My Top 10 Books of 2017

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The time has come to look back on all we’ve read in the last year. Or not. Totally up to you.

I did look back, and decided to compose this list. It’s in no particular order, because I’m too indecisive, and the books are quite different one from the other so I would never be able to rank them. I’ll just put some similar books next to each other. Also, I’ve written posts abut some of these books, so I the title is clickable, you can go read the post. 🙂

The first two books that I’m going to mention are vampire books. I really wanted to find some interesting vampire books, especially after I was a bit disappointed by Prince Lestat, and in the end I managed to find these two which made me really happy.

1. Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin

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I’ve never read ASOISAF. And I’m not sure I ever will… But this book made me realize that George R.R. Martin is a great writer. The book is set in the 1850s USA, and it’s historical fiction as much as it is paranormal/vampire fiction. I loved the way Martin used the vampire legends, and made them his own, without straying too much from the source. It’s also a book about how dark humanity is, how prejudiced people can be, and just how capable they are of committing horrible deeds such as enslaving other people. It was a great read, and much more than a vampire novel.

2. The Making of Gabriel Davenport by Beverly Lee

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I would never have heard of this series were it not for Instagram, because that’s where I met Bevery Lee. So thank you Instagram! The series is very atmospheric, and the characters are interesting. It follows a boy, Gabriel, but also quite a few other characters – some of them supernatural. I don’t want to reveal too much, since I’ve read the first two books (the third is not out yet) and I might spoil everything to you, but if you want a good supernatural novel, I think this might be it.

Now let’s move on to my favourite fantasy book (trilogy, actually) of this year. I haven’t read that much fantasy this year, but this series was so good it made up for this lack of fantasy reads.

3. The Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

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This is the last book in the series, and the reason I put this one on the list is because I feel like it’s always hard to end a series in a really satisfying way. I loved the first two books, but the way everything ends is perfect. All the characters are very flawed, and nothing is sugar-coated or romanticized. I liked that the writing was slow-paced, and that the author focuses so much on the inner struggles of the characters, besides everything that is going of in this fictional world. Inquisitor Glokta is my favourite. He’s far from being a loveable character, but I love reading his snarky inner monologues. I highly recommend this book to all fantasy lovers!

The next three books all feature magical elements, but in a subtle way. They are fantasy combined with historical fiction.

4. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

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Daughter of the Forest is a retelling of the fairy tale “The Six Swans”, but it’s also so much more than that. The Germanic tale, collected by the Grimm brothers, is in this case set in Ireland and Britain and interwoven with Celtic mythology and folktales. It is magical, but it also feels very real; the fantastical and the historical creates one whole, one wonderful story. It is also a story which speaks against war and the hatred of others. And it’s wonderfully written. I enjoyed this book immensely!

5. Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

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If a book is set in the Middle Ages, I’m immediately intrigued. If the Middle Ages are actually described in a more historically accurate, and less clichéd way, I fall in love with the book. Yeah, I’m simple like that. XD But this book is so well written, atmospheric, and mysterious. The characters all have a story to tell – literally and figuratively. They are all hiding something, and they are all lying about something. The story revolves around finding out the truth, and the destructive power of lies. Again – both literally and figuratively. The book is also inspired by the Canterbury Tales, since all the characters set off to a journey together in hope to escape the plague. It’s a great read, and I’ll definitely read more Karen Maitland’s books.

6. Bright Air Black by David Vann

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This one is not really historical fiction, but a myth retelling. It’s the story of Jason and Medea from Medea’s point of view and it’s just perfect. Brutal, but perfectly so. I loved diving into Medea’s mind. She’s a sorceress, a devotee of the witch-godess Hecate, and her powers and brutality really show in this book, but at the same time it’s hard not to find simpathise with her. The book is written so well, it feels like it transports you to a different world.

In the end, I have some literary fiction (I guess) books, with no magic, or paranormal.

