Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mini-reviews // Six Impossible Things + Prince of Venice Beach

It's February. The time when Chicago, in honor of my birthday earlier this month, covers its streets in grey, dirty, and half melted snow. And even though I'm not in my hometown, I am in a country (Denmark) that celebrates February in a similar way - with fog, drizzly rain, and grey clouds.

So what better way to remind myself of summer than to review two summery reads?

Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

23250087Fourteen-year-old nerd-boy Dan Cereill is not quite coping with a reversal of family fortune, moving house, new school hell, a mother with a failing wedding cake business, a just-out gay dad, and an impossible crush on the girl next door.

His life is a mess, but for now he's narrowed it down to just six impossible things...

First of all, let me say this is the first book I've read set in Australia. Wooo!

The main character Dan is absolutely adorable. This may be one of the first books that I thought oh he's such a cute little baby-child awww about a teenage protagonist. Does this mean I'm old? But he likes Thai food and makes literary references so this means that we would 100% be best friends. 

The romance is adorable. You can't help rooting for Dan all the way (though I still don't see why Estelle is so utterly unbelievably desirable?). And Dan's friends were absolutely hilarious and I want them as my friends too.

The writing was super accessible and frank and overall it was just a really pleasant read. Four shiny stars for this shiny book!

The Prince of Venice Beach by Blake Nelson

16635620Robert "'Cali" Callahan is a teen runaway, living on the streets of Venice Beach, California. He's got a pretty sweet life: a treehouse to sleep in, a gang of surf bros, a regular basketball game...even a girl who's maybe-sorta interested in him.

What he doesn't have is a plan.

All that changes when a local cop recommends Cali to a private investigator who is looking for a missing teenager. After all, Cali knows everyone in Venice. But the streets are filled with people who don't want to be found, and when he's hired to find the beautiful Reese Abernathy, who would do anything to stay hidden, Cali must decide where his loyalties truly lie.

So, funnily enough, I read this book while my parents were on a trip to California and they sent me pictures from Venice Beach. It was actually super cool to kind of be able to visualize the setting from the book. And they confirmed that Venice Beach is The Place for homeless/wandering people of all shapes and sizes. It's like it's own microcosmic culture.

That's possibly my favorite part of the book - it really delves into that Venice Beach culture, and even though I hadn't been there with my parents, I still was able to get a pretty good idea of the environment and the people, just from Blake Nelson's writing. I want to say - good worldbuilding! - but this isn't fantasy. Nevertheless, worldbuilding is the only word for it, and Blake Nelson does it marvelously.

In addition, I really liked Cali's voice. He has SUCH PERSONALITY. You see everything so well through his eyes. Also, he's supercool and I want to be his friend. 

It's definitely for a biiit of a younger audience - he IS a runaway and I don't know how well that stands with me? And I have seen it recommended for reluctant readers, which is definitely super valid! All in all, this (really short) book just felt happy and fresh and smelled like saltwater and sand. I happily give the Prince 4 stars!

What's your favorite summery read? And how's the weather in your corner of the world?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Beautiful People #15: Oriana and Misha

beautiful people valentine's day

Yay! It's time for Beautiful People! 

And because Valentine's Day was earlier this month, you get to meet Oriana and Misha, who DEFINITELY would not celebrate Valentines Day. Well, Misha might, but Oriana would REJECT IT and challenge him to a romantic swordfight in the practice arena instead.

medieval warrior  vLadimir KALINSKi:  -The Lover-

1. How did they first meet?

It's kind of a long and complicated story that actually doesn't show up in my novel. After her mother died, Oriana ran off to join the Warriors, a kind of band of fighters independent from the king, but very patriotic nevertheless. The problem was that the Warriors are all men, and Oriana was a small, blond, dirty, sixteen year old girl when she first showed up at the gates of their camp on the island of Nul. 

But Oriana is an... intense... kind of person, even when she was small and sixteen. No one knows exactly how she became a member of the Warriors, but there is a rumor that she nearly bit off another Warrior's finger when they tried to force her out. The fact that she caught on to fighting quickly definitely helped, and soon the Warriors, though no less sexist, had just kind of forgotten that Oriana was a woman. She was the exception to their rule.

