Don’t Read Bad Books in 2018

Imagine that feeling when you finish a book. You get to the last page, then the last paragraph, then the last sentence, and then the last word. You close the book. How do you feel? Satisfied and a little bit sad it’s over? Angry at the ending? Inspired?

Well for me, this year, I mostly felt a sense of relief.

That brings me to my biggest 2018 resolution: No more bad books!

In all of 2017, I only gave one fiction book on Goodreads 5 stars. I’m not saying I read all terrible books last year because I actually did read some pretty good ones. The thing is, I didn’t read any book that I absolutely loved. I can’t pick out a book I read last year and say “this book changed my life.”

Back in high school, I would read what I would call amazing books all the time. I was in high school from 2010 to 2014, and during this time many famous young adult books either just came out or were just being published. I read Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth, James Dashner, Rainbow Rowell, Cassandra Clare, Scott Westerfeld, John Green and many other great authors that had a way of transporting me to amazing worlds with their words. Their books were what inspired me to want to write my own novels. The stories I read by these authors were something special.

When I became a senior in high school, life got busier and busier. In college, I began reading less for my own pleasure and more for class. Being an English major, many of my classes had a lot of required reading. Don’t get me wrong—I read some fantastic books in my literature courses and I discovered my interest in the nonfiction genre. From time to time I still managed to read for pleasure, but it just wasn’t at the same rate as in high school. Frankly, I wasn’t reading as good of books either. You could pin this on the fact that there just weren’t as many hit franchises at the peak of their popularity anymore, but I’m not so sure. I think there are always amazing books out there that still need to be read. I think why I wasn’t reading as many good books was simply because I wasn’t taking the time to be selective with what I read, and rather just picked up anything that sounded kind of interesting and was available at the library.

Most of the books I read last year were actually for school. In fact, throughout the entire fall semester, I wasn’t able to read one book for pleasure outside of the classroom due to how busy I was. I plan on changing that in 2018. Since it’s been nearly four years since I graduated high school, I think it’s about time to give some of my old favorites a reread. Even though I’m a senior in college going into my last semester, I’m excited to get back into reading some of my old favorites that I haven’t touched in a while like The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games. I think rereading these books will give me a renewed spark and help remind me why I love reading and writing in the first place.

I also plan on choosing the new books I do read more selectively. On Goodreads, I gave a lot of books I read this year 3 stars. I don’t want to waste any more time reading books that are mediocre. Rather, I want to go out of my way to read the type of books that got me to fall in love with reading in the first place. I want to read mindblowing books by debut authors, old classics I never got around to, and bestsellers. As long as it’s good, I want to read it.

Tell me some of your absolute favorite books in the comments so I’m never without something amazing to read this year!

-Jenny

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YA Contemporary 2018 Releases Most Anticipated – Top 10

Too many books and not enough time. Looking at all the new releases coming out in the new year is both exciting and overwhelming—I don’t think I can possibly read everything I want to. Thankfully, I came up with a list of my top 10 YA contemporary books hitting shelves in 2018 that we absolutely can’t miss out on. Let me know what new release you’re most excited about in the comments!

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Spoiler-free review: Starfall by Jessie Kwak

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I received a review audiobook of Starfall: A Durga System Novella by Jessie Kwak in exchange for my honest opinion.

RATING: 4/5 STARS

Starla Dusai is a 15-year-old girl who has been separated from her family after her home was destroyed by the Alliance, and now she’s being held prisoner on an unfamiliar planet. She is also deaf. Willem Jaantzen is a known criminal, who also happens to be her Godfather. He is determined to save her. This novella follows both characters’ stories in alternating chapters, which intertwine to form an exciting sci-fi story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novella. Kwak’s writing is fluid and filled with beautiful imagery. I loved how the ending of each chapter always left me wanting more. It was hard to stop listening!

I liked both the main characters of Starla and Jaantzen. It was refreshing to read a story about someone who is deaf. I’ve never come across a book with a deaf main character before, and now I hope to expand my horizons and read more in the future. Starla is a very likable character who has an interesting past, which I hope to hear more about in later installments. It was also fun to read about Jaantzen, a crime lord, who is also loyal to the people he cares about. I never felt like any of the characters were stereotypes or clichés; they were believable and had realistic dialogue, motivations, and personalities.

My only complaint is that as I was listening to the audiobook, it was hard to keep up with all of the characters. I’m more of a visual learner, so I think I would have better remembered who all the side characters were if I could have seen the names as opposed to just hearing them. That might have just been a personal issue though. The audiobook was narrated by Scott Dai who had a very easy voice to listen to.

