Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publication Date: September 27th, 2016
Pages: 536
Song I Played While Reading: Ghosts N' Stuff by Deadmau5
Rating: 5 stars

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn't think they'd survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda pare, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz's cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city's dark and twisting streets -- a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to write a full review for Crooked Kingdom because it's hard to surmise feelings for a sequel that's as wildly loved as CK is. Like, do I really need to take this book apart and review every aspect of it if I loved it with my entire soul? If my heart was shattered into a million pieces and tears streamed down my face as I read the last page? Using technical terms is nearly impossible when all you want to do is let your fangirl fly free and scream; scream and scream over how unfair it is that this was only a duology, that there won't be any more Kaz and Inez, Wylan and Jesper, Nina and Matthias. (At least for the next couple of years. I'm still holding out hope that Bardugo has a spin-off Nikolai series up her sleeve, and that our crew will pop up in it.)
I was comatose for a solid hour after finishing this. Alex from The Book's Buzz was generous enough to lend me her internet shoulder to cry on, and I wailed and bemoaned the book and certain events that took place on pg. 495. (Not that I memorized that entire chapter and its contents or anything?????) Leigh Bardugo hasn't just proved that she would be a Barrel boss in Ketterdam, oh no, she's proved that she would be the Crow Queen. The Crime Queen. Ketterdam's Queen. The Cunning Queen. Whatever you want to call her, she would be Kaz's equal in every way. I'm unable to fathom how she's created not only the heist in the first book, but all the politics and cunning and double-crossing in CK. My brain is unable to comprehend the scope of it, so I'll gladly bow down to her. Bardugo is truly a wordsmith, a master of thugs and thieves, and she's carved herself a spot in my heart for, let's be honest, the rest of my life. (Ruin & Rising also left me destroyed and scarred.)
I'm going to finish this off with two (ish) sentences that ruined me in this book.

"Mama!" she called out. "Papa!"

"I have been made to protect you. Even in death, I will find a way."

I'm getting that last one tattooed on my body. Don't you dare doubt my love for Helnik.

"But she's one of us."
Jesper's brows rose again. "One of us? Does that mean she knows the secret handshake? Does that mean you're ready to get a tattoo?" He ran a finger up Wylan's forearm, and Wylan flushed a vibrant pink. Matthias couldn't help but sympathize with the boy. He knew what it was to be out of your depth, and he sometimes suspected they could forgo all of Kaz's planning and simply let Jesper and Nina flirt the entirety of Ketterdam into submission."

"I would have come for you. And if I couldn't walk, I'd crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we'd fight our way out together - knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that's what we do. We never stop fighting."

"Matthias knew what it was to face the mentors you had idolized, to feel yourself become a nervous pupil again, yearning to please. He turned to Nina and said in Fjerdan, "Do not let them cow you.You are not the girl you were. You are not just a soldier to command."
"So why do I feel like finding a corner to sob in?"
"This is a round room. There are no corners."

"She smiled then, her eyes red, cheeks scattered with some kind of dust. It was a smile he thought he might die to earn again.

"Suffering is like anything else. Live with it long enough, you learn to like the taste."
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Holy crap I'm writing a book

Friday, November 25, 2016

I can't tell you how many times people have told me that, since I read so many books, I'm bound to be an author.

"Wow, you read so much! Are you gonna write a book one day?"
"Well, all that reading is going to make you a kick-ass author one day."
"From what I'm seeing, you've probably already written like, 50,000 books by now."

