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Writing During Confusing Times

I shouldn’t be surprised this virus is still here.  Cases in the United States are higher than ever yet it feels like people have completely forgotten about the pandemic. I mean, my school starts in person (alternate half days but still) in two weeks. 

The future is unpredictable and it’s stressful. So how can anyone write when we’re so worried about everything else that’s going on? I’m sure some writers will say the answer is simple: just write. I think it’s more complicated than that. It’s hard to stick to a writing routine when your schedule can change at any moment. 

It’s not been easy for me to write. It’s taken me forever to write this blog. Part of the problem is motivation- the other seems to be time. There’s so much time now, I’m not entirely sure what to do with it all so I do what makes the most sense: nothing. Doing nothing is great when I need to recharge, but not helpful when I want to get something done. 

I’ve come up with some solutions to combat my procrastination. First, get it done early. I know I have a lot more energy in the morning than I do in the afternoon. After lunch, all I want to do is catch up on one of my Netflix shows or listen to an audiobook. By getting it done early, I not only have the rest of the day to do nothing, but I won’t feel guilty or think about it for too long either. 

I also have to think of the task in smaller parts. I’ve heard this tip from a lot of author tubes and blogs and it’s helpful. When I think of writing sentence by sentence instead of page by page, writing feels a lot more manageable and I’m more motivated to start. 

Speaking of motivation, once you have it- don’t lose it! If you stop in the middle of what you’re doing to get food or scroll through social media, you won’t want to finish what you started when you come back to it. Trust me on this one. 

Obviously no one is perfect (I’m definitely not) so if you don’t get around to writing that page or working out don’t beat yourself up over it. This is easier said than done. Try to think about what you did accomplish that day. You’ll find you did more than you thought.

Blog Tour: Mayhem

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A YA feminist mash up inspired by The Lost Boys and The Craft.

It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else. But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good. But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

DISCLAIMER: I received this E-ARC from Wednesday Books in exchange for a review. All thoughts are my own and are not intended in any way to hurt anyone’s feelings or offend the author.

When I first got the email about Mayhem, I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to read it. It has a lot of elements that I love (I mean magic and murder? Count me in) but I wasn’t sure if I was going to find the time to read it. I’m so glad I did. I probably binge read the second half in two days which if you know me is very fast- especially when I’m reading an ebook. 

I liked it. I didn’t love it – that’s why it didn’t get four stars or five – but I liked it. I don’t feel strongly about any of the characters except for Lyle who is a piece of trash. When you read the book, you’ll see what I mean. I liked Elle. I also liked Mayhem. Neve is probably the most interesting character. I can’t say why because I believe I would be spoiling the book so I’ll mention that in the spoiler section. 

I’m gonna be honest- I was pretty much neutral about everything. Although I have not experienced it myself, I thought the domestic abuse was portrayed well. I genuinely felt for Roxie and Mayhem. I also didn’t mind the romance between Mayhem and Jason. I was skeptical about it in the beginning because romance usually dilutes the main plot but I thought it was a cute add on. I like Jason. There’s one more thing I liked but it counts as a spoiler so I’ll talk about it in a minute. 

Before I move on though – what kind of person names a character Boner?? He was a good character but that name was questionable. I couldn’t take any scenes with him seriously because of the name. Now…onto the spoilers. 

My favorite scenes were when Mayhem was reading the diary and when she was using her powers. It was during those parts that I wanted to keep on reading. The whole book is well written- those scenes just had something extra about them. 

And why is Neve the most interesting character? I will say I didn’t understand the whole “water makes non Brayburns crazy sort of thing” but I liked how Neve was an example of it. I think that alone would have made the book very interesting especially since the Sand Snatcher (at least I think that’s what he’s called) took a backseat after he was killed. Unfortunately the plot didn’t take the dark turn I wanted it too. It ended with a lot of loose strings. Like why and how did Neve suddenly become not crazy? Did they all just live happily ever after? Even after all that magic stuff? 
Like I said. Good, but not great. If you’re interested in reading it, I would still recommend Mayhem to you; it just wasn’t exactly a top ten read for me.

