February Wrap-Up & Flash Reviews

Hello, fellow book junkies! In February I’m happy to report I was able to shorten my tower of owned books by four, and I read seven books in all (. . . sort of–see below). My “Rock My TBR Challenge” is looking good so far.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

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This book takes the reader deep into what it must have been like to grow up poor in Brooklyn in the early 20th century. I definitely felt like I was there, and learned a lot about cultural history. There were also some great observations about human nature and family relationships. I’m glad I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, though I didn’t love it.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

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A heavyset teen girl bucks the system and signs up for her small-town beauty pageant run by her mother, a former beauty queen. Good concept. I expected the main character, Willowdean (a.k.a. Dumplin’) to be a big girl who’s comfortable in her own skin, but she isn’t. . . or is she? The theme is frustratingly unclear. There’s a cute jock who loves Willowdean, but we never get any insight into the nuances of their relationship. The writing is good, and there are cute moments with lots of potential, but overall a disappointment.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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A Darker Shade of Magic was the  highlight of my month. I loved the writing, the darkness, the imaginative world-building, the memorable characters, and whoah does Victoria/V.E. Schwab know how to write villains. Her writing is so good that reading it feels as if it´s making me a better writer. Coincidentally, within a week of reading this, my first, V.E. Schwab book, the author tweeted she would be doing a book signing less than 15 miles from my house. Do not pass go, do not collect $200–I had to meet her! In a later post, I’ll share more about what it was like to attend my first book signing event.

Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle

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The title and concept grabbed me–something about a cult, a girl surviving the bizarre disappearance of her mother and father, and the apparent end of the world. This book veered hard into preachy agenda territory, but overall it turned out to be a good, solid read.

Angelfall by Susan Ee

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This plot grabbed me and did not let go until the epic ending. Excellent world-building, and a plot that new exactly where it wanted to go, like a bullet. The only thing I had a hard time with was that a 17-year-old human girl and a 2000-year-old archangel might have a romantic attraction. He’s gorgeous and doesn’t look like an old man, but he is. The angel also had the unfortunate nickname Raffe (pronounced Raffi), which solidly planted in my head an image of an affable guy strumming guitar while singing Baby Beluga to a bunch of kids. That’s just me, folks. The book was really good.

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

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A girl finds out she has inherited the ability to time travel. Sign me up, I thought, but as I read Ruby Red, I kept wishing more would happen. This book turned out to have good staying power, however, because a few days after finishing, I found myself wanting to  return to this imaginary world. I definitely plan to read the next book in the trilogy, Sapphire Blue. I was surprised to learn that the Ruby Red trilogy was originally written in German, which definitely added interest for a linguistics nerd like me. Translators deserve more credit! Sure, they’re translating someone else’s words, but they’re also WRITING A BOOK, so, kudos to Anthea Bell for doing a great job on the translation–not that I read German (I wish I did so I could read my favorite poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, in his original language), but the story read well.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

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I just want to start by saying I love author Jenny Han, her personality, her openness, her humor, just everything about her. But wait a minute. Hold up. Cue screech of a needle across record album. I could not finish this book. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before ended up being a DNF. The main character was sweet, the concept was intriguing (letters Laura Jean privately penned to all the boys she’s loved end up mistakenly being mailed to them), but as hard as I tried, I could not get through this book. I may have to face that saccharine,  very-young adult books might not be my cup of tea.

I’m sorry to end on a DNF note, especially re: a book that so many people adore but, all in all, it was a really enjoyable month of reading. I hope you’re getting to read lots of good books, too. 😀

–Eve Messenger

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Feature with Followers | #17

What an honor to be interviewed by one of my favorite bloggers Jess in her weekly Featured Follower meme.

-- Blogging Everything Beautiful --

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Heeeello, my lovely internet users! Today I am back with another FWF post!

Feature with Followers is a weekly meme created by JBelkBooks (me) where I will be showcasing one of my AMAZING followers. This gives me an opportunity to really get to know them and give them an opportunity to get their blogs out there in the community. The way I choose my featured follower is Top Secret, so wait for your chance to be featured!

