History of the Reader: Part 2

Hello!  The last time I posted about my bookshelves was in July of 2017, so it’s high time we talk about them again.  I’ve done a few small reorganizations in the months following that post in July, but nothing that really stood out.  I was also rereading the previous History of the Reader post (conveniently linked there), and noticed a glaring omission on my history as a reader.  So hey, back at it again with a part two.

This is going to sound crazy considering what I write, but fun fact, I didn’t start reading Young Adult until the very end of 2016.  Whaaaaat.  Okay, that’s kind of a lie.  I was reading YA before 2016, but like?  A few books a year?  And mostly by Maggie?  I think the problem was that Ronan was adult high fantasy, so I was always trying to read books like that.  LOTR, ASOIAF, DragonLance, and others.  Even if they weren’t high fantasy, I kept telling myself that since I was an “adult” (I was in college, who the heck was I kidding) majoring in English, I should probably also be reading adult novels.  I would buy James Joyce, Ian McEwan, Jane Austen, and all sorts of similar authors, pretend that I was going to read them and be a “cultured” (I hate myself) reader, and then literally never read them.

Not literally.  I have read a few Joyce and one McEwan.  No Austen, sorry.

Cultured?

What?

Pretentious, is what I was trying to say.  (Reading adult novels is not pretenious, but the way I was thinking about reading was.)  I thought that YA were not the kinds of books that I should be reading, and it’s just the dumbest thing ever, and I’m here to formally apologize for ever thinking that just because I’d reached a certain age meant that I couldn’t read books meant for younger readers.  Spoiler: I freaking love middle reader now.

After college, I kept buying adult books and kept not reading them, and then in the beginning of 2016, I made up this insane rule that I wasn’t allowed to buy books until I’d read the 100 (!!!) unread books on my shelves.  In a completely predictable turn of events, I started making up exceptions.  If a new Maggie book came out.  If Jack picked a book for our then-book club that I didn’t own.  As I moved onto the end of the year, if it was research for Mason or another novel idea that I was having.  Any excuse that I could think of to keep buying books, it became an exception to the rule.

Alright.  I have a problem.  I’m buying adult books and not reading them.  I’m writing YA (Mason), but not reading YA.  There’s a pretty simple solution here.

In December of 2016, I bought some books.  Eight YA books, to be exact.  Have I read all of them?  You betcha.  Wow, hi, Young Adult is actually the greatest thing ever, and I need to read everything I can get my hands on.  I’m super behind the game, so I have got a lot to catch up on in the YA world.  But here, finally, I had found my jam.  These were stories that I wanted to hear, and also stories that I wanted to tell.  Mason was such a mess the first time around for several reasons.  It was the first novel I’d written outside of Ronan, and thus the first novel I’d written in 11 years that was brand new.  It was Young Adult even though I’d read maybe 10 YAs in my entire reading career.

You know what the funny thing is?  I credit reading more last year to the fact that I made a decision to read more, but if I’m being honest, it was because of what I was reading.  Here’s some stats for you.

In 2013, I read 30 books.  10 were YA.

In 2014, I read 18 (yikes) books.  3 were YA.

In 2015, I read 34 books.  4 were YA.

In 2016, I read 64 books.  12 were YA.

Last year, I read 82 books.  49 were YA.

I kind of see a trend.  At the end of 2016 was when I bought my first stack of YA books.  You can see how well that went throughout 2017.

Now, here’s the thing.  I’m not saying that you should be reading YA.  I’m saying that you should read what you’re writing, and what you enjoy.  You shouldn’t say to yourself, oh I’m an “adult” now, so I should read adult books.  Nah, that’s dumb.  Read what the heck you want to read, man.  If you’re writing an adult book, sure, you should probably read some of those.  But if you also enjoy other things, read other things!  Am I writing middle grade?  No.  Not yet.  But I’m going to keep reading them because I like them.  And maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m just actually crazy, but I don’t think I’m wrong when I say that other people have this problem with books.  We think we have to read a certain type of book because we’re a certain age, we got a degree in xyz, or whatever other reason society’s created for why you need to do and be a certain way.

It took me a long time to realize that reading was about fun and for me, not so the rest of the world could go, “Oh, she’s read Arundhati Roy, she must be sooooo cultured.”  Bleh.  (I love Arundhati Roy, though, holy magic.)  Stop that.  Go read some John Green if that’s what your jam is.  (Spoiler: I’ve never read any John Green or Hunger Games, which I’m told is very odd.)

I’m going book shopping in five (?) days.  On Saturday.  I like to bookshop with Erin because it kind of feels a little like we’re sharing something secret with each other.  We’ll sit in the YA section and pass books back and forth.  Sometimes just because we want to know if a book sounds good or not, or sometimes we’ll wave the book at each other because wow yes read this thing right now.  Sometimes, she’ll help me pare down 15 books into 10.  Sometimes, she’ll hand me books and say, “It’s about witches, but is it in first person?  Please say no.”  In preparation, I decided it was a really convenient time to reorganize my shelves even though I’m literally about to buy more books that I’ll need to make room for.  I don’t know why I do these things, either.

But!  I’ve been seeing rainbow bookshelves for actually forever, and I wanted to try them, so I gave it a whirl.  My mom says it’s like my haircut.  I’ll do it, be happy with it for a short period of time, and then immediately hate it.  I think she’s pretty dead on.  I’m giving the rainbow shelves about 3-4 weeks before I’m absolutely furious with not being able to find anything because I have no idea what color the spine is.  However, I also (not pictured) created a TBR shelf that contains all of the unread books that I have that I’m hopefully planning to read this year, so this might last a little longer since I won’t need to search for those.

Oh my god, look at them.  I love them so much.  These shelves are literally just for the aesthetic because hell, I’m never going to find anything, but they look beautiful.  This process took about 4ish hours?  I started around 5 (I can’t remember the exact time), but I took a break close to 6 to make dinner, and I finished around 9ish?  Maybe 3 hours.  It was a pain in the actual behind, too, but I put on The Greatest Showman soundtrack and just danced and sang my way through it.

The process itself probably could have been done an easier way than I did it, but I started by color-coding all the top three shelves in stacks on my bed, forgetting that I wanted to start with white and putting all the red books in the top shelf, and then periodically having to move everything down a shelf when I had more books to put on a specific color shelf.  At the beginning, my blue books were on shelf three, and, as you can see, they’re not even on this shelf anymore.

I also wanted to feature a book per color and shelf, as well, so for white we have To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee because duh and A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab because also duh.  I also color-coordinated all my crystals!  And Funkos!  And candles!  Except for those chakra crystals, obviously.

For red, we’ve got a really old, super cool version of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri and The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, which is one of my favorite books of all time, and Deadpool and Spiderman.  My Funkos used to live in a very precise line on top of my bookshelf, and it’s fun having them mingling now.

For orange, we’ve got Iron Man and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling.  Let me tell you, having to split up not only Harry, but all of my Maggie books was a really test of willpower.

Yellow is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, and Hulk and Yoga Girl by Rachel Brathen for green.

Wow, that’s a lot of blue books.  Blue is second only to black, both of which are not surprising, but that is seriously a lot of blue books.  For features, we’ve got Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Mallory, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield, which actually didn’t move an inch, The Someday Birds by Sally J Pla, which I absolutely had to feature again, and Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater because it’s my all time favorite book, as well as Cap, Thor, Sally, and Thorin.

And then, way down where you can barely see are the purple books, featuring The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows by Ava Lavender, which is both strange and beautiful and I’ve always wanted to feature it, and I was super excited because the heather flowers were a perfect match to put in front of it.

Separating all of the Ellen Hopkins were pretty cool, too, since she’s got a few books for pretty much every color.

And finally, the mostly black shelf.  Jen tells me that she’s going to buy me more pink books just so that I’ll have more than a very small handful of them.  I didn’t even end up featuring anything for pink because I didn’t like anything enough, and it would’ve covered almost all of them.  But I did feature Moondust by Andrew Smith for grey, and then three books for black–This is Our Story by Ashley Elston (I know it’s got a blue cover, but the spine is black), Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (THIS BOOK, UGH), and The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.  I also got to put my Venetian mask up with the pink, and repping the black team are V (no one is surprised about his placing), Jack, and Toothless.

I also had to stack the black books on the bottom two shelves differently because somehow this organization takes up more room than my previous one?  I don’t know how that makes sense since they’re all in a neat order and most of the featured books are in front of other books, but apparently, the weird stacking I had going on in the previous styling worked for more room.  This is particularly concerning, too, since my TBR shelf is completely full and I’m about to buy more, so even if I end up loving this styling, I’ll probably need to change it for space.

And that’s a wrap on me rambling endlessly about books!  As always, if you’re still curious, I’m over here on Goodreads, and I’m always down to give book recommendations.

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30k in 15 days

A funny thing just happened.  I realized I hadn’t really written over here about what was going on in my writing life lately, and that the last Saints 2 update was on 1/24.  I remembered, however, that I once did a 20k in 10 days post, and kind of unraveled what this story was about and why I was writing it.  I’ve been steadily writing Saints 2 since that post on 1/24, but it’s felt very stilted and slow.  I thought, for sure, that I was nowhere near the pace I’d set for the first Saints.

Uh yeah, so I was wrong.  30k in 15 days?  What up, what up!