Review: Imaginary Friend

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Imagine… Leaving your house in the middle of the night. Knowing your mother is doing her best, but she’s just as scared as you.

Imagine… Starting a new school, making friends. Seeing how happy it makes your mother. Hearing a voice, calling out to you.

Imagine… Following the signs, into the woods. Going missing for six days. Remembering nothing about what happened.

Imagine… Something that will change everything… And having to save everyone you love.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Going into this book, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I don’t remember much from reading Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower but I know it wasn’t close to the horror genre. The beginning caught my attention. David Olson (although I know he doesn’t really talk he shows up quite a bit) is an interesting character. He reminds me a little bit of the imaginary friend in The Shining- one of those characters where you’re not sure if they’re helpful but scary or just plain scary.

 A lot of elements in Imaginary Friend reminded me of Stephen King’s works in fact. The main resemblance I saw was the underlying religious theme (good versus evil or in this case Devil versus God) and the number 217. Of course Stephen King doesn’t own 217 but to use it in a horror novel….I think you can see where I’m going with this. The plot goes along a lot faster than a traditional Stephen King novel which I was glad (although I will say 700 pages is a lot) and the writing style was different. 

I was mostly neutral about the characters. I was rooting for them and everything but I’m going to be putting any of them on a favorite characters list. Christopher’s mother was probably my favorite. She was badass. And she was smart. Maybe I’ve seen way too many horror movies where the characters never act smart enough but she consistently assessed the situation and made the best move she could. I held a lot of respect for her character.

When I think about it, I liked the beginning of the book. The horror was there, the characters were interesting to some extent, and I was engaged in the plot. It was the ending that lost me. I’ll give more detail in the spoiler section because it’s the direction that Chbosky took with the story that I was not a fan of. 

Now to the ending. It reminded me of The Stand. For those who haven’t read The Stand, pretty much what happens is the good and evil face off (the evil being led by the devil). In short, the bad people all blow up and die. In Imaginary Friend, Christopher who is being trained to become God defeats the devil who is not the hissing lady. I didn’t see that coming- mostly because it made a lot of sense for the hissing lady to be bad. I mean- she’s the one that spread the itch thing that made everyone try to kill each other. And now you’re telling me she’s good? I can get behind the nice man being evil but some of the things the hissing lady has done are questionable. 

It turns out the whole book was about how everyone has some good in them (or at least that is what I got from it.) The reason why I didn’t like that was because I was not looking for a happy ending. If I wanted a happy ending, I would’ve picked up a romance novel. 

So that comes to the question you may or may not be asking. If you hated the book so much why did you give it three stars? Great question. The writing wasn’t bad so a single star didn’t fit and I didn’t give it two stars because the horror element was that good. If more people had died, maybe I would’ve rated it higher. 

I suppose where I’m going with this review is if you are someone who wants horror but also an optimistic ending, read this book. If you scare easily but still love to read creepy things, consider this book and avoid reading at night.

My Summer Writing Goals

Summer is here!! I could not be more excited. I still have time that needs to be dedicated to summer work but now a lot more time has opened up to allow me to write again! 

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to dedicate so much to writing so I’m going to start with some small goals. 

  1. Write for ten minutes every day. One of the greatest challenges I have is finding time to write every day even when I have nothing else planned. Even on busy days, I know I’ll be able to find ten minutes to write, even if I have to split it up in five minute increments.
  2. Finish Joyce Carol Oates Masterclass.  I started this class a month ago but had to stop because the amount of schoolwork was too much. I found it helpful and informative when I watched it then so I want to learn more from it now. 
  3. Write three short stories. I’m not putting a word count on these stories. I tend to write on the shorter side so creating a goal of writing three 5K word short stories isn’t feasible. 
  4. First draft of untitled fantasy novel. Although there’s no title for it yet, I have had a lot of fun writing this book. If I succeed in completing the first draft of the novel this summer, I’ll be on my way to write the second draft for Nanowrimo in November. 
  5. Post a blog for KEAP at least every other week. KEAP is my environmental blog where I discuss scientific innovations and (obviously) the environment. It’s been neglected now (like this blog) for at least a month. It’s time I start posting more frequently on it. 
  6. Post a blog a week for writing/reading blog. Like KEAP, this blog has been neglected for too long. I want to talk about books more and now I can. In the process, maybe I’ll improve my writing!

