Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Closing Down the Porch

Hi there! This is kinda awkward, right? I mean, what kind of blogger goes on a three-month hiatus without blogging about it first? You all know how we love our blog announcements, especially when it comes to posting ambiguous teasers about them a few days beforehand. So how do you go about writing a "comeback" post when it basically looks like you forgot about your blog for three months and didn't bother to say "Hey, brb" in the first place?


Well, friends, I am sadly here to tell you the inevitable. At first, I took a blogging hiatus because I wanted to do a simple blog redesign, which then turned into me thinking if I even wanted to keep up with this thing anymore. As you can tell from my extended absence, the answer is a resounding no. My inspiration for this blog has been MIA for quite some time now, and I don't think it's coming back.

When I first started Front Porch Sittin', I was so excited and passionate about it. I blogged about the stupidest stuff. We had peaches for breakfast? We went on a walk this weekend? I bought my first ever panel of curtains? Blogged about it ALL. And then I started finding other newlywed bloggers just like me, which was wonderful, but then the ugly comparison game began to creep in. I pretended like it didn't bother me, but there I was nonetheless, comparing my number of followers and comments to everyone else. To everyone I had no business comparing myself to. I always said my blog was about keeping up with my writing, but slowly, comparison stole away the joy I originally found in it.

Then the comparison eventually morphed into self-induced guilt. I was a 'lifestyle' blogger, and if I didn't blog about everything Kyle and I did, I felt this huge burden on my shoulders...like I had an unmet deadline or something. And where is the fun in that? While I did get much better about not thinking that way, sometimes there would still be this nagging voice in the back of my head saying, "You need to blog about this! Why haven't you blogged about this yet?!" -- and all I really wanted to do was punch that voice in the face.

So what will happen to this little corner of the internet? Well, as of today, this is the last post you will see on Front Porch Sittin'. Sad face, I know. While it's a bit of a bummer to type that, at the same time I don't feel sad at all! I think God has been preparing me to let go of this blog for a long time now. I'm not planning on deleting it, so it will still be here if you ever need to search the archive for a post. And you can always keep up with our day-to-day shenanigans on Instagram if that's your kind of thing.

But seriously, am I really going to stay away from blogging forever? If that thought popped into your head, then you know me all too well! This girl will always have something to write about. And the truth is, I've been working on a side project this whole time that I am hoping to launch very soon. I honestly can't wait to share it with you guys! So the answer is...you are not through with me yet. Stay tuned! (How's that for ambiguity?!)

Finally, I can't write a farewell post without mentioning you guys, my awesome readers! Thank you SO MUCH for reading and following my blog, whether you've been with me since the beginning or just recently joined in. Some people say they only blog for themselves and not for their readers, but I'm calling bull on that. I think every blogger has their audience in mind when they are writing, and it has been no different for me. You guys have made every step of the way worth it, and I hope you know I will still continue reading your blogs and leaving some comment love. :)

I love you all and can't thank you enough for hanging out with me on the Front Porch all these years. LA, out!  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Heap of Ashes That I Am

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Release Date: March 19, 2013
Pages: 570
Genre: Fantasy/Supernatural
Series: The Infernal Devices #3
-Clockwork Angel (2010)
-Clockwork Prince (2011)
-Clockwork Princess (2013)
Source and Format: Library; Hardcover

Summary (From Goodreads)
A net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute. Mortmain plans to use his Infernal Devices, an army of pitiless automatons, to destroy the Shadowhunters. He needs only one last item to complete his plan. He needs Tessa Gray.

Charlotte Branwell, head of the London Institute, is desperate to find Mortmain before he strikes. But when Mortmain abducts Tessa, the boys who lay equal claim to her heart, Jem and Will, will do anything to save her.

As those who love Tessa rally to rescue her from Mortmain’s clutches, Tessa realizes that the only person who can save her is herself. But can a single girl, even one who can command the power of angels, face down an entire army?

Danger and betrayal, secrets and enchantment, and the tangled threads of love and loss intertwine as the Shadowhunters are pushed to the very brink of destruction in the breathtaking conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy.

Thoughts on Clockwork Princess
Honestly, I was so scared to start this book. I knew I was in for a heartbreaking read, and wasn't sure if I was ready for it. This series is loosely based on A Tale of Two Cities, and we all know how tragically that story ends. Basically, my feelings going in to this book can be summarized by this one quote:

"You know that feeling...when you are reading a book, and you know that it is going to be a tragedy; you can feel the cold and darkness coming, see the net drawing close around the characters who live and breathe on the pages. But you are tied to the story as if being dragged behind a carriage, and you cannot let go or turn the course aside." 
 
