Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Favorite Books of 2016

As of December 30, I've completed 177 books in 2016. Most of those were comic books and graphic novels, but I did read a full 58 novels and listened to 23 audiobooks. As always, I like to share my favorite reads from the year. Out of fairness, I'm only going to mention books that were published in 2016, otherwise my favorites list would probably be three times as long. (In addition, the book titles link to my reviews on Goodreads or on The Dancing Lawn.) There are in order of how I read them, not how I rate them.

Three Wishes by Lisa T. Bergren
I had the privilege of beta-reading Three Wishes for one of my favorite authors. Three Wishes is a new River of Time book set in a new time period and in a new location: California during the 1840s. I love historical (or time-travel) stories, so I was swept away by Three Wishes. Zara is a fantastic character. It's not my favorite book, but it was wonderful to read.

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer
Stars Above holds a special place in my bookish heart for two reasons. The first is that it brings more stories about my favorite characters from The Lunar Chronicles (so I didn't have to say goodbye so soon) and also gave a nice, happy, feels-worthy epilogue to the series. In addition, I bought this book when I went to meet Marissa Meyer, so of course it's special and magical (and signed).

Siren's Song by Mary Weber
There aren't a lot of books that can make me sob. Yes, there are a few, but mostly because tragic things occurred in the stories. (Bridge to Terabithia, anyone? Where the Red Fern Grows?) Mary Weber's Storm Siren trilogy swept me away two whole years ago with the first book. Thus, I was eager to read the final book, and it made me cry--but they were happy, glorious tears. The ending was so worth the wait, and I adore this series for everything it is. Give me more!

Season of Glory by Lisa T. Bergren
Season of Glory wrapped up the Remnants trilogy by Lisa T. Bergren. It was a heart-pounding, nail-biting book that left me satisfied and content. Until I finished the book, I didn't realize how much I adored the characters and the story. Season of Glory contains a powerful message and a lot of hope that I am grateful to have experienced.

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
Ever since I read Percy Jackson and the Olympians, I've been dragging my feet to say goodbye to the beloved characters and world of the series. I was granted a second series, The Heroes of Olympus, and thought it couldn't get better. But now, Trials of Apollo has come, and I get to experience the Percy Jackson world once more. Yes, Percy isn't around that often in this book. But other characters come and go, the concept of Greek and Roman gods grows larger, and Apollo is hilarious as a human. How can I not love this book?

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
An Ember in the Ashes ruined me. Ruined. Me. And I thought I could handle A Torch Against the Night. I was wrong. This book ruined me just as much if not more. It continues the story of Elias, Laia, and Helene in this cruel world, but it opens up a lot more than the previous book. It was a bit unexpected, which was off-putting at first, but by the end, I was sobbing and absolutely ruined. I can't wait until 2018 for the next book!

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Like Stars Above, Crooked Kingdom has a special place in my 2016 list for two reasons. It finished the Six of Crows duology, bringing me back to my favorite characters and amazing world-building and just a fantastic story. But I also had the privilege of meeting Leigh Bardugo during her tour for this book. It was amazing; she's amazing. And Crooked Kingdom exceeded all my expectations and swept me away. Plus, waffles.

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan
This book was great. No, fantastic. No, magical. It had the Rick Riordan charm and humor while educating me about Norse mythology. It was so fun! Everything about it is just wonderful. But that ending, THAT ENDING, was too much. I can't wait for the next book, and I'm not crying (okay, I'm definitely crying) and it's just going to be great. Thank you, Uncle Rick. Thank you.

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet
This was my unexpected favorite of 2016. I didn't even know it existed until my mom brought it home, and I didn't know I would care so much until I had finished it (in two sittings). It's a biography about E.B. White, but it's formatted like a crazy art journal/scrapbook with beautifully designed pages, cute notes from White himself, and many pictures of his life. I was swept away by the design and by the firm message about writing throughout the book. This book surprised me, and I think that's magical.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
You aren't going to believe me when I say I met Marissa Meyer twice in one year, are you? But it's true! I did. I had a chance to hear her speak and meet her for her Heartless tour, and both the meeting and the book were enchanting. This book was hard to read because it's about the Queen of Hearts from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland--so obviously it won't end well. But boy, did it end! The story was great, the characters were swoon-worthy, and the ending was perfect. It's not my favorite book of hers, but it adds to her collection of masterpieces.

