January Wrap-Up!

January

Hello everyone!

Usually here is where I say, “Wow!! Is it the end of January already!?? Time flies!!” However January actually did not fly by for me. It’s been pretty crazy :’)

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Crazy how? Here is what I’ve been up to this month:

  1. Read 6 books (including a graphic novel!)
  2. Installed a pole in my living room!
  3. Hosted a moving sale and a clothing swap! Donated my furniture! Packed remaining belongings into two suitcases! Flew across the country with my dog!
  4. Started a new job!
  5. Figured out recycling and composting! Trying to not use plastic bags (it’s hard…)

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And wrote…………. absolutely nothing! However I forgive myself given the circumstances :’)

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My Lady Jane was the first historical fiction book that I read in a long, long time. Although I wasn’t fond of the character development or the slow pacing, it was a fun and entertaining read. ★★★/5 (Check out my review here!)

Strange the Dreamer didn’t disappoint! Amazing world building and characters, which was as expected of a Laini Taylor novel!! ★★★★/5 (Check out my review here!)

I absolutely LOVED this series!! To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before got me hooked right away. Such lovable characters! Loved the adorable and humorous scenes and the witty dialogue! ★★★★/5

P.S. I Still Love You was a good segue to the final book, although there was a bit of the second-book syndrome going on I think. ★★★/5

And I LOVED Always and Forever, Lara Jean, which I think was the PERFECT ending to this series. This is one of those series that I enjoyed so much that I was sad to finish reading. ★★★★★/5

(Series review coming up!)

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This was my second time reading Clover, a manga (Japanese graphic novel) by an artist group named CLAMP who I used to fangirl night and day (ten years ago!) This time around, I was not too impressed by the dialogue or the characters, however, I still ADORED the artwork very much 🙂 ★★★/5

(Not too sure if I should review this one. Are you guys interested in manga / graphic novel reviews!?)

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Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books talks about how to blog hop! My favourite take-away point from this post is to set aside some time each day/week to blog hop. Thank you Marie for this wonderful advice!

The Orangutan Librarian raises an interesting question about politics in fiction. Do they add value to the book, or does it get annoying from time to time!?

If you are interested in a bit of political humor: Phil @ The Phil Factor highlights some of Donald Trump’s tweets (which are hilarious).

Melanie @ MN Bernard Books talks about professional appearance in the work place. How strict should the dress code be when it comes to hair dye and tattoos?

Pia @ Joie de Vivre and Cupcakes shares some insights about positive body image in the age of perfection (and some amazing pole dancing photos!)

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How was your January? Are you a manga / graphic novel fan? Have you ever hosted a garage sale / moving sale / clothing swap? (Or do you want/plan to host one?!) What are your favourite books this month?

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Strange the Dreamer and My Lady Jane // Beautiful world-building and a creative twist on history

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Hello everyone!

Today I am excited to tell you about two books that I’ve recently read:

To be honest, I was hesitant to pick up Strange the Dreamer, because I didn’t quite enjoy Daughter of Smoke and Bone as much as I thought I would. However this book did not disappoint!

Secondly, I never read historical fiction. Like, at all (it’s bad), however I thought I’d give My Lady Jane a try since I heard that it is a fun read.

Anyway! Without further ado…

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The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.

What I liked

  • The characters! I love Sarai, Feral, Ruby, Sparrow, and even Minya. It is a fun cast of characters who I want to continue reading about.
  • LOTS of imagination. The world building is amazing. I love how magic works in this world, and the terminologies used to describe it. It feels like a world that is vast and magical, and that we are just skimming the surface in this book.

What I didn’t like

  • I’m not very used to the omnipresent narrator. It seems like the story is written through one character’s POV at a time, but often perspectives change within a chapter or even within a paragraph.
  • So far I’ve heard lots of praise about Laini Taylor’s writing style, so this is going to be an unpopular opinion. I feel a bit bogged down with the big words and the lengthy descriptions. (I like brevity, LOL!)

The Bottom Line: 4/5 stars

Though I am not used to the writing style and the POV switching, I enjoy the characters and the world building. This is a series that I look forward to continuing.

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Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?

