Book Review | Shadow of the Fox Series; Potential Spoiler Warning

Thursday, 1 October 2020


My main goal for this year was to read all the ARC's (that most are no longer ARC's) on my Netgalley account. Both Shadow of the Fox and Soul of the Sword were on there, so this seemed like a good series to read to knock two off the list. But I also had heard really good things about the series as well, and with good reason, as I loved it. As this is a series, I will try my best to keep my reviews as spoiler-free as possible, but I wouldn't read my reviews for Soul of the Sword or Night of the Dragon unless you want to know where the story is going or if you've already the series, of course.



Started: July 19, 2020 | Finished: August 4, 2020

Synopsis
One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.

Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.

There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.

With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.

My Review: 4/5 Stars

This book had me hooked from the start with its character building and action. I really enjoyed the journey the characters went through. Yumeko started out as a naive girl who didn’t know anything outside of the temple she grew up in and learned more about the world the more she ventured out on her mission. Tatsumi started out as a very hard and emotionless person, to someone who was learning to feel emotions and to trust others. I also liked the side characters that ended up joining them along the way on their journey to complete their mission. I’m really looking forward to the next in the series, going to start that very soon. 

Started: August 17, 2020 | Finished: Sept 2, 2020

Synopsis

One thousand years ago, a wish was made to the Harbinger of Change and a sword of rage and lightning was forged. Kamigoroshi. The Godslayer. It had one task: to seal away the powerful demon Hakaimono.

Now he has broken free.


Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko has one task: to take her piece of the ancient and powerful scroll to the Steel Feather temple in order to prevent the summoning of the Harbinger of Change, the great Kami Dragon who will grant one wish to whomever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. But she has a new enemy now. The demon Hakaimono, who for centuries was trapped in a cursed sword, has escaped and possessed the boy she thought would protect her, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan.

Hakaimono has done the unthinkable and joined forces with the Master of Demons in order to break the curse of the sword and set himself free. To overthrow the empire and cover the land in darkness, they need one thing: the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. As the paths of Yumeko and the possessed Tatsumi cross once again, the entire empire will be thrown into chaos.
My Review: 4/5 Stars

I will admit, I found this one a bit slower than the first. I don't know if that's just me or not. The last quarter of the book is what had me bump up my star rating. I still really enjoyed the book, and am in enjoying the series immensely. I'm excited to finish it off with the third book! I liked Yumeko's journey on learning more about what she's capable of with her kitsune powers. I wasn't expecting Okame and Daisuke's relationship to progress the way it did, but I was so here for it! I'm really interested in finding out the state of Tatsumi in the next book after what he went through in this one. Overall, I did really like this one, just preferred Shadow of the Fox a bit more. I've already started Night of the Dragon because I need to know what happens to all these amazing characters!


Started:
Sept 4, 2020 | Finished: Sept 29, 2020
Synopsis
  
Master storyteller Julie Kagawa concludes the enthralling journey into the heart of the fantastical Empire of Iwagoto in the third book of the Shadow of the Fox trilogy. As darkness rises and chaos reigns, a fierce kitsune and her shadowy protector will face down the greatest evil of all. A captivating fantasy for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Sarah J. Maas and Marie Lu.

Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko has given up the final piece of the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers in order to save everyone she loves from imminent death. Now she and her ragtag band of companions must journey to the wild sea cliffs of Iwagoto in a desperate last-chance effort to stop the Master of Demons from calling upon the Great Kami dragon and making the wish that will plunge the empire into destruction and darkness.

Shadow clan assassin Kage Tatsumi has regained control of his body and agreed to a true deal with the devil—the demon inside him, Hakaimono. They will share his body and work with Yumeko and their companions to stop a madman and separate Hakaimono from Tatsumi and the cursed sword that had trapped the demon for nearly a millennium.

But even with their combined skills and powers, this most unlikely team of heroes knows the forces of evil may be impossible to overcome. And there is another player in the battle for the scroll, a player who has been watching, waiting for the right moment to pull strings that no one even realized existed…until now.