7. Bodies of Light by Sarah Moss

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This novel is historical fiction. It’s set in Victorian England, and follows mostly female characters and their struggles to become more than society allows them to be. The main character, Ally, want to become a doctor. She’s focused on her cause, the fight for equal treatment of women and men in medicine, and become the best person she could be. Her perfecionism becomes a great burden, and she suffers from what I presume are panic attacks. She’s also under constant scrutiny of her mother who is trying to save suffering women, young prostitutes, and the poor, but is at the same time too harsh on her daughters. She wants them to know that they live in abundance while others suffer, and does it in a rigid, adamant manner. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s Ally’s sister May who seems to conctantly find a way to disobey her mother’s restrictions, their father the painter, and his friend who constantly hangs out with the girls… So many interesting relationships, and human struggles in one book.

8. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Well, you’ve all heard of this one, so I won’t talk about it too much. I should have read it earlier, but I’m so glad I finally did. And the series is great, too!

9. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot

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You need a little patience for this one, but it’s worth it! The psychological portrayal of characters is amazing! The story mostly follows Maggie and Tom Tulliver, a brother and sister, and their relationship since early childhood. The novels also speakks of the expectations that the women of the time had to meet. The protagonist, Maggie, is strong and smart, but the society she lives in makes her ignore both of those traits. The biggest tragedy of this novel is the fact that she could’ve achieved so much, but was not allowed to. There are also some great side characters, especially poor Philip who is constntly judged because of his physical appearence. This book is truly a classic.

10. The Woman Destroyed by Simone de Beauvoir

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I talked about this book recently. It’s one of the last books I’ve read this year, and it’s amazing! It’s a collection of three stories, and every story follows daily life of a woman who is going though something bad in her life. None of these women are perfect, but the emotions and thoughts expressed in these stories are so raw and sincere, it really feels like you’re reading someone’s diary.

And that’s it! I hope you had a great reading year and that the next one would be even better! What are some of your favourite books from last year? If you did a similar list please feel free to link it to me, I’m really interested to read those posts! 🙂

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My Pet Tag: Kira & Seffi

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Oooooh, I’m so excited for this! I love talking about my chinchilla girls! I saw the tag on Sarah’s blog @dragonsandzombies where she talked about her adorable bunny Randy. I decided to put both of my chinchillas in one post because they live together and do almost everything together, so it’s kind of fitting to keep them in the same post. 🙂

Dear people, meet my chinchillas!

1. What is your pet’s name?

The older girl is named Seffi, which is short for Persephone. (It should probably be Sephie, but I preferred this spelling.) The younger one is called Kira, which is short for Valkira (Croatian for Valkyrie). I wanted their names to sound cute, but to have a powerful, mythological background at the same time, because that’s what they are – cute but powerful. 😉

2. What kind of pet is it and what breed?

They are standard grey chinchillas.

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Kira and her food.

3. How long have you had your pet?

I’ve had them since 21st April this year, which means for a little less than eight months.

4. How did you get your pet?

I’m from Croatia and this year our government legislated a new animal protection law and made fur farming illegal. Animal Friends Croatia, our animal protection group, managed to persuade some farmers to give them their chinchillas since they could no longer sell them anyway, and they managed to save 45 chinchillas from certain death. They made sure the chinchillas are healthy and then gave them for adoption. I adopted Seffi and Kira. The rest is history.

5. How old is your pet?

I don’t know for sure, when I got them they said that Seffi is about two years old, and Kira was about nine months old. So, by now, Seffi is probably about three, and Kira is about one year and a half.

6. What are some quirky things about your pet’s personality?

Everything about them is quirky! They are crazy little fluffballs! XD They like to eat and chew everything (literally everything!), so I have to cover things when I let them out of their cage. But, they always climb on my legs and chew my clothes.

Kira like to hide in dark places. She’s always trying to find a place to hide, and she even tries to dig. Her new obsession is a tube I bought for them. She also likes to let her head hang from it. She finds it comfortable for some reason.

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Kira in her tube.

Seffi is more of a jumper. She likes to jump on something high and just stare. XD It’s so funny, she looks like a statue, just staring into the distance.

They don’t like to be touched, but they’ll allow it if you let then chew on something while you’re petting them. They do, however, like to sniff me and “groom” my hair.

Also, they make the funniest faces.

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Kira: Leave me alone, I want to sleep!

