Wednesday, December 16, 2015

I Have Pink Hair Now. Pink Hair Is Cool.

Last week I did something a little bit crazy. I dyed my hair pink. Not all of it, just some peek-a-boo highlights in bright pink. AND I LOVE IT! Seriously, LOVE.

Those around me have said things like "It's so out of character for you!" and "What possessed you to do that?!" Most have loved it, too, but it got me thinking. Why did I dye my hair pink? It wasn't to impress someone or make me stand out. It wasn't to be cool, or to rebel against anything. Most simply, I couldn't find an excuse not to.

I have always wanted to dye my hair pink but always had an excuse: Parents won't let me. School won't let me. Work won't let me. I can't keep it up. I don't have the money. I don't wanna do it myself and mess up my head. Last week, I ran out of excuses.

I'll be 29 in just a few short weeks. One year left in my twenties (but lets not talk about that). Isn't this the decade when you're supposed to do crazy things? By comparison to others my age, pink hair is barely a blip on the crazy scale.

But honestly? The real reason I did it? Every time I look in the mirror and see these pink strands, I smile. Having pink hair makes me happy.

Life is too short to be miserable. Or even just apathetic. 
Life should be enjoyed. Savored. Abundant and overflowing. 

That was something I was trying to cultivate in 2015, something I'm still working on. Saying yes to more things that are enjoyable and no to things that aren't. Getting out of my comfortable but boring bubble and into things that are fun and interesting and difficult (even if they sometimes take place on my couch; Hello, BookTube!).

A life well lived. This is what I want my life to be, and my pink hair is a small tribute to that.
So here's to the coming year. A year of bold choices, enjoyable experiences, a life overflowing.

What have you done lately just because it made you happy?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Twilight and Procrastination

I shouldn't be writing this. No, like I really shouldn't. I should be writing my paper before class tonight. But you know when you're just not in the mood to write a paper, so you're procrastinating by watching YouTube, and researching the upcoming book of an Instagrammer you follow, and wondering when those books you ordered last week will get here so you can film your October haul, and then you just decide to blow it all off and write a blog post? Yeah, that's how I'm feeling.

So, I'm not sure where this post is going right now. I have some photos to share with you from my trip to Chicago last month, but that would require standing up to get my external hard drive where they're currently stored. Same with my attendance at the Night Vale book signing. Oooh so let's talk Twilight!

It's been a while since Twilight has been mentioned on this blog, since all the books and movies have been out for years. That is, until earlier this month. Because Stephenie Meyer somehow hid from the entire world that she had written a new Twilight book.

I'm still not over this. How did no one spill??

On the morning of October 6th 2015 (aka the greatest day for book releases and book news in the history of ever), the tenth anniversary special edition of Twilight was released, and with it a new story. Well, the exact same story but with reversed genders. The book world went nuts. I was in bed when I saw it online and, after checking multiple sources to make sure it wasn't a joke and the B&N website to make sure they had it in stock, I immediately restructured my day to go buy it. I may have blown off a few minor responsibilities that morning. But the day ended with I my hands on the new Twilight book and this video, that I think gives you a small glimpse at how excited I was:

To say I was excited was an understatement. I didn't realize my love for Twilight still ran so deep until it was announced that there was a new book. I had to have it right then, and once it was finally mine, I did little else but read that book until it was finished. And I loved it. It's like a fan fiction, but better than fan fiction because the original author wrote it and approves of this imagining! I did a full review in this video:

But suffice it to say, that while this is not Midnight Sun (maybe for the 11th anniversary edition? Whaddya say, Stephenie?), it was still a very pleasant surprise. Is it a completely new book? Definitely not. But is it a fun twist on an old favorite? Absolutely. Go in expecting that and I think you'll enjoy it too.

Also, I just have to say, in my opinion....Beau > Bella. Sorry not sorry.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Fanboy Meets Fangirl

You could have been my unicorn.

I was on a one day vacation with my friends. You were working a busy candy counter. I stepped up to the register to pay for my snacks and you walked over while the girl was ringing me up.

"Hey, do you know if this soda is a twist off cap or a pop top?"
"No, I don't pay attention to those things. I'm much more interested in the flight pattern of bees."

And just like that, you had my attention.

My non-fandom friend was like:

My casual-fandom friend was like:

But I was like:

"You know, I've been told I bear a striking resemblance to Castiel."

"Yeah, you kind do!" I smile while the cashier tells my total. My casual-fandom friend now understands and my non-fandom friend is still confused, but at least knows the subject. But me?

As I sign the receipt and you shirk responsibility we chat about how wearing a fandom shirt (I was wearing my AKF shirt) in public is an invitation for conversation from other fans. "It's like wearing a Dungeons and Dragons shirt in public," you say, "people just know." You motion towards your chest as you say this. "But I'm not wearing anything fun today, just my apron."

All too soon, I'm shuffling out of the crowded store.

You could have been my unicorn. That was a great pickup line for someone like me. But alas, it wasn't meant to be. I was with friends, and you were working a busy Sunday afternoon at the candy counter.

Now I'm left wondering...why isn't there a dating site for fandoms?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Jury Duty Psychosis

I got called for jury duty today. It ended up being 5 hours sitting in the jury pool room, running on 4 hours sleep, and it was extremely boring. To entertain myself, I narrated the experience on Facebook. Thought I'd share here, more for my own future reminiscing than for your enjoyment, but that would be a happy side effect. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Best Work Call EVER.

Tonight I answered the phone at work and was unprepared for the conversation that would follow. 

