December Book Challenge: Days 1 and 2 #amreading

Hello, fellow book junkies! I am thrilled to share this first in a series of retrospective bookish challenges for each day of December. I first noticed “All the Books of 2016” (created by @AnneReads for #bookstagram) on Cristina @ My Tiny Obsessions‘ blog and knew right away I had to do it. Think about reading? Delight in all the books I’ve read this year? Yes, please. XD

In case you’d like to do it too, here are all the challenges @AnneReads came up with:

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For this post, I’d like to start with challenges 1 and 2. . .

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“First Read of the Year”

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My first read of 2016 was The Diviners by the “divinely” talented Libba Bray. This spooky paranormal YA story set in 1920s NYC was a fun book to start the year with. I happily lost myself in the adventures of Bray’s amazing characters and felt transported right out of the 21st century. At 578 pages, The Diviners was the second longest book I read–the longest being book #2 in the Diviners series, Lair of Dreams, at a whopping 618 pages. Which brings me to my next topic. . .

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“Shortest Book I Read”
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If graphic novels don’t count, then the shortest book I read was The Day We are Born by Philippa Cameron at 210 pp. I wish I had more to say about this book but, alas, the story did not rise to the level of the evocative title.

However, if graphic novels do count, then the shortest book I read in 2016 was Captain Marvel Higher, Further, Faster, More vol. 1-6 by DeConnick & Lopez–which I ADORED. Captain Marvel was 100 pp. of pure escapism, rich illustrations, and many strong, inspiring female characters. Endless gratitude to Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories for turning me onto this series.

Happy Reading & Happy Holidays to all you wonderful book lovers out there.

–Eve Messenger

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November Reads – End of Month Wrap-Up #amreading

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Helloooo, fellow book junkies! You know what I’ve been noticing? A trend toward more classics being mentioned in YA blogs and posted about on Goodreads. Classic literature is magical, so I approve of this trend.

As for me, well, no classics this month (hypocrite, Eve), but I did enjoy reading a mix of genres–which, for me, translates to “not just YA fantasy.” As usual, most of the books I read were standalones–with the exception of books three and four of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle, a series I began a month ago and just had to finish. Don’t you love when you find a delicious series you just can’t get enough of?

BOOKS I READ IN NOVEMBER:

YA Fantasy-Paranormal

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3) by Maggie Stievfater 391pp 5/5 stars

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4) by Maggie Stiefvater 5/5 stars

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather 368pp-kindle – The good: It’s written by the 11th great granddaughter of a Salem Witch Trials judge, and she compares bullying between the Puritan trials with modern-day high school. The Salem, Massachussetts setting is super interesting. The writing is not bad, but it’s got this weird internal narration the MC does throughout, like having to explain what’s really going on in her head every time she says, does, or encounters anything. Hard to explain. Check it out. The story’s got some good supsense but, yeah, that writing style, I’m not so sure about. 3.75/5 stars

The Lie Tree by Francis Hardinge 410pp -Historical, gothic, disturbing, downright literary lines of prose. Unique worldbuilding. I’ll definitely read more books by Francis Hardinge. 5/5 stars

My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison – All the things I liked: Loved the concept of a fairy godmother so ditzy she only gets to be called “fair.” The adorable cover. A strong opening. That the MC lives in Herndon, VA–pretty much my stomping grounds as a little girl. What I didn’t like: It read as MG, and at 165 pages in, I stopped caring. DNF.

YA Contemporary

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King 326pp – A.S. King is her own writer, through and through. Her books are unique, smart, and unconventional, and I just can’t put them down. As with most A.S. King books, this one has paranormal overtones and a certain darkness–maybe even despair–but is first and foremost a compelling and well-written YA contemporary. 5/5 stars

We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun & Susan Mullen 304pp Netgalley ARC – I happened to read We are Still Tornadoes and Please Ignore Vera Dietz back to back and was surprised by  how similar their themes were (lifelong friendship between a girl and a boy) and how very differently they were told. Dietz is the dark side of the coin, Tornadoes is the light. Full review here  4/5 stars

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Amy Berkower/Writers House) 198pp audiobook – No light fare, this is one of those heart-wrenching, eye-opening, important stories I pray will be read by the people (victims and abusers) who need to see it. 4/5 stars

