Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

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The first thing I did after reading this book was to order the next in the series from the library.

After reading All Bright Places by Jennifer Niven  it was nice to step out of the sad realities of life and into the exciting world where assassins, Kings, magic, and Fae coincide.

I first picked up this book because it seemed to show up a lot in top lists of YA lit. Not knowing what I’d really get from the series, I started reading.

THE PLOT

The famous assassin Celaena has been working in the salt mines for the last year when the crown prince offers her freedom. The only catch is that she much compete in a competition to win the title of Champion to the King. If she wins, she’ll be granted freedom after a few years of service. After competitors start dying, she begins to realize that there’s more than just her freedom at stake.

“My name is Celaena Sardothien. But it makes no difference if my name’s Celaena or Lillian or Bitch, because I’d still beat you, no matter what you call me.”
Sarah J. Maas, Throne of Glass

THE WORLD/ CHARACTERS

I have to say that the characters and the world are really interesting. There’s a lot of potential that the author has built into the series. As far as the world goes, we’ve only been introduced to a small portion: the salt mines and the castle. There’s a lot more to discover in the world and with the characters in general. I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface of the characters but still get a taste of what leads them to do the things that they do. I think it’s a really nice balance that will lead to good pacing throughout the series.

At this point, I can see where the series is probably going, in some ways, but I’m still excited to get the next book and get going on more reading.

Stay toned for the next review!

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All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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Fair Warning: Get the tissues ready. I’m a naturally huge crier by nature so maybe you’ll hold it together better than I did by the end of this book but I was a full 10 pages of tears.

The book was funny, sad, and informational, wrapped in a bittersweet truth. All The Bright Places is told by two characters, Violet and Finch, to tell the story of a boy who thinks about death too much and a girl still recovering from it. Together they try to manage living, one day at a time.

“It’s my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.”
Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places

The great thing about All The Bright Places is that it deals with mental health in teens. Niven has created a funny, likable, moody character in Finch that leaves the reader just wanting him to get better. But the truth about mental illness is that even when you fall in love and even when you find something great that should make you happy, it doesn’t mean that your happiness will last. Mental illness isn’t something that you just get over. It’s something that is a constant, continual fight.

This is Niven’s first YA novel (she has several adult fiction and nonfiction) but I thought she did a great job of writing these two young adult characters who found a spark of life within each other.

 

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P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

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P.S. I Still Love You is the sequel of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.

“There’s a Korean word my grandma taught me. It’s called jung. It’s the connection between two people that can’t be severed, even when love turns to hate. You still have those old feelings for them; you can’t ever completely shake them loose of you; you will always have tenderness in your heart for them.”
Jenny Han, P.S. I Still Love You

This quote really describes the book. Past relationships really matter in the present for Laura Jean as she tries to find love without getting her heart broken.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

In case you haven’t read To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before it starts out with Laura Jean and a box of five letters addressed to all the boys she’s ever “loved”. When her younger sister gets pissed off at her, the letters get sent out to all the boys and Laura Jean has to deal with the aftermath. The book is a general cute, quick read.

The Plot

P.S. I Still Love You is what happens when Laura Jean and Peter actually try to have a relationship. When one of the letter recipients comes into the picture and Genvieve still in the background, things get even more complicated. At the end of the book I really wasn’t sure who she was going to chose or really if she made the right choice.

Thoughts

The thing about these books are that they play off plots that you’ve seen a million times but it somehow makes the old plots refreshing and makes the ending semi-unpredictable. I like following the life of Laura Jean. In the background of her relationship is her family, her friends, and the volunteering that she does at the nursing home. These elements really round out the story.

 

 

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Soundless by Richelle Mead

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In Soundless,  Richelle Mead creates a world where sound is lost and everyone is just trying to get by. What happens when the people in the village start to lose their sight as well? When the world is black, what will we do then?

“Death. Starvation. Blindness. Another grim day in our village.”
Richelle Mead, Soundless

Her Other Books

Richelle Mead is the author of the bestselling Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series. I’ve read all of Vampire Academy, Bloodlines, and some of her adult series The Age of X.

Vampire Academy (now a movie available on Netflix) stars Rose Hathaway as the main character. She’s a pretty kick ass, take action sort of girl. Obviously the book is about vampires and the series is fully written so if you haven’t read it- do it!

A spin off series of Vampire Academy is Bloodlines starring the smart and vampire-prejudice Sydney. Also good.

The last book series I’ve read from Mead is The Age of X which is about a warrior named Mae. Like Rose, she is another kick ass, strong female character. This series is the only one targeted towards adults so, basically, more sex is involved.

