Month: March 2016

The Surprise Star of the 8 Books I Read in March was. . .

March Reads 2016 copy

Oh, look at all the literary worlds I got to visit in March.

Only a Hundred Pages Shorter than Moby-Dick
At 565 pages, The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden was my longest read of the month, with A Gathering of Shadows coming in second at 500 pages. The Casquette Girls was one of those books that had me scratching my head wondering why it kept me so engrossed. I think the biggest reason is that the paranormal characters and events were interwoven with the enchanting, extraordinary world of New Orleans. 4 stars

Transported to a Dream then Sparked with a New ObsessionTsukiko from The Night Circus by CaylaLydon
With tThe Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern transported me to a dream world of magic, a battle to the death, and compelling characters, including my new favorite, Claire Bowen. This book also left me with a dire need for a prequel featuring Tsukiko and Hinata. If you read the  book, hopefully you’ll understand. The Night Circus was published in 2011 as the first in a series, but Erin Morgenstern is still working on the sequel because, apparently, writing this beautiful takes time. 4.5 stars

What’s a Story Without Believable Motives?
The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts by K.C. Tansley
There’s a lot to like about The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts. Of course, there are ghosts, and a girl who can see them, then there’s possession and a sort of time travel with an ancient curse. The biggest issue for me was believability–there wasn’t a compelling enough reason for the protagonist to risk everything to embark on her dangerous journey. Perhaps for that reason, The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts did not pass my “skim test,” meaning I found myself speed-reading through numerous passages that didn’t further the story.  3 stars

Why Friends Don’t Let Friends Write Alone
Beta read-Adult Paranormal WIP by  Tracy L. Jackson
My dear writing friend Tracy calmly talks me down from writing ledges, fangirls with me over The Walking Dead each week, and now has entrusted me to offer honest feedback on her wonderful work in progress, an adult paranormal novel. Since it’s not published yet, I won’t reveal much except to say there are MANY characters to fall in love with, plus an intriguing curse and, again, the amazing city of New Orleans. I want to read more books set in New Orleans! If you have any to recommend, I’d love to hear.

Why I am No Longer a Cassandra-Clare-Book Virgin
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
At last, I read my first Cassandra Clare book. Clockwork Angel was darker than I’d expected, which was a nice surprise. And the characters–Tessa, Jessamine and, oh, I’m enraptured by Jem. I saw certain plot twists coming from a mile away, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this book and wanting to read more in the series. 4 stars.

Schwab, You Got Me to Read Your Second Book
A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
I loved, adored, was blown away by the masterful writing of A Darker Shade of Magic, so I had to read the second book, A Gathering of Shadows. Amazing new characters were introduced, notably Alucard and Ojka. Plus, the Element Games were super fun, and Lila still kicks butt. But I enjoyed the first book more, probably because I’m a “discovery” reader, meaning I get the most pleasure out of discovering new worlds, characters, and writers, and it takes a LOT for me to spend more time in a literary world I’ve already experienced. 4.5 stars

Surprise Star of the Month
Pivot Point by Kasie West
I knew I wanted to check out Kasie West’s writing at some point, but Pivot Point wasn’t even on my radar until, on a whim, I picked it up from the library. I’m so glad I did. It was one of those “exactly what I was in the mood for” books. The plot kept me guessing all the way through, and the unique story structure made for a fascinating read. I’m all in for the next book in the series, Split Second. 4.5 stars

The Challenge of Sustaining Magnificence
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
At a hundred pages in, I was completely enamored by this beautiful, achingly bittersweet story. Through the second act, the story got a little same-y and could have used a twist, but the writing was strong, and the dual-POV structure worked really well. All the Bright Places is a moving story with deep philosophical themes and memorable main characters. 4 stars

 –Eve Messenger

 

 

 

 

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Instagram, What’s Good(?), and Why I’m Ready to Post Bad Photos

Bad Photo

I’m one of those weird people who actually likes it when people show me their family photos. I’ll happily browse through them, even if the pictures are of people I’ve never met. I enjoy looking at all kinds of pictures, really, especially of books, exotic locales, and cute animals. “You’ll love Instagram,” people tell me, “especially #bookstagram!” So why did it take me so long to hop on the Instagram train?

Issue #1. I am a terrible photographer. Seriously, taking decent pictures is not in my skill set.

Issue #2. When I first set up my Instagram account, I logged on simultaneously from both my computer and my cell phone. Why or how I did this is a mystery. All I know is that afterward I was unable to log onto Instagram.