I don’t often read sci-fi books, but I’m glad that I read this one! It was enjoyable and fast-paced, with a cast of characters I want to find out what happens to. I will definitely read future installments.

Quarter 3 Wrap up & Quarter 4 Goals

It’s October 15th. Exactly three months ago, I made a list of some of the goals I wanted to accomplish in the third quarter of 2016. Looking back, I actually accomplished quite a lot. A lot has changed in my life. I moved into an apartment, started at a new school and a new job. However, I did not meet as many writing goals as I would have liked to, so that’s something I’m really going to focus on in the next three months going forward! Here are the goals that I wrote down for myself for last quarter and whether I accomplished them or not:

  1. Have new draft of my current project finished and begin editing it- No. I unfortunately did not make much progress on this goal
  2. Go on an hour walk 4 days a week- Yes.  I pretty much walk everywhere now.
  3. Go to the gym at least 3 days a week- No. I got kind of lazy once I started at my new school, but in the last week of September I started going to the gym regularly once again. I’m counting this as a win.
  4. Put $50 towards travel fund every month- No. Haha, this didn’t happen. Living on your own costs a lot! I don’t have any extra money to do this right now.
  5. Write posts on this blog 1-2 times a week- No. I’m lucky if I’ve been able to make a post for this blog once a month.
  6. Begin plotting a new novel- Yes. I have a rough idea for a novel and I’m in the planning phase of this project
  7. Complete first draft of a short story for a literary magazine- No. Although I’ve been drafting a short story on and off, I have not submitted any stories to literary magazines.
  8. Join a club at school- Yes. I’ve joined my school’s literary magazine
  9. Clean out old clothes and donate them to charity- Yes. I did this!
  10. Research and come up with a list of publishing agencies I would be interested in interning at- Yes. I did indeed do this. I even contacted an editor at a local publishing company and interviewed her. It was for a school project, but I learned quite a bit and it was a great experience.
  11. Read at least 5 classic books- No. I did not meet this goal, unfortunately. The only classics I’ve read in the past three months include Jane Eyre, Beowulf and Hamlet

So, I completed 6/11 goals. I don’t think I did a bad job for my first time using this system of keeping track of my goals. Next quarter I hope to do even better, though! Here are my goals for the last quarter of 2016. I’m carrying over some of the goals that I did not complete from the previous quarter (with slight alterations) and I’m adding new ones as well.

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Writing Fictional Towns in the Real World: Pros and Cons

It’s hard to write about places you’ve never been. You can research all you want, explore it through Google Street View, talk to people from those places… but if you’ve never actually had a firsthand account of a location, it’s always going to be difficult to write about it. It’s doable, but takes a lot of time and effort. If you put in the effort, though, it will be worth it; just keep in mind the obstacles you will need to overcome if you choose this route.

So, you could do this…

Or you could make it up.

Yep. That’s what I’m doing. No, not making up details about places I’ve never been to. I’m making up a town.

In the current manuscript I’m working on, a big chunk of the setting takes place in a small town in Maine. Now, I’ve never even been to the northeast of the United States, let alone Maine. I had my heart set on the name of the town and the general layout, but as I got deeper into my story, I realized that the image of the own in my head is completely different from the actual town in real life. Somewhere along the way, I stopped basing the story off of a real place and started to construct one in my imagination. Now as I’m writing a new draft of the same story, I’ve decided it’s best to just create my own town for my characters to live in.

If you are going back on forth on whether you want to set a fictional town in the real world, here are some of the pros and cons to help you decide whether it’s the best option for your story:

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BOOK REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Spoilers will be discussed in the second part of the review. If you haven’t read The Cursed Child yet, don’t read beyond that section unless you want to read spoilers for the 8th Harry Potter story (I consider the plot of the play a spoiler because I think it’s best to go into it not knowing too much about it, so I won’t talk about it in the non-spoiler section).

RATING: 5/5 stars

First things first, I loved Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I didn’t go into this book (well, script, but I’m just going to call it a book) expecting much at all. I didn’t have the same high expectations as I did when I was starting a new Harry Potter book in the original 7. Because of that, I think I was a little more open to whatever The Cursed Child was going to throw at me. Therefore, when I was reading the book, I wasn’t constantly comparing it to the other books, I was just simply enjoying a story.

I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about the book. I think it’s because it doesn’t really read like every other Harry Potter book. It’s kind of like bare bones. It’s in script format and the reader has to do a little more imagining if you want it to feel more like you’re stepping back into the world of Harry Potter, rather than just imagining a play. If that makes any sense.

