Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Upside of Unrequited (book review)


Released: April 11th, 2017
Pages: 338

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back.

There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.


Goodreads

Ahhhhhhhhh, I'm so excited I got to read this book right away! Spoiler alert: I loved it. I got to read another 2017 book for my goal of the year to read more new releases, and seriously, 2017 hasn't disappointed me yet. And my parents got me the beautiful hardcover for me because it was published on my birthday! Happy birthday to me indeed.

Let's talk about the book.


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. It's the perfect summer beach read. Throughout the day, I'd find myself thinking about the book and how I couldn't wait to get back to it because every time I picked it up, I immediately relaxed and lost myself in the story again.

Molly's voice was so addictive and conversational. It was nothing fancy, but it was honest and funny and relatable. I felt like I was settled directly inside her brain with her every thought. She was part of the reason why the book was so compelling. 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. It's a good thing I read this right around Easter time, because I was craving Cadbury mini eggs pretty much the entire time. (Thanks to my little brother for letting me steal a handful of his.) I also want cookie dough in a mason jar, but that craving hasn't been remedied. Yet.




Guess what this book also had that YA readers everywhere have been begging for since forever? Family dynamics! Siblings! PARENTS WHO ARE ALIVE AND HAVE A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR CHILDREN. Molly and her twin sister Cassie interacted like realistic siblings. They protective of each other, they bicker, they love each other, they drive each other crazy, etc. And I LOVED seeing a healthy, non-sexualized, loving, committed, normal relationship between two women (who were awesome moms, no less!). So refreshing. Nadine and Patty made me giggle more than once. They're super cool and are friends with their kids, but they also don't pull any punches when Cassie and Molly misbehave.


OH. OH. AND. Guess what Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda fans?! Simon makes a cameo! And Abby, who is Molly's cousin! It was so fun to see them again and hear about Simon's absolute love for Harry Potter, even if it was only for a second.


Okay, but there was one little itty bitty thing I had a teeny tiny problem with.



But it wasn't a huge deal! When I heard that there was a love triangle in Upside, I have to admit, I was suspicious. And with good reason, because, as it's to be expected when it comes to 99% of all love triangles, it fell flat. I liked the nerd, Reid, go figure, because he's into the Ren Faire and Lord of the Rings and sends weird texts to his best friends and helLO THAT'S ME. The other guy, "hipster Will," didn't work for me, but I won't tell you what happens! Just go read it already!

I'm pretty sure you can guess what I rated this book.



Shocking, right?
 
Have you read The Upside of Unrequited? What did you think? What are your favorite books with lovable families? Leave a comment!
 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Hello, Sun! (The "Spring Has Sprung" Book Tag)

Engie tagged me for the "Spring Has Sprung" book tag, and now that the weather actually feels like spring and the sun is coming out more*, I thought I'd finally take a shot at it!

*Of course, as soon as I was able to finish and post this, it got cold, rainy, and windy again . . .



Flowers
Look on your shelves. What is the most beautiful book both inside and out?


The cover of I'll Give You the Sun is simplistic, but it totally screams spring/summer, especially once you take the title into consideration, too. And the writing is so GORGEOUS AND ARTSY. I wanted to devour the book and also take my dear sweet time so I could savor each sentence.

Grass
What is a book that you find others like way more than you do?


I wanted to like it, you guys, I really did. Every single person in the blogosphere seems to be head over heels with this book, but I couldn't get into it. After 50 pages, I marked it DNF and returned it to the library. It felt too juvenile to be a YA book and there was no plot compelling enough for me to be invested in. Sometimes even if I'm hating a book, I'm curious about how something will turn out and push through and end up liking it. I didn't even have that to hold onto with this. It wasn't horrible, just boring and not my cup of tea.

Rain
What’s a great book that lifts your spirits when you’re down?


I was flipping through Cress the other day for this exact reason! I have distinct memories associated with this book because it was one I read as my family was moving into a new house. The house was wide open and empty but full of sunlight because it was close to summer, all of my things were in boxes (including any books that weren't from the library), and the only thing I had to occupy myself with were my library books. This one in particular. I lost track of time when I dove back into the world of Cress and Thorne and the rest of the Lunar Chronicles gang. They were great characters to keep me company.

Dew
What book made you feel alive?


That's a pretty vague question, so I'm interpreting it as something that was so exciting it left you breathless. The entire Darkness Rising series did that. I haven't read it in ages, but when I look back at the books, I remember being utterly addicted and blazing through them in less than a week. It was pure action and fun, sort of in the way "Teen Wolf" is.

Storms
What book did you find unpredictable?




I never knew what exactly was going on or in what direction the plot was headed. AND THAT ENDING. (For the people who read it, you know what part I'm talking about. Owowow.)


Rainbow
What was a book that you struggled with only to be happy that you read it in the end?


For what ended up being such a nail-biter, Misery had a slow, slooowww start. It paid off, particularly in those last 100-150 pages, but I almost put it down at first.

Chilly Weather
What’s a book that you couldn’t finish or didn’t enjoy?