As of today, issue #2 has been resolved. Yay, now I’m ready to post badly photographed pictures and to follow all you wonderful booklovers on Instagram. If you have any Instagram advice you’d like to share, this rank newbie would sure love to hear it.

  1. Who do you like to follow on Instagram–any recommendations?
  2. What are good things I can post pictures of?
  3. Is there anything else should I know about Instagram?

Thanks!

Oh, and my Instagram handle is: @eve_messenger  🙂

 

And the Muslim Woman Sang

My mother was born in Fukuoka, Japan. She fell in love with an American soldier (my dad) and moved with him to a small northern Virginia town. Though she arrived there well after World War II, my mother came to know all too well the sideways glances and outright scorn of white people who viewed her as the enemy.

Here’s another true story. My best class in high school was Freshman English with Mrs. Kiyoko Bernard. Woven among our exploration of great literature were stories Mrs. Bernard shared with us about her life. Like the story about how she and her young Japanese-American husband were forced by the U.S. government into an internment camp during World War II. This remarkable woman who touched our lives with her humanity and her encouragement suffered the degradation of having to bear her first child in an internment camp.

In the heart of Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles is the Japanese American National Museum. JANM is beautiful, always clean, with many windows allowing in natural light, knowledgeable docents, and engaging Japanese cultural exhibits and activities. As a Japanese language teacher, I have taken my students on field trips there many times. But the museum’s purpose extends beyond expanding awareness of Japanese-American culture. Founded by survivors of Japanese internment camps who pooled government restitution money to build the museum, JANM exists as a reminder that, even in the land of the free, especially during the toxic climate of war, fear can drive the masses to ignore, subscribe to–even call for–foul human actions.

In 1942, by executive order of the president of the United States, everyone of Japanese descent, including natural-born U.S. citizens like Mrs. Bernard, were forced out of their homes, businesses, and schools. The lash of wartime anti-Japanese rhetoric fell swiftly. Here’s the story my dear friend and second mother Pauline once told. Pauline grew up in Bellflower, California, when it was still a small farming town. One morning in 1942, when Pauline was twelve, she arrived at school to find many of the classroom seats empty. To her horror, she realized that all of her Japanese friends were gone. Pauline’s parents and other good-hearted neighbors attempted to keep the land for the Japanese farmer friends. Others took advantage and bought the well-worked Japanese farms on the cheap.

Meanwhile, Japanese-American soldiers in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team were fighting and dying in Europe for the very country that was forcibly interring their family members.  38 years later, in 1980, President Jimmy Carter called for an investigation into the government’s internment action. The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians determined that interring Japanese-Americans had been a clear violation of their human rights and was stoked by “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

Here is another true story. It is not set in the 1940s or the 1960s or even the 1980s. It happened very recently in the large metropolitan area in which I live.

My old friend Luke, whom I’ve known since high school, has a lovely wife Cathy who’s always been kind and generous toward my family, especially my children. Cathy is very involved in her church. During winter break, she invited my daughter and me over to decorate Christmas cookies. Some of Cathy’s church friends were there. The political discussion became uncomfortable.

One of Cathy’s church friends shared this story:

Across the street from her a Muslim family had moved in, and the church friend felt very unsettled about this. One day the Muslim mother, a woman in her thirties, even crossed the street with her six-year-old daughter and rang the church friend’s doorbell. The church lady was terrified. She peered through the peephole and panicked. What should she do? Her husband was at work, leaving just her and her own young daughter at home, and a woman in a hijab was standing there on her doorstep with a little Muslim girl beside her.  So here’s what the frightened church lady did. Through her closed door, she insisted she would only open the door if the Muslim woman proved her patriotism by singing the national anthem.

And the Muslim woman sang.

 

 

–Eve Messenger

 

 

 

 

Sunshine Blogger Award

Yay, I get to be a “Sunshine Blogger” and answer some questions thanks to friendly, super smart, book-loving  Lila @ The Bookkeeper’s Secrets. Lila is truly a wonderful book blogger, so I hope you get to check out her blog.

The Rules:

  • Answer the 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
  • Nominate some wonderful bloggers and write 11 questions for them to answer.

Lila’s Questions:

1. What/who makes you smile the most? Acts of kindness and my hilarious daughter make me smile the most.

2. Would you ever get a tattoo? If so, of what? I’m not planning on getting body art any time soon, but if I did it would be a tattoo of my good luck symbol, a hummingbird.

