Top Ten Settings I’d Like To See More Of

Hey everyone!  So this week’s Top Ten is about settings and honestly, this isn’t something I think about much.  Sure, setting is super important to a story.  It impacts so much of what happens.  But I don’t normally have a problem finding the settings I want (and I’m always looking for something new and exciting!) so I haven’t struggled too much yet.  Still, I’ll give this a go.

Top Ten Settings I’d Like To See More Of

1. France/Paris

For the last year or so, I’ve been absolutely obsessed with France.  (It happens when you realize about a third of your heritage comes from there.)  If I pass a book in the library that has an Eiffel Tower on the spine, you can guarantee I’m picking it up.  And most of the time, they’re really good.  But they’re still pretty rare and it would be fun to see more of the City of Lights in literature.

2. London

I’m dying to travel to London at some point in my life and until I do, I love reading about it.  I don’t even care what century the story’s set in if it’s about London.  Present day, Roman invasion, I don’t care.  Just give me London.

3. Colonial America

As far as history goes (and I do love my history), Colonial America is one of my favorite time periods.  And I’m talking early colonial, pre-1700s.  Jamestown, Roanoke Island, the beginnings of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Back when relations with the Natives weren’t initially troubled.  Native American cultures are fascinating to me and the way very early colonists interacted with them was actually quite friendly.  I wish there was more of that in books rather than King Phillip’s War onward, when everything is bloody and brutal.  But that friendship doesn’t give a story conflict, I guess.

4. Faerie

This is my nod to the fantasy genre.  I wasn’t sure what else to call it.  I’m not always the biggest fan of stories where fae infiltrate our world, but I kind of like the ones where someone from our world ends up in theirs.  Think of Julie Kagawa or A Court of Thorns and Roses.  It’s almost an Alice in Wonderland effect where we’re submerged in a world we don’t understand.  I like trying to learn the new worlds.

5. Present day with the past

Ok, maybe the last one wasn’t my only nod to fantasy.  I love time travel stories and that’s what I meant here.  It’s the juxtaposition, like in the last one, of the world I know with a world I’m not as familiar with.  Going back and forth between them is fun for me.  Outlander is a good example of this, even if it’s not present day.

6. The Underworld

I have a fascination with how differently everyone pictures the Afterlife, even within the same religion.  (I truly don’t think any two people picture Heaven the same way.)  So I like stories that present a new and imaginative picture of what the Underworld (ideally ruled by Hades, who is my favorite of the Greek gods) to see what they think it might look like and how they reconcile it with modern religions.  The Goddess Test does a fantastic job of this and I’d love to see more like it.

7. Indiana

My home state!  Indiana gets a bad rep a lot of the time for being nothing but soy beans and corn (which is only like half true) or for being a firmly Red state (sadly, that’s true).  We’re even slammed in the Broadway musical The Prom, which I recently started listening to.  (My initial excitement of it being set in Indiana was quickly dulled in like the third song when Emma says, “People suck in Indiana.”)  John Green, who lives in Indianapolis, put us on the map with The Fault in Our Stars, which I am so happy about.  And Francesca Zappia is also from the state and she’s set her latest book in Indiana.  But that’s about it, of all the books I’ve read.

(Perfect irony here, as I’m writing this, the song “Indiana” by Just Kiddin came on.  And I downloaded that song 50% for the title and 50% because it actually has a great beat.)

8. Medieval Europe

History nerd, remember?  Medieval Europe is full of conflict, interesting characters, and complete overhauls of society depending on where you’re looking at.  It’s fascinating stuff.  A lot of what I’ve read focuses on England or France, which is totally fine and I will totally read more there (see first two in this list), but I’m open to more.  And actually, you know what I’d love to see?  A story of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was #FIERCE.  I mean, the girl ruled a huge chunk of France in her own right, then married the King of England, then rebelled against him and got their own sons to fight him.  I need to see a book about her.  If you know of one, hit me up.

