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. ūüôā

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. ūüôā 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?

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‚ÄĒand because I mostly read YA‚ÄĒthis 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‚ÄĒand 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‚ÄĒnot just memorizing facts, but analyzing them in relation to other data‚ÄĒand 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.

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. ūüôā

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‚ÄĒand 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?

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‚ÄĒthat 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‚ÄĒwhich 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?

Breaking Down the Trilogy: Book One, Or Where It All Starts

Hey guys! I’ve wanted to do a discussion post about trilogies for a while, but I haven’t been able to figure out what to focus on. So I decided to skip trying to condense my rambles, and I am instead doing a series of three blog posts (you might even say a¬†trilogy) about trilogies, with each post looking at one of the books in a trilogy.

Today’s topic is: The First Book

These books are usually the most straightforward. They set up the world, introduce us to the characters, start some short range and long range conflicts, and leave us with enough of a cliffhanger ending that we want to read books two and three. Simple, right?

Not always.

what i look for b1

Have your¬†own plot:¬†This one is simple. Book One is also a¬†book. It needs to‚ÄĒin my opinion‚ÄĒbe able to stand on its own, at least mostly. It should have its own plot¬†within¬†the overarching series’ plot.

Make me want to keep reading (without gimmicks): Anyone can write a cliffhanger. What a great Book Ones does is write a story so well, and end it at exactly the right moment, so that I want to keep reading naturally, not because the author set off emotional fireworks in the last chapter.

A balance of drama and development:¬†A lot of trilogies end up being action-packed.¬†The format attracts faster-paced genres, and the format allows for intense stories with a ton of conflicts. I love this, but I don’t want the first book to be one giant fight scene. There should be breathing room, scenes where I get to relax and focus on the details like characters and world building. Every book needs this, in my opinion, but especially the beginning of a series.

get right b1

Introducing characters:¬†This something that most trilogies‚ÄĒor rather, most books‚ÄĒare able to do. As long as the author is good, I find that I rarely have problems with the characters in a trilogy, at least not in the first book.

Setting the Stage: Most Book Ones give the reader a sense of what the series will be like. How will it be paced? What will the writing be like? What will the mood of the book be? What will the book talk about?

As a person who likes to know what I’m getting into, I love this. For me, trilogies should be a continuation of a theme, not a disjointed mess of themes, tones, and styles. I love it when Book Ones set the stage well for the series.

common mistakes b1

Clunky world building:¬†Since it’s the beginning of a new series, there has to be some world building. Because most trilogies are fantasy, paranormal, or dystopian,¬†and because the world has to be complex enough¬†to support three books, this world building is rarely simple.

Complex world building is something I’ll never complain about‚ÄĒas long as it is done well. The problem is, in a rush to get the exposition out of the way so that the action can start, Book Ones often leave the world building wanting.

And this is a problem. If I don’t understand the politics/magic/caste system of your world, I probably don’t care about the conflicts they cause.

The lid fell off the jar of love triangle sprinkles:¬†I don’t hate love triangles wholesale. Especially for trilogies, they are a way to keep the romantic spark alive for three books, to add conflict, and to keep the characters interesting.

But Book One needs to do more than introduce two love interests and throw down the gauntlet. Maybe by the end of the series the love triangle can come to the forefront of the plot, but in the beginning, when everything is new? Yeah, I want some real plot, not just Instalove and dramatic gestures.

Too big of a CLIFFHANGER: Do you feel THE DRAMA? The SUSPENSE? No???!!! Are the all caps and excessive punctuation marks not enough?!

Okay, that’s a bit ridiculous, but this is sometimes how I feel at the end of Book Ones. The author is so desperate to get you to read the second book that they detonate a massive plot bomb on the last pages, shattering your heart and forcing you to read the next book.

Sometimes, I am willing to forgive this because the cliffhanger was¬†so good. (The Wrath and the Dawn, I’m looking at you.) But most of the time, I’m just annoyed, and a lot of the time, I won’t continue the series.

pet peeves b1

It’s just a ton of exposition:¬†Just because Book One sets up the rest of the trilogy doesn’t mean that it gets a free pass to be all exposition and no plot. So many Book Ones feel like they exist only so that later books can come out.

I’m fine if an author knows that their story will be a trilogy and makes sure that the first book is a solid foundation. But as I mentioned before, I want the first book to have its own plot, and sometimes authors just don’t do that. Which sucks, in my opinion.

“We Get it Already,” AKA obvious plot lines:¬†Trilogies make good story arcs, but they also make¬†repetitive¬†plots common. These days, I basically expect the first book in a fantasy or dystopian series to start out with a few characters and a simple goal, and by the end, the goal has started some massive chain of events rolling (creating the second and third books). This is a good template the first few times you read it, but I’m dying for some originality by now.


What do you think? Do we have the same pet peeves? How do you feel about first books in trilogies?