3. What do you think heaven looks like? I think heaven is unimaginable for us mere mortals.

4. What’s the first item on your bucket list? Good question! The number one item on my bucket list is a trip to Europe. I have a special affinity for Scotland and Norway and am forever wanting to include Scotland as a setting in my stories.

5. If you could ride the Whirling Teacups at Disneyland with one person, alive or dead, who would you choose?  I would, for sure, ride the Whirling Teacups with someone who doesn’t mind me throwing up on them.
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6. Plaid and polka dots or stripes and florals–which combination is more visually appealing? Stripes and florals, definitely. Spring flowers are my favorite!https://i0.wp.com/bodyonept.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/spring-flowers.jpg

7. What does licorice taste like? (I ask this out of genuine curiosity as, due to my celiac disease, I can’t have licorice 😉  Black licorice tastes like bitter gasoline (to me), so you’re really not missing anything there.

8. Coke or Pepsi? On the rare occasions that I drink soda, I am Team Coke all the way.

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9. Are you enjoying yourself atm? As a matter of fact, I am. 🙂

10. Is there a pattern to these questions? If so, what? Ggaaghh, I find no pattern to these questions.

11. What is life??? Life is what we try to live to the fullest by maintaining connections with good people and exploring our talents.

I Nominate:

Annika @ Annika Perry’s Writing Blog
The Orang-utan Librarian
Michelle, Books & Movies Addict
Michelle @ The Bibliophile Struggle
A Stranger’s Guide to Novels
Nazahet @ Read Diverse Books
Beth @ Betwixt-These-Pages
Jess @ –Blogging Everything Beautiful–
Larkin @ Wonderfilled Reads
Nicole @ Sorry, I’m Booked
Alyia @ A.J. Helms

Eve’s Questions:

  1. What are three things that make you laugh?
  2. What’s your favorite daydream?
  3. Would you rather have the power to shapeshift or to make yourself invisible?
  4. What’s one of your favorite stupid pun jokes? (Example: “Why did Adele cross the road? To say hello from the other side.”)
  5. Do you like stickers?
  6. What’s your favorite social media and why?
  7. Do you sleep with the light on or off?
  8. If you performed in a talent show, what would your talent be?
  9. Have you ever handwritten a letter? If yes, to whom did you mail it and when?
  10. What’s your favorite thing to do with friends?
  11. Big or small, what’s something you’ve done that you’re really proud of?

Top Three “Author Uniforms” Big-Name Y.A. Male Writers Wear #amwriting #amreading

I am a writer. I daydream. Sometimes I daydream about what it would be like to attend my own book signing or to speak at a conference. (My introvert palms are sweating about that one already.) The obvious question, “What would I wear?” got me browsing through photos of my favorite female Y.A. authors, whose outfits apparently run the gamut  from T-shirts and jeans to designer dresses. No help there. Then I noticed something interesting. Big-name male YA authors sport a kind of “author’s uniform.” If you’re a male (or female) author searching for a good public look, here are three options you might want to consider.

The Rock Star

I challenge anyone to find a photo of Neil Gaiman not dressed in black. (Costumes don’t count.) Gaiman’s “author uniform” (which he totally rocks) consists of a black shirt, black blazer, and black pants. Occasionally, Gaiman mixes things up with a black sweater, black trench coat, or black bomber jacket. Are you detecting a theme here? Gaiman prefers clothing that’s dark like his stories, one of my favorites being The Graveyard Book.
  

The Boy Next Door

Imaginative and prolific author Patrick Ness’s go-to author uniform is a polo shirt with zip-up hoodie and jeans. Hey, whatever works, as long as he keeps writing books like The Knife of Never Letting Go.

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It is worth noting that for gala events, Ness cleans up very nicely. Guys are so lucky to be able to slip on a gorgeous tuxedo and call it a day.

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The Friendly Professor

Yep, that would be John Green, who meets with the public wearing a tieless dress shirt, blazer and jeans.

John_Green_(7492849834).jpg  https://i2.wp.com/www.penguin.com/static/packages/us/yreaders/books4boys/images/authorphotos/johngreen.jpg

Which author uniform is your favorite? If you were to attend an event as an author, what would you wear?