But there was one fellow who didn't forget, and that was Misha. Everyone was a little shocked when the blacksmith stumbled upon the two lovers behind the stables - it had been so long since they had considered Oriana anything else than a Warrior. 

Long story short, they got married, and, soon after, Oriana became leader of the Warriors.

2. What were their first impressions of each other?

Frankly? Misha thought she was extremely intriguing and mildly insane (because seriously, what else do you think when a dirty, loud, and violent creature shows up in camp?). Now he knows she is DEFINITELY insane, and is super cool with it.

Oriana didn't notice Misha until later, but when she did, she thought he was HILARIOUS and pleased that he understood her sense of humor. She didn't tell him though, obviously.

3. How long have they been a couple?

When we meet them in SlavicNovel, it's been... three years? Ish? They've been married for about two.

4. How committed/loyal are they to each other? Would they break up over a secret or a disagreement? Could stress drive them apart? Would they die for each other?

I don't think anyone that wasn't really really in love with Oriana would fall for her in the first place. Misha isn't going ANYWHERE. And Oriana is fierce in everything, including relationships, so she's not going anywhere either.

If the secret was super big, than maybe? I mean, it would definitely cause problems. But they probably wouldn't break up entirely.

And oh please. I don't think you realize that their life IS stress. Not only are they Warriors, they are the leader and the husband of the leader. They THRIVE on stress.

Also, they are both Warriors, which means they are willing to die for their country. So they're definitely also willing to die for the love of their life.

5.. List 5 "food quirks" they know about each other. (Ex: how they take their coffee, if they're allergic to something, etc... and feel free to mention other non-food quirks!)

Um. I don't think they have any food quirks? Cuisine is not exactly a major part of their life as Warriors - they eat a lot of meat and vegetables, whatever the cook happens to make that day. So I'm going to go with non-food-quirks, I guess?

Misha knows that Oriana, during meetings, glares angrily at him when she's trying not to laugh at something one of her generals said. She tries to keep up appearances and overcompensates. So he doesn't mind and just grins back, which makes her glower more.

Oriana knows that every time they go to someone's house, Misha invariably ends up leaning against the brick oven, warming himself. He's like a cat. He's also always got cold toes and fingers, so he's attracted to ovens. Oriana likes to watch him maneuver his way during conversations so that he can stand as close as possible to the warmth.

6. Does anyone disapprove of their relationship?

Not really. And anyone who does disapprove better keep their thoughts to themselves because Oriana would destroy them with her fiery stare - and with her dagger too, probably.

7. What would be an ideal date?

Probably something impromptu. Perhaps, after swordsmanship practice together, Misha suggests that they go wander outside of camp and through the forests. Maybe they go riding? Maybe they go boating down the river? Probably riding, it's more lively. And then they come home for dinner with the Warriors and an annoying after-dinner meeting with Oriana's generals, during which Misha keeps winking at Oriana who is trying too hard to keep a straight face. So nothing gets done during the meeting except that Oriana overcompensates and yells irrationally at one of her men, and Misha can't help grinning the entire time because he knows exactly what's happening. Afterwards they walk out and gaze at the stars, then go back to their rooms for sexytimes, probably. ;)

8. What are their personality dynamics? Similar? Contrasting? Do they fight a lot or mesh perfectly? 

Misha is more laid back, and usually thinks Oriana's hot temper and badassery just makes her more attractive. But he's not just a blob of laughter either. Both of them will stand strong for what they believe is right, and this means that they definitely fight quite a bit. Misha will back down if it's something he thinks isn't worth the effort, but Oriana is a teeensy bit more competitive (read: EXTREMELY MORE), and she'll get mad sometimes when he won't indulge her arguments. 

They really balance each other out though, because Misha keeps Oriana from getting too violent sometimes. 

And they have the same sense of humor. And they're super cute together.

9. What have been their best and worst moments together as a couple?

When Oriana was first elected to be the leader of the Warriors, there was a lot of opposition from the people who hadn't voted for her. It was tough for her, and Misha tried to support her through it, so I'd actually say this was their best period since Misha never doubted her.

