Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Mini Reviews: 2017 Edition

As I mentioned at the beginning of the year, one of my reading goals was to try to stay current when it came to YA releases. I've done a pretty good job, if I do say so myself, and because I've read so many new books this year, I thought I'd do you all a favor by summing up my thoughts for each book. This way, you can pick out which books look best to you and flail around with me.

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson


WOW. #1 underrated book of the year. I can't believe I didn't see more hype for this because it's so good??? This is one of those stories where you'll never have all the information. You pretty much spend the entire time confused as hell and you'll thank the author for it. It's a chilling mystery masked as a contemporary. Mary is an unreliable narrator due to the trauma she's experienced, which makes every important event blurred. It's infuriating and addicting. The ending leaves something to be desired in the sense that the general conclusion is genius, but I think it was executed poorly. However, you'd be missing out if you didn't pick up this dark, gritty, raw, gripping, and shocking tale that will haunt you for days.

Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer


Iko is my precious android warrior, which made this spinoff of the Lunar Chronicles series all the more enjoyable. The illustrations added another depth to my perception of the characters, other than Wolf, who I always imagined to look more human than wolfish. Not only do you get to spend the whole time watching Iko kicking butt and possibly setting up a budding romance for herself, but you also get more than a taste of Cress and Thorne. They were the secondary stars of the show, and with good reason, since you can't help but love how adorable they are together.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


This is a tough read right off the bat, but it's well worth it. You know how sometimes new YA books get so much hype that when you finally get around to reading it, you're disappointed? That's not the case with this one. Angie Thomas is the master of weaving important issues into a compelling story. It's not preachy and it's not eye-rollingly forced. I enjoyed every page, mostly because the characters were so well-written. I loved to love some of them and I loved to hate others. The family dynamics were realistic, something that's not always prevalent in YA fiction. It's painful and raw at times and fluffy and funny at others, but most of all it's a perfect blend of all of those things.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli


Becky Albertalli has done it again! How is she so good at creating relatable teens who we're able to fall in love with? My heart. You guys. This was so darn cute. I just want to curl up between the pages of the book and take a nap in the sun. Molly's voice was so addictive and conversational. It was nothing fancy, but it was honest and funny. I felt like I was settled directly inside her brain with her every thought. Plus, she's obsessed with Pinterest and has a massive crush on Lin-Manuel Miranda, so what's not to love about her? And the food. I was craving Cadbury mini eggs as much as I craved Oreos when I read Simon. Also! Family dynamics! Siblings! PARENTS WHO ARE ALIVE AND HAVE A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR CHILDREN. Molly and her twin sister Cassie interacted like real life siblings. And I LOVED seeing a healthy, non-sexualized, loving, committed, normal relationship between two women (who were awesome moms, no less!). And for all you Simon fans out there, Simon and Abby make cameos! The only teeny tiny thing I had an issue with was the fact that I found the love triangle to be a bit too predictable. I knew first thing who Molly would end up with, if she ended up with anybody. But that didn't make the romance any less cute or fun. Readthisbookreadthisbookreadthisbook.

Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz


Imagine Pride & Prejudice except with Hamilton and the Schuyler sisters. If this sounds like your cup of tea, it probably is, and you should definitely go make a cup right now to go with your new reading material. This book has so much fluff, I contemplated making a few stuffed animals with it. While I am no enemy to fluff and romance, it was slow at times when there was no reason to be. There were plenty of chances for far more exciting chapters, but instead we got detailed descriptions about the gowns Angelica and Peggy wore. Clearly it was written at the perfect time to capitalize on the "Hamilton" craze, which I didn't mind, but that meant I was disappointed by Angelica's portrayal in particular. Everything I've read about her relationship with Hamilton, especially from the Ron Chernow biography, said that she and Hamilton shared an intense sibling-like bond due to their passionate natures and razor-sharp wit. In Alex & Eliza, though, Angelica comes off as rude, snobby, and mean. Hamilton and Eliza did come off exactly how I imagined they would, though, which made up for it.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon


Buckle up, kids, because I have more conflicted feelings about this book than Harry Potter fans do about Severus Snape. This is the perfect example of a case where the hype for a book left me disappointed. Very little kept me reading to the end, and that was because I 1. had invested so much time already in the book already and 2. was a little curious what happened because I did still like the characters well enough. First of all, personal issue here, but I think using the third person for a YA contemporary romance is super odd. We hardly ever see anything but first person when reading YA contemporaries these days. Third person only works if you can still make me feel really connected to the characters, and I was about as connected to them as a spotty WiFi signal. Sometimes I was super into them and their relationships and other times I found myself zoning out. The dialogue was so unnatural. There were whole conversations that took place simply because it moved the plot forward, which is what dialogue is supposed to do, but it's also supposed to do that without the reader realizing it. Grr. I did love the diversity! It was really cool to read about Indian culture from two American-Indian teenagers with two very different perspectives! Buuuuut, it dealt with these issues in a really preachy, awkward way. Sandhya Menon could learn a thing or two from Angie Thomas. I've talked with my teenage friends about social issues. We don't talk like that. The nerdiness was great and I loved the concept of a coding camp where everyone's in a competition to create an app, but for the whole six or so weeks they were at the camp the author? Never?? Once??? Showed them???? In class????? Why. Why why why. That could've made things way more interesting and added a ton more tension (which was sorely lacking) rather than sending Dimple and Rishi to various restaurants for lunch every day. I love food, but food does not make up for a slow plot that wanders and repeats itself. One of the big saving graces to this book was that, however unrealistic several parts of it were, the romance was cute! Downright adorable! I totally shipped it. I mean, when a girl flings her iced coffee at a boy during their first meeting, it's all uphill from there. As you can see, I have a lot of feelings (mostly mixed) about this book, but it wasn't terrible.

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz


This author has a gift for taking my heart, pulverizing it, blending it into a pain-flavored smoothie, and handing it to me in a way that I'll happily slurp the whole thing down. (Like that imagery?) It wasn't quite Aristotle and Dante levels of wow, but WOW. My interest was held throughout an unusually long contemporary with little plot, largely due to how good these characters were written. I love his characters, every single one of them. The friendship, the family dynamics, the love of dogs (dogs who don't die, might I add!), and the food (homemade tortillas . . . *drools*) made this story something I missed reading when I was doing something else. It was such a cozy book to curl up with before bed, even if it made me cry like twelve times. (Probably more. Definitely more.)

Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia


Why, hello there, book that was made expressly for me. I totally identified with Eliza as an introverted fangirl who spends lots of time online and on my phone, but, like Eliza, I'm actually being very social online! Some of my best friends were made through fan-fiction and forums, and they live in other states and countries and time zones, but they're still great friendships. The romance was super cute and unconventional and the story reminded me a lot of Fangirl if it were set in high school. Read this if you're looking for something to whip through in a single day.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus


Hats off to Lara Liz who recommended this to me, because otherwise I never would have heard about it! I can't figure out for the life of me why more people haven't shouted about this one from the rooftops. So. Many. Plot twists. I really should've seen some of them coming, but I didn't, and that's largely due to the really freaking great use of four unreliable narrators. Seriously, they're written so well that you can't help but love them and simultaneously suspect they're murderers. I heard it's being developed into a TV show, too, which is an excellent choice, because I binged this book late into the night and enjoyed every second of it.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo


Leigh Bardugo, my girl, killing it over here like the real Wonder Woman. The snark, the plot, the diversity, the conflict, the pain, all of it. Just all of it. Diana and Themyscira were portrayed exactly as I expected them to be while still remaining fresh and interesting. As always, Bardugo is the queen of dialogue (along with Rainbow Rowell--I could sit around all day listening to their characters talk), which added a layer of humor to a tense plot. While authors complain about "the dreaded middle" of any novel they write, this fabulous author right here completely nailed it. Funnily enough, my only complaints are with the beginning and the end. I found the beginning a little too slow and the end a little too jolting (this is mostly because of a plot twist I had a hard time believing, but I'm willing to forgive that since the rest of it was so darn good). Let's give it up for badass women!

More 2017 releases I'm looking forward to reading . . .

What 2017 releases have you loved so far? What are you still looking forward to? Leave a comment!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

9 Books to Read If You Like "Supernatural"

October is upon us, and for me, that means a few things:

1. NaNoWriMo planning (*screams quietly while staring at a mess of a Word document filled with manic notes*)
2. Halloween costume planning (Wait until you see what I did this year)
3. A new season of "Supernatural!!!!!!!!"

I've already watched the first episode and WOW are we "Supernatural" fans in for a wild ride. But while we're bemoaning various cliffhangers and realizing we have to wait a week or longer for much needed answers, here are some books you can read with a touch of something "Supernatural" to it to tide you over.

Warning: Mild "Supernatural" spoilers ahead!

1. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

I'm only 25 pages in, but I know what the story is, and I can already tell it's going to be great. There's literally a character named Crowley. How much more do you need?

All right, but besides that, it's also super funny and deals with the apocalypse. What happens when the anti-christ named Adam . . .

. . . grows up with the wrong family and thus isn't properly prepared to bring about the end of the world?

