February 24, 2018

February 24, 2018

I used to be a prolific writer.

No, seriously, I could sit down and write thousands of words in a sitting. My personal best was six thousand words written one summer night when a story sank its claws into me and refused to let go. The book I'm working on now was written in just two months. That rough draft was about ninety thousand words and my planner from those two months is littered with days that have multiple star stickers stacked one on top of the other (I used to give myself a sticker for every thousand words I wrote).

Now I feel lucky when I focus long enough to string a hundred words together. This draft, the fifth, has been in the works on and off since November.

And I am frustrated.

I wish I could be all zen about it and spout something about each book taking as long as it needs to take.

I'm not.

I'm ready for a break from this book. For something else to work on. A shiny, new story.

But I'm resisting the urge to work on shinier things because I do want to finish this book. I want to whip it into shape and shop it around. I want to see this book on the shelves at a bookstore. I just don't want to work on it anymore. I'm tired of crawling along at a snail's pace, painstakingly inching my way through chapter after chapter. Some days, I feel like I will always be working on this book, like this is the only book I have ever worked on, like I am getting nowhere.

As I write this, I'm kind of dreading my current chapter. A part of me wants to finish this post and call it a day. That's not what's going to happen, but it's what I would like to happen. I would much rather be reading a book right now than writing one. However, as much as I dread working on the next chapter, I also know that if I focus, if I push through that moment when I stare at yesterday's final sentence wondering where the heck I was going I'll actually get some work done.

No, it won't be the thousands of words I can slam down in a rough draft, but editing has taught me to count my success in hundreds of words.

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen me post about #AHundredOrDie, which encourages authors to sit down at their computer and write the next hundred words of their WIP. Once that is done, you're allowed to quit and do other things, but the goal is to make progress. And me, being utterly frustrated with my lack of progress over the month of January (I think I got through one chapter of my WIP), decided to give it a try.

It doesn't have me flying through the pages of revision, but I did more writing in the first week of February than I think I did the entire month before.

It's not as much progress as I'd like to have made (I'd like to be done), but it is progress.

That's what I'm focusing on.

Progress is progress, no matter how slow.

February 20, 2018

February 20, 2018


The Roses of May by Dot Hutchison

It's taken me far too long to get this review up, but I can finally share it with all of you. For those of you that remember, you might recognize this book as one of my Top Ten Reads From 2017. It is a gem of a book, and those of you that enjoy a twisted thriller/mystery should definitely pick it up.

Don't forget to SUBSCRIBE for more wordy, nerdy content. And please chime in down in the comments if you've read this book!

February 16, 2018

February 16, 2018

Last week, an article came out discussing sexual harassment in children's publishing (the umbrella that covers everything from picture books to YA). No names were mentioned in this article, but judging from the comments of some of the author's I follow, this has been as long coming here as in other professions. Since the article was released, several authors have been accused, but I'm not here with lists of who to boycott. I'm here to talk to the fans who are grieving right now. The fans who feel betrayed.

Thankfully, none of my favorites have been named so far (though, as I don't know them, I have no way to be 100% they won't be named later), but at least one of those authors was someone whose work I respected.

Yes, I'm talking about Jay Asher and Thirteen Reasons Why. It pains me that such an influential book in my own life and in the lives of so many others is now tainted by the author's misconduct. I feel for you.

And I'm here to tell you: It's okay for you to still like something after you find out its author is a scuz bucket.

I want to stop right here and say that I am not saying to continue supporting authors that have been exposed as awful human beings. Jay Asher and others like him will not be getting another cent from me unless it can be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were falsely accused.

What I'm saying is: Books become a part of us.

Especially books that deal with difficult subjects like Thirteen Reasons Why did. There were many heavy issues tackled in that book. For me, it not only painted a perfect picture of what happened to those left behind but also gave me a more empathetic view toward those who had committed suicide. It challenged my then understanding of the issue, made me rethink, pointed me in a better direction.