The Plot

In Soundless, Fei lives in a dying village, cut off from the rest of society, relying on a zipline to trade mining goods for food. Everyone has lost the ability to hear and now people are beginning to lose eyesight as well at an alarming rate. Fei’s job is to record the daily happenings around town on a canvas and then hang them in the morning for all to see. But when the person down below, at the other end of the zipline, refuses them food for their mining, it looks like the village will soon starve.

To save her village and her sister, she must climb down the mountain to find out what she can about the man controlling the zipline and their food supply.

Thoughts

To me, this book, more than any of the others, plays off the idea of folktales. It reminds me a lot of folklore mixed with prophecy, stretched out to the length of a novel.  It’s an interesting world that Mead creates, bound by the complexities of humanity.

I always like to find the universal truth in novels. No matter how different a novel is from your everyday life, there’s always some truth about life and humanity. In this novel, like in Ashfall by Mike Mullin, it’s the truth in how humans can turn on other humans for power, gain, or fear that is most interesting for me.

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Ashfall by Mike Mullin

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Plot

The volcano apocalypse has come and sixteen year old Alex is completely unprepared; the whole world is.

After a volcano in Yellowstone National Park goes off, Alex is left trying to figure out what to do in a world filled with ash. To survive, he starts a trek to find his parents and sister who are hours away visiting family. Along the way he finds out what people are willing to do to survive a natural disaster. But more importantly, he finds out what he’s willing to do to say alive.

Themes

I don’t think that most people realize that young adult books actually deal with adult themes and that sometimes the only difference between YA and adult is the age of the main character. In Ashfall there’s murder, rape, looting, refugee camps, cannibalism, starvation, gangs, sex, and a lot more that I can’t immediately list. Author Mike Mullin really goes for all the different ways that society can react badly to a natural disaster. Sure, there’s some kindness along the way but Mullin doesn’t sugar coat the natural disaster.

What I Like

What I really like about this book is that Darla isn’t a weak character. In a lot of ways she’s more competent than Alex because of her upbringing. She knows how to fix machines, slaughter animals, and she really plays a key part in their survival. I also really like the transformation in Alex. In the beginning he’s just a normal teenager who would rather spend a weekend playing video games than going with his family to see relatives for the weekend. By the end he’s killed, seen death by starvation and death by baseball bat, he’s learned how to gut animals, and learned about people and himself.

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What I Learned Freelance Writing

Let me tell you a story.

It’s been six months since I walked across the graduation stage. That day I was panicked, nervous, and moving to Texas.

The nervous, oh shit moment had been building all year knowing that on graduation day I would have to actually try to figure out my life. I didn’t feel ready. All I wanted to do was be a novelist but everyone knows that no one but J.K. Rowling and the select few actually make any money doing that.

So I made another plan. I would be a freelance writer. It fit all the objectives that I wanted to achieve. The problem with it was that no one could help me understand how to achieve as a freelance writer. It was a mystery to everyone I talked to.

I read books and blogs about how to get started and when people asked what I would be doing I still didn’t really have a grasp on the subject. All I knew was that Robert Bly said that even I could make money freelancing. (Robert Bly has written many books including Getting Started As A Freelance Writer. After reading the book, my take-away was that Bly likes to pay other people to mow his lawn, do his taxes, etc. because when your time is as precious as Bly’s you pay other people to do everything you find boring.)

I had the dream in my head. I would freelance. I spent my Spring Break working 40 hours at the Kentwood Front Desk with 10 books on the subject of freelance writing.

But at the end of it all I wasn’t really sure what to tell my relatives and my friends. I just knew that this was something I would have to figure out on my own.

That was a big part of my stress. What do I tell people? They want to know details and I have none. They looked at me skeptically, told me it wasn’t too late to apply for a job at Walmart, tried to shell out some semblance of advice but I really just knew it was up to me.

So I graduated, moved, took a weekend to breathe, and then on Monday I started.

By Tuesday I had two proofreading jobs. They were small but they were my symbolic foot in the door. To me they meant that I was starting. I was in this now.

By Thursday I was hired for a 20 article job writing travel articles.

That first week I was working for a woman in American, a man in Thailand, and another man in England. I felt connected to the world. I felt like I was really helping people, in my own way, through the power of words.

And I felt that I belonged in that moment, in that place. I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be in my life, whether anyone understood it or not.

Freelance writing hasn’t been as peachy as that first week. I’ve had rejection, those who said they would hire me and then didn’t return my emails or those who would hire me, say my work was great, and then change half of it.