Again, I am so very happy to share yet another wonderful blogger in our blogging community. This lovely lady is very interactive with her followers/following and I just love that so much about her. Here are some hints that may reveal who this week’s featured follower is:

  • When I think of her name I think of Christmas EVE, lol.
  • Her username is kind of like an old saying: “Don’t shoot the ____?”

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Library-Hopping Adventure #amwriting #amreading

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Huntington Beach Public Library – As an elementary school student, I used to ride my bike here and spend the afternoon reading books and magazines.

For a huge book nerd like me, libraries are a retreat, a sanctuary even. Sometimes, like today, a library can even be an adventure. Some libraries are tiny, old, and in need of fresh paint. Others are vast, with elevators, conference rooms, fancy patrons’ plaques on the wall, row after row of study carrels, sometimes with gardens and statuary on the grounds outside. As long as friendly books line the walls, I’m happy; I feel safe.

When I have time, I like to leave the house to write. With fewer distractions and a deliberate plan that includes getting dressed up and packing supplies (laptop, bottled water, sometimes notes), I usually accomplish a lot more. In the evenings and early mornings, I’ll write at Starbucks, but libraries are my preferred destination. Usually I write in our awesome, recently remodeled local library or sometimes at the university library a 15-minute walk from home. On the weekends, I might visit the regional library in the next city where a friend works as a children’s librarian.

I live 15 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, but today I happened to be in a coastal town called Corona del Mar. I had my laptop with me, so after completing my errand I decided to go on a little writing adventure to a library I’d never visited before. Thanks to Siri, it was easy to find the nearest library just a couple of miles away. I took the elevator up to the second floor and set up my laptop in a cozy alcove near a window overlooking a perfect Southern California day. A short while later a woman joined me in the alcove. She tapped away at her laptop, too, and it was nice to have writerly company.

I had so much fun today on my mini-adventure to a new library that now I want to library-hop every week. Maybe, with each new library I write in, I’ll take a picture and post it on my blog.

–Eve Messenger

The Real 7/7/7 Challenge #amwriting

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Talented super writer/reader ladies Melanie Noell Bernard  and Elena Johansen both tagged me for the 7/7/7 Challenge, so does this mean I should do a 14/14/14 tag? Okay, not.

When I first saw this tag (two months ago, yes, it’s taking me that long to get caught up on book tags)I assumed I was supposed to type 7 lines from page 7 of a book I am READING. Of course, the directions clearly state the passage should come from MY OWN work in progress, which I didn’t notice until after I’d already located and typed out 7 lines from The Casquette Girls.

Anywho. . . here’s the not-exactly-earth shattering passage from my work in progress, a modern day YA paranormal that’s been a ton of fun to write.

Rules

  • Go to page 7 of your work-in-progress.
  • Scroll down to line #7.
  • Share the next 7 lines of your manuscript in a blog post.
  • Tag 7 other writers (with blogs) to continue the challenge.

Eve’s 7/7/7 Snippet

“Adam?”

From the other side of the door, Adam clears his throat and answers in a voice much lower than I’ve ever heard from him. “What is it, Callie?”

It feels strange to hear him say my name since he’s never used it before.

“How’s the cat?” I ask.

“Not. . . good.” Adam still hasn’t opened his bedroom door.

“I. . . uh, want to tell you something.”

Nominees

Kelly F. Barr

Herminia @ aspiringwriter22Author Kelly Miles

Mackenzie Bates

Jon Stephens @ Start Your Fiction

 

Millie Schmidt

Danielle @ The Caffeinated Writer

Best YA Debut Novels of 2016. Giveaway & Author Q&A: Kathryn Purdie – Burning Glass @KathrynPurdie #amreading

Hello, book lovers! As a special salute to this month’s Q&As with authors of 2016’s BEST YA DEBUT NOVELS, this final February interview includes a special GIVEAWAY of book swag from Kathryn Purdie’s debut novel, Burning Glass. For a chance to win, all you have to do is “like” this post before Saturday 2/27/16. The winner must also be willing to provide a mailing address so I can, you know, send you the swag. 🙂

Today’s Must-Read YA Debut Author Is . . .

