March 2016 Wrap-Up!

Well, there goes March…

In My Life

This month was pretty good. School was, you know, schooly. We got a week of spring break, though, which was awesome. I got to decompress, watch TV, and write (more on that later).

I also messed around a lot with Photoshop, watching tutorials and doing my own stuff, which is something that I really enjoy but rarely have time for. I might post some of my projects here, if I get enough that I really like.

I also helped my sister with her sewing (read: was her human dress form) and did a photoshoot for one of her old projects. (My sister sews costumes for fun and I get to wear them.) You can check out some pics at her Instagram @by_strings_attached. 🙂

In Blogging

I had 13 posts this month. While I wish that I’d had more, I had a major lack of inspiration, so I’m not complaining.

If you haven’t visited the web version of my blog, you may not know that 52 Letters got a much-needed redesign this month. I realized that the design aesthetic that I had started using in my individual graphics for posts was very different from the way my blog looked…and that I liked it more. So I changed everything to match that new design theme. I also dropped the .wordpress in my blog name, which is mostly symbolic, but makes me feel good. 🙂 What do you think?

blog redesign
sorry for the low quality pic

One thing that I’m super proud of this month was my discussion post series Breaking Down the Trilogy, in which I talked about each book in a trilogy on its own. You can read Book One, Book Two, and Book Three.

I also wrote a random discussion post about which blog posts I actually read and got back into Top Ten Tuesday (with Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR and Top Ten Books I Meant To Talk About More).

In Reading and Reviewing

This was a less than great month for reading. It’s weird, but when I’m on breaks, I read less than when I’m in school. (Does that happen to anyone else?)

I only read two and a half books!!! They were really good, though.

I’m halfway through Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson, the second book in the Alloy of Law series. Oh! And I’m also reading Moby-Dick for school…and I’m actually enjoying it more than I thought I would.

In Writing

This was a great month for writing! (Wow, I don’t think I’ve written that in a while…) Though I didn’t read much on break, it’s okay, because I was actually writing!

I wrote about 10,000 words this month, most of those during the week of spring break. I know that for regular authors that could be a day’s work, but for me, it was more than I’ve done in a while. I’m almost done with my WIP…and then edits start. *cries*

I’m hoping that I can carry this momentum forward into April and finally finish this draft.

I also published three poems this month.


How was your March? What are your plans for April?

Poetry: Come Back

You were intriguing

You were different

You smiled without

Smirking

Talked without

Boasting

Laughed without

Mocking

You were quiet

But confident

 

And I knew that it could

That it would

Fall apart—

In some way,

This was inevitable—

 

But I thought you’d come back

With arrogant shoulders

Or snarky lips

Or a laugh that reeked

With the stench of pride

 

I never imagined

That you’d come back

And still be so far away

 

It never occurred to me

That you could come back

Empty.

Why Marasi from The Alloy of Law is an Important Female Character

Hey everyone! I just reread The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson (the first book in a Mistborn spinoff series), and since I already reviewed it, I thought I’d do something different this time around and focus on one of my favorite characters in the story.

cover the alloy of law

Marasi isn’t the main character, and she definitely doesn’t fit the mold of your usual Strong Female Character, but I love her a lot, and I want to talk about the reasons characters like her need to exist more often.

A quick side note: TAOL is an adult book, but Marasi’s character is young enough that she makes sense in the context of a YA story as well. For this reason—and because I mostly read YA—this discussion focuses on the tropes I’ve seen in YA stories and how Marasi breaks them.

I’ve tried to avoid any major plot spoilers, so everyone can read this post!

She gets flustered

I love that Marasi gets flustered. It is refreshing to read about a character that tries to take everything in stride but is just a little two awkward to pull it off.

She trips over her words and makes a fool of herself—and it was soooo relatable. As a redhead who turns red at just about everything, I loved reading about a character who blushes.

Importantly, there is more to Marasi than being flustered. If she just got thrown off any time that the guys made a crass joke or that someone shot a gun, I’d be really frustrated with her character.

However, when Marasi gets flustered, she’s aware of it, and she’s wishing that she wasn’t flustered, and she’s finding a way to move past it. In other words, she’s a complex human whose body doesn’t always cooperate but who still has the capacity for logical and creative thought.

She’s geeky, but not in a cliche way

Marasi has the ability to rattle off data about crimes and criminals, and she is studying to become a lawyer, making her somewhat of a nerd in the context of the story.

