Tuesday, March 31, 2015

To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han


Touching on topics like crushes, first loves and sisterly bonds, this was an enjoyable contemporary book that had an equal balance of substance and lightheartedness. It was a nice, easy read that felt really fitting for this time of year- the end of winter and start of spring. It had a lovely homey feeling to it, which is also portrayed well by the cover.

The writing style was slightly different, a combination of past and present tense scenes, which I found really enjoyable. I loved how the two were combined as the main character, Lara Jean, talked about the near and far past, as well as the present. In that way, the girls’ mom becomes part of the story, despite her no longer being alive. I found that many of the chapters started the same way, with either a flashback to when Lara Jean’s mom was alive or when Margo was still at home, or with her waking up to a new day. While I enjoyed the former, the latter got very unoriginal and dull over time.

Lara Jean is the middle child of three girls, which is incorporated into her personality. Unlike her sisters, she is unsure of herself, and often allows others to dictate who she is and how she lives her life. She is a weak person in the beginning, and even though character development was a bit lacking, she does become stronger, more of an individual by the end of the story. Although she is nearly seventeen, I often felt like she was a bit younger, closer to her early teens. She is naive and immature, despite believing herself to be very mature. I kind of like that fact, however, because she is a realistic teen character. I found I could relate her to my teenaged self in several ways. Even her relationship with her younger sister Kitty reminded me of my sister and I at their ages.

I wasn’t expecting so much of the story to be based around Lara Jean and her relationship with her two sisters, Kitty and Margot. However, I was really happy that it was. It gave the book a feeling of realness. Kitty was a magnificent character, very true to a real girl her age. Margot tended to act controlling and distant toward Lara Jean, but then again, she is the oldest girl, left to care for her two younger sisters after their mother’s death.

While I loved the family aspect of this book, I wasn’t as fond of the boy aspect. Naturally, that was a majority of what the book was focussed on. It seemed that Lara Jean put way too much emphasis on that part of her life, feeling like she needed to be with a boy at all times, whether their feelings were true or fake. Her changing feelings for Josh added to the believability of her character. That being said, my feelings also changed for Josh as I read the story. I liked the role he played at first, while he was dating Margo. However, as the book progresses, I found Josh to be almost controlling toward Lara Jean, as if he knew what’s best for her, even though he didn’t. He would make a good friend, if not for his tendency to treat Lara Jean like she’s a kid.

Peter, on the other hand, was a great friend, in my opinion. Through his fake relationship with Lara Jean, their bickering and time spent together, turns their simple acquaintance into a solid friendship. I really enjoyed the little adventures they go on and the things they do together. Although it starts out really stupid and clearly fake, it progresses into a beautiful relationship, even before any actual romance begins.

While Lara Jean’s sisters are great supporting female characters, her one and only girl friend, Chris, was an unneeded, gross character and pretty bad friend overall. Although it’s known that she cares about Lara Jean, Chris shows up at random times, and they only seem to talk about the gossip Chris hears. I honestly don’t see the point in adding her as a character, even when she does prove to be a good friend toward the end of the book.

With a few shocks and surprises in the end, I thought the book had a fairly good conclusion. The more I think about it, the more I appreciate the sudden ending. Things between Lara Jean and her sisters gets squared away, as does her relationship with Josh. However, her relationship with Peter is completely left in the air, which was irritating, even though it made sense. It was a sweet little ending, which could be left open as a standalone book, but as it happens, will lead to a sequel.

I loved the feel of this book, the relationships between the characters, and the inclusion of family in a book that otherwise would solely be about one girl’s relationships with all the boys she’s loved before. I hope to see some more character growth in the next book, as well as some kind of conclusion with Peter. Though, I have to say, I’m most interested in what becomes of Kitty and her new puppy.

Camp NaNoWriMo and My Novel!

Hello everyone! In order to get myself to write my novel more, I've decided to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo this April, which starts tomorrow! I think being a part of something like this will motivate me to keep writing. By giving myself goals, I can aim toward them and encourage myself to write more and get my novel done!