9. Libraries

For being places of such magic, why are there so few books set in libraries?  Seriously.  This baffles me.  I spend more time at the library than I do anywhere else, not counting my house or work.  We need to rectify this.

10. Around the World/Little Known Places

I love learning about exotic places and cultures through books because it’s safe.  I’m not exactly the adventurous type, so actually going to these countries (especially if they’re war torn or dangerous) is highly unlikely.  So I liked reading books set around the world in far flung places.  I’ve read books set in Central America, Pakistan, Japan, and more that I will probably never get to.  But I’d love to see more, especially in South American and Africa.

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The Vinyl Princess

Image result for the vinyl princessFirst Lines: (Um, apparently there isn’t an ebook of this and I returned the book without getting the first lines so…yeah, sorry about that.)

Ok, if you ever go to my Goodreads page, the first 20 books on my to-read list are semi-randomly selected from my 500+ unread books.  This had been on that top 20 spot for years.  It’s been on my to-read list for the last decade.  God, I feel old saying that.  So it was about time I actually read it.

Allie is a self-professed music lover and expert of all things vinyl.  At 16, she’s scored the best job ever working at Bob & Bob’s Records, where she gets to listen to music and sell vinyls all day.  It’s also the perfect place to work on her alter-ego The Vinyl Princess, her identity on her new blog.  Life seems pretty good from behind the counter at the store.  But beyond that, things are a little weird.  Her mom’s getting dates, there are a string of robberies in town, and business at the store is dangerously slow…but at least Allie’s getting more followers on her blog all the time.

In the end, I thought it was ok. This is going to probably sound a little weird, but its writing it kind of dated. The structure of the story, the things Allie does, there were a few times I just kind of had to look at the book and ask it what it was doing. It’s not that the writing is bad, but its plotting was just odd.  It’s hard to explain unless you’ve also read a YA book from the early 2000s recently.  Stories have evolved since then.

There just wasn’t anything about this that makes it memorable afterward. Everything was pretty average. I hate saying that, but even while I was reading it, I was thinking about what book I was going to read next. I didn’t know the music Allie was referencing, so it wasn’t even like that could keep my interest.

I did think it was kind of cool seeing someone start a blog from the ground up in a book.  I thought some of her process (and success) was unrealistic given my own experiences, but it was still cool to see what I do as a hobby represented in literature.

I thought it was a cool subject for the story and the plot wasn’t bad (it definitely took a couple of surprising turns), but execution lacked the emotional connection. I didn’t connect with the characters and that hurt it.

I wanted to like it more.

Top Ten Auto-Buy Authors

Hey everyone!  Ok, let me be upfront and say that I am a Millennial with a limited income (*waves* hi, teacher here), so I don’t often “buy” books unless they’re deeply discounted or I have a gift card.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have authors I will race to the library to get copies of their books.  I have far too many of those.  So those are the ones I’m going to focus on for this post because, dollars to donuts, I’ve purchased at least one of their books previously and I’ve read many more.

Top Ten Auto-Buy Authors

1. Libba Bray

I’ve been following Bray since I was in the 7th grade and first read A Great and Terrible Beauty.  I was reading her as a senior in high school while I carried around Going Bovine to my classes–and subsequently got the strangest looks.  (Google the cover.  I dare you.)  And now, as an adult, I’m in love with the Diviners, which is saying something considering I hate the Roaring ’20s.  Throughout the years, no matter what she’s written (though it tends to have a magical bend to it), she’s written books that have spoken to me.  And as long as she’s writing them, I’ll keep reading them.

2. Morgan Matson

When looking for contemporary romance, Matson is the one I turn to more so than Sarah Dessen.  (I know, it’s blasphemy.)  Dessen is amazing and I love her, but Matson is closer to my age and I feel like she and I are more on the same wavelength.  Matson has her finger on the pulse of pop culture a little better, I feel.  I fell in love with Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour and I’ve hung around ever since.

3. Maureen Johnson

Oh, Maureen.  Auntie MJ is a character herself and I love her.  I think the first book of hers I read was 13 Little Blue Envelopes, which I read so long ago I honestly don’t remember what happens in it.  But I adored The Name of the Star and the Truly Devious series has some very strong writing.  MJ is a little quirky, very funny, and, as a person, very driven toward empowering teens to be themselves in a world that pushes back.  I love her both on and off the page.

4. Francesca Zappia

While still fairly new (with only two books currently released), Zappia has done so much to further the discussion of mental health in YA.  She’s done amazing research to show the effects of anxiety/depression and schizophrenia in her characters.  Her writing is stunning.  And the thing is, she is almost literally my age.  She’s fantastic and if you haven’t read her books yet, you desperately need to.  I highly recommend Made You Up.

5. Rae Carson

Carson has an interesting way of writing fantasy, whether it’s more of a high fantasy feel or whether it’s more like historical fiction with a taste of fantasy.  I like the way she develops her characters and always inserts someone who has been targeted by society at large and needs to prove to themselves that they are better than that.  Her writing is clever and, in the case of The Girl of Fire and Thorns, captivating.  I fell into that world head first and never really emerged.  This was the writer who got me interested in fantasy and I’ve never looked back.

6. Ally Carter

I was a little hesitant at first about adding her to the list because I haven’t finished the Gallagher Girls series–nor do I plan to.  But the Embassy Row series won me back over.  While I’ll be the first to say that Carter tends to write the same story over and over again, they’re so darn entertaining!  They’re exciting and full of colorful characters (spies, ambassadors, professional thieves) whose internal conflicts are usually as interesting as the external conflicts.  The aforementioned Embassy Row series also deals with mental health, which I definitely liked.  Her books are fast-paced and so easy to get through. Whenever I want action, I go to her.

7. Kimberly Derting

Derting has recently made the switch to adult romance (nothing wrong with that, I read plenty in that genre), but if she ever comes back to YA, she’s a go-to for me.  Much like Carson or Bray, she tends to write stories with an element of fantasy if not a higher fantasy itself.  She’s a lot like Victoria Aveyard in some ways.  I have a lot of good memories from her books, though the Body Finder series started to go the direction of Criminal Minds and I can’t do that super creepy stuff anymore.

8. Stephanie Perkins

Obviously Anna and the French Kiss is the pinnacle here.  But even as she’s jumped YA genres and gone into horror, she’s still a great writer.  Even though I don’t really see the appeal of horror, I did like There’s Someone In Your House.  And I keep hoping she’ll write another amazing love story, but I’m open to anything from her.

9. Cynthia Hand

I think Hand is most well-known for her Unearthly series (which is about angels and is so good), but she rose in my rankings with The Afterlife of Holly Chase, a modern retelling of A Christmas Carol.  I still have at least one of her other books to read, but trust me, it’s on my radar.  She knows how to put emotion and internal conflict into her stories very well.  I love characters dealing with internal struggles.

10. Miranda Kenneally

Kenneally is another contemporary romance novelist I often turn to.  Her stories are unique because they’re about girls who play sports.  Her first, Catching Jordan, was one that spoke to my soul because I was also a girl who grew up playing backyard football and had more male than female friends for a long time.  But other books deal with other sports (softball, soccer, long distance running, swimming, etc.) and deeper issues (relationships with creepy older men, abortion, unexpected death of a friend, etc.).  It’s about representing real teens with real issues that don’t always get talked about in YA.  And I love that.

This was unintentional, but let’s give it up for the Ladies of YA.  Every single one of these is a fabulous author who deserves respect and recognition.

Ever The Hunted (Clash of Kingdoms, #1)

Image result for ever the huntedFirst Lines: To survive these woods, a man has to be strong as trees, Papa had said.  The memory is a whisper compared to the attention my cramping stomach demands.

As I was walking through the library one day, this book caught my attention.  I’d never heard of it and I thought it sounded interesting.  I don’t do that very often, so it meant the book lived on my shelf for a while until I got curious.

Britta grew up being informally trained as a bounty hunter by her renowned father, the legendary bounty hunter of their kingdom.  But after her father is murdered, Britta finds herself alone, an outcast, and without rights to her inheritance.  Desperate, Britta takes to the Ever Wood for survival, but she wasn’t planning on being caught for poaching.  A death sentence, Britta is given one possibility of reprieve: her freedom for her father’s killer.  But it’s not that easy when Britta learns the alleged killer is Cohen McKay, her father’s apprentice, Britta’s closest friend and the boy who broke her heart.  Still, Britta is determined to find justice and, while her journey is perilous, she won’t rest until she finds out who did kill her father.

This was pretty good. It wasn’t the best fantasy I’ve ever read before, but it had a lot of action and the plot kept moving all the time.

Britta is an outcast even before her father’s death. That outcast status (and her father’s occupation as a bounty hunter) makes her tough. When hard times come her way, she fights back. And that attitude was cool to see throughout the story. Sometimes characters (mostly men) underestimated her and she took advantage of that. I liked that.

The plot, as I mentioned, was always moving. There’s a lot going on with the mystery of who killed Britta’s father, but there’s also a good number of fight scenes and other intrigue that I don’t want to spoil.  Let’s just say there were a good number of plot twists along the way, even if you see some of them coming.  It did take a little while for the story to get started, but then the story had me for most of an afternoon.

I didn’t feel like the world building in this was superb, but it wasn’t bad. It’s not Sarah J. Maas (is it ever?), but I understood the differences between the two countries and the source of the conflict. That seemed to be the main point and while I didn’t feel fully immersed in that world, I understood it.

For a summer read, this was good. Not very heavy, cute, full of action. I liked it.

Fantastic Writing Friday: Kiersten White

Hey everyone!  So we’re back for another look at some awesome writing and this week I wanted to focus on a very funny lady who writes all kinds of genres.  I haven’t read or even loved all of her books, but I respect her writing a lot.

Fantastic Writing

Kiersten White

Image result for kiersten white

Author of: the Paranormalcy series, the And I Darken series, Chaos of the Stars, Slayer, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, Illusions of Fate, and the Mind Games series.

What I like most about White is her versatility.  She started her career writing paranormal stories (Paranormalcy), moved to writing suspense thrillers with a paranormal twist (Mind Games), then wrote a feminist take on Vlad Dracul (And I Darken), looked at a famous literary character (The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein), and is now writing about Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Slayer).  And her forthcoming series is going to be about Guinevere from the legend of King Arthur.

She’s the kind of writer where, if I had a student looking for a book, I could point them toward whatever genre the liked and it would include White.  (Well, minus contemporary stuff, but it’s close.)

She has a great sense of humor, which shows through early in her writing career.  One of the funniest books I’d ever read was Paranormalcy.  Here’s a taste:

“Oh relax.” I waved my hand dismissively. “If he wanted to kill me, he already would have. I brought him all these sharp pencils, ideal for stabbing, and he’s been a perfect gentleman.”

-Kiersten White, Paranormalcy

However, her writing completely morphs into whatever character is the narrator in that particular story.  This is especially evident in the And I Darken series, where the story is told between Lada and her brother Radu, who have vastly different personalities.  Lada is extremely tough and vengeful to the point of being unfeeling.  Radu has a good heart and cares, maybe not about everyone, but he can’t stand seeing people hurt.  Lada’s outlook on life is pretty well summed up here:

“Hold hands with the devil until you are both over the bridge.
Or kill the devil and burn the bridge so no one can get to you.”

-Kiersten White, Now I Rise (book 2)

And this describes the siblings perfectly:

“Lada had always known exactly what shape she would take. She had never let it be determined by the people around her. But Radu could not escape the need for love, the need for people in his life to help him see what he should—and could—be. Lada shaped herself in spite of her environment. Radu shaped himself because of it.”

