Literary Musings · To Read or Not to Read?

30 Favorites: Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday. Today I turn *gasp* 30 years old. So I figured I’d make a list of my thirty favorite books, in no particular order.

1-7: The 7 books in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

8: Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley

9: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

10-12: The first 3 books in the His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers

13: Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim

14: Between by Jessica Warman

15-16: Garden Spells and First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

17: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

18: The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee

19: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

20: The Friday Society by Adreinne Kress

21: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman

22: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

23: Alienated by Melissa Landers

24: Ashfall by Mike Mullin

25: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

26: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

27: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

28: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

29: Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

30: Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley

 

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Short Stories

Strange School

Writing Prompt: Invent a school, a “not normal” school and send a character to it.

Lacy looked back and forth between the building in front of her and the address written on the slip of paper in her hand. The address on the paper matched the number on the side of the building sure enough but the address was supposed to be for her new school and she’d never seen a place that looked unless like a school. Unless all schools in Maine looked like abandoned warehouses and no one had warned her. (Lacy sincerely doubted this.)

The teen was just taking her first steps away (no way would she be going into that building, she’d decided) when the front door opened. Lacy turned back in surprise only to see a beautiful young woman standing there in the shadows.

“Are you our newest student?” the woman called out, her voice even more beautiful than her face.

Lacy took a few apprehensive steps closer to the door. “I think so” she slowly replied. “Bu is this really a school? It doesn’t look like it.”

The woman grinned. “Why don’t you come inside and find out?”

And, contrary to everything Lacy had thought when she first saw the building, she did just that.

Inside she found three long halls, one to her right, one to her left, and one straight ahead. Each hall was so long that she couldn’t see the end or even guess the actual distance, far longer than the building she’d seen from the outside could physically contain. And each hall was studded by many, many doors.

“Where do I go now?” Lacy whispered the question but it reverberated down and through the halls anyways.

“That’s your first test,” the woman’s voice spoke from just beside her but when Lacy turned the woman wasn’t there. And neither was the door she’d just entered from.

Lacy gaped at the empty wall before spinning back to the halls. She went a few steps down each to get a feel for them before returning to the middle to regroup. All the doors that she’d passed were exactly the same.

Finally she spun around and turned right, decided on her favorite number (thirteen), and counted down to the thirteenth door on her right. She opened it without hesitating.

A bright light flared before her eyes and suddenly Lacy wasn’t in the hall anymore. Instead she was in a vast meadow with lush grass and bright flowers and there was that darn woman again…

“What happened? What is this place? Will you actually give me a real answer this time?!” Lacy demanded.

The woman smiled wide. “You passed your first test by making a choice. Now you will be taught by the goddess Demeter in your further studies.”

Lacy burst out laughing. “Is this some kind of joke?”

The beautiful woman’s face twisted in anger. “This is no joke. You have god blood in your veins and it has chosen Demeter to guide you. You will learn. You will train. And you will help us to defeat the Titans who have risen again.”

Lacy fainted.

To Read or Not to Read?

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

I’ve had Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist on my radar for quite a few years now, originally because I was interested in the movie that came out in 2008. But I kept not watching the movie and I kept not reading the book until finally in August of 2017 I grabbed the book off of the library shelf, basically because I knew it was stand-alone and because it was short. And now that I’ve read it…well it didn’t take me very long to read but I still wish I had just watched the movie and been done with it.

First of all, Levithan seems to have issues with capturing the voice of a teenager. Now I’m not saying teens all have to sound stupid and use slang, etc. like a lot of authors think but Levithan takes it the other way. I’ve read four books that he’s worked on and each character sounds like a pretentious asshole who has swallowed a thesaurus and loves to hear the sound of their own voice. At least in Dash & Lily they were book nerds and I understood most of their literary references but Nick and Norah are music aficionados. I like listening to music but I don’t “get” it like they do so a lot of references went over my head.