7. What does your relationship with your pet mean to you?

It means so much! They make me so happy, and I hope I made their life happy, too. They make me laugh and forget about problems. I love seeing how they are slowly learning to trust me, more and more each day. They really had no trust in humans, which is understandable. They came from very bad life conditions… They lived in small, dirty cages, and were never let out. 😦

8. What are some of your favourite pastimes with your pet?

Mostly the time they spend out of their cage. They always manage to surprise me with something new. A new mischief, usually. They are very fun! I also love how they’ve learned to beg for treats.

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Yes, Seffi managed to climb on my bookshelf.

9. What are the nicknames that you call your pet?

I usually just add the suffix which denotes something small in Croatian – Kirica, Seffica. My boyfried calls Kira Fatty because she looks much fatter than Seffi. XD

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Seffi on the lookout. Both girls on the lookout. (Also, a representation of how Kira looks like a ball, while Seffi is more elegant). 

And that’s it! Hope you enjoyed this post, I sure did! 🙂

Get to Know Me Tag

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First of all, I have to thank dear Chris @readbychris for tagging me to do this! It’s always nice to get to know people better, and these posts are fun to do. So, let’s start, shall we?

Name: Irena

Nicknames: I don’t have a nickname… Irena is not that common name so I guess there was no need for one. It really bothered me as a kid, but I’m fine with it now.

Birthday: April 24th

Star Sign: Taurus

Occupation: Currently, trying to pass my teacher’s exam. XD I’m an English and Croatian teacher.


APPEARANCE:

Hair colour: It’s red now, but naturally I have that weird colour that’s not blonde or brown, but mostly grey. Mousy. XD

Hair length: About 10cm below my collarbones.

Eye colour: Grey-blue. Sometimes even a little bit green. It changes.

Best feature: Ummm… I’ll go with my eyes, I guess…

Braces: Oh, I had them for YEARS!

Piercings: None. I don’t even have my ears pierced. I pierced them when I was a child and there were some complications so now I’m scared of it and everything similar, such as tattoos! The holes are completely closed now.

Tattoos: I’d really like to have one! I think tattoos can be gorgeous. But, as I said earlier, I’m very scared of it. Maybe I’ll be brave enough someday… Now, I’d never get anything this huge, but I think this looks soooo lovely (link):

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Right or left: Is this a political question? 😛 Yeah, bad joke, anyway I write with my right hand (if that’s what I’m supposed to answer).


FIRSTS:

Holiday: I used to go on summer vacation every year with my parents, and I was very small on the first one so I don’t really remember it. XD We are lucky to live in a coastal town, and several beautiful islands are very close so it was easy to travel there and enjoy.

Best Friend: My brother was my first best friend. I was very sucky at making friends (and still am).

Award: Well, we had those “commendations” in primary school. Everyone who had As in all subjects got one at the end of the school year. Does this count? XD

Sport: I’m horrible at sports. Always have been. For a year I went to this kid’s club where we played all kinds of sports but I didn’t really like it so I gave up. In my defence, I’m doing yoga now. XD

Concert: I didn’t really go to concerts as a child. The only concert worth mentioning was the Iron Maiden concert, in 2008. It was so surprising that they came to our town (Split is not a really well-known location, if a band comes to Croatia, they usually hold the concert in the capital, Zagreb). Last summer they came back and it was as great as the first time. 😀

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FAVORITES:

TV shows: Unpopular opinion time: I don’t like to watch a lot of TV shows. Yeah, I’m weird. The thing is, they usually last too long and start to drag, and then I get disappointed… I do watch some, of course. My all-time favourite is Black Sails. Love that one to pieces! Nowadays I like Gotham. I liked Arrow but it’s not that good anymore. The one I really can’t wait to come back is Jessica Jones. 🙂

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Colour: Black. I know it’s not really a colour, but I don’t care. 😉

Song: Anything by Emilie Autumn. She’s the best. Then: White Flag by The Romanovs, Pain Looks Good on You by London After Midnight, Sleepwalking by The Crüxshadows, The First by Pink Turns Blue and many others. Oh, and the entire Queen of the Damned soundtrack! So vampire-ish! 😀

Emilie Autumn by Sopranino on DeviantArt

Restaurant: I don’t think I have a favourite…

Shop: Any nice bookshop. 😉 I don’t have a favourite clothing shop, I usually hate most of the stuff in the stores. XD

Books: I usually name Frankenstein as my favourite, but really, there are so many great books…

Shoes: I feel the best in a pair of black boots.