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It’s been very interesting this time around.  Weird, almost.  The story is coming together quite nicely, and I’m pleased with what I have so far, but it’s different.  It’s very different.  I guess it’s because it’s the second novel instead of the first?  I mean, that makes sense.  I’m not doing all the world-building this time around, just some of it.  There are some new characters to introduce, and with them, the POVs are stretching wayyyyy out.  It’s crazy.  By chapter 9 in the first book, we’d had three Landon chapters.  I’m about to start chapter 9 in book two, and we’ve had one.  Which is not a bad thing, I don’t think, because there’s so much more story to tell with the rest of the characters, so many more things to unravel.  Plus, the beginning of the second book is hella crazy, straight out of the gate.  Alex, one of my dear friends and new readers, just finished the first book last night, and shouted at me several times in both texts and comments in Google Docs about the cliffhanger.  So, the second book opens up right at that cliffhanger and starts peeling it apart.  A lot has happened in these nine chapters, and a lot didn’t happen in the first nine chapters of the first book since it was mostly here are our characters and our world and how everything fits together.  But man, it’s been wild, and it’s finally starting to calm down a little, so I’ve been doing Nothing scenes.  What is a Nothing scene, you ask?  My favorite author, Maggie Stiefvater, wrote about The Art of Invisible Movement the other day and wow.  Yes.  All of that, and more.

There aren’t a lot of Nothing scenes in the first Saints.  There are a few, scattered here and there, but right now, I’m in definite need of some.  It has been nonstop for eight full chapters, and my poor characters need a break, so there’s just a little a heck ton of kissing going on right now.  One of my biggest requests from my Saints readers is to keep me updated on who their favorite character and favorite couple are throughout the novel because damn, mine changes so often.

But back to the weirdness, because I was just rereading one of my first Saints posts, and um, okay, so this is exactly how I feel about this novel all over again:

This really has been a strange novel to write.  Not that I’m anywhere near done, but–well, I just crossed 20k words.  Is that crazy?  That’s crazy.  It’s been 10 days.  Yesterday, I was at 10k.  I don’t know what’s going on.  Because when I was writing Pen boys like this, in an absolute fever, I felt ecstatic.  I felt like I was floating.  I felt full of magic and light and energy.  Right now, I’m just content.  I feel good, but not over the top.  I feel settled.  These chapters are taking a while to write, and instead of just moving on after I write them, I immediately go back and edit them.  Already, I want everything to be finely tuned.  I want the words to be as perfect as possible.  I want the story to be right.

That’s how I felt while writing the first one.  It is exactly how I feel while writing this one.  I really don’t know what it is about this story that makes me feel so rooted.  That’s the perfect word for it.  Rooted.  I feel grounded.  I feel in control.  I feel stable.  This story, these characters–there’s just something about them.

Hell is empty and all the devils are here. William Shakespeare This piece from Shakespeare is typed on a vintage 1939 Berlin typewriter ontoOne of my readers, Chelsea, just finished the Pen boys.  I was super excited to see what she thought about the ending, and I felt so invigorated by her comments that I kept telling myself that I wanted to go back and work on the chapters with each new comment, and then I would end up reading or pinning new stuff for Saints.  Which was strange, to say the least, because I adore my boys with all my heart, and I want to write their story, but someday?  Not right now?  I really can’t explain it, guys.  I don’t know what it is about the Saints.  From the second I first woke up that Monday morning in October last year, they have consumed my every waking thought.  (That’s not true, there’s a lot of Alex the Destroyer still going on in there, and always will be.)  I don’t even want to write other stories.  I just want to write theirs, and I keep waiting to feel terrified because Saints is only two novels, but I’ve already got plans for Saints at sea, and I think I’m just going to keep writing in this universe.

I don’t know.

I don’t know.

Is that okay?

Is it okay that I don’t know what the heck is going on?  Why I’m so in love with these characters and their story, but in a very muted sort of way?

I think it’s okay.  I think it means I found the story I was supposed to be writing all along.  Or maybe it just means it’s a good story, who knows.  Maybe it’s not all wishy-washy, and maybe it’s just a book, and I’m just a weirdo.  But maybe it’s Something More.

I don’t know.  I really don’t.  But I do know that I’ve written 30k in 15 days, and that I’m getting kind of close to the end of part one, and I’m excited, I’m really damn excited, about where this novel is going.  It’s definitely only going to be two, so I’ll actually have to end it this time instead of just throwing a cliffhanger at you and running away.  But I’m not even worried about that.  I know a few things I want to do at the end of this novel to tie everything up (spoiler/translation: give Miles a freaking viper, it’s happening, prepare yourself for his mania), and then it’s time to send Henry and Cole & Co. off into the Vast Sea and see what happens.

And since we’re onto our second month of 2018, I figured it’s about time to check in with my 2018 goals.

So, Saints is going out, Saints 2 is getting written, Alex the Destroyer is getting edited–what else?  I’m going to write both the first Pen boys summer novella and their junior year, and hopefully have at least the summer novella edited by the end of the year.  I’m also planning on finally writing one of the following: Mason, the desert witch (Shri), or Pendulum (vampire detective).  In a crazy world, I’d also write Saints at sea, but we’ll see.

Alex the Destroyer has been edited and is ready for consumption, though he’ll continue to collect dust on my hard drive since I’m handing Saints to my readers next.  I still have high hopes that I’ll be able to write at least the Pen boys summer novella, but I’m feeling like their sophomore year might not happen since I’m probably going to write Saints at sea instead of that.  I still really, really want to write at least Mason, Shri, or Pendulum, and I think the last one is going to be the one that happens, but again, we’ll see.

So, it seems I’m on target for my reading (12 read so far!) and writing goals for this year.  Happy Thursday!

PSS (Post Script Spoilers): In the last 15 days, I’ve done quite a bit of research on how much blood the body can lose before you die (HA, sorry not sorry), poring over popular names, trying to read books with villainous boys (heyyyy, Vicious), and the Cliffs of Dover.  Not a ton of exciting stuff, but just you wait.  Hell is coming.

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January Reads

Well, we are officially into 2018 now, and I am starting out strong.  I’ve been a busy little bee this month in all aspects of my life, including reading, so there are quite a few book reviews down below for you.  Next month, I’m heading up to Maine for a long weekend, so I’ll be book shopping with Erin, which means many more goodies to add to my TBR.  I’ll hopefully be back to writing very soon, as well, so lots of fun coming.

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What: Gypsy Wisdom, Spells, Charms, and Folklore by Denise Alvarado
When: 12/31-1/1
Rating: ★★★★
Review: This was a quick, fun little book.  I’ve been wanting to add some elements of gypsy culture into Saints, so I picked out a couple of books that sounded interesting and ended up finding a lot more than I set out looking for.  This was lovely because it was so practical, but also so informative.  The spells contained in here were actual spells that I could very easily attempt, and the information on the lore was just wonderful.  I do wish it was a bit longer so that it could expand more on the different bits of culture we were given, but as my first foray into the world of gypsy culture, this was a great start.

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What: The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken
When: 12/28-1/1
Rating: ★★★★
Review: This is one of those books that I bought because of the title and the cover, and also one of those books where I didn’t realize it was part of a series, damn it, until I got to that cliffhanger ending.  I’m definitely glad I bought it, though.  It was such an adorable, quick read.  The story follows Prosper Redding, whose family is cursed by an ancient demon.  Said demon rears its ugly head in Prosper, and they spend most of the book together with Prosper trying to ignore the demon and the demon trying to trick Prosper into making a deal.

It’s a middle reader, so prepare yourself for a young narrative, but it was also just so lovely.  There were a lot of twists that I wasn’t expecting, and a lot of really great magic that I don’t often see in books.  I was convinced, right up until the end, that I knew how this was all going to play out, and then BAM.  Boy, was I wrong.  I enjoyed the writing and the characters for this, and I’m definitely going to read the next one when it comes out.

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What: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
When: 1/2-1/3
Rating: ★★★
Review: This was such a strange book.  I didn’t dislike it, but I’m still not sure I liked it, either.  There was really no smooth start–you were just right away thrown into space.  I think?  I don’t know.  The setup of this was very odd.  I think that we were always on Mars, and I could follow the timeline of Earth, but some of the chapters just kind of felt like I was reading along the edges and had no idea what the middle looked like?

I was also fairly mad when I got to one of the last chapters and realized that I’d read it before in high school, but my teacher had told us that it was a short story.  This chapter makes so much more sense, and has so much more of an effect, when you read it with the rest of the book!

I’m not saying I didn’t like this book.  I’m just saying I didn’t understand it always.  I enjoyed the writing, and I enjoyed Bradbury’s very bizarre ideas.  I just wish I’d been given a little more detail along the way.

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What: Tithe by Holly Black
When: 1/3-1/4
Rating: ★★
Review: This review will be short.  I’ve been very excited about this book for a long time.  Holly Black is the faerie queen.  She writes about faeries all the time, and I was fully prepared to find myself buying everything she’s ever written.  I asked for this book for Christmas last year (2016), and then never read it because I’m the worst.  But, I was starting to get Mason vibes again, so I decided I’d finally dive in.

One of the two stars is because this was about faeries, and there are so few books out there that do that.  The other star is because the lore around the faeries was actually really well done, and tied in nicely with the knowledge surrounding faeries that I already have.  The writing, however, left a lot to be desired, and the characters were poorly executed.  I will not be reading anything else in this series, and I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to loop back around for a different Black novel.

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What: Secrets for the Mad: Obsessions, Confessions, and Life Lessons by Dodie Clark
When: 1/5-1/8
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: THIS BOOK.  Every young girl in high school needs to read this.  I wish I had had this at ages 14-17 to tell me that I wasn’t going crazy, that these feelings were normal.  YOU ARE NORMAL.  Holy magic!  I’m normal, guys.  Other people experience this wild, uncontrollable whirlwind of emotions.  Sure, Dodie experiences them in high extremes, but still.  STILL!  If you’re looking for a gift in the coming year to get a young girl, get her this.  She needs to read it.  It will make her feel so much better.  I even wish I had it in college.  I just wish I’ve had it for my entire life.

What is this magical book about?  Just Dodie’s life.  She’s a YouTuber that Erin introduced me to, and this is the story of her life through all of her emotional trials and tribulations.  She walks us through what her mental illness looks like on a daily basis, and just how long it took her to figure out what was going on in her head.  She talks a little about her life now, going on tour and performing in front of thousands of people, but mostly she talks about learning how to survive with herself.  It’s an inspiring, beautiful novel, and everyone needs to read it.