Kathryn Purdie who, in addition to her obvious talent for writing, is a classically trained actress. Kathryn was inspired to write the Burning Glass debut trilogy while recovering from donating a kidney to her older brother.

Kathryn Purdie

Why Burning Glass is a Must-Read:

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An immersive page-turner with luscious writing and a complex heroine. Because of Sonya’s unique ability to physically and emotionally feel what those around her feel, she is forced into the employ of the emperor where she must protect him by sensing the intentions of would-be assassins.

The Interview

Eve: What made you fall in love with your novel?

K.P.: How surprising and flawed Sonya is as a character. She constantly shocked me and delighted me as I wrote her. Her unpredictability is my favorite thing.

Eve: When is your book’s official release date?

K.P.: My book releases March 1st. I haven’t seen the finished copy yet. I’m on pins and needles!

Eve: Many writers also seem to be music lovers. Did you create a playlist for your novel and, if so, what are some of the songs on it?

K.P.: I LOVE music, but I can’t listen to vocal music while I write, or I just want to sing along! So I write to soundtracks. I wrote almost all of BURNING GLASS to the film score of BELLE by Rachel Portman. The best vocal song that embodies the mood of BURNING GLASS is “Can’t Pretend,” by Tom Odell. I allow myself to listen to it while I revise, because revisions take less brainpower than drafting for me (so the vocal music isn’t so distracting).

Eve: Speaking of music.. . included in your book swag is a novel-inspired song you wrote and performed called “Song for Anton.” Clearly you are a musician. If you were in an all-authors band (like YA authors Libba Bray, Natalie Standiford, Barnabas Miller, and Daniel Ehrenhaft’s “Tiger Beat”), what instrument would you play?

K.P.: I would play the guitar—and I do play the guitar! My dad taught me when I was sixteen. I spent the rest of high school torturing all my friends with renditions of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” One funny thing about my guitar playing is I am the world’s worst strummerMy dad taught me folk songs and how to finger pluck, and that’s still the way I play.

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Tiger Beat all-authors band – YA Interrobang/Nicole Brinkley

Eve: The best writers are also huge readers. What are some books you recently read that you loved?

K.P.: THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD by Emily Henry (Pure magic and a sweeping feeling of nostalgia, intellect, and true love.)

A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE by Brittany Cavallaro (Awesome twist on Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is a modern girl in this version.)

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir (Amazing world, execution, and the concept of Masks fascinates me.)

Purdie three recent favorite reads

Eve: Having an online presence is a big deal for writers. How do you balance writing and social media?

K.P.: I don’t balance it! I’m still trying to figure that out. I’ve recently downloaded the “Freedom” app to force me to stay offline while I write and revise. Wish me luck!

Eve: In the early days of crafting your novel, were you shy about sharing what you’d written with others?

K.P.: I’m always shy about sharing what I’ve written. I’ve learned that I like to stay very alone with my concept and draft until I’ve made it the best it can be. Of course, I can’t do this anymore since I’m having a trilogy published. I have to discuss my future books often with my editor. But I don’t mind. She loves these books and is as equally invested in them as I am.

Eve: Do you have a critique group and, if so, how did you find them?

K.P.: I met my critique group at the first writing conference I attended a few years ago. We hard core critiqued each other’s manuscripts the first years we were together. Now our schedules don’t allow for us to have time to critique everything (some of us are published and have tight deadlines), so we’re more of a support group now. But these ladies are very special to me and have gotten me through some intense times!

Eve: Who came up with the title of your novel? Was it the same title you used when querying agents?