And what was even more annoying about the tone of the narrators is that they both sounded exactly the same. Nick is a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. He’s in a band. Norah is the privileged daughter of a music exec style father. They should haven’t basically had the same voice! They were both full of themselves, first obsessed with their exes and then with each other even though the novel only takes place over the course of one evening, and they both cursed up a storm and made constant stupid references and went on and on about nothing. Considering that the book is under 200 pages there shouldn’t be rambling.

Oh and along with the rambling there’s excessive cursing. I’m okay with cursing, I’ve been known to drop an “f bomb” myself but, in my opinion, cursing should primarily be used for strong emotions and emphasis. Nick and Norah are like kids who have been told they’re never to use naughty words and so as soon as they’re on their own they use as many as they can. One of Nick’s chapters has a five sentence paragraph and the f-word is used seven times. Ridiculous.

Basically I just really hated the characters and so there was no chance that I was going to come out liking this book. They annoy me so much I can’t even think about what else I disliked about the plot, etc.

Literary Musings · To Read or Not to Read?

Harry Potter Book 6 Reread. Post 1.

Here are my thoughts on rereading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, pages 1-216.

  • I always take the dust jacket off to read a book if I can just because it makes it easier without the whole flapping of cover going on. (I kind of hate that about very large library books. I get that the cover needs to have glossy protection and not come off but sometimes that gaping flappy thing that goes on is so annoying.) Anyways…Half-Blood Prince has the best cover color combination under that dust jacket. Purple and black are so pretty together! And it’s definitely a witchy/Halloweeny color combination.
  •  I like how the last couple books start with scenes outside of Harry’s perspective. It gives us more of an idea of how the wizarding world works. In this case we get to see how the Ministry interacts with the Muggle world and then we get to see more of Snape outside of school. Very interesting.
  • Dumbledore making himself at home at the Dursleys house and trying to teach them manners is just delightful! And I’m glad Harry (and the reader) get right into the information what with the Slughorn visit which, for those of us who have read this before, ends up being particularly important.
  • This book just makes me love the Weasley twins more and the scene in their joke shop makes for some lightheartedness that the book definitely needs.
  • And Harry’s Draco Malfoy obsession continues. I mean, we end up finding out Harry’s suspicions were correct in the most part but still…stop stalking your classmates Potter. It’s weird.
  • Snape finally gets the Defense Against the Dark Arts position. I should have known something like this would happen the first time I read it since we had to make it so Harry could continue with Potions and become an Auror.
  • The Half-Blood Prince’s Potions book. Obviously a very important part of the plot line but still seems so odd that Harry just randomly does everything it says including reciting invented spells from it. And he also doesn’t recognize the handwriting (which I guess kind of make sense…I know my handwriting has changed a little over the years but he still might have made the connection) and he never thought “hey, I know someone who loves Potions and went to Hogwarts.” idiot.
  • All of the meetings with Dumbledore make this such a faster read than the last book because stuff is happening, important and interesting stuff. So good. Voldemort’s history is so fun to read about and actually makes him a more well-rounded villain.
Literary Musings

Sudden Inspiration

Inspiration can strike in the oddest of places.

Imagine you keep receiving these reminder emails that National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is just two months away. And now it’s just one month away. You know you want to try again this year even though you’ve missed the word count goals and “lost” more often than you’ve won. But there’s one problem and it’s a pretty big one.

So what’s this big problem that may ruin NaNoWriMo before it even starts?

Well that would be the fact that up until a couple of hours ago I had no ideas at all for a novel that I could write. Literally nothing. The well was dry. And when the goal is to write 50,000 words in a single month you kind of need to have some idea going into it. Thankfully I finally got one.

About two months ago I wasn’t inspired to write anything, fanfiction, blog posts, nada. And then slowly the fanfiction ideas started flowing and I went from no ideas to starting three new stories that I hope to start posting within the year. Yay! But that still wasn’t helping me with NaNo.