–Eve Messenger

Interview with Brenda Drake, YA Author & #PitchWars Rock Star #amwriting #amreading

Brenda Drake is a rock star of the writing community. In addition to being a fabulous YA writer in her own right, Brenda is known by authors far and wide as the mastermind behind the Twitter writing contest phenomenon known as #pitchwars. This year saw the publication of Brenda’s YA novel, Thief of Lies, which has a concept book lovers everywhere will adore: characters who time-jump between the world’s most beautiful libraries. Brenda was kind enough to take a moment out of her busy schedule to answer questions about the new book.

Brenda Drake Author Photo1

Interview:

Brenda, you’ve interviewed MANY writers and other industry professionals as part of your involvement in the amazingly successful phenomenon known as Pitch Wars. As a writer who has just released her first book, how does it feel to be on the other side?

It feels great! It’s been such a long journey, but I’ve been distracted enough by the contests and celebrating other writers’ successes that it almost flew by. The community has been so wonderful to me, and I love giving back to writers. I’m humbled by the generosity of the mentors and the participants behind Pitch Wars. It’s been a great run!

What made you fall in love with your novel?

So many things made me fall in love with it. First, there’s the libraries and the ability to jump through pages and end up in another beautiful library anywhere in the world. Then there’s the characters, especially Gia. I’ve been in Gia’s head for so long, she feels real to me.

The publishing industry is a notoriously slow-moving machine. From writing to publication, how long was the “birthing” process of your book? What have some of the highlights been?

This story has taken a long journey. Full of mistakes that took me off the path and on detours before bringing me back to the right road. I started writing this book in 2009. It’s seen me through changing agents and publishers. There were heartbreaking moments and many highlights. I think going through editing and molding the story to what it is today was definitely a one highlight. And when a reader loves your work, that’s a wonderful feeling. I try to tune out the negative now, though it’s hard. I have to say, my journey is what it was supposed to be. It’s what molded me into who I am today. And I couldn’t be more thankful.

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

I’ve been reading many of the Pitch Wars mentors’ books lately. Everyone should try them. They are so good! If you want to try them, they’re listed on my website on the sidebar. You’d be happy you did. A book other than from my Pitch Wars friends? I finished Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Loved it! It was so amazing. You all should read it.

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

Lately? Poorly. I’m sort of all over the place nowadays, and I just hop on social media during breaks. When I don’t have so much going on, I schedule my day. In the morning, I grab coffee and do social media while I’m waking up. Then I write, hop on social media during lunch, run errands, or clean if I have to. When I’m done, I write until dinner. I’ll usually hop on again at night if there’s nothing going on or haven’t passed out.

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

I was terrified about sharing my work with others. I would take critique personally and want to give up. It was horrible. Then I grew up. Now, I tell my critique partners not to sugar coat their critiques of my work. I take it with a shot of whiskey and dive in.

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

I have a small group of critique partners. I found them online. I met one during NaNoWriMo and the others during my contests. I don’t meet with a group here where I live. It’s all online. I have met my critique partners in person at conferences. They are my writer soulmates and I feel like I’ve known them all my life.

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?

I’ve been through many dark times. I can fall into a depression that will take me time to get out of, so I’m careful. I change my setting – go to a Barnes and Noble or Starbucks to write. If that doesn’t work, I reach out to my writing friends who understand what I’m going through. After I talk it out and get in a better mood, I can jump (pun intended) over those hurdles and plow through what I have to get finished.

Bio:

Brenda Drake is the author of Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers Book 1) and Touching Fate (Fated Series Book1) both available now from Entangled Teen. She grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up are of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

Links:

brenda-drake.com
Twitter: @brendadrake
Instagram: @brendadrakeauthor
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BrendaLeeDrake
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7012713.Brenda_Drake

 

What is Bloglovin? I’d Really Like to Know.

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/RS0KyTZ3Ie4/maxresdefault.jpg

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Okay, so I follow a lot of blogs, and I’ve heard that Bloglovin can simplify the experience by. . . wait, how does it work?

I just signed up for a Bloglovin account and apparently had to paste the above link into this post in order to claim my WordPress blog. That’s all I know so far.

If you use Bloglovin, I’d love to hear from you with any tips or insights. Thanks!

–Eve Messenger

Reply Like No One’s Watching (Writing Tag) #amwriting

giantbook

 

Yay, I get to do a writing tag and answer questions thanks to my new writing friend, G. L. “Gwynne” Jackson. Gwynne has a lot of writing knowledge and offers great advice. I hope you get a chance to check out her blog.

