Update: Life and Books (Jan 2019) + I Made Art!


This is my first update post of the new year, and as you can probably tell, I’ve committed to just doing these as monthly wrap-up posts since that’s basically what I’ve been doing anyway.

I have no news about the dentist since I had a CT scan in December, and it took my current dentist four whole weeks, despite my multiple phone calls, to talk to the endodontist about the results before I was even allowed to schedule my next appointment. Not that the endo listened anyway. He told me some of my symptoms were impossible. πŸ™„ I have an appointment tomorrow, but I’m not even sure what’s gonna happen. Wish me luck.

Moving on from that… I was all excited to tell you guys that I had good news because I had some weeks with fewer significant headaches and less brain fog, so I made art. And I was all excited to show you the digital paintings I did and tell you about how I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and tried new things and made the best paintings, digital or otherwise, that I’ve ever done, and how I’m proud of them even though I know they’re not perfect. But then I ended up with what I think is a ganglion cyst in my pinky where it presses against the surface when I draw. So now I can’t do art, and this thing could take a long time to go away, and they often come back. Knowing my body, it will become a chronic problem. And now I’m so upset that I almost don’t even want to share the art anymore. That probably seems overdramatic for such a small problem, but my various health problems have already taken from me so many of the things I love most, including my creative outlets, and every time I find something to make me happy, my body has a meltdown, and I end up unable to do the thing with a new problem to add to the list. It’s just very disheartening.

I’ll still share the art though since I worked hard on it. The first is a self portrait. The other two are based on my sims, Jacobin and Levine (some of you may remember this witch+vampire couple from my supernatural sims posts). The last one proved to be really difficult for me, and I didn’t get to quite finish touching it up, but since I don’t know when I’ll be able to work on it more, I figured I’d just share it now. *Update: I’ve replaced it with the final version now to save file space on my website.*

Self Portrait 2019

Jacobin Portrait

Levine Portrait

Blog/Bookish Updates:

More bad news: I had a plugin issue that made book cover images on most of my older posts not show up. I found a way to fix it, but I had to sacrifice all my Amazon affiliate links on those posts.

Finally some good news, I got bookmail from the lovely J. Armand! Not only am I very excited to read this one since it’s the next in one of my favorite series, I’m excited to have this gorgeous cover on my shelf! 😍

Infernal Providence by J. Armand

I also won an ebook giveaway for Adak by Phil Bonfim.

I’m also signing up for the 2018 Discussion Challenge, hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight. I’m going to go for Discussion Dabbler which is 1-10 discussion posts.

2019 Discussion Challenge

And, in case you didn’t see it, there’s currently a giveaway happening on my blog to go along with my review of Undercurrent by M.N. Arzu. It’s really a great merfolk series about an adorable family, you should check it out!


Books I Received for Review:

Blood Heir by AmΓ©lie Wen ZhaoThe Angriest Angel by Christopher HaltInfernal Providence by J. ArmandWhat Dawn Demands by Clara Coulson

I got a copy of Blood Heir and was excited for it, but now I’ve heard the author is pulling her book from being published. The Angriest Angel just sounded good. Both of those were from NetGalley. Then of course there’s my copy of Infernal Providence. What Dawn Demands is from the author.


Books I Finished:

Shriek by Jennifer M. BarryThe Devil's Pact by V.S. McGrathThe Ex-Princess by Fiona WestThe Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia HandCaptain by Artie SieversThe Immortal Coil by J. ArmandShadows of Humanity by J. Armand

The year is off to a fairly good bookish start. I had a couple issues with Shriek, but I enjoyed the banshee aspect. The Devil’s Pact was my favorite so far in that series, and I’m excited to see what will happen in the final book. The Ex-Princess was fun with a super cute romance and great chronic illness rep! The Afterlife of Holly Chase was good and a really touching story. Captain was an interesting Peter Pan prequel. The Immortal Coil and Shadows of Humanity were rereads (I’m rereading the series in prep for Infernal Providence), and I think I liked them even more this time! There’s a lot of complexity and detail that I’m able to pay more attention to now that I know certain things and now that I don’t have to focus as much on the more broad stuff.


What I’m Loving:

This month, what I’m loving is…

“Without Me” by Halsey


Apparently this song has been out for a while, but I only recently discovered it, and I love it. Not necessarily the meaning, just the sound and feel of it. Trigger warning for domestic violence/abuse in the video.

Greek Yogurt Dip

I have a sensitivity to oil, and it’s nearly impossible to find dips and sauces that don’t have oil, and the ones I do find are too spicy-hot for me. Recently I realized I could just buy some single-serve Greek yogurts and add spices myself to make yogurt dip! My favorite so far is a Ranch one based on this recipe. I’ve also made one with tahini, garlic, paprika, and salt that tastes a bit like hummus, and one with cilantro, salt, garlic, chives, onion powder, and a dash of cayenne.