-Kiersten White, Bright I Burn (book 3)

White is always in the process of writing what seems like five things at once.  She’s lately announced she’s going to be part of an anthology retelling many of Shakespeare’s plays, where she will be redoing Romeo and Juliet.  I’m excited to see what that looks like, not just from her but from all of those involved!

And on Twitter, White is hilarious to follow.  She uses her humor and storytelling to the greatest effect to write about the bizarre things that happen in her life.  It’s a lot of great fun.

Anyway, I think she’s fantastic!  What are your favorites from her?

Help Wanted! Any Advice Will Do!

Hey everyone!  So I’ve recently been bitten by the Writing Bug and I’ve gone back to working on a story that I’ve been writing on and off for four years.  And…believe it or not…I think it’s nearly done.  I have over 50,000 words, I feel like the arc is nearly complete (I’m just filling in a few gaps and adding a few more things to the end), and I kind of want to share it with the world to see what people think.  However, I’m not interested in publishing it.  I wrote it because I wanted to and I simply want to share it.

So here’s my question:

Where does one post an original story?  Where do people look for them?

Most of my experience posting my writing (besides this blog) is about 10-12 years old and either don’t exist anymore or are too specific to a type (sorry, Leaky).

I’ve sort of thought of two possibilities: to create a blog completely devoted to the story where I post each bit weekly or whatever or Wattpad.  I’m incredibly not familiar with Wattpad, so I really don’t know the first thing about it except that a number of authors use it.

Thoughts?  If any of you read original stories online, where do you go?  Or if you post stories, all the better!  Any advice would be helpful!

***

Interested in my story?  Here’s a general synopsis of it:

Cassidy Hepburn’s life hasn’t been the same since her younger brother died two years ago.  Dealing with trauma and anxiety, she pretends to be a normal high school junior most of the time, but inside she’s broken.  With her parents constantly fighting, even home isn’t a safe place anymore.  Walking home one night, she meets Ezra Hardy and, even though he’s infuriating at times, he doesn’t see Cassidy as broken or even in need of fixing.  As their friendship grows and maybe turns into something more, will Cassidy be able to finally heal her heart?

(Contemporary YA)

(I also have ideas for at least 2 spin-offs, so I’m basically immediately starting on that as soon as I finish this.)

Top Ten Best Minor Characters (Tuesday Character Freebie!)

Hey everyone!  So this week, it’s a Top Ten Character Freebie and I thought I’d give some love to the minor characters everywhere.  We always end up paying more attention to the main characters (for obvious reasons), but sometimes those minor characters are the ones who make us laugh, give the hero the best advice, or simply make us see the world a little differently than we did before meeting them.

I mean, this could easily be a list of all Harry Potter characters, but I’m going to limit myself to just one.  Everyone else will be from a different series to spread the love.  Because we all have our ride-or-die favorites from Harry Potter, so we could get ridiculous with this.  (And in fact, I’ve already made this list before.)

So let’s get started!  These are in no particular order, just the order I thought of them in.

Top Ten Favorite Minor Characters

1. Remus Lupin (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling)

Alright, let’s just get the Harry Potter one out of the way first, since we’re all thinking about it.  The older I get, the softer my heart gets for Remus.  (Growing up, I loved Sirius because he was so fun and rebellious, but age is showing me Remus’s wisdom.)  Remus, at his core, is a gentle spirit.  He’s the best teacher Harry ever had (except perhaps McGonagall), but Remus also cares about his students.  He sees that Neville gets picked on and tries to bolster his spirits.  He worries about Harry.  He respects Hermione’s cleverness.  I mean, he’s so many awesome things and then to be discriminated because of his condition…it’s heartbreaking.  He’s so used to being a martyr that it doesn’t even phase him anymore.