I loved the geeky side of Marasi. She’s obviously brilliant—not just memorizing facts, but analyzing them in relation to other data—and her deductions about crime helped flesh out the story.

I also appreciated that though she has a powerful memory and a quick mind, she is given a lot of other character traits, so that she is never just the cliche geek character.

She grows, but doesn’t become a stereotypical badass

Like any character, Marasi develops throughout the first book in a lot of meaningful ways. She grows more self-confident and learns how to handle the new world she’s been thrown into.

Most female characters like Marasi would finish book one as a badass. They would probably have learned some fight skills, they would become more confrontational, and they definitely wouldn’t get flustered as easily anymore.

Very little of that happens to Marasi. She grows in other ways, following a different path than most female characters I read.

Yes, she can shoot a gun, and she puts herself into dangerous situations, but she’s still the flustered geek as well. It was nice to have an intensely relatable character develop in ways that still felt realistic for someone like myself.


All in all, Marasi was a different type of female character from what I usually see in action-packed books like The Alloy of Law. She was put in a life-or-death world and she rose to the occasion, but without losing her defining characteristics. She isn’t the stony, take-no-shit protagonist that is so common these days, but she is strong in her own ways. Most of all, she feels human.

I feel like authors shy away from writing characters like Marasi because if they are done poorly, it can feel extremely sexist. However, I love that Brandon Sanderson took the risk and created a well-rounded character.

Just because she gets flustered and has her girly moments doesn’t mean that Marasi is an un-feminist character. In fact, I found that the relatability of Marasi made her an incredibly important character for me; for once, I got to read about someone like myself.

Top Ten Books I Meant to Talk About More

Hey everyone! I just reorganized my bookshelves yesterday (I’m on spring break and I needed to add a lot of newly read books…don’t judge) and I realized that there were a lot of books that I love, but that don’t get mentioned often on this blog. And since that was this week’s TTT topic, I decided to take part in this meme again this week.

As always, TTT is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Books I meant to Talk about more

1. The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer

cover vigilante poets

I read this book a really long time ago and remember loving it. Unfortunately, I don’t remember enough to talk about it more on this blog. But still—you should read it…and I should reread it.

2. A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson

cover a company of swans

I went through a phase of just reading Eva Ibbotson’s books a few years ago. All of her stories are really romantic and heart-wrenching, but their endings are always perfect. This book was my favorite out of all of them that I read.

3. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

cover sorcerer to the crown

I read this book last year and was really impressed by the way it handled the characters. I don’t feel like I’ve talked about it recently, though, which I weird.

4. Angel Burn by LA Weatherly

cover angel burn

I love this series—I think I’ve read the first book three times (maybe four). It’s a different side of the paranormal genre than what I usually see, which I appreciate. The premise is great, and the story had a great arc throughout the series.

5. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

cover the coldest girl in coldtown

This book was weird…but in a good way. I had a lot of fun reading this quirky story…and the romance is awesome.

6. The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson

cover the christopher killer

This is the first book in a series of murder mysteries. I haven’t read them in a while, but I remember being drawn to the main character and captivated by the mysteries. They’re pretty short, definitely a nice afternoon read (if you don’t mind being creeped out a bit).

7. The Archived by Victoria Schwab

I LOVED the premise of this book. And the characters. And the romance. Basically everything. Just go read it if you haven’t.

8. Indelible by Dawn Metcalf

cover indelible

This series is interesting. I’m not in love with it, but I can’t get rid of them, and I want to see where the story goes. In terms of originality, I’d say that this series is one of the most unique paranormal series that I’ve read.

9. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

cover seraphina

Another book that I should have reread a while ago. I enjoyed this take on the human-dragon-mutant idea and I want to see what happens in the second book. Full disclosure, both books are really long, and I haven’t had the dedication (I know, that’s the worst).

10. Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

cover Blackbirds

This book is wildly different from what I usually read—a lot darker and a lot less appropriate. But the story is so powerful.


Have you read any of these books? Which ones caught your eye?

Happy Tuesday!

Also! If you haven’t seen yet, 52 Letters got a well-needed redesign yesterday. I realized that my design aesthetic for my graphics had changed, and that the blog look should change with it. I love the new look, and I hope you do too!

Breaking Down the Trilogy: Book Three, or The Book With All the Feels

Like trilogies, we’re on the third and (hopefully) best part of this series. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been discussing trilogies, taking a look at each book as a stage of the series.

