Four sentence book reviews #3

Hello, everyone, and happy Star Wars Day! I’ve been reading quite a bit lately and I want to discuss some of the books I’ve read. It’s been nearly a year since my last one of these, so let’s do it!

Ink, Iron, & Glass by Gwendolyn Clare
Elsa’s mother, a renown scriptologist who can literally edit and write worlds into existence, has been kidnapped. Elsa, a budding scriptologist herself, sets off to find her with the help of an old family friend and a gang of other magically gifted teenagers who are beginning to realize just how much of their world is a lie. This book is truly excellent in terms of its characters, setting, magic system, and world building. It balances all of these elements well to create a believable, multi-layered universe and with lovable characters, and incredible tension.

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Photo attributed to Goodreads.

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
Tess, who has a painful past, has never had much support from her family, except from her sister, who is about to get married. Even though Tess helped bring the match about for the advantage of their family, she is not happy about it. An accident prompts her to flee her family and set off on her own road, to find her own adventures. Set in the same world as her previous books, Seraphina and Shadow Scale, Hartman makes a remarkable, poignant, and timely return to her world of dragons, people, and how the two get along.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Jude and her two sisters were taken away from the human world when they were little to live in the High Court of Faerie, where their humanity is something they constantly struggle with, especially since everyone holds it against them, from the faeries they live with to the prince himself. This was my first experience with Holly Black’s writing and I can’t say it was quite a favorable one. I was frustrated with the characters due to their lackluster personalities and since they all wanted to change things but they didn’t really get around to doing so until the last fifty or so pages. I doubt I’ll continue with this series in the future.

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough
Artemisia lost her mother when she was twelve and she has grown up fulfilling her father’s artistic contracts. When a man who has been helping her with her art rapes her, it is up to her to find her voice, both tell the truth to her father, to herself, and to the Italian society that disbelieves her. I truly appreciated the timeliness of this story and the fact that it was told in verse, but I found the characters and setting lacking. I wish McCullough would have invested more in them, made them more complex and wide-ranging, since that would have made the story richer.

 

That’s all for now, everyone. I’ll definitely be writing more of these over the coming months, especially since there are some books coming out and on my to-be-read list that I’m excited about. On the writing front, I have six chapters to go and I’m already planning to start on my next book project after I’m finished with this draft.

I hope you have a great weekend!

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Soon…soon

The title of this post pretty much is my mantra in regard to my second draft right now. I’m nearing the finishing line with it and while I’m excited, I’m also getting doubtful and tired. People always compare pursuing any creative work to giving birth, so in terms of that analogy, I guess I’m at the part where you’re exhausted and breathless but you’ve got to keep pushing because there is no stopping now. Never having given birth, I don’t know how accurate this analogy is, but it does seem apt.

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The picture is of my current page count. Subtract 275 from that number and you’ll get how long this new draft is. I didn’t mean to hand write the whole thing, but that’s just how it turned out.

Like I mentioned before, the doubts are starting to speak louder than they have at any other point during this process. They keep telling me that no one will want to read or publish this and that these characters are too broken and unlovable for people to root for. The important thing is that I loved and believed in this story first and if I do my job right, then others will care and want to read it. I’m not there yet, but this draft is so much more book-shaped than my first one and I already have so many ideas for how to move forward. I’ll get there and if you’re struggling with your own things, know that you’ll get there, too. Soon…soon.

 

 

P.S. To all of you who have just subscribed via email, welcome. ❤

2017 Reading Round-Up

Hello, one and all, all and one. It’s time for my 2017 reading round-up. It’s been a great year for me, reading-wise. I managed to read a total of 62 books, more than I’ve ever read in a single year. Those 62 break down to 31 graphic novels, 12 fantasy stories, 9 contemporary/literary fiction books, 3 historical fiction novels, 3 pieces of nonfiction, and 2 mysteries. Gosh, you can tell I work at a library for breaking them all down like that, can’t you?

If you remember last year’s post, I answered five questions about my reading. I’m doing the same this year, but one of the questions is different. Without further ado, let’s get going.