A lot of people also compared this book to fanfiction. Although I can understand why, I don’t think it’s really a BAD thing. The plot is a little bizarre, sure, but I believe it’s bizarre in a good way. The story took some twists that I really wasn’t expecting and kind of threw me for a loop. Even though some parts of it were predictable, I didn’t mind it because it was still engaging for me. The story had themes that was dipping its toes into dark waters, and I think that’s really what made me invest myself even more into this book.

I do have a couple of complaints though. Some of the side characters felt like they were a little out of character to me. Another thing is I wish we were introduced to some new spells and magicy stuff rather than just have a rehashing of the old magic we are all familiar with.

I felt like I learned more about the original Harry Potter characters and got to know some great new characters. About half of the characters had great arcs, but others fell flat for me. Some had arcs that weren’t just boring continuations of the original books, but rather fresh ones that made sense and were actually interesting. For the characters that did have arcs, it worked great. For others, it just felt like they were unnecessary characters that didn’t serve much of a purpose.

If you’re unsure bout reading The Cursed Child, I urge you to pick it up. Think of it less like an epilogue to the 7 books, but rather like an entirely separate story on its own set in the wizarding world with new characters.

SPOILER SECTION:

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Shiny new ideas…shiny new ideas everywhere!

It seems like it’s been forever since I started my current project. It’s been about seven months since I completed the first draft of it. Since then, I’ve been editing it on and off… and on again… but mostly off. I can spout excuses that, “I got caught up with school and work… blah blah” but I know that’s not true! The truth is, I haven’t dedicated enough time to my plotting/writing/editing mostly because I’m too overwhelmed to tackle the major changes that needed to be implemented in my story.

Instead of devoting all of my attention to trying to work towards making these changes, my mind has been kind of jumping from shiny new idea to shiny new idea. I end up daydreaming and starting preliminary plotting for different shiny new ideas for a couple of days, maybe even a week, and then it fizzles out and I go back to my current project again. The thing is, I’m stuck on this as well. It’s not fun to be at a standstill like this where I want to make progress each day, but I’m not producing anything to show for it.

So… I’m not saying I’m going to abandon this project. I love the spirit of the story and the characters and the settings, but I’m having trouble making the plot compelling and the stakes high enough and I’m intimidated to tackle the themes in it. If I stick with it, I’m going to have to have to figuratively rip up the ‘70s shag carpet and install new wooden flooring. I KNOW it’ll be worth it when it’s finished, but boy will it be a challenge.

I think the reason why I’m not letting this project go so easily is because it’s the idea that I stay up at night thinking about. It’s not like those shiny new ideas that fly in and out of my mind at a moment’s notice. My current project really, truly means a lot of to me. I’ve grown so attached to it. I guess I’m afraid that in writing the next draft of the story and in changing so many things about it, I might mess up the story even more than it is already. I’ve started and quit so many projects in the past and where has it gotten me? Not with a finished book, that’s for sure!

I know the obvious answer is to just stop thinking about all this and just jump in and start plotting. So I better take my own advice!

 

-Jenny

P.S. What do you guys do in situations like this? How do you stay on track to complete your current project if you’re dealing with shiny new idea syndrome?

My Top 3 All Time Favorite Books or Book Series

I thought as my second post, sharing with you all a little taste of the kinds of books I love is in order! So without further ado, here are my top 3 all time favorite books and why I love them.

By the way, all pictures are photos of my own copies!

3. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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The Lovely Bones centers around Susie Salmon, a 14-year-old-girl who was violently murdered in 1973. The rest of the book surrounds her watching over her family and friends from Heaven as they struggle to come to terms with her untimely death and put together the pieces of how exactly she was killed and by who. Susie also watches her murderer, a twisted individual who’s hiding in plain sight, as he moves on with his life after killing her.

This book will always have a special place in my heart. It’s one of those books that, as you’re reading it, you know you’ll want to pick up again and again. It’s just mesmerizing. Sebol constructs a beautifully woven story about some of the heaviest topics, including life and death, grief and love. The writing is absolutely breathtaking. Every time I read it, it has me wanting to pull out a highlighter and start marking up the entire book. I also love the time period it’s set in. I’ve actually never read a book set in the ’70s besides this one. It’s a breath of fresh air.

 

2. The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowlingimg_1007

Of course Harry Potter made this list. I’m sure I don’t really need to explain this because most, if not all of you, should know what this series is about. But I’ll give a little description anyway: A young boy finds out he’s a wizard and that there’s a magical world right under his nose. He attends a magical school where he makes friends, enemies and discovers the most evil wizard in existence is out to kill him.