I know there are others whose lives were changed by that book, others who were truly deeply moved. Those who may still be with us because they found that book. You are the ones my heart goes out to right now.

People read for all different reasons: for the stories, for the characters, for the escape, for understanding, for self-discovery. And it is impossible to know everything about a person who is as far removed as the author of a book.

If in the coming weeks and months, the name of your favorite author lands on the list of bad guys, don't feel bad for still loving the story and the characters. If your favorite series is still your favorite series after you learn the author is a creep, don't feel guilty. When you got attached to the book(s) you didn't know what you know now.

(The converse is also true, don't feel bad if this ruins the book for you.)

While I would advise withdrawing your support from future projects, you don't have to go out right away and throw those books on a pyre.

If that book or series helped you, if you connected with it in a profound way, if it taught you about yourself, you're allowed to still love it. Sometimes book speak to us in spite of their authors. That's what makes hypocrites so hard to spot, they're usually preaching the truth, even if they aren't living it.

I can tell you right now if my favorite author were implicated they would lose my respect for sure. They would lose my support for any future projects they wrote and I wouldn't recommend their books anymore, but the characters in those books belong to me now as much as they belong to them. And if they prove unworthy of them, I won't be giving them back.

I know this is a hard and touchy subject, but if you have any thoughts on this, you are welcome in my comments.

My heart is with you, we'll get through this, my friends. We will find new authors to admire. Authors worthy of that admiration.

February 9, 2018

February 9, 2018

During November, I got the chance to try out Novlr for thirty days. This was not any sort of paid promotion, they were simply running a special that extended the two-week free trial period through all of National Novel Writing Month.

This was my first experience with a program specifically devoted to novel writing. Up until this point, I'd solely used Word for writing (well, aside from the dark ages when I used my Mom's ancient typewriter), so I can't really hold it up against any other noveling programs, but I did want to sit down and write out my pros and cons so that anyone else wondering about this program can make a more informed decision. You'll note that there are more pros than cons. I really did like the program, though I did stop using it for reasons I'll get into a little further down.

Pros:

  • Novlr is a web-based system and you can access it from any computer. This was especially helpful to me since my laptop died and I've been exiled me to a Google Chromebook. (I am very, very grateful to have this computer, don't get me wrong, but I can't use any of my old programs.) Novlr does allow you write offline, but there's no downloading or compatibility to worry about.
  • I really like the organization system. You have a drop-down menu for your different novels (projects) and you can add to them as new ideas hit you. All your chapters and notes are accessible through a menu on the left that can be hidden if you desire.  Not needing to switch between different files, as you do with both Word and Google Docs, is very convenient. And because it automatically saves things, you don't have to worry about losing data if you go from Chapter Seven back to Chapter Three and then to your notes on Character G.
  • Word count is displayed in the bottom right-hand corner. And it keeps track of not just your words in each chapter, but the words in that novel and the number of words you've written across all novels that day.
  • The stats page is something else. Hitting certain numbers and keeping track of data is a huge motivation for me, so this was almost (see my cons) one of my favorite things about this program. It keeps track of the normal ones, like words per day, per month, per year, but it also keeps track of when you usually write and the average number of words you write per day and the number of hours you've written.
  • Along the same vein, each novel has its own stats page which details stuff like words, chapters, when you started working on it, and how many words you've written in the last day, month, and year. Once again, super good for someone like me who gets really excited keeping track of those kinds of numbers.
  • They allow you to set and keep track of goals in the program. No need for a separate spreadsheet, Novlr does it for you.
  • Lots of useful features. I didn't really explore many of these since my main focus was hitting my word count, but comparing it to the features listed for Scrivenr, they're close and getting closer. They have a list of fantastic features that they either offer or they're working on.