What I liked

  • It’s a HILARIOUS book. Each characters have their own quirks – Jane likes books (a LOT), and Gifford is… well, a horse half the time. They make fun of each other and it’s all very funny to read.
  • Light and easy to read.
  • Unique writing style.
  • Creative twist on history. I like that this book is not bogged down on facts, which is what intimidates me when it comes to the historical fiction genre. This may be a good place to start for beginners to the genre (such as myself.)

What I didn’t like

  • TOO funny. And yes… there is such a thing. There are moments that are quite serious which is interrupted by a humorous commentary by the narrator or the intrusion of another character. It lightens up the mood, however it interrupts the flow of the scene.
  • I don’t feel a connection to the characters. It’s true that they each have their own personalities: Jane is a bookworm, Gifford is a poet who wants to hide the fact that he is a poet, Edward is sexist but learns the errors of his ways, Bess is really REALLY smart. However, I don’t always understand the motivation behind their actions, which is frustrating.
  • Pacing is slow. This is a fairly long book (almost 500 pages), and I felt impatient at times waiting for things to happen. (Again, I like brevity :’) )

The Bottom Line: 3/5 stars

My Lady Jane is a fun, light-hearted novel that made me smile and laugh out loud. However, I am frustrated by the slow pacing and the actions of the characters.

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You can probably guess by now that I like simple writing and fast pacing. Do you like detailed descriptions or do you prefer simple language? Do you prefer fast or slow pacing? Is there such a thing as TOO funny?

The #NotAll Book Tag!

The #NotAll Book Tag!

Hello everyone!

Thanks to The Orangutan Librarian for tagging me! She is also the inventor of this fun and ingenious tag! Be sure to check out her blog, which is super, duper awesome 😀

I am guilty of making generalizations about books, movies, and other things in life. However this tag reminds us that there are often exceptions to the rule 🙂 🙂

#NOTALL COVER CHANGES – A COVER CHANGE YOU LIKED

This is a difficult question for me. Since I read eBooks or listen to audiobooks most of the time, I don’t pay much attention to book covers! However, I ADORE the new Harry Potter covers!

#NOTALL ADAPTATIONS – AN ADAPTATION YOU LOVE MORE THAN THE BOOK

Apologies to the Twilight fans out there. The book was a DNF for me. I just couldn’t stand the drawn-out dialogues and Bella Swan. However, I actually enjoyed the movie 🙂

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#NOTALL TROPES – A TROPE YOU’LL NEVER TIRE OF SEEING

I am with The Orangutan Librarian on this one! I absolutely love characters who are tough on the outside but soft on the inside!! Baz from Carry On and Laurent from The Captive Prince come to mind 🙂

#NOTALL INSTALOVE – YOU INSTALOVED THIS INSTACOUPLE

Okay, everyone. I know… there are problematic aspects with this book and not everyone loved it, but I actually enjoyed reading about Olly and Maddie in Everything Everything.

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#NOTALL LOVE TRIANGLES – AN EXAMPLE OF LOVE TRIANGLE DONE WELL

Loved it 😀

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#NOTALL PARENTS – BOOKISH PARENTS THAT, YOU KNOW, PARENT!

Oh hahaha! I love this one! I LOVE YA books that portray parents well. One of my favourites is Here We Are Now.

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#NOTALL VILLAINS – A VILLAIN YOU LOVE

Hands down, Amy Dunne. She is just SO ingenious.

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#NOTALL CHOSEN ONES – A CHOSEN ONE YOU CAN GET BEHIND

Recognize this guy!? Back in the day, I was the biggest Ash Ketchum fangirl :’)

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#NOTALL HYPED BOOKS – A BOOK THAT LIVED UP TO THE ACCLAIM

At one point, everyone was talking about Illuminae (and they still are to a certain point). This book did NOT disappoint.

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#NOTALL *INSERT FAVOURITE GENRE* – A BOOK YOU’RE NOT KEEN ON FROM YOUR FAVOURITE GENRE

Usually I love reading YA contemporary fiction featuring LGBT characters, however, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I expected.

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#NOTALL *INSERT LEAST FAVOURITE GENRE* – A BOOK YOU LIKED FROM A GENRE YOU DON’T OFTEN READ

I absolutely loved When Breath Becomes Air which is from a genre that I rarely read (memoirs and biography).

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I won’t tag anyone specifically this time. However, if you like this tag and want to do it – consider yourself tagged!!