You can see what I said about Book One and Book Two by clicking on each title. 🙂

Today’s focus is:

Part Three: Book Three, the Book with All the Feels

what i look for b3

Book Three is the most straightforward for me: I want closure and drama. I want to feel like the story has built to an awesome climax, and then I want to feel like the story is over.

Characters should have developed from the beginning of the story, and the plot should show off their new strengths and values. Even newer characters in the story should feel familiar and beloved by this point.

Conflicts that have been simmering should boil over—and in some way be resolved. Bonus points if any of those conflicts seemed separate but turn out to be connected in some appropriately mind-blowing way.

I want lots of romantic fireworks, if it is that kind of series. If there is a love triangle, one person should clearly “win” and it would be great if we got some cute scenes between them and the MC. A cute epilogue that hints at an adorable future for the two love interests is to die for.

And of course, I want LOTS OF FEELS. I expect a little bit of heartbreak, a lot of fangirling, and possibly some tears (happy and sad).

things that disappoint b3

Though I want lots of drama, I don’t want the drama to be senseless. It should be a continuation and a culmination of what the other books have been laying the groundwork for.

For me, at least, I would rather have a moderately dramatic ending that nicely ties together plot lines from the series and leads to an overall resolution than a massive, heart-racing, tear-inducing ending that prioritizes drama over ending the book on an appropriate note.

Sometimes, with the really dramatic climaxes that Book Threes feature, there is so much going on that I lose track of the story. This sucks. Part of it is my fault (I like to read quickly, and I sometimes miss details like where each character is) but part of it is the fault of the story. Drama is good, but understanding the drama is also important. I care a lot more when I know what’s going on.

Also, though I expect the characters to develop a lot during the final book, I want those changes to make sense, and to still happen at a realistic pace. When characters sudden shuck off their previous persona and step into their role as the Hero of the Story in the last book, it often feels fake.

Slower paced, explicable changes that are clearly rooted in the series are what I enjoy. Of course, I want the protagonist to have conquered her demons and developed into a heroic person by the end of the trilogy, but I want to understand how it happened, which for me, means gradual changes.


What do you think?

Do you love the drama, or wish that authors would tone it down?

Which book in a trilogy is your favorite to read usually?

Poetry: Stolen Fire

I used to have a raging fire—

Crackling, dancing, bursting, writhing

Wouldn’t sit still, wouldn’t calm down

It devoured and it lived—

 

But I ran out of logs

But at least I still had kindling—

But I ran out of that as well

But at least I still had embers—

To hold back the looming darkness

But the wind carried each off

One by one…

Silent theif.

 

Where did that spark go?

I wonder

Fumbling in the dark

Who stole my matches?

Do they want me to freeze tonight?

When did the night

Grow so dark

And cold?

How will I get my fire back

When it never occurred to me to wonder

How the first one started?

 

How did I never notice

The importance of my fire

To beat back the night inside of me?

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Finally! A book that I bought because of hype…that actually lived up to the hype.

4/5 stars

cover ready player one

Goodreads Description

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the  OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

My Review

The Race for the Egg

The plot of Ready Player One is simple: OASIS (a massive virtual reality network) contains a complex treasure hunt for an egg which gives the winner the massive inheritance of one of OASIS’s founders. Gunters are people who have dedicated their lives to trying to solve the riddles of the treasure hunt to find the egg. Since the creator of the treasure hunt was obsessed with his time as a teenager in the ’80s, gunters have encyclopedic knowledge of ’80s pop culture.

In the world of gunters, there is a faction called the Sixers. Sixers work for a rival company that wants to win the egg to take over OASIS. Wade, the protagonist, is pitted against the Sixers when he becomes the first person ever to make progress on finding the egg. Since the Sixers are giant corporate cheaters, it was really easy for me to hate them. They made excellent villains and helped raise the stakes of the race.

I loved the way Cline built a captivating underdog-coming-from-behind story within the simple plot.

All the ’80s References

I bought RPO blindly, basically just because other people loved it. I have to admit, I didn’t really process the fact that it is based entirely around ’80s pop culture until I started reading it.

I know nothing about ’80s pop culture. I don’t even play modern video games or watch today’s movies. Despite all of that, I loved the way that Cline wove the references into his story. Even though I had no “real world” reference, I felt like I was able to understand everything that was going on and get caught up in the drama of each scene.