The worst? Oh dang this is tough. Well, they've had a lot of arguments in terms of war-planning about proper measures to take and levels of retaliation since Oriana tends to go for immediate violence a lot of the time and Misha is a bit less extreme. So I think it's difficult for them to "discuss work at home," since Misha IS one of Oriana's generals so even though they're equal in other aspects of life, and she values his opinion, she's technically his superior professionally. It's complicated. And tough.

10. Where do they see themselves and their relationship in the next few years?

Misha would hopefully like kids, and Oriana theoretically likes the idea of kids but she's always too busy. Misha also understands the problem of having kids while leading a freaking army of Warriors, so no kids as yet. 

Did you do Beautiful People this month? (Link me in the comments!) And how's your writing going? Do you have a favorite couple in your WIPs? Tell me about them!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Snazzy Snippets // Valentine Edition

It's time for some more Snazzy Snippets (hosted by Emily and Alyssa)! This time we're talking about romance (though my snippets aren't really SUUPER romantic). I really, really wanted to share some snippets from CamelotNovel, which is a contemporary retelling (ish?) of the King Arthur myth, but according to certain promises I made to myself last month, I shouldn't be writing that until I finish SlavicNovel.

So I thought that if I share some more SlavicNovel snippets, I'll get back into Slavic-mood and maybe finally get that one done? Endings are so SO hard for me, especially when they involve epic fantasy with lots of threads to be tied up and everyone counting on the climax to get it all done.

#1: A HEARTWARMING SNIPPET THAT MAKES READERS GO "AWW!" - my story doesn't have very many awwww moments. I'm not sure if it's that heartwarming yet, really. I mean, it might be eventually, but now everyone's either super snarky or super seductive or super murderous. So this is as heartwarming as it gets.

Oriana squeezed her eyes shut and groaned. When she opened them again, she dug her hands into the pockets of her trousers and pursed her lips. 
“Damla,” she said. “I want you to know that I think you are a good fighter. And not just a good one - an excellent one. That’s why I wanted you on my team. When you spoke in front of my Otamans, I realized I had made a good decision.” She paused, and Damla didn’t say anything. She wasn’t going to leap back into agreement with Oriana at the hint of apology. Also, hadn’t it been Damla that had done the decision-making? 
“Please stay,” Oriana said quietly. “I may not need you, but I definitely want you - and appreciate you.” 

#2: A KISSING SNIPPET - How could I resist sharing more sexy mermaids when it asked for kissing? 
Laryssa reached over and twirled a strand of Tania’s dark hair around her finger. 
“I’m glad you’re my friend, darling,” she said, and Tania found it extremely hard to push away the thoughts of apple cider and sunsets and comfort. Laryssa’s eyes were remarkably green, she noticed, green and deep and beautiful. A small part of her mind wondered why she noticed that, and why Laryssa’s face was suddenly so near to hers, but the rest of her waded deep into the comfort of Laryssa’s smile.
Tania had never been kissed. She had never considered the prospect of kissing anyone. Particularly, she had definitely never considered the prospect of being kissed by a girl, let alone a mermaid. But when Laryssa’s lips met hers, all Tania knew was that this was the most soul-wrenchingly beautiful thing she had every felt and that she never wanted this to end.
Not even when Laryssa, gently caressing her, still with their lips pressed together, dragged her down the bank.
Not even when the water lapped up through her clothes and up her neck.
Not even when the mermaid, with a final flick of her tail, pulled Tania’s head below the waves, and all faded away in a purple mist.

#3: A SNIPPET WHERE LOVE INTERESTS FIRST APPEAR TOGETHER - I still haven't decided if I want Tania and Stefan to be a thing, so have Oriana and Misha instead. 
"My angel!” a man standing at the gate shouted, and Oriana grinned. 
“Shut up, idiot!” she yelled back. 
The man bowed with a flourish, a smirk on his face.

What writerly things have you been up to? How was your Valentine's day? (Mine was very Danish which means I didn't celebrate at all! I had family brunch instead.) 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Guest Post: Why Wren Doesn't Reread

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about my experiences rereading Harry Potter. I ADORE rereading for the variety of reasons I outlined in that post. Well, Wren  staunchly insists on not rereading. "Why?" I wondered, and invited Wren over to write about it. Enjoy!