I watched the first two seasons of Castlevania on Netflix. I’ve never played the game, but I really liked the show! It was a lot more graphically violent than I expected, but it was pretty funny at times and emotional at other times. Also, vampires! Apparently there’s going to be another season, so yay.


In Case You Missed It:

Here are the highlights:

– I reviewed The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty, an amazing, tension-filled sequel about djinn and complex characters.
– I shared January/Februrary SFF book releases to get excited about.
– I reviewed West of Loathing, an incredibly fun and funny Weird West RPG game.
– I shared black, white, and green book covers.
– I reviewed The Ex-Princess by Fiona West, a fun fantasy romance with great chronic illness rep.
– I shared upcoming indie games to get excited about in 2019.
– I recommended 10 books about characters with unique hobbies/passions.
– I reviewed Undercurrent by M.N. Arzu, a great sequel about an adorable merfolk family living on the surface.


Talk to me!

Did you had a good first month of 2019?
Have you watched Castlevania?
Found any good books, shows, or songs lately?


Your Thoughts


49 thoughts on “Update: Life and Books (Jan 2019) + I Made Art!

I'd love if you'd share your thoughts, too!


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  1. Lorna

    I’ve not heard of any of the books you rec’d/read. But hey I’m glad you are liking them.
    Not cool to tell a patient that their symptoms are not impossible!

  2. Tizzy

    I’m so sorry you’re suffering from so many health issues. I have TMJD which has caused me a whole host of dental problems so I really feel for you- chronic dental pain is just awful. I really hope you get some answers soon.

    Your artwork is amazing! I wish I had even half your talent!

    I’m interested to hear what you think of Blood Heir given all the controversy.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks <3 Sorry to hear you've had to deal with dental problems too.

      Thank you!!!

      I haven't decided yet if I'm going to read it or just wait for the updated version.

  3. Uma @Books.Bags.Burgers.

    OMG your art is gorgeous!! I’m so sorry about the cyst! It sounds painful and it sucks you can’t do art now ..Hope it goes away soon and never comes back!

    I absolutely loved City of Brass so here’s to hoping I love the sequel <33

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thank you!!! Thankfully it’s not painful unless it hits or presses against something, but it presses against the surface when I do art, so I can’t do that :-/ Thanks!

      If you loved CoB, I guarantee you’ll love KoC!

  4. Deborah Adams

    Busy bee as always! The art is looking great. I hope the cyst clears out soon as you can get back to it. Your upcoming books look like they’ll be interesting reads/reviews. Looking forward to them!

  5. Roberta R.

    Quote: “every time I find something to make me happy, my body has a meltdown, and I end up unable to do the thing with a new problem to add to the list”.
    Awww, I’m so sad to hear this. I can’t even begin to understand what a challenge your life must be. But what I do know is, you’re a resilient, bright young woman who never allows the bad stuff to get to her. I get that it’s hard, and that one has to let go for a while and rest sometimes, but I also now that you’ll always find a way out just by sheer will.

    I can’t for the life of me understand your dentist(s). Maybe they think you’re one of those people who like to make up stuff about themselves, even if it’s bad. Doesn’t any one of them have a notion of chronic pain and related issues? Are they all so blind – not to mention, sure of themselves in the face of reality? Also, FOUR weeks and MULTIPLE calls before you even got an answer? What kind of people are those?!?

    As I already told you on Twitter – those portraits are very alive in the eyes, especially the first two! I hope your pinky will go back to behaving soon…Isn’t there any temporary fix that you can use, like, I don’t know, some sort of small cushion?

    I hope you manage to have a healthy month (as much as it’s possible) – as for the exciting new books, I see they’re already coming…πŸ˜‰

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thank you <3 <3 <3 You are so incredibly sweet, and I appreciate it so much.

      That's just it---the endo apparently cannot fathom the possibility that he might've done a root canal less than perfectly. And it wasn't like I went in there blaming him. But he also just cannot fathom that anyone might have symptoms that differ in any way from what was listed in whatever old textbook he studied from in college. And I'm so aggravated at the dentist for taking 4 weeks to make a 5 minutes phone call.

      Thank you! For now I think it's best I try not to aggravate it further. Once the cyst goes away, I'll try padding it somehow and see if I can do art like that and if it helps avoid more cysts.

      Thank <3 You have a good month too πŸ™‚

  6. Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy

    I’m sorry about your ganglion but wow, your art is so beautiful!!! I hadn’t heard that story about Zhao pulling her book, so I googled it and read the story. And I have to say I wish she hadn’t done that. She was just trying to write a story from her own perspective and she let a few mean people make a decision for her. Oh I have so many thoughts about this, but I won’t turn this into a rant!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thank you!!! Yeah, I got the same feeling, that people were just viewing it from an entirely different cultural lens than it was written in, and then she was pressured into pulling her book.

