Friday, July 17, 2020

First Line Fridays: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

First Line Fridays is a weekly meme hosted by Hoarding Books.

What are you reading? What is your first line? Open the book nearest you and post the first line in the comments below…

I'm currently reading The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. This is a prequel to The Hungar Games trilogy.

The book blurb:
It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capital, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute. 

 The odds are against him. He's been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined -- every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute... and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

The first line is...
Coriolanus released the fistful of cabbage into the pot of boiling water and swore that one day it would never pass his lips again.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Interview With a Pagan: The Same Interview Three Years Later

I was searching for something entirely different using my old name from social media, The Domestic Witch, and found an interview I had done from Through the Keyhole by Jennifer Hesse.

I thought it would be fun to answer the same questions from the 2017 interview to see how much has changed and how much surprisingly is still same.

Q. Jennifer wrote "I first learned about The Domestic Witch when I came across one of her Witchy Reading Challenges."

A. I still do those witchy reading challenges. There's on coming up in August called the WitchyReadathon.

Q. So, what is a Domestic Witch? Here's what it means for DW, as explained on her blog

Domestic means dealing with the matters of the home. This covers a wide variety of daily activities including but not limited to cooking, cleaning, running a household, being a homemaker, and raising children. It's pretty easy to explain. Just think of what Martha Stewart or Rachel Ray does.

Explaining the witch part is pretty easy too. A witch is someone who uses magick as a tool to improve his or her life and/or the lives of others. Specifically in domestic witchcraft, a witch uses magick to improve her home life and to help her family.

A. Oh to see me being called DW again. I was far more fond of that name than "The Domestic Witch." I left behind The Domestic Witch name for three reasons. First, I decided to start using my real name. It only took 10 years of being online to find the courage to do this. Second, I was embracing feminism more so writing about matters of the home felt very hypocritical to me. It was also quite boring after several years. Third, there was someone who spent those last few years accusing me of stealing the name "The Domestic Witch." She even named her blog The Original Domestic Witch or something like that. She used that name for some time even after I had dropped my online name and was using my legal name. I remember at one point she was even sending haters to my Twitter to harass me about it. A few even tried to get me "canceled." I finally got tired of it and was like,"Fine. You want to be the only Domestic Witch. You got it."

Q. Introducing DW from Indiana in her own words:

A. My name is Julie Cornewell. I'm an aspiring writer in Indiana, 44 years old, widowed, and the single mother of five kids ages 7, 16, 18, 24, and 27. I've been a solitary eclectic pagan for over 24 years, write the blog and am STILL working on my first novel.

Q. How do you describe the spiritual path you follow? Do you self-identify as a Witch, Wiccan, Pagan, or something else?

A. I'm an eclectic pagan. While I still practice witchcraft in 2020, for personal reasons I'd rather not get into here, I am currently choosing not to identify as a witch. My spiritual path is inspired by Wicca, witchcraft, high magick, New Age especially lightworking, Esoteric Christianity, Jungianism, Druidry, heathenism, and Jediism (yes as in Star Wars).

In the 2017 interview, I included Eastern philosophy but around 2018 I decided to focus solely on Western traditions because I did feel it was bordering on appropriation. I also have plenty to study within neopaganism. I just can't study all the things. I don't have enough time. I've often joked that I need 10 lifetimes to study all the religions and traditions that I would like to.

Q. How and when did you first come to follow this path? What about it did you like? 

A. My answer hasn't changed of course. However, I'm a little more embarrassed about being so inspired to research witchcraft by a movie of all things. Although I know it inspired many a witch to explore the path.

I was 20 years old and had a subscription to New Dawn magazine which had a few articles about witchcraft which first got me interested. Then I saw The Craft and became obsessed with finding out more. Our small town library only had one book on witchcraft and magick which was an encyclopedia. People kept stealing the witchcraft books, so I wasn't allowed to check it out. I made photocopies of almost every page and assembled my first Book of Shadows. Soon after, a bookstore opened up in my town. One day I felt a strong urge to go to the bookstore. There I found the only book on witchcraft which was The Spiral Dance by Starhawk. I know it's a cliche, but reading that book made me feel like I had come home.