Cons:

  • There isn't a mobile app yet. I believe they are working on this though, so I'd double check to see if that's changed.
  • The daily writing stats don't keep track of anything that is pasted in. They do still show up in your overall novel word count, but it won't influence any of the other stats. I contacted Novlr and they explained why they chose to do things this way, but for it just doesn't for the way I write. Most of my writing happens in a program called Write or Die (it's fantastic, you should look it up) and the fact that there are a timer and a status bar keeping track as I write is a HUGE motivator for me. I was writing hundreds and thousands of words a day that weren't getting counted in my overall stats. I know this mainly a me thing and most people won't have an issue with this, but I did. This was the main reason I stopped using Novlr, it just wasn't made for the way I write.
  • Price. Now, I have to say, the price is pretty reasonable. You can choose from two options: $10 a month or $100 a year. It's not as cost-effective as a program that charges a single one time fee, but it's not a huge challenge to pay. However, for me, considering my writing process and my disinterest in the features, the cost wasn't worth it to me.
  • There's was some weird formatting when I pasted my work back into my Google Docs at the end of my trial. But that might have just been me.

All in all, I did like the program. If I were to rate it like one of my books, I'd give it a 4 out of 5 stars. Honestly, the only reason I stopped using Novlr was that I use sprint programs like Write Or Die to write literally everything. Now, if they were to add a sprint feature similar to WoD, I would probably find a way to pay that $10, so I'll keep an eye out.

If Novlr sounds like something you'd be interested in you can check it out here. Again, this is not sponsored and I am no affiliated them in any way. I just had some thoughts.

Feel free to chime in below if you've used Novlr or any similar programs. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

February 6, 2018

February 6, 2018


Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Look! A brand new book review!

Don't forget to SUBSCRIBE for more wordy, nerdy content. And please comment below if you've read this book, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

February 4, 2018

February 5, 2018



January is usually a good reading month for me and this year was no exception. Last year, I read eleven books, this year I upped that to twelve. A lot of that can be credited to the number of audiobooks I got through. I don't know what it is, that fresh feeling you get on January 1st, the cleaning projects...whatever it is, I am never more focused on getting through audiobooks than in January. All in all, it was a good reading month and I discovered quite a few amazing books.

Caraval (Caraval #1) by Stephanie Garber
3 stars
Finished on 1/1, Audiobook
 Caraval follows Scarlett Dragna as she participates in a legendary and magical game--the twist is that this year her sister, Tella, is a part of the game. Tella disappeared shortly after they arrived at the game grounds and Scarlett finds herself keeping questionable company as she desperately searches for her sister. I liked this book. I liked the crazy, high stakes world that Garber built to support these characters. There are some fantastic revelations that really twist the story up. As a theatre junkie and actor, the theatrical qualities of the game appealed to me. I'm always up for a good ruse. I didn't have any specific critiques of the book, but I did put it down feeling rather...unenthusiastic, maybe? It was a great book, but not one I'm inspired to shove in my friends' faces and demand they read.