The title is apt. I hated it. I gave it thirty pages before barely restraining myself from throwing it across the room. I'm not a prude by any means, but the amount of sex jokes crammed into the book was just tasteless. Who were those characters? Why were they complete idiot pigs? How was any of that supposed to be funny???

Warm Weather
What book did you love and want more of?


I could have listened to Lin-Manuel Miranda narrate this masterpiece forever. It took me a day to finish the audiobook and afterwards I spent a while just staring out the window and letting the story sink in. It was a fuzzy blanket and a cup of tea in book form.

Green
What book have you not read yet but really want to?


It only took one book to make me a big fan of Jennifer Niven. After All the Bright Places, I couldn't wait to read anything else she published. Somehow I still haven't gotten around to grabbing a copy of Holding Up the Universe, but that day will come.

(Side note: while googling Jennifer Niven to get a picture of the book cover, I fell down a rabbit hole on her website and discovered she's a huge fan of "Supernatural." I love her that much more now.)

Pink
What book made you feel a strong connection to the characters?



Did I absolutely love these killers and criminals? Yes. Should you be concerned by how much I loved them? Probably. But the Six of Crows gang stole my heart before I even realized it was gone (a little thief humor for ya). I was sad to leave their world, but they feel very much alive and real even after the series ends.


Purple
What book makes you feel safe when you read it?


This weird little graphic novel series was my obsession for the longest time, so much so that my parents tracked down every out-of-print copy so I could reread them over and over again (thanks, Mom and Dad). It's a strong childhood memory for me, so it makes me happy every time I see the books on my shelf.

Orange
What book do you feel is intelligently written?




Considering the majority of the book consists of lyrics from "Hamilton," I'd say it's pretty dang genius. The essays are great, too. I loved learning about the behind-the-scenes of the musical and how it all came together. It's a must read for "Hamilton" fans.


Yellow
What book puts a smile on your face?





Fun, fluff, laugh-out-loud moments, unforgettable characters, great illustrations. Why aren't you running to the library to grab a copy already?


Tag, you're it! Take these prompts for your own blog or answer some questions in the comments.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

5 of My Heroes

The word "hero" is pretty broad and hard to define. I'm still not totally sure what makes someone heroic, especially on a large scale, but I can say with certainty that these five people (okay I cheated a little and grouped some together, but coming from me, what did you expect?) have influence my writing and my life in some way or another.

1. J.K. Rowling


I've always loved to write, but J.K. Rowling was the first author whose books I read and made me realized, "Oh my gosh, I could be just like her." Meaning, I could write stories and publish them for people to read. She made me fall in love with fantasy and understand how characters weren't just names on a page but living and breathing beings with complicated backstories and personalities. Everything I write is influenced by her.

2. Lin-Manuel Miranda


LINNNN. He's a genius, a musical theater nerd, and a total dork that got me into Broadway hardcore. While I might not be cut out for writing lyrics necessarily, the way he uses sound and rhyme in his music has helped me when it comes to poetry. Some of my best poems were written with "Hamilton" playing in the background of my brain. Plus, the guy does not stop writing. He sure makes me feel lazy in comparison, which is good because it gives me a boost to try and be as productive as possible.

3. Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins, and Felicia Day

 

I grouped these together because they're all part of the SPN family and influence me in similar ways. Felicia Day is my geeky soul sister. We're both introverted and are unapologetic about the things we love. We even both play the violin! She's hysterical and reminds me to stay true to my passions, even if other people may not get them. And the three dorks above her picture are freaking awesome. Not only are they serious about their craft, but they make so many of their fans feel comfortable in their own skin. The fame and celebrity hasn't gone to their head. When they interact with people like my friends and me at conventions, it's like they're talking to people they've personally known for years. I admire all of the charity work and mental health awareness they do and feel proud to be part of such a cool fandom when I hear stories about fellow fangirls having their lives changed for the better because they started watching a weird niche show on the CW.

4. Emma Watson


Emma Watson embodies Hermione through and through. I've grown up watching her grow up in the "Harry Potter" movies and continue to be impressed with everything she does now. I love that she's a bookworm and a feminist and wants to make change wherever she can. Seeing my favorite book character come to life on the screen was so cool and only made me love Hermione more. She's a fantastic role model.

5. My family


My parents, little brother, and dog keep me happy, supported, and sane. We all goof around and tease each other one minute but can talk politics and social issues the next. We like to share interesting articles with each other and discuss books. Watching TV at night before bed is a ritual and one of my favorite times of the day. We listen to music while cooking dinner and play an endless amount of games. It's the little things that make us all excited and I love every second of it.

Who are you heroes? Leave a comment!

Friday, March 10, 2017

My Writing Process

I'm always totally fascinated by other people's writing processes. Are they slow to finish a project or do they pull an all-nighter and complete like seven novels at once? Do they edit as they go or allow themselves to all but faceplant into their keyboard to finish a first draft? Do they fuel themselves with tea or coffee? These are the real questions.

Since none of you asked for this unsolicited, detailed post I'm sure you're all anxiously waiting to hear what my process is, I thought I'd tell you in a list, because everybody loves lists (or maybe that's just me).