It's almost as if Cassandra Clare knew what she was doing to her readers and wanted to express her sympathy. Being dragged behind a carriage perfectly describes how I felt while reading this book. I know that probably makes Clockwork Princess sound like the worst book ever, but it actually has been my favorite read of the year so far. All in all, this was the best conclusion to a series I've read in a long, long time.

At the heart of the story is the love triangle between Jem, Will, and Tessa. For me, one of the things that makes this love triangle so tricky is the relationship between Jem and Will. I have never seen a friendship portrayed in a more beautiful, symbolic way. Jem and Will are not just best friends, they are parabatai, and I love the connection Clare makes between parabatai and the covenant made by Jonathan and David in the Bible. This story wouldn't be nearly as heartbreaking without Jem's selfless love for Will, and Will's selfless love for Jem in return.

The whole time I was reading this series, it wasn't blatantly obvious to me where Tessa's heart lied...until this book. Clockwork Princess basically centers around two of the main characters, while also giving us a glimpse into the relationships developing among the secondary characters. Beyond the love story is a breathtaking adventure in which the characters face many life and death situations. The pacing of this book was relentless. Additionally, all of the big questions were answered and loose ends tied up.  

Which brings me to the epilogue. I can't write this review without mentioning the ever-controversial epilogue! I have to admit it jerked me back to reality a little too soon, but overall I am glad Clare included it. I think my feelings for this series would be completely different if it wasn't there. There needed to be a little more closure for one character in particular, and that's exactly what we got. I saw in Rachel's review that Clare wrote a post explaining why she included it, and I think it would be a good read for anyone who has read this series and feels kind of meh about the epilogue (you can find it here -  DON'T READ if you haven't finished Clockwork Princess, though!).

Overall, just wow. I absolutely loved this series. Well-written, fantastic story. These characters will stay with me for a long time to come.

Memorable Quotes
"Life is a book and there are a thousand pages I have not yet read. I would read them together with you, as many as I can, before I die-"

"And now I need you to do for me what I cannot do for myself. For you to be my eyes when I do not have them. For you to be my hands when I cannot use my own. For you to be my heart when mine is done beating."

"Our hearts, they need a mirror, Tessa. We see our better selves in the eyes of those who love us. And there is a beauty that brevity alone provides."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Book Review: Clockwork Prince


Release Date: December 6, 2011
Pages: 510
Genre: Fantasy/Supernatural
Series: Yes! The Infernal Devices #2
-Clockwork Angel (2010)
-Clockwork Prince (2011)
-Clockwork Princess (2013)
Source and Format: Library; Hardcover

Summary (From Barnes & Noble)
In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when it becomes clear that the mysterious Magister will stop at nothing to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.

With the help of the handsome, tortured Will and the devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal and fueled by revenge. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa is drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa answers about who she really is? As their search leads to deadly peril, Tessa learns that secrets and lies can corrupt even the purest heart.

Thoughts on Clockwork Prince
Something I think worth pointing out that I did not include in my review of Clockwork Angel is that while I really loved this series, these books are probably not for everyone. I think it's one of those series that you either love or hate. If reading about half-angels fighting demons in a Victorian London setting doesn't sound like your thing, you might want to take my gushing over these books with a grain of salt. ;)
 
With that said, I enjoyed this book even more than the first! Sometimes the middle book in a trilogy sort of falls flat and nothing really happens, but that is not the case with Clockwork Prince. There were plenty of adventures to be had and we find out a great deal about pretty much every character except Tessa. We still don't know exactly what she is and why she can do what she does. I expected a little more development on this front, but instead Clare focused on exploring the secondary characters and their stories, which still made for a compelling read.

On that note, one of the things I loved about these books is the different POVs. The story is told in third person omniscient - not just from Tessa's limited perspective - which allows us to see how the other characters develop relationships and deal with their own struggles. All of these interconnecting story lines played out just like a movie in my head!

If I had to point out one thing that bothers me about this series, it would be that some of the major conflicts were resolved a little too easily for me. I found myself thinking "That's it?!" quite a few times, but perhaps that was Cassandra Clare's purpose all along? Either way, I found myself disappointed with the resolution of a few plot lines in this one.