Wonder by R. J. Palacio audiobook – Half a million(!) people have a reviewed this book on Goodreads, and it still has a 4.41 rating. That’s pretty outstanding. Wonder was sweet and featured both YA & MG characters in an authentic way that developed a sort of “six degrees of separation” around the central character Auggie. A sweet story, another “important” story that I think I was supposed to get more choked up about but didn’t. 4/5 stars

Adult Contemporary-Humor

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella 404pp audiobook – I’m so glad I finally checked out Sophie Kinsella’s writing. What can I say? This book made me happy. XD  This fish- out-of-water story with a bit of romance thrown in (not too heavy-handed but a bit steamy) kept me grinning. Okay, and it reminded me to remember what’s important in life. That’s a good combination, right? 4/5 stars

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The Cutaway by Christina Kovac 320 pp Netgalley ARC – I’ve read many mystery and suspense novels, but it’s been a a while, so it was fun to get lost in a gripping mystery again. What made this one especially interesting was the behind-the-scenes look at television journalism from the insider perspective of writer Christina Kovac, who’s worked for years managing news rooms. Full review here 4/5 stars

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Digging Deep in Volleyball and Life by Misty May Treanor – Once in a while it’s nice to add a dose of reality to my steady diet of fiction. As a big fan of women’s volleyball, Misty May is one of my idols, so it was interesting to read about her journey to gold superstardom (she also lives in my county–I know people who know her. :)) Shocker: Misty came super close to being named Desiree–which definitely doesn’t have the same ring as “Misty May.”

Shhh. . . let’s chat over here in this quiet corner for a moment so I can tell you. . . well. . .

There’s one more. . .um, thing? I read. I’m shy to admit  it because it was darn naughty, but it was also darn funny, so I’ll just go ahead and tell you I read. . .

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Happy holidays!

–Eve Messenger

“How a Book is Made” Tag

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Thanks to The Orang-utan Librarian for yet another interesting tag. In this post, I’ll be exploring all things writing, even including a link where you can test your typing speed–post results in the comments section if you dare. 😉

1. Should you participate in National Novel Writing Month to create a book?

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Every writer should participate in NaNoWriMo at least once in zir life. Thirty consecutive days of grinding out as many words as possible establishes consistent writing habits, gets you out of the house, helps you discover great local places to write, creates bonds with other writers, pushes you to allow your imagination run wild and maybe, just maybe, gets you to the point where you can write The End at the end of an actual first draft.

 2. Self-publishing or traditional publishing?

Traditional publishing is what I personally strive for, primarily because the idea of having to add a full-time job of promoting my own book to actually writing books, plus working a day job to make ends meet seems utterly daunting. I’d like to have a publisher who can at least explain to me how best to promote my books.

3. Write one idea at a time or write all the ideas at once?

Capture all ideas that come to you, always. That doesn’t mean you have to turn them into books right away.

4. What genre is the easiest to write?

I’m not sure if it’s the easiest, but the genre that comes most naturally to me is young-adult speculative fiction.

5. Where do you need to write to get the work done?

Wherever there aren’t interruptions, and I’ve been getting better at writing even in environments where there’s some noise.

6. Where do you find your inspiration?

In books! I’m inspired by the stories I read and the way they’re written. Of course, I’m also inspired by events from my life, my perspective on things, and my many interests.

7. What age do you start writing?

I vividly remember writing stories in 1st grade.

8. What’s easiest to write? Short stories, stand-alones, series, etc.

Stand-alones. The idea of planning out a series makes my brain explode.

9. Do you mill your books or take years to write a book?

I can whip out a first draft quickly, maybe in a month or two, but ultimately I think I need a year or two to finish a book.

10. How fast can you type?

According to TypingTest.com, I type 95 words a minute.

11. Do you write in the dark or in the light?

Both.

12. Handwritten or typed?

Typed, but I love those rare occasions when I hand-write because I think the writing flows more organically, and when I type out the handwritten words afterward I’m always surprised by how many more words there are than I expected.

13. Alone or with someone else?

Alone, but I’m open to trying out a collaboration. Why not?

14. Any typing hacks?

Practice a lot.

15. Are you already published?

I had a poem published in an anthology; that’s about it.

16. When did you first consider being an author?

I don’t remember ever not wanting to be an author.

17. How many books do you have in draft form?

Four and a half.

18. Do you outline or no?

Proper outlining is a skill I’ve not yet mastered–but I really want to!

