New Project

I’m starting my first draft of a new project! This is so incredibly exciting for me!

For a bit of background, this idea sprang into my head during a late night drive through Kansas this spring, and I wrote down a bunch of notes on my phone. Then I let it stew for a while, to make sure this was something I wanted to pursue. I couldn’t stop thinking about these characters and this world! So then I made a Pinterest board, and then I made a plan for research.

What kind of research? Internet articles, podcasts, blogs, and yes, so many books! Every source spiraled out to more sources and it was so interesting–like running my own college course.

So after months of preparation, I finally get to start the best part of all – writing! First drafts are my favorite because anything is possible, everything is new, and there’s a certain level of comfort knowing that you can go back and make it pretty later.

My plan is to have the first draft completed by the end of the year (or sooner!) so I have to work fast! This story feels like sinking into a forest. I’m not sure where it will take me or if I will be able to translate what I see in my head to the page, but I’m determined to find the trail I need to come out on the other side.



Something Strange and Deadly

9859436by Susan Dennard
YA Fantasy / Historical Fantasy
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel: July 24, 2012

This is such a fun read! I loved Dennard’s Truthwitch, and I had to check out her first series. It’s completely different, except for the incredible action-packed pace. I read this in just over two days!

Eleanor is Elizabeth Bennet with no fear! Her family is out of money and she must make a suitable match soon. It would be nice to do that before all of the Dead leave Philadelphia’s cemeteries to invade the town.

When her brother goes missing, Eleanor enlists the help of the Spirit-Hunters to find him because she fears his research caught the interest of a necromancer. Of course, chaos ensues.

My favorite part of this book is never quite knowing who are the “good guys.” I mean sure, the Spirit-Hunters are there to help, but how selfish are they? They have some secrets! Almost every character has two sides presented and it was fun wondering how their motives would intersect. The pace of this book is flawless, and I loved the near-constant adventure and mystery. Eleanor holds her own with the Spirit-Hunters, and although some of her swearing struck me as over-bold, her spunky attitude towards her problems is endearing. She’s quite alone but makes the best of it!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Something Strange and Deadly is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan – Mary has lived all her life within the confines of the fences. The Sisterhood knows what’s best, and the Unconsecrated will never relent. But then a girl arrives from outside the fence–from a world that’s supposedly devoid of humans and overrun with the undead. See my review here.
  • Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis – Maren’s birthday present is her mother’s abandonment. Maren understands–she has this unfortunate habit of eating anyone she is close to. See my review here.
  • Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion – Meet R, a zombie conflicted about being undead and eating people. He’s about to meet Julie–a beautiful girl that he wants to protect instead of eat. This is a quirky and charming retelling of Romeo and Juliet.
  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard – Her new series is set in a fantasy world where certain people have witcheries–useful skills like being able to tell truth from lies, or summoning wind. Safi’s truth-telling abilities have her and her best friend being hunted by three different parties in this action-packed story! See my review here.

What to read again:

Ever since Harry Potter I’ve enjoyed re-reading the previous books in a series before the next one comes out. You get to soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—it just makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudinwbw

This is set in an alternate 1956 where the Axis Powers won WWII and a small band of rebels still hopes to overthrow Hitler. Yael has escaped a concentration camp where horrendous experiments have given her the ability to skin-shift (take on any person’s appearance that she sees). Yael finds the rebel group and quickly becomes their last hope to assassinate Hitler.  She will impersonate the only female contender in the annual Axis Tour (Adele Wolfe)–a cross-country motorcycle race to celebrate the Axis Victory. Hitler is a recluse and rarely takes the risk of appearing in public, but one of those exceptions is the Victor’s Ball after the race. But other racers know who Adele Wolfe is–including her brother, who is competing this year. Yael must fool them all, win the race, and kill Hitler.

Are you in suspense yet? (If not, you can see my review here). This story flies by and waiting for the next book has had been SO hard. Pick this up (and if you like, the interim companion novel Iron to Iron about Adele and Luka’s relationship) before next month!


Bone Gap

18806240by Laura Ruby
YA Contemporary / Magical Realism
4 of 5 stars

I’ve been on a magical realism kick this year, and I love it! If you haven’t read magical realism, it’s basically our ordinary world crossed with completely unexplained events (like a paranormal TV show) – except the characters aren’t surprised by the strange magic at all.

In Bone Gap, Illinois, Finn and Sean keep up their house and their garden, and they don’t speak about what happened two months earlier – when Roza, the love of the town, was kidnapped. Finn saw the man who took her, but his description hasn’t helped police, and the town blames him for Roza’s disappearance. When Finn befriends Petey, the beekeeper’s daughter, strange events start happening, and Finn is newly determined to find Roza before it’s too late.

It’s the language of this book that makes the story so moving. The relationships leap off the page with their cruelly accurate portrayals of how we treat each other based on appearance. How beauty is a currency, how unhappiness with yourself causes you to rip someone else apart to feel better. How sometimes we just want a good story to tell our friends when we should be helping someone else. How feminism can come in many forms. The small town perfectly encapsulates the best and worst of people–and the magic will keep you guessing Finn and Roza’s fates until the end. There is so much to pick apart here, this is good for several rereads.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Bone Gap is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar – Another story featuring bees and magical realism, this one takes place in the Southwest. Carolina’s family is spending the summer at her grandfather’s ranch, prepping it for sale. Her grandfather is going to an assisted living home (against his will) and Carolina is caught in the middle of her family’s drama. Then her grandfather’s story about a village, a tree, and magic bees starts to seem less like fiction and more like family history. See my review here.
  • Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt & Alison McGhee – Two sisters in Vermont coping with the loss of their mother don’t live in any ordinary forest. When Sylvi goes missing too, Jules is left alone to figure out what to do. At the same time, a tiny fox knows she has a connection to the sad girl in the woods. See my review here.
  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – Not magical realism, but it is set in the Midwest (portrayed so accurately!) and follows two teens who meet at the top of the school’s tower for different reasons. When they both agree not to jump, their relationship is just beginning. See my review here.
  • Chalice by Robin McKinley – This YA fantasy story is a subtle Beauty and the Beast retelling with bees and honey. Mirasol becomes the next Chalice, responsible for keeping unity in the government as they rule their magical land. If she can’t make the land accept their new Master, a Priest of Fire, everything will be destroyed. See my review here.

