30.

Numbers aren’t scary by nature. But sometimes, in a certain context, they can be. Today, the number 30 scares me just a little. Because today, that’s how many years I’ve been on Earth.

I mean, I suppose in a way it’s kind of thrilling. 30! Three decades of learning and growing and living. It’s easy to focus on what I haven’t done in 30 years, or just how old I will be in 30 more years, instead of focusing on what I have done in 30 years.

Graduated college.

Married my best friend.

Found a writing community.

Started the process of querying in hopes of becoming a published author (a long-time dream).

Bought houses and cars. Went on vacations. Other “grown-uppy” things that I couldn’t really do 10 years ago.

I may not be exactly where I had hoped to be in all aspects of my life, but it’s not a failure to not be on a certain timeline. The important thing is I am moving forward.

And as I move forward, I have two goals for myself that I feel encompass the things I have been learning lately about what kind of person I want to be.

30yearsgoals

I believe I have been improving in these areas over the past year or two, and I want to continue to do so. When I start to think of myself first, I want to stop and consider others. And when I consider not pursuing something I want simply because of fear, I want to move forward anyway.

I don’t want to think of life going downhill from here. I want to think of life as getting better, richer, fuller, and more meaningful. I want to continue to grow and learn and try.

So here’s to 30.

The Top 4 Books On My Fall TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books On My Fall TBR List. I’ve been winging it a lot lately, so I’m only commiting to the following four reads for  now…

The Forgetting by Sharon Camerongr-theforgetting

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

gr-crookedkingdom

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

gr-shadesofmilkandhoney

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

gr-myladyjane

What are looking forward to reading this fall?

My Top 5 Favorite Realistic Contemporary YA Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Books Of X Genre. I decided on realistic contemporary because I thought it would be easier than picking through my favorite sci-fi or fantasy stories, especially since genre lines are more easily blurred and be constantly questioning which genre it really was, so I wanted to make it clear-cut. However, this meant less options that I love, and I want to change that, so please comment with your fave contemporary YA books!

5. Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson

gr-dont=touch

My review of Don’t Touch

4. The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

gr-thelasttimeMy mini review of The Last Time We Say Goodbye

3. On The Fence by Kasie Westgr-onthefenceMy mini review of On The Fence

2. The Fixer Novels by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

fixerbooks

My mini review of The Fixer//My mini review of The Long Game

1. The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

gr-thestartofyouandme

AKA the most perfect YA contemporary that there is.

My mini review of The Start of Me and You//Bookish Wedding Inspiration for The Start of Me and You

Tell me your favorite YA realistic contemporary! Have you read any of my faves? 

Good Books I’ve Read Lately

It has been far too long since I’ve talked about books (other than a little on Instagram), and so I wanted to share about some books I’ve enjoyed lately, especially as I am crawling my way out of a reading slump I got myself into this summer.

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West: If this was written by an author I didn’t know there’s no way I’d pick it up, but Kasie West has become an auto-read for me, and so I picked this up and enjoyed it! Despite the fluffy premise, there’s more to the story. First there’s Gia’s growth as an individual when her friends are going in opposite direction, which I think is a totally relevant topic for high school seniors. And there’s her strange but special friendship with “fill-in Bradley” that grows into something meaningful. I’d definitely recommend this one to all other Kasie West fans!

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron: After struggling through a two-star read, I picked this one up because WWII stories have yet to fail me. And it was quite compelling. It has a dual narrative much in the fashion of Kate Morton, alternating between a past timeline and a present timeline. While Adele’s story of what she went through at Auschwitz was the stronger of two, Sera’s story was a nice reprieve that helped me get through the book. I would have liked to have seen a more natural development of Sera and William’s romance, but I did enjoy them and how their story intertwined with Adele. I would definitely recommend this one to anyone open to historical fiction told from a Christian worldview.

Ruined by Amy Tintera: Cait at Paper Fury raved over this book and I instantly put a hold on it with my library. It is true YA fantasy and I really enjoyed it. The snark and hate-to-love romance definitely made it a fun read! I will say that there is nothing really surprising or revolutionary in this story, so don’t go with the expectation of this being Mistborn or something. If you’re a fan of The Winner’s Curse or The Shadow Queen or anything else along those lines, I believe you’ll enjoy this one as well!

books-sept16

What are some good books you’ve read lately? 