I've decided to make my word count goal 30,000 words, which comes to 7,500 words per week. Based on my previous writing stats, which can be found on my Weekly Reads and Writing posts, on a good week I can write about 5,000- 7,000 words. So I thought I'd kick it up a notch and try to get about 7,500 words done per week. Hopefully that's a good pace, and a good way to get myself writing about 1,000 words daily.

If I can keep that up, I'll have 50,000 words by the end of the month, since I've already written just over 20,000. I'm also hoping to be right in the heart of my novel, with aliens everywhere and the end of the world looming!

So to start off this Camp NaNoWriMo journey, here is a quick synopsis of my novel!

Aliyah is trying to deal with the hardships in her life, including her brother's OD on heroin, when an alien planet is discovered. Her life gets interrupted as Earth tries to contact the planet, sparking the beginning of a possible war. However, the alien that's been visiting her speaks of a peaceful world, a refugee planet that may save humanity from its destruction. But as hostilities begin, can Aliyah save those she loves by convincing them to take a risk on the new planet?

 It's not that snazziest synopsis, but the story is just taking off, and I'm bound to change something about it. I think it sums it up fairly well.

Let me know if you're joining Camp NaNoWriMo! I'll be keeping you updated on my progress each week along with my WRAW posts. Happy writing!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Weekly Reads and Writing #6

So I didn't have time to write my weekly update post last night 'cause I was too busy partying! Not really, I was just finishing Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. Staying up late to read- that's my kind of party!

With the completion of Seraphina last night, I read a total of two books this week. I finished reading City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare, which was incredible. You can find my review here. I loved this book so much! I can't wait to read the rest of the series! I ordered City of Glass on Book Outlet, so I hope it comes in the mail soon!

I then read the entirety of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. I had no clue what this book was about going into it, except dragons. It was so unique and really great. I gave it four stars, but I have to write my review still. That will be up soon on my blog! I can't wait to talk about the book!

I also started reading Get in Trouble by Kelly Link, which is a collection of short stories. It's really weird and different, but I'm really loving it so far. I'm taking my time with it, reading a story at a time. Also, on a side note, it is such a beautiful book. I love the cover, the feel of it, and everything! Plus, I got my copy signed last weekend by Kelly! (Post about that book signing coming soon!)

Along with starting a new book today, I'm gonna continue enjoying this beaut.

I finally had a really good writing week! Well, for the most part. I wrote nearly everyday this week, but this weekend I've been at my mom's and haven't had time to. I had a two day streak of writing over 2,000 words each day! I think that's pretty good!

Writing Stats

Words this Week: 5,800
Total Word Count: 20,559

I feel really good about writing 20,000 words! It's starting to really feel like I'm writing a novel! I'm also starting to get into the heart of the story, which is really exciting.

I believe my goal for the week was 10,000, although that number was very unrealistic, considering I had other stuff to do as well. I'm really happy with writing over 5,000 words this past week.

This upcoming week is going to be fairly busy, so I'm sure I won't get much done. Still, I hope to write a bit, at least. I do, however, plan on reading a lot, because I'll have lots of sitting in the car time. I'm not sure what book I'll pick up next, but I did pick up some new ones just yesterday, one of which I'll start today.
I hope you all have a great reading/writing week!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

I Liked Vampire Before They Were Cool

I was in eighth grade when I discovered my love of vampires. Caught in my Converse and Sharpie stage, I was a wannabe goth girl with black nails and a taste for the bloodsucking creatures that haunted the pages of books. Having grown up loving scary things, I was drawn to said vampires. So, when my eighth grade class was herded to the school library to hear about several different books, I was immediately sucked into the story of Lucy, a girl with diabetes, who believes the first vampires were diabetics. The book was called Sweetblood by Pete Hautman, and I, soon after, took it out of the local library. I hid it in a photo box, like it was some kind of dark secret I had to keep safe, and read its entirety, soaking in every bit of the story as I could.

After Sweetblood, I began visiting the library more often, thoroughly browsing the tiny young adult section. It was there that I also found Cirque Du Freak by Darren Shan, which was very exciting, and the first novel I ever finished in a day. I found the Vampire Kisses series by Ellen Schrieber at Barnes and Noble around this time, as well, the main character, Raven being the perfect goth girl I wished I could be.