Me: Hello, this is Ashley, can I help you?

Sir: Yeah, hi, I'm hoping I don't come off sounding crazy.

Me: Okay?

Sir: I live at [apartments a few doors down]. Were you working last Wednesday?

Me: No, but I might be able to answer your question anyways [thinking he's going to ask about the concert series].

Sir: So you saw it too?!

Me: Saw what?

Sir: Oh, I thought you said you knew what I was talking about. I don't want to sound crazy. I'm as sober as a judge, ya know, but I saw something in the sky Wednesday night and it looked like it was coming from near you guys.

Me: Oh. No, I don't know anything about it.

Sir: Yeah, it was so strange so I grabbed my neighbors and we were all trying to figure out what it was. It wasn't a helicopter or something. It was strange.

Me: [intrigued from watching too much Ancient Aliens lately] Oh?

Sir: I'm not drunk or anything, I'm sober as a judge. And I know what helicopters look like. This thing had three white lights, and two red ones. And it would move to the side, then stop suddenly and just...hover. Then it would shoot straight up or to the side, real quick, and then go back to hovering. Maybe it was a drone, but I don't think they're as big as this thing was. It was out there for about 15 minutes just hovering with the lights. I know I probably sound crazy.

Me: No, that's okay.

Sir: I...I hate to say it, looked like...It looked like a UFO, you know? I've never seen anything like it in my life! A few of my neighbors were out there with me and they haven't either. One girl tried to take a picture with her phone but couldn't get it. It was just so strange.

Me: Wow.

Sir: I've been debating calling to ask someone about it because I didn't want to sound crazy, but I just had to ask. I thought maybe you do airlifts or something that that's what I saw.

Me: No, we don't do that here. They do at the hospital [down the road a little bit] though.

Sir: Yeah, but I don't really think it was a helicopter anyways. It looked totally different. Ah, well, thanks for trying to help.

Me: No problem! Wish I knew something about it.
[conversation ends politely]

Best. Phone call. Ever. Made my night.

Of course, I turned to Google when I got home, and he's not the only one to have noticed it. It's recorded on the National UFO Reporting Center's registry with the same details he gave me (except he gave a little extra- like the number of lights). 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"Own Your Life"

I wanted to like this book. I really did. That title? AWESOME. But the content? Not so much.

Well, I take that back. The content was okay, but it didn't match the title. Ignoring the abundance of imagery and flowery language (not my style, but it works for some people), the book title and chapter titles didn't fit with what was discussed. I feel a better title would be "Own Your Faith". The author's answer to pretty much every problem mentioned in the book was "pray, read your Bible, and have more faith", nothing tactile, no practical steps to even improve those areas. I was also put off by the number of times the author mentioned all the books and conferences her ministry had produced, bringing up the same stories over and over.

I know a lot of women are loving this book, but it missed the mark for me. It wasn't what I expected, and not in the good way. It also frustrated me that like many other Christian books for women, it's assumed that all women are mothers and wives. I skipped the last two chapters because they were solely about marriage and motherhood. Truthfully, the only reason I finished this one was because I had requested it to review. There were just odd little moments in this book that didn't do it for me.

The reason it gets two stars from me is because it is a decent book...for someone else. For a different purpose. There were a few statements early in the book that I enjoyed and underlined, but then it fell flat.

2/5 Stars

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Dublin's Best Kept Secret Museum

This last trip to Dublin I discovered the best little museum! I hadn't seen it advertised anywhere, not even on the grounds. How did I find it? Checking the hours of the main museum on the grounds.

Okay, that is a little vague, I'm just going to tell you what this amazing little place is: the Zoology Museum at Trinity College! I have never seen it mentioned in a guidebook, visitor center, or even at the college. When I went online to see when the Book of Kells and Library opened on the bank holiday, they listed the hours for the Zoology museum, so we decided to check it out. We stopped at one of the information booths outside the library to ask where it was, and they were so happy and surprised that we asked! Apparently no one knows about this museum, and that is a real shame, because it was one of my favorite things of the trip.

Located WAY at the back of the campus, the building is beautiful, like most on the grounds. The only acknowledgment that the museum exists is the small chalkboard sign out front.

Follow the signs to the second floor and you find the museum. It's two fairly small rooms, but they're packed with really cool things. The student guide was so nice and helpful! Instead of just answering questions, he helped us figure out the answers and was a fount of knowledge on all things animal.

The first thing I noticed was a giant horn on the table. I immediately knew what it was: A narwhal horn! One of the coolest things about this place: anything on the table you can touch and pick up. INCLUDING THE NARWHAL HORN! 

I would've held it up on my head except it's surprisingly heavy (also, ceiling). But seriously cool. I'm still really excited that I held a narwhal horn.

I had to ask what this next one was and was surprised because I didn't think it'd be so small! Can you guess based on my clue?

While we're talking about bones, you can play with lots of bones here! Like, look at this bucket of vertebrae!

Or this tray of chimpanzee bones for you to reassemble:

You can pretend you're Brennan working on a special case for Booth...or is that just me?

There's a complete elephant skeleton, too, but already assembled.

These were some of the mystery objects to identify. The top right you could pick up and handle to help figure out what it is (and no, I'm not telling you).

 Now, on to the teeth! There were plenty of different kinds to touch.

How cool are humpback whale teeth???

And finally, I leave you with these teeth and my lovely face. 
Help! I've been eaten by a Great White Shark! 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Announcing the Build Your Own Read-a-Thon!