That’s it for my summer goals! It would be amazing if I completed them all, but even completing half of these goals is a victory.

Olympic Games Readathon TBR

Earlier last week, I saw a post about a new Percy Jackson themed readathon happening in June. I had just heard the news that Percy Jackson was becoming a Disney + show, so I thought I would celebrate by participating. 

How It Works:

All you have to do is pick a house to represent and read books based off the prompts to win points for your cabin. The cabin with the most points wins the readathon. To declare your team you submit a form that can be found on the Olympic Games twitter page. The prompts can be found here

My Team: 

I don’t own as many books as a lot of the people on twitter seem to own and the libraries are closed where I am, so my book choices are limited. That’s part of the reason why I’m choosing to represent Team Hades : the prompts work out best for the books that I have. The other reason why I’m choosing Team Hades is because I love Nico DiAngelo and that love only grew after my recent re-read of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. 

Mandatory Challenges and My Picks:

The Ghost King: Read a book featuring the undead

I know it doesn’t exactly feature the undead but this was the closest I could get to the prompt out of the books I have. I’m choosing to count it because it features women killed by a serial killer who is still unknown today. 

Bring a book back from the dead by reading something you have

already read before.

I read this book earlier this year but I want to get further into the series so I’m re-reading it for this challenge. 

The underworld is a dark and dreary place. Read a book with a dark cover.

I think the cover speaks for itself here. 

Death comes randomly and without warning. Choose a book from

your TBR at random.

This wasn’t as random as I wanted it to be, but it worked out all the same. 

Hermes is the only Olympian free to visit the underworld. Complete a prompt that honours Hermes. (a book with a snake on the cover)

Finding a book with a snake on the cover was harder than I thought it would be. Luckily I haven’t picked this one up yet. 

Advanced Challenges: 

Sword & Shield: A book featuring a character whom you would not get along with. 

This book features six main characters with different personalities. I figured I wouldn’t get along with at least one of them if they were real. 

Monster Fighting: A book featuring magical creatures

I’m choosing this book so that I’m able to continue the Mortal Instruments while staying within the challenge guidelines. Demons are magical creatures, and they’re hunting demons so it works.

Review: Agnes at the End of the World

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The Handmaid’s Tale meets Wilder Girls in this unique, voice-driven novel from Kelly McWilliams.

Agnes loves her home of Red Creek–its quiet, sunny mornings, its dusty roads, and its God. There, she cares tirelessly for her younger siblings and follows the town’s strict laws. What she doesn’t know is that Red Creek is a cult, controlled by a madman who calls himself a prophet.

Then Agnes meets Danny, an Outsider boy, and begins to question what is and isn’t a sin. Her younger brother, Ezekiel, will die without the insulin she barters for once a month, even though medicine is considered outlawed. Is she a sinner for saving him? Is her sister, Beth, a sinner for dreaming of the world beyond Red Creek?

As the Prophet grows more dangerous, Agnes realizes she must escape with Ezekiel and leave everyone else, including Beth, behind. But it isn’t safe Outside, either: A viral pandemic is burning through the population at a terrifying rate. As Agnes ventures forth, a mysterious connection grows between her and the Virus. But in a world where faith, miracles, and cruelty have long been indistinguishable, will Agnes be able to choose between saving her family and saving the world?

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

DISCLAIMER: I received this E-ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a review. All thoughts are my own and are not intended in any way to hurt anyone’s feelings or offend the author.