That last one was from a guy who had been staring at my bookshelves as if they were the Great Wall of China, mouth hanging open in awe. 
I never, ever thought I would try my hand at writing. I always smiled and shook my head, saying "Nah, I'm not that good of a writer. It's a lot of work." I thought of J.K. Rowling, Sarah J. Maas, Leigh Bardugo, all of these fantastic fantasy writers who created worlds, and didn't think it was possible. It's not that I didn't want to be an author, or had something against the profession; it's just that I never thought it would be mentally possible for me. It was daunting. It required research and time and patience, a lot of thinking and using your imagination, and I lacked those. (Or at least I thought I did.) Reading doesn't equate to being an author.
But, it definitely helps in putting one foot in the author door. By default, you understand the basics of how a novel flows: there's a beginning, middle, climax, and end. You know there's side characters, an antagonist, family dynamics, romance, and a journey. (Those are just things I personally like in a novel, not something that I believe needs to be in one.) You understand what it's like to be immersed in a story, to watch it play out in your head because it's that vivid and imaginative. So, in theory, you have all the tools to create this masterpiece, even if it does sounds impossible. 
There're words in you. It just takes the right story to bring them out. 

Which brings me to the point of this post: I'm writing a story. 
I've had plots and characters come to me at random moments in the last couple of years, popping up in my head, making me perk up a little and think, "Huh, that would be interesting..." I would think about it for a couple days, my mind tied up with the characters and what they would be trying to accomplish. And then I would promptly lose interest. Nothing ever stuck. I would find a fault, think of how exhausting it would be to try and work it out, and then let it flutter away. In high school, scenes would come at me randomly in class, and, depending on the subject, would start writing it out on a loose leaf piece of paper. (I'm looking at you, geometry. Rot in hell.) I have a folder and a journal stuffed with random scenes and plots. It looks like it belongs on the bedside table of a patient at a mental hospital: colorful and messy, written out in spurts with blue, red, black, orange, green, and blue ink. A plot would be half written out, and then directly after it, a conversation between two characters from a few pages before would be continuing, followed quickly by a random scene from a separate story. No one would understand any of it except for me. It's messy and wild, ink smudged all over the pages and random doodles in the margins. Almost loosing the journal had made me realize just how much I loved that thing, and now I keep it tucked safely on my bookshelf. 
It wasn't until I watched The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that inspiration really struck. The movie features everything I love: two hot dudes who dislike each other forced to work together on a mission, a short, spunky female lead that isn't afraid to throw down with either of them, hilarious quips, and a plot stuffed with action, humor, and drama. (WATCH IT.) I was grinning like an idiot when it ended, and, as per usual when I fall for an action movie, I was putting myself in the film. Don't even try and tell me you haven't done this at least once in your life! Seriously, my imagination runs fucking wild after watching an action film. I'm in an intense storyline coma for at least an hour afterwards, dreaming of what it would be like to scale buildings, shoot bad guys, and throw down verbally with a hot guy. (That last one I at least have some experience in. I once argued with a dude for almost an hour about why Captain America: The Winter Soldier was so much better than the first movie. Thinking back on it, he was 100% doing it just to get me worked up. I vividly remember rambling about the flawless fight choreography. #nerdyandproud) Aaaaanyways, back to my point: I was deep in my storyline coma, but for the first time, a full scene came to me. I hauled ass to my computer and typed it all out. It was nothing huge, maybe 1,000 words, the beginning of the novel. But still, I was proud of it. Weeks passed, and the story stuck with me. I jotted down possible plot points, ideas, characters. I shifted the timeline, working on dates and how they would fit in with the story. 
The full scope of what I wanted to accomplish hit me a few days later like a bag of bricks, and I wanted to smash my head into a wall: pulling from a few other inspirations, along with my all-encompassing and irritating love for history, and I was writing a story about a girl who was destined to kill Adolf Hitler. 
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. deals with Nazi-sympathizers in the 60's; Gaby's father allegedly was a Nazi scientist, and her uncle works for a shipping company who's owners are Nazi-sympathizers. Gaby was my inspiration for Klara, my main character, and I wanted her tied intimately to this 'cause'. That was the only way I could see her getting involved. But I shifted the focus, because I've always been grossly fascinated with Hitler and the Holocaust, and found my story. I remember thinking to myself, years and years ago, that if I were to ever write a book, it wouldn't be a historical fiction because that involved way to much research. I was grumbling to myself about the irony of that statement as I checked out 10 books about Hitler and the Holocaust at the library. Life is cruel. 
So that's book one! Now, being me, I couldn't just be suddenly hit with inspiration for one book. It had to be two. One book wasn't stressful and time-consuming enough. Another character had to show up, hollering about how her story needed to be told. Plus, they had to be vastly different, and both require tons and tons of research. 
Book two revolves around a girl named Katie, and the bare bones of it is this: she finds out she's the heir to a fae kingdom, and is sent off to take her rightful place alongside her parents, struggling with her emerging fire ability, her snarky tongue, and the idea that, one day, she'll be queen. 
There's tons and TONS more than that, but that's the gist of it. There's also an evil queen who takes a liking to Katie and schemes to pair her off with her nephew, who's destined to be This Great Evil Dude, but is actually a very large cinnamon roll.
I'm focusing more on Katie's story at the moment, and have been doing a lot of research, note-taking, and world-building. I only write a scene if it comes to me in vivid detail, and will usually scribble it down in a folder for random scenes and forget about it. I want to get this world figured out first, since a solid chunk of the first book is her learning about the fae history and the kingdom she'll be ruling over one day. I need to know my shit. 