Q. Are you public about your religion/craft, or is it a secret?

A. I am so proud to say I am 100% out of the broom closet. When I finally started to use my real name the sky didn't fall. In fact, nothing bad happened at all and I had prepared myself for the absolute worse. Although that could be because I waited an entire DECADE to do so. I waited until I felt safe but especially until it felt safe for my children. My primary concern was any ridicule or harassment my children might receive.

Q. How do people usually react when they find out you are Pagan? Have you had any memorable encounters?

A. My answer in 2017: I try not to spring it on a person. I test the waters out by asking them what they think about God as female or whether or not spells work. Depending on their reaction I decide whether or not to go farther. I never hide it from someone I'm dating though. I had a teaching moment with a guy I dated when I was young. We had a wonderful first date and he expressed interest in having a relationship with me throughout the evening. Finally towards the end of the night, I told him I was Wiccan. He politely kicked me out the door as quickly as possible and said he didn't want his future kids around that. This is when I learned to be upfront in romantic relationships as soon as possible or you end up wasting a lot of time.

In 2020, people usually react no longer with ridicule but with a 100 questions. I still get the occasional Christian that says I'm being tricked by Satan and am destined for hell but I confuse them immensely when I explain that I do honor Jesus as God. As a soft polytheist how could I not? (More on me being a "Jesus friendly pagan" comes later.)

Q. Do you celebrate the eight sabbats on the Wheel of the Year? Can you describe one or two of your favorite Pagan holiday traditions?

A. My answer in 2017: I do but sometimes what I do is a small ritual. There's times where I will have an elaborate ritual planned out but then my toddler decides she doesn't want to go to bed. Being a single mom, I don't always have someone else that can watch her so I can do my thing. I've learned to incorporate family activities as a way of celebrating such as a backyard fire in the fire pit at Beltane or a day at the pool on Summer Solstice. I don't teach them paganism because they have little interest in any kind of religion. That's been very disappointing for me, especially since I'm "The Domestic Witch." When I was a young mother I had idealistic visions of being a pagan parent, but forcing it on uninterested kids doesn't work. There's still hope for my 4 year old though.

My answer in 2020: Same answer until you get to the part about my kids. My kids have since shown varying interest in paganism and witchcraft. The oldest is fairly active about pursuing the study of paganism and witchcraft. The others while they don't study or practice it have had me explain much of it but decided it's not something they want to pursue. These are my older children. My youngest who is now 7, has some developmental delays and has a harder time understanding certain concepts and doesn't always understand fantasy from reality.

Q. In your practice, do you honor a specific deity or invoke both the God and Goddess, or neither?

A, My answer in 2017: All of the above. I tend to use specific deities as archetypes for self improvement. I favor Greek goddesses and am currently working with both Artemis and Athena. I've been working with Jesus as well approaching Christianity as a Mystery Religion. Jesus has been the only male deity I work with. I believe All Goddesses are the Goddess and all Gods are the Gods but am a soft polytheist. I see the different deities as archetypes not actual entities. In ritual I tend to invoke a nonspecific Goddess and God but sometimes I just honor nature.

My answer in 2020: Everything is still the same but favoring the Greek pantheon. I had a 23andme ancestry test done and learned my background is mostly British/Irish (the Irish was rather surprising) and Germanic. So after working with the Greek pantheon for over a decade I am learning about the Norse and Celtic pantheons. The Gods all say to me, what in the world took you so long? While I have no issue with people working with pantheons different from their own heritage, to find out my own and begin working with those pantheons is very meaningful to me. I've also been learning about working with my ancestors.

If you're reading this you're probably you still work with Jesus or what? Honestly, yes. I think there's much to learn from studying Jesus and Esoteric Christianity. Back in 2017, I hadn't even heard the phrase "Esoteric Christianity." I am still absolutely fascinated by the myth of Jesus Christ, the god who became a human and savior of the world. However, in the end I believe the story of Jesus is a myth just like the stories of all the other gods. I've also begun studying the concept that the great masters like Jesus and Buddha are the Mighty Dead.