How I write:

1. Get five-thousand different ideas when I'm already in the middle of seventeen.
2. Start writing like a madman with the writing utensil closest to me.
3. Get stuck three pages in.
4. Go back to the work I was supposed to be finishing in the first place.
5. Realize everything that's been written there is utter nonsense.
6. Cry.
7. Eat some chocolate.
8. Procrastinate by watching reruns of “Doctor Who” and “Supernatural” or pretending I'm being productive by pinning writing prompts to my board on Pinterest.
9. Go back to my computer.
10. Write some more. Rinse and repeat.


Honestly, "It's Hard to Be the Bard" is so relateable as a writer.

I'm just kidding (mostly).

What I really do is something more along the lines of this:

1. Get an idea.

This is seemingly, but deceptively, easy. I could get half a dozen different ideas from Pinterest alone, and then there's overheard conversations, new takes on fairytales, fan-fiction that took on a life of its own, etc. etc. etc.

The trick is finding an idea that interests me enough to stick with it. I've saved sooo many different writing prompts that I thought might be good to try out, but when I go back to them months later, my reaction is, "Hmm, cool, but I know I'm going to get bored with this six pages in." If I'm going to dedicate tons of time to an idea, it better be a good one.

2. Start writing down random ideas that eventually turn into a vague outline.

Sometimes once I get an idea, I know the first few lines or even scenes that go with it. Anything even remotely related to the idea (lines, plot points, side characters, a song that fits the theme of the story), I jot down in a notebook or a Word document. I like to let it all stew in my brain for a while before I do anything serious with it.

Once I'm pretty sure I've come up with everything I could for the time being, I'll start creating an outline. I can't believe I haven't always done this. It doesn't work for everybody, but I looove having an outline to keep me on track. So many of my abandoned novels could have been saved if I knew at least vaguely where the story was going to go from beginning to end.

My outlines usually include a clear beginning and a clear end, with some scenes in the middle that might just say, "Maybe these three characters go to the movie or something and one of them gets mugged on the way back? IDK, we just need some action here." As long as I have a plan I can follow for the most part, I'm good. I can always be flexible if I need something to change.

3. Write a first draft.

The fun (and painful) part! Because with first drafts comes both streaks of inspiration and days of writer's block, which is by far the most frustrating part of writing.


Finishing a draft can take anywhere from a few months to a couple years. No joke. My 2013 NaNoWriMo novel is still the longest one I've written to date, and I wrote it in two and a half months. But it took a year and a half to finish an incredibly short draft of what I now think is my best novel. The time doesn't matter as much as the content, but it does feel good when a draft goes fast.

4. Set it aside for at least a month.

If I go through the draft immediately after writing it, chances are I'll still think it's freaking fantastic. Which is good, I mean, I should think something is good if I'm going to attempt to do something with it. But I need to wait a little while before picking it up again so I can be horrified when I realize how many adverbs I used. *shudders*

This is the very basic outline of how I approach each project. No two stories are the same, which means every time I sit down to work on a new one, I'm going to do it a little differently. There are other things I like to do when I write, too.

-I'll create a book soundtrack, imagined as a movie. If I need inspiration, I'll listen to it while I write. Right now I have a pretty lengthy soundtrack for More Than Words, which always puts me in a good mood:

"Intertwined" - Dodie
"Neptune" - Sleeping At Last
"She's so High" - Tal Bachman
"Kiss Me" - Sixpence None the Richer
"There She Goes" - Sixpence None the Richer
"The Great Escape" - P!nk
"More Than Words" - Extreme
"Doctor Who Theme" - BBC National Orchestra Of Wales
"Whataya Want from Me" - Adam Lambert
"Yesterday" - The Beatles
"Listen To Your Heart" - Roxette
"Broken Wings" - Mr. Mister
"Animal" - Neon Trees
"I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" - Rex Harrison
"I Could Have Danced All Night" - Julie Andrews
"Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" - The Police
"Alone" - Glee Cast
"People Will Say We're In Love" - Gordon Macrae and Shirley Jones
"I Won't Say (I'm In Love)" - Susan Egan and The Muses

-I'll light my Sherlock candle, which smells awesome. I especially like to use it when I'm doing edits for Ms. Holmes.

-I get a snack (like popcorn or Cheez-Its) or a drink (usually some form of tea).

-I like to write in fourteen-point font, single-spaced, but edit in twelve-point font, double spaced. For whatever reason, that's how I'm most productive.

-I write out of order because inspiration for different scenes hits me at different times. This makes it easy to e-mail myself snippets of scenes while I'm out, because I'm not confined to writing in order. Having an outline helps with this, because I know where the scene can fit in later.

-I cast actors and actresses for the fake movie on my Pinterest board. The one I made for Beneath the Moon and Stars is still my favorite casting job. I'd flip my lid if I got to see a movie with these actors.


-I mirror my characters' expressions as I write them, but only if I'm by myself at my desk, because it looks freaking weird. If I'm trying to figure out how my character looks when they're mad, I'll act like them and figure out what my face is doing. It helps with descriptions, but would probably make others question my sanity.