Now that we've finally gotten to the point of this post (I swear I didn't mean to ramble so much!), I wanted to leave some links to some useful tips and posts I've found. The first ones are to two world-building questionnaires: this first one is the one I'm currently using, and this second one is essentially the same thing, but a little more clean cut. I would've used the second one if I had found it first, but I had already printed out the first one and started working on it. These are seriously so helpful, and ask you questions that you probably wouldn't have even thought about: anything from social customs to agriculture, to language and politics. 
This next link is to a blog post Marissa Meyer wrote, "My Writing Process: 9 Steps from Idea to Finished". She takes you along her entire writing process, from when the idea first hits you to the publishing process. It's so incredibly insightful. They're some mild spoilers in it for her Lunar Chronicles series, but she'll warn you before she talks about them, so you don't need to worry about it! 
This next tip isn't really a link, but instead a website: Pinterest. I'm a visual person, and seeing my board for my books is extremely invigorating. It gets me in the mood to brainstorm and write, plus gives me oodles and oodles of inspiration. Next, I've got character questionnaires on Gotham Writers Workshop's website. There's two of them, and are super easy to download and fill out. Characters are obviously vital to your story, and this just helps in getting to them better, especially your mc. 
Finally, I've got an article from Writer's Digest that, if you're a newbie like I am to the whole writing thing, gives you 7 simple steps to beginning the process of brainstorming your story. Use all the steps, only a few of them, or none! This is your story. There's no right or wrong way to outline or brainstorm your book.

Okay, that's it! I think my goal is to have my outline and first draft done by November of next year, so that I can do my edits and second draft for NaNoWriMo. That would definitely kick my ass into gear.
Are you writing a book? If you are, how's it going? Do you have any tips for a newbie like me?
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The Animal Under The Fur by E.J. Mellow cover reveal!

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Animal Under The Fur by E. J. Mellow
Publication Date: 2017
Link to Goodreads

Orphaned on the streets as a baby, Nashville Brown, aka Kill Operative 3, knows better than to rely on anyone. With heightened senses and superhuman strength to survive, she's been raised as the perfect assassin.

The trick to her success? Keeping everyone, even her best friend, at arm's length.

Losing his entire family in the span of a year, Carter Smith left his ability to move bored deep in their graves. His only concerned are not completing his mission and effortlessly charming the next temptress to warm his bed.

The key to his accomplishments? Working alone mixed with a Casanova smile.

But when a deadly weapon needs to be stopped from falling into the wrong hands, the lone wolves find themselves thrown into an explosive partnership. Can Carter and 3 lower their guns aimed at one another long enough to succeed, or will their unwillingness to compromise end up destroying more than their perfect records? Whatever their differences, both agree on one thing -- in the game of lies and deceit, the line between friend and foe is often blurred by blood splatter.

