Birthday Book Haul!

My birthday was this Sunday, and while it has come and gone, the gift of books remains! I also got some music, TV/movies, and some some cute Funko Pops, including one you’ll see hanging out with my new books, but of course wanted to highlight THE BOOKS…

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Yes, that’s Hermione! I know she would approve of books for birthday presents. Now I just wish I could read all of them NOW, but I’ll have to wait and read them one at a time. I also just realized a few days before my birthday that Sharon Cameron is a local author and I’ve seen her for the past three years at the local SCBWI conference I attend! That made me even happier to get Rook.

Now… any recommendations for which I should read first? 

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It Will Happen When It’s Supposed To

Last Saturday I attended the SCBWI Midsouth conference for the third time. For the uninitiated, SCBWI is for writers, illustrators, and enthusiasts of children’s literature (which includes young adult). I always walk away from this conference feeling ready encouraged, inspired, and ready to improve my craft. I always meet wonderful people who feel like my people. I could go on about what I learned, but there’s something else in regards to this conference that has got me to thinking: How did I get here?

I believe whole-hardheartedly that things work out the way they do for a reason. I also believe that God is the one who orchestrates all these events in my life and weaves them together just so. But regardless of your beliefs, you have to admit how things come together can be pretty awesome.

I often tout that I had a worthless major in college. And I stand by that. But two things happened in the course of this “worthless major” that I believe led me to SCWBI conferences:

  1. I took a fiction writing class my last semester, because I needed another elective.
  2. I couldn’t get hired straight out of school, so eventually I ended up in a string of temp positions.

The fiction writing class is what got me back into writing. I clung to writing during that time of unemployment when I felt so useless. As for the temp position, that is where I met the woman who first told me about SCBWI.

At my first SCBWI conference, I really had no idea what to expect. I went in there thinking I knew one person, but reconnected with another girl who lived in my town that I had known from church. We ended up in the same critique group at the end of the day, and we kept in touch. That day I also met another girl who lived in our town. We stayed somewhat connected, though we did not hear as much from her as she became a new mom. Then several months ago, she reached out to me and the first girl, and we have been meeting and critiquing each other pretty consistently ever since. It was so great to sit with both of them at the conference this year.

I also learned about publishing from my first SCBWI conference. I was mostly blind to the whole process, but I learned about agents and queries and editors and the whole nine yards.

Before my fiction writing class, I had also been very afraid of sharing my fiction writing. That class was an epiphany – exactly what I needed – the kick in the butt to share. So I was able to share myself, my writing, at these conferences, with these girls I have come to know (and some others as well).

Before the conference this year, I paid for a fifty-page critique of my novel, and it was not an easy thing to do, but it was the right decision. A decision I would have never made, a place I never would have been ready for, had it not been for SCBWI. I got some much-needed constructive criticism. After that critique I improved the first few pages of my story to bring to the conference, and got even more feedback. So I’ll be revising again, on those first few pages and on the rest of the manuscript.

My goal is to have another full revision by the end of this year, ready for some beta readers. This is with the goal of being ready to query sometime early next year. I have made goals like this before that I have not met, but I KNOW I really am much closer this time. Between the paid critique service and my critique partners and what I hear in these conference sessions I know I am headed in the right direction. I am completely convinced I can make my dream to become a published author come true.

And I wonder if I would even be here right now had it not been for that “worthless major.”

So no, I did not get published at 25, I probably won’t have a physical book of mine out by 30 (but hopefully, maybe, I will have a book sold by then?!), but that is OK. I believe publication will come at the right time.

Right now, my own story is being written.

The Top 10 Books on my Fall TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is the The Top 10 Books on my Fall TBR. Out of the actual seven titles I said I intended to read for the summer, I read all seven! BAM! I’m quite excited about that. We won’t get into how pitiful I am about the books I own and still haven’t read as I instead parooze the library… instead let’s move on to the books I hope to read this season. This list is in no particular order.

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1. The Wrath and the Dawn

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This is the next read for our book club and our meeting is in early October, so I plan to dive into it pretty soon.

2. Vicious

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I bought this on Nook a little while ago when it was a good deal, and I think it’s about time I read some Schwab!

3. Six of Crows

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I plan to buy this either on release day or soon thereafter because LEIGH BARDUGO! And GRISHA!

4. Rook

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I’m pretty sure I’m getting this one for my birthday, and Charlene praised this Scarlet Pimpernel retelling, so I’m looking forward to it!

5. The Fixer

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This is another one I am pretty sure I am getting for my birthday. I enjoyed The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes and look forward to this new series starter.

6. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson #1)

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I have never read these books, but grabbed the first book on an e-deal recently, so I believe I’m going to have to check it out!

7. On Writing

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I read a review of this that explained that this book is part Stephen King memoir and part actual writing advice, so I plan to just read the part about writing, since I’m not really all that interested in Stephen King himself.

8-10. The Hunger Games Trilogy Re-Readhg-trilogy

In anticipation of the last movie (!!!) I really want to reread the trilogy. I devoured these books in 2011 before the first movie had been released (though it was cast and I had seen those first pics released of Katniss, Peeta, and Gale). These books got me back into reading, especially YA! I’m pretty excited about experiencing the trilogy again.

What do you hope to read this fall?

Sherlock Holmes-ish & Late Night Chats

AKA, mini-reviews of Jackaby and On the Fence.

Jackaby by William Ritter

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What I expected: a book inspired by Sherlock Holmes. What I didn’t expect: paranormal. Apparently I didn’t read the synopsis very closely. I spent the first bit of this book adjusting to the paranormal creatures that existed in this world, and once I was able to accept that, I was able to enjoy it for the most part. The narrator, Abigail, is discovering everything about this world along with the the reader, and is a good sidekick for Jackaby, like Watson is for Sherlock. Jackaby was eccentric, as expected from the book’s description, and I enjoyed him.

However, I felt there could have been further character development for Abigail, Jackaby, and Charlie, the latter being one of the more prominent secondary characters and potential love interest for Abigail. She is quickly attracted to him, which was fine for me, but I didn’t get enough interaction between the two of them to properly ship them. And Charlie seemed like a nice guy, so I wish I could have gotten to know him better. Hopefully in the next book there will be a little more of him.

The story moves pretty quickly, which I can appreciate, but the pacing and tone almost felt more young YA or maybe even middle grade. I didn’t have a real problem with this. but it was confusing since I never got a good feel for the characters’ ages, but Abigail can’t be younger than 18 (and she feels more like early 20’s), and Jackaby feels he could be any age between 22 and 35ish.

Overall, this was a fun and quick read for me, and I’m definitely interested in reading more. However, I would have liked an additional 50ish pages to flesh everything out a little more, especially the characters.

Rating: 4 stars

Content Advisory: Pretty clean. Some violence, no sexual content, and I don’t recall any language.

On the Fence by Kasie West

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After enjoying The Distance Between Us, I immediately put On the Fence on hold at my library, ready to enjoy more by this author who is quickly becoming a go-to for me. Out of all of West’s books I’ve read so far (which is everything she’s published except The Fill-In Boyfriend), this one is easily my favorite. I enjoyed Charlie’s relationship with her brothers, her late-night chats with Braden, and her time at work. I also really liked that this book takes place in the same town as The Distance Between Us and we get some cameos from those characters!

I think in comparison with the romances in Kasie West’s other books, this was the romance that felt the most natural. I did like Addie and Trevor, though much better in Pivot Point than in Split Second; Lyla’s romance in Split Second came out of left field for me (I don’t even remember her dude’s name); and Cayman and Xander were cute but it did feel unrealistic for me, or at least I should say it felt unrealistic that it would last. Of course, I do have a deep love for the best-friend-turned-romance trope, and if you do too, I think you’ll enjoy this one as well.

I don’t have any real complaints about the story, it just didn’t blow me away to a 5 star level. I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end, and was surprised in the end by the twist of Charlie learning more about her mom.

Rating: 4 or 4.5 stars (I’m indecisive, I know)

Content advisory: Clean – no violence, only a little kissing, and I don’t recall any language.

Have you read Jackaby or On The Fence? What are your thoughts?

Bookish Wedding Inspiration: The Start of Me and You

I thought it might be fun to try creating themed wedding ideas based off of books, and how the main character’s wedding might look with our modern sensibilities, and thus, Bookish Wedding Inspiration was born! This is my second contemporary to do for Bookish Wedding Inspiration, and I’m so excited to share the plethora of ideas that I came up with Paige and Max’s inevitable wedding after finishing The Start of Me and You by Emory Lord. Feel free to see my fangirling review here.

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For this wedding, I wanted to draw upon several favorite things of Max and Paige’s: books and learning, TV shows, and airplanes. I was amazed by some of the creative ways I found other couples incorporate these very same elements into their wedding day! But first, what look would Paige pick for her big day?

Bride and Groom Look

The Dress

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Paige strikes me as the type who would go for simple, classic elegance, and I think this Jenny Yoo dress delivers.

The Accessories

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Paige likes purple tulips and pastel nail polish, so obviously both would be a part of her big day.