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I refuse to re-read. It's like the fact I hate book romances with a fiery passion. I also don't like eating pizza with my hands. And I take apart my sandwiches. I'm a queer person. Queer being weird. What were you thinking? Geez.
People keep squealing over books they've re-read, and I'm thinking, 'Never gonna re-read.' Even if I forget a book entirely and am reading the sequel. (Which I address in this post.)

And now...onto the main event. This is why I don't re-read.

1) I could be reading different books.
To me, re-reading slows my progress with reading. I could be reading that backlist book or this new release. I have better things to do than drudge up old memories about a book I've already read. It won't improve my looming TBR. So what's the point? Sure, you could relive your experience, but what if that changes? (Which is the next question!)

2) What if I can't recreate my first feelings?
This sorta relates to Reason 4. But it's a little different.
If I love a book, I'll be excited. I'll want to share it with people. I might love the characters or setting. If I re-read it, especially after reading negative reviews, I will think more negatively about it. If I just don't re-read, I won't have this threat.
And, yes, that is a threat.

3) If I'm reading the new book in the series and I forgot everything that had happened in earlier books.
This happened a while ago. Which book exactly? I completely forget. Forgetting happens to me sometimes.
I walked into the book 'blind' as I put it. Completely and utterly clueless.
But it was great to be reintroduced to characters and the setting and plot. It was like reading the series all over again. But not.

4) What if I discover things that I actually end up hating? I don't want to ruin my old opinions.
If I adored a book and re-read it, I'd be worried about ruining my mental image of it. If I like something, I hold it up on a pedestal. I'd rather not tarnish that image of the book. I don't want to discover something I missed on my first go.

And this explains why I don't own many books. If I did, they would just collect dust on my shelf and never do anything. My bookshelf is reserved for those books I adore.

If you're wondering, I've only re-read maybe once or twice. And that's mostly when I'm out of library books or something and have only books I've read before to read. I've probably re-read 'The Wanderer' many times. Mostly because I need something to read.

Hi, I'm Wren. I'm this probably-insane book blogger. I love dessert and anime and manga. I adore jackets, I want to travel the world, and I do so through books. It's nice to meet you, dude.Displaying IMG-20150808-WA0004_1439035652527.jpg Visit me at
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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones // superpowers! spies! slight disappointment!

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17182499When the MK virus swept across the planet, a vaccine was created to stop the epidemic, but it came with some unexpected side effects. A small percentage of the population developed superhero-like powers. Seventeen-year-old Ciere Giba has the handy ability to change her appearance at will. She's what's known as an illusionist...She's also a thief.

After a robbery goes awry, Ciere must team up with a group of fellow super-powered criminals on another job that most would consider too reckless. The formula for the vaccine that gave them their abilities was supposedly destroyed years ago. But what if it wasn't?

The lines between good and bad, us and them, and freedom and entrapment are blurred as Ciere and the rest of her crew become embroiled in a deadly race against the government that could cost them their lives.

I was super excited for this book - it has such a fun premise - I was so ready for spies and superheroes and thrilling chase scenes. In a way, it gave me that, but it didn't GRIP me as much as I had hoped. 

So let's break it down into a list because that's the best way to review three star books, no?
(Lists are the best way to do anything, actually.)

What I didn't like as much:
  •  The "sides" had me confused. Whose side were people on? There were the immune renegades, there was the government, and there were a bunch of other organizations who went by initials that I forgot what they meant. I couldn't keep track of which spy/agent belonged to which association.
  • The characters didn't seem fully fleshed out to me. They had their "thing" that they're good at (their immunity), but other than the main character Ciere, they were kinda one dimensional. I SO wanted to like Kat, but I never really felt like I could relate to him in any way at all. And the characters sometimes did kinda out-of-character things just to move the plot along.
  •  Talking about Ciere, she's supposed to be this really good thief and spy. Kat's raised her to be good at that sort of stuff. She spouts out sneaking thieving wisdom. And she's pulled off major heists, and we see her perform jobs impressively. She obviously knows what she's doing. But then, every so often, she lets down her guard 100% and does something so incredibly transparent, which is illogical, considering her spy knowledge. Like, I know you're just a teen. Yes, you're doing exactly what I would do in the situation. But you're not supposed to be ANY teen. You're this special spy thief superhero teen who should KNOW BETTER.
  • Also, apparently, after this kind of life, she's never seen anyone die before? C'mon. 
  • The writing seemed a little distant and didn't pull me in as much as I want a thriller novel to. I never was in GRAND SUSPENSE GASP.