About the author:
E.J. Mellow is the award winning author being the NA Contemporary Fantasy trilogy The Dreamland Series. With a bachelor's degree in Fine Arts, E.J. splits her tim between her two loves -- visual design and writing. Residing in NYC, E.J. is a prime member of Romance Writers of America and their Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter. She has no animals but loves those who do.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

I'm SO incredibly excited for The Animal Under The Fur! Not only is Mellow an incredible author (I read The Dreamer and thought it was fantastic), but hate-to-love tropes are my absolute FAVE. This sounds amazing. I can already tell this is going to be chock full of sarcastic quips and sexy scenes. I'M SO READY. Are you?!
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Horace and Agnes: A Love Story by Asia Kepka and Lynn Dowling

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Horace and Agnes: A Love Story by Asia Kepka and Lynn Dowling
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Publication Date: November 15th
Pages: 168
Link to Goodreads

Horace is a horse, and Agnes is a squirrel, though there are no boundaries when it comes to true love and genuine companionship. Bursting with color, style, and humor, this is the photographic journal of Horace and Agnes's romance, and their life of simple pleasures: walks on the beach, jigsaw puzzles, quick getaways to Las Vegas, visits with relatives, festive parties, and quiet nights at home. In a series of self-portraits creatures by photographer Asia Kepka, we follow Horace and Agnes through their highs and their lows with spectacular detail and charm. 

Buy links: Penguin website / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Meet the authors:

Horace and Agnes: A Love Story is a sweet and charming story for all ages! I seriously was smiling the entire time I was reading it, because the pictures are so sweet and goofy. 
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Iniquity by Melody Winter review + giveaway!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Iniquity by Melody Winter
Publication Date: October 25th, 2016
Pages: 320
Song I Played While Reading: Invitation by Yellow Glow
Rating: 3.5 stars

Athena Harrow is about to turn twenty-one, but there will be no celebration. What is there to celebrate when the world is ruled by demons?
She hates the darkness the demons brought with them and longs for the light to return to the world -- a world she only vaguely remembers. The people in her forest village blindly accept the life the demons forced upon them, even tolerating the yearly ascension ceremony where all the girls who have turned twenty-one are either sent away to serve the Master Demon or left in the village and forced to procreate. 
But Paymon, the assigned village demon, selects a different role for Athena, a role that pits her against the village. While she adapts to her new life, Erebus, a younger, more powerful demon, arrives, and Athena must play a dangerous game with his emotions in return for information about the demon's reign of darkness. 
As Athena's dreams of restoring the light begin to fade, her life with Erebus takes an unexpected turn, and this time it's her life being put to the test. 

I was initially drawn to Iniquity because of the cover. The girl on the cover could be Kendall Jenner's twin, and it's haunting: you want to look closer, at the crow on her shoulder and the lanterns in the background. It's gritty and dark, which is exactly how the story reads. It took me a while to adjust to the writing, which I found at first to be a little quick. Things didn't feel very flushed out, so I was speeding by the scenes without really soaking up what I had read. But once I adjusted, I fell into this world, admiring how strong Athena was in such a dark and tumultuous time.
The world had reverted back because of mistreatment of the earth. Humans had grown gready, taking and taking from the earth and not replenishing it. Hurricanes and tornados and tsunamis ravaged the earth, and the demons though, "Hey, what better time to take over then now? The humans are making this too easy." So, they did just that, ripping up from the bowels of the earth and snatching the light.
I loved how Winter weaved the history of these demons and the earth together. It created an engrossing concept, one that was both frightening and awe-inspiring. It was simple in it's execution, because it could ~almost~ (oh my god, I can't believe I just did the squiggly line thing) be considered realistic. Vaguely realistic, but still. Realistic all the same.
Every time Paymon fed off of Athena's anger or fear, I 1. got creeped out because CREEPY, and 2. realized that, if I was in Athena's position, Paymon would probably explode from the amount of energy he would get from. I'm the type of girl who gets pissed off really easily, and can stay pissed off for a while (snarky men both infuriate and intrigue me). I enjoyed the occasional image of Paymon exploding in a giant ball of flames.
Iniquity, while a rocky start for me, really laid out a solid foundation for this series. It was dark, romantic, and ethereal, hooking you in with its strong characters and engaging narrative.

