November 24, 2017

Random Friday: Writing

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What have you been writing lately?

I've been working on that daunting 250-page portfolio due during finals week. I found out about a month ago that, thankfully, my professor doesn't need to see everything we've written before it goes into the portfolios. That definitely saves me a bunch of time because I would have to do SO MUCH revision if that were the case. I've been writing like crazy and editing a bit myself, but revising to her standards is ridiculous (especially since she doesn't favor/write fiction at all).

I'm still trekking along with my WIP that I've been writing since last August. I'm trying not to feel bad that it's taking me so long to write it since some of the best books took years. The story has changed so much from what I first thought it would be, which isn't a bad thing. I did a major revision of my three-act plot outline this summer, and that really helped. I think, length-wise, the story is about two-thirds of the way to where I want to be. Maybe three-fourths at this point. 

Something really fun I've done with this book is listen to two different instrumental songs from a TV show and movie over and over again, thinking about how they sound and feel because there's two key moments where they run through my main character's head so I wanted those moments to feel authentic (since she really loves film scores). 

I've done a tone of revision these last few weeks, even though the book isn't even done yet, which is definitely weird. At times, I feel like workshop while the book is unfinished is beneficial because it helps me redirect the later scenes. At other times, I really hate it because this is only a first draft so the book isn't supposed to be seen by anyone but me yet. Like, I know it's not where it needs to be because I'm really just trying to get words down on the paper and figure out the story the characters are trying to tell me.

But hopefully I'll survive. I am very concerned about my sanity these next two weeks.

November 22, 2017

Review: The Chaos of Standing Still

The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody
Grade: D+
Release date: November 28, 2017
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Over the course of one chaotic night stranded at the Denver airport, Ryn confronts her shattered past thanks to the charm of romance, the uniqueness of strangers, and the magic of ordinary places in this stunning novel from the author of Boys of Summer.

Ryn has one unread text message on her phone. And it’s been there for almost a year.

She hasn’t tried to read it. She can’t. She won’t. Because that one message is the last thing her best friend ever said to her before she died.

But as Ryn finds herself trapped in the Denver International Airport on New Year’s Eve thanks to a never-ending blizzard on the one-year anniversary of her best friend’s death, fate literally runs into her.

And his name is Xander.

When the two accidentally swap phones, Ryn and Xander are thrust into the chaos of an unforgettable all-night adventure, filled with charming and mysterious strangers, a secret New Year’s Eve bash, and a possible Illuminati conspiracy hidden within the Denver airport. But as the bizarre night continues, all Ryn can think about is that one unread text message. It follows her wherever she goes, because Ryn can’t get her brialliantly wild and free-spirited best friend out of her head.

Ryn can’t move on.

But tonight, for the first time ever, she’s trying. And maybe that’s a start.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: There's nothing that makes me more frustrated than flashback-laden books and characters whose anxiety becomes caricaturish. Because Ryn's best friend is dead, every scene with Lottie is a flashback, and there are SO MANY flashbacks. Honestly, the best books with flashbacks use them sparingly. And then there's Ryn's anxiety, which seems to have mostly manifested itself since a) her parents' divorce, and b) Lottie's death. There were moments where it got out of hand and I didn't think Brody handled it well. Of course anxiety isn't neat and perfect, but nothing about Ryn felt authentic to me. 
As for Xander, I called the plot twist with him from the moment he appeared on page. It's nothing original, so if you're well-read in YA contemporary, you'll see it coming too. Also he pushed Ryn in ways that made me uncomfortable. It's one thing to encourage a friend to get outside their comfort zone; it's another when the person is a complete stranger you just met that day. 
I called pretty much every direction the plot went, and I was bored for most of the book.
There was an abundance of foul language and underage drinking.

The Verdict: Honestly, I don't think I click with Jessica Brody's books. This is definitely not one of her shining stars.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: Nah.

November 21, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'm Thankful For

While I've loved a lot of books, there are some that I am more grateful for than others because of the impact they've had on my reading journey, my writing journey, or my life in general.