CURRENTLY:

Feeling: Eh… Fine. 😛

Single or Taken: Taken. My boyfriend is my best friend. ❤

Eating: Nothing. I’m thinking about going to the kitchen and having an apple. Actually, I’ll do it. Just wait for a moment, I’ll be back straight away….

Thinking About: Maybe I should’ve cut this apple in smaller pieces.

Watching: Nothing. I’m writing a post. XD

Wearing: Sweatpants and a shirt. Just regular “home” clothes. XD


FUTURE:

Want Children: Not really…

Want to be married: I want to be with my boyfriend, marriage doesn’t mean much to me.

Careers in mind: I would love to do something in publishing, but that’s almost impossible here. I would also like to study more, get an phD.

Where you want to live: Travel everywhere, live… Well, I don’t know. There are several places, but sometimes I also want to stay here.


DO YOU BELIEVE IN:

God: No…

Miracles: I believe in happy coincidences.

Love at first sight: No. You can’t love someone based on how that person looks, which is the only thing you know about them at first sight. Someone can draw your attention, and that can later turn into love, but only after you really get to know each other.

Ghosts: No. I will get scared if you tell me ghost stories, though. XD

Aliens: Yes. The universe is sooo big, I think there must be some other living beings out there.

Soul Mates: Depends how you define it… If you call someone you’re really close to your soul mate, that’s fine. I don’t believe in “predestined to find each other” kind of soul mates.

Heaven: No… I wish there was something after death, but I can’t make myself believe in it.

Hell: No.

Kissing on the first date: Well, it does exist, doesn’t it? XD

Yourself: Oh, I really wish I believed in myself more… I’m not a very confident person.


And in the end, I tag these wonderful people (and everyone else who want to do the tag!)

Ignitedmoth

Ellen@alittlebooklife

Ellie@bloggingfordopamine

Jackie@toomuchofabooknerd

Swetlana@readingthroughthenights

Books and Hot Tea Got a Redesign

I wasn’t sure if this needed a post, but in the end I decided to do it. I’ve been trying to make my blog look better for a while now, but it never turned out the way I wanted it to. Now, I think I’m quite satisfied with it, though I’m not very good at this stuff. XD

First of all, I want to introduce you to Sheila the owl, my new mascot. 🙂

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Sheila was a template I found on pixabay.com (a great place to find free stock photos!) and then I just adjusted her colours. Owls were always a symbol of wisdom (and bookishness – if that’s not a word it should be) so she is perfect for this job! Sheila will be featured in my memes, such as Captured Moments and Quote for Thought. I also created a banner for the Top 5 Wednesday posts since I’m planning to do these regularly (maybe not every Wednesday, but most).

I am also planning to introduce a new monthly meme called In First Person, which will be posted every 1st day of the month. In these posts I will talk about a theme that I found interesting that month, something new I discovered, and mostly about things that are not related to books, because sometimes I want to talk about some other things as well. Once a month will be enough for that I think. This is Books and Hot Tea after all. 😉

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This means I will also be following a certain schedule:

  • On Mondays I will post a Quote for Thought or a Captured Moments post – in case I go on a trip or somewhere interesting. Sometimes, a tag/award post will be posted on Moday instead of those memes – if there is one to do.
  • Wednesdays are reserved for Top 5 Wednesday.
  • On Thursday, Friday or Saturday I will post a piece of writing (Twittering Tales and more).
  • In First Person will be an additional post.

So, this means posting three days a week. Well, at least for now… We’ll see how it works. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. Sometimes, I might skip a post or so.

I’m also using a new theme – Misty Lake. I’m very satisfied with this one!

And that’s it! Happy blogging, people! 🙂


 

Some thoughts on writing poetry…

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On 17th of May, 2015, I wrote my first post on this blog. Which means it’s now more than a year old! I didn’t write anything in celebration of this, but I though it’s a nice occasion to share some thoughts on something I didn’t think would be a part of this blog – poetry.

A few months ago, I posted my first attempt at writing poetry. It was more of an impulsive fit of inspiration than a real poem. I never thought I would post poetry on this blog, even after that first poem. I alyaws considered myself to be a prose writer, even though I did, occasionally, write poetry – or attempted to write it.

