adventure

End of Month Wrap-Up: April & March #amreading

April & May 2017 Reads
Hello, fellow book junkies! I miss all of you fabulous bloggers so much. If it’s any consolation, I haven’t had a lot of time for reading books lately either, so it’s me, not you!

Now on to reviews for books I read in April and March (two of which were two 5-star reads, by the way.)

Adult/YA fantasy crossover
A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab. Okay, so how do I put this? My favorite writer, Victoria Schwab, is EVERYTHING. In A Conjuring of Light, yes, the writing is great. So is the worldbuilding, the characters, and the plot but–as the final installment in trilogy–A Conjuring of Light did not sufficiently answer important plot questions I’ve been dying to know the answers to since book one. If you’ve read the series maybe you’ll agree. To avoid giving away even a smidgen of a spoiler, I won’t say more. 4/5 stars

YA contemporary
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon –audiobook. This was my Nicola Yoon book, and I loved it!! The Sun is Also a Star was beautifully written, moving, philosophical and featured features characters that I really grew to care about. Natasha and Daniel are so very different–a Jamaican girl with a passion for science and a Korean-American boy who’s a born poet–but somehow their love just seems meant to be. I am now officially a huge Nicola Yoon fan. 5/5 stars

MG fantasy
Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson-audiobook Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians had a title I couldn’t pass up. Yeah, so then I was 1/3 of the way through the book before I realized it was the fourth book in a series I had never read! Oh, well, at least now I know how the series ends. Right? Nope, turns out book five comes out in 2018. Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians (book FOUR) was cute and kookily(?) magical. Sanderson–bold writer that he is–breaks the fourth wall and just seems to have a blast writing this book, I guess I’m just a tough customer to please when it comes to MG fantasy. Could be because I’m not an 11-year-old boy. There’s that. The part I enjoyed most was Alcatraz Smedry’s conflicted Evil Librarian mother. She was interesting. 3.25/5 stars

YA light horror
Wax by Gina Damico Orange Library. Entertaining, original, humorous. This is unlike any YA book I’ve read before, kind YA-lite meets Edgar Allan Poe. 3.5/5 stars

YA dystopian pirates
The Edge of the Abyss (The Abyss Surrounds Us #2) by Emily Skrutskie-Netgalley ARC. Why did I read book two of this series? Oh, right, because even though I didn’t get into the main character Cass in the first book, I appreciated Skrutskie’s unique worldbuilding, strong writing skills, and the fact that the story featured a YA lesbian (budding) relationship. So I continued the series and–surprise!–encountered the same frustrating issues I had with the first book. I did not care about the main character. Cass’ motivations were so haphazard and ingenuine that I may well have strained my eyeballs from rolling them so much. And yet I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading The Abyss Surrounds Us. It’s a unique book with a lot to offer. 3.25/5 stars

Adult contemporary literary-ish
Exit Ghost by Phillip Roth audiobook I don’t get to do this as often as I’d like, but I randomly picked this book off the library shelf one day. And I was sorry I did. Exit Ghost seemed intelligent and voice-y, had an intriguing title, and was written by an author I’ve heard of but never read. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a bunch of navel-gazing. I didn’t care how many Depends adult diapers the 80 y.o. writer had to wear or find it at all endearing that he coveted his new friend’s young wife. Honestly, even if a protagonist and a reader are from completely different walks of life (as this protagonist and I are), a well-written story should get me to care. This didn’t. I DNF’ed halfway through. 2.75/5 stars

Children’s historical modern classic
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, written for readers ages 10 and up, works for all ages. It’s full of depth and moving portrayals of human decency. In fact, Number the Stars made me tear up. . . okay, cry, three times. This book restores your faith in the human race. A must-read. 5/5 stars

— Eve Messenger

Library-Hopping Adventure #3 #amreading #amwriting

 

Why I Like Writing in Libraries:

  • They’re libraries, as in churches of books.
  • They’re free. No obligation to buy coffee.
  • They’re MUCH quieter than Starbucks.
  • Some are open until as late as 9pm–perfect for evening writing. University libraries have even later hours–much later–often until 2 in the morning. (Thank you, night-owl college students.)
  • For weekend writing, libraries are the best. Most are open on Saturdays, and some even have Sunday hours. Which brings me to this week’s library-hopping adventure: Newport Beach Central Library.

Newport Beach Central Library is huge, a whopping 71,000 sq. ft.–so big I had to use the panorama feature on my camera to photograph the building facade. And again with the palm trees. Are there any libraries in my county without palm trees? Hmm, that’s a question for the next library-hopping adventure. Ext NB Central Library.jpg

The Good

  • This library is open on Sundays.
  • Because I keep the latest versions of my works in progress on Google Docs, I appreciate that Newport Beach Central Library offers a generous five hours of free internet access–with a library card. So, of course, I signed up for a library card. 🙂 In fact, I want to collect a whole DECK of library cards, one for each of the 33 cities in my county, plus the county library  system (which I already have). So far, at three different cities, I’ve been able to sign up for a library card even though I don’t reside in the actual city.
  • Newport Beach Central Library is super quiet. I got in an hour of uninterrupted writing, and it was very peaceful.