My Review: 4/5 stars

I really liked this one!! It was probably my favourite in the whole series. I thought it was a solid final book for the series, full of a lot of action, and tying up loose ends. I'm just not sure how I feel about the ending, and that's why I knocked off a star. I love the author's writing style though, and I'm definitely going to have to check out her other books after reading this series. We lost a good amount of characters in the end which surprised me how many, but each death scene was so well written, and as a reader, you felt for each one. Some of the characters I was expecting to lose, but there were some that surprised me that we lost them as well. Overall, this was a really good solid trilogy that I enjoyed reading. It's always nice when all the books within a series are enjoyable and fun to read. 

Have you read the Shadow of the Fox series? What are your thoughts on the series?

Bella turns 3!

Tuesday, 29 September 2020



My little puppy isn't a puppy anymore! Bella is 3 years old today. This dog has been a lifesaver for me. She is one of the best dogs I've ever known. I'm so proud of how smart she is, and how well trained she is now with me on our walks. I love taking walks with her because she's so happy and I'm so comfortable with her whether she's on or off her leash. She loves sleeping in my bed with me, and she's a total bed hog but luckily I don't mind. She also loves to cuddle and using me as a human pillow and it's so sweet!

So in honour of my dog, here are some pictures of my little lady as she turns 3!



 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BELLA!!! I LOVE YOU!

FabFitFun Review; Fall Edition

Sunday, 27 September 2020


So after so many sponsored posts on Instagram and Facebook, many celebrity and YouTuber reviews, I decided it was time for me to give the FabFitFun box a try. My plan is to try one box pre-season and by next fall either cancel or continue depending on how I feel about the seasonal subscription service. I got my Fall box at the start of the month, so here is everything I got in and my review on each item.

Coupon Cards

I got 3 coupon cards at the start of my box. One was a wine scratch card. I don't drink wine, so will most likely gift this to someone. $80 off for HelloFresh, which I am interested in. If I end up using this, I will blog about it for sure. Then a card to pass on to a friend that gives them $15 off their first FabFitFun box.

Perfect Repair by NatureLab

This is a deep conditioning hair treatment masque. You put it on from ends to roots, leave in for 3-5 minutes, and then rinse. I used this on a day where I don't wash my hair, and just opted to use this instead. It was so good!! It left my hair feeling so soft that I couldn't stop touching my hair. I also really love the smell. It's a very fresh scent, and it smells as if you just got your hair done at the salon. That's the best way I can describe it.


Skin&Co. Truffle Therapy Whipped Cleansing Cream

When I first smelt this, I was in heaven because it smells like coconuts which is one of my favourite scents. But when you rub it on your face, it smells like Play-Do. I'm not just saying that that's all I could smell while I was using this product. It was nice but honestly, I've used better cleansing creams. So I'm either going to give this away or bin it.



Multivitamin Mask by Vitamasoues

These were your standard sheet masks. I'm not the biggest fan of sheet masks, I say that having only used two other brands before this one. I think it's just something I have to get used to. I do plan to use these up so maybe my opinion will change on sheet masks the more I use them.




Stila Mascara & Liquid Eyeliner

I have used this mascara already in the past, and I loved it so I was excited to see that I got another one. I love the volume it gives my eyelashes, and it dries pretty fast which is great so I don't have to deal with constant smudges. As for the liquid eyeliner, I will have to get back to you. I am bound and determine to learn and master using a liquid eyeliner, but I'm not there yet and won't be any time soon. 



BeyondYoga Infinity scarf 

Taking photos of infinity scarves isn't my strong suit, clearly! I understand the premise behind this. It would be great for walks or runs as it's getting colder out. It has a zip-up pocket for your phone, wallet, or keys whatever you want to use it for. I just don't see myself ever using this if I'm being honest. So I'll most likely gift this to a friend who I think might have better use for it than me.



Likwids RX Stress Reliever Hair Serum

I used this on a day off where I was probably the least stressed I've been in a while, so I can't say whether or not this relieved any of my stress. I put it on about an hour before I had a bath, and then cleaned it out. I'll keep using it, and see if I notice anything different whether it helps me sleep better or if anything else.







The Beauty Crop Glow Milk

I haven't used this yet, and I'm not sure if I will. We will see. I do love the colour, but I'm just not one who likes shimmers usually. So I might gift this to someone instead of it going to waste with me.



