It’s Nearly That Time of Year…NaNoWriMo!

Hey guys!  I wanted to give you a little update here.

I think I’m going to do NaNoWriMo this year.

Am I insane?  Probably.  I tried this twice in college, once with a story that I actually had to turn in for a class (so it wasn’t *technically* NaNo, but still) and another a few months (that was *actually* NaNo).  The first one I finished simply because I had to, but I remember the extreme stress I was under that month, trying to finish the story in time to meet my deadline.  I was a bit more chill the second time, when it was for NaNo, but I also didn’t finish.  I fell off shortly before Thanksgiving.

But here was part of the reason I fell off (besides the time issue): I didn’t really do any prep.  I mean, sure, I had character names figured out and I had somewhat outlined my story, but I tend to be a bit of a “pantzer”, writing by the seat of my pants.  I like discovering the story as I go, but that also means that it goes off track pretty quickly too.  And I don’t really want to do that.

So this year, I’m doing my prep work.  I found some articles online with character development questions so that I can get to know my characters a little better.  And that has been really helpful.  I have a basic story outline, but I should probably flesh that out a little more before Tuesday, but I’ll get there.

I’m interested to see how this goes.  I really like my story idea (which I’ll share below) and I’ve finally (I think) settled on names that I like and character personalities.  I want to see how exactly these two get along because I think there’s going to be an interesting clash of personalities.  They’re both so different, but they have key similarities and I think that’ll bring out some really cool scenes.

This does probably mean that my reading time is going to be cut down even more than it already is.  So reviews could be even more rare, but I’m hoping to give you NaNo updates and encouragement, for those of you doing NaNo.  Maybe that’s a good trade-off?

So about my story.

I started toying around with this idea last year when I read a story about colonial America and how those Americans interacted with the Native Americans/reading the later books in the Outlander series/the Pocahontas song “Savages”.  (There were a lot of influences.)

This is a story told in alternating perspectives (I tend to have an easier time writing those) between a girl in a peaceful tribe and a boy in a warrior tribe (think Spartans).  [Ancient Greece may also be an influence.]  When the warrior tribe invades the peaceful tribe seeking retribution for a past wrong, the boy is confronted with uncomfortable realities of war and the girl is tossed into a culture completely foreign to her own.  Together, they question what they thought they knew and the identities they thought they had.

I’m not sold on whether I want this to be a romance or not.  Right now, I don’t see it being one, but we’ll see, I guess.  Maybe they’ll have better chemistry than I think they will.  I just really like this idea of throwing someone into a foreign culture, like pulling the rug out from underneath them and dealing with the prejudices that come on both sides of that.

I’m just a little worried because I don’t really know a lot of specifics about Native American culture (though I have tried to learn), so I fear I’ll spend a lot of time worrying about that.  I tend to be an “edit as I go” person, so 30-40 pages in I start worrying about things that don’t quite make sense anymore instead of writing new material.  Hopefully I can curb that this time around.

Anyone else doing NaNo?  What are your projects?  I’m all about supporting each other so feel free to fill me in!  Good luck!  🙂

~Holly

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Top Ten Tuesday: Scary Books on My TBR Pile

Hey guys!  So this week’s Top Ten is all about Halloween and while the main topic is actually scary books to get you in the mood for Halloween, I feel like I did that a few weeks back with my ghost books.  Instead, I thought I’d look at books on my TBR pile and check out some of the scary dudes there!

toptentuesdayTop Ten Scary Books on my TBR Pile

1. The Shining by Stephen King

What would a list of scary books be without Stephen King?  I’ve been pressured to read this since my family went to the Stanley Hotel in Colorado (the place that inspired this book), but I keep putting it off.  Stephen King can sometimes scare the pants off of me and I’m rarely in the mood for that.

2. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson is a champ at twisting stories beneath you until you go from having a little inkling of something being wrong to suddenly being embroiled in trouble.  I feel like this book could do that too.

3. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Another classic that I’ve always meant to get around to reading but haven’t yet.  But I have recently discovered that I like Stevenson’s writing style, so maybe this’ll happen sooner rather than later.

4. Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender

Now, I don’t know a ton about this book, but based on the description it sounds like possessions/poltergeists.  Which are creepy.

5. Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts

This book is about how after an earthquake people wake up with all this rage inside of them–and many of them can’t handle it.  Reminds me of the free-for-all that The Purge is.