I've also been studying the tradition of Feri/Faery Witchcraft. While I love the concept of aligning the three souls, (to say it has completely changed my life is no exaggeration) I just can't seem to connect to the pantheon that they use.

Q. Can you share one or two specific ways in which you practice your religion/craft? For example, do you cast a circle, work spells, or use divination tools? Do you practice alone or in a group, or both?

A. My answer in 2017: I cast circles and adore the ritual Drawing Down the Moon. I've gotten away from doing spells and magick for things and now only do them for psychological change. I work with astrology and tarot cards. Divination provides a road map for life. I practice as a solitary, but I'd like to change that. There aren't any groups in my area.

My answer in 2020: I still occasionally cast a circle in a formal ritual but I rarely have the time to do so anymore. I've learned to cast circles much quicker and efficiently. I still rarely do magick for physical things. Astrology and tarot are still staples in my practice. I still haven't found any local groups but I also haven't looked for one in a long time either. I haven't done the Drawing Down the Moon ritual in a long time. This is because I learned I have more success evoking than invoking. Learning how to do the LBRP changed my life. I adore the witchy alternative LBRP Christopher Penzack gives in his book The Temple of High Witchcraft.

Q.  Do you have a home altar? If so, what's on it right now? 

A. My answer in 2017: I have a long dresser that I use as an altar. I used to be very particular about the placement of everything but my 4 year old fell in love with some of the things on my altar (particularly the stones) and likes to play with them and rearrange them. It's all still there just not as neat. I have several candles, a goddess figurine, a pentacle, a Buddha statue, a small photo of Jesus, a wooden platter with a monkey statue on it, a porcelain turtle, dragon incense holder, candle snuffer, and lots of stones.

My answer in 2020: The altar had to be moved to a tall dresser because once my daughter turned 5 she started to get a bit careless with the stones and other things on my altar. She broke the head off a dragon incense holder I had purchased only a week prior. My altar now includes some framed inspirational phrases like "Good vibes only" and such. My favorite altar item is a framed picture of a crystal ball with the astrological signs all around it that says "You are magical" that I found at...wait for it...KROGER!

Q. What's your favorite Pagan resource you'd like to recommend? Are there any books, websites, or other resources you've found helpful? 

A. My answer today is the same as it was in 2017: Even though I write a blog myself, I think websites are some of the least useful resources. This is because it's so hard to go into depth on a subject. As for books, my top ten favorites can be found here, in one of my recent blog posts, but I encourage people to read as much as they can. Even read about things you don't believe. Nothing has solidified what I do believe more than reading about what I don't. This includes the Bible. The best way to defend yourself when your spirituality is being attacked is to know their arguments yourself. 

Q. Is there anything else you would like people to know? 

A. My response in 2017: A question I get often is whether or not a relationship to a person of a different religion can work. My marriage is proof of that. I was with my Baptist Christian husband for over a decade before he died. Debating religion and spirituality was a passion of ours. What made it work was compromise. Even if we didn't believe what the other did we made an effort to educate ourselves about it. This includes Paganism as well. Nothing breaks my heart more than fundamentalism in Paganism. The whole point of paganism is that there's no right or wrong way to practice it.


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

My Reading Rush TBR

The Reading Rush (formally known as BookTubeAThon) is a week-long readathon for book lovers all around the world that will take place July 20th - 26th. For one week readers gather together to read as much as they possibly can and to participate in challenges and giveaways online.

Here's the Youtube announcement video:

I am hosting my own Fun In The Sun Reading Challenge so I really wanted as many of my books to be summer-themed. I was able to get all but one to fall under this category. It took a while to find books but I'm so happy I was able to.

The challenges: 

1. Read a book with a cover that matches the color of your birthstone. 

After searching for hours on Overdrive for a summer-themed book with a dark pink cover (my birthstone is October) I finally decided to just Google "books with pink cover" and found a summer-themed book in less than a minute. For this challenge, I will be reading Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen.

2. Read a book that starts with the word “The”

It was actually pretty easy to find a summer-themed book that started with "the." The hard part was deciding which book to read. I finally decided on The Summer List by Amy Mason Doan.