I'm so excited for this announcement! This morning I was thinking about read-a-thons and how so far this summer, I had only been able to half participate in one thon because none of them fit my schedule. So I had decided to make my own when it all came to me in the shower. Thus, the Build Your Own Read-a-Thon was born. And I want you to join me! Here's how it works.

1) Choose your dates. Choose any 5 consecutive days between August 2015 and August 2016 for your BYORAT that works for your schedule. This inaugural year I'm choosing Aug 25-28. Of course, with the nature of this -thon, you could do it multiple times during the year and have different challenges each time.

2) Choose your reading challenges. These are certainly not mandatory, but they make BYORAT more interesting. Choose up to 5, based on your reading habits. You can choose your favorites or, as I'm going to do,  put them all in a hat and randomly choose 5.
  • Read an entire book without putting it down
  • Read a book that's been on your TBR for, like, forever
  • Read a banned book (here's a list or two from the ALA)
  • Read a book who's cover is your least favorite color
  • Read a book with 400+ pages
  • Read a book with your name on the cover (either actually there, like the author name, or made up from letters in the title and author's name)
  • Read 5 books during the -thon
  • Read a full trilogy or series
  • Read a book you most recently acquired
  • Read a book that everyone has read and talks about, but you haven't just read yet
3) Choose your video challenges. Again, not mandatory, but fun. If you don't have a YouTube channel you can do the challenges as photos on your blog, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, whatever. Same as above, choose five, one for each day.
  • Socialize (aka make a video with another person: family, friend, whoever)
    • The topic of this video is up to you, as long as it's bookish. Play a game, take a challenge, gush about a mutually loved book, or for the brave, debate your bookish differences (Peeta vs. Gale, anyone?). Whatever. 
  • Bookish MASH
    • Remember that game MASH you played in junior high where you and JTT ended up with 8 kids living in a shack paid for by your job as a secret agent? Well throw some bookish facts in there to make your fictional life even better! 
  • Sequel Synopsis
    • Share what you think should happen in the sequel of a book that doesn't actually have a sequel.
  • Book Art
    • Take those books off your shelf and make them into something pretty! Stack them to make a castle, lay them out in the shape of a puppy, build a book flower...Use your imagination to add a twist to the classic book tower.
  • Cover Redesign
    • That book with the cover that you HATE? Here's your chance to fix it.
  • Fictional Character Interview
    • Get creative and ask a character what you've always wanted to know. Why was Snape so horrible to Harry? Why can't America make up her mind in the Selection? Ask those tough questions and let us all know the answers.
  • Foreign Review
    • Give us a review of a book you read this week with an accent. I don't care if you can't do a recognizable accent to save your life (that's me, by the way), make something up. That will make it even better.
  • Travel Advisor
    • Give us a commercial for your favorite fictional destination letting travelers know why they should come there. Should I go to Mordor? How do I get there? What's the weather like in Forks this time of year?
  • Love an Author
    • This one might be my favorite. You're going to take a moment to really thank one of your favorite authors. Send them a nice email, or even an old school letter (bonus points!). Take the time to do something a little more than a nice tweet. 
  • Take it Outside!
    • Film your update outside in the fresh air. Bonus points for actually reading outside, too.
4) Get started! Now that you've got your dates and challenges, get to it! Let me know when and where you're participating so I can follow along. Use the hashtag #BYORAT across all social media to find others building their own read-a-thons. I'm adding all this info to a tab at the top of my blog for easy reference. We've also got a GoodReads group started here!

I'm so excited about this and hope you'll join me in building your own read-a-thon. I think it's going to be a lot of fun!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"A Noble Masquerade"

I really enjoyed this book! Such a fun and delightfully awkward debut Regency romance!

Miranda is born and raised aristocracy. Her father was a duke, a title her brother now holds, which brings certain responsibilities for Miranda's behavior. She has always chaffed at the Lady Rules laid out for her and has spilled her thoughts and emotions into letters to one of her brothers adventurous schoolmates. She never sends them, of course, but getting everything onto paper makes her feel better. One day during her fourth season in society, her brothers handsome new valet accidentally finds and mails one of the letters. Miranda's mortification is lessened slightly when she actually receives a letter in response! She sons finds herself developing feelings for both men, despite the obvious inappropriateness of both relationships. To complicate matters, a kidnapping and national traitor are linked to her home, putting more than her heart on the line.

I loved this book. Such an enjoyable summer read! Miranda and her awkwardness are so relatable my stomach was in knots for most of the book. I felt her embarrassment through so many moments. Like when one of the men she finds attractive accidentally punches her in the face. Or when she flings a plate of food around the entire dining room.

Ryland is just the SWEETEST. While also being the most frustrating. All the secrets and misdirections the first few times they met had me so anxious! But the way he cared so much for Miranda just as she was, even in her least ladylike moments, was just so sweet. It wasn't so much that he looked past her flaws and still loved her, as he saw her flaws and loved her because of them.

I can't wait to read more of this series! I had so much fun with this one.
A Noble Masquerade is available in September through Bethany House.

4/5 Stars

I received this book form the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, July 10, 2015


Where do I even start with this book?? 

First: It was amazing. Second: No, seriously, this book is SO. GOOD. Bold capitalized italics good. I read the entire book (600 pages) in a day. The more I think about it, the more I love it. The easiest 5-star book of the year for me.

I'm going to do this with as few spoilers as possible, but not sure I can contain the gushing, so you'll just have to deal. I'll put headings if you want to just read my opinions on certain parts. This review might be a bit long. But you should read it so you can get excited for this book.