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What: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
When: 1/8-1/12
Rating: ★★★★
Review: And so begins my TMI reread!  I’ve been wanting to reread these ever since I first read them (all the way back in 2012), which was a furious month spent reading books 1-5 in an absolute frenzy.  I would say to expect probably at least 1-2 reviews per month with this series as I’m going to be rereading not only The Mortal Instruments, but also finally diving into The Infernal DevicesThe Dark Artifices, and some of the companion novels.

City of Bones is the first in The Mortal Instruments series, and follows Clary Fray on a wild adventure.  Though Clary’s grown up believing she’s a normal, mundane human, her eyes are about to opened wide.  There is a whole other world out there–vampires, demons, werewolves, faeries, angels, demon hunters.  You name it, the Shadowhunter world probably has it.  And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

When I first read this book, I gave it four stars, and I stand by that rating again.  I love the incredibly vast and well-developed world Clare has given us.  It’s possible for her to write so many different series set in one universe because there’s so much rich history for her to play with.  The characters are amazing (I almost Instagrammed when I got to Magnus’s chapter, I was that excited), the political and social elements are very well done, and the story itself is just so captivating.  That being said, I think these books are always about 100 pages longer than they need to be, and while I do enjoy a good, overstuffed book, sometimes I find myself drifting in chapters.

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What: Buckland’s Book of Gypsy Magic: Travelers’ Stories, Spells, & Healings by Raymond Buckland
When: 1/11-1/15
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: This was such a great read!  This was exactly what I was looking for in the first gypsy magic book that I got, and I’m so pleased with it.  The spells in here were well-detailed and very practical.  I found myself thinking about the little bits of lore (like finding something red on the ground meant love was in your future) as I went through my day.  I earmarked charms that I wanted to try later, highlighted information that I could both use as research for Saints and just for myself, and overall, just found this a very informative, incredibly well written book.  There was such a wealth of knowledge in these pages, and I’m definitely marking this as a favorite.

Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journey

What: Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journey by Michael Collins
When: 12/21-1/18
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: I love this dry, hilarious little book.  This is definitely not for the casual reader.  I think if I’d started with this book, I might have ran away from reading about astronauts altogether.  It’s a lot packed into one book.  The writing can be really dense and dry at times, but I think since I’ve read so many astronaut bios by now, I actually found most of this either super informational or an outright knee-slapper.  Collins led a very interesting life that was often full of hard-working, exhausted moments, but also full of beautiful, unexpectedly inspiring passages.  When he finally gets the chance to go to the moon, all he could talk about was the Earth, and I just love so much how truly astronauts adore our planet.  Here they were, Mike, Buzz, and Neil, on their way to the most incredible journey of mankind ever, and all they could think about was going home to their big, blue, beautiful planet.  Like with Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth (I’m going to keep recommending this book until the end of time, so it’s linked there), this really changed the way that I looked at the world.  Not in this overwhelming, my life is brand new kind of way, but more of a stop and pause, and go, huh, well would you look at that.  I’m alive, and it’s amazing.  Thank you, Earth.  It just makes me think sometimes.

For my, a 5-star rating is really about the timing of this book.  Again, if I’d read it first or even toward the very beginning of my space-loving career in reading books, I might have given this 4, or even 3, stars.  But, after having worked my way through Hadfield, Mullane, Smith (not an astronaut himself, but wrote about the 12 men who went to the moon), Roach (again, not an astronaut herself, but wrote extensively about space flight), and several other, albeit fictional, moon-related or YA space books, I was definitely ready to take on the massive, almost 500-page, tome that is Mike Collins’s fantastic life story.  Next up: John Young.

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What: The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace
When: 1/19-1/23
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: Oh, this was so lovely.  I read Wallace’s other novel, Shallow Graves, at the beginning of 2017 when I was just beginning my journey back into the world of reading and YA.  It was one of the first books I picked up in a book haul, and I absolutely adored it.  When I saw that she was writing a new one, I was all over that.  And this was, hands down, a truly beautiful second novel.  Wallace’s language was just–wow.  It was so gorgeous.  I felt like I was reading a Stiefvater novel.  I was so drawn in by the way she handled words that sometimes I forgot what the story was and just felt myself floating, absolutely content and reading at an absolute snail’s pace so I could linger in the words a little longer.

That is about 75% of the reason this got 5 stars.  The other 25% is the story.  I kept thinking there was going to be witchcraft in here somewhere, and while there wasn’t directly, I feel like there was a little something going on in the background.  The Memory Trees follows the story of Sorrow Lovegood (WHAT A NAME) as she journeys back to her childhood home in Vermont following an eight-year absence after her older sister died.  Sorrow is missing pieces of her memory surrounding her sister’s death, and is hopeful that returning to VT will help her remember.  What unfolds is much more than I think Sorrow, and definitely me, ever expected.

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What: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
When: 1/24-1/29
Rating: ★★★★
Review: Oh, this book.  This is a book that will leave you feeling uncomfortable, and I’m not going to tell you why because it spoils the end of City of Bones.  This is the second book in The Mortal Instruments series, and I originally gave it 5 stars, but I’m docking one now that I’m not reading it at breakneck speed and can actually pay attention to more than just the plot.  Also, and this is terrible, but I vastly prefer the beginning of Magnus and Alec’s relationship in the show to the book, and it bummed me out seeing how it was handled here.  I’d forgotten how Clare did it, and wasn’t overly impressed.

The writing is good, and unlike COB, I actually think the length is pretty dead-on.  A lot happens in this book, and there are a heck ton of twists that I did not see coming.  Valentine, for me, is still a pretty meh villain, and I can’t wait to get to Sebastian, but my love for Clary continues to grow yet again, and that’s what matters in the end considering she’s our protagonist.  A fun read if you’re looking to escape for a little while into an action-packed, drama-filled, all sorts of weird romance (this is the uncomfortable part) tale.

And that’s a wrap on January’s books!  Somehow, even after reading 10 books in one month, I’m only 2 books ahead of my challenge of 100, which is mildly stressful, but I’m excited to keep digging through my TBR stack.  Here’s to hopefully another month of 10!

Jolie’s Alice in Wonderland Tea Review

An exciting thing happened to me over the weekend.  I wasn’t really planning on writing this blog at all until about halfway through part two of the exciting thing, and then I realized that since one of my books is heavily based inside of a teashop, I should probably review the teas that I bought this weekend.

TEA REVIEW TIME!

No, this is not going to become a regular thing.  Maybe it should?  Be quiet.

Last week, I got the Jolie Tea newsletter for Jan/Feb, and I could not believe my eyes.

Image result for mad hatter gif

ALICE IN WONDERLAND THEMED TEA

😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍

Oh my holy magic.  I honestly did a happy dance, and then tried, unsuccessfully, to get to Jolie all week.  Not only is Mason’s novel almost primarily in a teahouse (aptly named Madhouse), it’s hugely inspired by Alice in Wonderland.  They have a white cat named Dinah.  Mason uses 10/6 as a reference for where he is when he’s trying to be discreet.  He’s addicted to tea (literally).  (There will be more eventually when I get around to writing it again.)

I was at a teacher training all weekend, and was so exhausted on Saturday that I just went home (and tried to go see The Greatest Showman, but it was SOLD OUT a whole freaking month after it’s been in theaters, so we ended up wandering around Target for an hour before Netflixing Sing, which was hilarious and honestly everything that I needed right then).  But then Sunday rolls around, and we got out early from the training, so I ran some errands with my parents since I hadn’t seen them that much on Saturday and because wink wink nudge nudge.

Have you ever been to Jolie?  Do yourselves this favor, please and thank you.  It’s in Salem, right across from the Hawthorne, and it’s the most magical place on the planet.  They’re offering a 1oz sampler of all four teas from the Down the Rabbit Hole collection for only $18 (!!!!! that’s so cheap!), which includes Off With Her Head, Alice, Wonderland, and Mad Hatter.

And so, without further hullabaloo, here is my review of each.

Image result for mad hatter gif

Off With Her Head
Ingredients: black tea, dark chocolate, vanilla, raspberry, orange peel, cinnamon

Oh, this is just so lovely.  There are actual pieces of dark chocolate chips in this.  It’s just delightful.  It started out very sweet.  I’m a terrible tea person, so I just generally steep black tea for five minutes (40 minutes on weekdays when it just sits in there while I’m driving, I KNOW I’M SORRY), and I know that’s probably wrong, but oh well.  The raspberry came out quite bright in the beginning, and though I enjoyed it, it was a little too sweet in those first few sips for me.  Thankfully, the chocolate started to kick in, and it mellowed out into a very dark, thick flavor.  There’s just something about combining dark chocolate and black tea–each sip demanded my attention.  Toward the end, it got a little bitter, much like the Red Queen, which I think might have been the orange, but overall, this was a delightful dessert tea.  I’m not sure yet if I’d drink this in the morning, but having it after dinner was perfect.

Wonderland
Ingredients: Nepalese black tea, rose petals, jasmine petals, calendula petals, red clover blossom

This was a tricky little tea.  I expected it to be much more floral than it was.  I loved, too, that the ingredients had so many different floral elements.  I thought that spoke wonderfully to the instant image that the word Wonderland creates.  And perhaps Wonderland, for you, is something different, but I always think of the mushroom that the caterpillar sits on and the woods that Alice has to walk through and the flowers that fight each other and the twins dueling in the clearing.  There’s so much nature threaded throughout the story that, immediately, I was brought right back to Alice falling down a hole in the earth.  This had a very muted taste.  I could certainly pick out the rose flavor, but it was only a tiny bit stronger than the others.  They all blended well excellently to create a very calm floral taste.  It was a bit like driving past a field and smelling flowers on the wind rather than being in the thick of it.  It was a great way to wake up, both drinking the tea and having that think of an impossible thing before breakfast.  This was such a great start to my day.

