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January Journal | Our Prairie Nest
January Journal

The new year is here and I started it off with a grand total of zero resolutions and goals. That isn’t normal for me, and I am perfectly okay with this. Of course, I’m planning and working on projects, and I do have book releases with hoped-for publication dates. However, I’m not putting any pressure on myself to accomplish much of anything.

This year, I decided to change up my planner and also start a bullet journal. The planner is a nice, neutral minimalist 7×9 Essential Daily Planner with plenty of space for my Erin Condren stickers. It has a hybrid layout for the weeks – half of the column is hourly and half has free-form lines. Of all the non-Erin Condren planners I have bought, it is easily my favorite and I might be changing to it year after year.

The bullet journal is meant to complement it, because it is where I am tracking projects, events, and keeping an actual diary/journal a few days a week. I used an A5 refillable leather journal notebook that I somehow scored for only 99 cents in 2021, and then promptly set aside because I didn’t know what I would do with it. Now, I’ve set it up to also be a minimalist way to track projects, progress, start and completion dates, and thoughts. I created sections by folding washi tape over the long edges of each page and I’m very pleased with the effect.

I thought I would post little monthly summaries here, as well, so here’s how January is going so far.

Reading

I am currently reading House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas. I’m about halfway through and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I think I like it. To be honest, I already know the plot and the twists, as well as those in the sequel. I am an ACOTAR fan. That series gave me a monstrous book hangover. I think I’m hoping for this series to hit just as hard.

Cross-stitching

I am working on “Peace Was Never an Option” by Twilight Sewn, and should have it completed by the end of the month. The only thing holding me back is that I ran out of DMC 818 while stitching the boy’s legs. However, I ordered some from 123Stitch and it should arrive soon.

Gaming

I am currently DMing a D&D 5e campaign, but the controversy around the OGL and D&D Beyond is so not cool. Alternative RPG systems are looking really attractive, because why give Hasbro any money after all of that? Regardless, the campaign itself is going okay. I think. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell. If you’re a DM, you know how that goes.

Also playing Pokemon: Scarlet and having a great time with it! The first, and only other, Pokemon game I played was Black, and I didn’t care for it. The entire plot of early games was to go from gym to gym, trying to beat the leaders. It was annoyingly repetitive. With Arceus and other recent games, the world of Pokemon has really opened up and I think that’s fantastic.

Watching

My daughter and I adored Wednesday, which was our holiday watch. 10/10, would watch again. Hoping for a second season! Some people didn’t care for it because it was a darker take on the Addams Family, but it hit all the right beats for me.

I’m watching Book of Boba Fett, as well. Only 3 episodes in, but I’m trying to watch it on Friday nights.

Exploring

During the first weekend of the month, our third in our triad visited and we had a wonderful dinner at Indian Bistro in Omaha, followed by ice cream and walking through the Old Market. Maybe that sounds a little funny, walking around during a freezing cold winter night with ice cream, but it was marvelous. We stopped at Vinyl Cup Records, and each of us bought an album, too.

The second Friday of the month was the office holiday party at Spezia. I’ve eaten there a couple of times before, so I was glad to go again. Their food is always delicious.

There have also been Spiral Scouts meetings and a trip to the zoo, with the start of the new year. December was really cozy with a lot of time spent at home, in front of the fireplace, and January has been the opposite: so busy, for mostly good reasons. But still, I’d really like to hibernate for at least a few more weekends before spring! 😁

 

 

 

Favorite Books Read in 2022 | Our Prairie Nest
Favorite Books Read in 2022

This was the year I committed to reading all the unread books on my Kindle, in addition to many checked out from the library. Of the books I read in 2022, my favorites were:

Dread Nation and Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland. This alternate history duology follows Jane and Katherine, two young students who attend a combat school to put down the dead. Why? Because the dead started reanimating during the battle of Gettysburg, and nothing has been the same since.

The first book follows Jane as she tries her best to do her duty – at least, the one expected of her by white people – and quickly gets swept up into a conspiracy. Somehow, she manages to drag her school nemesis, Katherine, along with her. The second book follows Jane and Katherine all the way to California, and beyond, as they try to find some sense of peace and safety in their dangerous, often heartbreaking world.

If you enjoyed The Walking Dead original graphic novels, you might enjoy this. As with that series, these two books aren’t just about zombies, but humanity. The stories also tackle the inherent racism and sexism of the mid-1800s, as seen through the eyes of two extraordinary heroines. There really isn’t a romance here, also, which is nice. Though Jane takes lovers, one of whom is a fellow zombie-fighting young lady, neither Jane nor Katherine require a man to make them whole and happy. It’s a nice change of pace!