PLOT: In the briefest, least spoilery terms, Illuminae is the first book in a new YA sci-fi trilogy that follows a group of intergalactic refugees fleeing their planet after it has been attacked by the largest mining conglomerate in the 'verse. While on board their rescue ships, they face constant threat from enemy ships, a lethal plague from bioweapons, malfunctioning AI, and forced military service. Oh, and there's some sappy awkward romance. 

DESIGN: I knew nothing going into this book. I had snagged copy at BookCon, and the amazing cover and design of the whole book (even as an ARC) made me want to read it, even knowing nothing. You can see a glimpse of the cover(s) here. Essentially, the hard cover is a white background covered with text: some scribbled, some highlighted, some blacked out. Most lines are pulled straight from the book, while some on the back are actually regular back copy blurb (I didn't realize this until I sat down to read it, and even then there was so much random text I just dove into the book instead). Over this hard cover there's an acetate slipcover that blocks most of those words while highlighting others. And the book is praised by Marie Lu and Laini Taylor on the slipcover! 

A quick flip through the book shows that this isn't your average book. There are white pages and black pages. Pages with photos made completely of words, diagrams of spaceships, and all different fonts and typography tricks. And all cursing is blacked out because "sure, the story kicks off with the deaths of thousands of people, but god forbid there be cussing in it, right?" (pg 1). 

This book is a visual playground in black and white.

WRITING: You hold in your hands a 600 page file containing all the pertinent investigational documents for the Kerenza incident: medical records, pilot reports, security footage transcripts, hacked IMs and emails, AI "thought" records, diagrams, etc. The story is pieced together with these mostly official documents, woven together by the Illuminae group, who were kind enough to clip in a few notes. They all work together to complete an intriguing story that twists and turns the whole way until you, the reader, are left at the end breathless, talking to the story, wondering how two humans invented this brilliant book.

CHARACTERS: I love the characters in this book. Kady is such a regular, amazing, kick ass girl. She is terrified most of the book- breaking down in corners, crying in spacesuits- but she pulls herself up, uses her unique skills, and does what needs to be done, willing to sacrifice herself for the others on the ship. Her transformation throughout the book is so inspiring, and I can't wait to see her continue to grow in the rest of the series.

Ezra is such a geeky poet and I love him. I hope we get more from him in the rest of the series. And his friends, they added some great humor and realness to the book. Then we have AIDEN. I can't begin to tell you my feelings about AIDEN. No, seriously, I can't tell you without spoiling everything. "Am I not merciful?"

I really appreciated the strong female characters throughout the book with leadership roles. Its a shame that its a surprise, but most of the leadership positions in the book were held by women and it was great.

SUMMARY: Basically, I loved this book. The plot, the style, the characters, the world- I love it all! It was just so well done and so interesting. I liked going into this one not knowing anything. And if you read my plot heading and thought it wasn't your thing, you should still give this book a chance. Had I read the blurb, I may not have read it, either. But the way it's written is unlike anything else I've read and totally worth the ride. This book is going to be big. And I would be shocked if it doesn't become the next big YA book to movie adaptation franchise. It would play out so well on screen.

Unfortunately, this book doesn't come out until October 20th. Sorry. But the pre-sale price on Amazon can't be beat! Less than $10 for the hardcover, and TRUST ME, you want the hardcover, not the ebook. There's also a pretty awesome website that you should check out. New content is posted on the 20th of each month leading up to the release. Also, keep an eye on my YouTube channel where I'll post a book talk video about this book closer to it's release.

5/5 stars
HIGHLY recommended. 

I received this book from the publisher at BookCon under no obligation.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

"Everything Everything"

This book is beautiful.

18-year-old Madeline is allergic to everything. From the back cover: "My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I'm allergic to the world. I don't leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and nurse, Carla." But then one day, a new family moves in next door, with a boy dressed in all black, and nothing is ever the same.

I really enjoyed this book. A lot. It was sweet and silly and lovely. The themes of first love and not wasting your life are beautifully woven throughout the story. Nicola Yoon's first novel addresses heavy topics like abuse and chronic illness in a way that is light while not discounting the severity of these issues.

While the novel and actual writing was enjoyable, the sketches and notebook-style entries made this book fantastic. They don't simply illustrate what the book is saying, but they continue the story in a unique way. For example, we don't simply hear Madeline telling us she wants to kiss Olly. We get a three page "Kissing Primer" (and let's not lie, what girl hasn't thought about all the steps that lead up to kissing?)

The characters of Madeline and Carla were well developed and relatable, but I'm split on Olly. I liked what we saw of him, but he felt kind of one-dimensional or superficial. We heard about the issues he faced and things he liked, but he seemed to only exist for Maddy and doing things with her.

The plot twist = genius. Loved it! But I wish we had a little bit more after. It felt like we had the twist, then some angst, and suddenly the book was over. I wish we had just a little more resolution, especially with Dr. Whittier.

But as a whole, I loved this book and you should read it. But you can't yet, unless you have an ARC. Everything Everything is on sale September 1, 2015. But once it comes out, you should definitely read it. Especially if you're a Rainbow Rowell fan, because it had a similar feel to it (and really, who's not a Rainbow fan these days?).

Also, there is a Tumblr set up for this book! There's not much there right now, but it looks like it will be a lot of fun when they get it going!

Want to hear more about my thoughts on this book? Check out my BookTalk here!