Mad Hatter
Ingredients: sweet orange peel, apple pieces, hibiscus, black currants, ginger, cinnamon, vanilla

I was very excited about this one.  While I do adore the original Disney cartoon, and the book is honestly one of my favorite things in the world, I was so enraptured by Tim Burton’s version of this story.  It really opened up the world, and, for a lot of us, I think, the character of the Mad Hatter.  He is certainly one of my favorite characters in literature, both as a fellow tea-drinker and a fellow mad individual.  Not only that, but these ingredients!  All of my favorite things in one!  However, this was just a teensy bit too much for me.  While I definitely enjoyed it, I like my teas less like a punch in the face and more like a slow burn.  IE: black tea, basically, which is hilarious because I used to hate black tea.  This was delicious, though.  It was the kind of tea that you sit with for an hour at the very least, nursing slowly, picking it up absentmindedly and suddenly finding it’s all gone away.  It was very bright, and all the flavors came through at different times.  One sip, I’d be getting blasted with ginger, making it a little spicy, and the next would mellow on out with vanilla and cinnamon, before bam have a little orange and hibiscus.  It was fun, I think is the best word for it.

Alice
Ingredients: Chinese black tea, blackberry, apricot, blue cornflower, calendula petals

I love the look of this tea.  It’s all black but for those little bits of blue cornflower coming through.  I thought it was a wonderful representation of Alice (more Tim Burton than Disney), the light that falls upon dark and terrible Wonderland.  And wow, this tea.  Overall, of the four teas, I will definitely be buying Wonderland and Alice again.  They’re the perfect kind of tea for my mornings, and I just love them.  This one was so smooth and lovely to drink.  It was quite dark and fruity, and that little burst of apricot just made my taste buds sings.  It was gone in about 20 minutes, and I’m riding a nice little caffeine buzz.  The Chinese black tea in comparison to the Nepalese one from Wonderland was so curious to taste a difference in!  The Nepalese was definitely lighter and a little more bitter (though that might have been the flowers), and the Chinese one was much darker and heavier.  Good for snowy mornings, and when it the dark is lingering a little too long.

And that’s all, folks.  Happy drinking!

tea

Saints 2!

It has begun!  I officially finished the first chapter of Saints 2 yesterday.  It feels so good to be writing again, back with my little dysfunctional family of devils.  I love them so much, and I’m so eager to see where this sequel takes them.  And I thought now would be a fun time to talk about what their world looks like, and what to expect from them.

When I started writing the first novel, Saints was just one book with possible sequels.  I had no idea where it might go, just that I had a story to tell and characters to play with.  The very last sentence of the first book is a massive cliffhanger, though, so I knew I had to figure out how big the arc of this story was.  I’ve read a few duologies recently, and I really like the feel of them, so I decided to give that a go for Saints.

It worked marvelously.  The story arc that we follow with the Saints is meant for two books.  Almost everything will tie up neatly at the end, with the villains dead and our heroes(?) will have survived to see another sunrise (most of them, HAHAHAHA).  Almost everything, you ask?  Well, when I was editing the first Saints book the first time around, I had this little thought–hm, wouldn’t it be fun to see Henry and Cole on their own?

Aesthetic for Ruth Ramsay

And alas, Saints at sea was born.  I’m still referring to them as Saints because they are, technically, still Saints, but I’m adding on a little addendum to the new stories that will be created in this world–hence at sea.  So, at the end of Saints 2, after a lot of death and violence and destruction, when the dust has settled and our beloved Saints have returned to their black house with the red door, Henry and Cole will start preparing to leave.  Somewhere in the middle of Saints 2, they start talking about leaving the city, the island even, but, by the end, they’re not alone.

Sam, Landon’s youngest brother, has also had just about enough of Obera.  He wants out badly.  He doesn’t want to be live in their old family home and let the terrible memories there haunt him for the rest of his life.  He’s just started rekindling the once-broken relationship with his other siblings, too, so he asks Henry if he can tag along, and that, really, is the beginning of it all.

I don’t want to give much more away of who ends up joining Henry and Cole on their adventure out to sea, but there are a few others key characters from the Saints duology that will be going with them.  And don’t worry, there is an actual plot besides these boys gallivanting around on a ship through the ocean, but I’m not telling about that, either, because it’s exciting.

I’ve been really amped up about the Saints at sea series, though.  Because it is definitely going to be a series.  Probably more than a duology, and I can’t say for sure that it’ll only be a trilogy–I don’t know.  I only have a basic plot going for it right now, but once I’m finished writing Saints 2, I’m definitely sitting down to get it all figured out.

But this world has the potential to be so big.  The only space that I’ve really investigated is the city of Obera.  Sure, in the first Saints book, they travel through the Dying Lands (a desert that stretches for miles, and that everyone is terrified of), and end up in Exis (a city that is bordered on the northeast by the Dying Lands and the south by the Vast Sea, about a two-day journey from Obera if you go through the desert at a ridiculous, almost nonstop pace) for a small amount of time, but there’s so much more to play with.  There are four cities on the island–Obera, basically the capital and where we spend most of our time, Exis, Ithicarr, and Vrakk.  Beyond that, you’ve got the very mysterious Black Mountains (actually black!), White Cliffs of Ioth (oh yeah, think the Cliffs of Dover), the Dying Lands, and Ashwood.  And that’s just the island.  There are two other islands, which they consider the “border” islands since it’s kind of impossible to get to the actual island without encountering one of these.  There’s the Vast Sea, which is aptly named because people who leave very rarely come back.  Whether you’re gobbled up by pirates or just lost in this vast, unending sea, it’s a tough place to navigate.  But beyond the Vast Sea?  Oh man, oh man, oh man.  So much!

So, I got to thinking.  It would be super fun to not only explore more of the island, but more of the world.

Blythe + izzy

And that is about where Saints: seer edition comes in.

Truthfully, right now, at sea and seer edition are the only two other ideas that I have, but big things are happening, guys.  I have a very, very small idea to write about Wesley’s mother (she lived on the other side of the Vast Sea and traveled with pirates), and possibly something in Ithicarr or Vrakk that probably takes place in the past.

But seers!  There’s a ton of magic in the Saints universe (I’m going to start calling it the Saintsverse soon, watch out), but seers are a staple in all cities.  They do all sorts of different things–palmistry, tarot, crystal ball gazing, herbal remedies, you name it, they probably do it.  Our very first chapter of Saints 2 is a new character, Corra, who is the daughter of a seer and one herself.  In Saints, they visit a seer, Ruya, who helps save Miles’s life (WHAT).  There’s talk of so many others in Exis, and then Corra’s chapter just cracks open their world in Obera.  So, I thought, why not?  Let’s take Ruya, and her gang of wild women, split a novel in half with Val the Destroyer, an actual leader of a hellcat (motorcycle) gang, and tell the tale of Exis.

BAM.

It’s gonna be crazy.  Exis, already, is probably the wildest, weirdest city on the island, and this is just going to be badass.  I’m toying with the idea of throwing it into the past and talking about before the cathedral gets burned down and while Miles still lives in the city, but not sure yet.  All I know is that Ruya and Val will definitely be in it, possibly Corra if it happens in the present or future, and that it’s going to probably be a standalone.  If not, a duology.  The seer edition story doesn’t have a huge plot arc in my head already, so I’m imagining it will be short.

And while I’ve only got two post-Saints ideas going right now, I expect more to come.  This world is so big, and has the potential to birth so many different stories.  I can’t wait to dig into it after Saints 2 and really see what it has to offer.  I always thought Ronan’s epic tale would be the story, but I think it might be shaping up to be my devils.

Get ready.  They’re coming for you.

John O'Callaghan; by Nicole Busch

You’re Still a Writer Even if You’re Not Writing

Again, for the people still doubting themselves: you’re still a writer even if you’re not writing.

This is one of those phrases that I think I need to print out and plaster all over the wall behind my desk.  That wall is meant to inspire me.  It’s basically just a physical Pinterest board, different photos printed out that make me think of a few of the novels I’m currently writing, interspersed with a few pictures of real life.  That wall is also where all of my tea sits, so I’ve got easy access to my favorite writing drink.  If I look to the left, there’s usually a cat on the tower or on the windowsill.  If I look around, there are books all around me.  My room is a sanctuary for writing.

And yet, and yet, sometimes I find myself thinking that, since I’m not currently writing a book, can I really call myself a writer?

Oi.  You’ve probably at least once asked yourself this question, even if not quite so directly.  Maybe it’s just this subconscious nagging feeling that you should be doing something more productive with your time, that you should be working on that novel, that you should put down the book or the TV show because it’s not directly progressing your writing.

Wrong.

I read this really amazing article the other day that talked about how, as writers, sometimes we tend to tell ourselves that we don’t have time to read (and watch TV, but that’s my addition) because we need to spend that time writing.  The thing is, though, that we started writing because we loved reading.  And yet, now we’re not reading?

If you haven’t fallen into this trap, I applaud you.  I did it to myself for a long time.  Granted, I didn’t read a lot for pleasure during my school years because I was reading for school, but when I had wide open weekends or free time during the week, instead of reading or watching TV, I would write.  Most of the time, this meant I was on Tumblr, bored out of my mind, occasionally clicking into a blank document.  Sometimes, though, this did mean I was actually writing.  During college, I wrote a lot of fanfiction.  I’m not even going to attempt to give you stats because it’s rather obnoxious.  I worked on Ronan, too, during college, but it was mostly fanfiction.

But reading–well, that was another story.  When I would pack for school, I usually packed a few Maggie books, though I’d already read them, a few other favorites, just in case I needed them, and not really anything new.  This was a problem, obviously, as I didn’t really want to read any of these, I just wanted them around.  Thus, the only time I really read in college (again, for pleasure) was when a new Maggie book came out, or if I was rereading something, which really wasn’t that often, or if it was fanfiction.