The Good & Bad

Newport Beach Central Library has tons and tons and tons of seating. . . none of it the least bit inviting. And I wished I had a cushion for the hard wooden chair.

Study Table.jpg

The Bad

  • Not that I should be staring out windows while writing, but it’s worth noting that the view–which you’d think would be amazing since this library is located in a beach town–was not very good, just street traffic and overly landscaped parking lots.
  • At the top of the stairs is a large open area with a credit union and a bistro, which totally had the feel of a mall. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my libraries mall-less.

Random Highlight

There’s an 8-ft. bunny statue on the lawn. Yes, just sitting out there all by his lonesome, no plaque or anything. No one knows why this is. Maybe the giant bunny is on a library-“hopping” adventure of his own. XD

8 ft rabbit.jpg

–Eve Messenger

The Winner’s Curse & the Traveler’s Blessing

Hello, fellow book junkies!

This week, with books in tow, I road-tripped through the American Southwest. As a hiker, I’ve always been most drawn to lush forests, but I can honestly say I now have an appreciation for the grand, mystical, majestic beauty of the desert.

At Zion National Park in southern Utah I got to walk under my first waterfall, something I have always wanted to do. In this picture, a poor hiker is scooting around me, probably thinking, “Get out of the way, weird lady,” but I had to stop and take it all in. Standing beneath Emerald Pools Waterfall, I was so thrilled I cried. Can you see the waterfall hitting the back of my hand?

In Northern Arizona, iron-rich red rocks and distant horizons in every–I mean every– direction made me feel as if I was on Mars. The largest boulders in this picture are four times bigger than my car.

Desert Road Trip Aug 2016 - Cave Dwellers Arizona or Mars

Photo by Mr. Eve Messenger

Traveling through Navajo country, I developed an addiction to fry bread, which is used for sandwiches and tacos (and probably other things), but my absolute favorite was fry bread hot and fresh out of the oven, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Desert Road Trip Aug 2016 - Indian Fry Bread

And here’s the book I read in my hotel room each night. I had no idea The Winner’s Curse would be such a page-turner, but it really was, and Kestrel and Arin’s forbidden love story hooked me so hard. Marie Rutkoski’s book has everything. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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Happy reading and safe travels.

XOXO,

Eve Messenger

Library-Hopping Adventure #amwriting #amreading

Huntington Beach library.jpg

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

Reading While Writing – Is it a Bad Thing?

NTSNBN

There’s this YA dystopian thriller I’ve been dying to read.  Very hyped, mentioned in lots of blogs, highly ranked on Goodreads. I won’t mention the title because — call me superstitious, or maybe respectful or polite — I won’t publicly write negative things about another writer’s published work. Who knows, maybe you’ll guess it from the references I’m about to make. Anyway, I was excited to read this book, but I stopped myself.  I stopped myself from reading any fiction.  Why? Because I’ve heard from other writers that reading while you write can be detrimental.

But reading is the shizzle!

So two days ago I picked up this hyped novel-that-shall-not-be-named (henceforth known as NTSNBN), and I began to read.   Even though I’m working on my own novel.

And it’s been really helpful!  Possibly because NTSNBN is in a different enough genre from my own YA fantasy adventure. Or maybe because it’s a good book but not so brilliant that I’m utterly intimidated. Or maybe (and probably most significantly) because the plot and characters of my own novel are well-formed enough that reading someone else’s novel — both as a positive and negative example — gives me ideas on how to enhance what I already have.

Back when I was tapping and scribbling out the nucleus of a plot in coffee houses, libraries, and all the other free places writers and homeless people hang out, reading someone else’s novel might have been detrimental to my process. Consciously or subconsciously, another writer’s plots and characters could have crept their way into my own writing.   (Though I probably will take the chance and try it while writing the next novel.)

After two days of reading NTSNBN — while working on the 2nd/3rd major revision of my own — here’s how reading someone else’s novel has been beneficial. Throughout the narrative, NTSNBN gives a very clear sense of the main character’s emotional state. It contains too much a lot of internal self-talk. With a keener awareness of this, the next time I sat down to work on my own book, my characters started spilling their emotional guts a lot more.

I like that.

The author of NTSNBN also employs several quirky stylistic devices, such as replacing number words with the alphanumeric, as in ‘2’ instead of ‘two.’  Also, there are long passages that deliberately avoid commas. Thirdly, there is a lot lot lot of  too much  striking out of lines and words, which signify the MC censoring his/her own thoughts.   Though I probably won’t use those devices in my own writing, the stylistic experiments definitely inspire me to try new things.

Lastly, NTSNBN reads really fast. All the chapters flow really well, each with its own grabber that takes you right into the heart of the scene and an ending that propels you further into the story. All wonderful things to keep in mind while revising and polishing my own work.

E.B.M.