G.L. Jackson’s Questions:

 1. It’s the old stranded on a desert island question! Which three books do you take with you? 

  • The Complete Works of Shakespeare because it will keep me occupied on the island for a good long while.  According to Goodreads, The Complete Works of Shakespeare is 1,745 pages long. Amazon says 2,016 (there you go exaggerating, Amazon). This book must weigh a ton. It’s probably what sank my boat.
  • Moby-Dick so I will finally finish it.
  • Whatever book comes floating my way. I like to be surprised.

2. Which author or authors would you cite as your inspiration? V.E. Schwab and Lauren Oliver.

3. What are some of your other creative pursuits beyond writing? Does blogging count? With a full-time job, part-time job, family to raise, and books to read, I’m afraid I don’t have time for other creative pursuits, but I used to be a songwriter.

 4. Tell me about the last TV show you binge-watched. What did you think? Sense8. I liked it!

 5. How did you get your start in writing?  I’ve had several “starts” in writing. In 1st grade, I wrote my first story (see exciting recap below). After college, I attended writing workshops where I learned a lot about craft. Then the “start” that finally took was an inspiring conversation with a friend. 

6. Do you remember the first story you wrote? Can you recap it? Umm, yes. A busy butterfly flies around to all the flowers and trees. A big wind comes, bringing with it a flying Christmas tree. I don’t remember what happens after that.

 7. Fast-forward 60 years into the future. What does society look like to you? (This is a big question, so feel free to narrow it down as you like.) I like to believe the human race figures things out and that the future is beautiful.

8. What’s your go-to guilty-pleasure genre to read? Thriller with a spicy sex scene.

9. Do you consider yourself to be an extrovert or an introvert?An introvert with decent acting skills.

10. What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to give to aspiring writers?Don’t believe the “tortured artist” myth. Do whatever you must to keep writing fun.

Tag, You’re It:

Let’s kick off this list off with three writing Kelly’s, shall we?

Kelly Deeny

Kelly Miles

Kelly F. Barr

Melanie Noell Bernard

Elena Johansen

Alyia J. Helms

Nicolette Elzie

Jennifer F. Santucci

The Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link to their blog and Twitter in your post.
2. Answer the questions that the blogger who nominated you has provided.
3. Nominate up to 10 other bloggers or Twitter followers
4. Create ten questions for your nominees and notify them of their nomination.

Eve Messenger’s Questions:

  1. What are three things you do really well as a writer?
  2. When you daydream about “making it” as a writer, what do you visualize?
  3. Do you have a regular writing routine? If so, when?
  4. Dogs or cats?
  5. What’s directly to the left of where you’re sitting right now?
  6. When do most of your plot ideas come to you? In bed, on walks, in the shower, while driving, when reading other books?
  7. What’s your most recent writing breakthrough?
  8. Are you able to write in noisy environments?
  9. Have you ever attended a book signing event for an author you admire? If so, what was it like?
  10. Are you better at coming up with titles or elevator pitches?

 

 

 

Welcome to my 100th blog post. . . #amwriting #amreading

Hello, and welcome to my 100th blog post! Apparently, on 100 different occasions over the past ten months I have attempted to come up with something worthwhile to say in this blog. The shocker is that sometimes other people read and comment, which makes me happy. Thank you!
happy girl dancing 2

What I’ve Been Up to:

Well, I’ve been blogging a lot lately about reading YA books but haven’t talked as much about books I’m writing. For the record, writing is going well. I’m working on a dark, modern YA fantasy that I’m pretty excited about. Ideas are brewing, the main characters have life (if not set-in-stone names yet), and plotting is about 50% complete. I look forward to sharing more with you about this new novel-baby as it grows and decides what it wants to be.

Of the 100 posts I’ve written for this blog, the one with the most likes is:

How to Tell If You’re a Book Junkie

My personal favorite is:

When a Writing Dream Becomes a Mission

Random fact: April 10 is the 100th day of the year.

Another random fact: I’m kinda crazy good at Scrabble. 

 

And now we’ve reached the end of my 100th blog post. Thank you for being part of the ride!

 

 

–Eve Messenger

POLL: What’s Your Favorite Kind of Book Review? #amreading

In your epic pursuit of great books to read, you’ve probably run across hundreds thousands of book reviews, and occasionally you stumble across a real gem. . . of a book review, that is. Maybe it glows with the kind of genuine adoration that touches your book-loving heart, or is so sizzlingly snarky it burns a hole in your computer screen. Maybe the review is so clever and insightful you wish you’d written it yourself.

If you HAD to choose. . .