-As much as it's hard, I have to resist the urge to fix my story as I go. Instead, I took a page out of Stephanie Morrill's book and write “GIRAFFE” in all caps by whatever needs fixing. That way it's really easy to find with a CTRL + F search later when it's time to edit. Usually "GIRAFFE" is paired with a snarky comment I've left myself, like, “You call that dialogue?”

So that's me.

What about you? What does your writing process look like? Leave a comment!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

I'm on the Front Page!

I was interviewed recently by my local newspaper! It was mainly to highlight my recent Scholastic writing award wins (two silver keys and three honorable mentions!), but the article also talked about my other writing projects, my blog, summer writing camps, and me playing the violin. Yesterday my parents surprised me with a physical copy of the paper and the article and my picture were on the front page! Crazy, right?!



If you want to check out the whole article (plus a video of me), you can click here. :)

Since the video they took included me playing the violin, I'm curious: what instruments do you play (or would like to play)? Leave a comment!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February Wrap-Up

Books I Read

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

4/5

This was such a well-written middle grade book. It has everything from Shakespeare references to living through the Vietnam War to normal pre-teen shenanigans. It could be a little slow in parts, but overall, it was a simple and compelling story.

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

4/5

(Psst, I wrote a review for this and you should definitely read it . . .)

Tartuffe by Molière

3/5

This was another play I had to read for my theater class and I really enjoyed it. The style of rhyme it uses distracted me more than anything because the word choice would be weird in spots, so I didn't care for that. The story, however, is super clever. It reminded me of one of those episodes in a sitcom where seven different things are going on, but only two people know about this one thing, and the other three think the other two are doing something totally different, and two of them might talk to each other but neither of them really know what the other is talking about, and the whole thing is humorous and confusing. You know what I'm talking about. I also liked Dorine, the maid. She wasn't afraid to sass anyone (my favorite lines from the play were in a scene where Tartuffe tells her to cover up. He says, "unclean thoughts are difficult to control/such sights as that can undermine the soul" and she basically tells him his soul must have crappy defenses then, because she could catch him stark naked and she wouldn't be turned on in the slightest.).

Wires and Nerve #1 by Marissa Meyer and Douglas Holgate

5/5

Ikoooooo, my precious android warrior, I MISSED YOU. I'm also super happy about how much of Cress and Thorne we got to see, too, because there can never be too much Cress and Thorne. #OTP I was worried the illustrations would look weird because I had very vivid ideas of how each character looked, but Holgate did a nice job! (Wolf did look kinda weird to me, only because I imagined him more human than wolf, but you can't have everything.) I'm really glad there are more books in the Lunar Chronicles world for me to look forward to.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

5/5

THIS WAS SO GOOD. It's funny (like a "crack-a-rib-from-laughing" sort of hysterical), emotional, fascinating, and totally worth the read. If you're going to check it out, go for the audiobook. Trevor is an excellent narrator. And all of the different voices and accents he does and languages he speaks makes the story come to life.

Movies I Watched

"Groundhog Day"

3.5/5

I especially liked this because of how much I love the episode "Mystery Spot" from "Supernatural." Right down to the camera angles, the song on the radio each morning, and the street the main characters walk down, there were tons of similarities that were fun to spot. Reliving the same day over and over was almost as immensely frustrating to watch as it must have been to experience. It's nice, goofy fun.

"St. Vincent"

5/5

Such a quirky movie. I loved it. It's a dark comedy with an extremely flawed character, but the little boy in the story makes for a nice balance to the curmudgeonly old man. It reminded me of "Little Miss Sunshine," to give you an idea of the overall mood.

"La La Land"

5/5

I went into this with pretty low expectations after hearing more than a few grumbles about it, but I actually loved it! It was entrancing, whimsical, and artsy. The special effects and choreography (especially in the beginning) were amazing. The music isn't typical Broadway, so don't be fooled by the advertising of the movie as a musical. There is a lot of music and singing in it, but they don't all advance the plot, making it much different from other movie musicals. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have imperfect singing voices, but it sort of fits the theme, so I didn't mind it. For a film about Hollywood life, it didn't have a Hollywood ending at all. It's bittersweet, which I love

"Lion"

5/5

Another fantastic Oscar nominated film! I had no idea how long the first part of the movie was where it's set in India with the young Saroo, but it was excellent. You don't hear any English spoken for a long time, which totally immerses you in the culture. It had great acting from everyone (and little Saroo was absolutely adorable). Get ready to bawl your eyes out, though.

"The Lego Batman Movie"

4/5

Super clever. I loved the meta humor all throughout, which is exactly what I expected from another Lego movie. The cameos from Voldemort and some Daleks were awesome. Part of me wasn't sure whether I'd be able to stomach an entire movie with an emo Lego Batman as the protagonist, but Robin (and Alfred, of course) were good additions to tone down the angst.

"Moonlight"

3.5/5


So there was a lot about this I loved, especially from the more subtle effects, like the camera angles, lighting, sound, and the score. I'm also really pleased with how much representation was in this film. It's not every day you get a movie about black LGBT issues. The first part of the movie was easily my favorite, but the second half draaagged for me. I usually like simple movies, but I felt like the plot of this one wasn't totally compelling enough to keep me interested the whole time. When the movie ended, I felt like I must have been missing something. Overall, it just didn't feel satisfying. I can't even put my finger on what exactly I didn't like, it was just sort of slow.