19. What’s your favorite note-keeping strategy?

I keep notes in my smart phone, notebooks, and Google docs.

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20. What do you think about writing in different genres?

I love reading multiple genres but, ultimately, I’m most comfortable writing YA speculative. I am, however, totally enamored with the idea of experimenting with writing genre mash-ups.

–Eve Messenger

I Tag:

Rayne Adams
Melanie Noell Bernard
G.L. Jackson @ Dreaming in Character
Mackenzie Bates
Ida Auclond
Daisy in the Willows
Nicolette Elzie
Danielle @ The Caffeinated Writer

 

 

The Raven Boys – I Finally Understand What the Hype is About #amreading

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Hello, fellow book junkies!

If you love dark, imaginative, splendidly written, modern YA fantasy/paranormal stories, you will love The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stievfater. The paranormal thrills are off the hook. And, oh, how we come to adore the wonderful, proud, reckless characters. And the moments, oh, the moments–like when Ronan writes “Remembered” on the car window–and so very many others.

Henrietta, Virginia makes for a fantastic setting, with its stretches of unvisited forest and turbulent blend of old-money, new-money, and no-money families. Stirring through all of this is the ley line with its vast psychic energy.

The Raven Cycle is atmospheric, constantly full of surprises, and is one of the most well-planned series I’ve read. Through each successive book, it becomes increasingly obvious that we’re being led into plot and character revelations by a master storyteller.

The intrigue continues unabated from The Raven Boys through The Dream Thieves and on to Blue Lily, Lily Blue. And now–for this reader–there is just one book in the series left to read, The Raven King. As excited as I am to delve into the final installment, I am simultaneously dreading it because after The Raven King there will be no more Blue, Ronan, Gansey, Noah, and Adam. No more Chainsaw screeching, “Kirah!” No more Mara, Calla, Persephone–the three savviest mediums around. No more chilling bad guys. No more Mr. Gray. No more adorable side characters like Jesse Dittley.

Now that I think about it, it is quite possible I am already beginning the process of mourning the end of The Raven Cycle. But, oh, what a thrilling literary ride it has been.

–Eve Messenger

ARC Review: THE CUTAWAY by Christina Kovac #amreading

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Hello, fellow book junkies! A Goodreads friend really liked The Cutaway by Christina Kovac, so I ventured out of my YA zone and, crossing my fingers, requested an ARC on Netgalley. I got a copy (yay!), and totally enjoyed it. 🙂

The Cutaway is a fast-paced, engrossing adult mystery whose biggest strengths are its top-notch writing, a noble protagonist, and the many fascinating insights Kovac (a career journalist) shares about the world of television journalism.

The setting is Washington, D.C., known as “The District,” the protagonist Virginia Knightly, a newswoman with a painful past and a near-photographic memory. When a young female lawyer goes missing, Virginia vaguely recalls cutaway footage of the woman from years before. As Virginia pursues the story on this missing person investigation and uncovers why the elusive footage is important, she enters dangerous territory, both professionally and personally. But Virginia is not a woman to be trifled with–if anyone can compile a top news story while maintaining her integrity, Virginia will.

Though I guessed the villain’s identity a little earlier than I’d hoped I would, overall, the plot was suspenseful and solidly constructed. I’m definitely open to reading more books by Christina Kovac, and I predict The Cutaway will do well when it comes out in March 2017.

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— Eve Messenger

Eleven Ways to Motivate Yourself to Write

Dreaming up stories and watching them come to life on the page is pure magic. It really is. I love being a writer. So why is it that some days facing my manuscript is the hardest thing to do in the world?

Because writing good books is HARD.
lisa-simpson-writing.gifWriting and editing can feel like wading through quicksand. Life’s distractions can pull so hard away from the writing desk that it feels impossible to muster the mental energy to write.

That’s when I pull out the big guns.
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When my writing resistance is at its highest, I take out my writing motivation checklist. If I’m lucky, I’ll only need to do a couple of items before I feel pumped enough to write. Other times–when writing-resistant inner me throws a particularly nasty tantrum–I might need to hit all ten items on the darn list.