4.5/5 stars

I received this book from First in Line at BookCon 2015 under no obligation for a positive review.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

BookCon 2015

BookCon15 was this past weekend and it was AWESOME. BookCon is truly where I find my people. 
They get me. 

This year, BookCon was extended to TWO days of Bookish awesomeness, so even though we were late getting there on Saturday, I still came home with a massive haul of 35 books (not counting the 7 I grabbed for others), only 4 of which I had to pay for, 16 samples for upcoming books, 6 totes, a slew of bookmarks, and random bookish things. (The end of this post has a shot of the books and a list of what they are, if you're interested).

Pretty much the moment I got to the Javits center, I went down to the autograph lines for the one celebrity I was most excited to meet. I waited two hours in line (was one of the first dozen people there), but it was worth it. Felicia Day is so sweet and geeky! She offered to sign Charlie's head when I pulled her out for the picture (which of course I allowed, because Charlie signed my Charlie). Related: anyone know a good sealant for use on vinyl?

One of the highlights of my month...maybe year (so far, anyways).

My brother and eventual-sister-in-law came with me on this adventure, but they spent most of Saturday at the hotel tired and with homework. Similarly, on Sunday I was up in line early so I could go to the First in Line Red Carpet Author Breakfast (free books + meeting the authors + food = awesomesauce. Also, I discussed Dean vs. Sam with Jennifer Niven) while they did things like sleep and eat. Amateurs. So I spent most of the weekend wandering alone getting swag like this:

One of my favorite things about BookCon is suddenly finding an author doing a signing at some random table. That's how I met Abi and Missy (authors of the Sinners series) and, most excitedly, Mike Berenstain of the Berenstain Bears!! Total fangirl moment with him.

The only author I waited in line to meet this year, aside from the FIL Breakfast, was Scott Westerfeld.  I wanted to go to the Rainbow Rowell party, but it sold out in less than 30 minutes while I was still on the bus. Sad Panda. But, Scott Westerfeld! 

When my brother and I asked to take a selfie, we kinda cracked him up. And look! I am officially Ashley-wa! My favorite thing about this is that he crossed out his name to sign it. So Bubbly.

The other highlight of the weekend for me was the BookTube 101 Panel and the meet up after. Got to watch my favorite BookTubers (Katytastic, Xtinemay, and JesseTheReader) live on stage, and then got to meet them! And they are exactly as sweet and amazing as you'd expect. The right side is the result of "okay, now a silly picture". Of course they obliged. Christine was especially enthusiastic. 

Also, now I'm contemplating becoming a BookTuber. Such books, much fun.

In addition to all this fun, there was a Welcome to Night Vale panel where Cecil read the beginning of the new novel live. If I am ever in a coma or unable to do anything for myself, I want Cecil Baldwin to come read to me. Benedict Cumberbatch can take turns when he gets tired.

Lastly, let me show you the books I got. The books on the left are already released, about half of them are signed. The books on the right are all ARCs. The ones leaning on the side are the samples for upcoming books.

And now, THE LIST. * = signed  ** = met the author at a signing

Left Side (Already available):
The Geek's Guide to Dating by Eric Smith*
The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs**
The Girl Next Door by Selene Castrovilla**
Love and Profanity edited by Nick Healy
How to be Interesting by Jessica Hagy**
Life After Perfect by Nancy Naigle**
You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero**
Melt by Delene Castrovilla** (the last one there, missigned to someone else, so she let me have it)
Branded by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki**
The Maze Runner/The Scorch Trials Collector's Edition bindup by James Dashner**
Reconstruction: First a Body Then a Life by Ara Lucia Ashburne
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (linked version not the same as what I got)
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven**
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart**
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Galactic Hot Dogs by Max Brllier and Rachel Maguire
Hiking Waterfalls in New England from Falcon Guides

Right Side (ARCs)
Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis*
Choose Your Own Love Story by Ilyse Mimoun
The Golden Compass Graphic Novel Vol 1 by Phillip Pullman
Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Voyagers Project Alpha by D.J. MacHale
Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon** (really excited to read this one!)
The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan
Samurai Rising by Pamela S. Turner
Finding Forever by Ken Baker
A Mighty Purpose by Adam Fifield
The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone (got the last one, insanely excited)
The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips
Another Day by David Levithan
The Keeper by David Baldacci
Steve Jobs Insanely Great [a graphic biography] by Jessie Hartland
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Stay tuned over the next few months as I try to read and review all of these!

Update: I've started a BookTube channel over on YouTube! You can see a video of this haul here.

Let's chat in the comments! 
Which book above do you most want to read? Or which would you like to see a review on?
Did you go to BookCon or BEA this year? What was your favorite part?

Friday, March 20, 2015

11 Things Christian Singles Are Sick Of Hearing

People say a lot of stupid things to single people, especially in the church. "Like what?" you may ask. Let me share some of the most popular things Christian singles are sick of hearing, in no particular order.

It'll happen when you least expect it (or when you stop looking)!
Well that's good, because I stopped expecting it about 5 years ago, so my expectations can't be any lower! And I've never actively looked for a mate, so...done! I've stopped looking! But seriously, this platitude doesn't help. In any situation, this is the least helpful thing you can say to a single person. How do you stop dreaming about something you want in your life? Also, if I am one of 4 single women in my church and not opposed to marriage, you'd better believe I'm looking at the ring finger of every new guy who comes through that door, especially if they're attractive. Even if I'm not actively looking to get married, I'm still paying attention.