Voesh New York Foot Treatments

Another product I don't have any desire to use. You get 2 packages of each kind of foot treatment. So a Salt Soak, Sugar Scrub, Mud Masque, and Massage Butter. I will also be gifting these since I have no use for them.

That's everything I got in my Fall box for FabFitFun. I'm excited to see what I'm going to get in my Winter box. 

My life since COVID became a pandemic; March-Sept

Saturday, 26 September 2020

First off I want to preface by saying that I don't want to offend anyone who has actually experienced COVID or knows someone who died from it. I know my experience is quite minimal in comparison, but the reason I'm writing this blog post is more for me and my own memories. I wanted something I could look back on in years' time to remember when our world effectively changed, and what I did during that time. Also, I promise I won't be talking much more about COVID after this post. I might do an updated version of this post in a few months depending on how the second wave goes because a second wave is coming, if not already here.

Pre-COVID

Back in late Jan-early Feb, everyone in my household was really sick. While I know that usually happens at some point where it's a ripple effect when living together that when one gets sick eventually all do. But this felt different somehow. I just remember it was the worst flu I'd ever had, and it spread so quickly in my house, faster than other flu's. I'm not saying we had COVID, I'm not a professional and would never have any way of knowing. But with the theory that COVID was here before March, you never really know. But other than that, I was just going about my regular routine at this point in time with work and home life, but I was so optimistic about the year. I had achieved a major life goal at the end of December with getting my license. So at the start of the new year, I was feeling ready to take on more, and work towards more life goals. Obviously that all came to a screeching halt.

March

At work, I remember the week before we closed, we were meant to be prepping for March Break events for the kids department all week. It was during one of those prep days that we had learned of the school closures. That was when we were started wondering if we were even going to be hosting March Break events. Not long after the events were canceled. It felt like each day more and more were closing all around us that it felt like only a matter of time before my store closed to. I work in a bookstore, so we're considered non-essential. March 17, we were overstaffed because it was the week of March Break which in years past is always a busy time. So, I wasn't needed on the floor so I ended up getting to clean up our break room, mainly the kitchen area. If you ask me to clean and organize, I'm there and I go all in. It was while I was happily cleaning that one of my managers came in to inform myself and a few others who were either on break or starting their shifts that we would be closing. I remember at the time our original plan was to be closed for 9 days. Deep down I didn't think it was going to be 9 days, but I didn't think it was going to be 2 months either. It was so weird to be working knowing that at the end of the day that day our work lives were about to change. 

Two days after we closed, I got sick again. I spent all day sleeping one day which isn't like me, even when I'm sick. When I'm sick, I'll still get up for dinner and attempt to eat or I'll go lie on the couch to get out of my room in the evenings. But not this day, when I say I slept all day I mean I slept all day. It was concerning in lieu of the circumstances but I ended up being fine a few days later, so that was a relief. After that, I spent the rest of March only going out to either walk my dog, Bella or occasionally going to the grocery store for food or the drug store to get my prescriptions. Making any public trips as quick as possible.

April

The Animal Crossing obsession begins! On April 1st, I went out on a whim to Wal-Mart to see if they had any Nintendo Switches. There was a massive shortage going on for them. But luck was on my side that day, the Wal-Mart I went to had just got a restock that day so I bought my Switch and game, and it completely took over my life. It was the best distraction, to say the least. My days were filled with walking Bella and playing Animal Crossing. Again, I would still have to make my quick trips to the grocery and drug stores. But other than that, I didn't want to be out in public and tried to avoid it as much as possible. 

May

By the time May rolled around, I was starting to get a little stir crazy. I was missing my workplace, and seeing my co-workers and managers. I was eager to go back without putting much thought into what going back would entail. I got called back in the middle of May, a week before we opened to the public. It was a massive adjustment to going from wearing a mask for at most half an hour in a grocery store to 4-8 hours depending on my shift. But to me, that wasn't the worst of it. The worst came when we opened our doors to the public, having to officially adjust to new safety rules and precautions. It was a lot to take at first, but I thought I could handle it. I was wrong.