If you prefer a fairy tale, check out Thorn by Intisar Khanani. In this story, Princess Alyrra is reviled by her family and set to marry a prince from another kingdom. She doesn’t expect much of the marriage, because her family is certain she will die “accidentally” so the prince can move on with his life.

Fortunately, her family couldn’t be more wrong, because Alyrra doesn’t even make it to her new kingdom. At least, not the way she left her old one! Instead, an act of betrayal swaps her identity with that of another girl and leaves her as nothing more than a servant. Rather than flee her new fate, Alyrra embraces it. As long as she can keep her head down and do her job, maybe she can take charge of her own life.

But as she starts to learn the language and befriend the other servants, she becomes invested in their troubles. She also takes on a new name – Thorn – and advocates for her fellow servants as she better understands their fears and challenges. What Alyrra eventually does is nothing short of wonderful, showing everyone what it truly means to be a princess.

At times, this story addressed dark and sad themes, but the main character’s capacity to care about the well-being of others made her incredibly likeable. I also appreciated the fact that there really isn’t a romance here, as there tends to be with YA fantasy. Any possibility of romance is treated reasonably, with it stated that the characters aren’t in love, but are open to seeing if those feelings develop. I appreciated that aspect of the story.

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones is another book with more of a fairy tale-like vibe and it drew me in from the beginning. And, yes, more zombies here. After the loss of her parents and uncle, Ryn is doing her best to take care of her family. She is a gravedigger in a remote village that sits at the foot of a mountain range rumored to have once been home to the fae. The bone houses are, specifically, the risen dead. Something about the forest between the village and the mountains seems to keep the dead from staying dead. Legend has it this is because of a curse.

When a mapmaker named Ellis shows up in the village, they end up under attack by groups of bone houses wandering out of the forest. But why? Ryn wants to know what is drawing the bone houses to her home village, while Ellis just wants to map the land. They work together to reach both of their goals and undertake a dangerous journey to the mountain range where the curse is said to originate. Along the way, they learn more about not only the bone houses, but themselves and human nature. I love that a feisty undead goat is their companion, though you know that can’t end well!

There is a touch of horror to the story, but also whimsy and romance. I loved this one and will read it again on a cool, October night, with a nice hot cup of tea.

Finally, my favorite book that I read this year was Small Favors by Erin Craig. This is an absolutely chilling and dreadful tale, with a wild ending that had me excited about it for days. All I wanted to do was talk to people about it… except I don’t know anyone else who has read it!

Ellerie lives in an isolated village called Amity Falls. Right off the bat, I got a “The Village” (the movie) vibe from the way these folks live. For example, when there’s danger, the villagers light fires to alert their neighbors. And their neighbors light their fires, and so on, until everyone knows there’s trouble. And trouble does come, especially from the forest that keeps Amity Falls cut off from the rest of the world. Strange creatures come out of the woods and residents are being offered their deepest desires. You know what they say – if something is too good to be true…

Our main character soon finds her family dealing with one tragedy after another, with no end in sight. Ellerie and her sisters don’t seem to get even a single moment to catch their breaths and, when they do, that moment is tenuous and fraught with anxiety. I love, love, LOVE how the tension grows without letting up in this story until everything and everyone hits a horrific breaking point.

Again, this was my absolute favorite read this year. I thought the ending was bloody fantastic, and I want to find someone else who feels the same. Once again, this book is a mix of horror and fairy tale. I think it’s pretty clear what kind of vibe I was digging in 2022.

“Honorable mentions” for books I read this year go to An Enchantment of Ravens and Sorcery of Thorns, both by Margaret Rogerson. Ravens was enjoyable because it was a fae story that showed what dark, horrible, twisted beings they are beneath their beautiful exteriors.

I’m still reading Sorcery, and I can’t wait to see how it ends. It’s funny to say this, because Howl’s Moving Castle is a book, not just a movie… But Sorcery of Thorns feels like the movie version of Howl’s Moving Castle (the book moves much slower than the Studio Ghibli film). Except, add more dangerous demons and sorcerers, angry grimoires that are capable of becoming twisted, murderous creatures, beautiful dresses and ballrooms, fancy swords, and a slow burn romance.

I read so many other books this year, but these are the ones I loved and highly recommend.