The World Building

I loved the world building, both inside and outside of OASIS (the virtual reality in which the contest is taking place). Throughout the book, Cline continued to explore the technology of the digital universe that he had created, making the story feel dynamic and realistic.

One thing that surprised me (though it maybe shouldn’t have) was the role that money played in OASIS. Moving from planet to planet, leveling up your avatar, and getting items to wear/use/fight with all required real-world money—something Wade didn’t have. The addition of economic disparities in the virtual reality helped ground the seemingly infinite possibilities of OASIS and add painful realism to the story.

Wade

Wade was a great protagonist. He could have so easily become the cliche, antisocial geek with a debilitating obsession with virtual reality—but he wasn’t.

Yes, he was a massive ’80s geek, but he was also smart, he took initiative, and he clearly had skills that set him apart from others—in short, he was exactly the protagonist that this story needed. I loved his slightly sarcastic voice; Wade is one of my favorite male MCs that I’ve read.

Everyone Else

RPO starts off with basically only Wade and slowly expands the focus of the book to include side characters. I liked the other members of the High Five (the five people who, including Wade, start dominating the race for the egg). Each of them had a clear voice and personality, and in their own ways, they added diversity to the book. 

Art3mis, the love interest, was one of my favorite characters. She was able to stand on her own (AKA she didn’t exist just for Wade to fall for) and her own inner conflicts surrounding the romance were believable and bittersweet. The romantic subplot also worked, never overpowering the story.

The Plot and Pacing

I expected RPO to be a quick read, but it actually took me two weeks to get through. Though it looks deceptively short (my paperback was only an inch thick), the writing style works more with paragraphs than dialogue, and the pacing is slower than I expected. There are lots of intense, get-your-blood-racing scenes, but in between, Cline dedicates a lot of time to world building and character development.

The beginning of RPO dragged a bit for me. On the first page, we are told that Wade is going to find the Copper Key and make history…but then the story focuses on exposition and world building for at least 50 pages before that actually happens. By the end of the book, I didn’t really care about the lag in the beginning—and I appreciated how fully I understood Wade’s character and the world building—so this didn’t dramatically lower my rating.

By the middle of the book, I got used to the contemplative pacing and really started to enjoy the story-telling style. Looking at the book as a whole, the slower pacing totally worked.

TL;DR Wrap-Up

RPO impressed me with its complex (but understandable) world building, its lovable characters, and its simplistic but perfectly executed plot. It’s hard to describe what genre RPO is, so I would recommend this book to basically everyone.

Just thinking about the ending makes me smile. Seriously, this one lived up to the hype.

Top Ten Books on my Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Hey everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve done a TTT, but I like this week’s topic: My Spring TBR. Most of these books were Christmas and birthday gifts that I haven’t read yet, but some are books I want to buy and some are books I need to reread because their sequels are coming out.

  1. Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

cover firsts

I’ve been really excited for this debut since people started talking about it last year. The concept is so intriguing—nothing like the contemporary YA I usually read. I recently bought it and I plan to read it soon!

2. Shadows of Self and The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson (and The Alloy of Law)

MORE MISTBORN!!! The next two books in the Mistborn spin-off series recently came out and I own both of them, so why haven’t I read them yet? Not sure. I’ll have to reread the first of the spin-offs, too, though, so this series will take some time to get through.

3. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

cover these shallow graves

A murder mystery with a journalist protagonist—I love everything about this book’s premise. Again, I got this book for my birthday and I’ve been waiting for the right time to read it.

4. These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

cover these broken stars

I fell in love with Amie Kaufman when I read Illuminae, so I can’t wait to read more of her writing!

5. The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins

cover the great hunt

Wendy Higgin’s Sweet series was awesome, so I’m excited to see what she comes up with in her new book. I expect some swoon-worthy romance.

6. The Sweetheart by Angelina Mirabella

cover the sweetheart

My sister is reading this book right now and she loves it. Though it isn’t my usual YA, I like the premise, and I just know that my sister will convince me (force me) to read it.

7. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (and the rest of the series)

cover the raven kingAJSSKDHSDKJS!!! The fourth book in the Raven Cycle comes out in May, so I know that I’ll be rereading the series in preparation. There aren’t words for how much I’m looking forward to this book!!!

8. Iron to Iron (Wolf by Wolf 0.5) by Ryan Graudin

cover iron to iron

I rarely read novellas, but Wolf by Wolf was amazing, and I really want to read the story of Luca and Adele’s previous race. I don’t know when I’ll read this, but I’m excited for it anyway.