But it was not all annoying! I enjoyed quite a bit, actually. Here's what I liked:
  • SPIES. INTRIGUE. HEISTS. Therefore, SO MUCH FUN! We have weird governmental plotting, young heroes doing badass things... 
  • Also, combine that with SUPERPOWERS. So not only are they spies and thieves, they are superhero spies and thieves.    
  • The plot moved along steadily and with lots of twists! I definitely never thought that there were any slow bits. 
  • Ciere is always doling out advice on how to be a proper criminal/spy/thief. THIS IS USEFUL INFORMATION. It's... nice... to know things like this. (DONT DENY IT YOU WANT TO LEARN HOW TO BE A SPY)

I also don't remember any of the main good guys being middle aged. They're all also rather good looking. Not necessarily a bad thing, just weird. 

I personally won't be reading the sequel, but I say if you are even kinda interested by the plot, give it a try! 

Have you read Illusive? Did you like it? Please recommend me some good YA spy and heist and maybe even superpower books! 

(Also PS I HAVE A BLOG BUTTON! It's over on the sidebar and it even has an official looking grabby code so go grab it for your blog because I'M SUPER PROUD OF IT if you haven't realized)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

20 Things You (Possibly) Didn't Know About Me


My teenage years are over. Yesterday (Friday) was my 20th birthday (!!!!) and I am no longer a teen.
This is mildly freaky.

In the tradition of Cait at Paper Fury, I thought I'd do a list of 20 things you didn't know about me in honor of my living 2 decades.

If you've been hanging around here for long enough, you probably know most of these. BUT NOT ALL! So read on to find out my secrets.

1. I like to eat everything - except squash and papaya. 

I even like eel. (Have you ever had eel sushi? If not you are MISSING OUT. Seriously.) But my absolute favorite food is Thai food.

2. I am tall, but not tall enough to not be shortest in my immediate family.

The rest of them are giants. When I am at home, my sister likes to call me a shrimp. When I am out in the World, I pleasantly remember that I can see the tops of many people's heads.

3. The household chore I ABHORE is washing dishes (and second is loading the dishwasher because that's almost the same thing).

I will gladly do laundry and UNload the dishwasher, though.

4. I was homeschooled all the way through high school. 

It was cool because I got to build volcanoes in my back yard and hatch chickens and build tree houses and go to museums on weekdays when they were empty.

5. This is my favorite number.

Firstly, my birthday is on February 5th, which, in addition to being splendidly alliterative, involves me blessing the number 5 with my birth. Once I won 5th place in a speech competition as a representative of Illinois' 5th district while staying on the 5th floor of the hotel which was just off of the I-55 expressway.

6. My superpower is reading fast.

And my kryptonite is non-narrative writing (textbooks, poetry, philosophical essays). This is why I used to read more than I do now because DANGIT COLLEGE.

7. I have an absolutely gorgeous sister who is remarkably talented at everything she does.

Her latest attempt at taking over every aspect of life is food blogging, which she obviously does just as well as playing piano, acting, sciency lab work stuff, and basically Hermione-ing through her schoolwork.

8. When I grow up, I want to be a doctor.

A pediatrician, to be specific. But also a writer, because who said you had to choose between an enjoyable, sometimes stressful, creative, relatively lucrative job, and an equally enjoyable, sometimes stressful, creative, probably not lucrative job? I choose both.

9. Traveling the world is possibly the best thing, after books.

I've been to the following countries: Japan, Canada (Quebec and Vancouver, so I've covered both ends), the UK (twice!), Italy, France, Costa Rica, and various US states including Hawaii and Alaska. And now I'm living in Denmark! I'd like to go to Australia and somewhere in Africa at some point so I can say I've been to all the continents.

10. I like dark chocolate better than milk chocolate.

If I didn't, I'm afraid my family would disown me. But I don't like it SUPER dark. 80% is nice? So is 75%? My sister eats 100% because she naturally creates her own extra sugar because she is so sweet.

11. I have only DNF'd four books in my life.

They were: Old Curiosity Shop and Bleak House by Charles Dickens (we have a love hate relationship), The White Company by Arthur Conan Doyle (I tried twice! Maybe third time's a charm?), and Ben Hur by Lew Wallace (I think I was a bit young). As you can tell, I definitely want to try them all again at some point. DNF does not equal BAD in my book. I have finished some much worse books than those I have DNF'd.

12. I love to sing!

If reading is my sedentary zen activity, singing is my active zen activity. (And to anyone who thinks singing isn't active, my choir literally does stretches before vocal warm ups so that we are physically prepared.)

13. My favorite color is somewhere in the blue/green range.

See, I don't have a favorite color. I have a favorite color palate. And this is it. I especially like the lighter ones.

14. I'm 100% Ukrainian but I have never been to Ukraine. 

And neither have my parents. We can speak the language and everything. But we have no family there, so that's why.

15. I wrote my first ever novel (i.e. chapter book) when I was eight.

It involved three children going to visit their great-great-aunt in her mansion where she lived with her butler and her maid and large collection of porcelain rabbits. Her butler was extremely mean and didn't like children but suddenly had a change of heart and gave the oldest girl a porcelain rabbit without the great-great-aunt's permission. It didn't seem to get him in any trouble. I wrapped it up quickly because I realized it had no magic in it and what fun are books without magic in them?

16. My middle name is Antonia.

It's Antonia because my dad thought it was pretty and insisted.

17. The sky makes me unbearably happy.

I don't know why, but this past summer I picked up the habit of gazing at the sky. In the daytime, not at stars. I especially love it when it has clouds, but any sort of sky makes me just overwhelmed by the magnitude and beauty of this world and AGH I CAN'T <3

18. My favorite kind of cake is the really fudgy chocolate kind. 

Followed by lemon poppyseed. And carrot.

19. I'm majoring in Chemistry at my University.

Which means - Yes I know how to blow things up. Yes I know how to make luminol to detect blood stains. No I cannot make meth.

20. I have green eyes.

Which makes me a strong candidate for being a YA main character. Though I think I'm more likely that awesome secondary-character friend/sidekick.

Now I have revealed all my secrets! (Or have I?) Tell me 20 or 5 or 100 things about you in the comments! 

Monday, February 1, 2016

January // My sister has a blog! And I'm in Denmark!

Hiiiii!! *waves from Denmark*

January was a BIG month. I moved half way across the world, guys. DENMARK. I've been here for two and a half weeks and I don't think it's hit me yet. Ask me next month about this time and I mayyy just be freaking out. But not yet.

I'm living in a homestay with a host family, and they are lovely and have a lovely cat who is my new best friend. I won't write a lot about it here because I tell you all about it over at Seeking Souls, my travel blog.

But I WILL say that one of the classes I am taking is Scandinavian Crime Fiction and it is my favorite and we are reading the FREAKIEST and BEST crime novels. So prepare yourself for a lot of reviews in that genre. Ooooooh let me tell you it's the greatest thing to walk through foggy Copenhagen with your classmates muttering things to each other like: "But if he IS the murderer, then he'd have to know that SHE was cheating on her husband so he could have left the NOTE." It's epic.

Also, I found some great bookstores in downtown Copenhagen that sell loads of English books and YA too! I'm so excited. I haven't bought anything. though, so no haul this month. :-(

(photos link to instagram)
(Also, the picture with the postcards won me 50 kroner (~$8 USD) in a hashtag competition so that was nice!)
(Also, if you'd like a postcard, let me know!)

Aila @ One Way or An Author talks about the trend to make book boyfriends immortal (and old).

Cait @ Paper Fury now has a Society6 shop! It's awesome! (My personal favorite is the How To Be Happy instructions.)

My sister Dionna finally started a blog - Kitchen Whimsy! It's not about books, but it is about food and funny stories and awesomeness, which is basically just as good, so head on over. (It also has photos that will make you want to eat your computer.)

{I share bits from my current WIP, SlavicNovel!}

{Let's talk about me and you because we are all beautiful people :-)}

{Do you reread? Or are you a one-timer? Tell me your methods!}

How was your January? Is your year off to a good start? What plans do you have for the coming month? Share it with me in the comments!