My editor, together with the sales and marketing team at my publisher, came up with the name, BURNING GLASS. They wanted something moody, atmospheric, and symbolic. It’s not an obvious title. When you read the book, you have to think hard about why that’s the title. That’s why I love it! My original title for the book was AURASEER, which is the type of empath Sonya is in the story. That term remains in the book, but it didn’t stick as the title. 🙂

Eve: Many writers have dark moments while working on their novels, times when they’re not sure they’ll ever finish. If you encountered hurdles like this, how did you overcome them?

K.P.: I didn’t experience this for BURNING GLASS (a rare exception to my norm), but I have for the next book in the trilogy, which I’m still working on. To get through all that, I lean on my support group of author friends and my amazing husband, I get practical advice on things I’m struggling with (like turning off my inner editor), and I cling to a strong vision that somehow I’ll succeed. Writing a book is hard, and it truly takes a village.

Eve: Was there any particular epiphany you had while writing your novel when you said to yourself, “Hey, I can do this. I’m going to publish this thing.”

K.P.: From the moment I had the idea to write BURNING GLASS, I knew this book would be special and different. I had another book planned and outlined, and I set it all aside when this story popped into my head. It flowed out of me with little difficulty, compared to previous novels. In all ways, it really felt “meant to be,” and I had high hopes for it.

Eve: Where can your fans reach you?

Website: kathrynpurdie.com
Twitter: @kathrynpurdie
Instagram: kathrynpurdie
Tumblr: kathrynpurdie

Burn, Rewrite, Reread #amreading

Burn Write Re-Read

You know that game, “Kiss, Marry, Kill,” in which someone gives you the names of three guys (or girls) and you have to choose which ones you’d kiss, marry, or kill? Ever wondered what that game might be like played with books? Apparently, some creative book lover did because super duper, book-lovin’ Rae @ Bookmark Chronicles tagged me to play “Burn, Rewrite, Reread.”

Ooo, that sounds like fun, I thought.

But then I had to make the choices.

And it was really, really hard.

The Rules:

  • Randomly choose 3 books you’ve read. (Use the ‘random’ option on your Goodreads “read” shelf.*)
  • For each group of three books, decide which book you’d burn, rewrite, or reread. (A lot like “Kiss, Marry, Kill.”)
  • Repeat until you complete three rounds (or five) 🙂

Round 1:

BURN: 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma. I had high hopes for this book. That is all.  13132403

REWRITE: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. I actually liked We Were Liars, but according to the mixed reviews it’s kind of a love-it or hate-it read, so maybe a little rewrite would be in order.:)

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REREAD: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Redemption? Fantasy travels through past, present, and future? I will read or watch any, repeat, any version or retelling of this classic tale.

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  Round 2:

BURN: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver. Burn a book by one of my  favorite authors? How did this happen?!

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REWRITE: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black. I enjoyed the story but wouldn’t have minded if the fantasy factor were kicked up a notch or two (more fae, please!) And the “dark” part could have been even more deliciously dark.

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REREAD: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. As M.C. Hammer once said, “Can’t touch this.”

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 Round 3:

BURN: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. The graphics were somewhat entertaining, but the story needed more substance. Probably perfect for a reluctant reader.

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REWRITE: The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The only reason I would choose to rewrite this classic is to make the language a tad bit more accessible to modern readers so more people can read and appreciate the powerful story and amazing protagonist as much as I do! Note to publishers (because obviously so many of them read this blog *clears throat*): please release a new edition with a not-hideous cover that does this story justice!

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REREAD: Wool by Hugh Howey. This book ran a little long, so I almost put it in the “rewrite” category, but the story never dragged, so I suppose it was exactly as long as it needed to be. Interesting story. 18626815

 Whew, now it’s someone else’s turn to “burn” and “rewrite” some of their book babies. Good luck!

I  Tag. . .

(Note: If you’ve already done this tag or are otherwise inundated, please don’t feel obligated. Also, if your name isn’t on the list but you really want to play “Burn, Write, Reread,” consider yourself tagged!)