June-Sept

I'm just going to mash these last 4 months into one. The longer we were opening and getting our bearings, the more the public became a daily occurrence of someone or multiple someones not talking the pandemic seriously which in turn made my anxiety spike so high that I didn't know what to think or how to handle it. Before this, I thought I was getting into a really good place with my anxiety disorder. It wasn't great, but I had a handle on it and was managing it pretty well. All that work of getting to that place plummeted this year, during this time. It was, it is discouraging and I do feel very disappointed in myself. It feels like when you work so hard to get yourself up to a certain level, but one wrong step and you're back at zero. I started to become very agitated, very irritable, and very sensitive to every little thing. It was negatively affecting the two main aspects of my life; my work life and my home life. I won't go into too much detail since I did that in my last post. But suffice to say, I'm still working on it.

Father's Day was the worst for me this year. I always miss my Dad, but this year something snapped in me and I had one of the worst breakdowns I've had in a long time. I think I just wish my Dad was here to give his perspective on all of this. He always had a way of easing the tension and making me see things differently. I need that, I need him, now more than ever. It was after Father's Day that I felt I lost my handle on everything. In August, I took a 2-week stay-cation from work in the hopes that it would help give me a fresh start, but it didn't turn out the way I had hoped. It took me out of that environment for 2 weeks, but it didn't alleviate my anxiety and stress over constantly being in the public for hours. 

Now here we were, near the end of September. Sometimes I have good days, sometimes I have bad days, and sometimes I have really bad days. There's no predictability to it, I don't know what my days going to be like, what's going to set my anxiety off. All I can do is keep trying. I don't know when I'll feel like I'll have a handle on my anxiety again, I suspect it will take me a while. But I'm determined to get there. I want to feel reliable again like I can be depended on. Right now, I don't feel that way.

I'm hoping that if I do an update on this post that I'll feel more uplifted than I've been feeling the last few months. But for now, this is where I'm at. How about you? How has COVID affected you? Let me know in the comments below.

Mental Health + COVID don't go together.

Sunday, 20 September 2020

[Image circa 2011. Who remembers this Instagram frame!]

Sigh. I'm that lazy and unmotivated that I can't even be bothered to take a new photo or try to make an image for this post. But I've been having a rough time trying to manage my mental health during a pandemic. I know I'm not alone in this, I know a lot of people who are struggling with their mental health as well. I also know that people who actually contract the disease have it way worse than I do. These are all things I'm aware of, and try to remind myself of when it all gets to be a bit too much.

But the truth is, every day is a struggle. I wake up everyday feeling anxious, the level of the anxiety can vary depending on the day, and what I'm doing that day. Work is the hardest right now. For the longest time, my work was my happy place. But the pandemic, and what I like to call COVID-idiots, have taken that away from me. I know that my safety is in my hands, and trust me I take all of this very seriously. But every day there is always someone or a couple someones who just don't. They are the ones that ruin your day and make you feel like screaming because the longer they don't at least try to give a shit, the longer it will be before I get my happy place back. This isn't going away any time soon, and when you can visibly see the reasons why, it's frustrating and very upsetting. It feels like I'm angry, irritatable, and stressed all the time! It makes me not like the person that I am which then in turn makes me feel very depressed with myself. I feel like I'm stuck in a vicious cycle right now.

I think for me, I'm a people pleaser, always have been. I don't like upsetting anyone or being a burden to anyone. So I feel like me not being at my best is having a negative effect on the people around me. Deep down, I know that isn't the case, but I can't help feeling that way. I'm well aware that I put too much pressure on myself, and worry way too much about every little thing. But it's the way I'm wired. I've spoken with my doctor, she's given me counseling options to help deal with my anxiety but I haven't called because I'm scared to commit to something like that especially because it's a group setting that I have to do first before I can get some one-on-one counseling.

I just feel like I'm stuck, not knowing what to do with myself and my life honestly. I'm 32 years old, I've never dated anyone due to extreme social anxiety. I don't make any effort to go out with friends because I'm so tired all the time. I'm basically a house hermit, and I've yet to break out of my bad habits. Every year I try to vow to myself to do better, and every year I stick to my routine of work and home life only. It's starting to scare me a little because I'm afraid I won't be able to push myself out of the comfort zone I created for myself. 

I'm going to leave it at that for today. But I'd love to hear about how you're coping with COVID, and all the changes it's brought to your lives. Also, if you struggle with any form of mental health disorders, how has the pandemic affected you. Are there any tips or tricks that you've found have helped you? Let me know in the comments.

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