As soon as I saw Handmaid’s Tale meets Wilder Girls at the top of the blurb, I knew I wanted to read this novel. I will say though, the rest of the blurb is accurate but I didn’t really get Handmaid’s Tale or Wilder Girls from this book. Both are much darker books for one thing although there are a couple of references to the Handmaid’s Tale in regards to the strict rules the girls have to follow and the fact that they can’t wear red (the color that the Handmaids in Atwood’s novel are notorious for wearing). The similarities stop there. 

Onto the novel itself, I thought it was interesting. I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened to Beth and Agnes as the situation with the cult and the Virus outside grew more intense. Both main characters are strong women who know what they want despite the conflict over where they stand in their religion. The religion is one aspect of this book that McWilliams does well and throughout the entire plot I could see and feel the struggles both girls were having in this strange world. 

I liked the side characters (although I may or may not have mixed up Agnes’s nickname for ‘Zeke’ with Max.) I saw a lot of Danny but I wish I saw the romance between him and Agnes more or the one between Cory and Beth. I know that it wasn’t necessary with Agnes because the book is focusing on her and her religion but I think Cory and Beth’s relationship could’ve added even more to the plot.

At first, the suspense was killing me. As soon as I learned Ezekiel’s situation with the insulin, I was nervous for him so I guess I wasn’t surprised when all of it broke and his life was at risk. I think him surviving was the only event I didn’t expect to happen. Come to think of it, so many lives are miraculously saved throughout the book. Now that I think back on it, I guess that is the point because it is about God being kind and miraculous but also ruthless as well. Honestly the main problem I had was that everything was a little too convenient for the characters. I mean, I thought for sure Agnes was going to die but then Danny saved her. Same thing with Beth. I knew she was going to get out because I was only about a third in, but still Magda was right about to go at her and Cory grabs her and helps her escape out of the bunker. 

I do like the ending. I like how Agnes is now a prophet of this ragtag group of survivors and Danny is a doctor and that Beth is going to see the world. It was a good way to end it I think.

Review: Pretty Things

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Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet.

Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer—traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable façade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family’s sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: a mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa’s past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina.

Nina’s, Vanessa’s, and Lachlan’s paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

DISCLAIMER: I received this E-ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a review. All thoughts are my own and are not intended in any way to hurt anyone’s feelings or the author.

Thoughts: Although I wouldn’t put this book on a favorite list, I did enjoy it. The characters Vanessa and Nina are for the most part well done but during the middle their relationship was difficult to read about because they were judging each other over something that could’ve easily been fixed. Honestly, it wasn’t until later in the book when I learned more about both of them that I began to like them because at the beginning Nina was judging Vanessa based on her lifestyle and Vanessa couldn’t put together the dots. 

Of course, Vanessa and Nina aren’t the only characters in the story. There’s also Nina’s mother, Lily, her partner/boyfriend Lachlan, Vanessa’s brother Benny, and then Vanessa’s parents who are mentioned more than they show up in the book. Benny was probably the only character I liked (or semi-liked) the entire book because I did empathize with him and his situation. I didn’t have many opinions of Vanessa’s mother who I felt was more there for backstory than to be a character. I hate Vanessa’s dad, but I think we’re supposed to hate him for reasons that just keep piling up as the book goes on. As for Lily, I did like her for most of the book. She was a single mom taking care of her daughter while also battling cancer- it was hard not to like her- then certain events happened. 

I can’t elaborate much more without spoilers so I’ll continue on to the plot. The beginning was great. I mean the first line of the book – “When a body goes down in Lake Tahoe, they say, it does not rise again” was everything I could ask for in a first line. It was shocking, it grabbed my attention, and made me ask a lot of questions. Frankly, I’m sad I can’t use it for one of my stories because it is so good! The ending was great too. There were so many twists that I didn’t anticipate and I loved that. It was the middle that got me. The backstory was important to the story, but I felt the middle didn’t have enough action – at least for me it didn’t.  I also felt the book got a little preachy about social media. It involves social media (for crying out loud Vanessa is an Instagram influencer!), so I understand there’s gonna be some commentary about social media but there were a lot of times where a character just went off. 