1.What book was your biggest disappointment?
I feel kinda bad to say it was this one, especially since I liked the first book quite a bit, but it has to be One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake. I was so pumped for this release, to the point where I would check our new YA shelf at work every day to see if it was there. But I was disappointed. The story seemed to meander almost as much as the characters did. In certain respects, it was a good book. Blake still retains her knack for vivid description and some of her characters did undergo interesting changes throughout the story (Jules, Katharine). But overall, this book just wasn’t good for me.

2.Which book(s) were your biggest surprise?
Last year I just had one, but this year I have two books that completely surprised me. The first is Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart. I’ve never read anything by E. Lockhart before, but I knew of her reputation for creating captivating, mind-blowing stories. I’m not going into too much detail about this book, because if I were to tell you too much about it, it would definitely spoil it. So I’ll just say that the two aforementioned adjectives describe it perfectly: captivating and mind-blowing. Definitely check it out.

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Photo credited to Amazon. 

The second book that was a huge surprise was Warcross by Marie Lu. She’s another one that, despite how popular her work is, I’ve never read anything of. I got really excited when I heard Warcross was a story that takes place mostly during a gaming competition. I grew up as a causal gamer surrounded by much more intense gamers, and I was curious how the story would incorporate an art form that has been so important over the last 30 years. The gaming is interwoven throughout the story in such a clever way that you can tell Lu has lots of firsthand experience with it (and she does). I’ll admit that this book didn’t hook me right away but I persevered and was not disappointed. I think I’ll try to read more of her work in 2018 because Warcross was so wonderful. I also can’t wait for the sequel!

3.What’s the book you’re most likely to reread soon?
I’ve been on a Broadway musical kick this whole year and in the middle of October I finally listened to “Dear Evan Hansen” and promptly fell in love while my heart was ripped apart by this musical’s deep and gut-wrenching message. About a week later, I was bored at work and I looked up the CD on Amazon to see how much it would cost and my jaw nearly hit the floor when I saw that they had the script available for sale. When I got home, I immediately reached for my Kindle, bought it, started reading, then had my heart ripped apart again. The musical is about a guy in high school who has extreme social anxiety and he gets caught up in a lie he tells to a grieving family. The music is beautiful but if you don’t know the background of the story, it’s a little difficult to tell what the music is all about. I guess their marketing people realized that and decided they better release the script so people could read it and know what exactly is going on. And as a script, it sets the scenes up so well and it’s just as well-written as the music and lyrics. The entire piece would be absolutely amazing to see on stage and I hope I’ll get to, someday.

4. Who are your favorite characters you encountered this year?
This is the new question! Last year, I listed my most unusual book, but I thought this was an unexpected and different question, especially since reading introduces us to so many new people.

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Photo credited to Amazon. 

Figuring out my favorite male character I read about this year was not difficult at all. It’s Maverick Carter from Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give.  Maverick is a shopkeeper and an ex-inmate trying to keep his family together and safe during race riots that erupt after a cop murdered his daughter’s best friend. Maverick was so much fun to read about and such a lovable, honest character. He does his best for his family, no matter what happens to him and does his best to make up for his past mistakes. He’s also hilarious, especially his theory about the Hogwarts houses being gangs. One of many important characters from an incredibly important novel from this year, Maverick is someone I’d love to meet in real life.
My favorite female character is from a manga series I read early this year, Iku Kasahara from Library Wars. This series is about a military force dedicated to protecting people’s right to read in a world where censorship is rampant. Iku is an incredible, zany girl. She has quite a short attention span and a shorter temper that often leads her into some sort of trouble. When she’s in trouble, though, it doesn’t take her long to figure a way out of it. She’s fantastic, just like this entire manga series. If you’re looking for a new manga, definitely check this one out.

5. What are your top three books of 2017?
I read a lot of great books this year, but I decided these answers based on which books have stuck with me the longest throughout the year.