Of course, there was Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, whose book I only picked up because we had the same last name. And even though it’s embarrassing to admit how obsessed I was with that book, I can’t deny the fact that it had a huge impact on my barely teenaged self. Because of that book I read so much more, and I wrote my own vampire novel, which sucked very much.

But by then, I was high on reading. I read of not only vampires, but witches and shapeshifters and other bizarre creatures. I also began reading about regular kids, like me. Those visits to the library fortified my love of books. Reading helped me escape when things were tough, but also made my life better by giving me things to think about. They were there through my first move, which scarred me more than any vampire bite could.

When the massive vampire trend took off, I felt like I was at the front of it. I felt proud for liking vampires before they were cool. They were a way of life for me, a shy girl starting high school (and realizing how much I hated it). But even then, I found more books at that school’s library, and I continued reading and I continued writing.

Now, though I read different types of books, my love of reading and writing is stronger than ever because I was once one of those dorky kids who liked vampires. In fact, I still have the books to prove it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

Full of action and suspense, City of Ashes was even better than the first book in this series. The characters and plot continue to be this series’s strong points. It was such a fun ride from start to finish, with an ending that naturally left me needing to read the next book.

So much happened in this book, tons of adventure and rescue. More of the backstory is revealed, and Valentine explains more of his story, which was really great. Relationships change and grow between the characters, each of them getting a fair amount of time in the book. The only thing I would have liked to see more of would be Isabelle, but other than that, I can’t complain about anything in this book.

The unpredictability of this book was such an amazing feature. Often, I find I can predict the plot twists in novels, but this book was entirely unpredictable. The suspense, mystery and plot twists were so amazing done. The last fifty pages or so, and all the crazy stuff that happened during that time, was really what bumped this up from a four star book to a five star book for me. I cannot wait to pick up the next book.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Weekly Reads and Writing #5

I just got back from an amazing books signing, this Sunday evening! I got to see Andrew Smith, Kelly Link, Cassandra Clare, and most excitedly, Holly Black. It was my first actual signing, and I was just a wee bit starstruck, to say the least. Holly Black is one of my favorite authors ever, so meeting her was so crazy!

pic from @HVYASociety on Twitter
I'm going to make an entirely different post about the experience, including a video I'm gonna put together from the event. It was a great way to end my book week!

I ended up reading 6 books, this week, even though 5 of them were short middle grade books, in preparation for the book signing I went to. All of them were amazing, and I have reviews up for them!

First, I finished City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, which was very very good. I finally am joining the immense fandom this series has.

I then read the entire Spiderwick Chronicles series by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi. It was such a beautiful, magical series, which was so much fun to read.

And lastly, I started the second book in the Mortal Instruments series, City of Ashes. I'm about halfway through it, and I plan of finishing it early this week.

After the signing, I have soo many more new books that I can't wait to read! I'm just so excited to be part of the book community, and to read so many amazing stories.

Because of going to the book signing, I'm also a lot more inspired to work on my novel. Holly and Andrew both talked about how they got the ideas to write their books, and everyone discussed character naming and importance, and other writing-related things.

This past week I wrote barely anything, because I was still really grieving over the loss of my dog. However, I am so inspired and ready to start working on it more again. Especially after the signing, I'm excited to discover more about my characters, and I'm going to work hard at making them good, complex characters.

Writing Stats

Words This Week: 2,031
Total Word Count: 13,264

I may or may not write more tonight, since I did go most of the week without writing. I really would love to double my total word count by the end of this week. I'm going to be focusing a LOT more on writing and reading, and not spending so much time on the computer, in front of the TV, and playing Animal Crosing.

So while this week started off kinda sour, I'm very glad it picked up, and I'm feeling better mentally. I'm ready for what the week ahead has to offer!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Spiderwick Chronicles series by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi

This middle-grade fantasy series wove together a beautiful story of magic and adventure. Split into five short chapter books, each book was its own little adventure, that combined into one whole story. This was a great series for both younger readers and adults alike.