Movie Thoughts: Star Trek Beyond & Jason Bourne

Hey, everyone! I’m not dead and I promised Charlene I would try to get around to reviewing Star Trek Beyond, so here I am coming back from my unintentional absence to talk about two summer flicks.

I went into these two different movies with different expectations, and they may surprise you. Despite my love for Star Trek, my enthusiasm for Star Trek Beyond waned before I saw the movie because, of all things, my rewatch of the two previous reboot films. I really enjoyed Star Trek 2009 and Into Darkness the first few times, but the more I watch the show and the more I watch these movies the less I care for the latter. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy them enough to rewatch them, but I definitely have problems with their respective stories.

On the other hand, I was really excited about Jason Bourne. It just looked spot-on and I could not wait.

2016summerfilms

Ultimately, when I went into Star Trek Beyond, I went in a little warily but also hopeful that I could enjoy it based on everyone else’s reviews that it was fun. And fun is a very good word to describe it. Not that there aren’t any serious moments or stakes, but it felt like TOS to me, in the best way. (Well, not the literal best, like The Trouble With Tribbles, but another solid and fun episode like A Piece of the Action or something.) Chris Pine actually for real felt like Kirk to me, but not in some rip-off-of-Shatner way at all. I believed that this alternate Kirk was actually a viable Kirk. Really, the entire cast of the Enterprise crew were great, and I loved how they spent part of the movie separated but paired off, giving us a taste of some different interactions we don’t normally get.

Jaylah was a great new character too, though I’m still annoyed that there are like zero aliens from the prime Star Trek universe other than Vulcans and a couple others, and that almost every alien is something brand new. I appreciate the creativity of it, but it just feels disproportionate. And I feel that leads me to my main quibble with this movie, the villain.

Before we see Krall or even know he’s the big bad, he seems pretty vicious the way he attacks the Enterprise. When we actually meet him and see him on the planet he doesn’t seem quite as bad until we see how he attacks one of the crew members. Then we get a big reveal about him (that I guessed beforehand) that is pretty significant but we get so little development that it ultimately falls flat, and we end up with someone who was just a hair better than Nero in 2009.

Overall, I enjoyed all the great character interactions that felt so genuine, the fun lines, and I really appreciated the tribute to Leonard Nimoy (and there’s just a tiny bit there for Anton as well). I was absolutely against more of the reboot films before seeing this film, but now I’m more open to it if they stay more true to the feel of this film.

Left to right: Simon Pegg plays Scotty, Sofia Boutella plays Jaylah and Chris Pine plays Kirk in Star Trek Beyond from Paramount Pictures, Skydance, Bad Robot, Sneaky Shark and Perfect Storm Entertainment

The new Jason Bourne feels pretty much just like the first three Bourne films, just more modern. If you enjoyed those, you’re probably going to enjoy this one as well. I had some problems with it… mass amounts of unnecessary destruction, the death of a certain character that felt meaningless, and perhaps a slightly shallow/flimsy storyline… but overall I was entertained. I think my favorite part of the movie was Alicia Vikander’s character, Heather Lee. I love how there was more to her than met the eye, and if the story continues, I definitely want more of her. There was also a little bit of a subplot that I felt was sadly too underdeveloped that I want more of, involving a social media company called Deep Dream and its mogul.

And since I’m like the only person who prefers the Aaron Cross/Jeremy Renner movie to the Matt Damon ones, I would be super intrigued if we could see these two intersect in the future as well. But please don’t fridge Rachel Weiss.

jason-bourne-2016

Have you seen either of these? What are your thoughts?

The Top 10 Books I’d Buy Today with a Loaded Gift Card

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Ten Books You’d Buy Right This Second If Someone Handed You A Fully Loaded Gift Card. I’m usually very well-restrained when it comes to gift card usage. I try to stretch it out thin and really only get I want. So if you gave me a gift card today, chances are I’d make it last until January. However, let’s pretend for this prompt today that I am going to waltz right into a bookstore that has available for me all the books I could possibly want and I get 10 right on the spot. (I’m saying a bookstore over Amazon because (1) it’s more fun to buy books in bookstores and (2) so I don’t have to wait ten years for them to ship to me since I’m not a Prime member.) In no particular order…

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

gr-psilikeyou

I usually wait to get Kasie West books from the library or buy an ebook of hers when it’s cheap, but this cover! If I saw it in store while I had a loaded gift card, you’d better believe I’d pick it up.