Maybe you're called to singleness! 
This is usually directed at young people (what?!). Oh, you're not married before you can legally drink alcohol? Guess you never will be! (But you're Christian, so you better not drink any of that alcohol, ever). Maybe I am called to be single forever, but you are certainly not the one allowed to point that out, or even ask me about it. I promise you the thought has crossed my mind that I'll be single forever, and my feelings on that subject are complicated. After about 25 years old, the single in question tends to be viewed as a spinster. I've even had people use the actual word with me! (I just turned 28).

Singles are a picture of heaven, because in heaven there is no marriage.
I'm sorry, what Bible are you reading? This is not just bad theology, it's a complete lie. True, there is no marriage between man and woman, but there is absolutely marriage! Bride of Christ? Marriage Supper of the Lamb? Ringing any bells? The Bible frequently refers to marriage between a man and woman as a picture of our relationship with Christ. We are the bride of Christ, anticipating heaven because that is where the marriage is finalized. So go read the New Testament, and then try to tell me singles are an example of heaven, more than marriage. But this is closely related to another cringeworthy statement...

Just be married to Jesus!
Okay...but is Jesus going to bring me a Coke, and cuddle with me and Netflix when I have a migraine or a bad day at work? Will he swap the laundry if I forget? Wash the dishes? Help make the travel arrangements? Make babies with me?? Yes, I love Jesus, but a relationship with him is a totally different caliber. I know people mean well with this, but just stop. It's not encouraging and it's twisting scripture. The creepy cousin to this one is the: "Let Jesus be your lover!" No no no no. No. Are you seriously telling me to sleep with Jesus? Do you hear how creepy/crazy that sounds? Besides, that raises a whole bunch of uncomfortable questions and theological debates that I would rather not deal with. Let's just leave this at: it's really hard to not have a physical connection with someone.

You're so lucky you're single! Marriage is so hard! 
a.k.a: You're so lucky you can do whatever you want, whenever you want!
Yeah, marriage is hard. But you know what else is hard? Always being alone. Sleeping alone every night. Not being invited to parties because "it's all couples and we didn't want you to feel awkward". Dealing with bills and illnesses and crises and other grown-up life stuff all by yourself. Even with great family or friends around, it's not easy to be single. A married woman recently said, "My husband's out of town this week, I'm kind of scared all by myself at night!" Guess what singles are feeling every night? Life is hard, no matter what. Marriage is hard, but so is being single. This isn't a contest of what's better, married or single, so stop competing. They both have their perks and pitfalls.

A woman's highest calling is to be a wife and mother.
Recently I attended a women's meeting, where it was stressed that all women should attend. So I did. But everything that was discussed pertained only to married women (protecting your husband from porn, serving your husband, etc). Finally, someone braver than I, asked "What about us single women?" The answer was essentially that we should help the married women. I'm all for helping my fellow women, married or not, but that is not my only purpose in life. I have a unique call on my life, and it's not just to raise a family. Is that the ultimate calling for some women? Absolutely. Jenny Acuff wrote a great post on her husband's blog about this once. A woman's dream to be a wife/mother is not any less or more important than what I'm called to. But doing anything other than what God has designed me for is sinning against Him and abandoning his call on my life. And why is marriage the highest calling for a woman, but not for a man? Oh, let's not go there....

You should do it [extreme activity, traveling, class, etc] now before you settle down. 
Get it out of your system.
This one I tend to just smile and nod to. People don't seem to get it. My goals and favorite activities aren't magically going to change just because there's a ring on my finger. I love to travel. No, correction, I need to travel. It's in my blood and I get anxious if I don't travel every few months. That's not going to go away if I get married. So you know what? I'm going to marry someone who is also addicted to travel. We'll be those crazy people taking their babies on trips to Spain or Thailand or Kenya or Antarctica. Putting a carseat on a camel or whatever. I'm not going to change who I am just to get married. And if I find someone amazing who doesn't want that kind of lifestyle? Then he's not the right one for me. I'd rather be single. Simple as that.

You're not married, you can [work extra shifts, work holidays, babysit my kids, serve at our church event, etc].
No, thank you. I have a life, too. And a family, even if they didn't come from my body. I want my free time just as much as you do, to do the things I enjoy. Just because I don't have a partner doesn't mean I don't have a social life. You chose to have add a spouse/kids to your life, you figure out the scheduling. I've chosen not to have those things in my life at this point for a reason.

You want to be single?! Don't worry, you'll change your mind when you find the right guy.
You're starting to sound like the aunt in My Big Fat Greek Wedding: "You don't eat no meat? Okay, I'll make lamb." Believe it or not, some people don't want to get married! *gasp* The horror! But it's okay if a person doesn't want to be in a relationship. Paul even commends singles! Also, remember back in number 4? You were jealous that I'm single! Why are you trying to convince me that I need to be married? Singleness isn't a disease you need to cure. Aren't I good enough on my own?

Have you tried online dating? This bar/class/place? You should try....
No, stop. Don't tell me what to do. Just because it worked for you or your third cousin's hairdresser or whoever, doesn't mean it's right for me. Also, have you seen the creeps out there lately? I had a guy come up to my friend in a pub, swerve in her face, and then high five as a way of flirting. What?! Even if the idea of online dating doesn't completely freak you out (like it does me), it's not easy to weed out the weirdos and find a keeper. There's an entire TV show dedicated to how people trick others in online relationships. The struggle is real. The evil twin of this statement is the dreaded: "You're too picky." No, I just have standards. I've got great things going on in my life, I don't want to mess it all up with a drunk, jobless, baby daddy just so I can have a ring on my finger.