And then I started thinking about the sequel/remake of Hocus Pocus and how they should be doing it. Now I can’t actually turn that into a novel because of copyright and all that jazz but I had definitely decided I wanted to do a novel about witches. Then a random phrase floated through my mind. And with it, a whole novel idea.

So now onto some outlining!

Literary Musings · To Read or Not to Read?

Harry Potter Book 5 Reread. Post 1.

Though Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a massive installment in the series I’ve decided I’m just going to do a single post on the book. Mostly because it annoys me to no end. Now this doesn’t mean I hate it, it’s definitely a worthy installment in the series and gives us a fair bit of background we end up needing to know but it’s not my favorite.

So buckle up, this might be a long one. And it’s going to be all wonky and out of order. Like a stream of consciousness review.

  • I really, really hate Harry during Order of the Phoenix. Yes, he’s a teenage boy and he’s kind of channeling Voldy but it’s really annoying to read a book centering around Harry when all Harry is doing is getting angst everywhere. Aww, poor baby, everyone wants to keep you alive. But nope, you’re mad that people can’t send you important information in the mail and that you weren’t made a Prefect and blah blah blah.
  • Hermione’s not my favorite in this one either. She’s usually a strong female character but in this one all she’s doing is nagging about everyone about studying and she’s judging/making fun of Luna. Yes, you and Luna are complete opposites but how about you stop throwing shade when she’s risking her life to help you all. Also, you can be snarky to Luna but you can’t just straight up tell Harry he’s being an asshat? Honestly, she should have slapped him like she did Malfoy and maybe this would have ended better.
  • I liked that we got to see inside of a dark wizard home. I certainly wouldn’t want to stay at Grimmuald Place but I think it helps to pinpoint how strong one must be to grow up in an environment like that and not just accept the family’s darkness.
  • I approve of the addition of Tonks and Luna. We needed the levity of the two of them. Fred and George were also a joy to read.
  • Umbridge is the worst. And the fact that she tries to hide her disgusting nature behind frills and kittens just makes my skin crawl.
  • Dumbledore’s Army is the best. Honestly, Harry probably saved a lot of his classmates’ lives by teaching them so much.
  • Honestly I think Order of the Phoenix would have been better if the first third was shorter and the last third was longer. The first bit had a decent amount of information but kind of dragged in places but the last had so much information and we barely had time to process any of it.
  • I will say that even after reading this a few times my heart still pounded during the fights in the Department of Mysteries.
  • The first of many heartbreaking death scenes. Damn you JK Rowling.
To Read or Not to Read?

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

The description for One of Us Is Lying sounded like pure gold, a mix of the classic Breakfast Club all rolled together with a murder mystery. Here’s the setup:

Five very different kids walk into detention on a Monday afternoon and we quickly find that they are all there under suspicious circumstances. (Each got into trouble because they were caught with a cell phone in class. Only the phones that were confiscated weren’t any of their real phones.)

Brownwyn is the smart girl, Addy is the pretty popular one, Nate is the bad boy, and Cooper is the all-star baseball player. And then there’s Simon, the unpopular outcast who runs a gossip app.

Simon doesn’t make it out of detention alive. And then a Tumblr post comes out and makes everyone who had been in the detention room with Simon a suspect in his death.

That sounds kind of interesting, right? I thought so. I liked how there were several different points of view, one for each of the suspects, and that they actually had distinct voices (we even had a person of color and a character dealing with his/her sexuality!). And I liked how they were definitely unreliable narrators.

Then I reached the last 50 or so pages of the book and it all fell apart.

Up until that point there had been mystery and intrigue and I’d felt that pretty much any of the characters could have offed Simon. But one meeting changed all that when a side character solves it all in only two sentences of dialogue. After that there’s a brief confrontation, one character ends up trying to murder another character, and then we have an epilogue.

It was abrupt and all the loose ends were wound up far too easily after everything else that had went on. And the epilogue was all super cliche, every more so than the rest of it. It was so disappointing given how well it started and the abruptness completely ruined it for me.