9. Vengance Road by Erin Bowman

cover vengeance road

Another gift that I just haven’t picked up yet. I can’t wait to see if this book lives up to my expectations!

10. Calamity by Brandon Sanderson (and the rest of the Reckoners series)

cover calamity

I love the Reckoners series so far, so I’m dying to find out what happens next. Calamity has been out for a few months, but I haven’t gotten it yet, so I’ll have to wait to read it.


What about you? What books will you read this spring? Do our lists overlap?

Breaking Down the Trilogy: Book Two, Or Where It Usually Falls Apart

Welcome to the second installment of my discussion post series Breaking Down the Trilogy! I’ve already looked at the quirks of Book One, so today I’m looking at…

Part Two: Book Two

This is, I think, the hardest book in a trilogy to get right. One and Three usually have clear purposes (The Introduction and The Conflict’s Culmination, to put it simply), but Two is a strange bridge between the two that often gets lost.

As always, these are just my opinions. If you disagree, comment! This is a discussion post! It is supposed to start a conversation!

what i look for b2

It’s own plot: This is a must for me. Just because Book Three will probably have the most important climaxes and conflict resolutions does not mean that book two is allowed to have no plot of its own. Book Two needs to do more than raise the stakes for Book Three.

The same “feel” of Book One: I hate it when I pick up the second book in a trilogy and it suddenly has a completely different focus, feeling, and tone as the first book. I don’t like surprises; if I liked Book One enough to pick up Book Two, I better get what I ordered—that is, more of what I loved in Book One. Of course the story should develop, but I should still be able to recognize the story at the end of the second book.

Lots of development: Characters and conflicts have to develop in Book Two. I like seeing new characters or new plot lines introduced that push new buttons in existing characters. I like it when allegiances get complicated and change. If you’re going to spend an entire book with the characters, things need to be shaken up.

Build to Book Three (without overpowering Book Two): Of course, the most powerful book in a trilogy is usually the third one. That’s where the plot that links all three books together gets resolved, often with a war (just saying). Because of this, Book Two should build toward Book Three. Though it has its own plot, I want to feel like I’m on the ride up on a roller coaster, where Book Three is the crazy drop.

A Little Love Triangle Drama: If there is a love triangle, I’m okay with some drama in Book Two. Maybe we see a different side of the love interest we’d written off. Maybe the love interest that “won” in Book One turns out to be an asshole under the new circumstances of the second book. Again, the love triangle developing shouldn’t be the only plot that the second book has, but it can definitely be a subplot.

cant stand b2

When it is just Book Three’s exposition: I’ve already touched on this a lot, but Book Two should be able to stand on its own. It brings the reader to Book Three, but it has to be more than a trailer for Book Three. So often, I see trilogies have a strong first book that has its own plot, and then books two and three are just one long plot line—which gets really old, really fast.

When it completely breaks with Book One: I already talked about how much I need Book Two to continue the things I loved about Book One. On this note, I absolutely hate it when I pick up Book Two and I can barely recognize the story that started in the first book.

When the romance from Book One is destroyed for no reason: So many ships sink during Book Two! Sometimes this is because of a love triangle, sometimes just a misunderstanding. And while I appreciate relationships being dynamic and developing, I hate it when it feels like characters only broke up in Book Two so that they could get back together at an appropriate moment in Book Three.

When it exists only so that Book Three can be hella dramatic: So often it feels like Book Two is just characters stumbling through a minefield, detonating various bombs for Book Three to deal with. Characters broke up! Someone has a secret agenda! The plan went awry! And you’ll see the resolution after the break…that is, in the next book.

Book Three should be dramatic. It’s the end of a series! But Book Two needs to have its own, self-contained drama. At least, that’s my two cents.


What do you think? Do you agree? What pitfalls or successes have you seen in Book Twos that you’ve read?

Poetry: The Secret of Perpetual Motion

I’ve no desire

To search for perpetual motion

No need—

I’ve already found it in a place called

High school

 

Day one, period one

Lecture, homework written down,

Passing period and now it’s period two

Lecture, some classwork, more homework to do

And now it’s period three

Discussion, some classwork, test tomorrow, need to study

You get the drift

 

Day two like day one

Three like two, and four like three

Day n+1 just the same as day n and day n-1

 

Stop thinking about today or tomorrow or goals or dreams

Just do the next thing in the pattern

 

That is the secret of perpetual motion