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Primarily The Start of Me and You and The Names They Gave Us.


3. This Side of Home by Renee Watson
For opening my eyes.

4. Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

5. Heist Society trilogy by Ally Carter

6. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
One of the first MG/YA titles I read.

7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I read this famous trilogy at the beginning of my journey into YA, and I think, if I hadn't liked it as much, I wouldn't have explored YA to the extent I have today.

8. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Opened me up to the possibility of enjoying sci-fi.


10. P.S. I Like You by Kasie West
For encouraging me to write my own You've Got Mail retelling.

What books are you thankful for?

November 20, 2017

So You Like... #61

Time for another Disney Princess So You Like... post! This one is in honor of a certain movie coming out about a year ago. So you like...







What other books would you recommend for those who enjoyed Moana?

November 18, 2017

If I Had a Book Club

Inspired by an old Top Ten Tuesday topic, I'm going to share what my book club would read...if I had/lead one.

We'd read historical fiction with strong female protagonists. This would include the Scarlet trilogy, Wolf by Wolf, and The Girl from Everywhere.

We'd read YA romances with both fluff and serious momentsTo All the Boys I've Loved Before trilogy, The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You, The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love, and P.S. I Like You.

I'd suggest we spend a few months specifically reading diverse YA fiction, featuring titles like Piecing Me Together, This Side of Home, Written in the Stars, Under a Painted Sky, Starfish, and Saints and Misfits.

After that, we'd read fantasy with sweeping world-building: Leigh Bardugo's Grisha-verse books (the Shadow and Bone trilogy, the Six of Crows duology, and The Language of Thorns), Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns trilogy, and Roshani Chokshi's The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes.

We'd also have to read some twisty mysteries, like The Naturals series and The Archived duology.

What would happen if you had a book club?

November 16, 2017

Books I'd Recommend to People Who Want to Read More Diversely

If I were a superhero, I'd be the Book Recommender. I'm going to live up to that title today by recommending ten books you should read if you're trying to read more diversely. This post will focus on POC authors, and most of their characters are POC as well.

For fantasy lovers, there's...

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

If you'd rather read something not quite fantasy (more like magical realism), then this is the book for you:

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

Or perhaps you'd prefer to stay in our world but don't want contemporary stories...

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

Or maybe you're like me and love contemporary...

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
This Side of Home by Renee Watson

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more diverse YA fiction for you to discover. I tried to focus on titles I don't normally see people talking about, but I also threw in a few staples (like Jenny Han and Renee Ahdieh). And if you have any diverse YA recommendations for me, I'd love to hear them!

November 15, 2017

Review: Not Now, Not Ever

Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson
Grade: A+
Release date: November 21, 2017
An e-galley was provided by Wednesday Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Elliot Gabaroche is very clear on what she isn't going to do this summer. 

1. She isn't going to stay home in Sacramento, where she'd have to sit through her stepmother's sixth community theater production of The Importance of Being Earnest.
2. She isn't going to mock trial camp at UCLA.
3. And she certainly isn't going to the Air Force summer program on her mother's base in Colorado Springs. As cool as it would be to live-action-role-play Ender's Game, Ellie's seen three generations of her family go through USAF boot camp up close, and she knows that it's much less Luke/Yoda/"feel the force," and much more one hundred push-ups on three days of no sleep. And that just isn't appealing, no matter how many Xenomorphs from Alien she'd be able to defeat afterwards.

What she is going to do is pack up her attitude, her favorite Octavia Butler novels, and her Jordans, and go to summer camp. Specifically, a cutthroat academic-decathlon-like competition for a full scholarship to Rayevich College, the only college with a Science Fiction Literature program. And she's going to start over as Ever Lawrence, on her own terms, without the shadow of all her family’s expectations. Because why do what’s expected of you when you can fight other genius nerds to the death for a shot at the dream you’re sure your family will consider a complete waste of time?