Amazon / B&N

About the author
Growing up, Melody showed a natural ability in art, a head for maths, and a tendency to write too long English essays. Difficult ti place in the world when she graduated, she pursued a career in teaching, but ended up working in finance. Melody is convinced the methodical times she spends working with numbers fuel her desire to drift into dream worlds and write about the illusory characters in her head.
Melody Winters lives in York, North Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two sons. When not dealing with football, rugby, and a whole plethora of "boy" activities, she will be found scribbling notes for her stories, or preparing for another trip to the nearby beaches at Scarborough and Whitby. With an obsession for anything mythical, Melody reveals in reading and writing about such creatures.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

Win a shit ton bundle of books! US/CAN only.
  • Signed paperback of Iniquity + Iniquity swag (handmade bracelet, book marks, and chocolate). eBook copies of:
  • Sachael Dreams and Sachael Desires by Melody Winter
  • Words Once Spoken and Curses Once Spoken by Carly Drake
  • A box set of Love in London by Carrie Elks
  • Faerie Blood by Emma L. Adams
  • Gambit by C.L. Renault
  • Running Home and Running Away by Julie Hutchings
  • When Sorrow Comes by Katie M. John
  • The Darkness of Light and The Embers of Light by Tammy Farrell
  • The Rose Master by Valentina Cano

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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I Heart Bookstagram tag!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

I saw this tag when Molly from Molly's Book Nook did it, and I OF COURSE had to do it since I'm a bookstagram fanatic. I tag whoever wants to do it! :)

What's your Instagram handle? @vibinwithbooks

How long have you been in the Instagram community? A little over a year and a half now! Which is crazy because I feel like I've been doing it for my entire life.

How many people do you follow? 801

How many followers do you have? 10.1 K, which is INSANE.

What're your favorite hashtags? #bookstagram #booksandcoffee #epicreads

What is your favorite genre of picture? This question is worded weirdly, because it's a little obvious: BOOKS. Books and coffee specifically.

How often do you post? Usually once a day at night (I find my pictures get more likes at night/ when I'm sleeping), but sometimes I'll go a day or two if I don't have any particular picture I wanna post.

How often do you check Instagram? Allllll the time. Seriously, if I have my phone in my hand and I'm not doing anything, 9/10 I'm on Instagram.

What's your favorite filter? I don't use the filters on Instagram, and instead use VSCOcam. C1 is what I use for all my pictures.

iPhone only, purist, or rebel? iPhone 97% of the time, but if I want to feature my phone in the picture, or need a slightly better quality, I use my camera. (I have a Canon SX50 HS.)

What is the best part about being in this community? Holy guacamole, definitely the people I've met. Everyone is SO welcoming and kind and fun. Fellow bookworms, authors, publishing companies, the people who work in publishing companies. I've met so many incredible people that I 100000% wouldn't have met otherwise, if I hadn't been a bookstagramer.

What is the worst part about being in this community? I've never really had a bad experience with Instagram. No plagiarism, no hateful spammers, etc. So I've been pretty blessed so far. So I'd have to say nothing!

Three favorite IG accounts currently? Three? Psh. YEAH, OKAY.
  • Natasha from @bookbaristas (book and coffee goals, AM I RIGHT?)
  • Viktoria from @seelieknight
  • Grace from @wlsgrace
  • Alyssa from @sweptawaybybooks
  • Laura from @whatshotblog
  • Rachel from @authorrsgrey
  • Polly from @pollyandbooks
  • CiCi from @therusticwindow
There are a bajillian more that I love, and if anyone wants me to name off some more just let me know! (Almost all of the people that I follow are great, so just take a gander through who I'm following and #treatyoself)
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Monthly wrap-up: October 2016!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What I read this month