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What do you think about the new HP covers? Are you a fan of the Twilight book/movies? Did your favourite genre ever disappoint you? Any favourites from a genre you don’t usually read?

Pole Diaries: January

Pole Diary

Warning: There are some pictures of, um, people on, um, poles. So if you are sensitive towards this type of content, please skip this post and come back on Monday 🙂

Hello everyone!

One of my goals this year is to post more about my non-bookish hobbies, so… Yes! I am making another post about pole! Eeeeeeek! (That’s me being excited and nervous at the same time!)

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I want to share with you guys two moves that I am VERY VERY SUPER DUPER EXCITED to have learned in the past few months. I’ve been working on these since forever, and I am SO GLAD that I can finally do them without, well, falling on my face.

The first one is the twisted-grip Ayesha:

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As you can see, this is a move that requires a lot of grip strength and arm strength, and some balance as well. (Without enough balance, you would just tip over to one side.)

It is called a twisted-grip Ayesha because of the positioning of my top hand. The twisted grip makes this move a lot easier because your grip is more secure. I am still working on the regular grip Ayesha, which really scares me!

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You guys might have seen this picture from one of my previous posts! This is a much more beautiful Ayesha. See how her legs are angled parallel to the ground? On the other hand, when I do this move, my legs are tilted upwards. One of my upcoming goals is to improve my hip flexibility to be able to make this move look better.

The second move that I am proud of is the BRASS BRIDGE!!!!!!

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This is a pretty difficult move to get into (it takes like a bajillion steps!!) Also, if you do this move wrong or slip out of it, YOU WILL FALL ON YOUR FACE. (Hence the mat underneath me.) The secret to this move is that it is ALL in your knee pit.* Your hands do almost nothing and are kinda there for a placebo effect.

*Knee pit is a term that I learned once I started pole dancing. It essentially is the back of your knee, which you use to grip the pole in moves such as this. It like your armpit except for your knee. 😉

However, this move doesn’t look very impressive yet. Here is how it is supposed to look like:

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See that CRAZY back arch!? (Which is pretty much non-existent in my version of the move.) Back flexibility is something that I want to work on this year. Flexibility in general really isn’t my forte. I can muscle my way into many moves but I get stuck when it requires bendiness :’)

My Pole Goals:

  1. Improve hip and back flexibility by stretching lots.
  2. Practice the regular grip Ayesha and the handspring Ayesha.**
  3. Find a pole studio in Vancouver where I have recently moved to.
  4. Set up my own pole & crash mats at my new place!

** I haven’t talked about the handspring Ayesha in this post. That’s because I don’t have any photos/videos to show you guys since it doesn’t exist yet!

PS. Thank you everyone for your kind wishes for my flight from Toronto to Vancouver! Charles and I have landed safely in Vancouver and moved into our new place. However, there has been some miscommunication between the building and property managers and… basically they are not sure anymore if Charles can stay (he is a greyhound which is considered a large breed). SO we might be kicked out 😦 😦 #life #adultingREALLYsucks

Otherwise we are fine and dandy :’)

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Let me know if you like this post, and if you want to see more updates about my pole journey! What do you do to stay fit? What are your fitness goals this year?

 

Review: Far from the Tree // A heartfelt contemporary YA

Far from the Tree

Hello everyone!

So, I was about to share mini-reviews of two books. However, as I began typing the review for Far from the Tree, I realized that it was WAAAY too long to qualify for a mini-review (that’s how much I LOVED it). Therefore we will go back to the conventional review format for today!

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A contemporary novel about three adopted siblings who find each other at just the right moment.

Being the middle child has its ups and downs.

But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—

Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.

And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

I loved Joaquin, Maya and Grace, who have similarities as siblings but are very different people. Maya is loud and outspoken. She feels strongly and has a witty, sarcastic style of humour. On the other hand, Grace is reserved. As a teen mom who recently gave her child away for adoption, she has a lot of guilt and sadness. However, on the outside Grace appears to have everything under control. And while Maya and Grace connected right away, Joaquin sets himself apart from the girls. As the only sibling who was not adopted and spent his life in foster care, Joaquin never felt like he belonged. He puts on an act, trying to do and say the things that people like, but he doesn’t believe that people will truly like him. Even though these characters are very different, we learn to walk in their shoes and understand how they think.