Both the writing and the illustrations in these books were fantastic. The illustrations were honestly some of the best I’ve seen. They combined with the descriptions of the writing, to create gorgeous, nature-inspired creatures. The physical books themselves were lovely, and look beautiful on the shelf.

The world and creatures created were beautiful and realistic. The three main characters were great siblings, always working together and compromising, despite their major differences. Throughout the series, they find their strengths in order to defeat the evil creatures they are faced with.

Though each book was very short, and could have easily been made into one single novel, the stories were each satisfying to read. Although I flew through them, they are a great length for the younger readers they were created for. Some dark aspects were present in this series, making it unlike many middle-grade books, and adding a great deal to the world building. The settings and descriptions were very real and believable. The old book pages and paintings added to that.

Overall, this is a series that makes me want to go look for faeries in the woods, as silly as it sounds. It was a beautifully crafted set of books, one I’m so glad to have finally read, even though I didn’t get the chance to as a kid. It was fun, exciting and thrilling all at once, a series I will be glad to read to my future children.

Individual Ratings:
The Field Guide- Book 1

The Seeing Stone- Book 2

Lucinda's Secret- Book 3

The Ironwood Tree- Book 4

The Wrath of Mulgarath- Book 5

Series Rating:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Having finally read City of Bones, I only wish I had picked it up sooner. For a while I was hesitant to read it, knowing it was about angels and demons, which I’m not usually interested in. However, this book was so, so good, truly engaging and enjoyable. With its unique twist on angels and demons, and the addition of faeries, it was exactly the type of book that I can’t help but fall for.

The action and adventure in this book was ongoing, while still leaving room for relationships to develop and a dash of humor to be thrown in. The plot was so intriguing, from beginning to end, making this a thrilling and fun read. There were many plot twists, betrayals, and moments of shock, most of which were not at all predictable. Because of its continuing excitement, I flew through this book, despite its size.

The writing was very nice, with beautiful descriptions and a mood that fit the story perfectly. I loved the settings, the combination of grimy abandoned places, and beautifully antiqued architecture. The writing was also very similar to author Holly Black’s, who I’ve heard is good friends with Cassandra Clare. Along with the writing style, the subject matter was also very similar Holly’s books. However, I honestly can’t complain, being that I love Holly’s books as well, and there are some clear differences between the two. If anything, their similar writing style was comforting and very enjoyable.

Something I found Clare does extremely well, is her characters and their relationships with one another. The relationship between Clary and Jace was a perfect example of a pair who doesn’t necessarily get along, but does have romantic interest in one another. The banter between them was funny and refreshing, without going over the top, like some awful book couples I’ve recently read (*cough* Obsidian *cough*). Not just those two, but all of the characters and their regards toward each other was genuine and real. The unrequited love was achingly good, and the friendship between unlikely people grew with this story. I truly loved all of the main characters.

While the world building was great, and many things were left open to continue to the next book, I was still slightly annoyed by the lack of resolution when it came to Valentine. After so many plot twists and secrets revealed, I felt like it lacked just one thing- Valentine’s side of the story. I’m sure this was a writing tactic, in order to continue with the series, so I hope it will be discovered in the next book.

City of Bones was an exciting, funny, and action-filled book. Its characters, setting and plot were all executed beautifully. I am so happy to have finally read it, and I cannot wait to keep reading this series. I highly recommend City of Bones to everyone. So good.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Writing and Reading About Dogs

Today I want to talk about something that is just as important to me as books and writing- dogs. I lovelovelove dogs, and unfortunately, one of mine passed away this weekend, which I briefly mentioned in my last post. His name was Charlie and he was about 13 or 14, and had been having lots of health issues over the past few months. Although it wasn't a sudden death, it has really shaken me and my family. I've had Charlie most of my life, and although his brothers, Max and Jack, are still around, things won't be the same without him.

I've been doing fairly well despite the pain of losing a best friend. But along with his death, has come a sort of reinforcement of my love of dogs. I'm taking extra good care of Max, who was very close to him. As well, having Max and my other pets around, has been helping me. Together we are all going to get through this.