Which Blog Posts Do I Actually Read?

Okay, that’s a harsh title, but seriously. We all follow a ton of book blogs, we all have a ton of posts to read every day, and to be honest, we can’t read all of them. At least, I know I can’t.

So…what’s up with that?

Just to be clear, the purpose of this post isn’t to bash on anyone’s blog posts.¬†I love the spectrum of posts that the blogging community creates. I know that we all have different focuses, schedules, and passions when it comes to the posts we create. I’ve even written the blog posts that I say I don’t read often, probably more than I should.

But I’m putting this out there, because I think it might just be interesting, and maybe a little helpful, and most of all, it will probably start a discussion. And since this is a discussion post… ūüėČ

How often do I read each common book blog post…and why?


Lists!

lists

I’ve seen a lot of people criticizing memes like Top Ten Tuesday for their lack of originality. Recently, I feel like a lot of bloggers are turning away from memes and trying to focus more on original content. And I love that.

But I also loved reading TTTs. They’re quick. I can read a lot of different blog posts in a short sitting. I get an idea of what kind of books different bloggers like and I find out about new books. Though they aren’t the most unique or complex posts, I enjoy the simplicity of TTTs.

Discussion posts in the form of lists are also in my most-read category. This is kind of awful, but when a discussion post is clearly broken up into summary-esque titles, it makes the post easier to read quickly. When I’m reading blog posts, I’m generally in the middle of doing something else‚ÄĒwatching TV, eating breakfast, going somewhere. Being able to get the gist of what someone is saying (and then get more detail if it’s interesting) is one of the best qualities of list-based posts.

Reviews for Books I’ve Read

reviews books ive read

I love seeing what other people think about books that I’ve already read. Being able to measure someone’s critiques and praises against my own experience makes book reviews more interesting for me.

It’s fun to see other people fangirl about a favorite of mine, and through them, relive some of my own obsession with the book.

In a weird way, I also like reading reviews that are critical of books that I loved. Usually, I find that I totally understand where the reviewer is coming from, and though I still love the book, I have new ways of thinking about other books I’ll read and review. Some of my most interesting comment conversations have come out of reviews of books where I disagree…but agree at the same time.

Reviews for Genres I Don’t Usually Read

reviews genre unread

Yeah, this is a bit weird. I follow a few bloggers who read mostly NA books, a genre that I don’t think I’ll move into right now. (Nothing against NA, I just love YA.)

The fact that I probably won’t read the books that other bloggers are talking about means that I’m able to read everything they say without fear of spoilers, or disagreeing with their assessment. I find it interesting to see how people describe different plots, especially ones that I’m not familiar with. I get to take away different critiquing styles‚ÄĒand notes for things to do/avoid in my own writing‚ÄĒthat are still relevant, but tied to a slightly different genre (so that content changes a bit from what YA book reviews usually entail).

Poems

poems

This isn’t really a book blogger thing, but I also follow a lot of poet bloggers. I love reading short poems as I blog hop. Most of them are really amazing, and they get me thinking in the space of a minute or two.

Random YA Book Reviews

reviews random

Let’s be honest, my WordPress Reader is flooded with book reviews. I love that, but I can’t read all of them.

Often, whether or not I’ll read a review is based on if the description of the book sounds interesting. If a plot sounds like something I’d never read (this time because of cliches or lame plots, not genre type), I probably won’t stick around to read the review.¬†Sorry about that.

Then again, there’s a good chance that I’ll randomly decide to read a book review, no matter what the book’s description is like. I’m unpredictable ūüėČ

Discussion Posts

discussion posts

These are hit-or-miss for me. Sometimes I’m really in the mood to read¬†the amazingly creative and insightful posts that everyone has created, in which case I can’t get enough of discussion posts.

But sometimes, when I’m on a time crunch or if I’m tired from school, I don’t actually feel like reading through long discussion posts. I’d rather read a quick list or skim a book review than not give a discussion post the attention it deserves.

I’m trying to get myself to read all of the discussion posts that interest me, no matter the mood I’m in.

Random Memes

memes

Readathon TBRs/wrap-ups, Waiting on Wednesdays, blog awards, and other random meme-esque posts that pop up can be really interesting. Or really boring. Again, they’re usually shorter, so I’m more likely to read all the way through them, but I get less out of them than a great book review or an interesting discussion post.

Reviews for Books I Plan to Read

reviews tbr

I’m afraid of spoilers, I’m afraid of hype, and I’m afraid of someone telling me that the book I just spent¬†‚Čą$20 on sucks. If I know that I want to read book (and even more if I already own a book), I rarely read reviews for it until I’ve actually read it. I like to keep my expectations clear of other’s viewpoints.


Do you agree? Or not?

What do you look for when reading blog posts? How do your most-read posts stack up with mine?