6. Ripper by Stefan Petrucha

Oh, Jack the Ripper.  His crimes are gruesome and violent.  And for some reason I still find myself drawn to him over and over.  What does this say about me?

7. Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Think an updated, modern version of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.  Bunch of teens go to an island for a party and then they start getting picked off one by one.

8. Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano

Serial killer story with a little bit of a paranormal twist.  To me, serial killers are some of the scariest books I can read.

9. Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick did a nice job making Black Ice a creepy, suspenseful read, so I have high hopes about this one about a girl in the witness protection program.  I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

10. Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey

Probably this book will creep me out and fascinate me the most.  It’s nonfiction (as much as a book about ghosts can be nonfiction) as he travels the country and visits haunted hotels, houses, prisons, etc. and looks at their dark histories.  Because you know what’s creepier than a ghost story?  Knowing the history behind it all and the very horrible–and real–atrocities some people lived and died through.

Riders (Riders, #1)

51whxqrej2l-_sx331_bo1204203200_First Lines: When I open my eyes, all I see is darkness.  Can’t move…can’t speak…can’t think through this jaw-grinding headache.

On a recent run to the library, I loaded up on a number of YA books I’ve been meaning to read for some time.  A couple were new, a couple were older.  This was one I was like, “Eh, I like Rossi as an author and this has been on my list a while.  Let’s go.”  Besides, I can’t say I’ve ever read a Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse story before.

Gideon’s only goal for the last year has been to be a US Army Ranger, but everything changed in a moment.  Recovering from an accident that definitely killed him, Gideon finds that he has bizarre new powers and a metal cuff that appeared on his arm.  His death has turned him into War, one of the four horsemen.  Over the next few weeks, he joins forces with the other horsemen, Conquest, Famine, and Death, as well as the girl who brought them all together to stop an evil intent on destroying the world.  But they fail.  Now, bloodied, bound, and drugged, Gideon is being interrogated by the authorities in what has turned into an international incident.  To save his friends and the girl he likes–and, you know, the planet–he needs to convince government officials that the world is in danger.  But will they believe him?

Let’s start with this: this is a very unique story.  Not just with the whole four horsemen thing (although that is definitely cool), but even the chronology of the story is different.  We get the story kind of backward because it’s told through Gideon’s recollections rather than in actual chronological order.  So it gets interrupted sometimes and a few times Gideon kind of spoils what happens because, well, he knows what happened and he just hasn’t told us yet.  Yeah, it sometimes makes it a little harder to follow the story, but it was also a unique way of telling it all.  And I kind of liked it.

I also liked getting to know all of the horsemen, though I will add that I didn’t think they all got fully developed.  They all have a background that we get to know and they all have unique personalities to help them stand out against each other, but I didn’t really feel like we got to know any of them really well besides Gideon.  But in a way, this didn’t really bother me.  Gideon, for one, isn’t exactly the most observant character when it comes to human qualities.  He’s very drawn into himself and coldly observing what is going on so he can react and take action when needed.  It’s part of who he is.  So it sort of made sense that we didn’t know these characters as well as we would like because even he doesn’t really know them.  And besides, the story doesn’t exactly revolve around all four of them.  Gideon’s the one telling the story, so it’s mostly about him.

But I did really like how his character was developed.  Gideon is a very angry person (*cough* War *cough*), but there’s a reason for it.  And it was really cool to see how his past tinged everything that happened and who he is.  But really the coolest part is his military background because that sets him apart from a lot of other narrators.  It makes him methodical and emotionless while also showcasing how smart and kind he can be.  It was a really interesting combination and I was drawn into it.

The action of this was pretty good, though it took a while to really get rolling.  With the strange narration being told in reverse and the lack of action, it took me a few days to really sit down and start reading this.  I kept putting it off in favor of doing other things.  There were some moments that felt jolting, but mostly it was ok.

Overall, I thought this was definitely one of the more unique stories I’ve read this year, even if it had a few minor issues.

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I’d Name a Child After

Hey guys!  It’s Tuesday, so that means a new list!  I thought this one was really interesting because of how drawn I am to character names.  And really, there are always characters that we admire and look up to.  I’d love to name someone (at least a dog or a fish) after these characters, but I like these enough to consider naming a child one of these as well.  I always play fair, so I split it down the middle between boy and girl names.  Enjoy!

toptentuesdayTop Ten Characters I’d Name a Child After

1. Henry – The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

I have been in love with this name–and this character–for years.  When I saw this topic, this was the first name I thought of.  Henry is a classic name, and this character is the silent-but-strong type.  I love it.

