Weekend Words #1 (New Feature!)

weekend words picI’ve been wanting to have a quote-oriented feature on this blog for a while, but I couldn’t find an existing meme that addressed the components I wanted in my own feature. I have finally decided on a format that I like, and it is a new weekly meme at 52 Letters!

Weekend Words showcases inspiring quotes from books, about writing, and about life. This feature will happen every weekend, either on Saturday or Sunday, depending on my schedule. While this is a reading/writing centric blog, this feature doesn’t have to be focused on those areas–it is intentionally open-ended to give bloggers a chance to say what’s on their mind. Quotes can just be typed, or they can involve graphic design or drawing.

Everyone should feel free to take part–it would honestly make my day!

Each Weekend Words has three parts:

1. A Powerful Quote From a Recent Read

This one is fairly self-explainitory. Share a quote from a book that you are either reading or just finished. Avoid spoilers (of course) but other than that, anything goes.

quote think of the sky

I just finished reading this book, Black Dove, White Raven, and I’ve barely stopped crying. It was so beautiful and inspiring and heart-wrenching and surprising–I don’t know what to think. I’m in awe. If you’ve never read anything by Elizabeth Wein, you’re missing out on a lot of emotional torment, and some gorgeous storytelling.

2. A Quote that Inspired Me This Week

This quote can deal with life, writing, reading–honestly anything. It doesn’t even have to be a quote you “discovered” this week, just one that helped you get through the week or that gives you the extra bit of motivation you need to face the next week’s hurdles.

quote you must write it
(The fonts are Channel and Garamond, the original picture is from pxleyes)

3. Something I’ve Been Wanting to Say

This is entirely up to you. I’ll probably talk about school, politics, or my writing–who knows what mood I’ll be in when I write this each week. It doesn’t have to be positive, but it shouldn’t be intentionally mean or disrespectful. Let’s strive for constructive honesty. This is a chance for you to share the little thoughts that you had that weren’t big enough for a blog post (or that don’t exactly fit the theme of your blog), but that you want to put out into the world.

There is no worse feeling than realizing your time is being wasted by something you can’t get out of, when you know exactly what you wish you were doing instead.

 So there it is: the first Weekend Words! If this seems like something you’d like to take part in, please do, just link to the feature’s page  (essentially the same information as this post).

Have a great weekend!

How The Queen’s Thief Stole My Heart

cover queens thief covers

Behold, my favorite series ever.

Most people have trouble picking a favorite book, and I admit, depending on how recently I’ve read other amazing books, I sometimes doubt my go-to answer: The King of Attolia, book three of the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. But since the first time I read this series, easily half a dozen years ago, my answer has always come back to this book.

I reread these books (for the fifth? seventh? time) in the last week before school started, and I completely and utterly remembered why this series is so important to me. At first, I was going to try to review each book, but I honestly have trouble forming complete sentences when thinking about how much I love these books, so I decided to skip individual reviews and write this post instead, describing what exactly makes this series a must read.

Here is the plot synopsis for book one, The Thief (a mashup of Goodreads’ and Amazon’s descriptions)

“I can steal anything.” Gen’s bragging lands him in prison . . . but then the king’s magus needs the thief’s skill for a near-impossible task: to steal a priceless magical jewel from a faraway land.

The king’s scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king’s prison. The magus is interested only in the thief’s abilities.

What Gen is interested in is anyone’s guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.

I have a confession to make: I did not want to read this book when my mom bought it for me. I was in elementary school (third grade, I think) and nothing about this book grabbed me. The plot sounded “whatever” and the first page (though it now occupies a special place in my heart) was dull. The Newbery Honor seal on the cover sealed the death sentence; have you noticed that children’s books that get these awards are always boring? At least that’s what had been true up until this book.

Since this series remains hype-less, I have to assume that a lot of people felt the same way. But I am so glad that I finally picked it up and got past the first pages–and fell in love.