"Fences"

4/5

Even without knowing this had been adapted from a play, it still would have felt very much like a play, to me. Almost the entire story takes place right around and inside Troy and Rose's house. It's simplistic in that sense, and also has a small, but strong cast. Viola Davis is great in everything she does and her Oscar was much deserved. The beginning simultaneously felt a little slow (when it came to setup) and fast (because of how quickly the characters talked and their dialect, especially Denzel Washington's character). But it only took me about fifteen or twenty minutes to totally get used to the style and become immersed in the story.


Quotes I Wrote

Toni bit her lip. The song was slow, way slower than anything she was comfortable with. And his smile was charming, way too smooth. Kindness from the others was risky, but kindness from someone who looked like he could bring an entire town to its knees if he grinned wide enough? That was flat out flirting with danger.
-More Than Words

I didn't get a lot of writing done this month between school and editing, but I did add yet another project to my endless list of things to finish up. A writing prompt on Pinterest caught my eye and two hours later, I'd semi-planned a YA fantasy novel called Captain Zahira and Her Wayward Crew involving pirates and cursed treasure and mermaids. You can check out the board here.

Obsessions I Acquired

"We Rate Dogs" Twitter account - This is the sort of cute, quality content I need on social media. Adorable dog pictures tweeted with funny captions every day? Yes, please. Sign me up.

"Intertwined" by Dodie - Dodie is my new favorite find when it comes to musical artists. How had I not heard of her before now?! I have "Sick of Losing Soulmates" on repeat on Spotify, but "Intertwined" is my absolute favorite from her. It gives me chills every time I hear it because it so perfectly fits my soundtrack for More Than Words.

EpicReads book recommendation bot - So if you're looking for yet another addition to your TBR list, check out EpicReads' Facebook page and message them. They have a super cool system that allows you to tell their recommendation bot your favorite books and authors or what kind of mood you're in, and they'll send you a book they think you'll like in a message. It's really fun. You even get gifs of Margot Wood along with their recommendation sometimes.

Picture of the Month 

I went to the "Fire and Ice Festival" in Lititz with my family and my friend Dana. It was super fun to just walk around the town, drink cocoa, and see the ice sculptures.


How was your February?

Friday, February 24, 2017

10 Important Bookworm Questions

You guys. YOU GUYS. This is my 500th blog post!!!




And now on to the tag, which I stole from Cait at "Paper Fury" (with her permission, of course).

UPDATE: So I got really excited when I posted this and only realized after publishing it that I actually have 500 posts including drafts total. So this is my 481st published post. Not the 500th. Oops.

1. What are your top 5 reads of 2017 so far?

So normally this would be an insane question to answer in February, because how could I possibly have five amazing reads at this point in the year??? But somehow I'm twelve books ahead of schedule for my Goodreads goal and do have five books I can use for this question. They are:

-Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne (This is a reread, and I loved it just as much, if not more, the second time.)
-Wires and Nerve #1 by Marissa Meyer and Douglas Holgate (Ikoooooo, my precious android warrior, I MISSED YOU. I'm also super happy about how much of Cress and Thorne we got to see, too, because there can never be too much Cress and Thorne. #OTP)
-Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (Well rip my heart out and feed it to the freaking wolves, why don't you, Leigh? Thank god for Jesper lightening the mood.)
-Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson (I reviewed this book last week, but ultimately, HOLY WOW.)
-Fairest by Marrissa Meyer (Everything Marissa Meyer writes turns to gold, apparently. This story was one of the best examples of character development I've ever seen.)

2. Top 5 favourite book friendships?

LOOKIT HOW TINY THEY ARE.

I LOVE well-written friendships in YA. I ship them as much as I ship romances. In fact, I wrote a whole blog post about it.

-Harry, Ron, and Hermione from Harry Potter.
-Calvin and Hobbes from Calvin & Hobbes.
-Cinder and Thorne from the Lunar Chronicles.
-Katniss and Finnick from The Hunger Games. (Apparently I have a thing for annoyingly charming guys driving the female protagonist crazy even though they secretly like the dork.)
-Nimona and Lord Ballister Blackheart from Nimona.

3. Most anticipated releases of 2017?

I also wrote a blog post about this! My excitement shifts from book to book about every six seconds, but for right now, these are the ones I really can't wait for:

-The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (WHICH COMES OUT IN FOUR DAYS AHHHHHH.)
-The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
-Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz
-Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
-The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

4. How many books are on your TBR pile?

Ha.


Ah ha ha ha.

HA HA HA.


So many.

5. What are your feelings on book merchandise?


LOVE IT LIKE I LOVE CHOCOLATE. I'm a sucker for Etsy products. My wallet glares at me whenever I see something shiny and fandom/book-related.

6. Who is the latest amazing author you have discovered?

Hmmm, most recently, I'd have to say Benjamin Alire Sáenz and Leigh Bardugo. I binged the Six of Crows duology and devoured the audiobook for Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe last December. One made me cry from how beautiful it was the other made me cry because of the INTENSE PAIN. You figure out which was which.