This summer's going to be great.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: While I'm not sure Lily can ever top The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You, her sophomore novel, Not Now, Not Ever, is just as wonderful. It is nerdy and swoony and funny in all the best ways.
It took me a teeny bit of time to get used to Ever, but her voice is distinct from TOTWTMIY's protagonist, Trixie. She isn't used to having friends or knowing she's smart, but she's just as driven and she's tentative about letting emotions get in the way of her goals. She's just as nerdy as the TOTWTMIY gang, except her knowledge revolves around science fiction, not pop culture. Her roommate is a ball of fun and so sweet, and I'm glad there was no cattiness between them. And y'all, I thought Brandon was adorable in TOTWTMIY, but he's even better here now that he's a senior and sharing the spotlight. He's still tentative and shy but a little less so, and his personality really shines. He is precious and wonderful and totally going on my list of book boyfriends. Although his and Ever's relationship moved a little fast, it never felt like insta-love - just friendship and attraction. Also, I loved all the cameos from the other characters. Some are more prominent than others, and some have grown beards (which I find hilarious). (Also it turns out Cornell is black, and I feel so bad for assuming he was white during the whole course of TOTWTMIY.)
The plot revolves around another academic mystery, and the answer to this one definitely surprised me, and I didn't see it coming. 
My only real problem with NNNE was that the ending felt a teeny bit rushed, and it lacked a certain resolution, especially because I felt certain Ever's parents wouldn't let her go to Rayevich if she didn't have a full-ride scholarship. Oh well.
There was definitely more swearing than in TOTWTMIY, but romance and violence were all fairly clean (although there's mention of a college-age couple living together).

The Verdict: My words can't do justice to this book.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: ABSOLUTELY. (It's preordered.)

November 14, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Middle Grade Books I Want My Future Children to Read

I save a lot of things for my future children: my old American Girl dolls and childhood books are the key ones. So here are eleven of the books/series I want my future children to read.

1. Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand

2. Wish by Barbara O'Connor

3. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

4. All Four Stars by Tara Dairman

5. Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

6. The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby

7. Murder Is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens

8. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

9. The Mother-Daughter Book Club series by Heather Vogel Frederick

10. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth Speare

11. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

What books do you want your future children/niblings/godchildren to read?

November 12, 2017

Rewind & Review #97

~Group presentations stress me the heck out.
~"Call It What You Want" has me shook. I want to be as happy as Taylor Swift is.
~This 250-page fiction portfolio is going to be the death of me, especially because I'm simultaneously still writing the book but also revising it. 0/10, would not recommend.
~reputation released, and my productivity dropped by 89%.
~One week til I'm home for Thanksgiving break. #bless

Books I Bought
Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga
Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Books I Read
All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (reread)
Dear Martin by Nic Stone (4 stars)
Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (reread)
The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo (5 stars)
The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody
Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee (reread)
Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore (4 stars)
Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills
The Greater Journey by David McCullough (4 stars)
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga (reread)
The Poetry of Emily Dickinson (4 stars)

Blog Posts You Might've Missed in the Last Few Weeks
   (from 10/30-11/4)
   (from 11/5-11/11)

November 11, 2017

Review: Under a Painted Sky

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Grade: A
Summary: Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The first book in a year of YA Westerns (2015) and the only one I hadn't reviewed yet. I really liked how Samantha/Sammy was formed as a character and her friendship/sisterly relationship with Annamae/Andy grew. I struggled to picture the guys - West, Petey, and Cay - as the ages they were stated as, but they were fairly good characters.
I appreciated how many obstacles the group encountered. It wasn't an easy ride for them, which made the ending all the sweeter. However, the ending lost some of its oomph because Samantha's goal of finding Mr. Trask is never realized. Like, she realizes why her father wanted them to go to California, but she never reunites with Mr. Trask or gets her mother's bracelet back. 
I am really happy for Annamae/Andy's ending, though. Despite all the loss she suffers, she ends in a good place and gets a new family in the process. There's one s-word and a smattering of other lesser foul language. Some sexual innuendos and violence.

The Verdict: Strong for a debut novel.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: Already have.