Reasons I Love This Series

  1. GEN. He is such a great character. There aren’t words to describe his personality–you just have to read about it. I guarantee you will love him. The best (and often used) word to describe him is incorrigible
  2. SO MUCH HAPPENS. It is really hard to talk about why I love book two because where it starts is entire football fields away from where you expect book one to end. The same thing holds for talking about book three–if you haven’t read the second book, you will never guess the turn of events that leads The King of Attolia to happen.
  3. But the series still has continuity. Even though each book has a strong and independent plot, the series still maintains continuity. The feeling you get reading the first few chapters of The Thief is the same feeling you get reading the last chapter of A Conspiracy of Kings (book 4).
  4. Everything is so effing intricate. I’m sorry, the half-curse-word is necessary. You haven’t read these books until you’ve reread them; you haven’t understood the immense web of details that Turner created until the fifth time you’ve read the books. I’m not kidding–the most recent time I reread the series, I was still having OH MY GOD moments when I realized the significance of certain scenes or lines of dialogue.
  5. This series makes you think. These books don’t spell things out for you. They leave breadcrumbs and trust that you are smart enough to follow them. The broad strokes of the plot are simple and easy to read, but the true power of the series is hidden, waiting for superfans to discover (*raises hand*). It also uses complex vocabulary that you don’t often see in YA/MG books. Incorrigible, for instance.
  6. It breaks the rules. There are certain things that authors generally don’t do to their main character. MWT throws those guidelines out the window. Honestly, depending on how you categorize the POVs of books 1 and 2 (because there is a difference), each book has its own main character. But we still get the same story, and the plot of the series moves forward continuously. And those main characters get pummeled.
  7. It doesn’t play for unnecessary drama. In this way, these books honestly aren’t modern YA. Don’t get me wrong, I love dramatic romances and revolutions and awkward first days of school and even the occasional love triangle. But one of the things that captivates me about this series is the fact that it draws me in without any of those flashy plot devices. It is just incredible storytelling.
  8. Unique fantasy. I consider the series to be in the fantasy genre, but none of the characters have magical powers. The setting (a made-up island that resembles ancient Greece) has the feeling of a fantasy series. Also, there are gods, and they interact with the politically-oriented plot to weave in fantasy elements.
  9. The romance is mature and simple and utterly perfect. Because the series has so many different POVs and plots, I can’t say more than that about the romance. It is a subplot, carefully woven into the later books without ever dominating the series. It is amazing and plainspoken and blows all YA couples out of the water. THEY (avoiding names here) are my OTP, unquestionably.

Have you bought the books yet?

No? Are you driving to the store?

(I’m kidding…kind of.)

Seriously, people should read this series. I’ve never read anything like it, and from the discussions on nameless book 5’s Goodreads page, I’m not alone in my obsession.

If you’ve read these books, fangirl/fanboy with me in the comments!

Book Tag: Rip It or Ship It

rip it or ship it tag

Hey guys! I saw this tag at Josie’s Book Corner and knew I had to do it sometime soon. I couldn’t find an original source for this tag; it seems to just be floating around. The premise is simple: put an even number of character names into a hat and draw out pairs. Then, you simply decide if you ship the couple, or would rip them apart. Fun, right?

Sean Kendrick (from The Scorpio Races) and Shazi (from The Wrath and the Dawn)

Initially, I hated the idea of this couple. Sean is reticent and somewhat broody, takes his simple life very seriously. Shazi is headstrong and bold, willing to take world leaders head-on. However, Shazi is similar to Puck (Sean’s love interest in Scorpio Races), and I think that she’d give him a run for his money. I’ll ship this.

Verity (from Code Name Verity) and Hale (from the Heist Society series)

Nope. Nope. Nope. This is awful. Their personalities are just too different. The sassy, tortured POW and the rich boy who hangs out with a bunch of light-hearted thieves would not mix well. I can’t even imagine them in the same room. I rip this.

David (from The Reckoners series) and Gemma Doyle (from the Gemma Doyle trilogy)

Geeky and spazzy, David is a twenty-first century dork. An endearing and lovable one, but Gemma wouldn’t know what to do with him. She’s good at being mysterious and is more fiesty than your average Victorian girl, but David and her would be a disaster. I rip this.

Dmitri (from the Vampire Academy series) and Elend (from the Mistborn trilogy)

When I drew this pairing, I cracked up. It’s great in such a weird way. They both have serious characters, and they both have badass sides, but Dmitri is dark and troubled, while Elend is a socially awkward reader who steps up to the plate when people need a leader. I think they’d be good influences on each other. I ship this.

