A Glance at My Shelf

Fair warning: my bookshelves are a mess.

The main bookshelf, plus some bookmarks I’ve had since high school.
The Harry Potter books in their place of honor. Also see the Kindle and the bag of tarot cards!
The bookshelf with the favorites: Amy Tan, Craig Johnson, and more.

So those are my bookshelves. Now let’s talk about a couple of books that are on ’em! The truth is that a lot of my books are nonfiction, so I yanked some interesting ones that you probably wouldn’t expect to be on this blog. A couple of writing books, a craft book, a couple of comic books, and a couple of pagan/witchcraft books.

Writing Books

No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty is a handy dandy guide to writing a novel in thirty days. Specifically written for people who are doing National Novel Writing Month (find the link here), which I used to do every year. Those novels will never see the light of day, but there are plenty of writers who went on to be published, including Sara Gruen (Water for Elephants and At the Water’s Edge).

One reason I like No Plot? is how succint it is. It walks you through the planning process, as well as how to manage your stress throughout the entire month. NaNoWriMo did a lot to turn me into the writer I am today!

Have you ever had a word where you know what something is, but not what it’s called? Then the Descriptionary is the perfect book for you. This thing is just plain neat – it’s got a ton of categories, it’s like a dictionary divided into categories like “Words about Words” and “Architecture” and so much more. I like to take a word at random and write a short story that involves that word. Seriously, if you write, this one’s a must-have.

Craft Book

Listen, these two are both crochet books because that’s what I do in my spare time – I don’t go anywhere without yarn anymore.

Dumpling Cats is the cutest crochet book I ever had the fortune to own (and I say had because, well, I lost it in the move from Portland and I’m waiting to buy a new one). It’s all about cute fat cats and reminds me a lot of Neko Atsume, the game, which I was obsessed with for awhile.

Here is a dumpling kitty in the wild.

Comic Books

So I don’t enjoy reading Pride and Prejudice but I do enjoy the graphic novel. The art style is neat, and I actually want to read it, which is difficult to get me to do with classic novels. Fun fact: I accidentally stole this book from a friend of mine. Sorry, Hannah!

Listen, this is a hill that I will die on: Hawkeye is an underrated superhero. I’m also not talking about the mess that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe these days. Hawkeye is a character that (in Matt Fraction’s universe at least) struggles with depression, with adulting in general, and with being a hot mess. In multiple Marvel universes, Hawkeye/Clint Barton is also deaf. I’m really sad they pulled the plug on Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, but I’ll always have the memories.

Pagan/Witchcraft Books

So this is an interesting book because it’s not just a book of spells. It actually goes into a lot of the theory and history behind how magic(k) works, and the first half of the book is devoted to it. A lot of times you’ll see new pagans and witches trying spells without knowing why they work – I was guilty of it too. Now I know how to make my own, and a lot of it is due largely to The Goodly Spellbook. I will warn you, it’s not secular – it’s based in Wicca beliefs. (For those wondering, I am Pagan, not Wiccan).

The Good Witch’s Daily Spellbook is designed to be simple, quick magic for every day of your life. It’s got a spell for every day of the year, and they’re all with low ingredients or easy to get ingredients (mine come mainly from the grocery store, I’ll admit it). My main complaint is that not all of the spells are useful on the day that they’re assigned, but that comes down to date correspondences and other things. Really, it is what you want to make it.

So this is it, that’s a glance at my shelves. What’s on your shelf?

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Old Friends: My Favorite Classic Reads

I’ll be completely honest, I don’t read classics. I don’t work my way through the banned book list, I don’t make a conscious choice to pick up classic books. It’s not that I don’t like them – it’s just that a lot of time, I already have a massive TBR pile and I try really hard not to add to it. That’s why this discussion post is so important – it’s not often I read classics. So here it is, my list of favorite classic reads and why I love them.

One, I love this book because I’ve read it six times. I did so under duress, in the middle of class, because I read faster than everyone else and the teacher wouldn’t let me whip out another book during Fahrenheit 451 time. The more that I read it, the more that I gleaned from it, symbolism-wise, and I realized that it’s actually an incredibly complex and nuanced novel. I knew it was a classic before, but reading it, I could tell why. It was timeless – it still is. It also started my love for dystopian novels.

I love Their Eyes Were Watching God more than I love almost any other book – maybe even my all-time favorite Perks of Being a Wallflower. Their Eyes is a book about starting over, a book about learning yourself, a book about going back to your roots and figuring out who you are and what you want. On top of that, it’s Zora Neale Hurston, who I love.

Story time! So when I was in school, we participated in National History Day, and I wrote a huge, massive, highly-researched paper on the Harlem Renaissance. I learned a lot about a lot of authors and artists, but I became fascinated with Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston.

So when I started reading Their Eyes Were Watching God in high school, I knew it would be good, and meaningful, and everything a classic should be.

I bet this one doesn’t make a lot of favorites lists – on the surface it’s a stuffy, overly done novel about Puritan beliefs. BUT on the inside, deep beneath the surface, you see a richly nuanced novel chock full of symbolism. If you take the time to analyze it – like I had to for a class in college – The Scarlet Letter becomes a book about women’s rights in a highly oppressive time, the power and the weight of societal expectations, and the idea of living after essentially a traumatic event. Seriously, if you had to read it in school, try it as an adult.

So that’s it, my quick list of classics that I enjoy. Honorable mentions include The Great Gatsby, The Princess Bride, and literally anything by William Shakespeare but especially The Tempest.

What are your favorite classics? What classics do you think I should 
read?

My 2 Guilty Pleasure Reads and Why I Love Them

Alright, we all know what a guilty pleasure read is. It’s that one book – you know the one, with the characters not exactly written well, the plot full of holes, everyone hates it except, apparently, you. You don’t hate it. You love it.

The thing about guilty pleasures is that they’re just that – pleasurable. And we as a society are against things purely for pleasure, sometimes. When you read, shouldn’t it be to advance yourself in some way? I don’t believe that. I believe in reading for any reason – enjoyment and pleasure is one of them. That’s why my motto (“Live Unapologetically” – I know, I keep harping on it, but it’s so useful!) comes in handy, because I’m refusing to read things I don’t enjoy. I refuse to limit myself to only “academic” reading, or reading for some kind of gain. No, if I want to read for the sheer joy of reading, if I want to read to indulge in some impossible romantic fantasy (oh my god, do I love cheesy romance novels, though), then I’m going to do it.

Rant over. Let’s look at some of my favorite guilty pleasure reads.

Now, by calling these “guilty pleasures” I don’t mean any kind of offense towards the books themselves.I just mean that they are books that I’ve read a thousand times for the ssheer joy of being able to read them.

“And so the lion fell in love with the lamb.”

Listen, I loved Twilight, okay. I loved it. I was too cool in high school to love it when it came out, but I did read it (so I could make fun of it), and it shot to the very top of my guilty pleasure reading list. I read the whole series, I watched the movies (alone in my room, my friends were also too cool). I hadn’t yet learned that I could read a book purely for the enjoyment of the book – I didn’t have to analyze every little thing, I didn’t have to find meaning in every word. Twilight was, and still is, a favorite – right up there next to Perks of Being a Wallflower for me.

“What are you, the bounty hunter from hell?”

So, One for the Money and the Stephanie Plum series – one of the first “adult” (meaning geared for adults) books that I ever read. My mom read it first, and loved it, and now it’s a guilty pleasure because honestly, at this point, I’m over the love triangle, but I just. Keep. Reading. Ranger? Ranger is my ideal man. “Babe.” Mm. Give me more of that, please. You’d think I had enough with 25 books, but I haven’t. Even better are the holiday spin-offs with Diesel.

So what are your guilty pleasure reads? What books do you keep coming back to, over and over again?

Travel Back in Time: 2 Favorite Childhood Reads

For my first discussion for the 2019 Book Blog Discussion Challenge, I’d like to talk about those books that I’ll never be able to read for the first time again. You know what I’m talking about – those books that you stayed up all night to read even when you were supposed to be sleeping, reading by flashlight under the covers. The sad truth of the matter is that you don’t get the wonder a second time – once you’ve read a book, you know what happens. That doesn’t mean that you don’t still enjoy a book, you just… aren’t reading it for the first time.

That whole thing made more sense in my head.

Anyway, here’s a look at some of my favorite reads I wish I could travel back in time to read for the first time again, books that shaped my childhood and ultimately my reading habits for the rest of my life.

The Bellmaker by Brian Jacques

This was the first in the Redwall series that I read by Brian Jacques, and, to quote my favorite podcast, I fell in love instantly. (Bonus points if you can tell me what podcast). From then on, Redwall was my life and blood, it was everything I wanted, a fantasy world that I could escape into. When I played outside, I would be transported to that world – I would carve sticks into staves, try to climb trees, whatever I could do to turn my playacting into reality. And through it all, I read the books, as many as I could get my hands on.

And then, one day, I set the Redwall series down, and never picked it back up again. They say that you can’t go home, and to me, this book series represents that – with Brian Jacques having passed away the year I graduated, 2011, there are no more books in this series to read for me.

Some days, though, when the summer breeze blows, I get a glimpse of that feeling again.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

I know, I know – you’re totally surprised to see Harry Potter listed. However, this is a series I desperately wish I could read for the first time just one more time. As it is, I can’t go back – the spine of this book is worn out and threadbare, proof that I’ve tried. But of all the Harry Potter books, Prisoner of Azkaban remains my favorite, remains the symbol of my childhood because of a story I’ll tell you guys.

So, my mom is a teacher and has been my entire school career. I was in first grade at Thayer Elementary in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, when my mom taught down the hall from me. It’s important to note that I had an insanely high reading level, so it was hard to keep me in books because the librarian thought I should be reading, like, War and Peace, and really I just wanted to read The Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew and things that were “too low for my level.” To be fair, that may have not come into play until I moved to an Accelerated Reader district. Anyway, the Harry Potter series was one that I devoured – I picked it up after the first two books came out, and the third was a hardback I got as a gift.

It’s also important to note that I never got in trouble at school – I was never a kid who went home with a yellow instead of a green way back in first grade, or even, god forbid, a red. I was a model student, but that didn’t mean I didn’t try to get away with things here and there. I just usually got so anxious about it I got caught.

So one day, I bring Prisoner of Azkaban to school with me to read during reading time. And I just… couldn’t stop reading. I couldn’t put it down. I got to the chapter “The Shrieking Shack” and I had to know what was going to happen, so I propped up the book inside my social studies textbook and kept reading while the teacher taught, just like I’d seen on tv.

I got caught, of course. Later, my teacher, Mrs. Lemstra, would tell my mother that she knew it wasn’t really my social studies book because “social studies isn’t that interesting.” Mrs. Lemstra, if you’re reading… thanks for letting me finish the chapter before you got on to me!

Here’s a visual for me in second grade.

So yes, this is a short list, but I really just wanted an excuse to chat about two books I was thinking about, and a discussion post seemed a good way to do that. Plus I got to laugh about that picture of me with my mother, as well as ask her the fine details of that story of me reading in second grade.

So. What are your childhood favs you wish you could take a trip back to?

The Best Book I Read in December Was…

I want to start doing this too. I feel like taking a look back at every month and pointing out a great read can be beneficial for my death spiral of anxiety that appears at the end of the month when money is tight and everything is stressful.

I got the idea from A Cocoon of Books – which, if you’re not reading that blog, you should be, it’s awesome. I read even before I started my own blog, I just have never commented because I’m more of a lurker at heart.

So, drumroll please. Out of the, like, four books I’ve read since starting this blog a week and a half ago, the best of the bunch is…

Winner winner chicken dinner!

Listen, this book blew me away – I’m still talking about it and recommending it. I almost chose Depth of Winter out of loyalty to Walt Longmire, but the truth of the matter is that The Ocean at the End of the Lane was a better book. I have to say, though, that At the Water’s Edge cut a pretty close second. The main reason this book won out from Water’s Edge is because I actually am going to read more Gaiman now. Sara Gruen, I’ve read a couple of her books, but Water’s Edge wasn’t quite enough to make me read Ape House (I’ve already read Water for Elephants and loved it).