Coming in at number 3 is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. This is one of the works of nonfiction I read this year and in it Gilbert discusses not only her take on creative life and what that means but also tells the story of her creative life. I’ve never read anything by her before but I was intrigued by this book when it came out in 2015. I forgot it even existed until I had to shelve it at work and decided to take it home with me. Gilbert’s writing is incredibly accessible, even though she talks about lofty, complex ideas, you never feel lost or completely out of touch, as she grounds those ideas in practical advice and anecdotes from her life. If you’re a fan of books about creativity, this is one for you.

My second favorite book of the year is Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali. This novel tells the story of Max, a boy born in Hitler’s Lebensborn program, a program which was to effectively engineer the “perfect race”. I will say that, though this story is told from the point of view of a child, I don’t think anyone under fourteen should read this, simply due to its subject matter. That being said, I think everyone over fourteen should read this at some point. I’ve learned quite a bit about the Holocaust and the devastation the Nazi regime caused throughout the world. I never considered how devastating it would be to be a child born as a result of this program. It’s a truly eviscerating but absolutely necessary story.

And my favorite book of 2017 is….Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor!

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Photo credited to Goodreads. 

If you remember the second of my four sentence reviews, I gushed about this book. And I haven’t stopped gushing or thinking about this story since I finished it back at the end of May. It’s the story of an orphan who has longed to journey to a forgotten city ever since he was little and he’s pretty much resigned himself to never having that dream come true. Until a group of strangers come to town and give him the chance to go to that city. This word “epic” gets tossed around when talking about fantasy stories, but this story is truly epic in its scope, world, characters, and everything. This is another book that I almost put down due to the fact that I had trouble focusing, but I’m so glad I didn’t. I would have cheated myself out of a brilliant adventure and heady romance if I had. I hope I can write like this someday.

 

So that’s my reading round-up for 2017! It’s hard to believe that this year is nearly over. Thank you all so much for a great year here on the blog. I hope 2017 was a great year for you and that good things are in store for you in 2018. See you next year!

End of the year book tag

Hello, lovely people. So there has been a new book tag floating around the bookish side of Youtube that I thought would be fun to cover here on the blog. If you couldn’t guess by this post’s title, it’s the end of the year book tag. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while and now that the new year is less than two weeks away, I think it’s a good time to put this up. So let’s get started.

  1. Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?
    Like about 5. Currently I’m reading Before the Devil Takes You by Libba Bray, Renegades by Marissa Meyer, All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, and Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell-Boyce. So yeah, I’ve got some work to do.

2. Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?
I haven’t been reading too much lately, so I’m fairly sure that I won’t be able to finish most of these, so I bet all of the aforementioned books will transfer into the beginning of 2018. At the very least, I’ll definitely have Tolstoy with me.

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Photo credited to Amazon. This is the edition I have. It’s massive but thorough in its footnotes, which is good for such a big novel.

3. Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?
No, I’m doing alright. Most of the books I’m champing at the bit for aren’t being released until mid to late spring of next year, so I have some time to catch up and read some more of my never ending “to be read” pile.

4. What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?
I definitely want to finish Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth. I just started reading it today on my lunch break and have been enjoying the story so far. And if I can finish either Before the Devil Breaks You or Renegades, I’ll be a happy camper.

5. Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favorite book of the year?
No, I think my favorite book of 2017 is pretty much set. But you’ll have to wait until my 2017 reading wrap-up to find out what that book is *cough coming up soon cough*

6. Have you already started making reading plans for 2018?
Yes, I have! I surprised myself by wanting to make reading resolutions after originally watching different tag videos. I normally don’t like making plans for my reading because I don’t like planning things out too much, especially activities that I do for fun, such as reading. But I have made three easily achievable goals for myself and we’ll see how they go. Those goals are 1. to finish reading Jane Austen’s novels (I haven’t done that yet, much to the embarrassment of my English major side). 2. Read at least one work of nonfiction (I’ve managed to read three works of nonfiction this year and, though I am a really slow nonfiction reader, I’ve been enjoying delving more into the genre and I want to read more of it). And, finally 3. Read at least one of Toni Morrison’s works (I read part of Beloved  for my women writer’s class during my final semester and I wasn’t able to finish it, unfortunately. I hope to remedy that).