Green Arrow, Vol 2: Islands of Scars by Benjamin Percy et. al
4 stars
Finished on 1/1, Graphic novel
Oliver survives volume one and washes up on a seemingly deserted island. He quickly discovers that he's not alone, as old allies and new enemies quickly make their presence known. In my opinion, this storyline felt more cohesive than The Death and Life of Oliver Queen. The writers and artists really seemed to hit their stride with this volume. As always, I was stoked to see my girl Dinah Lance kicking butt. I think that's one of the things about Dinah and Ollie that appeals to me. It turns the usual "highly-skilled fighter dude with a scrappy girlfriend" dynamic on its head. While Ollie isn't without skills, Dinah is by far the better fighter of the two (he has admitted this himself). And Ollie isn't threatened by this. In fact, he enjoys it. So yeah. It was nice to see this dynamic going strong. I also liked Emi's arc. I felt that was really well done, but I don't want to give too much away there.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
3 stars
Finished on 1/4, Audiobook
This is one of those books where my emotional reader self gets exposed. Ng tells the story of the Lee family, a mixed-race family living in Ohio in the 1970s. At the beginning of the book, the middle daughter is discovered dead in a nearby lake. As they try to deal with this tragedy, the family's carefully constructed fabric frays at the edges. Simply because of the story being told, this book was never going to get five stars from me. The ending was satisfying, but as you know, I am all about that magical, happy ending. And this didn't have that. It couldn't. Honestly, it would have gotten four stars--listen this was beautifully written and I totally understand why everyone loves Ng as an author--but I took issue with a couple of the plot points. Again, I don't want to spoil this for anybody, but like I'd like to have seen the dad's crisis take shape in a less cliched way. That said, the mom's journey--both in the past and the present--was portrayed was perfect. I loved how authentic her struggle felt. And the journey of little Hannah just broke my heart. That child deserves all the hugs. Anyways, if you're in the mood for literary fiction with tense family dynamics and a satisfying conclusion, I highly recommend this book. I can't wait to read her latest one.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
4 stars
Finished on 1/6, Audiobook
This book is about four teens fleeing Russian soldiers toward the end of World War II. It details the events leading up to the tragedy on the Wilhelm Gostloff, the most deadly disaster in maritime history (six times deadlier than the Titanic), but also one of the most overlooked. So I'm a history junkie. I love history. I loved this book. I knew going in that it was going to be a heart-wrencher, both because I'd heard that about Sepetys' books and because...well, WWII. This was a thought-provoking book, held up by a rich world and likable (well, most of them were) characters. Plus, I learned something new in this book. I will admit that there were parts of this that were predictable and not just the history parts, but it was still so well done that I didn't mind too much. If you're into WWII or historical fiction in general, this is the book for you.

iZombie, Vol 1: Dead to the World by Chris Roberson et. al
3 stars
Finished 1/7, Graphic novel
Gwen is a zombie. And a gravedigger. I know, a zombie gravedigger, who'd of thunk? She survives by feasting on the brains of the corpses she buries. She's also friends with a ghost from the 1960s and a were-terrier. Oh, and sometimes she tries to solve crimes. Pretty much the only thing linking the show with the comics is the fact that Gwen gains the dead person's memories after eating their brain. The cast of characters is completely different. The situation is completely different. That's not to say there isn't plenty to enjoy in the comics, but don't go in expecting your faves from the TV show. I like that there are more than just zombies in the comics, plus a little mythology to help explain how zombies (and other boogeymen) came to be. Like the show, it's a fresh (at least to me) take on the whole zombie thing and I like that.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
5 stars
Finished on 1/8, Hardcopy book
This follows the stories of Dorothy Vaughn, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Christine Darden, four black women that were instrumental to the development of the American space program 50s and 60s. It's one of the most interesting biographies I have ever read. Yes, there was a bunch of sciency stuff and it got a little heavy, but I loved the honest way that Shetterly laid everything out for you. Each of these women was fascinating, the way they pushed past the obstacles in their life was amazing, and the things they achieved were fantastic. It is not often that a non-fiction book makes it to five stars with me, but this one did. It was the perfect mix of storytelling and solid factual evidence.

My Lady Jane (The Lady Janies) by Cynthia Hand, et. al
5 stars
Finished on 1/11, Audiobook
Jane Grey was one of the most infamous queens in England's history. Not because of anything she did, but because she was queen for nine scant days before summarily being deposed and beheaded by the soon-to-be Mary I. This tale is a little more imaginative when it comes to history, throwing in a dash of magic and a heaping helping of intrigue. As someone who has always been fascinated by Tudor history, I absolutely loved this. As someone who loves Shakespeare, this book spoke my language. As a girl who was entirely too obsessed with horses growing up, the male lead is a man after my own heart. "But I thought you didn't like unhappy endings, Margaret?" you say. I don't, I reply and I'll leave it at that. This was humorous. This was irreverent. This was possibly the funniest book I'll read all year.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
1 star
Finished on 1/14, Audiobook
Speaking of Margaret's dislike of unhappy endings... This is about a group of four friends and a disastrous summer. I can't really say much more than that without gross sobbing. I've blotted the names of the characters from my mind. I've blotted this book from my mind. Here, once again, is a prime example of how my emotional reaction trumps any writing prowess the author has. Writing-wise this book deserves five stars, let me be clear about that. But every time I tried to give it a higher rating, I broke out in hives. I haven't felt this betrayed by a book since Allegiant, but the writer did it so well I can't even be righteously angry about it. Just disgruntled and annoyed. Fantastic writing aside, if I could unread this book, I would unread this book. I do want to read more of this writer's stuff, but I'm kind of scared to try. (Do any of her books end happily? Please advise.)

Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy #1) by Richelle Mead
4 stars
Finished on 1/15, Hardcopy book
Rose Hathaway is a dhampir, a vampire-human hybrid in training to protect true vampires. She and her friend, Lissa, have a special bond that gets a little more up close and personal than Rose would like, but when trouble comes calling, Rose is ready to lay her life down in the pursuit of her duty. I really enjoyed this book. Rose is such a fiery, kick butt character. She's this fantastic ball of teenage girl and guardian-in-training and I just know I'm going to love her even more as this series goes on. For the most part, this is a light-hearted, fluffy read, because Rose is a light-hearted, fun-loving character (to her trainer's continual chagrin), but it does deal with some pretty deep stuff. Lissa does deal with depression and self-harm, so be warned about that. But one of the things I liked about this book was how Rose's reaction to this evolves as she gains a deeper understanding of what Lissa is going through.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
4 stars
Finished on 1/18, Audiobook
This was the perfect palate cleanse after its predecessor. I don't know what it is about Sarah Dessen, but when I started listening to this, it felt like coming home. Sydney is a normal teen dealing with a lot of guilt. Guilt that isn't even hers to carry, but if no one else is going to admit that her brother is the reason a boy is in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, Sydney feels it's her duty to remember her brother's sins. This is a very intimate sketch of a family desperately trying hold together, to stay normal, despite the actions of one person nearly ripping them apart. It was fascinating watching Sydney struggle and try to make peace with what her brother did. It also perfectly captures what it feels like to be a teenage girl in a sketchy situation. The one thing that felt a little iffy to me was the long spots of exposition. I think we might have been through the first chapter before any real, present-day action took place, but despite the slow start, this book was worth the read.

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo
5 stars
Finished on 1/24, Hardcopy book
I hope y'all are prepared to hear about this book again and again because it's already one of my favorite reads of 2018. I loved it, y'all. An unlikely group of teens put together for an impossible heist with both a star-crossed romance AND an angsty, suppressed romance? Sign. Me. Up. There are not words, but I'm going to try anyway. I loved the character dynamics and the world was so good. And the dialogue. And the character dynamics, did I mention those???  I mean, I definitely had my two faves, but I also felt so connected to all of the characters in this book and my "Ugh, can we go back to my faves" moments were surprisingly low for a book with multiple POVs. I am SO excited to see how this series finishes off.

The Power of Six (Lorien Legacies #2) by Pittacus Lore
3 stars
Finished on 1/25, Audiobook
A group of children from another planet traveled to Earth years ago to grow up and hone their powers hidden from the vicious Mogadorians. They are now nearly adults and they've grown into their legacies--superpowers--but whether or not they can survive to find each other and get back home is another story. This series isn't bad. I've enjoyed both books enough to want to keep reading, but it's another of those that I'm not desperate to get others to read. I definitely liked how the author handled dual storylines in this book, but I was a little pissed off by the way he approached romance. You can tell it was written by a dude, if you know what I mean. Anyways, like I said, I'm interested to see what happens in the rest of the series and we'll see if the issues that bugged me in this book continue to bug me in the next.

I do want to stick in two honorable mentions, the first is The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce and the other is What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada. Both are fantastic picture books with heart-warming stories and gorgeous illustrations. If you have young kids, you should definitely check these out.

That's it for my January Reading Round-up, if you've made it this far drop down to the comments and tell what you read in January.