Mostly, this was because I thought that if I wasn’t working on Ronan or fanfiction, then that meant that I wasn’t really a writer.  Which is crazy, I know, but it’s a real thing that writers experience.  We think that reading books and watching shows are a waste of our time.  And sure, some people might agree that sitting on your butt to binge watch Netflix isn’t productive, but I am adamant in the belief that sometimes, that can be inspiring.  Just as I draw inspiration from the books I read, I draw inspiration from the shows that I watch.

But back to books.  Because when I was in the fifth grade, the new Harry Potter book was coming out, and I was out of mind excited.  I went to the midnight release with my dad at Barnes & Noble, and I found a few other books to buy while I was there.  I sat beneath one of the tables and read while I was in line, and then, when we finally got home, my dad had to lock up the new book so that I wouldn’t read through the night.  I spent the next few days doing nothing but reading, reading, reading.

Where did that person go?  Why did I stop reading?  Why did my brain decide that reading did not equal writing?

YOU’RE STILL A WRITER EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT WRITING, especially if what you’re doing is reading.

Dear Brain,

Reading = Writing

Yours truly,
A frustrated writer who just wants to read some damn books

So, rewind to college.  In my senior year, I was kind of starting to get back into books.  Maggie was in the middle of writing The Raven Cycle, and it was making me want to read other books like it.  I didn’t really have a lot of time to read for pleasure in my last year of college, though, since I was taking a few workshop style classes, the dreaded American literature that I’d been avoiding for three years, and interning at Alice James Books.  I had a lot going on in that last year, but I kept saying how excited I was to finally start reading books for pleasure once I graduated.

And then, I graduated, and that didn’t happen.  I got promoted at my then-job, took on the life of a 40 hour manager, and found myself just wanting to crash in between shifts.  I would watch shows, I would write fanfiction, and maybe I’d get ten or fifteen minutes on my lunch to read when I wasn’t scrolling through Instagram or doing something else on my phone.  My brain was still convinced that, by reading, that I meant I wasn’t writing.  (Don’t ask me why my brain thought it was okay to watch TV, I have no idea, but I suspect because I wasn’t watching anything that would inspire Ronan and watching TV kind of felt like scrolling Tumblr at that point.)

Obviously, something changed.

“A book you finish reading is not the same book it was before you read it.” - David Mitchell I haven’t stepped into a bookstore to just browse in almost a year. I made up this rule for myself that I wasn’t allowed to buy any new books until I...In December, 2016, I went up to Maine to visit Erin, and we went to a bookstore.  For a long time, I’d had this stupid (and clearly not working) rule that I wasn’t allowed to buy any new books until I finished the 100 unread on my shelves.  Hm.  Well.  That was dumb.  I still have about 100 unread books on my shelves, but I’m also reading nearly 100 books a year now?  So, I think I’m doing pretty good.  But, we went into this bookstore, and I said, “That’s it.  I’m done.  Let’s go to the YA section.  I’m going to buy some books, and I’m going to start reading again.”  It was also around this time that I had finally decided to let go of Ronan, and I’d just finished wrapping up writing on Mason.  But it was, truly, a very conscious decision.  I’d had enough.  I wanted to be a reader again.  I wanted to read books that were going to inspire me to write.  I wanted to read other books that had faeries in them.  I wanted to read books with boys in love.  I want to read books with romance, adventure, fantasy, crazy, wild things.  I wanted to read it all.

Before this, I had been reading a little more.  In an effort to read more, I’d started a two-person book club with Jack, but we were mostly reading myth anthologies, poetry, or adult novels.  This was good because it was making me read more, but it was also not what I needed.  Ronan was always an adult high fantasy, but Mason was not.  And every idea that was starting to bubble up was also not.  I needed to read, yes, but specifically, I needed to read YA.

Got a library for Christmas! #maryreads #books

A short while after that fateful visit with Erin, Christmas came, and the world started to open up.  I started to adjust the way that I looked at writing.  Before, the in-between time between novels was a scary place that I didn’t want to linger in.  After finishing a draft of Ronan, I’d immediately either jump into editing it or start writing the next book.  I didn’t give myself time to breathe.  Even with Mason, as soon as I finished the first draft, I started editing it.  After I finished editing it, I started writing Miriam’s novel, which is no longer a thing.  But I kept writing.  I thought that I couldn’t stop.  I had to keep going, going, going.  Wrong, brain, wrong.  Take a break.  Stop writing.  Breathe.  Read a damn book.

So, 2017 arrives, and I’ve got two giant book stacks to read.  I was wary that I would suddenly revert back to normal, shelve all 22 books and never read them.  This was my MO, typically, but I’m happy to say that of these 22, I’ve read 17.  The ones I haven’t read are either anthologies that I plan on taking my time with or research books that I just haven’t been in the space to read.  But all of the fiction and YA have been read, and it feels really good.

Got another small library in the mail! Now time to pack them away. Two bookshelves at a combined height of 9’ and a width of 6’ have officially been boxed up for the move! #books #maryreads

Shortly into this beautiful new world where reading = writing, I just kind of went crazy.  I started buying books every couple of months, started flooding my bookshelves with new books and my brain with new words and worlds.  I was reading like crazy, but also writing like crazy.  The ideas were out of control.  It was like, by giving up Ronan, losing Jack, and reading more, I was ready to do anything.  I came up with the Pen boys on a four-hour drive to New York, finished figuring out the idea on a beach in Gloucester, and started writing a few days later.  I made this blog public, and put together a list of the ideas that I had, which were way more than I originally thought.  There were so many different stories that I wanted to tell.  Short stories that I’d quickly flung together were suddenly unraveling into novel-length ideas.  Saints was born overnight, and after a week of plotting, I started writing, and was done in under two months.  What was happening to me?  I’d always thought that when I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t a writer.  I’d always thought that spending time on a book meant I was wasting time that I could be writing.  Oh my gosh!  How wrong I was!  These books.  These wonderful, beautiful, amazing books.  Because of them, I was writing again.  “Hello, world!  I’m back!” I wanted to shout.  And that’s really what it felt like.

BOOK STACK. @3rinsimone arrived yesterday, and this was the first thing we did. 😍 #maryreadsI could just keep pasting pictures of my book stacks in here from over the last year forever.  Every time I visited Erin, we went to at least one bookstore.  During our August vacation, when we both hung out in Massachusetts and Maine, we went to two, and hell, I just bought stacks in both because WHY NOT?  Why deprive myself of the thing that was helping me write again?  Because if we’re really being honest here, I wasn’t writing before.  Sure, I was releasing fanfiction like it was going out of style, and I was working relentlessly on Ronan, but I wasn’t writing.  I was just plodding along, working on the same story over and over again, though it was making me crazy.  And hell, when I look back on that time now, it hurts.  Ronan was terrible.  It still is.  I don’t know if we’ll ever get along.  But I do know that when I finally made the decision to be a reader again, the words just fell over themselves trying to get to my fingers.  I was alive.  I was feeling definitely a lot crazy, but in a good way.

Now, this is great, but I’m going to circle back around to the point of this blog.  You’re still a writer even if you’re not writing.  I’m not writing right now.  And that’s okay.  I’m currently editing Saints, and I’m reading this really fantastic biography about Mike Collins, one of the first men to go to the moon.  He piloted the first mission, so didn’t walk on it with Neil and Buzz, but he was still one of the first three.  He’s hilarious in a really dry kind of way, and I’m absolutely loving it.  After this, I’ve got plans for a few more unread YAs, as well as rereading The Mortal Instruments series slowly, but surely.

Oops. 📚 My muse/witch sister/anam cara/little queen/fencehopper (goodness, @3rinsimone has a lot of titles) is in town, which is the only time I shop for books, so here’s the first of two stacks. Buying books with Erin is easily one of my favorite...Quick aside: Rereading is okay, too.  That took me a long time to understand.  Even when I started reading again, I kept telling myself I had to read new things.  I had just finished rereading Harry Potter, and told myself I needed to focus on all these new books I had.  But really, truly, it’s okay to reread.  Sometimes it’s nice to go back to our favorite stories to remember why we love reading in the first place.

While I was in the middle of this influx of words and worlds, I was missing Maggie big time, so I picked up The Raven Cycle again, read the whole thing, breathed a sigh of relief, and went back to my unread books.  It feels really amazing to just dive back into a familiar world sometimes, to remind our brains why this process of reading feels so damn good, so it’s okay to reread!  Don’t reread all the time, but definitely reread when you want to.  I’ve been wanting to reread TMI for a few months now, and finally digging back into City of Bones just felt wonderful.

And though I keep repeating this to myself, that I’m still a writer even if I’m not writing, I caught myself the other day thinking it.  I was editing like crazy, flying through chapters of Saints, telling myself that I had to get to the end of it so that I could start writing the next one.  I’ve been in limbo again, in that scary in-between place, trying to figure out what I wanted to write next.  I spent a couple weeks like this, trying to decide which way I was swaying and getting frustrated with myself every time I kept moving in different directions.  Why can’t I just settle on one idea?  Why is it Mason one weekend, the Pen boys summer novella a few days later, and then Saints overnight?  Why can’t I just pick one and hang out with it?

Book stack #2, featuring tonight’s sleeping aesthetic. Gosh, this vacation is costing me a lot of money. I set out with the goal to buy somewhere between 15 and 20 books since I won’t be seeing Erin for a while after this week, and, well–I have 18...Oh boy.  Calm it the heck down, Mary.  It’s okay to sway.  It’s okay to be unsure.  It’s okay to not be writing because you’re still a writer even if you’re not.  Go read a book.

So, I did.  I read three, actually, because I’m insane.  Does anyone else have this problem?  I started rereading City of Bones, but I’d just got this new gypsy magic book in the mail, and I really wanted to read it before I got too far into editing Saints in case I wanted to use it, but I had also started Mike Collins’ bio way before I started COB since I was feeling the astronaut jam, and suddenly, I was reading three books at once?  How does this happen?  I don’t know.  Sometimes, when I read nonfiction, I feel like I need to have some fantasy on the side just in case it gets boring.  It never does with astronauts, but here we are.  But when I was starting to get that oh crap, I’m not writing, so I must not be a writer vibe, I picked up three (good grief) books, and plunged back into inspiration.