There we have it, folks. What about your end of 2017 reading? Have any tomes that you’re scrambling to finish? Let me know in the comments. I’ll link the original video down below. I hope you’re having a great week. Bye for now!

Things I’ve learned from revising so far

Hi, everyone! I’m almost a month into revisions of my novel and while I’m not as far along as I hoped I would be, I have learned a thing or two so far in this process. So here are those things.

  1. Don’t be afraid.
    Revising anything, from a novel to an email, is difficult and slightly scary. There’s always the fear of being misinterpreted or misunderstood. It seems like there are a hundred little decisions for each sentence and that if you get one of those wrong, you’ll mess everything up and it’ll be ruined and no one will ever want to read it. But that’s just not true. Libba Bray once made the joke that writing isn’t like brain surgery, if you get something wrong, you can just fix it. This is so important to remember. It might take a long, long time but you will get there and your story will be what you want it to be.
  2. Don’t start the Beta-reading process right away.
    I called for Beta readers before I even started revising. While I’ve been very lucky in getting quite a few friends to read my story, I made the mistake of thinking that I could just revise the chapters and immediately send them out for review. After just two chapters, I’ve found out just how silly I was to think that way. So make sure you have a good bit, if not all, of your manuscript revised before you send it out to your beta readers. You can send it to them chapter by chapter or send them the whole thing. However you want to parcel it out, make sure the manuscript is as good as you can make it.
  3. Keep going and give yourself time.
    As mentioned before, revising is scary and difficult. But it is important not to give up and to keep going. While persistence is important, it’s just as vital to give yourself time to step away from the story to let your brain recover and to think of new ideas. Always remember: give yourself time because no one else will.

I don’t normally offer writing advice, but I just wanted to share these three insights in case any of you are in this perilous revision boat with me. If you are and you need someone to commiserate with, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m here for you guys <3.

P.S. If you want to read a little story of mine, you can read it here.

Four-sentence book reviews #2

Hello, everyone! I hope you’re having a great day! I recently counted up the books I’ve read so far this year and I’ve already read more books than it took me all of last year to read. So I thought I’d write more four-sentence reviews.

1. The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine

Peregrine, or Perry for short, fights to earn her parents’ affection by being the model of a Latki warrior maid, though she ultimately cannot, for reasons she cannot expect. As you may remember, the book this is a prequel to, The Two Princesses of Bamarre, is one of my favorites and I was thrilled to return to this world. This is an incredibly faithful prequel and it was absolutely fascinating to see the origins of Bamarrian society and its traditions. Wonderful characters and a thrilling story, this is definitely one middle-grade story you don’t want to miss!

Lost Kingdom

Credited to goodreads.

2. Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly.

This story looks at the time Belle was entrapped by the Beast, their friendship, and an escape she finds through a book in the castle’s library, which contains a story that seems deceptively perfect. As much as I love the story of Beauty and the Beast, I’ve never thought about the time where they lived together in the castle and this book is an interesting window into that time. Belle and the crew are well thought-out and portrayed very well. This book was released by Disney in conjunction with the remake of the 1991 film that came out in March, but Donnelly takes the story and the characters and makes it completely her own.

3. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)

Isn’t this cover gorgeous? It’s even better in person. Credited to goodreads.

Orphan Lazlo Strange has always dreamed of the famed city that has come to be known only as Weep and, when a band of strangers from Weep come to town, he has the opportunity to make that dream come true. This is my first foray into Laini Taylor’s writing and what a foray it was. I just finished reading it this morning and all I can say is that the characters, the writing, and the world are all so well-developed that it makes me green with envy. If you think the world of YA fantasy is full of unreadable drek, then read this book and prepare to enter a dream.

 

4. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

This is the beginning of the Chronicles of Narnia series, need I say more? Learning how Narnia was formed and getting to see Digory and Polly go on adventure after adventure was just wonderful. I’d never read this before and all I wanted to do was go back in time and thrust it into the hands of didn’t-like-to-read-eight-year-old-me. Truly a great start to a series that deserves its classic status.