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler - 5 stars // Goodreads

The Rift Uprising by Amy S. Foster - 5 stars // Goodreads

How To Be Someone Else by Rachel Del - 3.5 stars // Goodreads

Heartless by Marissa Meyer - 5 stars // Goodreads

Infinity by Jus Accardo - 5 stars // Goodreads

I managed to knockout almost my entire October TBR, except for one: The Continent by Keira Drake. Of course, of the books that I read that were on my TBR, I only finished two. I DNF'd Nevernight, Cam Girl, and Three Dark Crowns. I've come to realize that I literally have no patience for okay books. If I don't like it, I'll drop it immediately. I don't have time to waste on books that aren't holding my attention. (I will say though that I got half way through Three Dark Crowns, and then skimmed the rest just to see what happened at the end. So that's kind of a DNF, kind of a skim read.) I can't complain about the books I read though; except for How To Be Someone Else, they were all 5 stars! I can't pick a fave, it's literally impossible.

On the blog

I kicked off the month with my October TBR, then posted my review for the achingly beautiful and tender The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler. Then I posted about some recent DNF's, and was a part of the blog tours for The Rift Uprising and How To Be Someone Else. And finally, I ended the month with my raving review of Heartless by Marissa Meyer. 

Music I've been loving

The Turnaround by Gemini // Bonbon by Era Istrefi // Lady Wood by Tove Lo // Icarus by R3hab // Now and Later by Sage The Gemini // Starboy by The Weeknd // All In My Feelings by Harloe // Lavender by Two Door Cinema Club // Ain't My Fault (R3hab remix) by Zara Larsson

TV shows I've been watching

I binged watched the entire first season of Freakish on Hulu in one day, which featured a bunch of young actresses and actors, and some youtube stars. It featured Meghan Rienks and Lizza Koshy, two of my favorite youtubers, and I thought "What the hell, why not?".  I also watched Luke Cage, which  was SO fucking good. Then my mom and I started watching Containment on Netflix, which is about this fatal contagious disease that runs rampant through Boston and all the people it affects. I'm almost done with it, and I'm really, really liking it. I'm also still watching Gilmore Girls! Season 4, here I come, baby.

Books I've acquired

I recently started utilizing the books for trade hashtag on Twitter and went a little crazy, so the first pic is all that I traded for: The Crowns Game by Evelyn Skye, The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle, A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess, My Lady Jane by Jodi Meadows, Cynthia Hand, and Brodi Ashton, Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia, Frost Like Night by Sara Raasch, and The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia. Then I was sent How To Be Someone Else from the author, and The Rift Uprising from the pub house.

And speaking of things I got, a lovely company called Way Basics contacted me and said they would love to send me something for review. Lo and behold, they had freakin bookcases on their website. DREAMS DO COME TRUE. 

This is the one I got! They use everything from recycled material, and one of their mottos is that everything is super easy to put together, which I can attest to. It was crazy easy, and I had it put together in under 10 minutes. I ordered the White Venice Storage blox, which are actually three white cubes (I didn't realize this until I had it in my hands). It's nice being able to use them together and individually! Especially for book pictures. It definitely isn't the most sturdiest thing out there, so if you do carry one of the cubes with stuff in it, make sure you hold it by the bottom and not just by the sides. I made the mistake of doing this and the bottom part came out. It was no biggie though!

Life shenanigans

My mom and I kind of figured out what was making so anxious and depressed last month, which was a huge relief. Turns out, my body has a limit on the amount of sugar it can take. Not on a daily basis, thank god, but over a period of months. So I'm just going to try and keep the sugar to a minimum, and every couple of months, do a cleanse to get rid of it all so my body doesn't freak out and spazz like it did last month. I've always had a pretty rocky relationship with food, so I'm not surprised it started attacking me mentally and physically. I blame my love of sweets. 
I also made the decision to pursue an online degree! Dropping all my classes I was taking at my local community college was such a relief. Not only was it vital for my mental health (my depressive/anxious period was taking a huge toll on my grades), but I need to work more. I have bills and rent to pay, so working more will help with that. Plus, I just love the flexibility of it. I'm a very spontaneous person, and hate being tied down. So this works out perfectly for me!

What did you do this month? Read anything amazing? Let me know down in the comments! :)
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