All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

all-in

I’ve been buying The Naturals books as the paperbacks come out, but I’m tired of waiting for All In! If I have a loaded gift card with me, I’m all in for buying this one!

The Book Thief (Anniversary Edition) by Markus Zusak

thebookthief

Once upon a time I loaned my copy of The Book Thief, only for it to never be returned. So I would totally gift myself with this anniversary edition with the better cover anyway!

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedwig

gr-sheisnotinvisible

I’ve been interested in this one for a little while.

Shades of Milk & Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

gr-shadesofmilkandhoney

I’ve been interested in this for a while because of the Writing Excuses podcast, and my interest level went up even more when Charlene recommended it so highly. Why haven’t I gotten this yet?!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

hp-cursedchild

No, I don’t have this yet. I’m actually kind of waiting to see if I want to read it. The Deathly Hallows was just perfect to me. But if I’m already buying a bunch of books, I don’t think I would pass this one up.

The Anatomy of a Story by John Truby

gr-anatomyofstory

One of my writing friends has highly recommended this one, so a loaded gift card is good motivation to finally check it out.

Starflight by Melissa Landers

gr-starflight

This one sounds fun and worth checking out.

Something from the Jane Austen Vintage Edition Collection

austen-vintage

Even though I technically own all the Austen novels, I want to collect all the Jane Austen books in this vintage collection, so I would go ahead and treat myself to at least one with the gift card!

The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove

glass-sentence

I’ve really been meaning to look into this one for a while now.

Have you read any of these? What would you buy with a loaded gift card?

Rick Yancey Signing and a Few Thoughts on The Last Star

So I’ve been meaning to write this post for two months now… oops… But better late than never, right?

When I heard Rick Yancey was coming to Parnassus Books in Nashville on a SATURDAY (I hate when authors come on weeknights… so not convenient…), I decided I definitely needed to consider an outing to see him. I really enjoyed the psychological nature of The 5th Wave, and Rick continued to mess with my mind in The Infinite Sea, so I was looking forward to seeing how it would all conclude in The Last Star.

So I made the trip, and thankfully had a friend, who also happens to be one of my writing critique partners, to sit and chat with as we waited.

IMG_1893

At this point, it’s hard to remember too many details of what Rick said, but like pretty much every YA author I’ve ever seen speak he was so funny. (I really hope one day someone will say the same about me!) Someone asked him if he was a plotter or pantser, and he was like, “What’s a pantser? Like fly by the seat of my pants? Is that an actual term?!” And when we confirmed yes, that’s what a pantser is and yes, that’s a real term, he said, “Oh, I’m totally a pantser!” This surprised me because his plotting seems so intricate, but of course, that sort of thing can be helped through multiple drafts. He explained how the idea for The 5th Wave was really born out of an image he had of a young girl running from something, frightened.

Also, plotting or no, Rick Yancey had his plans disrupted when his editor read The 5th Wave for the first time and asked, “What happened to Ben Parrish?” In this version of the story, he is just mentioned in passing by Cassie. So Rick was like, “I don’t know, I guess he dies just like everyone else Cassie knows.” And then the editor went on to say, “Oh no, Ben Parrish does not die.” And thus, a whole new narrative ended up being weaved into the story. And then when Rick Yancey tried killing Ben again in the second book, his editor again insisted, “Ben Parrish does not die.” To which Rick exclaimed, “Seriously?! The guy’s a cockroach!” The trip to the signing was worth it alone to get in on this “inside joke” that is definitely referenced in The Last Star.

He talked very briefly about the movie, which I had just seen the week before and liked well enough, even if it didn’t encapsulate all the intricacies of the book, but it was clear that it wasn’t all Rick hoped it would be. However, I could also tell he was grateful for the opportunity.

IMG_1900I never know what to say at these signings, but I asked Rick if he was allowed to talk about his next project, to which he resolutely said, “Nope.” Oh well, had to ask.

IMG_1923 I read The Last Star not too long after the signing, and sadly, I ended up being a little underwhelmed. Rick warned us that he pulled no punches, which is true. The stakes are high. But I found myself not caring too much about the characters, sadly. Here are the thoughts I shared on Goodreads after finishing the book and trying to decide between 3 or 3.5 stars (no spoilers):

This rating is definitely a reflection of my thoughts on the book as a whole. The ending will no doubt be controversial among fans but I didn’t have an issue with it. I just feel the book could have been half the length and gotten the same point across, though thankfully the pacing wasn’t too bad; it’s just so little happens in these four days even though so much is at stake. I never felt the danger and I realized that I cared less about the characters in this book than I had the previous two. But maybe that’s part of the point, as humanity is slipping away? Still though, the stakes couldn’t be any higher and I was pretty chill through most of my reading. I expected a doomed ending, so maybe I just didn’t stress over it.

