder of fantasy and brings them to your attention like a child capturing a firefly and showing it to you. In the city of Nevermoor, anything is possible. An alley could take you anywhere, a market could be selling vegetables along side fairy dust, a child can learn to trust again.

Morrigan Crow has been an outcast her entire life, shunned from a society that is terrified of her. She lives a half life, spent writing apology notes for things she never did and waiting for her death to come. Something no child should be thinking about, yet she is faced with it day in and day out. Until Jupiter North, explorer extraordinaire and owner of the Hotel Deucalion whisks her away to the Free State and the city of Nevermoor.

It is hard to say which I liked more, the world of Nevermoor or the characters. Like I said earlier, the world of Nevermoor is a romp into the possibilities of the fantasy genre. Which isn’t to say it was chaotic. The author, Jessica Townsend, did not merely stuff everything possible into the story and say it was fine. There are rules to the world, but those rules are, well, much different from the ones that define ours. While umbrella rails may not make sense here on earth, they make perfect sense in Nevermoor.

Morrigan Crow is a likeable character from the very beginning. She struggles to do what is right even while she is trapped in her old world.Hoping to someday earn the love of a father who barely looks her way. She finds happiness where she can, but is never really happy, for good reason. Then she is taken to Nevermoor. There, in the city of talking animals and twisty streets she finds what she has been looking for her whole life.

I think for me, her happy acceptance of Nevermoor was a welcome change from all the angst of the young adult genre. She did not spend half the novel guilty because of one thing or another, nor did she keep unnecessary secrets from the people who were trying to help her. Sorry but I really can’t stand secrets. Maybe some of you like them, but personally I prefer to keep them at a minimum. In stories and in real life.

Morrigan grows from the little thing scared of anyone glancing at her, to a girl confident in who she is and what she wants out of life. And she gets there because of her friends. Not because she suddenly becomes amazing or talented or powerful. Honestly all that outward stuff does not change much in this book. She is still the same Morrigan, just a little more confident.

I don’t think it is much of a stretch to say that we all need someone who believes in us completely and without reservation. I need it, and Morrigan needed it. When the book begins Morrigan had no one who loved her or believed in her. They all thought she was a burden and a curse. And then along comes Jupiter North. He is the first adult in her life who has complete confidence in her even when, perhaps especially when, she does not have any in herself. He believes she is special, in fact believes it so strongly she begins to hope he is right.Through him she meets the staff at the Hotel, all of whom go out of there way to make her comfortable and happy. And through him she meets her very first and very best friend Hawthorne, a willing accomplice to all of her adventures and comic mishaps. These people stick with her through thick and thin, no matter how odd things get, no matter how bad it looks, they are at her side.

Morrigan’s confidence begins with those people. It will not end there, but it is a pretty good beginning.

Remember the cat from earlier? Well, if you aren’t going to remember anything else from this review, remember the talking giant cat Fenestra. You are missing out on an essential part of life if you have not read her sassy remarks. Somehow, a cat is a housekeeper, and manages to keep the rest of the hotel in line at the same time. If she hates you, you will have moths in your closet and hair balls under your pillow. If she likes you, you can expect to be insulted three times a day (at least).

If you need a laugh, a break from reality, or just like a good book, read Nevermoor. You won’t regret it.

Shaina Merrick