So anyway, if you’re looking to pick up a short, quick read that will practically punch you in the face with how good it is, that will leave you longing for childhood, that will make you want your grand adventure… Then The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman is for you.

New Year’s Eve: Reading Resolutions

Let’s talk about good intentions.

I personally have signed up for three challenges: Beat the Backlist, AtoZ Reading Challenge, and the 2019 Discussion Challenge. I have pretty arbitrary goals for all three, but mostly I’ll be shooting for doing the best that I can.

This year, my New Year’s Resolution for reading and life is to live unapologetically. I refuse to feel guilty any longer for things I don’t have to feel guilty about, like existing, setting boundaries, and enjoying the things that I enjoy.

For those who don’t know me personally and are just reading for the book mentions I’ll be throwing in, I am diagnosed Bipolar 1, along with an anxiety disorder, PTSD, and a mysterious chronic physical illness. I live my life with guilt as my dark passenger – when I have to turn down plans, I feel guilty. When I can’t do the dishes, I feel guilty. When I have to take medication, I feel guilty.

I’m done with it. No more. Guilt is no longer going to rule my life and make my decisions for me.

That’s part of why I started this blog. I need something for me, something that I love to do, something that I make time for, that works as an outlet for my passion for writing without being a commitment that I can’t handle. The Witch Reads is all about starting over, picking myself up from rock bottom (because I hit rock bottom a couple of months ago) and rebranding myself and my life, shaping it into the healthy thing that I want it to be.

Let’s talk my resolutions and goals for 2019, now that I’ve told you why.

  • Break out of my reading comfort zone. I don’t mean just genre, I mean subjects that make me uncomfortable or anxious, I mean writing styles I wouldn’t normally read, I mean books that I’m almost sure I won’t like but I’m going to try anyway.
  • 35 Discussion posts on the blog for the 2019 Discussion Challenge. I want to talk about books. I want to talk about subjects. I want to throw my opinion out into the void and see it be heard, even if it’s not a common opinion.
  • 25 Books of my TBR pile for Beat the Backlist. In case you haven’t heard, my TBR pile is huge and it’s constantly growing. It’s time to make a dent.
  • 26 Books for the AtoZ Challenge. This one may be a lofty goal for me. I think the others are easily doable, but to attempt all 26 letters may be a bit much. We’ll see how far we get. In addition, my mom is doing the challenge with me – she doesn’t have a blog, so she’s participating in spirit. I’ll post her thoughts up as they come!
  • Honestly, just enjoy reading again. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a healthy hobby that I could just enjoy, that I do purely for the enjoyment of it, that exists solely to keep me from stressing out.

These may seem like really easy resolutions, but they’re the ones that are going to work for me this year. I’m excited to get started, and I’m excited you, readers, are taking this journey with me.

2019 Beat the Backlist Challenge

So my TBR pile is huge. Massive. Large.

Let’s beat it!

Beat the Backlist 2019 Challenge

My To Be Read pile has been carefully cultivated over the years, and I pared it down just so it wasn’t like 500 books… just 75. I knocked off a lot of classics that I know I should read but really don’t want to, as well as some books that I just didn’t have any interest in anymore.

So here it is: my masterlist of To-Be-Read.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Going Widdershins by Sherrye Cohn

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Take Me With You by Andrea Gibson

Useless Magic: Lyrics and Poetry by Florence Welch

In Pieces by Sally Field

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman

Moriarty  by Anthony Horowitz

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller

Where the Crawdads Sing by Della Owens

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My So-Called Bolllywood Life by Nisha Sharma

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield

The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

The Lost Years by T.A. Barron

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Dune by Frank Herbert

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness

A Stephen King Novel, but I’m not sure which one

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Scourged by Kevin Hearne

Beseiged by Kevin Hearne

Ink by Amanda Sun

Rules for Virgins by Amy Tan

Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

After by Anna Todd

My goal is 25!