I loved the focus on family. There is a small element of romance, though this isn’t the focal point of this story. We get a glimpse of the dynamics within the different families in this story. Even though Grace, Maya and Joaquin were given up at birth, we see how they come to understand their own meaning of family.

In relation to that, I loved how parents are portrayed as human. They behave very much like real parents- They are worried about their children, sometimes in an exaggerated way, and they love their children very much.

I enjoyed the writing in this novel, which flows well and keeps me turning the pages. However, I did notice that there are some repetitive use of words. For example, on many occasions people’s “chins wobble”, they are often “shaking”. Also, people cry a lot in this book. Then again, so will you 😉

Which brings me to my next point, which is that you will not be able to get through this book with dry eyes.

The Bottom Line: 4.5/5 stars!

If you are looking for a book that will touch your heart, Far from the Tree is a must-read!

Hint: Have a box of tissues near by.

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As I am writing this post, I am preparing for my one-way flight from Toronto to Vancouver (eek!) I will talk to you guys on the other side!

 

DIY Corner: Thank You Cards

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Hello everyone!

Hope you all had a great weekend! There was a BLIZZARD here in Ontario. We were literally knee-deep in snow!

One of my goals this year is to post more about non-bookish topics. In addition to reading and writing, I also love doing arts and crafts. Today I want to share with you a collection of Thank You cards that I’ve drawn.

(To provide some context: These cards are for my coworkers, since I am leaving my workplace as I move across the country to Vancouver.)

(Although I drew these cards, the ideas and designs are from Pinterest, so I can’t take credit for these designs.)

Psssst…. did you see a greyhound card among these!? That one actually is my design :’)

Since we are on the topic of Thank You’s, here are some things that I am thankful for:

Tea & a comfortable couch. A roof above my head. Canada. Friends. Pole. Books & the blogging community. My coworkers (hence the cards). Carl (my fiance), not to be confused with Charles (my dog), although I am blessed to have both. Mom, dad & my family in China. 🙂

(I know it’s not Thanksgiving, but it is never a bad time to be thankful, is it?)

 

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Do you like DIY? What are you thankful for? Let me know which is your favourite card design!

You’re Not Good Enough Book Tag

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Hello everyone!

How are you all doing? It’s been super crazy for me (moving! elevator bookings! furniture! packing!!) However, I am hanging on :’)

Today I am going to do a fun book tag! Thank you so much to The Orangutan Librarian for tagging me! Please check out her laugh-out-loud answers! She also has many other amazing posts on her blog, so be sure to take a look 🙂

How this tag works:

Basically  it’s a tag where you pick 30 fictional characters and write their names down on pieces of paper. You then pluck two names at a time out to answer a question – so there are 15 questions. The aim of the game is to pick the character that fits the criteria the best and by doing so find the character that is not “good enough” for the answer.

1. YOU ONLY HAVE ONE MORE SPOT ON YOUR SPELLING B TEAM, WHO WOULD YOU PICK TO COMPLETE YOUR TEAM?

Julian (Here We Are Now) vs Charlie (Perks of Being a Wallflower)

However much I admire rock stars, I don’t think spelling is Julian’s strong suit. So it will have to be Charlie. Wasn’t English his favourite subject? 😉

2. BOTH CHARACTERS WANT TO KILL YOU, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU KILL FIRST SO YOU HAVE A BETTER CHANCE OF SURVIVING?

Holland (A Darker Shade of Magic) vs Nick (Gone Girl)

Although some of Amy’s calculating nature did rub off on Nick, I’ll have to say that Holland is still the bigger threat.

3. YOU’RE ON THE BACHELOR/BACHELORETTE AN YOU’RE DOWN TO THESE TWO CHARACTERS, WHICH ONE ARE YOU GOING TO GIVE YOUR ROSE TOO?

Damen (Captive Prince) vs Kell (A Darker Shade of Magic)

GASP this is a difficult choice!! However Kell is more my type.