2. Tobias – Divergent by Veronica Roth

I’m going to bet this name shows up on a lot of lists this week.  It’s strong and comes paired with a very sexy namesake.

3. Rhys – A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

This is probably the weirdest name of the bunch, but I’ve always been drawn to the name Rhys/Reese/Reece.  Rhys’s character is very similar to that of Henry above, so it’s no wonder I fell in love with him too.

4. Owen – Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

One of my earliest book crushes.  Owen stole my heart and helped me fall in love with this name.

5. Jem – Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

I think I prefer this with the given name of Jeremiah (which is Jem’s given name, right?  It’s been a while since I’ve read this), but the nickname of Jem is cute.

6. Lily – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

As much as I want to name someone after Hermione, I can’t do it.  It’s too odd of a name for me.  So I’m going with the more classic Lily after Harry’s mother.  She’s a great role model as well, smart and kind.

7. Pippa – A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

I remember being in 7th grade and wanting to name a girl Pippa because of this series.  Not that I don’t also like the name Gemma–because I do–but Pippa was my first love when it came to names.

8. Aurora “Rory” – The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

I love how strong the name Rory sounds, but with the beauty of Aurora to be its base.  And this character is so strong and funny.  (While I know this is all fun and games here, this is one I’m legitimately considering for a child.)

9. Juliette – Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

I love the name Juliet (thank you Shakespeare!), but Mafi’s character takes it to a new level…and not just with the French ending.  Juliette is strength and beauty.  (Are you noticing a trend yet with my strong-but-pretty names that have a classic edge to them?)

10. Liesel – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

100%, this is going to be a middle name for a girl that I have.  Whether it’s Liesel from this, perhaps my favorite book, or from The Sound of Music, in which I starred as Liesl in high school, this name means the world to me.  And it harkens back to my family’s German roots.

Introversion and Family Get-Togethers

Hey guys!  I think what I’d like to do occasionally is do a piece on being introverted and how that impacts my life because, well, there are a lot of us out there and many of us think we’re alone in these moments.  We’re not.  So, if you’d like to feel like part of the club, read on!

As you (probably) already know, introverts tend to not do well in large crowds.  I say “tend to” because there are actually times I like being in large groups.  I love concerts.  I love teaching.  And I especially love my big, wacky family.

There are over 40 of us aunts, uncles, cousins, and spouses on my mom’s side.  Yes, over 40.  My mom is one of 6 and I have 16 cousins on that side.  Now, add in the fact that many of us are getting old enough to marry and have kids, this clan is growing quickly.  And I love them, I really do.  But goodness, is it starting to get trying.

This weekend, we had our annual fall party.  It started years and years ago as a Halloween party, but when we got too old for costumes that part fell away and it’s basically just been a fall party ever since.  We do a final cook-out of the year, no matter what the weather is, and have fun talking and eating and watching football.  (We’re big on football.)

But for some reason, this year is particularly exhausting for me.  And I think I nailed it down: politics.  I am HUGE on conflict avoidance.  I don’t want to be in the middle of an argument and if I even suspect that you might disagree with me, I will withhold all of my opinions to keep from fanning the flames.  And with this political climate right now, I’m doing a lot of debate dodging.  I practically plug my ears and trill “la-la-la-la.”

At this party, no one really came out and said which presidential candidate they were supporting, which is just fine with me.  I’d rather not know.  But my slightly-redneck family still found ways to bring it up.  Racial charged language, courtesy of one of my more controversial cousins (there’s one in every family).  Senate candidate ads on TV that interrupted our football game and therefore became a topic of conversation.

Even worse, family politics became a topic of conversation.  My mom and her sisters tend to be somewhat high-drama, in that her youngest sister and sister-in-law didn’t bring enough food today and relied on the older sisters to bail them out.  I have cousins that dislike some of my aunts and uncles and I get dragged into that.  I have cousins (who are siblings) who actually beat on each other because the older one thinks it’s funny.  As an introvert and a bleeding heart, I just can’t get in the middle of this.  While my curiosity usually makes me want to find out what’s going on, I really don’t need to hear all the complaints about this aunt or that cousin.  Because, of course, they smile to each others’ faces and pretend nothing is amiss.  I can’t pretend that well.