  7. Lola

    Doing them as a monthly wrap ups sound like a good idea. I find it sometimes hard to find enough to talk about or not get too repetitive with weekly recaps.

    Good luck with the dentist situation! It sounds so stressful!

    That’s great you had some weeks with less brain fog and got some drawing done. Your art looks great and I like how realistic the faces look with all those little details like the shadow and shape of their noses and eyes and such, which are so hard to get right. And I recognize the other two from your Sims screenshot. They’re all very well done!

    I am sorry to hear you now got a ganglion cyst on your pink. It seems you can never catch a break and that’s so disheartening when you just found something fun to do, you now can’t do it anymore because of a new issue that pops up.

    And that’s annoying about that plugin issue, at least you managed to fix it, but that’s a shame you lost your affiliate links for those posts.

    Yay for the book mail and that you got that J Armand book. I have the first book in that series, just have to be in the right reading mood to pick it up. Nice to see you’re re-reading the earlier books in the series. It’s fun how a re-read can be even better than the first read as you notice certain points more. I re-read a series recently in preparation for the next book and I am re-reading another book now. I am not sure why I rarely re-read as it can be great and I hope to re-read more this year.

    I saw someone post about Blood Heir and that it got pulled, so sad :(. The cover caught my attention on Netgalley too, even tough I didn’t request it. Will you still be reading and reviewing it?

    That’s handy you can make your own yogurt dip that way. I have a dish were I add a yogurt dip with Greek yogurt and basil, which was pretty good, so I can imagine your variations taste good too. I don’t like hummus, but I am kinda curious about that dip with tahini and whether I would like that, might have to try it out once.

    I hope February is a good month for you!

    1. Kristen Burns

      For me it’s more that I just don’t have the energy to do these every week. So monthly works.

      Thanks <3

      Thank you about the art!!! It really does seem like I can't catch a break :-/

      At least my blog doesn't look like a mess with tons of pictures missing anymore, gonna look on the bright side lol.

      Rereading the series, I'm a little worried it might be a little darker and more intense at times than what you like. But it is great rereading certain series and getting to notice different things. I've been having the urge to do more rereads lately, but I also have so many new books to read.

      Yeah, the whole situation around the book seems a bit troubling, and I feel bad for the author. I haven't decided if I'm going to give it a read anyway, but I won't be reviewing it, at least not this version. Maybe if she edits and publishes it at a later date.

      The yogurt dip is so easy to make and so tasty! You could add any spices with the tahini, I just happen to like it with paprika.

      Thanks, you too πŸ™‚

  8. Sam@wlabb

    Your self portrait is AMAZING! Wow! Sorry your dental woes are still not resolved. I hope they can figure out how to make you more comfortable soon. I had put off Holly Chase, because of what early reviewers were saying, but I really liked it. Hand surprised me with some of the choices she made, and it was rather heartwarming.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thank you!! <3 I feel like I've seen a lot of negative or mixed reviews too, and I don't understand why. I thought was a really good story, and I liked how the author went with the ending.

  9. Aj @ Read All The Things!

    Sorry about the dental problems. It sucks that it’s taking so long to figure out what’s going on. Your artwork is pretty! I wish I had some art skills (or the patience to learn art skills).

  10. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    So sorry to hear that you’re still having dental issues—I know that has been a long and unpleasant process. And a doctor who says your symptoms don’t exist is … beyond frustrating. I absolutely LOVE your self-portrait (and the rest, but especially that). I can imagine that an issue that keeps you from doing something you just newly found yourself really loving is really sad!

    Good to know that you liked Hand’s book. I had that one for review, and I’ll confess I put it off after negative reviews started coming in (this is why I try not to look at too many reviews for a book I haven’t read yet). It’s hard to start a book when you’ve got a negative impression built in your head from the get-go. I’m glad you liked it. Maybe now is the time that I can read it with a more open mind.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thank you! About the issues and the compliments <3 <3 <3

      I feel like I've seen a lot of negative or mixed reviews, and I don't understand why! I hope you give it a chance πŸ™‚

  11. Brittany K Smith

    I hope your appointment went well today! Tho by the sounds of it, it probably won’t have πŸ™ I applaud you tho for finding ways to cope with your illnesses and to keep finding new things to make you happy even when it seems your body is always against you. Don’t ever give up!! And your art is amazing <3 I especially love the self portrait! Its amazing!

  12. Greg

    Hey those look nice! It’s kinda fun to see Jacovine again (would that be their ship name???)- speaking of, have you done a SIMS update lately? I don’t think I’ve seen one. Or a SIMS short story?? *hint hint*

    Congrats on the book win! And Blood Heir looks good (does the girl on the cover look super mean or what?) but oh no… the author is pulling the book? I wonder what happened. I’ll have t go check Goodreads. Castlevania sounds pretty awesome.