Accidental book stack! I was Christmas shopping on #blackfriday, and @barnesandnoble was doing 20% off total orders, so I just—added some more books to my cart. Whoops! I’m currently reading The Fireman by Joe Hill, which I started in May and then...Because that’s what not writing is!  It’s building inspiration.  If not writing looks like floating around on Pinterest, A+.  If not writing looks like rewatching the entirety of Peaky Blinders because heck, there’s a lot more Saints inspiration in there than I realized, A+.  But please, for the love of yourself, read a book.  Let your inspiration be words as well as other things.  Give yourself the gift of escape.  And if your brain is still being an asshat, find a book that’s going to inspire your world.

When I thought maybe I might dive back into Mason, I read Tithe by Holly Black because it had faeries in it.  Though I did want to reread TMI for awhile, I actually finally started rereading it because of Saints.  Don’t ask me why it inspires me to write Saints because I really can’t figure it out, but I wanted to play with those characters again, so I read City of Bones.  When I just wasn’t sure, but knew that maybe magic was going to play into my next writing adventure, I read a bunch of YA that had some kind of magic system in it, or at least played with the idea of magic.  (Outside of books, I finally watched Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children because I wanted magic, and I promise I’m going to read the books eventually because YES THAT WAS GOOD.)

In conclusion, stop listening to your brain.  It’s dumb.  You’re not being unproductive by reading a book or watching TV or going for a walk or getting lunch with a friend or just not doing anything.  Actually, you’re being the opposite of unproductive.  You’re experiencing the world.  You’re collecting ideas for your next writing adventure.  That interesting conversation you just overheard?  Steal some of it.  That crazy twist in the book you just read?  Do something like that in your own.  That delicious dish you ate at that restaurant?  Give yourself a foodie for a character because they’re hella fun, and then you get to write about the food you eat.  (Hi, Miles, I love you, and thank you for the hot dogs.)

You’re still a writer even if you’re not writing.

Repeat that, over and over and over again.

And that is a wrap on holiday books! Heading into the new year with 18 already on my 2018 TBR. Whoops. 📚 Mostly YA, but a few research books, some space nonfiction, and oh, this Rilke bio, I simply cannot wait. 💙 Here’s to fulfilling that goal of 100...

Write it down on a slip of paper and paste it on your wall, close to where you usually write so that you can look up and see it when you need to.  Stop staring at a blank Word document.  It’s not worth the headache.  Stop forcing yourself to write.  It’s not worth the heartache of looking back at your words and finding that you hate them.  Go read a book.  Please.  And if you need permission, here it is.  Pick up that book you keep glancing at, and dig into it.  Do it.  You owe it to yourself.  And if you catch yourself thinking well, this isn’t writing while you’re in the middle of reading, KEEP READING.  Even if it’s only for five minutes a day.  Read the book.

You got this.

I believe in you.

Do you?

You’re still a writer even if you’re not writing.

PS: I tried to get all of my book stacks from the last year in here, and I did it!  Huzzah!  Last night, Jen and I were talking about money (ew), but she asked me how much a book generally costs me, and then asked if I wanted to know approximately how much I’d spent on books in the last year, AND NO THANKS.  OH MY GOD, DON’T TELL ME.  I know it’s a couple hundred dollars, and I just don’t care.  It’s my therapy.  It makes me so happy.  And today, when I find myself rushing through Saints again, I’m going to put it down and keep reading this Mike Collins bio.  Life goes on.  You don’t need to be writing every second of it.

My 12-Year Novel is Done

I keep wanting to start this blog with, wow it’s been a long time!  But realistically, it’s only been a little over a week since I last posted.

And wow, what a ride these past 10 days have been.  Shortly after the new year, I started editing Alex the Destroyer.  My dad is fantastic, and prints my books out for me, so I get to actually edit on paper.  I always feel like I’m able to work better taking apart a book when I can refer back to things I’ve deleted and not have to save changes that I might want later.  (This was particularly helpful when I crossed out an entire chapter of Pen boys, and then later decided it needed to stay.)  The funny thing about editing Alex is, though, that I forgot I’d already edited it until I was about 50 pages into the printed version.  His story is just one of my favorites, so I like to go back and read small bits of it sometimes, and one of those times turned into a eh might as well edit this real quick, which is not an actual thing, let me assure you.  Editing is not quick.  It took me ages to edit it the first time, but I did it all on the computer.  And, for Alex, this was possible because I know his story so well that deleting things felt right, and I wasn’t ever afraid that I was making a mistake with his story.

But, when I then sat down with the printed version, a very strange thing was happening in which I wasn’t really editing, just making sure that most of my pronouns were names (why is this my thing?  why do I love pronouns more than names?  why am I now known for this?) instead of being confusing chunks of uh who is speaking?  what was that?  It occurred to me, finally, around about chapter nine, which was a blank page that said “something w/ Noah & the twins”.  Ah, right.  When I edited this the first time, I added in six additional chapters that needed to be written.  This time around, I actually ended up axing three of those chapters, and now my Destroyer’s novel rounds out at 47 chapters and about 103k words.

Green day Jesus Of Suburbia lyric! I'm the son of rage and love, the Jesus of suburbia. Typography by Rita(tattoo design) punk rock style

He’s alive, and he’s so fierce, and I love him to pieces.

And damn, it feels good.  It feels really good.  This will be the first novel that I hand to my readers that’s actually been edited ahead of time.  Heck, not even that, this is a final draft.  This is Alex’s story, totally and completely, with nothing missing, and hopefully pretty damn well done.  I expect to edit some more with their comments, but hopefully not nearly as much as I have been with Pen boys.

I’m also at a really good place in my reading right now, so I thought now might be fun for a little 2018 goals check-in.

I know, it’s only been ten days.  But somehow, I’ve already checked off one of my writing goals, and I’ve read five–FIVE–books in those ten days.  I did warn you that January’s wrap-up blog was going to be overflowing.

I’ve finally started my series reread of The Mortal Instruments, and am a little under halfway done with City of Bones.  My plan is to reread the entirety of TMI, and then finally read The Infernal Devices and The Dark Artifices, as well as a few companion novels.  I’m going to try to spread those out so that I’m just finishing up in March when the new season of Shadowhunters comes back, so don’t worry, not all of my reviews for the next few months will be from the Shadowhunter world.  I’ve got a lot of other books that I want to read in that time, as well.

10 days in, and I’m feeling good.  I’ve started teaching a new yoga class–Funky Flow @ Barefoot Yoga Shala, 10:30AM-11:30AM on Saturdays, you should definitely come boogie with me–I’ve finally put the finishing touches on a 12-year novel, I’m reading like it’s going out of style, and I’m about to dig back into the Saints world.  My dad printed out the first book for me yesterday, and I’ve been thinking about it nonstop, so my goal is to edit that next, and then maybe, maybe, write Saints 2.  I honestly have no idea which direction I’ll end up going in when it finally comes time to write again, but that’s what I’d like to do.  My brain also tells me that it wants to write Mason and the Pen boys, and I will, I really will, but Saints has the potential to be wrapped up and finished in only two books, so I’d like to tackle that.

But that’s that.  And now that I’m finally finished editing Alex–gosh, that just feels so good to say out loud–I’m going to try to read another 100 pages of City of Bones today and maybe even start editing Saints.  Man.  Life is good.

I’m coming for you, 2018.

2018 Goals

Happy New Year!

2017 was a wild year, full of a lot of unexpected things.  It was a hugely emotional year, and though I’m happy to leave it behind, I’m also happy to have experienced all of it.  I hope that 2018 brings just as much balance as the year before did, or more.

In the last few weeks leading up to 2018, I’ve been thinking a lot about my reading and writing goals for this year.  I don’t really believe in setting resolutions, so that’s not what this is.  I’m not going to say I’m going to read more–I just am.  So, instead, I have goals for 2018.  And, for the first time, I’m not going into the new year telling myself I need to lose weight.  I’m not really telling myself anything.  I’ve accomplished a lot in the last year, and I’m happy with myself overall, so as I step into 2018, the only things on my mind are words.

I just set my Goodreads challenge for the year, and I am officially going to try to read 100 books in 2018.  It’s definitely going to be a challenge, but I’ve steadily been reading more and more books every year for the past four or so, so I think I can do it.  I’m going to try to start out strong–my goal for today is to finish Prosper Redding, finish the gypsy lore book I got yesterday, read at least 50-100 pages of Mike Collins’ bio, and something else yet decided.  I have a wealth of books going into 2018 already that I want to read.  I got a ton of books over the holidays, so expect January’s wrap-up blog to be overflowing with reviews.

My writing goals are pretty grand, as well.  You’re hearing it here first, so mark this day–Saints will get queried this year.  I thought, for a long time, that Mason would be my first published novel, and then, when that fell through, I was confident that it would be Pen boys.  Who knows, it still might be either of those, but currently, Saints is the strongest story I have written, and the one that has a clear end.  I’m nervous about how Pen boys will go as I continue to write.  I’m fairly certain some things are going to change in it, so I want to allow myself to write as much of it as possible before I start sending it out.  Saints, however, has only got two books in its main series (yes, that does mean I’ve planned other books outside of the Saints at sea spinoff), and I’m pretty damn sure that’s what I’m writing next.  I plotted out the entire second book the other day, and they’re all I’ve been dreaming about, so as soon as I get Alex’s novel edited, I’m going to write that.

So, Saints is going out, Saints 2 is getting written, Alex the Destroyer is getting edited–what else?  I’m going to write both the first Pen boys summer novella and their junior year, and hopefully have at least the summer novella edited by the end of the year.  I’m also planning on finally writing one of the following: Mason, the desert witch (Shri), or Pendulum (vampire detective).  In a crazy world, I’d also write Saints at sea, but we’ll see.