Oh, and you know what the worst part of a family gathering is?  The conversations.  It’s always the same questions.  “How’s school?”  “Are you dating anyone?” and “What’s new?”  And once you get through those questions, there is literally nothing anyone knows to ask you next.  I feel completely antisocial if I don’t at least make an attempt to start a conversation, but then I feel so scared to throw a question out there in case it offends someone or makes me seem nosy.  I mean, this is my family.  I don’t want them to go home thinking, “Wow, what’s wrong with Holly?  She was a real witch today.”  Which is kind of dumb because A) they’re my family and know that I’ve been like this forever and B) I really shouldn’t care what they think.  But I also know how my parents and brothers talk about my extended family at home, so I am worried about this.

And on the flip side, I’m disappointed when I get left out of  discussions or jokes.  I do tend to be an observer at times, listening in on other conversations.  I mean yeah, I feel like a creeper when I do it, but I’m not the only one who does.  Plenty of my other cousins do that too.  It actually feels like a high school cafeteria at times, with all of us breaking off to eat with our own cliques.  The “cool aunts/uncles”, the “millennials”, the “kids”, and the “rednecks.”  We’re all in our own little space, and yet we frequently don’t know how to talk to each other.  It kind of weirds me out.

When I got home, I was tense and exhausted.  Normally I’m not this tense from these, but it’s getting worse.  (I think part of the problem is that nearly all of my cousins my age are settling down and having kids whereas I’m a lone rose in a barren field.)  But this is seriously tiring me out and I’m worried about how the holidays are going to be this year.  Thankfully, the election will be over before I see my family again, so maybe that’ll help?  We’ll see.

In the meantime, introverts unite!  Separately, of course.

~Holly

A Week of Mondays

28958920First Lines: When my phone chimes with a text message on Monday morning, I’m still in that dreamy state between sleep and awake where you can pretty much convince yourself of anything.  Like that a teen Mick Jagger is waiting in your driveway to take you to school.

On one of my latest library runs, I picked up this book in the hopes that it would be a nice change of pace from everything else I’ve been reading lately.  It’s been on my to-read list for a while, but I was really excited to see what it was actually going to be like.

After the worst Monday in the history of ever, Ellie just wants a do-over.  I mean, can a day really get any worse than bombing a history quiz, giving the worst election speech ever, looking like a drowned rat in her junior photo, and having her boyfriend break up with her?  Nope.  So she makes a wish to redo it all.  When Ellie’s wish comes true, she knows what she has to do: keep her boyfriend, Tristan, from breaking up with her.  But no matter how many do-overs she gets, Tristan still seems determined to end things.  Will Ellie ever figure out how to fix her relationship or will she be stuck on Monday forever?

(I’m just going to say this now: this book reminded me an awful lot of that Supernatural episode about Tuesdays, “Mystery Spot,” except with a lot less death.  Ok, moving on.)

I have this weird relationship with books that have characters reliving the same day over and over.  The premise always sounds amazing.  Always.  But then when I start reading the book, I get bored fast.  You’d think I’d learn.

At the beginning of the book, I didn’t really like Ellie.  She seemed too self-absorbed and over-achieving.  She’s easily that person who has no free minute to herself because she’s involved in 20 extracurriculars, but claims that she actually likes it that way when she’s really just tearing herself apart.  I had a really tough time finding something about her to connect to.  And I tended to roll my eyes at times because she’s overly dramatic and claims she isn’t.

However, I did come to like her quirks.  She listens almost exclusively to 60s music and she’s always dreamed of a romantic carnival date.  I mean, not that current teenagers necessarily do either of these, but these quirks made her seem more real.

Finally by just over half the book, I warmed up to Ellie.  By the 4th or 5th Monday, she’s starting to flounder.  You could see the toll of reliving the same day over and over with no one remembering anything having emotional repercussions on her.  And that definitely helped me find some sympathy for her.  (In a way, it even reminded me of like the reverse of 50 First Dates, the way that Adam Sandler has to keep telling Drew Barrymore over and over what’s happened that she doesn’t remember.)

Around the middle of the book, I actually considered putting it down.  It fell into one of my least favorite cliches: How To Keep Your Man Advice.  In this book, they were called Girl Commandments.  It was stupid advice like “be mysterious” and “don’t return his texts right away; make him wait.”  Ok, maybe that kind of stuff works at the beginning of a relationship, but think about Ellie’s position: five months into a relationship suddenly on the rocks.  No.  You can’t suddenly start ignoring texts and answering questions with questions.  Seriously, that makes it look like you’re hiding a cheating scandal or something, not being all cute and mysterious.  Plus, that advice I think only works for certain people.  Above all, you should be yourself and if you’re not comfortable doing that, it’s not the right relationship.  That’s my stance, so books that keep perpetuating this other stuff gets on my nerves.