When Vanessa and Nina got over their differences and began working together against Lachlan (or Michael but I’m calling him Lachlan because that makes more sense to me) I was ecstatic. When Vanessa started saying how she was going to steal Nina’s guy and then was poisoning her drink to get more time with him, I genuinely thought their relationship would turn out to be one of those cliches “pit the girls against each other” things. I’m relieved it wasn’t. 

Now for the twists. There was one twist that got me and it was that Lily had had an affair with Vanessa’s father which was the reason they had to leave Tahoe City. The clues were all there and when the reveal happened I had to stop reading for a second to just sit in awe of what had just happened. I lived for that. As for the others… they felt bizarre. I didn’t see them coming at all but couldn’t figure out where the warning signs were. They felt random. Lily working with Lachlan to keep Nina in the dark or Lily pretending to have cancer later on just didn’t add up. I don’t think the plot needed either in order to have a great ending. If anything, I feel the ending would be better if it didn’t have that along with it. 

My opinions aside, this is still a book you should go out and buy. If you like thrillers and drama (I feel this book has a lot of that) this is the one for you. The links to get it today are above the synopsis.

Review: Six of Crows Duology

Title: Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Format: Hardback

Release Date: September 29th 2015

Genre: YA fantasy

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Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .

A convict with a thirst for revenge

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager

A runaway with a privileged past

A spy known as the Wraith

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thoughts: For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I will be talking about just the first book here and the series overall. In short: I loved it. In the books, there are six main characters (Wylan, Jesper, Matthias, Nina, Inej, and Kaz) who come together to pull off the most dangerous heist anyone has attempted to pull off. I’m not typically a fan of character driven stories, but this one had me hooked. I didn’t care that the heist was in the last one hundred pages because I felt there was so much going on with the character’s backstories which Bardugo does a great job with. 

The characters are great. You don’t really get to know Jesper and Wylan until the Crooked Kingdom but when you do, their backstories are incredibly detailed and tie in well with the story. Romance wise I liked how it added to the plot line instead of taking away. There are many books that I’ve read where the romance feels unnecessary. The romances here have the chemistry and are realistic. No one is possessive or gets jealous easily which is refreshing to read. That leads me to my next point about the friendships- they feel real. Inej and Nina joking about Kaz and Matthias or when the group teases Wylan about playing the flute are interactions I could see happening between people today.

The world building is incredibly well done. I can only imagine the amount of plotting it took to make sure all those tiny details Bardugo put in don’t contradict each other. Of course knowing the magic structure and the traditions of each country is important but it’s the small details that I’ve come to appreciate. Crooked Kingdom has many of these details that help the team out when they need it. My favorite detail was probably everyone’s obsession with Ketterdam waffles. This could be because I’m a big fan of waffles myself. 

Kaz and Inej. Already I know the Kanej shippers know what I’m talking about. I loved the chemistry between these two but they had such a slow burn! If it wasn’t for the action between Nina and Matthias and Jesper and Wylan I would’ve combusted but when I did get those scenes- perfection- especially the ending with them holding hands and Kaz drops that he found Inej’s parents. This ending made it seem like that romance will continue so I’m satisfied. 

Matthias. His death came as a shock to me. I’m not surprised that someone died (with a group this big someone usually does) but I was devastated to see him go. Matthias coming to terms with his prejudices and facing them was something I felt really added to his and Nina’s dynamic and made him realistic as a character. 

Lastly, when Nikolai showed up with Genya and Zoya I was so happy. I didn’t expect to see him and his interaction with Kaz was hilarious. I’m not surprised at all Kaz figured out Sturmhond was Nikolai. I actually thought this would happen if they interacted and it did!

I could probably write a whole novel on my thoughts on this book but unfortunately that is too long for people to read. I already have a hole even though I finished this series not that long ago. Luckily for me there’s a show coming out.