That’s at least four books getting written this year, one getting queried, and two getting edited.  It’s going to be a big, bright, beautiful year, and I can’t wait.

December Reads

I’m writing this on Christmas day, though my hope is that I’ll have another book finished before the end of the month, so fingers crossed!  I got six books for Christmas, which brings my 2018 TBR list up to 10 already, and I’ve still got some leftover from 2017.  Of the 69 books that I was gifted or bought in the year of 2017, I have 19 unread books.  Of those 19, I did not plan on finishing 5 of them, so really, in the end, I’ve only got 14 unread from the year, which I think is pretty good.  My goal for 2018 is to definitely read those 14 books, especially before I buy another book stack.  All of my holiday books have been purchased, so the hope is to read those 14 unread books before February, which will be when I’m next seeing Erin.  That being said, I do also plan on rereading The Mortal Instruments series quite soon, and I’ve been craving a mini David Mitchell reread, so we’ll see how far I get into the holiday books.

And, drumroll please, my final count for the year of 2017 is 82 books!  Look at how cute it all looks put together on Goodreads.

But, enough of all that.  Let’s talk about this month’s books!

What: The Fireman by Joe Hill
When: 5/30-12/2
Rating: ★★★★
Review: Okay, two things about this book.  I know that I started it in May, and thus it seems like it shouldn’t be shelved as a read in December book, but I only read about 70 pages in May, and then abandoned it literally until December.  This was not because it was bad (quite the opposite, in the end), but because I just wasn’t feeling the adult fiction vibe.  Also, I didn’t mean to try to read everything Joe Hill’s written, but apparently I am?  I first read Horns because the movie was excellent, and then read A Heart-Shaped Box because a coworker let me borrow it, and apparently I only have two books left after The Fireman?  Well, clearly I’m continuing to read for a reason.

I’ve read exactly one novel by Stephen King, and that was The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.  It is, by no stretch of the imagination, an even remotely scary book.  And yet, I was pretty damn terrified.  Most of his movies scare the heck out of me, so I was a little wary going into Horns, which was why, ultimately, I decided to watch the movie before reading the book.  And boy, was I wrong in thinking Hill would write like his father at all.  To be fair, however, I don’t really know what King writes like, so it’s possible Hill does, but I find Hill’s stories a lot funnier, creepier in weird, sarcastic ways, and much more complex.  There’s so much going on at any given moment, but all of it ties together really splendidly.

The Fireman itself is about a post-apocalypse (kind of) universe where a disease has caused people to burn up from the inside out.  The main character, Harper, joins a group of people that will definitely remind you of a cult who have learned how to live cohesively with the disease.  She befriends a character, whom the novel is named after, John, who can control the “scale”.  And while all that is well and good, the thing that I enjoyed the most about this book was the level of feminism in it.  I admit that I was skeptical going in.  Not only is Harper a woman, she’s pregnant and has recently left her husband, so I was ready to be less than pleased about her representation.  Hill knocked it out of the freaking park.  Harper is an individual in every way possible, and doesn’t depend on the different men in her life.  She’s strong, she’s weak, she’s a badass, she’s terrified, she’s maternal, she’s batshit, she’s everything all at once, and I freaking love her.  Yes, the scifi half of this was excellent, but Harper’s character really made this story for me.

What: That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston
When: 12/3-12/5
Rating: ★★★
Review: I wanted to like this book, and I think it’s because of the cover.  I don’t dislike it, but I don’t particularly love it either.  Going in, I thought I was going to be reading about a modern-set novel with Victorian elements.  Why modern-set?  There’s genetic coding, pretty futuristic technology, and a heck ton of equality.  And yet, I admit I’m still not quite sure when this was supposed to take place.  Reading the Goodreads summary, I see that it is, indeed, supposed to be future-set, but there was just so much that led me to believe that we were either in the mid-1900s or just somewhere before the 21st century.  The equality was just–over the top, too.  I know this sounds awful, but it wasn’t realistic in the slightest.  The world was almost utopian because there was no muss, no fuss about literally anything.  Really, it was like Jane Austen, but with genetic upgrades.

My problem with this book is that it’s misleading.  There are snippets in between each chapter from the past (I think?  These were super unclear, too.) that talk about everything that Queen Victoria I did in order to create this utopian society–how she married into a different race, how she opened the gates for same-sex marriages, etc. (also, all while in the late 1800s, so there’s that).  And all of it was based around the Computer (basically God), which shows you your genetic makeup, and then I think you could change things if you wanted, and you could also see your best possible genetic match via the Computer, and all of this sounds incredibly interesting, but there’s only one scene that has anything to do with this in the entire book, though a lot of it is built around this.  It was just really a let down.  Don’t get me wrong, the characters were great, and that’s why it got 3 stars and not 2, but the story was just–meh.

What: Beyond the Bright Blue Sea by Lauren Wolk
When: 12/6-12/8
Rating: ★★★★
Review: And then there’s this gem!  I picked up a few middle grade books the last time I was out shopping, and I’m so glad that I did.  This novel follows Crow, a 12-year-old who washed up on one of the Elizabeth islands outside of Massachusetts as an infant.  She’s lived there all her life with Osh, Mouse, and Miss Maggie, and this is her journey of finding out where she came from and who she is.

This was such an adorable novel.  I loved it from beginning to end, and it was so well written.  Each of the characters had such big personalities, and I found myself vastly interested in all of them.  The story itself was full of twists and emotional moments that I was not expecting, and it was such an enjoyable journey.  I only gave it four stars instead of five because it was just good, not exceptional.  I really loved reading it, and I’d definitely recommend it, but it didn’t leave me going OH MY GOD at the end.

What: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
When: 12/10-12/16
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: I’ve talked about Maggie before, so I’m not going to rehash it all here, so this review will be fairly short.  This is my seventh time reading this novel, and I have one of the lines from it tattooed on me.  Shiver is the first in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, and it’s very likely you’ll see reviews for LingerForever, and the standalone Sinner, pop up in the next month or two.  Shiver tells the beginning of Sam and Grace’s story.  Grace is a girl trapped in a human body that wants to be a wolf running through the woods, and Sam is a boy trapped in a wolf’s body that wants to be a human holding Grace’s hand.  The story starts with the wolves attacking Grace, and just unravels from there.  Yes, there are werewolves.  Yes, this is, as Maggie calls it, a capital K Kissing book, and holy hell, there’s a ton of romance in it, and it’s beautiful.

This is easily, hands-down, my favorite of Maggie’s books.  It might honestly even just be my favorite book, which is saying a lot because hello, Harry Potter.  I’ve already reviewed three Maggie books this year, and talked about her in my Auto-Buy Authors blog, so I’m just going to leave you with that.  It’s my favorite of hers, and maybe my favorite book ever, so you should definitely read it.  I even named one of my cats after the main character, Grace.

What: See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
When: 12/10-12/18
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: This was so gosh dang cute.  I absolutely adored every second of this book.  The format of it is really interesting, too, and what I think made me like it so much.  The story follows 11-year-old Alex, who is IN LOVE with space.  His dream, at the beginning of the book, is to send his Golden iPod, which he’s been recording Earth sounds on, into space on a rocket so that other lifeforms will someday intercept it and hear what Earth is all about.  What ensues after that is the journey of a lifetime.  It’s full of all sorts of drama and angst that I did not expect from this sweet-sounding story, and it nearly tore my heart out.

The format of the story are Alex’s recordings, and I want you to just imagine how an 11-year-old talks–super fast and all at once.  Alex is over the moon excited about space and his hero, Carl Sagan, and talks about both of these pretty constantly.  This was a super fast read, and very, very enjoyable overall.

What: Shadows of the Dark Crystal by J.M. Lee
When: 12/21-12/27
Rating: ★★★
Review: I was going to say that I probably had too high expectations for this book, but then I read about how the Jim Henson Company went on this Author Quest to find the perfect author to write the story, and now I’m even more frustrated at how poorly written this was.  The story relied heavily on the fact that its readers have seen the original movie.  And while I have, that was probably almost 20 years ago, and I was a small child when I first saw it.  Yes, there were illustrations in the book, which helped–and which were beautiful–but the world and the races both were not described well.  It was really hard for me to find my footing in this book and to understand what it looked like.  I could follow the plot well enough, but it was pretty hard to figure out what the Skeksis Lords, the different Gelfling characters, and uvRa (is that his name?) looked like, not to mention the Dark Wood, Sog, and the Crystal Castle.  Stone-in-the-Wood was pretty easy, but that’s because we only spent a chapter there.

Overall, I gave this novel 3 stars because I enjoyed the characters and the plot.  It was interesting to dive back into the world of the Dark Crystal, and to find out where it all began.  If you’ve never seen the movie, though, I don’t recommend this as you’ll feel pretty lost.

I thought I might be able to read another book before the end of 2017, but alas, this is it!  My intention is to greet the new year strong, to read as much as possible in January, and to wrap up the remaining 14 books from 2017 before we get too far into 2018.  I’ve got a lot of reading goals for 2018, and I can’t wait to see what new worlds I get to explore.  Happy New Year!

Top 10 Reads of 2017

Oh man, am I excited about this blog!  This is going to be so hard to narrow down to just 10 books, but I’m going to give it my best.  There are a couple rules that I’m going to follow:

  1. It doesn’t have to be published in 2017, just read in 2017.
  2. Rereads don’t count, and only one book per author.
  3. Only one book per series, as well!

Alright, let’s do this.  They’re arranged alphabetically by author’s last name because no way am I trying to order them by favorite.  All of these are five star reviews, and all of them will contain why they’re in my top 10 of the 82 I’ve read this year.  Instead of detailing what they’re about, I’ve linked them so you can read their summaries on Goodreads, and I’m going to try to hook you with one sentence of what they’re about.