3. Read a book that inspired a movie you’ve already seen. 

I couldn't find a book that inspired a movie that I wanted to read so I'm bending the rules here and am doing a television show instead. Despite my efforts, I could not find a summer-themed book for this challenge. I'll be reading The Rise (The Originals #1) by Julie Plec

4. Read the first book you touch. 

Will be a book from this TBR

5. Read a book completely outside of your house. 

This physical challenge shouldn't be too difficult to complete because I love reading outside and on my lunch hour at work. However, it does say read it completely. If I remember correctly last year the challenge was only to read outside not read the entire book outside.

6. Read a book in a genre that you’ve always wanted to read more of. 

I decided to go with the genre of historical fiction for this challenge and will be reading Summer of '69 by Elin Hilderbrand

7. Read a book that takes place on a different continent than where you live.

I found this book searching Overdrive and got completely lucky that it's set in Beijing and fits the challenge. Unfortunately, after choosing the book I discovered the reviews for it say it's absolutely terrible. Some are one-star reviews. If it truly is that bad I do have a backup book ready if I can't bear to finish My Summer of Love and Misfortune by Lindsay Wong.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Announcing the WitchyReadathon August 1 - 31

Can you believe I have not hosted a #WitchyReadathon since 2016? I know I'm already hosting the seasonal Fun In The Sun Reading Challenge but I decided I just couldn't wait to do another witchy reading challenge. 

When I hosted it before, I liked to host one every season. I'm going to start doing that again. This challenge is also unique because it has always included fiction and nonfiction books. (I know some of you may be saying wait, there's nonfiction books about witchcraft? Yes there is! You can see my top ten favorites here!) Back then I also had a lot more time to read so I made the challenge only a week long. This time it will last an entire month. 

 The Rules:
  • This seasonal challenge begins August 1, 2020 and ends August 31, 2020. 
  • You may sign up anytime during the challenge. 
  • I won't be creating different challenge levels or prompts. I've always preferred a more open flexible challenge style.
  • Read as little or as many books as you want. Even if you just read one book I want you to participate!
  • You may include books of any format including traditional books, ebooks, or audiobooks.
  • Books may be nonfiction or fiction. (Here's a list of my top ten favorite nonfiction books on witchcraft and magick!) Fiction books can be any genre but they need to have a magical person as the main or supporting character. This can be any kind of magical person such as a witch, wizard, magician, shaman, pathworker, bruja/brujo, druid, shapeshifter, and so on. The story must focus on magic in some way. 
  • You may reread books. Books may count towards other reading challenges. 
  • Use the hashtag #WitchyReadathon on social media. *UPDATE* I have created a Twitter just for the readathon @witchyreadathon
  • If you could be so kind, please place the Witchy Readathon banner on your blog to help spread the word. 
  • Please link back to this blog, post about it on Instagram, tweet about it, and so on to help spread the word.
  • Sign up below by leaving your below!

Can't Wait Wednesday: Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings to spotlight and discuss the books we're excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they're books that have yet to be released. 

I cannot wait for Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer to come out on August 4th and I am shameless about it! I am a 44 year old woman excited to read a book about a teenage vampire because I have waited years for this. I'm reading comments from readers that are saying "bUt wE'rE aLl gRoWn uP." Please! I just posted a list of authors I have read most as a grown adult and it's Young Adult authors. Being "grown up" has nothing to do with enjoying YA books. There's nothing to be ashamed of because I have always believed YA authors write the best fantasy and paranormal fiction. 

Here's the blurb about Midnight Sun from Goodreads:

When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella’s side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward’s version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun. 

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward’s eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting beautiful, mysterious Bella is both the most intriguing and unnerving event he has experienced in his long life as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward’s past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he let himself fall in love with Bella when he knows that he is endangering her life? 

In Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer transports us back to a world that has captivated millions of readers and, drawing on the classic myth of Hades and Persephone, brings us an epic novel about the profound pleasures and devastating consequences of immortal love.

Love YA books? Love paranormal books? I have reading challenges for both!