The trilogy as a whole though is still a very interesting take on the alien invasion story line, as well as an exploration of humanity and psychology, things which I appreciated most about the books. I feel the ending is pretty satisfactory, and it’s a surprising who the character with the most growth and resolution ends up being!

Have you read The 5th Wave trilogy? If so, what are your thoughts on it?

My Top 10 Books Set Outside The US

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books Set Outside The US. While seeing what books I’ve read that are set somewhere other than the US that were not sci-fi/fantasy/dystopia, I discovered that basically all of them were set in Europe. Sounds like something I should probably fix, so please send me recs!

Note: I decided to keep this list limited to classics, contemporary, and historical fiction. I excluded Harry Potter because I consider it fantasy, so don’t think it wouldn’t top this list otherwise. List is in no particular order.

Rebecca

GR-rebecca

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” I was hooked on this suspenseful classic from the start. While the narrator references the estate in England where she’ll settle with her husband, the novel starts off in Monte Carlo with the her worldwind romance with Mr. de Winter, then they travel to his home shrouded in mystery.

The Book Thief

GR-bookthief

This book set in WWII Germany gave me a new perspective of those who lived under Hitler’s oppression, not to mention it’s just an amazing read all around.

Code Name Verity

code-name-verity

Another WWII story set in Europe, both France and England, as well as a prison camp. It’s a bit of a slow, layered read, but when everything ties together it’s pretty incredible.

The Distant Hours

distant-hours

Another book full of layers, that alternates between a WWII timeline and a 1990s timeline, all set in England. The WWII storyline focuses on children billeted and living at a castle, creating quite an atmosphere for those of us who don’t live anywhere near castles.

All Fall Down

gr-allfalldown

This feels a bit like a cheat for my criteria of non-fantasy since the location, Adria, is not real, but the story is a contemporary thriller so I decided to keep it on my list. And Adria feels like it could be a real coastal country in Europe, steeped in rich history.

Between Shades of Gray

betweenshades

All the WWII! So this starts in Lithuania, then Lina is forced to leave home and travels by train further north to a work camp, and ultimately, to Siberia. This book also revealed another chapter in WWII history I was unfamiliar with, including an interesting  perspective from the characters who viewed Hitler as a lesser evil than Stalin.

Salt to the Sea

gr-salttothesea

I actually don’t recall where on land the book was set before the characters reach the Wilhelm Gustloff, but again, it’s definitely Europe, and the characters come from different nationalities. In this account of the worst maritime disaster that has been overshadowed by the Titanic, we see yet another glimpse into a largely unknown chapter in WWII’s history.

Crime and Punishment

GR-crime&punishment

Let’s just say Russia sounds like a rough place to live.

Jane Austen books

GR-pride&prejudice

All of Austen’s books take place during the Regency era in England, and we definitely get a very good feel for their society from her writings.

Sherlock Holmes

gr-sherlockholmes

These mysteries set in late 1800s England are a delight to read and a peek into the culture of the time.

The Scarlet Pimpernel

GR-thescarletpimpernel

The plot of this book is largely centered around the politics of the French Revolution. I also love how Sharon Cameron reused these same elements in her retelling Rook.

What’s your favorite book set outside of the US?

One Paragraph Reviews: The Books & Movies Edition

The Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine

gr-shadowqueen

While I saw there were mixed reviews of The Shadow Queen, I really wanted to check it out, and was thankfully able to do so through my library rather than having to commit to buying it. Now that I’ve read it I am left to wonder why any YA fantasy fan wouldn’t enjoy it! I really enjoyed the characters, the pacing was mostly good, and while it was a retelling there were some pretty interesting and unique concepts. It’s not my new favorite ever, but I did really like it and look forward to the next book in this series!