2. Contaminated by Em Garner

Zombies! Family drama! The oh-so-complicated question of what to do when your family member has literally turned into a monster!

3. Misery by Stephen King

It'd be kind of impossible to leave a Stephen King novel off this list, so here we are. Annie is like the ultimate "Supernatural" big bad: off-putting, deceptive, and surprisingly strong. Imagine Lucifer torturing Sam in the cage. Now imagine Sam is a writer and Stephen King wrote the story.

4. The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Aliens aren't exactly on the same level as paranormal creatures, but they still make for an awesome story. Especially when possession is involved! (She said, with entirely too much glee.) I love the conflict that comes from various characters trying to figure out whether or not Wanda (the alien possessing Melanie) is a villain simply because she's an alien. Just like all those times in "Supernatural" when Sam and Dean argued over whether monsters are just monsters, period, or if some monsters can be good guys, too.

5. You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

In case any of you miss Charlie as much as I do.

6. The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

Gotta love shapeshifters. And an addictive plot with plenty of twists and turns. I devoured the whole trilogy in less than a week, so this should definitely keep you busy until the next episode.

7. Fairest by Marissa Meyer

If there's one thing "Supernatural" does well (and they do so many things well), they know how to create fresh and interesting villains. Some villains are straight up evil (*cough* Metatron *cough*) and some are a little more complicated than that. Crowley, for instance, as even the Winchesters had to team up with him a few times. Fairest is able to show just how easily a good person can go down the wrong path.

8. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Now there's nothing paranormal about this, but, it deals with someone who's lingering perilously between life and death and it's guaranteed to make you bawl like a baby. In other words, every season finale of "Supernatural" ever.

9. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater


What book would you recommend to a "Supernatural" fan? Who's your favorite "Supernatural" villain? Leave a comment!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Untitled NaNoWriMo Novel of Paranormal Insanity

It's my favorite time of year: NaNoWriMo season! I've spent the past week creating my characters, outlining my novel, and wondering why in the world I can't find a title for it yet. Although most of my ideas are pretty vague, I have a good feeling about this one. On with the questions!

1. What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

Last year's novel was a total disaster. Between a busy Thanksgiving with relatives, my first semester of studying for finals with my dual enrollment classes, and an overall unpreparedness on my part, I ended up with a flaming pile of 20,000-words worth of garbage. I swear, only 1,000 of those words were salvageable.

So I decided to take the best elements of last year's novel and mush them into this year's novel. I also have four protagonists instead of one, because I always prefer ensemble casts. It's much easier to hop around different chapters if you're feeling stuck with one character.

And the last bit of inspiration came from an overall frustration of the lack of LGBTQ+ teen representation in genre fiction. I love the contemporary books I've read lately with gay teens (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, History is All You Left Me, etc.), but I'd really love to see that but with more, you know, dragons and ghosts and stuff. So I'm fixing that.

2. Describe what your novel is about!

I wrote an extremely rough draft of a blurb. Extremely rough. You've been warned.

Wesley, Sonya, Ryan, and Eleanor are strangers to each other when they each acquire an ability they never asked for. Wesley relies on his precision for his dream of becoming a chef and suddenly gains superhuman strength that he can’t control. Sonya, an out-and-proud lesbian, is cursed with invisibility that acts at random, making her feel like she’s in the closet all over again. Ryan, already nervous about reconciling her stage fright with her passion to sing, obtains the power to see into the future, adding to her anxious mind. Eleanor is confused by her own feelings, but now has to sort through everyone else’s as well as her own when she becomes an emotional telepath.

The school musical is the only thing these four have in common when they’re thrown together. It’s not just the strange things happening in their lives they have to figure out; something weird is happening to the town, too. Houses appear overnight, birds grow second heads, graffiti turns into magic sigils, and the high school’s principal wanders the streets in the early morning. It’s up to four teens, who definitely did not sign up for this, to change things back to the way they were. Or maybe change things for the better.

3. What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

I am oh-so-very proud of my Pinterest board this year, so you should definitely check that out! But I'll leave you a few pictures as a teaser.

4. Introduce us to each of your characters!

Meet Sonya: valedictorian, playing Cosette in the school's production of "Les Misérables," and a Yale-bound actress. She's also extremely superstitious, outgoing, and settled in her sexuality (she's been out as a lesbian all through high school), which is part of why it's so awful when she's cursed with invisibility that acts at random.

This is Eleanor. She's a science whiz with her heart set on becoming a neurosurgeon. Sometime after being cast as Eponine, she found herself falling for Cosette instead of Marius. But right when she started to ask herself what she really felt, she gained the unwanted gift of emotional telepathy, which added everyone else's feelings to the mix.

