Reading Goals: 2016

As the new year is quickly approaching, I’ve decided it’s time to write down my reading goals and make them “concrete.” I don’t know about the rest of you but I always do better with my goals when I can A) see them and check them off, and B) be accountable to others for them.

In recent years, I’ve tried to read “when I could” but the number of books I was checking off my TBR list was dismal. I’m talking embarrassingly so. The good news is that I think the way to fix it is to make my goals more specific. So, in order to be accountable to someone, I’ve decided to share my reading goals with you! (Assuming I have any readers, lol.)

This year, I will read:

*8 Middle Grade Books (Any Genre)

*8 YA Books (Any Genre, but at least one Horror)

*8 Adult Books (Any Genre)

*4 Non-fiction Books

*12 New Releases (One each month, which I will then review and blog about)

*12 Previously Selected Books for my Book Club (One each month)

This makes a grand total of 52 books, which means I will have to finish one book each week. (I know, this isn’t a lot to many of you, but I am a practically single mother of four, so…) With any luck I won’t fall behind on this and I might be able to up the ante next year!

What are your reading goals? I’d love to hear!

 

Book Review: Winter (The Lunar Chronicles)

So I just finished reading the final installment of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, and thought I would share my opinions on it. (Because so many people care about what I think… har har.)

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. I actually hadn’t read any of the previous books (as I was waiting for the last one to come out and have this thing about starting series when they’re not finished) but couldn’t help myself when I saw the gorgeous cover as I wandered Barnes and Noble late on the Tuesday night it was released.

Winter

As a sort of experiment, I decided to go ahead and read it and see if it could be enjoyed as a stand-alone book, or if I would be super confused as I hadn’t been keeping up with the series. I love fairy tales and Snow White is one of my favorites, so I hoped it would be the former. Marissa did not disappoint on this account. At first there were some terms I wasn’t familiar with, but as I continued, she did an excellent job of giving enough background info throughout the book that I understood what had happened enough to keep up with what was currently going on.

I will say that it was a much longer book than it appears at first glance. I had guessed it was around 400-500 pages based off its size, but after reading a few hundred pages and still having so much to go, I checked the last page to get a count. It’s a bit of a behemoth at 823 pages! But the pace is quick and the action makes it feel like a much shorter read. She also tends to focus the story on the characters’ feelings and romantic relationships which was a huge plus for me because I think that rings truer to their fairy tale origins. And of course the political/social aspects of the story were very interesting as she wove them into a well known tale, while still managing to put her own spin on it. (I was kinda surprised at who ends up being the “huntsman” character, but on second thought, I realized how much sense it made.)

My few complaints would be: One, I found myself getting lost in some of the fighting/action sequences as it wasn’t always clear who was hitting what and the like but this might have been intentional. (Fighting is chaotic, after all. Perhaps, she wanted the reader to feel a bit muddled.)

Two, the narrative often slipped between active and passive voice, and I wasn’t sure if that was an attempt to make the POVs sound more individual or if some parts of the book weren’t edited as fiercely as others. On the note of voices, she really did a great job of making them all sound unique (as basically everyone gets to narrate at least one chapter), with the exception of Scarlet and Cinder. As they’re both snarky and quick witted, there were times when, were it not for the names being used, I wouldn’t have been able to tell them apart.  And I wished Winter, not only as the title character but my favorite character, would have had a chance to narrate more of the book. It felt like she didn’t get quite as much page time as Cinder, but that might be because Marissa wanted to start and end the book series with the same character as the main focus.

And three, I felt like the ending was a touch rushed and somewhat anti-climatic.

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!! IF you wish to continue, scroll down.

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For example: Levana is killed after she stabs Cinder in the heart, and the next chapter starts with Scarlet talking on the port screen to a friend. I flipped back and forth between the pages for a minute to be sure I hadn’t missed anything! Also, Winter goes even more crazy after using Scarlet to kill Aimery, (like being strapped down and not knowing who Jacin is kind of crazy) to being more-or-less herself at Cinder’s pre-coronation party. And immediately following Cinder’s coronation, the next chapter has her telling Kai that she plans to abdicate the throne and institute a republic instead. It’s not that I disagree with the idea and I’m not even saying that it didn’t seem true to the character. But we just spent 800 some odd pages (not counting the previous books) fighting to remove Levana and put the true queen on her throne, only to have her giving it up pages later.

Personally, I might have done a Pottermore thing, where I ended the book after the coronation, and then would periodically post things about the world of Luna afterwards as I felt like revealing it. Then it wouldn’t have felt so abrupt and would have let us, as readers, relish Cinder’s triumph for a little longer. Also, she could have answered more questions about how the antidote would be made now that Shells weren’t being forced to give blood the same way, and how things are going with Wolf and Scarlet now that he’s a full on mutant, and whether or not the chip makes Winter not crazy, etc. (Not that it matters in some ways, seeing as how Jacin loves her either way. *swoon*)

Anyhow, I’d give this book four out of five stars, and I’m excited to go back to the beginning and read the other books in this series now! (And yes, I am kind of glad that I know how it ends, because otherwise I would panic about it like I do when I usually read series from beginning to end and this way, I am eliminating the stress factor, lol.)