7. How long have you been a book blogger?

Ever since I started blogging, so I guess about nine years?

8. What's your favourite thing about reading?




How can I pick a favorite?! I can't. So I'll pick several. Because I'm a rebel.

-Letting my imagination run wild
-Making best (fictional) friends
-Escaping into different lands
-Forgetting about the real world for a while
-Being emotionally manipulated (because I just can't seem to get attached to someone without them dying)
-Learning about people who are different from me
-Reading about people who are like me
-Being entertained

And countless other things.

9. What are you reading soon?

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler for a book club. I have a terrible time deciding what to read next because I want to read everything at once, so I'll probably spend half a day staring at my bookshelf once I'm done with Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas.

10. Describe yourself in 5 book titles.

This is such a fun question and I had a hard time narrowing it down to five, but here goes:

-Fangirl (For obvious reasons.)
-The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Me at every party. Why be the center of attention when you can hang out with a couple friends off to the side?)
-You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) (It's a good thing there are places for my weirdness to be appreciated.)
-Made You Up (Me with every character I've ever created.)
-The Hunger Games (I'm probably hungry like 80% of the time. Or I just think I'm hungry.)

Tag, you're it! Go ahead and steal this for your own blog or leave responses to the questions in the comments. :)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Allegedly (book review)



Released: January 24th, 2017
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 387

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

In this gritty and haunting debut, Tiffany D. Jackson explores the grey areas in our understanding of justice, family, and truth, and acknowledges the light and darkness alive in all of us.


Goodreads

Check it out, you guys, I'm actually reading a new release for once!!! This is the first 2017 release I've read this year, and damn, we're really starting off with a bang. I'm hoping this is a good sign for the rest of this year's releases. I also want to do more reviews of newer books since it's been wayyy too long since I've done any and I forgot just how much I enjoyed it.

So onto the book.

WOW.


Don't worry, I'll be expanding on that comment much more eloquently, but if I had to give a reaction with one word, it'd be that, because WOW. And if I had to give a reaction with three words, it'd be, "oh my God," since I whispered that to myself at night into my Kindle screen.

Yep, it's that sort of book. Holy plot twists, Batman! I had no idea going into the story just how much I wouldn't know until the very end. Throughout the whole book, you never have all the information. A lot of the time you feel like you're stumbling around in a dark room, looking for a light switch, only to flip it on and find out you're not even in the same room anymore. You might think you know what's going on, but trust me, you don't. What I thought was a contemporary read turned out to be a mystery, too, and a chilling one at that.


On the subject of never knowing what's going on, I also had an incredibly difficult time trusting any character. Any of them! This didn't affect my enjoyment of the book at all. In fact, it's part of why I liked it. I felt like I was on edge, looking over my shoulder to see if another plot twist was coming, the entire time. It's what made the whole story so gripping. If you're looking for something to just relax and read over the weekend, Allegedly isn't going to be that. But it will be one hell of a ride. Just when you think you've met a character who could be a potential ally, think again! No one can be trusted. Including the protagonist.

Mary is an unreliable narrator. The trauma she's experienced as a kid (physical and sexual abuse, having to care for her mother at the age of seven or eight and take on way too much responsibility, being hated in the public eye for what she allegedly did, etc.) made facts and details about any important event blurred. Something she thought may have happened actually might not have, or vice versa. Nothing is clear because we see everything through Mary's eyes, and her perception is seriously skewed. This made trying to find out the truth that much more impossible. It's infuriating and addicting.


Another part I loved about the book were the excerpts from articles, books, and interviews about Mary and her trial. It added to the mystery, both by giving you more information (which may or may not be true), and leaving you with more questions. It was interesting to see how so many people judged Mary in different ways.

The only part I'm not sure about (and ultimately what prevented me from giving the book five stars) is the ending. It's so, so, so hard to talk about without giving anything away, but to me it felt rushed and out of place. Part of me still wonders if I'm being too harsh, but my initial reaction to the last chapter wasn't an, "OMG WHAT I CAN'T BELIEVE IT THIS IS SO WOW" sort of reaction. Instead, it left me so confused, I had to reread the whole chapter again. The intended plot twist (if I'm understanding the intent of it correctly) could have been excellent if it had been executed well, but I'm not sure it was. It felt sloppy when everything else had been so carefully thought out. But maybe I'll feel differently in a few days.

Overall, Allegedly was dark, gritty, raw, gripping, shocking, and addictive. It has a diverse cast of characters, covers topics such as racism and mental illness, and will haunt you for days after you've finished the book.

I rate it:



Have you read Allegedly? What did you think? What are your favorite books with unreliable narrators? Leave a comment!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day to all of my fantastic followers (doesn't that sound like a superhero group--Fantastic Followers?)! To celebrate, I'll leave you with some cheesy "Hamilton" valentines below, as well as links to some of my other Valentine's Day themed blog posts. Enjoy! :)




-"Dear OTP (TCWT Blog Chain)"
-"What Makes a Great Fictional Romance?"
-"Beautiful People--February" (2016)
-"Beautiful People--February" (2017)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Beautiful People Linkup--February

Cait at "Paper Fury" is co-hosting a linkup called "Beautiful People." Each month she announces a new set of questions to answer about your characters so you can learn more about them. This month's theme is Valentine's Day! I'll be answering the questions for two sets of couples. Patch and Toni are from a YA paranormal novel, More Than Words. Lottie and Ezra are from a YA sci-fi novel, Project Moonstone.