The Groom’s Look

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I picture Max going with the traditional black tux look, with some Firefly cufflinks to add that nerdy touch.

The Bridesmaids

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To go with Paige’s purple flowers, I decided on this simple but cute purple bridesmaid dress from Jenny Yoo. No doubt her two best girl friends from The Start of Me and You would be by her side, and I’m sure there would be a couple of new friends from college standing up there with her too.

Invitations

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These cute book themed invitations reflect the love Max and Paige have for books.

Photography

The Engagement Pictures

Paige and Max would obviously have to do book/library-themed engagement pictures, like so…

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Bridal Portraits 

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Clearly, Paige would have to pose with a copy of Pride and Prejudice.

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…and with an airplane. When I saw this wedding, I almost made the venue for Max and Pagie’s wedding an airplane hangar, but in the end I decided against the actual wedding taking place there, but thought for sure they would find one nearby to take some pictures before or after their nuptials.

Groom Portrait

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Isn’t this picture just so Max?

Ceremony & Reception

Ceremony Venue

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Instead of the aforementioned airplane hangar idea, I decided to go with an outdoor ceremony, with a paper airplane backdrop like above, along with other fun airplane details, like their programs and send-off.

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Programs/Exit

Reception Details

While the ceremony has plane details, for the reception I see more focus on books and TV shows the couple enjoy together, plus some school-themed additions reflecting their high school romance. I also picture the reception inside.

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The Cakes

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I thought this cake with book script was beautiful and fitting for the traditional wedding cake. And for the groom’s cake…

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Of course.

I hope you enjoyed this latest installment of Bookish Wedding Inspiration! What would you like to see at Paige and Max’s wedding? And did this make anyone want to read or reread the book, because I kind of want to reread it after doing this. 🙂

My Top 10 Series to Finish

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. The actual topic for today is Ten Finished Series I Have YET to Finish, but the thing is, I’m usually good about finishing series and when I don’t, it’s usually because I don’t want to. So since most of my started but not yet finished series are unfinished, I will be sharing my Top 8 of those, then the top 2 that are finished.

The Unfinished Series…

1. The Lunar Chronicles

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I mean, this is the most obvious one. I am going to be so sad when it’s all over… and yet I can’t wait for Winter to release! #bookwormproblems

2. The Naturals

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I’ve only read the first book so far, but I enjoyed it and look forward to reading the next two!

3. The 5th Wave

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The twists and turns of the first two books have definitely guaranteed that I have to see how this alien invasion shakes out for Cassie and company.

4. Embassy Row

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I enjoyed this first book and really love the concept of living on Embassy Row, so I look forward to more from this series!

5. The Winner’s Trilogy

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I am definitely excited to see how Kestrel will prevail in the end.

6. The Selection

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I still have only read the first book, and even though it didn’t blow me away, I’ve always intended to read more. I wanted to make sure my ship would sail first before I continued, and now the original trilogy has extended to include the stories of America’s children, and I’ve got to admit I’m a little intrigued by that.

7. Mistborn

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I finished the original trilogy, but now this universe has been expanded upon with The Alloy of Law and other books. At first I wasn’t sure how interested I was because it’s many years in the future and not the same characters, but really, do I think I would be disappointed? So I would like to get around to these other books some day.

8. The Young Elites

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I will admit, my initial excitement for this series has worn off since I initially finished The Young Elites, but I still think I would like to continue this series.

The Finished Series…

9. The Gallagher Girls

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After reading the first book I wasn’t admittedly sold on continuing the series, but I received encouragement that it gets better, so I believe I will.

10. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 

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This is more iffy than definite, but the first book was a quick, fun read, so I would at least like to read the next book, especially since the first book kind of leaves you hanging for the second, even if it’s not in a dramatic, cliff-hanging way.

Which series do you need to finish?

The Would You Rather Tag

Thanks to Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy for tagging me to do this, even if this questions are very hard!

1. Would you rather read only trilogies or standalones?

Even though there are some trilogies I have dearly love (The Hunger Games and the Grisha trilogy, most notably), I am a huge fan of standalones. It’s so much easier to pick up a book without the commitment to read further, and I wouldn’t have to deal with disappointing sequels either!

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2. Would you rather read only male or female authors?

I have to say I am really NOT a fan of this question, but I will say female authors since that is primarily what I read. But if I had never been able to read The Chronicles of Narnia or Mistborn or The Book Thief merely because they were written by men that would be a tragedy!

3. Would you rather shop at Barnes & Noble or Amazon?

I definitely feel a lot more love for Barnes & Noble and try to do most of my book shopping with them. Unfortunately, sometimes I do go with Amazon even though they anger me in multiple ways, but B&N is definitely my fave.