Wesley has big dreams of being a chef someday, so his house always smells like freshly-baked bread or spices or something unidentifiably delicious. When he's not watching a variety of cooking shows, he's helping out with light and sound for the school musical. Not only does he require precision to cook his masterpieces, but he's also quiet and empathetic, so his sudden superhuman strength is more of a hindrance than a help.

Ryan constantly has to deal with two contrasting parts of herself: she's shy and riddled with stage fright but she also wants to be a singer. Even though she's fully capable of being onstage with Eleanor and Sonya, Ryan stays behind the curtain where she can help with costuming. She can always sing in the safety of her room where her dog is her only audience. Now, though, her newfound ability of seeing the future (well, not the future, but every single possibility of how the future could turn out) only adds to her growing anxiety.

And this is Ryan's dog, Dodie. She's a Havanese and I am not one of those monsters who kills off the dog, so rest assured, Dodie is safe.

5. How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

All of the above??? Part of my problem last year was I had no outline to follow, so when 15,000 words in I started losing direction, I lost so much direction. The book by the middle resembled nothing like the beginning. This time, I made sure I at least knew how the story started and ended. It may change, but at least now I have something to guide me. I'll probably spend the next month filling in details as I think of them.

6. What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

The characters! I love them all so much. (Dodie is definitely my favorite, but shh, don't tell the others that.) I'm also looking forward to channeling my theatre obsession through Sonya and the school musical. My urban witches are also going to be pretty cool, too. They create magic sigils through graffiti.

7. List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

1. Not quite right
2. Ever changing
3. Definitely haunted

8. What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

Ha, I already answered this question in the character bios! Internal conflict is one of my favorite ways to handle my stories because I suck so hard at writing good, well-rounded villains, even though I love reading/watching them.

9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

Well that would ruin the whole surprise . . .

10. What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

My themes usually come through more during revisions. Unless you're a very special author who has this down to a science, I've found that when somebody sets out on a mission to carry a theme through a book, it comes across as heavy-handed. I do have a feeling that this novel is going to be breaking a lot of stereotypes, though.

What's your NaNoWriMo book about this year? What are you most excited for? Leave a comment!

Friday, October 6, 2017

In Case You Missed It . . .

Engie at "Musings From Neville's Navel" tagged me for the ICYMI tag! The rules are simple: Go through the past two years of your blog and pick the five posts you most want people to read. Then tag five blogs to do the same. This is perfect for new readers who have just discovered your blog or even old readers who might have overlooked a post or two.

And since we already know I have no respect for the rules when it comes to limiting myself to a certain number, I decided to share seven of my favorite blog posts from the past two years. Seven is the most magical number, after all.

Without further ado . . .

7 Awesome Blog Posts You Might Not Have Read:

1. "Dear OTP (TCWT Blog Chain)"

Ah, the days of "Teens Can Write Too," back when I was young and innocent and didn't torment my characters nearly as much as I do now . . .

I mean, my characters are definitely happy and have never known pain. What are you talking about?

Anyways, I wrote several letters to my favorite fictional ships and you should definitely read them if you haven't yet.

2. "The Importance of Fan-Fiction"

Even after years of fan-fiction gaining popularity on the internet, there are a still a few people who don't consider fan-fiction "real writing" or even valid as an art form. I wrote a post defending it, because clearly it's awesome.

3. "What Makes a Great Fictional Romance?"

If you haven't noticed, I talk a lot about shipping on my blog. It's so much fun! But what makes a ship so ship-able (an actual for real word I did not just make up nope no way)? You can find out by reading this handy dandy blog post.

4. "The Stages of Reading a Really Good Book"

If you're a bookworm like I am, chances are you can relate to this.

5. "Seven 'Facts' About YA Novels that are as Accurate as Ron Weasley's Divination Predictions"

If you want to see me use various Weasley-related gifs to take down flimsy arguments about why YA novels aren't that great, look no further.

6. "On Writing Endings"

It's hard to say goodbye, especially to a book you loved writing, but there's also something really satisfying about finishing a book, too. I tackle all the mixed feelings of typing "the end" in this post. Plus, you can learn about my descent into madness as I grew closer to the end.

7. "I Use Gifs to Describe My Writing Process (and to describe a lot of other things)"

Gifs, gifs galore! And more descents into madness! Everything you will ever need to know about me as a writer! I'm sure my fellow writers can relate to a lot of it, too.

I tag . . .

1. Lara Liz at "Another Teen Reader" 
2. Ivy at "Ivyclad Ideas" 
3. Sophy at "Lavender + Blue"
4. Amber at "The Mile Long Bookshelf"
5. Emma at "Kittens on Bookshelves"

Have fun!