I don't have face claims for Patch and Toni yet, but here are Ezra and Lottie!

1. How and why did they meet?

Patch came back home from a long trip to find that the people living in his house had just about quadrupled. Toni, who was baking a cake in the kitchen, was one of the first new people he met.

Ezra "met" Lottie because of his job monitoring test subjects exploring different planets to see if they're inhabitable. For three years, Lottie was "Test Subject #93" to him, while Lottie didn't even know he existed. Eventually she met him later because during his mission to retrieve her from the planet, they both end up on a different one.

2. What were their first impressions of each other?

Hahahahahaha . . . not great for Patch and Toni. Patch was tired and hot and irritable, which really isn't a great way to start off meeting new people, especially with how often he already sticks his foot in his mouth. Toni mostly ended up rolling her eyes a lot at him and making sarcastic remarks.

Lottie doesn't trust government officials in general, so she was pretty quiet and cautious when they met. Ezra didn't know what to think of her, but he knew she was hiding something and was curious to know why she'd killed the man that caused her to be doomed to five years of planet exploration.


3. How would they prove their love for each other?

In subtle, silent ways. Both Patch and Toni have different reasons why they can't say the words "I love you," so they try to show it with little actions. For example, here's the last stanza of my poem "More Than Words" that goes along with the story:


"Three syllables are so heavy.
I can't take any more weight on these
aching shoulders. Let me tell you without
words. Let me brush the back of your hand with
my fingertips. Let me tell you with
a smile. Let me drive while you sleep
passenger side. Let me hold you close when
night comes.
Just for a moment.
Only for a moment.
Long enough to tell myself that
maybe, I could
deserve you one day.
Long enough to convince myself that
one day I will be able to carry those words,
and it will be beautiful." (This poem was part of a poetry collection that won a Silver Key for the 2017 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, by the way!!!)

In order to survive, Lottie and Ezra have no choice but to stick together, but even if they did, they wouldn't choose anything else. Other planets and galaxies have nothing on their pure determination not to be separated. They would cross impossible distances just to make sure the other was safe.

4. What would be an ideal date?

Adventure. Patch gets restless if he stays in one place for too long and Toni likes to wander. Together, they rid the world of evil spirits and get to explore new places all at the same time. But they wouldn't say no to a little dancing, too.

A fancy dinner somewhere quiet and warm. After years of less-than-ideal living situations, Lottie and Ezra have simple pleasures.

5. Is there something they emphatically disagree on?


Who the best Doctor is. At least, Patch pretends to disagree with Toni on that, because he knows it drives her crazy that he somehow can't understand just how amazing David Tennant is. He still claims that Eccleston is his favorite, but he's coming around. Slowly.

At first, Ezra refuses to believe that the government that's been established in the Milky Way is as flawed as Lottie says it is. This changes over time, but it's a sore spot for both of them in the beginning.

6. List “food quirks” they know about each other. (Ex: how they take their coffee, if they’re allergic to something, etc.)

Toni insists that any kind of food stolen off of Patch's plate tastes better than if she just ate her own. Patch doesn't see it. Then again, Toni doesn't see how baked goods she makes taste better than if Patch made his own.

Lottie is severely allergic to nuts, and Ezra takes great care to make sure they're not ever in her food.

7. What’s one thing they know about each other that no one else does?

Toni tells Patch the truth about her curse and what's happened to people she's loved because of it. In return, Patch reveals his fears and insecurities. Not only do they become friends very quickly, but confidants, too.

By the end of the book, Ezra knows the truth as to why Lottie killed a man, and it's not at all what he expected. Lottie is also the only one who knows where Ezra's true loyalties lie.

8. What’s one thing that they keep a secret from each other?


It's a total cliché, but their love for each other. In different ways, it'd be dangerous for Patch and Toni if their true feelings were revealed.

For most of the book, Lottie doesn't tell Ezra about her daughter. And until he completely trusts her, Ezra won't reveal any government secrets.

9. How would their lives be different without each other?

Neither Toni nor Patch would be as vulnerable as they're able to be with each other. They've become emotionally healthier thanks to their relationship.

Lottie would literally be dead and Ezra would have become a mindless soldier. Ezra gave Lottie the tools she needed to survive while Lottie gave Ezra the tools he needed to think and doubt.


10. Where do they each see this relationship going?

Nothing farther than friendship. Anything more would seem impossible.

As far as it can go with the complications of Lottie being an outlaw and Ezra a potential deserter/traitor.

Your turn! I want to hear all about your fictional couples. Leave a comment!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

January Wrap-Up

Books I Read

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

3/5

I really enjoyed reading a book set in a place I rarely get to see portrayed, as well as a different time. It was a really simple, character-based story, which I usually like, but the characters were a little flat to make it completely interesting. It picked up toward the end, but dragged in other places. It's a short book and an easy read.