Ronan (from The Raven Cycle) and Eugenides (from The Queen’s Thief series)

I ship this so hard. Ronan is a darkly sarcastic, somewhat magical, haunted prep school student with a drinking problem. Gen is a notorious thief who taunts kings and slinks around the shadows. They would definitely start off hating each other, but I think they’d end up  running into each other in their wanderings. The resulting romance would be slow-burn amazingness.

Titus (from the Elemental trilogy) and Blue (from The Raven Cycle)

These two would be a cute couple. Blue is eccentric and willful, and Titus is a duty-driven prince with a love of books. They are both similar to each other’s love interests (in the real stories), and they both have love/hate relationships with psychics and prophecies. I ship this.

Miriam Black (from the Miriam Black series) and Gansey (from The Raven Cycle)

This is awful. Damaged and deathly prophetic, Miriam Black would destroy Gansey. Studious and unconsciously preppy, Gansey’s determined and driven character would crumble if exposed to the darkness of Miriam. RIP.

Katsa (from Graceling) and Vin (from the Mistborn trilogy)

SHIP.  This would be so great. They’re both badass fighters with magically enhanced abilities and strong personalities to go along with them. I can just imagine them training together, each of them trying to best the other’s supernatural advantage. Just thinking about the trouble the two of them would get into makes me so happy.

Celaena (from the Throne of Glass series) and Adina (from Beauty Queens)

Yes. Omg yes. I don’t know which one of them is more sarcastic and determined, but they would be great for each other. They’ve both had their hearts broken, and they’ve both got rebellious streaks. I ship this.

Fire (from Fire) and Todd (from the Chaos Walking trilogy)

Oh, God, no. This just…doesn’t make sense. They’d probably be good friends, but I cannot imagine the two of them ever falling for each other. Just…no. I rip this.

What do you think of my pairings? Do you agree with me–or did I judge a pairing wrongly? If you could pair up any of these characters, who would they be?

I tag…

…and anyone else who wants to do it. Enjoy!

4 Ways to Stay Motivated During a Hectic Life (Second Draft Journal #3)

Second Draft Journal is a series of posts in which I randomly discuss things that occur to me during my process of writing my second draft of my WIP. Today I’m tackling how I make sure I stay motivated.

Staying motivated. It’s a broad topic. Everyone has their own tips. Here are some ways that I’m kept myself feeling good about writing and itching to sit down and write, even if my hectic school schedule doesn’t allow me the time.

SDJ staying motivated

1. “High Scores”

So I talked a while back about the spreadsheet I keep in which I track how many words I write per day. The spreadsheet itself is a useful motivation tool–it gives me a kick in the pants when I haven’t written in a while, and it challenges me to sit back down and write more when I realize that I only added 900-ish words in a day.

Recently, I took it a step further and decided to keep track of my “high score”–the most words I’ve written in a day, to date. Right now my high score is 4,071 words. I know that’s pretty low in the grand scheme of things, but if I write that many words (or get close) I’m proud of myself.

What I specifically like about the high score motivation tactic is that it is a pleasing balance of motivating without being a lot of pressure. I know that not every day that I sit down to write will be a high score-setting day, but when I can tell that I’m on a role and the words are flowing well, the high score pushes me to stay in the chair for a little while longer and hit a new “best.”

2. Monthly Word Count Goals

I’ve also set myself a goal of adding at least 10,000 words to my WIP a month. For August, I’ve already achieved this (13,000, like what?!), but I know I’ll still keep writing. I like that the goal is low enough that if I have a rough month, I can still accomplish it, but that I still want to keep writing after I achieve it. The goal of getting higher and higher above that baseline monthly target will keep me motivated.