Info and sign up post is HERE

Info and sign up post is HERE

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Authors I’ve Read the Most Books By

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme and blog hop hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

The timing for this Top Ten Tuesday topic couldn't be more perfect because I was just updating my Series I Have Read page. While this doesn't include standalones that I have read, it's a pretty good indicator of who I read the most. This Top Ten list honestly surprises me because this list isn't a list of my favorite authors. My favorite author list would look very different.

1. Welp, this is awkward. The author I have read most is JK Rowling.

2. Coming in second is Cassandra Clare.

3. Third is Dan Brown.

4. Fourth is Stephen King. Most of what I have read was before I started this blog so I don't have the books listed.

5. Fifth author I have read most is Stephanie Meyer.

6. Sixth is Kiera Cass. This one really surprised me.

7. Seventh is Janet Evanovich which is surprising because she's not one of my favorites.

8. Eighth is Leslie Meier. This one absolutely shocked me because I don't even like this author's writing but I keep reading her books.

9. Ninth is Charles Soule and this is because I recently completed his The Rise of Kylo Ren series.

10. And last but not least, the tenth author I've read the most is John Green.

I'm 44 years old and the authors I've read the most are Young Adult authors. I don't know what that says about me. 

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner Book Review

This just might be the first book review I've posted on my "book review blog" in around two years. Let's just take a second to appreciate that. That said, if I'm a little rusty at this, please forgive me. 

The blurb for Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner (May 5, 2020) from Goodreads says the following:

Six years after the fight that ended their friendship, Daphne Berg is shocked when Drue Cavanaugh walks back into her life, looking as lovely and successful as ever, with a massive favor to ask. Daphne hasn’t spoken one word to Drue in all this time—she doesn’t even hate-follow her ex-best friend on social media—so when Drue asks if she will be her maid-of-honor at the society wedding of the summer, Daphne is rightfully speechless.

Drue was always the one who had everything—except the ability to hold onto friends. Meanwhile, Daphne’s no longer the same self-effacing sidekick she was back in high school. She’s built a life that she loves, including a growing career as a plus-size Instagram influencer. Letting glamorous, seductive Drue back into her life is risky, but it comes with an invitation to spend a weekend in a waterfront Cape Cod mansion. When Drue begs and pleads and dangles the prospect of cute single guys, Daphne finds herself powerless as ever to resist her friend’s siren song.

A sparkling novel about the complexities of female friendship, the pitfalls of living out loud and online, and the resilience of the human heart, Big Summer is a witty, moving story about family, friendship, and figuring out what matters most.

This story was two different books, as in two entirely different genres. The blurb describes the first half. The first half is a social commentary about frenemies, being rich and connected, and social media while the second half is a...cozy murder mystery? Wait. What? Please note that nowhere in the blurb does it say anything about a murder mystery. The stories on their own are good but together it’s just a hot mess.

This seems to be because Wiener didn’t know what she wanted the book to be. Is it a book about body positivity and self-esteem? Frenemies? Social media? Being rich? Weddings? Romance? Finding a murderer? Finding your family? The answer is yes. This causes much of the story to seem rather forced and the pacing all over the place. The murder, which happens halfway through the book, is completely jarring to the reader.

(This paragraph contains minor spoilers so feel free to skip.) And the part about Drue’s secret life? Sorry I didn’t believe it for one second. Another issue I had was that the main character, Daphne, just wasn’t likable. She really wasn’t any better than her frenemy Drue because she was using her too but is all offended when she finds out why she was really asked to be Drue’s bridesmaid. What a hypocrite! And she wasn’t trying to find the murderer out of the goodness of her heart but just to clear her own name. She also just didn't have a lot of depth as a character. Drue, her best friendm frenemy, and the antagonist, was given more depth. In many ways, the book was more about the antagonist than it was about the main character.

Wiener does do a good job of planting lots of red herrings along the way to make you suspect other people of being the murderer. The main character actually has to do some layman detective work instead of clues just falling into her lap like some cozy mysteries tend to do. Overall I liked both halves of the book (I thought the cozy murder mystery half was better than the women’s contemporary half) but switching genres in the middle of a book? Who does that? It just doesn’t work.

My rating was Photobucket

This book was read for my Fun In the Sun Reading Challenge. For more info click here.