But yeah, this is not meant to be a sappy post, and it will relate to books and reading, trust me. Along with my love of dogs, I want to talk about how they incorporate into my reading and writing.

When I was just a wee lass, I used to create many many books about dogs and pets. Some were informational books I would make with the help of my giant dog encyclopedia. Others were short chapter books where the main character would rescue dogs and live with them in mansions and other unlikely things.

Creating all of those books mixed together my favorite things- books, writing, dogs, and art!

When I got slightly older, shortly after we got Max and Charlie, I began reading dog chapter books. My absolute favorite series was Puppy Patrol by Jenny Dale. I received a book a month from a school book order, and I devoured them. By the end of my obsession, I believe I owned all of the books in the series.

What I really loved about this series, and several other dog books, was the rescuing aspect. I loved the idea of kids saving dogs. The kids in this particular series worked at a kennel, where they not only rescued, but trained and took care of all the dogs. 

As I grew, I began reading middle grade dog books, like The Last Dog on Earth and A Dog's Life.

During this time, I started writing my first real dog novel. It was about a girl who moved to a new town and found a stray dog in the basement, who she then took care of. And then slowly, she encountered more and more dogs that needed homes, and she hid them in her room where she secretly took care of them all. I hand wrote the thing in a floppy blue binder, with a cover page that read Dog House, and had a Googled image of a Bernese Mountain Dog. Of course, I never did finish it, even though my friends praised it, which was a first for me.

I also started writing out the stories of how I got my own dogs. I did that in a dog notebook, that I still have stashed somewhere. Now that Charlie is gone, perhaps I should finish those stories.

So it's no secret that dogs are a big part of my life, and that they have essentially helped me become the writer that I am, especially my babies, my boys, Max and Charlie. I hope Max sticks around for a while longer, and I hope I never forget Charlie. He was truly one of the best, most loyal dogs in the world. It feels so much quieter and empty without him, and I don't think I'll ever stop missing him.

 Paw Prints Emoji (Symbola Version)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Weekly Reads and Writing #4

This was a fairly successful reading week, I'd say. I got a bit of writing done, as well, even though it's not as much as I'd hoped.

Unfortunately, this weekend has been really sad. My 13 year old dog, Charlie, passed away on Saturday morning, so even though there were little snippets of bookish goodness in the day, I've been pretty sad, and unable to write the past two days.

But yeah, life goes on, and honestly, reading has helped distracted me.

This week I read the entirety of Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, which I have a review up for here. It was really good, even though it wasn't all that original. It took me less than 3 days to get through.

I am currently about halfway through City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, which I started on Wednesday. I'll be going to a book signing Cassandra will be at next weekend, and I have yet to read any of her books. So I decided I would start her Mortal Instruments series. Her writing is a lot like Holly Black's, which I absolutely love.

I'm very excited to read this series. I wish I had started it earlier. It's a really quick read, but full of little mysteries and awesome creatures. The characters are all really great so far. I also loved the cameo appearance of some of Holly's characters.

So overall, it's been a good reading week. As I said, I'm going to a book signing next weekend. Cassandra Clare and Holly Black are going to be there. Holly is one of my favorite writers ever, so I'm really nervous but excited to meet her and have her sign one of my books! Also, Andrew Smith and Kelly Link will be there, though I haven't read any of their work.

Writing has been slow this week, and even slower after my dog dying. However, I did get some work done.

Writing Stats

Words This Week: 3,488
Total Word Count: 11,223

I wrote a pretty tense scene involving the main character's dad this week. It wasn't the most fun to write, but it was necessary, so I'm glad I pushed myself to do it.

This week coming up, I plan on writing a lot more. However, I am going to mostly try to read as many of Cassandra and Holly's books, that I own, as possible. I'm super nervous about meeting them! But it's gonna be so cool- going to my first book signing. I checked out the bookstore it's gonna be at this weekend, and it was really lovely. If I bring a camera and snap some pics of the event, perhaps I'll make an entire post about it!