Brittany @ The Grisha Lieutenant
Lila @ The Bookkeeper’s Secrets
 Jesalin @ –Blogging Everything Beautiful–
 Rebecca R. Vincent
Beth @ Betwixt these Pages
Sabrina Marsi Books
Astra @ A Stranger’s Guide to Novels
Michelle, Books and Movies Addict
Melanie Noelle Bernard
Frances Sims-Williams @ Nightjar’s Jar of Books

*To display a random list of books you’ve read, go to Goodreads and:

  1. Click on “my books.”
  2. On the left side of screen below bookshelves, click “read.”
  3. At the bottom of the screen in the “sort” box, choose “random.”
  4. Choose the first three books.
  5. Have fun!

Best YA Debut Novels of 2016. Author Q&A: Randi Pink – Into White

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Hello, book lovers! In this, the “month of love,” I’m celebrating one of our greatest loves, YA fiction, by featuring Tuesday interviews with authors of 2016’s BEST YA DEBUT NOVELS.

Today’s Must-Read Debut YA Author is. . .

Smart, funny, fashionable Randi Pink whose talent and passion for beautiful writing is about to skyrocket her to literary stardom.Randi Pink Into White

The Book:

Into White is set to release in September 2016.

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Why Into White is a must-read:

Compelling, controversial, magical. “In a moment of desperation, a black girl prays for the power to change her race and wakes up white.”

The Interview:

Eve: In the early days of crafting your novel, were you shy about sharing what you’d written with others?

R.P.: I was terrified! I wrote the first chapter of INTO WHITE as an assignment in a Children’s Literature Workshop, and I was so nervous that I could hardly sleep the night before. I knew the subject matter was controversial, so I feared judgment, but the class was so supportive and kind!

Stepping into that class and opening myself up to criticism taught me a valuable lesson about writing – as long as the story is rooted in truth, the audience will respond positively. I also learned that fear and creativity can’t live in the same place – one kills the other.

Eve:  Many YA writers also seem to be music lovers. If you created a playlist for your novel, what are some of the songs on it?

R.P.: Yes! I wouldn’t have made it through the process of creating this novel without Johnny Cash, India Arie, Cyndi Lauper, and especially Willow Smith. Every musician on INTO WHITE’s playlist has one thing in common, they embrace their own artistic uniqueness. I imagine Toya listening for the courage to be herself, because that’s what I listen for.

[Click here to hear some of the songs on Randi Pink’s Into White playlist.]

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Cyndi Lauper Photo

Eve: Do you have a critique group and, if so, how did you find them?

R.P.: I do! We’re called The Night Writers, and we met at an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference. We had our first meeting nearly three years ago, and the group has produced such beautiful writing! I encourage every aspiring children’s book author to join, not only SCBWI, but a critique group. Creative minds need to be around other creative minds. Even the most solitary writer needs a regular dose of creative companionship.

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©Sarella77|Dreamstime.com
Creative minds

Eve: What’s your typical writing schedule? Do you reward yourself for meeting writing goals?

R.P.: I don’t do writing schedules. I write because it’s my compulsion. Example: I can’t get through the pastor’s sermon without scribbling a haiku, poem, or short story on the tithing envelop. J

I usually don’t do rewards either. My reward is the calm that comes when I search my mind for innovative ways to articulate a story. And the feeling of accomplishment when I read (and love!) my own words.

Eve: What’s something you really hope people say after they read your novel?

R.P.: I hope INTO WHITE encourages an honest dialogue about self-denigration. In many ways, we are all Toyas. Hoping to lose those extra pounds. Praying for lighter or darker skin. Wishing for a smaller or larger nose, or waist, or rear-end. Secretly haunted by our own self-doubt.

I sincerely hope that Toya’s vulnerability and openness will inspire the reader to reveal his or her own insecurities to someone they trust, because honesty is the first step to self-love. Accessing true happiness begins with accepting ourselves as imperfect beings. If you’re chasing perfection, there will be no rest.

For more information about Randi Pink and her exciting new YA debut novel, visit: