Book Review: Jackaby by William Ritter

So I’m almost two years too late to this party but I picked this book a) because it had possibly the most breathtaking cover I’ve ever seen in my life, and b) I thought it might make a good comp title. (As it turns out Abigail Rook is a kindred spirit to my own Helena and I consider that a win!)

Jackaby

 

Overall, this story sucks you in and makes it difficult to put down. Abigail is lovable and strong, so tagging along for her adventure was thrilling and at times nerve-wrecking. (So excited the sequel is out! On the other hand, some foreshadowing has me ultimately worried for her.) Jackaby is a refreshing character. Awkward, not necessarily handsome, and NOT a love interest. It was nice to see a relationship between a male and female lead that didn’t turn romantic. He was witty, but not above being teased. So socially inept that it lead to many hilarious interactions with other characters.

I also appreciated the references to several old superstitions and the new spins he put on mythical creatures. Ritter has an interesting way of blending fantasy and history, in a way that makes it feel like the supernatural elements just fit into the existing world. He also did well with making all the side and supporting characters feel distinct and real.

On the downside, there was a lot of passive voice which put distance between the reader and Abigail, sometimes during scenes where I really wanted to feel like I was right next to her, and not being told the story after the fact. (Does that make sense?) There were also several instances where I felt like the language was too modern which pulled me out of the historical feel of the novel.

My biggest complain would be the time it took to wrap up the novel after the climax. Without spoiling anything, the climax has your heart racing, your fingers itching to turn the next page, and then it takes six  more chapters to end the book. Don’t get me wrong. I wanted denouement. I wanted the classic detective story where said detective gets to point out all the clues and state the final connection between the murders and the motives. I didn’t even mind that we got a glimpse into what the next novel would be about. But some of the closing chapters felt like darlings that could have been shortened or cut to keep up the fabulous pace set by the rest of the novel.

Despite my few complaints (honestly, this book was so much fun), I’m very excited to go pick up Beastly Bones and see what Jackaby and Abigail are up to next. If you haven’t read it, read it! And if you’ve already read it, forgive me for being so terribly late to pick it up.

Making Time To Write

People get confused when I tell them I’m a “practically” single mother. To make a long story short, I am married but I’m an oil rig wife. This is a lot like saying my spouse is in the military because he’s never around. He lives on rig and we see him an average of 2-4 days a month, never on any kind of schedule. So taking care of our four children (aged 6.5 years, 5 years, 2 years, and 4 months) falls completely to me.

You can imagine how shocked people are when, after I explain my married-singleness, I also tell them I’m an author trying to become published.

“Where do you find time to read? Let alone write?!?!?!?!?!”

I hear this more often than almost anything else. (What I do hear more? “Wow. You’re busy.” Usually said by strangers as I push two grocery carts through the store, one filled with babies and the other with food.) But you know what? I watched Empire Records with my sister on repeat in middle school and I remember what Liv Tyler’s character said at he beginning of the movie: “There are 24 usable hours in every day.”

Yes, we need to sleep, and work (I do eyelash extensions part-time out of my home), and no, I don’t take speed or live off coffee (I never drink the stuff. I prefer hot chocolate.), but with a few tips I’ve picked up along the way, I’ve managed to not only complete several books on my TBR list, but also complete 3 novels. (WIPs are plentiful and sharing my time, lol.)

So here are some of my tricks/tips to getting my reading and writing done.

One: Never be caught without a book.

I tuck my book into my purse or diaper bag before I leave and also carry it around the house. So, if I get stuck waiting for a doctor’s appointment or have a few minutes while I wait for something to boil, I read. If I can find a middle grade audio book that I feel is appropriate for my kids, I listen to it in the car as we buzz around town or to activities. If you have an iPod (I do not. Yes, I am lame.) you could listen to books while you walk around campus or to work.

Two: Carry a notebook/notepad with you to jot down ideas.

I find this helps a lot when I’m plotting scenes in my head throughout the day as I wash dishes or when my son is doing a homeschooling project he doesn’t need help with. If I think through everything enough during the day, make a few quick notes about exact lines or points of a scene, I’m usually able to bust out the chapter a lot quicker once I finally get to sit down and write it.

Three: Remember that multitasking is your friend.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only with a Must-Get-Done list that’s ten times longer than my Want-To-Do list. I find the best way to knock out the things I have to do is to try and get them done at the same time. (ie, I will start the laundry, then start dinner, and clean the living room while it’s cooking.) That way, once the kiddos are down for bed at 8 pm, I can sit on the couch and read/write to my heart’s content because everything else got done while they were awake! (Oh, and I make them help with picking up and putting things away. Chores are their friends.)

Fun fact: the picture below is a pretty accurate description of how I get most of my reading and writing done.

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Four: Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to weed out or prune down the unnecessary activities in life. This is something that I’ve really had to be strict with since my husband went out into the field three years ago and it’s still a bit of a juggling act.

I realized early on that if I wanted to home-school my children, have a clean house, maintain an active lifestyle, and become a well read, published author, I would have to think long and hard about what I would choose to spend my time on. Every minute is assigned (even if it’s a mind-melting 1/2 hour to unwind), and I have to be dedicated to keeping the assignments.

Things I cut out or cut down on:

Facebook (I’ll post life-changing events, “We had another baby!” or get updated addresses for Christmas cards, but otherwise, I stay off it.)

Movies and television shows (If I have the choice between t.v. or reading, I’ll always choose reading, but my bi-annual date night to the movies is all the more exciting for it!)

Sleep (Joking, but only sort of.)

Drama (Just let it go, okay? The time and energy spent on holding grudges or spending time with people that are awful to you isn’t worth it. Detox your life and don’t feed the trolls.)

Five: Have creative releases

Things I do when I need a break, can’t get into the writing groove, or am waiting for feedback from betas: 

Craft (I make gifts for friends and work on my kids Christmas gifts throughout the year. It’s a creative outlet that has a shorter “baking” time, if you will, and it’s encouraging to mark something off the creative To-Do list.)

Work out (Nothing clears the mind like a Barre/Zumba/Pi-Yo class.)

Edit for CPs (Because fair is fair, and good friends beta for each other, am I right?)

I like to think that all these things are productive, and are things that need to get done, but also provide a  creative release. They’re also all things that I don’t feel guilty assigning time to, and that’s big for me. (Maybe it’s weird, but part of my OCD is feeling guilt about wasted time. It’s like sitting around= missed opportunities.)

We all have different schedules, demands on our time, and things that we want to get done. No matter how different we are though, if you’re reading this blog, it’s likely that we share the dream of being published authors. So if your busy and struggling to make time to write, I hope some of these tips help. I hope you have some creative releases, and most of all, I hope we all get where we want to go.

Write on, friends!

 

 

Bookish Fun: Book Club Schedule Bookmark

I have a confession: I am a craftaholic, which means if I can come up with an excuse to do any kind of craft, I will. So imagine what my brain screamed at me when I had several of the ladies in the book club asking which book was next, and what came the month after (just in case), because apparently our Facebook page is hard to find and they wanted to know. Of course they wanted to know! Can’t read the books if you don’t know what you’re supposed to be reading. So my brain screamed, “Hey, do you know what would be really useful and fun to make? Book club schedule bookmarks!” And I was like, yes. Oh yes.  I shall make them and hand them out and they shall be wonderful.

If you’d like to follow in my useful gifts/craftaholic footsteps, here’s how I made them.

 

What you need:

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The schedules printed out on plain white paper or card stock. (I imagine you could use a any light colored paper too, (blues, yellows, etc.) but I was trying to be cheap and just used what I had on hand.) I made 12 overall, and was able to fit 3 to a sheet when I was printing to save paper.

Card stock- any color/pattern/print you like. But word to the wise! If you use white paper (instead of card stock) to print the schedules and vary dark card stock behind it, you will be able to “see” it through the white paper after it’s laminated.

Glue Dots

Scissors

Hole Punch

Ribbon- any color you like/size you like. I do recommend using a skinny ribbon though, as it’s easier to use.

 

Step One:

Type, print out, and cut the schedules. I did the Month, title, and author. If you wanted them smaller, you could probably just do the month and title though.

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Step Two:

Glue them to the card stock, leaving however thick of an edging you want around and between them. I eyeballed it and tried to give about 1/4 inch edging to each side.

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Tip: You could use wet glue, or hot glue, but it leaves the paper looking wonky. I love glue dots because they’re mess free. You just press a corner of the schedule to a dot and it sticks without messing up the paper! Do this for each corner and then press the the schedule to the card stock.

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This is me trying to one-handledly take a picture of attaching the glue dots. Really though, it’s so easy, I did it one handed, lol.

Step Three:

Once the schedules are attached, cut them out! I was able to fit three schedules for every one piece of card stock (8×10 inches, btw).

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Step Four:

Laminate them! I headed over to my friendly neighborhood FedEx store and used their machine. They charge you per sheet of laminate used. I was able to fit four bookmarks per sheet, so I only had to pay for three sheets. (It cost about $6.)

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Step Five:

Cut them out again! (And yes, the guy working there did look at me like I was nuts for taking pictures while I did this.)

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This was their handy cutting thingy.(No, I don’t know what they’re actually called, and yes, I’m lame.) The guy taught me how to use it and took off. He said to make sure you leave a slight edging around these when you’re cutting as well, about 1/8 of an inch or less.

Step Six:

Punch a hole in the top middle or corner of the bookmark. This is actually harder than it sounds at first. You have to get it just right: not so high as to break your “hole” but not so low as to punch the words. It’s a fine line, people. (Yes, I’m being dramatic.)

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Step Seven:

Cut your ribbon. It can be any length you like, just in case you wondered. (Although I’d air on the side of too long, or else the next steps get hard.) Then fold ribbon in half.

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Step Eight:

Put the loop end through the hole.

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Step Nine:

Put the loose ends through the loop, and pull tight! (This image below is what it should look like right before you tighten it.)

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Step Ten:

Hand the finished bookmarks out to the fabulous women and men in your book club! (Aren’t they cute? AND USEFUL. I love useful.)

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This is super easy, and kid friendly too. My little worker bees even helped finished these up.

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For a variant on this project you could consider doing the following:

-A bookmark with your favorite quote on it, or a friend’s favorite quote and then give it as a gift.

-Printing out your personal TBR list for the month/year (depending on how long it is and how many you want to make).

-Or printing a summer reading list out for students/your children/friend’s children/anyone…. Bueller? Bueller?

Hope you enjoyed this! If you make some, I’d love to see how yours turned out:)

Book Review: Sway by Kat Spears

I happened on this book at the Barnes & Noble, and after reading that it was a Cyrano de Bergerac retelling bought it on the spot. Cyrano happens to be one of my favorite stage plays. (Back in my theater days, I was even in the show, so it has a special place in my heart.)

Sway

Sway is described as gritty and raw. After devouring this book in a marathon reading session, I can say that those are very accurate descriptions. Honestly, I went into it thinking it might be a little more cutesy. Maybe I was influenced by Roxanne (the Steve Martin film), but this ‘Cyrano’ isn’t anything like that. Jesse, or Sway as he’s sometimes called, is into a lot of dangerous stuff. He is very charming in his own way, and I give Kat mad props for going with a Jewish protagonist. (#weneeddiversebooks!) But he isn’t romantic, and he definitely isn’t sweet.

I was surprised at the amount of strong language used. Not that I think teens don’t swear in excess, but it’s usually downplayed in YA. From the drug references and language alone, I would have to say this is Mature YA, not for readers under sixteen, IMO.

As far as stakes go, this novel was a good reminder that “the world doesn’t always have to explode.” I’m not saying there aren’t stakes: Boy tells the truth, he loses the girl. Boy lies, he gives the girl to someone else. But it isn’t life or death and it’s refreshing to see “soft” contemporary being published. Although “soft” isn’t the best descriptor for this novel as it deals with themes of suicide, racism, morality, drug use, and manipulation. Could we coin the genre “dark and soft?” (Of course, I kid.)

I liked the overall arc and progression of the story, but I have mixed feelings about the ending. Most everything gets tied up in a nice little bow, which isn’t bad except that everything was such a mess and some of it doesn’t feel realistic. And some things that were brought up, don’t get readdressed and we have no closure on them. They weren’t major plot points, so it doesn’t break the story… I’m just OCD and would have liked closure for my own personal satisfaction.

There were also some questions I had about Jesse that never got answered. How did he get his connections in the first place? How long has he been the man who gets everyone what he/she wants? Once he gives up certain activities, what will he do instead? I also had a few worries (that would spoil the end, so I’ll talk about them later!) about his character’s future, and wondered what would happen next.

To close, it was a good read. Darker than I expected, but with some great laughs here and there, and a very fresh take on the Cyrano story. Now, scroll for spoilers!

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Ok, so my biggest issue with the end was wondering if Jesse intended to give EVERYTHING up to be with Bridget. He gets Andrew to take over his drug dealing duties (not that it’s bad for him to get out of that), gets Rob put in jail (which was also necessary), but has no plans to go to college (which isn’t inherently an issue) or any plans for the future. All he says is he wants to spend his life trying to deserve her. So, he’ll just follow her to Dartmouth? Play guitar and….? I’m left wondering if now that he feels again, all his ambition is wrapped up in this girl. Shouldn’t he have plans of his own? Not that they can’t have a relationship, but should the relationship be the only thing he has? Yes, he’s friends with Pete, but it’s Bridget’s brother. And Mr. D. won’t be around forever, not to mention that Bridget will always come with Jesse to visit him because her grandmother is there too. It just feels a little like his whole world might be Bridget, and that worries me.

Other things I wondered about: Was Ken going to come kick Jesse’s a** for telling Bridget the truth? He doesn’t seem like the type to not retaliate. Did David SERIOUSLY still go out with Heather even though she was bleeding him dry and Jesse warned him not to? Or did he just take her to Homecoming and plan do dump her later? How long did Skinhead Rob go to prison for? Wouldn’t one of his people on the outside hunt Jesse down and kill him in the meanwhile? It wouldn’t be hard to figure that he had something to do with the arrest and again, I can’t see him letting it go. And Grim was the muscle anyway and HE didn’t go to prison, so wouldn’t he be able to avenge Rob?

Anyways, I liked the book. I did. I would have liked a bit more back ground (although it is hard to do without info dumping), and I would have liked a few more questions answered but it’s still a good read and unique compared to the usual guy-meets-girl stories. And if you’re a Cyrano fan it’s a must!

 

Query Helps and Quick Links

As it’s now the New Year, I’m going to bet a lot of hopeful authors have finished polishing their MS and are ready to jump into the trenches. I know because that was me at the beginning of last year. What I wished I’d had at that time was this list of helpful resources which will tell you how to make your query sparkle, research agents, and how to deal with inevitable rejection. (It’s ok. We all face it, and it doesn’t mean you won’t make it. Just think of it as getting one step closer to the right agent/ editor for you.)

Step One: Research Agents

https://querytracker.net/

http://www.literaryrambles.com/

http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/  (MUST have membership for full access.)

Tips: I always try to find a few interviews from my prospective agents, to see if we’d be a good personality match. I also always look for a successful query for each agent to see what format they prefer. (My favorite website for that is below.)

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/successful-queries

Step Two: Perfect That Query

Here’s a great website to help you write your “blurb” or the meat of your query.

http://www.betternovelproject.com/blog/back-cover-copy/?utm_content=buffer73b34&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

And of course the Query Shark and her ways to do (and not do) a query letter.

http://queryshark.blogspot.com/

Writer’s Digest also offers webinars, usually priced at around $90, that often include a critique from a reputable agent! (So worth the money if you can splurge. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have updated their website yet this year, so keep checking back for an updated listing.)

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/webinars

Tips: Some agents post “how to write a query letter” or “query do’s” in their submission guidelines. ALWAYS READ THESE! Some of these agents won’t even consider your query if they can tell you didn’t. Also, keep an excel spreadsheet or something of the like to track your queries: who you’ve queried and when, what kind of response/request, response times, etc. This way you won’t accidentally query the same agent twice or nudge before an appropriate time, or query two agents at an agency that strictly says “querying one is querying all.”

Step Three: Going With the Flow

Part A) You got an AGENT! Congrats! Celebrate and help your CPs and Beta’s reach their goals too.

Or Part B) You’re getting rejections

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/dont-give-up-until-youve-queried-80-agents-or-more

http://writersrelief.com/blog/2011/01/how-to-interpret-rejection-letters-from-literary-agents-and-editors/

Tips: I’m quite familiar with rejection. It’s only been recently that I’m seeing any kind of interest in my novel, but that’s okay. So if I could impart a few things that I’ve learned over the last year, they would be this:

One: Rejection can make you a better writer. Each time I got a rejection, I looked at how I could improve. If I got feedback, I took it seriously and tried to incorporate it when it fit my overall vision of the book. I’m definitely a stronger writer now than I was a year ago, and I’m hoping that’ll continue because I’m probably still going to be getting rejections, lol.

Two: Rejection doesn’t mean you’ll ultimately fail. EVERYONE gets rejections. Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and many other well known authors saw plenty of rejection before making it big.

And Three: Rejection hurts, but it makes the small victories even sweeter. I’m a firm believer that you can’t know happiness without having felt sorrow, sweet without tasting sour, and success without having been knocked on your arse a couple of times.

Just remember, it’ll be okay. Keep going, and we’ll all get there.

Good luck in the trenches everybody!

Contest Roundup: January 2016

Hey, writerly friends!

Roundups aren’t anything new, but after missing a handful of great contests last month, I thought it’d be helpful to post some quick links so that no one who’s interested in participating gets left out.

For a comprehensive list of contests you can expect throughout the year, I’d recommend checking out Carissa Taylor’s blog. It’s a few years old, but it’s phenomenal, and you can figure that a lot of the same contests will be happening.

http://carissa-taylor.blogspot.com/2013/01/contest-madness.html?m=1

 

JANUARY 2016

Jan. 8th: #Writepit (For Faith Based MSs only)

http://www.jessicaschmeidler.com/writepit/

January (TBA) Secret Agent Contest 

http://misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com/p/secret-agent.html

Also keep an eye out for Samantha Fountain’s Agent Match (TBA) http://sfountain.com/tags/agentmatch and #AdPit hosted by Heidi Norrod (TBA, If I find a functioning website I will add it later).

And just because these two happen so soon in February 2016:

Feb. 1st: Sun vs Snow 

http://www.michelle4laughs.com/2015/12/announcing-sun-versus-snow-in-2016.html

Feb 3rd: Pit2Pub 

http://www.kristinvanrisseghem.com/pit2pub

 

Happy New Year, and good luck!

 

 

Book Review: Consent by Nancy Ohlin

First off, I have to say that I decided to purchase this book just because of how intrigued I was by its cover… Oh, yeah, and THE TITLE. Right away, I was like, “How on earth is she going to execute a book about such a touchy subject?”

Consent

 

Overall, it was pretty well done. My biggest complaint (would be a spoiler so I’ll go in depth later) is that I wasn’t completely satisfied/ thrilled about the ending. In hindsight, this might have been intentional. After all, it’s an unsettling topic and it’s not likely that those who encounter these kinds of situations ever feel “okay” when it’s all said and done.

I like the main character, Bea. She’s lovable, easy to relate to, and Nancy nails the teen voice, IMO. But I LOVED her best friend Plum. Hands down one of the best characters I’ve read in a long time, and someone I would adore if she existed in real life.

The story reads quickly, as in, once you start you really can’t put it down, and Nancy did a fantastic job of keeping the pace quick. I mean, even the ending was hard and fast; best way she could have ended a book like this, if you ask me. The story definitely stuck with me long after I’d put it down, but it also makes me REALLY glad that I’m homeschooling my kids, lol.

Ok, scroll down for the SPOILERS!!!!!

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As a parental warning, I feel I should mention that the heat level of this book borders on the hotter side. Whereas most YA sex scenes that I’ve read before fade to black as soon as we know what’s going to happen, we get a bit more detailed foreplay and fade to black literally right before penetration. (Yes, I just used that word. It felt appropriate, lol.) If you’ve read Kristin Cashore’s Graceling, I would say that it’s slightly more descriptive than Katsa’s and Po’s encounter (even though Kristin hints at what the sex feels like for Katsa).

My biggest complaint with this book: Rossi gets away with sleeping with minors and goes along his merry way without almost ANY CONSEQUENCES. (The sole consequence being that he loses Bea’s trust after she finds out that he slept with a DRUNK 15-year-old, and breaks up with him.)

Now, I’m not going to get into a debate about whether or not what he and Bea did was wrong. And I’m not even going to say that he deserved the 10 years in prison that he WOULD have gotten if convicted. But I will say that I think he shouldn’t be allowed to work with minors, if he’s unable to keep his hands off his students. As a mother, I would just go HULK SMASH on a 27-year-old man, if he thought it was cool to pursue my 17-year-old.

In the context of the story, you can see how this kind of relationship could happen: they both love music, Bea is mature for her age and very bright, and Rossi genuinely wants to help her develop her talent. But what does it say about him that he’s mentally compatible with someone SO MUCH younger than him? Why is it, he slept with someone without even knowing how old she was (in regards to the drunk 15-year-old)? And why ON EARTH would he KNOWINGLY sleep with a student without having any kind of discussion about previous partners or the like?

I mean, he didn’t even know he was her first until AFTER the fact. It sets a poor example for young readers to think that it’s smart to just jump into bed with someone without having  some kind of discussion about sexual histories. It’s important to know how many bed-mates your partner has had. It’s important to know if they’ve been tested for STDs and if they’ve always used protection in the past. These are things that, sure, are uncomfortable to talk about, but NEED to be talked about if you’re going to engage in sexual intercourse with someone.

(You can probably tell that I’m not a big fan of Dane Rossi, lol.)  And my parents are ten years apart, so I know that it’s possible for that kind of age gap to work out. But they were 25 and 35 when they met, not 17 and 27. It makes a difference.

Now, I know she wrote this to be realistic. Bea and Dane weren’t going to sit down and have a serious discussion when they were so desperate to be together. But, if it were me, I think I would have added a discussion section in the back of the book to talk about these kinds of things. If teens are going to be sexually active (and these days, most are) they need to at least see or learn about examples of having safe/ smart sex. And yes, I’m aware that they use a condom, but safe sex is more than just protected sex. It’s knowing the person you’re about to sleep with, knowing their history, their NAMES AND AGES (*Glares at Rossi*),  and being emotionally mature enough to handle the aftermath of the encounter.

For example: What if Rossi, after sleeping with Bea, decided to move onto another “conquest.” What if Bea, having fallen in love with him, went into depression because he no longer wanted her and ended up hurting herself, or worse? I’m not overreacting. These things can and do happen. And again, I’m not going to tell people how to live their lives, but if you’re going to have casual sex, be sure you can HANDLE casual sex. If you want a commitment from someone, tell them so.

Basically, TALK TO SOMEONE BEFORE YOU SLEEP WITH THEM. That’s all I’m saying. So much of the heartbreak in this story would have been avoided if Bea and Rossi had just talked before sleeping together. (And actually, if he’d told her before about the 15-year-old, Bea wouldn’t have slept with him at all. Just saying.)

Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox now. Read the book. Make good choices.

Bookish Fun: How to Replace a Broken/Missing Dust Jacket

Today I thought it’d be fun to share a bookish craft with you! I don’t know if I’m the only one who has a problem with my dust jackets (with so many little hands in the house, they’re always slipping off, getting torn, going missing), but in the event that I’m not, I’m going to teach you how to wrap your naked book. (This is also handy if you found a great book at discount store or second hand that was just missing it’s dust jacket.)

What you need:

Your naked hardcover book

wrapping paper or scrapbook paper (any color or style you like, so long as it’s bigger than your book)

tape

scissors

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Step One:

Place your book, open with the pages standing upright, on your choice of paper.

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Step Two:

Cut around the book cover leaving about a one inch margin.

Step Three:

Fold the paper over lengthwise and tape one side. Also, now is a good time to clip into the paper, towards the book on either side of the spine on both the top and bottom sides of the book (pictured below).

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A QUICK NOTE: Be sure to check that you can close the book and THEN tape the second side. If you don’t, the paper will rip when you try to close it.

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This is what it should look like before you tape the second side. I always run my fingers over the spine to help the paper crease into the proper shape.

Step Four:

Tape the second side, then fold the edges to make a clean corner, before folding down the top and bottom sides and taping them in place.

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At this point, your project should look like this:

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Step Five:

Set the book upright and trim the extra paper from the top and bottom of the book above the spine.

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Step Six:

Sit back and admire your handy work!

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Isn’t it fun? I know it isn’t as gorgeous as the original dust jacket, but it’s a pretty good replacement. And of course, there’s something fun about the mystery here: people on the subway/bus/what-have-you asking themselves, “What is that person reading? A birthday present?”

Hope you enjoy! If anyone tries this I’d love to see pics in the comments. How’d they turn out?

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!