So, fellow readers, if you read this far, what did you think? Did you like the book? The ending? Any complaints? I’d love to hear!

The Top Three Things That Are (Probably) Keeping You From Finishing Your First Draft

Did you ever get a fabulous idea? One that occupied most of your waking thoughts and even your non-waking thoughts? One that you just KNEW had to be written down and shared with the world? Well, if your in my little neck of the woods, reading this little blog, then chances are yes. This happens to you all the time. And the thing about getting that fabulous idea from your brain onto the page/into the computer is a nasty business.

It’s called a first draft.

Ah, I can already hear the chorus of agreement. Not that editing is a cup of tea, but once it’s out there you can DO something with it, am I right? So what happens between getting the idea and finding yourself two, four, six or more months in the future without a completed first draft?

For the most part, (aside from busy schedules and making time for writing in the first place) it’s the little things. In my opinion, three little things.

Okay. Are you ready for this? I’m going to tell you straight up, this isn’t groundbreaking news here. Not going to blow your minds or even get a “Huh, didn’t think about that.” The best I can hope for is, “Oh, that’s a good point.” But if you find this in any way beneficial, it’ll be worth it.

Number One: Social Media

I’m sure you’re not surprised by this. How many times have you opened your laptop/desktop and thought, “Oh, I’ll just check my email/Facebook/Twitter/Fill-in-blank real quick” only to look at the time and find 90+ minutes have passed? The problem with social media (in general) is that it’s addictive and easily becomes a time sucker. I totally get that you HAVE to keep on top of your email, especially when your work involves it. But if you’re seriously trying to squeeze in writing time, or make the most of the time you have, one of the best things you can do is set up parameters for yourself. i.e. I will only check my email once in the morning and once before bed. Or I will only check my Facebook for one hour on Thursday night to keep on top of any MAJOR announcements. (I really did have to do this because I was developing a serious addiction, lol.) And so on. So really, this is a simple fix: When you sit down to write, close your web browser, put your phone face-down and just out of reach, and focus exclusively on your writing for the amount of time you have (however much or little that may be).

Number Two: Netflix (and other mind melting activities)

This one goes along most of the lines of Number One in terms of addictiveness. (Yes, you’re right. That’s not a real word. I don’t care. #Frindle. ANYWAY…) You sit down for a little mind melting and end up unlocking the “You have watched Five Episodes in a row!” achievement on your X Box or getting the “Are you still alive?” message on Netflix itself. And again, I get the need for mind melting. You can’t be productive 24 hours a day 7 days a week without it taking a toll on you. It’s the whole strawberry thing: The berries that never take anything for themselves produce the smallest, most bitter fruit. While the berries that soak up the sunshine and rich nutrients from the soil produce the biggest, sweetest fruit. So if your creative juices are stifled and you just CAN’T write at that moment, go ahead and watch an episode of your favorite show, or play a half hour of Majong Titans (a personal favorite), or whatever relaxes and rejuvenates you. Just make sure, like anything else, that you’re setting up limits. After all, writer or not, five hours of Netflix in a row can’t be good for your health.

Number Three: Research

Okay, before you fly off the handle and try to punch me in the face about this, just let me explain. Research is VERY necessary to a lot of different genres. Most of them, now that I’m thinking about it. And I’m not about to discourage anyone from doing the necessary research for his/her novel. But let me tell you a little story. My YA fantasy novel is set in a fictionalized Norway, and I wanted the towns to have Old Norse names so they would feel authentic. Well, my characters travel for the majority of the book and are constantly in new places. Every time I got to a new place, I OBSESSED with finding the right name for the town at that very moment. Do you have any idea how much time I lost writing???? I’d spend an hour looking up a name, only to get back into my story and have lost my “flow.”

I know. Really dumb of me. But hasn’t it happened to you? Looking up, say, a specific element of science for a joke in your Sci/fi novel? Or getting a detailed description of how a crime scene is inspected for your mystery? Maybe scouring the web for the latest slang amongst teens, so that those of us who gradated 10+ years ago don’t sound so out of date in our YA contemporaries? Of course, you want these things to be as accurate as possible for your novel. But when you’re just getting it out there (almost word vomiting, if you will) there’s really a better way. I finally learned to just write (TOWN NAME) and highlight it yellow so I would know to go back and fix it once my story was down. It made a world of difference in getting my first draft finished, just by not fixating on every little detail. So when you’re writing and you come to something that will have to be researched, might I suggest just typing (SCIENCE JOKE) or (GET DETAILS ON CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION) or (IS COOL STILL COOL?) *Also, what is LAME SAUCE? Someone explain this to me. Maybe Fleek too, if you get that.* Remember, you can always edit to make something better, but you can’t edit a blank page.

Write on, Friends….

Sound off in the comments: What other things take away from your writing time? How can you fix it?

(As a side note: This article is specifically about things we do during our “writing time” that interfere with our productivity. As a practically single mother of four, I am fully aware that writing time can be hard to come for many individuals, and am simply sharing my thoughts on how to make the most of what writing time you have.)