What to read again:

Ever since Harry Potter I’ve enjoyed re-reading the previous books in a series before the next one comes out. You get to soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—it just makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

The Young Elites series by Marie Lu

This is an incredible trilogy about what makes a villain. Adelina never asked to be one of the Young Elites–children and teens gifted with extraordinary abilities. But when her power frees her from the abusive control of her father, Adelina and her sister think they’ve found a new family with this group. But everyone has their own motives and Adelina begins to think she is the best person to unite and rule  before outside forces destroy them all.

Adelina’s descent into darkness is so understandable–a series of choices that lead in the opposite direction of what she intends. With war on the horizon and everyone turned against her, the final book will determine Adelina’s legacy and future. I can’t wait to find out what happens! Still need convincing? Here are my reviews for The Young Elites and The Rose Society. Read these books before the final one comes out next month!


All the Bright Places

18460392by Jennifer Niven
YA Contemporary
5 of 5 stars

I’ll admit, the cover drew me to this book. The beautiful jacket and the whimsical embossed hardcover all demanded I take it home! This is one of those heart-wrenching bittersweet reads that makes you think (and cry).

Violet is counting the days until graduation. Nothing is the same without her older sister, Eleanor, who was killed in a car accident the previous year. Finch thinks about dying every day, but manages to find reasons to stay alive one day at a time. The two of them meet in the school’s bell tower, on the ledge–and they leave together, too. When a school project has them seeking out the “wonders of Indiana” they both start to see things differently.

As a Midwestern girl, I can say the commentary on life in flyover country is completely spot-on. Niven had me cracking up! The idea of “the largest ball of paint” and other obscure “tourism” sites is so true to life. I enjoyed the school project and the challenge it presented about perspective both to Violet and Finch and to me.

Of course, this is also a story of suicide, and survivors of suicide. This taboo subject is close to the heart of the author, as her deeply personal acknowledgment note explains. For me, this made the story emotionally authentic, which is something I worry about when “quirky” meets “serious issues.” Nothing happened for dramatic effect, Finch’s struggles weren’t cheapened, and Violet’s journey was nearly autobiographical.  The best part of this book is that it provides a way to talk about something that is viewed with shame, stigma, and blame–to everyone involved. It becomes so clear that the worst thing you can do is not talk about it, and that’s something everyone needs to know. There is help, no matter how dark things seem.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, All the Bright Places is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – A star-crossed romance between Hazel and Gus, two teens with different cancers, different outlooks on life, and the realization that no amount of snarky banter or dismal diagnoses will stop them from dating. Both funny and emotional, with plenty of introspection. See my review here.
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – Another heart-breaking romance between two teens who don’t believe in love, yet can’t help falling for each other. Eleanor is from the wrong side of the tracks; Park is the nerdy Asian American that nobody likes–but even he is smart enough not to befriend outcast Eleanor. Until he realizes she might be the only person who understands him. See my review here.
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord – Vivi and her artist mother are spending the summer in beachside town Verona Cove. Jonah is cute enough to be the perfect summer fling. But as Vivi and Jonah start to share what they’re running from, they’ll have to decide if their problems will bring them closer or drive them apart. See my review here.
  • The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord – Paige’s is aware that high school is all about labels. And hers is “The Girl Whose Boyfriend Drowned.” With the help of her grandmother and girlfriends, she hopes to turn this year into something better, and find a way to heal. See my review here.

Writing Update: Research

13-11-02-olb-by-RalfR-03“When in doubt, go to the library.” – J.K. Rowling

Last month I talked about my focused fallow period and refilling my creative well. (I’m not sure why I always think of it as a well—maybe because even when it’s full it takes some effort to draw out a bucket full of inspiration and use it effectively).  As I hoped, it’s been refreshing and fun!

This month I’ll be narrowing my focus even more as I wrap up researching for my next project. I have never spent this much time researching before (I know—my writing suffered as a result, trust me) and I have enjoyed it so much! Since leaving school I haven’t done the best job of continuing education. But being curious is what keeps you young, and for once in my life, everything I’ve been learning about is what I have been curious about. It’s amazing how much you can absorb when you are in charge of the curriculum!

In addition to all this fun learning I’ve been up to, I’m drafting my pitch and query this month. (This is an attempt to avoid the headache and stress of doing it at the end). Some authors have said they always start with this because it’s the core of the story (meaning it’s not likely to change much) and if they feel like the book starts to go off the rails, they refer to it to get the outline or the characters back on track. I’m excited to try it, especially since I tend to dread saving it for last.

So that’s what I’ll be up to as our short but gorgeous fall season begins here in the mountains!  If I find my world-building process useful this time around (meaning when I’m drafting I keep exclaiming about how much easier this is), I may share that at a later date, but for right now, back to it!



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