Ultimately, the list helps me overcome resistance to writing. Maybe it will help you, too. And if you’ve discovered other effective ways to motivate yourself to write, I’d love to hear about them in the comments! 🙂 — Eve Messenger

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CHECKLIST FOR MOTIVATING YOURSELF TO WRITE
by Eve Messenger

#1 Breathe.
So simple yet so effective. You’d be amazed how much the simple act of focused breathing can perk you up to write.

#2 Get your energy up.
-Listen to a song that gets you pumped.
-Do jumping jacks.
-Flap your hands.
-Dance.

#3 Make sure your physical needs are met–hunger, thirst, room temperature, etc.
I’ll admit, sometimes I’m not that self-aware. I might think I’m resisting writing but am actually hungry, so I grab a quick bite and then I’m good to go.

#4 Acknowledge your emotions.
We’re writers; we get down about things, but we can’t let that hold us back from our dreams. If emotions are dragging you down, acknowledge them, call a friend for a quick “attagirl,” then move on.

#5 Set a specific time to write.
Make sure it’s a block of time that works reasonably within your schedule. When the clock strikes that hour, sit your bottom down in a chair and write. No matter what.

#6 Give yourself a goal to work toward.
For example:
-write 500 words
-edit for one hour
-edit X number of manuscript pages.

#7 Promise yourself a reward.
A bowl of ice cream, a nap, Netflix (and chill?), a new pair of shoes, even a sticker will do. Give yourself something special to look forward to after you’ve tackled your writing goal.

#8 Reassure yourself it’s okay to write badly.
As John Greene puts it: “I give myself permission to suck.” What a freeing notion! Even if your first pass at a daunting writing task turns out to be weak, at least you’ve managed it, and more often than not, your efforts won’t turn out badly at all.

#9 “Sprint it out.”
Tell yourself all you have to do is blaze through as many words as you can during a five-minute word sprint.  Even if all you get out are those words, you’ve accomplished writing for the day. More often than not, you’ll find that once the momentum has started, more writing will come.

#10 Block distractions. 
-Block social media.
-Shut off your cell phone.
-Turn off the TV.
-In a noisy environment, use earplugs or noise blocking headphones.
-If your home is one big distraction (AKA kids, chores, bills), get thee to a library or coffee shop. If you can afford it, trains are a super fun place to write. Writing in different locales reduces distractions and can add adventure to the writing process.

#11 Visualize your ultimate goal.
If your passion is to get your stories out into the world, then visualize fans tweeting and emailing to say how much they enjoy your writing. If your dream is to have a successful writing career, see yourself as a successful, published author. Remind yourself you’re worthy of happiness and success. Say your affirmation out loud. Then sidle up to that computer and write your dreams into reality.

Happy writing!

Eve Messenger

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It’s Raining Books, Hallelujah!

Hi, fellow book junkies! What a great feeling it is when a bunch of great books suddenly come raining in. By mail, library, and Netgalley, all of the following books arrived this week, and I’m like a kid in a candy store gazing gleefully at the pretty stack they make on my nightstand.  😀

The Reader by Traci Chee –Lushly told YA fantasy about a girl living in a world where reading is forbidden. Read an excerpt here.

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Timekeeper by Tara Sim Netgalley ARC – Gay clocktower mechanic boy. Magic clock mysteriously missing 2 o’clock. I’ve had my eye on this book since hearing about it almost a year ago, and I’m so grateful to have been approved for the ARC.

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My Lady Jane by Hand, Ashton, & Meadows –This lighthearted historical YA novel apparently gets a bit experimental (or maybe just plain cheeky?) The authors occasional break the fourth wall and have their Victorian characters lapse into 21st century slang. I’m intrigued.

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The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge – Blogger friends tell me the writing in this is so good. Then when Cover2Cover Mom mentioned The Lie Tree also has a dark edge, I ran right out and got it. Oh, and then the librarian told me it won some kind of award. Bonus.

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Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu – Legend was such a fun read that I had to find out what Day and June get up to in the next book, Prodigy. A prodigal investigator vs. a prodigal criminal–June and Day’s dynamic is incredible.

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Currently reading:

Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle. Eloquent prose–check. Pleasant Irish setting–check. Intriguing plot idea–check. However, the story doesn’t really catch fire until around page 160. I hear there’s a good plot twist, so I’m hanging in there.

Last but not least. . .

Dear book-loving friend, for taking the time to read all the way down to the end of this post, here is a little treat for you. (Remember to replace the word “men” with “books.”)  XOXO Eve Messenger