2. Papa/Hans Huberman (The Book Thief by Markus Zusak)

Like, I’m going to cry.  Papa is one of my favorite characters ever, bar none.  The minute I crack open this book, I’m looking for Papa.  He’s got a kind heart, he’s quick to smile or crack a joke, and he’s so giving.  He loves Liesl from the beginning and even when he has to punish her, it breaks him a little inside.  And in the movie, Geoffrey Rush encapsulates Papa perfectly.  It’s amazing that he understood him so well.  If you didn’t fall in love with Papa by the end of the story, what kind of monster are you?

3. Tod (The Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent)

Oh, Tod.  So I know he eventually becomes a major character, but he starts off with little cameo roles in the early books.  Tod is surly, rude, and short-tempered, but we come to find out a lot of that is a cover.  He’s actually really sweet and self-sacrificing.  And as we get to know him more in the series, we see that he’s really willing to go above and beyond to protect those he loves.  I love that, along with his way with words, whether it’s a snarky joke or sincerity from the heart.

4. Rue (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins)

Isn’t Rue basically everyone’s favorite minor character from this series?  Rue is sweetness and youth and cleverness wrapped into a cute little package.  Obviously her story line is massively impactful, so everything that happens to her is devastating, but she’s so sweet you can’t help but like her.

5. Nesta (A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas)

I had a hard time settling on a character from this series.  I can’t tell you how much I love Rhys, but he’s a major character, so he didn’t count.  So I started looking through the others in their friend group and eventually I settled on Nesta.  As pretty and as prickly as a rosebush, Nesta is initially pretty hard to like.  She’s surly and cold to pretty much everyone.  But it’s interesting how her better qualities (her protectiveness, her caring) comes through in atypical ways.  She’s not going to go out and suddenly give you a hug or say she loves you, but she’ll show you another way that she cares.  And it’s fascinating.

6. Puck (The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa)

Basically the same Puck from the Shakespearean plays, this Puck is just full of nonsense and mirth.  He is the comic relief in the story while also being the one to play pranks and destroy plays of those around him.  It’s pretty funny, though he’s definitely more important than just the comedy he brings.

7. Luc (The Chicagoland Vampires series by Chloe Neill)

Again, another series I had a hard time settling on a character.  There were so many to choose from!  But Luc makes me laugh.  A former cowboy, he brings that swagger to his character and a killer sense of humor with it.  As the head of security of the House, he’s got a lot of power but also a lot of quirks that made me laugh.

8. Uncle Jeb (The Host by Stephenie Meyer)

Ok, I know this book gets a lot of crap, but I happen to love it.  And Uncle Jeb is up there on my list of all-time favorite characters.  He’s the first to show Wanda any sort of kindness, to see things from her perspective.  He cultivates this image of being paranoid and slightly crazy because it means people underestimate him a little and it gives him the freedom to do what he wants.  I really respect him.

9. Grandpa (If I Stay by Gayle Forman)

Grandpa is not a large role in the story at all, but he’s the one person who sees the reality of what’s happening to Mia and speaks the truth to her.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget the scene of him sitting by her hospital bed and talking to her.  It was the moment Mia finally felt like someone was acknowledging her situation and that moment of compassion, no matter how much is cost Grandpa, is what makes him a bright spot in this book.

10. Adrian Ivashkov (The Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead)

I know Adrian ends up getting his own series (and it’s lovely), but he’s a minor character for this series.  Adrian is impulsive and funny, which quickly got my attention.  But he’s also broken and hardened by pain.  That earned him my heart because he’s struggling so much, but he’s surviving.  Maybe not thriving, not yet, but he’s doing what he needs to to deal with his life.  There’s a lot to this character and I really am glad he ended up with his own series.  He deserved it.

Honorable Mentions: Peter (Divergent by Veronica Roth), Sirius Black (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling), Simon (City of Bones by Cassandra Clare), Lord John Grey (Voyager by Diana Gabaldon)

Who am I missing?  Let me know who some of your favorite minor characters are because I know there are so many more I’m forgetting!