4. YOU’VE BEEN CHOSEN FOR THE HUNGER GAMES, WHO WOULD MOST LIKELY VOLUNTEER IN YOUR PLACE?

Lila (A Darker Shade of Magic) vs Laurent (Captive Prince)

Hmm… If Lila doesn’t get a chance to volunteer for the Hunger Games, she would sneak her way in 😉

5. YOU’RE STRANDED ON AN ISLAND. WHICH CHARACTER WOULD YOU SACRIFICE TO ENGAGE IN CANNIBALISM?

Kvothe (The Name of the Wind) vs Tiffany (Silver Linings Playbook)

Hard to say since I love both characters! However, I will pick Kvothe since he will probably use magic to get away unscathed.

6. YOU’RE THE NEXT DC/MARVEL SUPERHERO (WITH YOUR OWN TV SHOW OF COURSE), WHO IS YOUR SIDEKICK?

Simon (Simon Vs the Homosapiens Agenda) vs Roman (My Heart and Other Black Holes)

I can imagine Simon as a superhero sidekick 🙂

7. YOU’RE A MANAGER OF AN AVOCADO ADMIRING COMPANY, WHO WOULD YOU FIRE FOR LACK OF COMMUNICATION SKILLS?

Maya (Far From the Tree) vs Karou (Daughter of Smoke and Bone)

Although Maya expresses her feelings, she has a volatile mood and often gets into arguments. Also, can you imagine her admiring avocados?!

8. YOU’VE JUST FINISHED A BOOK IN WHICH YOUR FAVOURITE CHARACTER DIES, WHICH CHARACTER IS MOST LIKELY TO COMFORT YOU?

Amy (Gone Girl) vs Ezra (Illuminae)

Absolutely Ezra. Amy is probably busy scheming against somebody 😉

9. UGH, IT’S HIGH SCHOOL. WHO WOULD MOST LIKELY BE PART OF THE POPULAR CLIQUE?

Hermione (Harry Potter) vs Blue (Simon Vs the Homosapiens Agenda)

I think Hermione will rather NOT be part of the popular crowd. On the other hand, perhaps Blue can be popular in a quiet kind of way.

10. THE DAY HAS ARRIVED; YOU’RE FINALLY A YEAR OLDER! WHO WOULD HAVE THE NERVE TO FORGET YOUR BIRTHDAY?

Malfoy (Harry Potter) vs Rhy (A Darker Shade of Magic)

Malfoy will likely remember without admitting to it, but I have a feeling that Rhy might forget and apologize endlessly about it a week later 🙂

11. YOU’VE JUST FOUND AN UPCOMING BOOKTUBE STAR? WHO WOULD MOST LIKELY BE?

Harry (Harry Potter) vs Aysel (My Heart and Other Black Holes)

Harry strikes me as more of a doer than a reader. Aysel it is!

12. SLEEPOVER TIME! UNFORTUNATELY YOU CAN ONLY INVITE ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD YOU INVITE?

Ron (Harry Potter) vs August (Our Dark Duet)

HAHA I think August is more of my type. Also, if I happen to be in a post-apocalyptic world, he can fight monsters while I sleep 🙂

13. BAM, YOU’RE PREGNANT. WHO’S THE FATHER/MOTHER?

Pat (Silver Linings Playbook) and Kady (Illuminae)

This is a tough decision since Bradley Cooper who plays Pat in the Silver Linings Playbook is super cute. However I will go with Kady, since she is much more badass, and I want a kid who kicks butt 🙂

14. YOU’VE JUST WRITTEN A SUPER IMPORTANT TEXT. WHO WOULD ‘SEE’ IT, BUT NOT REPLY?

Akiva (Daughter of Smoke and Bone) and Simon (Carry On)

I’d have to say Akiva. He’s more of the brooding type.

15. YOU’VE JUST WOKEN UP AND IT’S TIME FOR BREAKFAST. YOUR MUM’S BEEN REPLACED BY..WHO?!

Baz (Carry On) and Kate (Our Dark Duet)

It must be Baz, being a wizard and all 😉

That was fun wasn’t it!? I tag these awesome folks:

May @ Forever and Everly

Fadwa @ Word Wonders

Ioana @ Dragon Waffles

Swetlana @ The Caffeinated Bookworm

Melanie @ MN Bernard Books

If you don’t do tags or don’t want to do this one, that is all right! On the flip side, if you haven’t been tagged but you want to give this one a try, go for it!

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How was your holiday season!? Are you a last-minute packer or do you start way ahead of time? (My nature is the former but I am trying hard to become the latter 😉 )