I’ve learned about the ups and down, the highs of getting a job and the lows of waiting for another.

I learned that after six months it’s still hard to explain. The simpleness of it is that I look for jobs (through certain sites), I apply for these jobs, and then I work these jobs when I hired. I’ve written travel, finance, and acts of kindness. It’s my job.

I learned that some people will ask you to work for nothing. Avoid these people.

If you don’t ask questions, it won’t turn out well. Clear communication is the key.

I also learned that there’s this world world of people willing to pay others for all sorts of things. It’s a world that I wish I had discovered sooner. It’s amazing all the things that people will hire you to write. Most people don’t really understand the importance of studying creative writing or writing in general but what’s clear is that it’s important. Almost every business has an online presence. Their sites need words and people to write them. Roofers, lawyers, mothers, and doctors all need someone to write for them.

Six months later and I’ve learned the importance of writers in the workforce whether freelance or not.

I’ve learned that there is still much to learn.

So I’m back again with books from the library.

I’m in the process of trying to grow and trying to learn.

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The Fear of Failure

I read an interesting article today about how the way we see failure affects creativity.

The article mentioned a study done by a ceramics teacher. The teacher divided the class into two groups: quantity and quality. At the end of the year the quantity class would be graded by how many pounds their pots weighed and the quality group would be graded by how beautiful their best pot was. The teacher found that the group that focused on quantity produced more beautiful pots than the quality group. The reason being that the pressure of failing, of producing something ugly, was off for the quantity group.

You can read the full article here.

The main idea of the article was that when you give people the freedom to fail then creativity thrives.

This same idea can be found in National Novel Writing Month. Anyone who’s had to write a paper, a poem, or a story can understand looking at a white computer screen willing something to come out. Many writers want to write but when it comes to actually writing they may spend years stuck on the same project. Fear of being imperfect, of their work sucking so bad that no one will ever want to read it (even themselves), of not being good enough, holds them back from what they really want; to create.

The idea of National Novel Writing Month is to push back the voice in your head that thinks everything you write sucks and just to focus on the love of it. This idea has turned unpublished writers into bestsellers. It’s given 300,000 people all over the world, whether they ever want to publish or not, a drive and excitement to create something special. Whether it’s something that other people will ever see it’s a gift they give themselves.

It is the gift to create without self-judgement.

But in reality National Novel Writing Month isn’t free of total judgement. It’s hard to turn off the little voice inside that wants to criticize everything. And the challenge of creating 1,667 words a day can sometimes seem impossible. Failing to complete the word count or failing to see the worth of the words being written because they are not perfect often stops people from continuing. It’s the biggest NaNoWriMo No No.

When you stop creating you let fear win.

Don’t fear failure. Fear never actually trying.

By today, November 15th, I should be at 25,000 words according to NaNoWriMo’s goal of 50,000 words in one month. I have 9,257. I’m OK with that. Sure, I wish it was better. I wish I was writing at a faster and more consistent pace. But giving up isn’t something I’m willing to do right now.

Whatever you’re trying to create, don’t let the fear of failure stop you.

You are going to fail.

You get to control whether failure is the end of the story or the beginning.

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Twas the Night Before NaNoWriMo

HalloweenIt’s the day of Halloween or what others around the world like to call the night before NaNoWriMo. While most are dressing up to celebrate the holiday some are sharpening their pencils and lining their character note cards across their desk like stockings stuffed over the fire place.

There’s a lot of excitement going on today.

Some might find today a great day to watch movie marathons, go to a party or take their kids out trick or treating but while all that is happening there’s a subculture where people of all ages are gathering at coffee shops, waiting out midnight. There’s a mother and a daughter having a tea party at midnight with their pencils ready and individual writers around the world waiting the time.

For all the NaNoWriMo’s today is the night before the frenzy.

I once heard someone describe NaNoWriMo as like a tough mudder race. It’s something to push you. It’s something that is fun and a challenge all at once. Many people participate while juggling jobs, spouses, moving, Thanksgiving… but they all share a need to have something of their own that can inspire them.

And there are rebels out there too.

Short stories, poems, fan fiction and even 30 days/ 30 covers of novel art

NaNoWriMo’s dedicate a month out of the year to following their dream, trying to write a novel, trying to write anything. It’s what it’s all about.

As far as my NaNo goes, I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I’ve outlined a story, picked some characters, tried to get to know said characters, and I don’t know if that’s going to work out. My winging it attitude might be coming up. Maybe I’ll start writing that story and hit a roll. Or not. Maybe I’ll stop and start writing something else. I might become a rebel and write shorts along with novels.