That is all for now, loves! In slightly related news, the first round of revisions are soon to commence on my book, which I am both excited and slightly terrified for. I will probably be writing about that at some point, but I am wondering, is there a specific part of the revision process you would like me to talk about? Or any part of the writing process, really? Let me know and I’ll do my best for you! Thanks for reading and I will see ya’ll soon.

Three four-sentence book reviews

Hey, everyone! I’ve been reading quite a few books this year. I might have mentioned that I used to keep a book review blog, which I unfortunately had to delete due to college getting in the way of things. Now that I have this website (and it’s almost been a year, can you believe that?), I’d like to get back into reviewing. Back on the old blog, I’d go into lengthy analyses and discuss different character traits and plot lines. Those kinds of posts, while fun to write, were awfully time-consuming, so for brevity’s sake and to give myself a bit of a challenge, I’m going to limit these reviews to four sentences. If ya’ll like them, I might try to do this regularly. All of that said, let’s get to it.

1.Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill.

Britta Flannery, a bounty hunter’s daughter, decides to hunt her father’s killer, who could be her best friend and secret crush, Cohen McKay. Set in the soon-to-be warring worlds of Malam and Shaerdan, the world is richly described and interestingly detailed. It’s a tad slow at the start since there is so much information to absorb as the story goes along, but the ensuing action and tremendous character development make it definitely worth the wait. I’m already eager for the sequel and kudos to the people who made this glorious cover.

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The book looks so much better in person. The picture doesn’t capture the intricacies of the embossing. It’s a beautiful book. Photo credited to Goodreads. 

2. Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones.

Described by the author as a story that started out as “50 Shades of Labyrinth” (see the full story here), this novel follows the story of Liesl who journeys to the kingdom Underground when her sister Kathe is taken by goblins, where she is determined to save her from the Goblin King himself. Though I enjoyed this book, there really isn’t too much plot to it (but the descriptions of both the landscapes and the music are just awesome). It mainly focuses on the relationships between the characters, chiefly between Liesl and the Goblin King, but also between Liesl and Kathe, and the relationships between the girls and their family. It’s not the type of book I normally read (I’m not really a romance story kind of girl), but I totally enjoyed it all the same.

3. NewsPrints by Ru Xu.

This is a graphic novel that focuses on a character named Blue who has to disguise herself as a boy so she can work at the town’s newspaper. In doing this, she encounters all sorts of interesting people and finds herself in a bunch of different situations, all the while fighting to keep her true identity a secret. The art style of this graphic novel is so, so endearing and lovely, especially with how Ms. Xu uses lighting. This is definitely one you don’t want to miss (because of plot twists I don’t want to spoil) and one I can’t wait to see more of.

That’s all for today! Let me know what you think of these books and this reviewing style in the comments. Bye for now!

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I think this is one of the work-in-progress stills. Still so awesome! Photo credited to Ms. Xu’s tumblr.

Thoughts on finishing a first draft

Guys. IT’S DONE! The first draft of the novel I’ve been working on since last June is done, as of 10:19 p.m last night. Huzzah!

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Courtesy of Tumblr.

I can’t believe it’s done but at the same time, I’m so glad it is. I feel slightly less relieved than when I turned in my thesis, which was when I felt the most relieved I’ve ever been about finishing anything. At the same time, I miss it already and I feel like, with a lot of work ahead, it could be something good.

This isn’t the first first draft I finished. I finished the 188 page mess of a first draft of a different novel on New Year’s Eve in 2009. This one is 275 pages and is still a mess, but so much less so, it seems. Maybe it’s because I let myself work on the scenes I wanted to work when I wanted to work on them. Perhaps it’s because I’m not 15 any more, as I was when I finished my first initial draft of that other story. I know so much more about writing and about myself and maybe that’s what has made all the difference between that first story, which was so difficult to write, and this one, which was much easier to handle.

I’m sorry if this doesn’t make much sense. My brain is still so addled from finishing it. But I just wanted you to know that the first draft is done and you’ll no doubt be hearing more about it as I revise and eventually send it out into the world. But first, it’s time for a break to pursue some other projects.

That’s all for today, loves.