Fairest by Marissa Meyer

4/5

This may be one of the best studies in character development I've ever read. Holy creepy. I was horrified. I'm disgusted by Levana, but I also pity her. I only wish I could've read this before reading Winter so I could know about Levana's backstory before the finale. But WOW, the whole thing was just like watching a car wreck in slow motion. I knew exactly where it was headed but I was still in suspense. Well done, Marissa Meyer.

Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock

4/5

This book is told completely through postcards and letters (some of which are in physical pockets so you have to pull the letter out to unfold and read), which was fascinating and unique. But sometimes the handwriting was hard to read, which made it more real, in a way, but also more frustrating. I also didn't know it was part of a series, so the ending came as a shock. There are several plot twists throughout the whole story.

The Mighty Captain Marvel #0 and #1 by Margaret Stohl

4/5

I'm enjoying comics way more than I thought I initially did. The art is crisper and easier to follow than some other comics I've read, which helps. I also love Captain Marvel's character. She's tough and snarky and totally her own person. The hardcore science-fiction element is really cool, even if all the different alien races and issues can be a little tricky to follow.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

4/5

This would've been a five-star read if it hadn't draaaaagged at the beginning and a little bit later int he middle. But YAY FOR ALL THE SHIPS. I won't give anything away, but each couple in the book was unique and had very distinct issues pertaining to the relationship. And it was perfectly blended into the action and sneakiness of it all. An alternate title for the book also could've been Kaz Brekker Has Some Issues to Work Out because wow, was he dark. I would not want to cross him. He needs a big ol' mug of calming tea and a warm blanket and probably lots of therapy. Whereas in the first book certain characters had me gritting my teeth because they were a trash fire waiting to happen, this book totally made me love ALL OF THEM. Especially Wylan (my redheaded cinnamon roll), Jesper (my problematic flirt), and Nina (my waffle-loving sass bucket). Can I befriend all of them, please and thank you? And don't even get me started on the oceans of tears that came later . . .

Oedipus Rex

3/5

Speaking of problematic characters . . . Anyways, I had to read this for my theatre class and was really interested by the mythology and the discussions about what Oedipus' hamartia was and fate versus free will. The timeline of the story can be really confusing if you're not familiar with the whole mythology like the ancient Greeks were when they would watch the play, so trying to keep the characters and their backgrounds straight was a little bit of a trick. Super fascinating, though.

Black Panther: World of Wakanda #1 and #2 by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay

4/5

Thes comic are unlike any "superhero" stories I've ever read. It's really neat to view this kingdom from the perspective of the guards to the royal family rather than from the royal family itself. I love Ayo and Aneka tons. Their personalities are just different enough to make for an interesting clash, but similar enough to mesh together when they need to. I can't wait for more installments in the series!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

3/5

I can't remember any book I've read (and if I have, it was long enough ago I can't remember) that's had a protagonist who was on the spectrum. It was really interesting to get an insight onto what that might feel like. Especially since there were times during the whole mystery that, as the reader, I could put the pieces together, but Christopher couldn't always figure out. But since he was so logical in his approach to everything, there were a lot of analogies to math problems and riddles that were super complicated and took up a lot of the story, so I tended to skim over those.
 
Movies I Watched

"Passengers"

3/5

I'd been super excited to see this movie ever since hearing about the concept and really enjoyed it upon first watching it. Like Fairest, it was interesting to see how a mostly good person under the right circumstances might succumb to doing something totally unforgivable. Except for the ending (which was a typical Hollywood ending and could've been way better if they'd dared to stray from fairytale conclusions), it was really unique and exciting.

"10 Things I Hate About You"

4/5

This was really clever and funny. Some of the characters and situations were a little cliché and predictable, but I enjoyed Kat and Patrick. I appreciated all of the feminist rants and how Kat simply did not care what anyone else thought of her.

"Hidden Figures"

5/5

GO SEE THIS MOVIE. It was hysterical, frustrating, and inspirational all at once. I didn't know the history behind any of the women involved in the John Glenn NASA mission. The whole story was really impressive. I loved every minute of it.

"Mona Lisa Smile"

4/5

As far as being some kind of revolutionary feminist film, it didn't exactly hit that mark for me like it probably did when it came out in 2003. But, it was still a great story that portrayed all kinds of different women and raised the question of what it means to be a feminist.

"Pride"

5/5

Oh my gosh, this was such a fun movie. It was hilarious, delightfully British, and inspirational. It gave hope about the possibility of two totally different groups of people being able to unite for a common cause. I loved it.


Quotes I Wrote

Nothing new to show this month, mostly because I've been spending every free second I get editing. But I do want to remind you that my poetry anthology, Instructions For Flight, is now available as an ebook for $0.99! Go check it out! :)

Picture of the Month 

My friend Sam showed me this cool photo editing app, and I tried it out on a picture of Scout. I loved the shadowy sketch effect!
It's a little hard to see in this picture, but my mom gave me the idea to add the smiley face from Sherlock onto this board since the pattern looked similar to the wallpaper. It's a super cool and geeky way to display all of my fun pins.

How was your January?