Who knows what November holds. I think the important part is just to try.

For my last post on NaNoWriMo, click here.

Happy Writing!

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NaNoWriMo Prep- I’m Trying Something New

For those who don’t know- NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Every November nerds gather in Panera’s across the country for weekly write-ins and forums fill up with the best world building strategies and support networks.

Last year, in the last weeks of October, I knew something was missing in my life.

I needed a purpose.

At 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 31, exactly 1 1/2 hours before November started, I remembered NaNoWriMo and started my journey to crafting a novel.

In the world of NaNoWriMo there are two sorts of people. There is the planner (someone who needs a plan) and there is the pantser (someone who wings it). Last year I was without a doubt a pantser.

Starting with little more than a vague thought I wrote a 50,000 word novel. NaNoWriMo is typically done by those who have a love of writing. It’s purpose is to drive those with this passion to complete a 50,000+ word novel, at all costs, within the month of November. The whole thing is very informal and “winning” just gives you the great satisfaction of a project completed along with a very, very rough novel.

This year I have a lot more time to think about this whole NaNoWriMo business.

For about a month or two I’ve been feeling the excitement. It’s almost November! I keep telling myself. Now, with it being exactly a month away, I’m getting serious.

There are several things that are different about this year from last.

One, I’m actually committing to it way earlier than Oct. 31st. That’s a start.

Two, I’ve got a spur of the moment Paris airport purchase to help me along.

Colored Pencils!
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Random Fact: The Paris airport sells numerous coloring books for adults. For fun, I bought a Japanese one for Spenser along with colored pencils and a sharpener.

Also Fun Fact: I am the only person who has actually colored in this coloring book.
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Now you might be wondering, what do colored pencils have to do with writing a novel? Well I’ve tried writing out character qualities, I’ve winged it and I’ve actually created an entire novel from these. But the real question is whether it’s a good novel?

Not really. Let’s just say the editing process is going to be really rough.

So this year I’m trying something new. It’s something that seems to come more naturally and is more fun than trying to make a list of who my characters are.

This year I’m using colored pencils to build the world and the characters that I’m imagining for my novel. So far I have three characters, one enemy, one pet, one guide and three maps very roughly sketched out.

I’m thinking that instead of trying to write out character descriptions maybe this might be a better way. When I draw the characters, and believe me I’m really bad at drawing, I think about who they are.

What are they wearing? Why?

What do they have on them?

It all tells me a story and helps me to better understand them and their world.

To be honest, I’ve got some world backstories going on but the characters I’m still trying to mold. It’s a process and everyday I try to get a little deeper.

I know this makes me a bit of a planner but I’m still not sure if I’ve given up my pantser ways.

I have not written a single word in my planning but I have a good feeling about it. My head knows the history of the land, it knows where the story is going to end and it knows some of the tiny bits that will lead the story to it.

I’m drawing my story as #NaNoPrep but what I really want to know is who’s joining me next month for the novel writing adventure?

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year message me, comment below or become my writing buddy on NaNoWriMo. I’d love to have people to talk to about this and to have a great support system this year.

Three cheers for the writers!

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Peace & Rain & Ocean

There’s something magical about being in the rain. There’s something even more magical about being in the rain by the ocean.

I was in Nice, France taking my time walking along the stormy Promenade des Anglais. Out of the three cities we went to in France- Paris, Nice and Arles- Nice was my favorite.

And out of 18 days worth of memories, the one that fights the hardest to be my favorite is the hour or two that I spent huddling under a red umbrella, walking along the promenade and taking a new picture every couple of seconds.

You weren’t there to see it. A lot of my group didn’t see it either. They didn’t see the way the blues separated in the ocean, how the clouds bunched up into angry grays and spit down on everyone or how everything just looked so much more alive.

I felt at peace.

I felt at peace as my flip flops kept sliding on the pavement. I forgot all about my almost splits leaving the hotel and the guy who rushed forward to help me up. The wet flee market with all of my friends, the place where I was actually supposed to be, it didn’t matter.

What mattered was the two joggers fighting the rain along with me. What mattered was the couple huddled under there own orange umbrella. 20150810_101305And then there was the couple that looked out at the ocean like they could take it on.

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There’s not a lot that’s more beautiful than looking at the ocean during a storm.

One of my favorite moments on the trip was a right time, right place occurrence. It was something you couldn’t plan and don’t know to wish for.

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The thing about me is I love taking pictures of clouds, I love the ocean and I love the color blue. So, knowing these things, you might see how beautiful it was to me.

This was the day that I found a mixing of peace and rain and ocean.

It was beautiful.

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