You are so great! Why aren't you married yet?
Ugh. Seriously? Again, maybe I want to be single. And if I want to be married, but I'm not, how do I know why I'm not?! This statement is like one of Barney Stinson's negative compliments. It seems like a compliment, but it hints that there's something wrong with me. It's worse when it's a single member of the opposite sex asking you. Uhh....I don't know, but why don't you tell me, since you apparently have no interest in asking me out, either? This one also has a creepy cousin: If I weren't married, I definitely wouldn't let you get away. Dude, stop. Just stop. Go back to your wife and leave me alone.

There are a lot of stupid things that people say to singles, but at the heart of it all is the fact that many of the questions and comments made about our singleness make us feel less than. Like we're not worth anything because we're by ourselves. Remember: singles are people too! We have hopes and dreams, and goals, and jobs and everything you do....just minus the spouse. Stop trying to give us unsolicited advise, stop trying to fix us, stop downplaying the joys of marriage, and just be our friend.

Thank you to all the ladies of 30DoH and ATS for your suggestions!

My fellow singles, what's your least favorite thing to hear regarding your marital status? Did I miss a good one?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

"Millennial Gospel"

I have another friend with their first book out! I love reviewing books, but I especially love it when I know the author!

When Pastor Ryan first told me he was writing a book and it's theme, I expected something theologic and academic. I don't know why. He's a pretty cool and down-to-earth guy, and is also very smart, so I don't know. This book is anything but stuffy academic. Millennial Gospel is a call to action for all believers in today's world to reach the lost of the Millennial Generation (the generation born around the turn of the millennium) and written to connect with everyone.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the first section, which breaks down the most common damaging cliches we use in the church today and offers healthy alternatives. Things like "God just wants you to be happy" and "...because the Bible says so". Those little things that just slip out of so many Christian mouths that have no basis in Scripture, or are simply cop outs to giving an actual answer that will help people.

Pastor Ryan goes on to outline why the Millennial generation is so different than previous generations, and how that impacts their view of God and the church. Rather than simply painting a bleak picture, the book tells us how to connect with this generation as individual Christians and as the Church. All of this is done in a friendly, conversational manner that is as inspiring as it is convicting.

Every Christian should read this book and put it's principles to action in their lives. The points made in this book are not only applicable to reaching the Millennial Generation, but anyone living in today's world. It's a different era and the old methods just don't work anymore. What will work is relationships fueled with honesty and openness.

4/5 Stars, Recommended. Available to purchase here.

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

No More Hamster Wheel!

I have the joy today of getting to review How to Get Out of Debt Living Paycheck to Paycheck by Camilla Kragius from No More Hamster Wheel

When it comes to financial books, in my mind, Dave Ramsey is the untouchable guru, Casey Lewis is the personal/relatable mentor, and Camilla Kragius is the neighbor who's been-there-done-that and wants to share how with you. While a lot of financial books are full of facts and stats, HTGOODLPTP is more conversational and encouraging.

This book is a very quick read. The short chapters give you the down and dirty details of how to become debt free, save for the future, and live your life. The first chapter, which also happens to be the longest, walks you step by step through creating (and sticking with!) a budget- even if you live paycheck to irregular paycheck.

One thing I really appreciated was Camilla's acknowledgement that you have to actually live while getting out of debt, even if that means not following her plan to the t so you can have a little fun. Instead, she stresses the importance of balance, even though it goes against the conventional advice from most gurus.

Along with the book, I also got to review the companion course: Financial Freedom. I LOVED this course. If you're going to buy the book, spend the extra money and go for the whole course- and you get the book included! 

In 27 lessons, Camilla walks you through all the principles in her book so you come out with a complete and personalized financial plan. It further explains some parts of the book that can get confusing, and even gives you rest days so you don't get too overwhelmed! I'd estimate that the lessons take anywhere from 15-60 minutes, depending on your debt, work-ethic, and math skills ;) 

As a whole, I think I may have liked the course more than the actual book, if that's possible? The book had some parts that seemed a little jumbled and required me to read a few times to understand, but overall was a good start for people beginning their financial journey. The book gets 3 stars from me. The course, however, gets 5 stars, as the walkthroughs and narratives were fantastic and easy to follow.

So as a whole package, this product gets 4/5 stars. I'd recommend it for anyone who needs a step-by-step walkthrough to start their budget and financial life. 

I received access to this course from the author in exchange for a review.

Update: Camilla has generously offered a discount to readers of AspiringAshley! Use the coupon code "Ashley" to receive the course for only $10! What a great start to becoming debt free. Thanks Camilla!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mr Grey Attacked My Dog

Last night, I went to bed early. I've been exhausted lately, and the past week or so has been crazy at work. So it was lights out just after 9:30p and I was on my way to dream land...except at 9:45 I heard something. 

Our dog Jack barked, but it wasn't his usual bark. Then I heard banging, and yelling, and Jack yelping, and squealing. I ran upstairs to see what was going on and found the kitchen in chaos. My dad was looking around for something, my mom was trying to close the sliding door, and they were both yelling. I looked down and saw a raccoon IN the door, my mom pinning it in place, trying to keep it from getting into the house. My mom yells at me, "This isn't Jack! It's a raccoon!" (because I obviously couldn't tell that) and is yelling at my dad to get a bucket, but he's trying to deal with Jack. 

So I grab the recycling bucket next to the door and put it over the raccoon, who is half way in the house, while my mom keeps holding the door. My dad finally caught the dog, who had been attacked and bit by this raccoon while he was outside for his last pee break before bed, and ran upstairs to put him in his crate and get my brothers. (By the way, Sam, I've taken to calling you my brother lately instead of "the guy who lives in our attic." It's basically true anyways, and easier than explaining.)

So the boys and Leah all come down, I'm holding a bucket over a raccoon who has half his body in our house and is squealing and scratching and thrashing. My mom is too nervous to open the door to get him out of the house, thinking he might flip himself around into the house and bite or scratch us. My brothers are offering to kill it with a giant stick they just happened to have with them. 

Being the voice of reason, I sent my brother (blood brother, Miah) to put on boots, then he took over holding the door for my mom. Mom went to examine the dog, while Miah and I took a few seconds to regroup and plan (while everyone behind us is yelling "helpful" things).

We took a three count, Miah slid open the door, I threw the raccoon and barrel up, out, and to the right (to make sure it wouldn't get caught on the lip of the door), and Miah slammed the door closed again. And locked it, per our mother's request. Just in case the raccoon knows how to open slider doors, I guess. Then the raccoon earned his new name: Mr Grey. We nearly killed him in the door, and he came right back trying to get in for more. And he was definitely injured, because he was limping around, and there was blood on our door where we had pinned him. This is how far into our house his front half was:

We called Animal Control, but they were closed, so we called the police who sent two squad cars. Called the vet and my mom took him over to the emergency clinic to get checked out. We spent the next hour watching Mr Grey root through the trash on our porch, crawl into the barrel to chew on his tail, go wander in the snow, and come back to try to break into the house and start all over. 

The police just stood around for a few minutes, then got back into the cars and one waited for the on call Animal Control guy to show. I guess raccoons have been a big problem lately, even attacking a police officer recently who had just stepped out of his squad car.

All the trash is because it was in the recycling bucket when I trapped him in it. I just tossed the whole thing out the door to get him out.

For an HOUR this animal limped around our yard, making circles around the porch. Then we watched him shimmy up a pole, attack the bird feeder, play with the bell, climb down the railing, hide under Sam's car, and disappear. The Animal Control guy showed up minutes later, and Mr Grey wasn't found. He was on our porch for an hour, and then he disappeared less than five minutes before the AC guy showed up. 

Jack went to the vet, got his injuries checked out and cleaned. He's got a bite on each hind leg, and a little scratch on his nose. He's a drugged little guy this morning, since they had to sedate him last night to clean him up, and now he's on pain meds. He's back at the vet right now getting a rabies booster, and he has to be on quarantine for 45 days, since the raccoon wasn't caught so we don't know if it had rabies. 

Mr Grey may look cute, but don't be fooled. He's a monster.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Let's Be Spies

For 2015 we are re-resolving the "Do New Things" resolution, like we had in 2013. Today we took our first adventure of 2015: We became spies. (We also posted it all over the internet. We're not the best spies.)

5 Wits at Patriots Place in Foxboro is this really cool place. They've got two adventures: Espionage and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. We, of course, did the Espionage option where, essentially, you spend an hour being a spy.

You go into a "shop" that turns out to be a front for the CDA, your agency. After exchanging code words and destroying the hidden bugs, you are briefed by the senior agent (we had the fantastic James). We learned that COBAL had stolen valuable blueprints which, if built, would put an end to all electronic communications on the planet. No phones, internet...NO NETFLIX!

And of course, it was highly probably that there was a mole in our agency. After making it through the laser security system, you and your group (of twelve or so) as you are led by your senior agent through the Disney-quality sets of enemy headquarters as you try to find the blueprints and stop the bad guys. We even had to (try to) dismantle a bomb! (We survived, but barely.)

Here's where our senior agent encouraged some "Satellite Selfies" so we could prove to our higher ups that COBAL did, in fact, steal the blueprints and begin a prototype of Project Gridlock.

The lighting in the lab wasn't the best for selfies, but I still like this. I don't have other photos. I was too busy having a blast being a spy and trying not to blow up from the bomb. 

This was SO. MUCH. FUN! I would highly recommend it, and would totally go back! Everything is interactive and high quality. Our senior agent was great. Did I mention this was really fun? Because it was. You should go do it. Where else can you, an adult, go run around like a spy for less than $20?

And finally, because Gillette was right outside the door....GO PATS!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Wayfinding Bible GIVEAWAY!

Okay, this isn't so good. Tyndale was generous enough to send me a Wayfinding Bible over a year ago when they came out, and I never shared! I found it on my shelf this afternoon while deciding which Bible I should bring to my first Bible College class (I'm taking Bible College classes!!) so it seems like the perfect time to finally blog about it.

The Wayfinding Bible is an NLT version of Scripture that offers three built-in reading plans designed to give the reader an overview of the entire Bible and how the major themes, characters, and stories relate to each other. This Bible also features full colored pictures, notes, and maps to help bring the Bible to life and make it easier to understand, along with a concordance of "Points of Interest". Each book features a timeline of major events from the book and the world at large during that time.

This would be a great Bible for new believers, or Christian teens ready for more. The NLT is an easy-to-understand version, perfect for those who are new to the faith. Combined with the three reading plans, it's a great opportunity to dig into the Word.

So I'm giving away this copy! If you are interested in this Bible, or know someone who could benefit from it, leave a comment below and I will randomly choose a winner on Sunday night, 9pm EST.

(Contest has closed. Congratulations Meredith McLendon! has declared you the winner!)

Check out this video if you'd like more info about the Bible:

I received this from Tyndale Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

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