And don't worry, I am still sticking by my man Jem. Even though Will says some pretty amazing things to Tessa and the ending was one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever read -- drama drama drama! Without spoiling anything, I need to say this about the ending too -- it definitely read like a season finale for a TV show. Cassandra Clare just hits you with one shocker after another. I'm glad I was able to go straight into reading Clockwork Princess so I didn't have to hang out on that cliff too long.

Basically I feel like I didn't say much of anything in this review, but if you do get one thing out of it, it's that you need to READ THIS SERIES NOW. Like yesterday. And then be on Team Jem with me. Yay! That's all. :)

Memorable Quotes
"We live and breathe words...It was books that made me feel that perhaps I was not completely alone. They could be honest with me, and I with them. Reading your words, what you wrote, how you were lonely sometimes and afraid, but always brave; the way you saw the world, its colors and textures and sounds, I felt--I felt the way you thought, hoped, felt, dreamt. I felt I was dreaming and thinking and feeling with you. I dreamed what you dreamed, wanted what you wanted--and then I realized that truly I just wanted you."

"When two people are at one in their inmost hearts, they shatter even the strength of iron or bronze."

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Books In My Beach Bag


Y'all. Vacation is SO CLOSE, I can almost smell that glorious salty air already! My plan for the week is to post up in my beach chair and just read a ton of books. I know everybody's definition of a good beach read is different, and for me, I just want a legit good book. It doesn't necessarily have to be light and fun, I just want a story that draws me in. I'm planning on bringing at least 6 different choices with me, so we'll see what ends up tickling my fancy! Here's what you can find in my beach bag this summer:

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson: Ok, I'm not just bringing this because the cover is pretty. I've heard the story inside is just as beautiful (and a bit of a tearjerker). But isn't it one of the prettiest covers you've ever seen? I love the peachy tones and the watercolor feel to the font treatment. It looks like a painting that belongs at a lake house. 

Kisses From Katie by Katie Davis: Kyle gave me this book for my birthday, and I've been waiting to read it when I had time to really sit down and soak it all in (perfect for the beach). I know this book has the potential to be life-changing, and I can't wait to see what I learn from it. 

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: Every person who has read this book says it is one of the best books they have ever read. And that they are a better person for having read it. I usually don't bring non-fiction with me to the beach, but this one has me so intrigued that I can't wait to dive in and see what this story is all about.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead: I know, I know. Vampires, really? Can we just not anymore? I totally understand that sentiment. My best friend and I were texting a few months ago that we wish we could unread the Twilight series. But I have heard Vampire Academy completely blows Twilight out of the water, and after reading Hannah's review of the series, I decided to try the first book and see what the fuss is all about.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare: I am in the midst of reading the prequel series to this book right now, and Cassandra Clare has solidly won a place on my all-time favorite authors list. I love her writing so much. There is a lot of hype surrounding this book with the movie coming out in August, but I trust that Clare's writing will live up to it! 

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo: This is another beautiful cover that immediately drew my attention, it is so refreshing and different. Plus, it's just fun to get lost in a fantasy world while you are at the beach (hello, there is a map at the beginning!). And I've heard this one is absolutely made of awesome, y'all.  

So there you go! The books I may or may not be reading at the beach this summer. I say may not, because my favorite thing to do is make a list and completely not stick to it, plus I'm bringing my Nook with me that has a bunch of other books I want to read on it too (like Under the Never Sky and Jellicoe Road). So what books will you be reading at the beach this summer? Or are you more of a play in the water and build sandcastles kind of person? Trust me, there will be a lot of that going on during our vacation too! :) 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Have a Happy 4th!


Are you excited about the 4th coming up tomorrow?! I sure am, since it means an extra long weekend this year! The 4th has always been one of my favorite holidays, with the grilling out and playing all day on the lake. We'll be spending the holiday at my parents' lake house again this year, which is great because we have a pretty good view of the local fireworks show from their dock.

What are some of your 4th of July traditions? When it comes to food, a few recipes you can usually find around our table are grilled pineapple, Asian slaw, and American flag cake. I can vouch for the yumminess of each of these dishes--if you are still looking for ideas, your family will love you for adding them to your menu this year. ;)

Whatever you end up doing, I hope all of you have a safe and happy 4th!

Friday, June 28, 2013

It's been real, Google Reader.

I apologize in advance if this is the one thousand millionth post you've read about Google Reader shutting down on Monday. I'm going to contribute to the broken record anyway, so if you didn't already know...

Google Reader is going away this Monday, July 1. 