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What: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Why: It seems very fitting that this is the first book on the list.  This book completely took over my life when I started reading it.  Normally, I read here or there, and it takes me a week or two to read something of this length, but every single day when I got home, I would read anywhere between 100-200 pages in a sitting.  I was so absorbed in the story that I couldn’t put it down.

It was not just one thing about this book that hooked me, either.  I loved the characters in a kind of all-consuming, soul-crushing sort of way where I pored over fanart for hours, dreamt about happier times for them, thought about them when I couldn’t read, and then woke up one morning with an entirely new novel that I wanted to write that was drawing inspiration from this.  The story, too, was just–incredible.  There are not really enough adjectives to describe how much I adored the story.  The plot itself was very well crafted, but it was the stories of the characters, too, and the little stories woven into the bigger one, that I loved just as much.  The world is phenomenal.  I want to live in that world so much that I’ve got the Grishaverse trilogy coming to me in the mail right now so that I can dive back into it.  It’s just a truly stunning work of art.  The writing is gorgeous, and I am so envious of Bardugo’s skill.

This is the first in a duology.  The second is Crooked Kingdom.
Hook: The king of thieves, a tightrope walker, a soldier, an artist, a sorceress, and a gambler walk into a high-security military stronghold, and try to walk back out again with something that doesn’t belong to them.

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What: This is Our Story by Ashley Elston
Why: If you like Riverdale, you’ll like this.  Or Pretty Little Liars.  This book has a crazy ass twist at the end, and I was completely blindsided by it.  I really enjoyed a lot of little things about this book.  There are chapters in between the regular ones which are told in a first person POV, but you don’t know which of the four remaining boys the POV is in.  There are no names, so you’re left guessing right up until the end who it could have been, and let me tell you, I was dead wrong.  The romance in this is really subtle at first, too, and really sweet once it finally comes out.  It’s not big and in your face like I expected, but honestly, very realistic.  I was very, very pleased with the main character’s reaction to everything.

I’ll admit, I picked this book up because of the cover and that line at the top–Five went in.  Four came out.  I mean, damn.  And I’m sure as heck glad that I did.  This was very enjoyable, very well written, and kept me guessing the whole way through.
Hook: Five boys went into the woods one day, and of the four that came out, one of them was a murderer.

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What: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Why: Guns.  Desert.  Magic.  Adventure.  Kissing.  What more could you want, am I right?  Not only is this book gorgeous on the outside, but it’s outstanding on the inside, as well.  Right from that very first chapter, I wanted more.  I wanted more of the characters, of the world, and of the story.  Hamilton did a really excellent job of weaving old mythology into a new, exciting world and bending that mythos a little to create something a little bit wild.  I loved the different secrets that each character held, sometimes ones that even they didn’t know, and I really appreciated how those secrets finally came out.  The main character was so strong and so well-developed, and I wanted so much for her.

There’s just so much packed into this novel, but it doesn’t feel overstuffed.  Hamilton has a very clear grip on both her characters and her story.  She is an excellent storyteller, and manages to interweave so many different elements in a way that felt cohesive and thrilling.  I could not wait to pick up the next book after I read this, and I might actually be dying while waiting for the third.  And really, how the heck is this her debut?  Damn, girl.

This is the first in a trilogy.  The second is Traitor to the Throne, and the third, Hero at the Fall, is due in March 2018.
Hook: A blue-eyed bandit whose gun is an extension of her arm, and whose true name is a secret.

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What: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Why: This book is like music put into words.  Like if you took actual notes and translated them into words.  It’s just beautiful.  The writing in this is like nothing I’ve ever seen, and I loved it so much that I immediately went out and bought Nelson’s other book after reading this.  It’s heartbreaking, romantic, full of loss and love and tragedy and triumph, and just so well written.  There’s nothing about this book that I don’t love.

It’s told in a really interesting way, too.  One of the twins is in the past, and one is in the future, and there was this terrible thing that happened between them to push them apart that we don’t find out about until the two stories collide.  It’s such a beautiful, sad story about the very specific bond between siblings, and it’ll make you cry and laugh all at once.
Hook: Twins who cut the world in half, and make deals in love.

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What: The Someday Birds by Sally J Pla
Why: I honestly want to recommend this book to everyone.  I read it in one day, which very rarely happens, but I just couldn’t put this down.  There is so much to love in this book.  First: the story.  I did say I was only going to do the one-sentence hook, and while I still am, there was a very specific reason I picked up this book.  Well, two.  The cover was gorgeous, so I immediately picked it up, but then I found out that main character was autistic, and it was an automatic buy.  I was kind of, like, distantly aware that most novels don’t have characters with disabilities, and if they do, they’re certainly not the main character.  I’ve been more closely aware of it lately, though, and so I’ve been trying to buy and read more books with characters with disabilities as either the main character or one of the main secondary characters.  Even beyond the autism, though (which Pla handles amazingly), the story itself is just beautiful.  I found myself laughing and crying equally in this one-sitting reading.

Second: the characters.  Every single character in this was unique, and had a really interesting personality.  It wasn’t just a quirk to their personality, either, that made them stand out, but just themselves overall.  They were just so well-crafted.  And third: the language.  Pla is an outstanding writer, and I am very, very eager to read what she writes next.
Hook: A boy on a cross-country journey to find the secret to happiness for his father.

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What: A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
Why: I was introduced to Schwab through one of my dear friends.  It’s been a long time since I had someone in my life who read the same kind of books as me, and who I was able to share recommendations with.  Patrick was adamant that I read this, and I’d already picked up ADSOM and This Savage Song in a book haul, so I finally dug in.  Wow.  It took me about two and a half weeks to read the entire series, and since that fateful month in July, I’ve read two more Schwab books and purchased another two.  The way she combines magic, fantasy, realistic characters, gorgeous words, and story is just out of this world.  Schwab is a master storyteller.  This is the perfect kind of book when you’ve read Harry Potter a million times and want to read something similar, but with more stakes and more of an adult world.

This is the first in a complete trilogy.  The second is A Gathering of Shadows, and the third is A Conjuring of Light.
Hook: Once, there were four Londons, but that was before magic tried to eat one of them whole.

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What: Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth by Andrew Smith
Why: When I was creating this list, I wasn’t sure if I was going to include a nonfiction, but I really, truly enjoyed this biography.  I’ve been slowly working my way through astronaut biographies, though, strangely, they’ve only been ISS explorers and not moonwalkers.  So, this was my first foray into the world of the incredible men who walked on the moon, and my, what a wonderful introduction it was.

Smith manages to create a story that is both magical and informative, and I walked away from this feeling like I’d not only really, truly learned something, but maybe also understood a little better the beauty of seeing the Earth from so far away.  Each chapter was dedicated to a different moonwalker, and each chapter was told in such a different, odd way.  I’d like to think that each chapter was true to the moonwalker’s personality.  It was very enjoyable to see all of them in such a light, and to watch Smith’s own boyhood excitement about space unravel each time he met a new one.  This is definitely one of my top 5 astronaut biographies so far.
Hook: Only twelve men have ever walked on the moon, and these are their very strange stories.

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What: The Watchers by Jon Steele
Why: This was one of those books that I shelved on Goodreads a long time before I started reading it.  I asked for it on Christmas because I kept buying YA books instead of it, and even after I got it, I was wary about starting it.  It takes a really excellent adult novel to pull me in these days.  I blame that entirely on David Mitchell, but I just can’t get into an adult novel unless it’s got one hell of a story.  This is, weirdly enough, not the same for YA, and so, going into this, I was a little hesitant to start it.  And let me tell you, damn.  Though the entire trilogy took me about three months to read, it was mostly because I didn’t want it to end.  Quite frankly, I want to reread it.  It was so superbly crafted.  The story is just–I’ve never seen anything like it.  The characters were all flawed and well-developed, and continued to change over the three books.  They each had their own big journeys to overcome, as well as basically saving the world together.

They were also hugely inspiring.  My interest in Western religion was reignited, and I started researching Christianity again (translation: reading the Bible).  Much later in the year, it would be one of the main inspirations for one of my novels, and continues to stand out in my mind.  The writing style is definitely not for everyone, but I found it engaging and almost Tolkien-like.  This felt like a grand adventure.

This is the first in a complete trilogy.  The second is Angel City, and the third is The Way of Sorrows.
Hook: Michael the Archangel, but with guns and cigarettes.

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What: All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Why: I will admit, I almost didn’t put this on here.  This was in a three-way tie with Starfall and Into the Dim.  In the end, Maggie’s writing won out.  I still think I need to read this one or two more times to fully sink into it, but for the first time out of the gate, I adored this novel’s language.  I also enjoyed the story and characters, but really, in the end, it was her mastery with words that made this one of my favorites in the year.  I would not recommend it as a first novel to read by her, or even really a second, but once you’ve started to sink your teeth into Stiefvater, crack this open and get ready.

This is so short because it’s so hard to explain, but also because there are not enough words to do it justice.
Hook: What would you do if someone offered you a miracle?

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What: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Why: I talked about my journey with this book when I reviewed it, so I’ll just quickly summarize it here–this was one of those books that I wasn’t sure about, and that hooked me straight through the heart and didn’t let go.  Overall, I was just so in love with the story and the world.  It’s one of those epic adventures stories, and the pacing of the novel really lends to that.  It moves slowly, but it packs a big punch.  The world is so full, too.  There’s so much tucked in between these covers, and it’s just–I don’t know why, but the word luscious keeps coming to mind when I think of this book.

In the end, though, it was the main character, Lazlo Strange, that made me fall in love.  From the first time we meet him, I was drawn straight into his orbit, and I didn’t want to let go.  I was so upset when the story came to an end, and I cannot wait for the next one.  I can’t wait to see what Lazlo becomes, what happens with Weep, and how that whirlwind of a story concludes.  It’s full of magic, romance, adventure, and big, bright, beautiful  moments.

This is the first in a duology.  The second, The Muse of Nightmares, does not yet have a release date.
Hook: The name of a beloved city was plucked from a librarian’s mind, so he travels to the city to find out why.