4. Would you rather all books become movies or TV shows?

I think more books are motr fit to become movies than they are TV shows. And besides, there’s no way I could keep up with that many shows!

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5. Would you rather read 5 pages per day or 5 books per week?

Wow! So one of these is way too little and the other is way too much! I guess I’ll go with 5 books a week, and here’s hoping this is my job, where I can be paid to read one book for 8 hours every weekday!

6. Would you rather be a professional reviewer or author?

Even though being a professional reviewer would be 100 times easier in my opinion, it’s never been an aspiration of mine. I have wanted to be a published author for a large portion of my life. So I think that’s a previous obvious answer.

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7. Would you rather read your top 20 favorite books over and over or or always read new ones you haven’t read before?

Even though I do enjoy rereading favorites, I would have to go with always reading new ones. There are always new favorites waiting to be discovered, and how else would I be able to find them? The memories of my favorites will live on in my heart, and many have movie adaptations as well.

8. Would you rather be a librarian or a book seller?

That’s really hard to say… it would depend on which library and which bookstore. But I do think librarians probably have better hours, so from a practical standpoint, that would probably be my answer.

9. Would you rather only read your favorite genre or every genre except your favorite?

If I can count young adult as my favorite genre, I would just stick with it because there are still so many subgenres within it. I just hope I wouldn’t burn out in 20 years.

10. Would you rather only read physical books or ebooks?

As convenient as ebooks are, physical books are my first love.

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I’m tagging anyone who is interested! What would you rather do in the above scenarios? 

Mini Book Reviews: The Sci-Fi & Fantasy Edition

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Young Adult Sci-Fi/Contemporary

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I read several reviews for this book and knew of all the hype, but I still didn’t fully know what to expect from it. As you can see above, it blends genres, which I love. The book follows two timelines, a previous timeline that reads like a contemporary-turned-thriller, and a later timeline that reads like a sci-fi with just a taste of dystopia (but don’t let that scare your dystopia-weary soul, because I promise it’s not like another rehash of Divergent or anything). The plot was great, the characterization interesting, and I just loved seeing how everything weaved together. And the way time travel was handled in this book was well-done. I will say that while I thought the ending was really great and fitting, it made me raise my eyebrow a little like the Fringe finale, where I was questioning how exactly that could have happened that way, but I do forgive it because I think it was the right ending.

I really enjoyed this one and only had a few minor issues with it. However, for some reason this one doesn’t really stick to as a favorite that will stand the test of time, so it’s not quite a 5 star read, but it was definitely worthwhile.

Rating: 4.5 stars

The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

Young Adult Fantasy

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I really enjoyed The Winner’s Curse, and while I didn’t love this one as much, I still enjoyed it a good bit! I admit, I’m suffering a bit from book amnesia on this one since I have waited a while to review it, but I do remember the twisty mind games that I enjoyed in the first book continuing through this one, though it did play out a bit differently. It’s more of Kestrel trying to tiptoe around the emperor and not reveal her hand to him, rather than her manipulating situations.

My biggest complaint about the book is that I wanted more of the emperor’s son, who I actually really liked and would have liked to have seen more friendship between him and Kestrel. I was also very sad about how things turned out with Jessi and Ronan, but I’m not saying Rutkoski made the wrong choices about them because sadly, I don’t think she did. I just liked them in the first book and hated to see how they acted in the second.

I think I found the romance between Kestrel and Arin a little more interesting this time around, but I’m actually still not a super hard shipper for them. But the ending definitely left me intrigued for the last book and to see how it all plays out.

Rating: 4 stars

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

High Fantasy

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I don’t know what I can say about this book. There is so much heartache, so many surprises, an adorable and perfect dance scene with Vin and Elend, and the ending is just… WOW. I think Brandon Sanderson is a master when it comes to endings (well, writing in general really). I was so floored by how it all played out, how it simultaneously ripped my heart out and crushed me and made me kind of angry to being so perfect and what it needed to be. I mean seriously, how does that happen?! Also, I think every question I had about this world and the characters was answered. So yeah, if you have any interest in these books, read them.

Rating: 5 stars

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Science Fiction

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I enjoy the movie adaptation of this book, but I did not expect for the book to actually line up with so much of the movie! There are a few things I like better about the book, and a few things I like better about the movie, but overall this book is a fun romp through the galaxy that makes you think of improbable possibilities. I will say that the book ends much more abruptly than the movie, without a really nice wrap-up, and is clear you are supposed to continue on with the next book, which I imagine I will do one day!

Rating: 4 stars

Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts?