February and March Reading Highlights

February and March Reading Highlights

Last week, I announced my goal to share the top books I’ve read this year in a series of blog posts. I originally thought this could take a couple of months – I mean, I’ve read over a hundred books so far this year! But then I started combing through my ratings. Turns out that while I read a respectable number of titles in February and March, there weren’t many that elicited a strong response from me. In fact, there were only a handful that stood out:

February

  • Half Bad by Sally Green – YA Fantasy – Riveting story – I loved the choppy and unusual start to the book. Written in second person (which I’ve rarely seen) and with evocative imagery, it draws you in and makes you want to know more. Then, to see the main character mistreated by everyone except family (and even then, some family still treats him like crap) you find yourself rooting for him throughout the book. Very good read – so much so that I had to immediately check out the next book in the series!
  • By Your Side by Kasie West – YA Contemporary Romance – This book had me at ‘locked in a library’ – but surprisingly, the library incident didn’t affect the story in the way I anticipated. Instead, I found myself ensnared by Autumn’s anxiety disorder and Dax’s mysterious background. I felt that the romance played less of a part than in West’s other books I’ve read – partly because Autumn herself was torn between two boys. Despite the love triangle and disappointing lack of bookish appreciation during the library scene, I enjoyed the story and would highly recommend to fans of the YA contemporary genre.

March

  • The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi – YA Fantasy – Excellent fantasy with a swoon-worthy romance. I love the strong female lead, and the INCREDIBLE writing. Her prose is like reading jewelry, seriously beautiful.
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – YA (NA) Contemporary Romance – This is one of my favorite books ever. Cath was incredibly easy to identify with, and the cast of characters surrounding her provided a foil for different aspects of her personality. The romance was utterly adorable – and rather realistic. The whole book is pretty realistic, actually, complete with the inevitable mistakes and repercussions that come with new adulthood. Highly recommended, especially for extroverts who want a glimpse into how introvert minds work. 😉
  • The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson – YA Contemporary Romance – EXCELLENT book. Stuffed with oodles of sarcastic humor and a hate-to-love romance, I adored every second of this book. Even better, while there were a few predictable plot twists, there were a few that blindsided me out of nowhere. But seriously, the best part was the banter. So. Much. Banter. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard reading a book.

See what I mean? Out of twenty-seven books read, I only rated five (five?!) as five stars. Granted, these five are some serious gems: I’ve already read three out of five more than once. In fact, I read The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You three times.

Honorable Mentions

  • Half Wild and Half Lost by Sally Green – YA Fantasy – I’m bitter because I like happy endings, and I didn’t like how the trilogy ended … but for those that like their books a little bittersweet, this is a series for you. I’m personally not a fan of the whole ‘Romeo and Juliet star-crossed lovers who die to be with each other’ trope … yeah. Spoiler alert, I guess.
  • The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo – YA Fantasy – I really enjoyed this series, but not quite as much as I loved her Six of Crows duology. Honestly, I think a huge part of my problem is that I fell in love with the Darkling, and he’s (spoiler alert) not the hero. 😛
  • Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum – YA Contemporary Romance – Okay, I really enjoy romances that start out with anonymous letters/notes/emails (in this instance, emails) because I feel it gives the characters added depth – yeah, it’s a lot of ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’ but I think it’s a bit more organic, like dialogue. And the inevitable misunderstanding/drama when they learn the identity of the mystery writer is always a plus. Especially in books like this one, where the drama is relatively low key. Very cute but also thought provoking (the main character deals with the loss of a parent and the subsequent moving on with life).
  • Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer – YA Science Fiction/Graphic Novel – The only reason I didn’t give this 5 stars is because I’m not a huge fan of the art style. I love the story and the characters … just not big on traditional comic-book type drawing. I’m more of a manga girl … but it’s still a great graphic novel! I can’t wait to read the rest. 😀
New feature: monthly book recommendations!

New feature: monthly book recommendations!

In an attempt to prevent a future social media hiatus, I’m toying with a few ideas for regular blog posts. I have a super secret one in the works (one that should appeal to fans of my books *wink**wink*) but first, I wanted to experiment with a reading-related post. After all, reading is a huge part of my personality: just ask my co-workers who have to listen to me rant and rave about books for eight hours straight. (Well, we do work too, so maybe my book rants are more like five hours … but still.)

Actually, my above book rants inspired the idea for this post: namely, once a month I’ll share my top favorite books from the month before. However, since this year is already half over (and there are a TON of books I read and adored so far this year) I’ll post bi-weekly until I’ve caught up. This way, you all can see what books inspire me … and maybe I’ll find a couple of new book-friends to fangirl with! 😀

To give fellow readers a better grasp of what stories I’m most passionate about, I’ll only share books I’ve rated as 5 stars

January:

  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik  – YA epic fantasy with truly gorgeous world building and unexpected plot twists. I really liked the dynamic between Agneiszka and her ‘Dragon’ – I always enjoy reading about characters that don’t know how to relate to others, and I have a bit of a soft spot for hate-to-love stories.
  • On the Fence by Kasie West  – YA contemporary romance by a new favorite author. Very realistic, with swoon-worthy guys all over the place (granted, most of them were brothers) and a compelling undercurrent on the importance of being yourself and not locking away unpleasant feelings.
  • The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson – YA contemporary romance that will make you melt from the awkward adorableness. There’s a bit of cringe-drama, but it’s a bit realistic and necessary for the plot to progress … and it all works out in the end, which makes everything all better in my book.
  • Roseblood by A.G. Howard – YA Fantasy Retelling of the Phantom of the Opera, with nice paranormal twists and a compelling element of mystery. Excellent story.
  • A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro – YA contemporary retelling of Sherlock Holmes with a fascinating, gripping story and intriguing characters. I love that there isn’t blatant romance between the main characters (Charlotte Holmes, a descendant of Sherlock, and James Watson, a descendant of Dr. John Watson) and instead focuses on their becoming friends. The mystery was perfect, with just enough hints for me to follow along, but not enough for me to immediately guess the culprit or their reasoning.
  • The Hating Game by Sally Thorne – Contemporary romance – one of my two non-YA 5 star reads this month. I picked this book up because my favorite author recommended it as a perfect ‘hate-to-love’ romance … and she was right! I loved the ups and downs and sassy dialogue and unexpected twists thrown in all over the place, with laugh-out-loud moments and a great ending.
  • World of Warcraft: Illidan by William King – Fantasy/Video Game Lore –  Illidan.JPGmy second non-YA 5 star for the month. I’m a huge WoW geek, and I’ve adored almost all the Warcraft books published thus far (Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects tore me to pieces and I prefer to think it doesn’t exist) but this volume is near the top: mainly because Illidan is my absolute favorite WoW character ever. (Side note: yes, I’m in heaven with the new expansion, Legion. All hail demon hunters and Lord Illidan!!! 😀 ) While you don’t necessarily have to play the game to enjoy this book, I would recommend reading Richard A Knaak’s War of the Ancients trilogy first to better understand Illidan’s backstory.

 

What makes a good writer?

There are a ton of answers to the above question: time, patience, dedication, tried-and-true formulas … however, my favorite response is both simple and appealing.

A good writer must first be a good reader.

Honestly, this approach is how I wrote my first three books – and is probably partially to blame for my difficulties with book four. If you’ve followed along with my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a voracious reader. I used to brag that I’d read anything and everything, but after utilizing Goodreads for a few years, I’ve realized that I have a definite preference when it comes to what I truly like to read. My genre of choice is young adult fantasy, with a slow increase in young adult contemporary romance (a new development over the last year or so).

It’s not surprising that the genre I write in happens to be YA fantasy. After all, it’s a variation on ‘write what you know’. I’m by no means an expert on YA fantasy, even if I have read a lot of books in that category. It’s more that I focus on creating something I would want to read. I know what I like in my stories – action, tension, character growth – but also magic, fictional races, and medieval societies. I also know what I don’t like: the overused and cliche tropes or the story aspects that annoy me (personally, I’m not a fan of love triangles – which is funny, because I started my first book with one …)

In my opinion, if I don’t want to read what I’ve written, why on earth would anyone else want to? Again, this is where I’ve stabbed myself in the foot with book four: I’m not feeling it. I don’t particularly want to read it, let alone write it. I’m not sure why. Maybe I went a wrong direction with the plot somewhere. Maybe my intended destination for the characters and the story isn’t the correct one.

Am I going to give up? Heck no. Instead, I’m going to take a page out of my reading manual. I’m going to do what I usually do when I can’t get into a specific book; when I know I want to read it, but I just can’t seem to get more than a page read at a time.

I’m going to start another book. 😉

Granted, I’m stubborn when I read too, so don’t be surprised when I go back to the original and force my way through another few pages, because gosh darn it, I like the stupid book, I just can’t seem to get anywhere with it.

Obviously, I’ll be reading constantly during the process. I can’t call myself a good reader if I’m not, well, reading. 😀

This social media thing is hard. =/

Yes, yes. I know. I dropped off the face of the internet.

Again.

I don’t even have a decent excuse this time. Not unless you count my short attention span and tendency to get distracted by the smallest —  oooh, a new library book just downloaded to my kindle! 😉

Okay, I guess extensive reading binges do count as a decent excuse to disappear from social media. Though I’ve been posting ratings and the occasional review on Goodreads, so I guess I haven’t totally dropped off the interwebs. Here’s a brief glimpse of the 74 (yes, seventy four!) books I’ve devoured so far this year:

  • Reread the entire Court of Roses and Thorns series (including the newest installment)
  • Laughed myself silly at:
    • The Upside of Unrequited
    • All The Feels, All’s Fair In Love and Fandom
    • Noteworthy
    • The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You
  • Waited over a month for Geekerella to be available from the library
  • Drooled over the gorgeous writing in Star-Touched Queen
  • Finally read the Grisha trilogy (seriously, why did I wait so long for this?!)

So yeah. I’ve been a bit, uh, preoccupied.

But the one really awesome side effect of all this reading? My creative battery is now fully charged. That means I’m going to dive into Camp Nanowrimo this July!

You heard it here first folks. I plan to have the entire rough draft of my fourth book in the Blessings of Myrillia series completed by the end of July!!!

Stay tuned for updates, progress reports, and maybe even a snippet or two. 😀

P.S. Did you see my epic news in April? UnBlessed is an award-winning novel! Both the paperback and kindle versions now sport a shiny award seal!!!

amazonfullcoverwish01

If you’re still on the fence on whether you’d like to add this award-winner to your bookshelf, check out the first few pages free here – or read for free on Kindle Unlimited.

In other news …

Okay, after my panicked post about my forgotten Virtual Con, I’ve decided to come back and give you guys a real blog post. At least, one that’s not quite so spastic and maybe shares a little bit of what I’ve been up to these last few weeks.

First, I attended the Texas Teen Book Festival on October 1st with a few of my good friends.

book-festival

Celaena Sardothien (me), Dauntless initiate Olivia, Leigh Bardugo, Kendare Blake, and Sabaa Tahir. Best. Book. Festival. Ever.

Now, I attended the Texas Book Festival last year … but the Texas Teen Book Festival is apparently my true calling. Not only did I recognize over half of the authors at the Teen Festival (as opposed to the one I knew at the regular festival) but the gym where they had the vendors and friends of the festival was jam-packed with titles I’ve read (or want to read) … and Owlcrate was even there! They had this awesome spin-the-wheel game for free loot. (I won a book – and got there before their free totes ran out. 😀 ) I managed to get three books signed: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir, Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. My one complaint (which is good natured, I assure you) is the length of time I had to wait in line to get my books signed. I missed out on a lot of panels I really wanted to see because the lines were ridiculous – especially for Sabaa Tahir and Leigh Bardugo. Curses to the explosive nature of YA popularity! Ah well, it was great meeting everyone … and to put the icing on an already awesome experience, I managed to win the costume contest! Well, one of the prizes. I wasn’t at the actual winners announcement (I was in line for Leigh) but someone hunted down my friends and told them I won. So I’m going to say I won. Yay, me!

celeana

I am Celaena Sardothien, and I will not be afraid.