Like most people my age, this series has helped shape my childhood and sparked my love of reading. I always loved the movies growing up, but when I began reading the books when I was 10 years old, it was honestly like I was opened up to a whole new, magical world. For a while, I even thought Hogwarts was real because I thought there’s no way J.K. Rowling could create such an elaborate world. The night before my 11th birthday, I even stayed up until midnight with my window open, waiting for an owl to fly in with my invitation to attend Hogwarts! I was that kid, yeah.

Harry Potter is a series I can read over and over endlessly without tiring. Each time I open one of the books, I am brought back to that world I discovered when I was 10. These books are so warm and fun and exciting. The characters are all deep and memorable. The plot is perfect. Everything about Harry Potter is amazing. I could go on and on about this series, but I’ll leave it at that.

1. Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer

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Into The Wild is a nonfiction account of the last months of Christopher McCandless’s life. In 1992, McCandless was a recent college graduate who gave up his money, his possessions and comfortable way of life to take a journey across the United States to Alaska in order to live in the wilderness.He ultimately died a few months after first walking into the Alaskan wild. The book gives a detailed look at who McCandless was and why he might have did what he did.

I can’t say enough how much I love this book. I first read it in my English class junior year of high school…and boy am I glad I didn’t skip out on reading it because it’s now my all time favorite book. I’ve read it countless times.

I’ve taken so many good things away from this book and I’m not ashamed to say it’s one of the things that inspires me to travel, despite McCandless’s story being a tragic one. Krakauer puts this book together beautifully. It’s very easy to get drawn into McCandless’s story and by the end of the book, you won’t want to leave it. I recommend it to anyone and everyone.

There is also a companion novel written by McCandless’s sister, Carine McCandless, entitled The Wild Truth: The Untold Story of Sibling Survival which makes you look at Into The Wild in a whole new way. I highly recommend reading it after Into The Wild. 

 

-Jenny

Prologue

DISCLAIMER: I’m no expert writer. I don’t claim to be. I haven’t published anything, don’t have any credentials to boast about (unless you count winning the young author’s competition at my middle school in 8th grade, heh heh) and I’m only 19. Everything I learned about writing I learned through reading fiction, YouTube videos, podcasts, classes and my own experience I gained through personal writing projects. The information you find on this blog won’t be from a professional, but rather from a young writer who’s still learning the craft of writing, just like I bet many of you are if you’re reading this. Despite that, I hope you stick with me and are willing to learn along side me. It’s going to be a fun adventure…


 

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. For the past year or so, I’ve been an avid watcher of BookTube. If you don’t know what BookTube is, pretty much it’s a term used for people on YouTube who post videos of themselves reviewing books, talking about books in general, and/or discuss writing as well. I enjoy watching these videos because it feels like whenever I go online I’m a part of a book club. It’s just fun to listen to others talk about their opinions about books that I’ve read or books that I may have never heard of but now want to read after watching their video.

I love the concept of BookTube and have wanted to do something similar, but as a writer I of course prefer the medium of writing. Also, I’m just kinda shy. So here I am! That’s why I’ve created this blog; to have an outlet to talk about books and writing. Specifically, though, this blog will serve a few different purposes:

Review books- Both the good and the bad, the old and the new. I’ll talk about my reading habits and what kinds of books I like in a future post, but just know that I will post reviews for a wide variety of books. These will probably range from Jane Eyre to House of Leaves to Into the Wild to Me Before You. Yeah, I like a LOT of different genres… In the upcoming weeks, I also plan to post some reviews for ARCS (Advanced Readers Copies) that I received at Book Con 2016.

Discuss topics in books-  This is something I didn’t even know I was interested in until I started watching BookTube. There’s so many interesting things to just discuss about in books and the book community and this is the place for me to do it (I mean, the average person doesn’t really care about this sort of thing). For example, diversity in books, book to movie adaptations, what kinds of characters I like/dislike and even what kinds of covers draw me in. I love this sort of thing!

Writing- This is kind of a broad stroke of a topic because there’s SO MANY things I’m going to blog about under the topic of writing on here. I’ll keep you all updated on my own writing (and the process of publishing, eventually…hopefully), the nitty gritty stuff that goes into creating a novel like developing characters and worlds,  even the technical side of writing.

I don’t want to completely limit myself, though. If I want to talk about another topic that may be loosely related to reading and writing, I probably will!

To end this, I’m so happy that I finally decided to make this blog because I have a lot of ideas to share with you all! If you read this far, thank you so much. Please continue to check back here for updates. Right now, I don’t have any schedule set for when I’ll be posting, but I’m going to try to post something here every 2-3 days. I’ll see how that goes.

-Jenny