However, in the name of full-but-spoiler-free disclosure, Ellie does start to come around to my way of thinking.  So by the end, I wasn’t as angry about this cliche as I was earlier.

Honestly, this story doesn’t break any new ground.  Stories that have characters reliving the same day usually follow the same pattern.  The character goes through confusion, excitement, anger, sadness, and acceptance in some way or form.  You can pretty well peg how this story is going to go, even if you can’t figure out all the specifics ahead of time.  And I’m not saying this is a bad thing.  Just be prepared, if you’re looking for something new and exciting.

Overall, it’s kind of a quirky story.  It took me a while to warm up to it, but I eventually started to enjoy myself.

Like a River Glorious (The Gold Seer Trilogy, #2)

f16_likerivergloriousFirst Lines: Sunrise comes late to California.  Even when golden light washes the sky, and the snow-tipped peaks of the Sierra Nevada glow pink as winter roses, we remain in shadow for a spell, dwarfed by the slope of the land.

There’s always something about Rae Carson that draws me back.  After devouring The Girl of Fire and Thorns series, I’ve had to wait patiently for each new Gold Seer book.  But I do keep coming back.  And I’ll explain that more below.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Finally in California territory, Leah Westfall and her friends are ready to settle down and make their fortunes in gold.  Of course, Lee’s abilities make this easier than for other settles hoping to strike it rich.  But while Lee just wants the chance to start over, Uncle Hiram isn’t ready to let go of the one person who could make him as rich as Midas.  Kidnapping and sabotage are the least of what he’s willing to do to keep Lee under his thumb.  His mine is the deepest and one of the most dangerous in the territory, but it’s there that Lee truly learns the meaning of friendship, the full extent of her powers, and the depth of the evil inside her uncle.  To save everyone she loves, Lee just might have to give up that which is most important to her: her freedom.

For those of you familiar with Carson’s writing style, I found this to be very typical of what she’s written before.  The plot isn’t full of action and plot twists, but it always manages to keep you invested in the characters and what is happening.  I hesitate to call it slow because that’s really not the truth, but it’s not always going to throw fight scenes and such at you.  I like that it spent time developing the characters through those slower scenes.  Also, there’s a slow-as-a-moving-glacier romance.  But again, I’m kind of used to that from Carson and it makes sense for the characters.  Nothing about it felt forced or contrived, so it worked.

I really like the focus on the 1849 California Gold Rush because it’s a time that is often overlooked in historical fictions for some reason, even though it’s full of unsavory characters, danger, and fascinating historical tidbits.  Carson does a nice job of making the time period feel realistic and as though we’re actually there.  (That goes for the setting as well.  I’ve never been to California, especially a California full of wilderness, so she did a great job creating that world.)

I said this with the last book and I’ll say it again.  I know this technically qualifies as a historical fantasy, but I swear that the fantasy is really no big deal.  Like, it’s definitely a driver for the plot, but as for how often it shows up in the story?  It’s remarkably little, I feel like.  It’s more historical than anything else.

Oh, and I definitely adore the characters.  Lee has grown on me.  (I didn’t like her so much in the first book.)  But it’s the minor characters (Jefferson, Becky, Major, Jasper, Henry, Tom, etc.) who have completely won me over.  The character development in this book is fantastic because they all feel unique and real.  They all have little moments to shine.

Depending on your temperament and personality, this next bit may be a make-or-break moment.  This book left me hopping mad.  I mean, spitting nails and breathing fire angry.  Part of that is my personality.  To avoid spoilers, I can’t go too far into it.  But let’s just say that when civil liberties are brought into question (yes, even in 1849), I tend to have a very quick and very fiery reaction.  I understand that it was a different time, historically, but it doesn’t stop me from being angered by it.  I spent at least a third of the book fired up over this.

I read a couple of reviews after I finished this that kind of make sense, so I think they’re worth repeating.  One review mentioned how the plot of this book is virtually the same as the previous book.  And that’s true.  It’s all about trying to escape Uncle Hiram’s grasp.  The other point is that there are historical inaccuracies when it comes to the treatment of Native Americans in this book.  And that’s because history is way worse than this book portrayed it.

Overall, this book will throw some weird things your way, but it’s really good.  You’ll quickly become invested in the characters and the action will always keep you guessing.  Surprises are a frequent occurrence.