    Love the Halsey song! I usually like her stuff.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! You remember their ship name—I almost added the #Jacovine4Lyf tag πŸ˜‚ I stopped doing the posts cuz I wanted to write the stories and no I still haven’t written the stories cuz I’m hopeless lol. I still want to! I just write like 200 words sometimes and then give up. But I’m working on it.

      Thanks πŸ™‚ Yeah, it’s a whole thing with that book. Castlevania is great, I rec it!

      1. Greg

        Ooh ooh good so you MAY still write something. I find myself wanting to know how their lives are going lolol?? And hey 200 words could be a flash fiction. Shareeee!!! ha ha no pressure!!

        And yes!! I remembered the ship name!

        1. Kristen Burns

          I mean, it *could* be, but these are not. These are just the start of things I’ve clearly given up on, haha. I haven’t actually played my game much, but last time, Jacobin befriended a unicorn!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Ah, that sucks :-/ It’s always so hard to find things that don’t have the thing you’re trying to avoid!

      I haven’t seen the trilogy, I’ll have to check them out!

  13. Aleen @ Lampshade Reader

    You’re art is awesome, very talented!

    I’ve never played Castlevania either, but the show is pretty cool. As I type this I have a documentary on in the background about Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) πŸ˜€

  14. S. J. Pajonas

    You should definitely still read BLOOD HEIR and I will be looking forward to hearing what you think. I don’t think the publisher will actually be pulling a book they paid a 6-figure advance on. They’ve delayed it most likely, but it’ll be published. I’m sorry to hear about more health issues. I’ve had those ganglion cysts and they are such a pain! I feel you. Your art is lovely! I hope you can get back to it.

  15. Bookworm Brandee

    I’m sorry you’re dealing with so many health-related issues, Kristen. Sometimes it seems when it rains, it pours and I understand your frustration. And I’m sure it’s getting you down. I can relate. :/ I’ll be sending healing and positive thoughts your way. Your are, though, is amazing! You have a talent there that I hope you can continue to develop. πŸ™‚ And it looks like you’re getting some good reading in. That always helps…me anyway. πŸ™‚ I hope your week is going well!

  16. Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)

    Congrats on your beautiful J Armand book win! And I love the portraits, how exasperating that you have to put further art creation on hold. It’s so unfair.
    I hadn’t heard of Blood Heir before so don’t know the pull story. Do you still get to read your ARC or will NetGalley delete it?

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! It is really frustrating not being able to do any more art right now :-/

      I can still read it, but I’m sure they’re going to edit and republish it, so it might be better to just wait and see.

  17. Olivia-Savannah Roach

    It is so annoying when medical professionals don’t acknowledge or understand your symptoms and pain. Acting as if you are being ridiculous for the things you are feeling and experience is unprofessional and not okay at all. I am so sorry you are experiencing that.

    Your artwork is absolutely amazing and I love it. I remember seeing some of them on twitter (2 of the 3) and the guy with the black hair portrait is the one I love the most. I am so so sorry that you are unable to do artwork at the moment. It’s so frustrating when our body and health gets in the way of us going things than we love πŸ™

    1. Kristen Burns

      It’s terrible, and unfortunately that’s been my experience with most medical professionals.

      Thank you!!! I’m glad you like that one, I literally started over twice cuz it was giving me such trouble, so I put a lot of effort into it lol.

  18. Cee Arr

    The girl on the Shriek cover looks like she’s doing Cara Delevigne’s wiggle dance from Suicide Squad πŸ˜‰ (No, I have no idea where I get these things from!)

    *Hugs* for all the health stuff – you’re awesome and whatever you manage to enjoy is important and awesome! XD

  19. Gayathri

    I love your art and I hope your injury heals and you can get back to doing what you love soon. I liked your article on characters with hobbies. Have a good week ahead.

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  21. Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

    I’m sorry to read of your health challenges. If I can offer at least a smidgen of hope about the ganglionic cyst: I developed those in my wrists; the first was in junior high school. They continued on and off for about 12 years, but they came and went, and so did the pain… meaning there were long stretches of that time when I didn’t have any pain (sometimes even when I could still see the cyst.) And truthfully, I’ve had maybe one recurrence in the last 30 years. So it’s not fun when it’s going on, but it’s entirely possible that you won’t always have them, and that even when you do, they may not always interfere with your art. I very much hope that your experience will be at least as good (and hopefully even better) than mine.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thank you <3 My cyst has gone away now, but I've taken to putting a kind of padding on my pinky every time I draw now to hopefully avoid it happening again. It made drawing a bit difficult at first, but I've gotten used to it!