3. Reading Just Enough Writing Advice to Keep My Head in the Game

I wrote a post a little while ago about the debilitating effect that reading other people’s writing advice can have on my self-confidence. While this can still trip me up, I make sure that I expose myself to writing advice fairly regularly. Whether it is a random pin that comes up in my Pinterest feed or a Chuck Wendig post, I make sure to check out writing advice blog posts when they cross my path. I tend not to spend a lot of time reading them–just glancing at the main headings and skimming the paragraphs. This way, I get a dose of writing advice that keeps me thinking about writing and that points me in the right direction, but I don’t get bogged down in specifics or self-doubt. Other times, when I have more downtime, I’ll go back and really focus on the writing advice that I found, sometimes taking notes or bookmarking especially great pieces.

Reading other people’s writing advice gives me confidence (if I’m already doing what was suggested), makes me think (in a good way), or helps me find my way through a rough patch (like a scene or a relationship that I can’t quite make work). Making sure I read posts like that regularly keeps my head in the writing game.

4. Fall Asleep Thinking About My Story

I find it is much easier to sit down and write a scene that I have already run through in my head a few times. I usually do this while I’m falling asleep, playing out different ways a scene could happen, playing with character reactions and personalities. It gives me something to think about, and distracts me from anything that is stressing me out–my WIP is kind of a happy place for me. Making sure that I think about what is coming up next in my story (or just a part of the plot that I need to develop further) when I’m falling asleep also connects my WIP to my daily life, even if I didn’t write that day. Often, if a writer goes a long time without writing, it is hard to come back to the story; I’ve found that keeping the story close by when I’m not writing makes it easier to come back. 

How do you stay motivated? Have you tried any of these methods?

Top Ten Books That Would Be On My Syllabus if I Taught Friendship in YA 101

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week, they post a new Top Ten topic and other bloggers respond with their own lists. 

Best friend characters. They can so often be overlooked, but when they are done right, they can take a book from being “okay” to being amazing. This class would (if it actually existed) highlight the importance of having more than just enemies and love interests in YA books.

1. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

cover beauty queens

What I like about this book is that there are enough characters that the friendships that develop feel natural. Not all of the characters are on good terms with each other, and cliques form within the group of stranded beauty queens. I love that the friendships that do form feel real, but also that the dynamic between the characters is more complex than “everybody loves each other.”

2. I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You (The Gallagher Girls #1) by Ally Carter

cover gg 1

The friendship in these books is what makes them my ultimate “feel good” series. The four girls honestly stand by each other during their struggles, and they can always make me laugh.

3. Heist Society (Heist Soceity #1) by Ally Carter

cover heist society

Ally Carter creates amazing friend groups. Heist Society showcases a group of friends with more realistic conflicts, and that isn’t exclusively female.

4. A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle #1) by Libba Bray

cover great and terrible beauty

I love this book (and this series) because I was never completely convinced that the friend group was healthy for the main character, Gemma. The personalities Bray created are vivid and powerful, and putting them all together creates intricate conflicts; I would love to discuss it with a group of students.

5. Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

cover since youve been gone

This book is a wonderful example of a classically YA plot that is driven by friendship instead of romance. Though it has the same tone and playful lightness as YA contemporary romances, and though it does have a love interest and a romantic subplot, the main story line involves the effects a friendship can have on our lives–even if the friend is no longer there.

6. Vampire Academy (VA #1) by Richelle Mead

cover VA

Another solidly YA book (this time paranormal) that has a strong romantic plot line but that also discusses friendship’s intricacies. Rose and Lissa’s friendship was a major force driving the series’ plot; even when both characters got romantic partners, the friendship element of the story never vanished.

7. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Travelling Pants #1) by Ann Brashares

cover sisterhood of the travelling pants

Need I say more? These are the ultimate friendship books. I read them a long time ago, but I’ll always remember them as books that immortalized friendship while realistically depicting coming-and-going romances.

8. The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

cove raven boys

I love the Raven Boys’ relationship with Blue. For all of the conflicts captured within the group, they are still one of the tightest and most complex friend groups that I’ve ever read about, and I can honestly say that they are #friendshipgoals (I can’t believe I just typed that).

9. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahedieh

cover the wrath and the dawn

I would include this book to showcase the importance of friendships in books. I LOVED the romance in this book, but the lack of backstory surrounding Shazi’s best friend (that Khalid killed) seriously hurt the book. (I elaborated more on this in my review.)

10. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

cover code name verity

And we would finish the semester with this book because OF COURSE. I haven’t read a more friendship-oriented book, or a book that played with (read: ripped out) my heartstrings as much as this book. If you haven’t read this book yet, stop what you are doing and go read it. Do it.

(you’re not doing it… :/ )

Would you take this class? What class would you design? 

Happy Tuesday!

Book Review: When Lightning Strikes (1-800-Where-Are-You #1) by Meg Cabot

Classic Meg Cabot, this book entertained me, but was nothing special.

3/5 stars

cover when lightning strikes

Amazon Description

Just because her best friend wants to exercise, Jessica Mastriani agrees to walk the two miles home from their high school. Straight into a huge Indiana thunderstorm.
And straight into trouble.

Not that Jess has never been in trouble before. Her extracurricular activities, instead of cheerleading or 4-H, include fistfights with the football team and monthlong stints in detention — luckily, sitting right next to Rob, the sexiest senior around.

But this trouble is serious.

Because somehow on that long walk home, Jessica acquired a newfound talent. An amazing power that can be used for good…or for evil.

My Review

I’m a big fan of Meg Cabot’s stories. They are always (usually) funny, light-hearted, and imaginative. When Lightning Strikes followed this pattern.

I picked this book up at a used bookstore on a whim. It only took a few hours to read, and they were an entertaining few hours. However, this book is probably my least favorite Meg Cabot book to date, mainly because it felt like so many of her other books crammed together.

Jessica, the protagonist, is a belligerent high-schooler whose moral code lands hers in trouble; she can’t let someone she loves be insulted without paying the insulter back with her fists. Jess was an entertaining main character, but her voice was extremely similar to that of Samantha in All-American Girl (which I reread recently, review here). I would have appreciated more originality to distinguish Jess from countless other Cabot protagonists.

Jess’s reactions to her newfound powers (being able to find missing people in her dreams) was believable but naive. The fact that she was surprised when the police came to find her was–let’s be honest–annoying. It was obvious that her miraculous abilities would raise red flags, and the fact that she was never suspected as the kidnapper itself struck me as unrealistic. As it was, the police went along believing her psychic abilities, which allowed a dramatic plot to unfold, but which disconnected the story from reality.

Her best friend, Ruth, was also a conglomeration of other Meg Cabot best friends. She’s the misfit who wants to be cool, the loyal friend of the other misfit, even though their personalities aren’t actually similar. Though not unique, she added conflicts to the plot as well as appropriate humorous moments.

The love interest, Rob, was less impressive. All of the other Meg Cabot books I’ve read had amazing love interests, the kind of guys you need the main character to get with. I didn’t fall for Rob. He wasn’t enough of a bad boy to be interesting, and he never developed enough of a personality for me to care about him. In later books, I’m sure he will become swoon-worthy, but I wish that more had happened in book one, to compel me to read the rest of the series. As it is, I doubt I will ever read enough of the series for my opinion of Rob to change.

The plot was well paced; it kept me reading, and it never lagged. The plot was the right about of ridiculous–just enough that it was fun to read, testing the border of sheer impossibility but never fully crossing it. The other subplots–dealing with her family and her friends–were interesting. They set up conflicts to be developed more fully in later books of the series.

Ultimately, this book feels like the beginning of a series. Everything is half-finished, leaving characters and subplots waiting for later books to develop during. Meg Cabot is a talented writer, but everything of this book had a parallel in another of her contemporary reads, and I found myself longing for an original moment or an honest surprise.

Poetry: Three Random Haikus

Haiku #1

sun trapped above

canyon walls reach to the gods

pebbles below, alone

Mosaic Canyon, Death Valley
Mosaic Canyon, Death Valley, CA

Haiku #2

footworn path of grass

first page of a fairy tale

the forest beckons

Descanso Gardens, CA

Haiku #3

deep breath of cold air

nothing but the sky above

a god’s view below

my twin at Auegeberry Point, Death Valley, CA

This was an assignment for English class. While I wish we had been working on actual AP Lang material instead of writing (and decorating) haikus, I did enjoy a change to write during the school day, and I decided to share these with you. The pictures are all my own, and provided loose inspiration for each of the haikus.