In my teenage years it was a vent for all the emotions that I kept inside, a way to say what I feel and what I’m going through, without actually writing a diary (which I tried several times but always got bored with it.) I liked writing this kind of personal poetry. And now, I really started to enjoy it once again, but maybe in a different way.

Now, when I write poetry, I often find myself writing from an imagined point of view, as if a fictional character is behind the written words. It does, of course, have bits of myself in it as well, and some of my poems express some of my thoughts and observations. But sometimes, it’s in a certain way similar to writing fiction. I feel the emotions of my characters, just as I feel the emotions of my lyrical subjects. Is that the influence of being more focused on writing fiction? I’m not sure. I guess I like imagining characters and their stories far too much. XD

In any case, I don’t know if my poems are any good, but I love writing them and I will definitely write more. Experimentation with all forms and topics was the idea behind this blog anyway, and I’m happy it has taken me this far. 🙂

Just a little update…

I made a profile on Instagram.

Yeah, big deal, I know. XD

But if anyone’s on Istagram as well, they may find me at azriela.moone. I love to express myself with words, but sometimes pictures are an interesting way of expression as well. It also means I’ll try to take more photos, which I always found interesting. I’ll be happy to find you there!

Also, I have this idea for a short story, and I even started writing it, but I somehow never got to finish it… It’ll be done soon I hope. 🙂

Wish you all the best, and let me share one of my favourite photos, from San Gimignano, Italy. 😀

San Gimignano

Update + Teaching + Epic Awesomness Award

I didn’t have much time for blogging lately, and that’s because I started working. Bravo me! I’m an apprentice teacher in a school. This might sound confusing, but after finishing college, we have to work as apprentices for a year and then take a test to truly become teachers. College is apparently not enough. XD

Anyway, for now I mostly listen to my mentor teach and help her with some small things, but soon I’ll start giving my own lectures, grade tests etc. This would not be the first time I teach, since we had to do it in college, but there will be more of it, and with much more responsibility now. It feels a bit strange, I have to admit, especially since I feel more like a student than a teacher… (Even though my students are 11-15 years old.) The best thing is – I get payed, not much but for me it’s a lot – and that means that I will be able to buy ALL the books! Well, not all, but a lot. 😉

Now, for the real purpose of this post… I’ve been nominated for the Epic Awesomness Award by wonderful Aquileana (see her post HERE). You should all click on the link and visit her blog, especially if you’re interested in mythology! Once again, thank you, Aquileana, so much for the nomination. 🙂

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The rules are as follows:

1. You are awesome; tell us why.
2. You are my friend; tell us about other (blogger) friends.
3. Be creative, but it’s ok if you are having trouble with this one.
4. There are no direct questions to answer; let yourself run wild!
5. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
6. Notify your nominees.

And here are my answers:

1. I’m awesome because I won the Epic Awesomess Award, duh! The title says it. 😛 But, honestly now, I don’t often think of myself as being awesome… And then, sometimes, when I manage to do something that really scared me or was very hard, I do feel awesome. I hope I’ll feel that way after my teaching exam… XD

2. In my personal life, I don’t have many friends, but those I have are very important to me. As for the bloggers, I’ve met some great and interesting people here. When I started my blog, I had no expectations, and now I’m so happy I did it. I love writing posts and reading everything that you wonderful, creative people write. 🙂

3. I pride myself in being creative, but when someone tells me to be creative, I go completely blank. XD That’s one of the reasons why prompts rarely work for me. I see it and can’t think of anything interesting about it. I guess I just have to wait for my brain to work in its own pace. Which can be in most inappropriate times sometimes, mostly when I’m trying to fall asleep. I guess we have all experienced that. XD

4. For this one, I’ll just write down some things which I find awesome.

The sound of thunder when I’m safe in bed.
Walking under a large umbrella in the mild rain.
When my tea is just the perfect temperature.
When a book captures me and takes me away from the real world.
Beautiful swords, bows and arrows.
The colour black, and a warm grey.
Soft fabric and cuddly plushies.
Watching a good film with someone you love, somewhere cozy.
Waking up and knowing I don’t have to get up soon.

And bubble wrap! XD

And now for the nominations: Shyla Fairfax-Owen

You are great bloggers and you are awesome, so I thought the award was fitting. 🙂