The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

gr-thelonggame

Oh Jennifer Lynn Barnes, why do you torture me so?! So I loved this book just as much as its predecessor The Long Game, and it was filled with just as many twists and turns that really floored me. And though I did like Tess, Asher, and Henry in the first book, I grew even more fond of them in this book. And then… ugh, I won’t go there! Major spoiler! Let’s just say I simply need another book for more resolution, yet I don’t see one listed on Goodreads?! I NEED MORE.

kermit-flail

Finding Dory

FINDING_DORY

I love the way Honest Trailers said it best when referring to this movie: the sequel you hope will be more like Toy Story 3 and less like Cars 2. Finding Dory was cute, fun, and yes, emotional. It didn’t have the same magic for me as Finding Nemo, but it was still a good, solid story about Dory where we learn a lot about her and meet a few more fun characters. I will say that there were moments of this movie that felt a little outrageous for Pixar fare and almost more in Dreamworks’ territory (which is not a dis on Dreamworks, they just have a different philosophy for their animated movies), but again, these were minor quibbles I can forgive for the overall enjoyment of the movie.

Independence Day: Resurgence

Independence-Day-Resurgence-London-poster

I didn’t watch Independence Day in 1996, but at the point where enough years had passed where it seemed more cheesy in our modern age of movies. I have seen it again a few more times since then, and in that time, and especially in this last time I saw it in preparation for the sequel, I have grown fonder of it. In Resurgence, we see Earth has progressed in the 20 years since the aliens attacked, and we get to see many of the same characters and/or their children. There were a few different storylines that were eventually intertwined, much like its predecessor, and several new characters introduced, but I feel this was all well-developed. I especially enjoyed the President’s daughter and her fiance’s good friend Charlie (her fiance was Liam Hemsworth so he was… OK, actually, considering my natural prejudice towards Liam), and the other young, new characters. Overall, it’s not going to win Oscars and I did have a few issues with it, but it was a fun summer flick, and ultimately that was all I wanted from it.

If you’ve read either of these books or seen either of these movies, let me know what you thought of them! What’s been your favorite summer movie so far?

The Top 10 Books I’ve Enjoyed with <2000 Goodreads Ratings

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is  Top Ten Books We Enjoyed That Have Under 2000 Ratings On Goodreads. I was a little surprised that some of these had so few ratings, though most of them are a little newer. I also apparently haven’t read much with less than 2000 ratings on GR… other than these listed there were only a few more books plus several novellas. I listed the genre of each book since not all of them are the young adult fiction I generally talk about.

This week’s list is in no particular order.

1. The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: YA fiction

gr-thelonggame

I just recently devoured this book in three days and there is no way JLB can leave me hanging like this. I NEED MORE! And you need to read these books if you haven’t already so that she’ll write more!

2. Do Over by Jon Acuff: Business non-fiction

gr-doover

Business non-fiction may sound like a snore, but not with Jon Acuff. This book didn’t make the same impact on me as his previous books Quitter and Start, but it’s definitely still full of practical career advice told with humor.

3. Nora and Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor: YA fiction

gr-nora&kettle

Another recent read that is definitely underrated. It’s not perfect but it’s a beautiful story with compelling characters.

4. Finding Alice by Melody Carlson: Christian fiction

GR-findingalice

While this is technically Christian fiction, it’s not preachy and can be enjoyed by anyone. It’s an older favorite of mine about a girl in college who gets diagnosed with schizophrenia. I’ve read it twice already but feel I might be due for another reread soon.

5. Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey: YA fiction

gr-loveliesspies

This book has its flaws but it’s a fun read with characters I enjoyed. I’d recommend to fans of Jane Austen who like a dash action and spying as well.

6. Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs: Christian non-fiction

gr-letsallbebrave

The only books that I loved more than this one last year were The Deathly Hallows and The Start of Me and You. Compelling and exactly what I needed.

7. Loop by Karen Akins: YA fiction

gr-loop

This is an underrated sci-fi romp in the YA world (and don’t let the cover fool you, the romance doesn’t dominate). Unfortunately, the sequel disappointed me, so I’d recommend reading just book one and reaching your own conclusions for the few unanswered questions.

8. The Veritas Conflict by Shaunti Feldhahn: Christian fiction

gr-veritasconflict

This is an old favorite of mine about a girl going to Harvard who deals with spiritual warfare, with shades of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters throughout the story.

9. Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson: YA fiction

gr-dont=touch

An underrated YA contemporary about a girl who develops an obsession with not touching others, believing that if she follows these self-imposed rules that her dad will return home.

10. Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs: Christian non-fiction

gr-lookingforlovely

Another memoir from Annie F. Downs that I didn’t love quite as much as Let’s All Still Be Brave, but I still enjoyed quite a bit.

What are some of your favorite underrated books? Have you read any of mine?