In related news, I started reading Six of Crows while waiting in the signing lines (because, I mean, what better time to read than at a book festival?) and guys: I’m officially obsessed. Maybe not quite Throne of Glass obsessed, but holy cow is it close. I should not love Kaz, there’s a very good reason the other characters call him a demon, but I do. The scene on the ship? With the oyster knife? Gave me the heebie jeebies … and I loved every minute of it! I guess I just love dark, flawed characters. Dark flawed characters capable of doing horrific things … like Celaena in Crown of Midnight with Grave. So yeah, now I have Crooked Kingdom, cause I finished Six of Crows and had a fit over the cliffhanger – and now I’m hoping there’s at least a semi-happy ending. It’s great that it’s only a duology (I know there won’t be any suspense at the end of this one), but at the same time, if things don’t wrap up neatly, then I’ll have no hopes to cling to. Does Leigh normally sink ships? I mean, she wouldn’t write the epic romance sub-plots just to kill someone in the end, right? I do NOT want a Romeo and Juliet!

Okay, enough about the book festival. Why don’t I share some news about my writing? 😀

I have officially finished the first drafts of both my short stories and sent them off to beta readers for analysis. Newsletter subscribers should keep their eyes on their inboxes starting November 1st for a special free sneak peek. Yes, the newsletter is still a thing, even though I haven’t posted since June. I promised not to spam you guys, didn’t I? I adhere strictly to the ‘If I don’t have something relevant and important to say, don’t say anything at all’ mindset. Granted, this is probably why I’ll never be a NY Times bestselling author … but at least you know if I am, you’ll hear about it in my newsletter. 😉

Other exciting news: thanks to an impromptu vacation, I’m going to be doing some extensive writing over the next week! Goals are to get the final book in the Blessings of Myrillia fleshed out and maybe – just maybe – work on a new little project that’s invaded my brain.

Week two of #AugustReviews

Guys, guys! Guess what?! I managed to achieve all of my goals this week, and I even got to play the new World of Warcraft patch! Ah, the sweet taste of success … I shall have to continue this wonderful winning streak.

What goals, you might ask? Well, first, I made sure to write a page a day this week. Granted, most of the pages weren’t for my newest book, but at least half of them belong to a short story due to be released this November. Short story number two. 😀 So yeah, writing! Yay!

I also reviewed a week’s worth of books (though I may have possibly doubled up a few days to meet my quota – work and writing and reviewing and hobbies don’t always fit together in one day.) Here’s what I reviewed this week:

Note that this time I included the genre with each title: I’d like to give a huge thanks to Terry Tyler for that idea. Hopefully, it might help potential readers find their next favorite book. 😉

A week of #AugustReviews and a cry for help … sort of.

Alrighty folks, it’s been a week. Time to share my progress on my goals so far for the month!

First, the writing a page a day: not doing so hot. I did great the first two days, then procrastination reared its ugly head. Total, I’ve managed to get five pages (ish) of random dialogue, scene setting, and/or outline for the week. Better than nothing, I suppose, but I’ll try a bit harder to stay on track.

As for Amazon book reviews, I’m not doing too shabby. I did end up share posting a few that I wrote for Goodreads and forgot to copy over as some of my quota, but overall I think I  did pretty well. Here’s the list of Amazon reviews written this week, with links:

Finally, regarding my cry for help …

I’m still a total noob and beginner with Twitter. I barely know how to tweet, and my comment/reply/share skills are at the most basic level possible. Would any of my social-media-guru friends be willing to share how to create mini-links that can be used in Twitter? Specifically, I’m looking for a way to tweet reviews from Amazon as I complete them …

See you again next week with more updates!