What does that mean for you? If you follow Front Porch Sittin' through Google Friend Connect or Google Reader, you will need to use an alternative RSS feed to continue receiving updates from this here ol' blog. The most popular RSS feed bloggers and readers are using now is called Bloglovin', and you can follow me there simply by clicking this button:

Follow on Bloglovin

If you are unfamiliar at all with Bloglovin (which was definitely me when I first started using it a few months ago), I found a helpful tutorial for you here. And here's a simple way to import your Google Reader subscriptions into Bloglovin'.

If RSS Readers aren't your jam, you can also get new post notifications through email subscription, Twitter, or Facebook. Whichever you way you decide to slice the cake, I just wanted to thank you for being such awesome readers, no matter if you've been around since day one or just started following yesterday. Let's keep this party going come Monday! :)  

Have a GREAT weekend!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book Review: Clockwork Angel

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Release Date: August 31, 2010
Pages: 478
Genre: Fantasy/Supernatural
Series: Yes! The Infernal Devices #1
-Clockwork Angel (2010)
-Clockwork Prince (2011)
-Clockwork Princess (2013)
Source and Format: Library; Hardcover

Summary (From Goodreads)
When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

Thoughts on Clockwork Angel
HOLY CRAP, this book! I originally gave it 4 stars on Goodreads, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it deserved a 5, so I went back and changed it. Yep, this one is a new favorite! I don’t know what it was about this book, maybe I was just in the perfect mood for this genre and it was a right place at the right time kind of thing, but I LOVED it!

Because I like being mean to myself, I started reading this the weekend before we closed on our house, which resulted in some major book guilt. I needed to spend my free time packing, and then once we moved, unpacking. But all I really wanted to do was READ THIS BOOK. I finally finished it 15 days later, but that certainly isn’t a reflection on my feelings for this novel. If I had been able to, I would have gobbled this thing up in one day!

I went into Clockwork Angel having not read The Mortal Instruments series, so one advantage of being late to the party is reading all of these books “in order” and not knowing what will eventually happen in the future. I at least want to finish this series and book one of The Mortal Instruments before the movie comes out in August (yes, there's a movie). I think I can make that happen! Ok so before I get away from myself and gush all over the place with this review, here are the top three things I loved about Clockwork Angel:

The characters:
From the moment I met each of the characters in this book, I was fully engrossed in their story and wanted to know more about them. Even the servants had me intrigued! What happened in their past to make them the way they are today? What are their motivations? Cassandra Clare does an outstanding job of slowly peeling back the curtain to reveal important pieces to the puzzle, and how those pieces fit together. I just can't get enough of Will, Jem, and Tessa! My only complaint is that I wanted to know more. But this is the first novel in the series, so of course we can't know everything yet!

The world-building:
This book was kind of an instant win for me because it combined two of my favorite genres: historical fiction and fantasy. If historical fiction is not your jam, don't worry. There were times I often forgot this book was set in the 1800s because it was so character driven. Which leads to why I loved the world-building. Cassandra Clare has woven such an intricate and compelling world that I absolutely loved to get lost in, mainly because the Shadowhunter world relied on the identity of the characters. Downworlders, Shadowhunters, mundanes, parabatai--what does it all mean?! You'll have to read to find out!

TWO swoonworthy boys:
Ok, ladies. Cassandra Clare has given us a dilemma here. First we have Jem, the fair-skinned but handsome gentleman who shows nothing but the utmost respect for Tessa. He is dealing with a mysterious illness, but maybe Tessa will be the one to find his cure? And then we have Will Herondale. Prepare yourself for some major swooning! He is dark, mysterious, and confuses the heck out of Tessa with the way he treats her. He gives off a bad boy vibe, but I'm thinking there is a tender side underneath that hard shell. He likes to talk books with our leading lady, which hints that in fact there is a soft side to him. I am so torn between these two, but at the end of the day I think I am gonna have to go with Team Jem. That little stunt you know who pulls on the rooftop is just not gonna cut it! I am hoping there is a hidden reason behind that revealed sometime in the next two books. In the meantime, here's to hoping nice guy Jem doesn't finish last. :)

Memorable Quote
"Sometimes," Jem said, "our lives can change so fast that the change outpaces our minds and hearts. It's those times, I think, when our lives have altered but we still long for the time before everything was altered-- that is when we feel the greatest pain. I can tell you, though, from experience, you grow accustomed to it. You learn to live your new life, and you can't imagine, or even really remember, how things were before."

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