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.

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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!

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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!

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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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The Girl Who Fell

girl fellby Shannon M. Parker
YA Contemporary
3 of 5 stars
Debut novel: March 1, 2016

The concept of this book grabbed me from the start, and when I read about the author’s background and experience, I was sold. There are plenty of YA books about the magic of falling in love, but this one is about what happens when you fall for the wrong person–when you fall for someone who isn’t what they seem, who doesn’t treat you right, who controls your every move.

Zephyr Doyle is on track for her life plan: graduate and attend Boston College. Play field hockey there. Generally be a success in life. Her friend Lizzie teases her about not having time for a boyfriend. But then Alec comes along, sweeps her off her feet, and Zephyr finds herself in a place she never thought she would be. Love isn’t supposed to scare you, isolate you, change all your plans. Or does that just mean it’s the kind of crazy intense love everyone wants?

There were many things I liked about this story. First of all, Zephyr’s best friend Lizzie. A true best friend, who sticks around even when Zephyr becomes too absorbed with Alec to be a good friend. Even when Zephyr blows her off. Because Lizzie knows Zephyr will need her when it all falls apart, and she is going to be there for Zephyr. Their friendship is the strongest relationship in this book and I loved it!

I love a main character who is good at sports–there are too many bookish ones!

Zephyr’s world feels concrete–the ordinary home scenes, the school scenes, the dates–all of it well-written and it feels like you’re there, experiencing it with her (including her adorable dog)!

Finally, Zephyr’s relationship with her father. Her father has walked out on her and her mom when the story starts, and as the months pass her mother begins seeing her father to see if they can patch things up. The way Zephyr deals with his absence and his re-entry to her life is emotional and a perfect balance between hope and wariness.

A couple of things bothered me, though. First of all, the story opens and closes like a horror movie, and some of the drama took away from the serious subject matter for me. Second, Zephyr’s long-time best guy friend Gregg. He’s the “good” guy, the foil for Alec’s controlling, abusive behavior. Except Gregg has no respect for Zephyr either! He repeatedly kisses her and flirts with her despite her repeated lack of interest. It was as if because he’s a “good guy” it’s okay for him to kiss a girl knowing she doesn’t return his feelings, when she has said no, you shouldn’t do that–and that’s not okay with me. For a book about control and consent in relationships, his actions were very uncomfortable yet never addressed.

Overall this is a good story and definitely needs to be out there. It has good intentions and I think Zephyr will connect with a lot of readers.

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


Similar reads:

  • The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter – Cassie is ready to start college with her past behind her. No more thinking about her mother or the fact that she locked Cassie in an asylum for two years against her will. But then her mother shows up, promising all the love Cassie always wanted, and she wonders if they can start over. See my review here.
  • The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes – This harrowing story of a girl who escapes a cult is incredibly well-done. Minnow is arrested when the Kevinian cult’s village burns down–despite having no hands, they believe she knows something about what really happened. The police aren’t wrong. See my review here.
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson – This is a moving story about a girl who must learn to speak up for herself in the wake of a traumatic event. A classic that has stuck with me for years.
  • Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero – Gabi is a Mexican American girl just trying to survive her senior year with one best friend pregnant and the other one coming out to unreceptive parents, her father’s meth habit, and the poetry that feels like an escape. See my review here.

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