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
Okay, so this series. Is. Amazing. I adore all the characters. I adore the world-building. I adore the plot. While the first one kind of left me a little bitter and disappointed (so much potential that just ended!), this one amplified the entire story. It was fun and exciting and clever. I loved meeting new characters and being reunited with the old. I loved the twists and turns and the suspense. And I loved the magic and the Elemental Games. And oh my gosh, I'm ruined. Again. And I need A Conjuring of Light right now. Give it to me!!!

Lumberjanes by Stevenson, Ellis, Watters, and Allen
There are several volumes of Lumberjanes that came out in previous years, but volume three came out this year, so I'm counting it. I love the Lumberjanes series. It's fun, adventurous, and magical. The characters are lovely and diverse. The adventures are hilarious and so freaking ridiculous I can't help but love it all. Basically: it's the best.

Gotham Academy by Cloonan, Fletcher, and Kerschl
The first volume of Gotham Academy left me feeling a bit confused and a little unsure, but volume two made me fall in love with the series and the characters. The story arc and the characters are becoming more and more interesting as the comic progresses, and I just love the little details and the dialogue. It's awesome.

Spider-Gwen by Latour, Rodriguez, and Visions
Spider-Gwen has quickly become a favorite comic book of mine. I love the concept of Gwen with Spider-man's powers. She's funny and relateable. I adore everything about these comics--crazy Matt Murdock, father-daughter relationship, the spider-verse, and more. Honestly, I wish they could just make Spider-Gwen into a movie or TV show and skip rebooting Peter Parker again. *sigh*

Ms. Marvel by Wilson, Miyazawa, Alphona, and Leon
I will never be tired of Ms. Marvel or Kamala Khan. She's great, and the latest volume in her series proves that. I enjoyed every moment of Kamala trying to juggle her life as she officially became an Avenger! She is a true gem to the comic book world.

Groot by Loveness and Kesinger
If I had to pick one comic book that I enjoyed the most this year, I would pick Groot. It was unexpected and magical and just amazing. There were jokes and outer space and friendship. And despite the main character only saying one thing over and over again, this comic book said a lot. I loved it.

Other bookish accomplishments
I completed 177 books.
I met two authors.
I read through the entirety of Les Miserables.
I read several Star Wars books (and they were all terrible).
I started listening to audiobooks and changed my life.
I re-read/listened to the entire A Series of Unfortunate Events.
I finished Library Wars manga series (and cried a lot). 
I hit the 100 mark for books I've reviewed on my blog.
I started reading the Sherlock Holmes books/stories/collection.

You can see my entire year in books from 2016 over on Goodreads

What are your favorite 2016 books?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Book Review: Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

As you may know, I like to write fantasy. Every time I try to write a contemporary story or that science-fiction novel dancing in my head, it doesn't happen. I always default to fantasy. Some people might say that's a bad thing and I should widen my horizon, but honestly, fantasy is my favorite and I'm sticking to it. Thus, I also love to read fantasy. The worlds, the characters, the magic--it's all fantastic. And recently, I've been introduced to fantasy that goes beyond the same-old story, the same-old world-building of medieval Europe setting, and the same-old magic systems.

Leigh Bardugo, a YA high fantasy author, knows how to do fantasy, and I love it. Her first series, The Grisha trilogy, swept me away. I loved the world, most of the characters, and the entire magic system. I was eager for more, so I was stoked to hear she was writing a second series (a fabulous duology) set in the same world but with different characters. I needed it immediately.

Fast forward to this year, and the second book was released. If I had to choose one book to my favorite 2016 release, I would choose Crooked Kingdom (though it would be hard, so many books). I loved the Six of Crows duology even more than The Grisha trilogy.

What was it about Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom that not only gave me a grand adventure to enjoy with fantastic characters but has inspired my own writing to reach beyond the same-old fantasy? Let me tell you.

1. The characters

Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom follows six unlikely heroes--actually they're thieves, assassins, and criminals--as they take on an impossible heist to not only become rich but possibly save lives. As I read Six of Crows, I couldn't find a favorite character. All six of the characters were wonderful. They had rich backstories, striking personalities, and swoon-worthy abilities. Every time I thought "This is it, this is the one I will love the most," I found myself enjoying another character just as much. I don't know if I've ever experienced a series where I loved each character equally and couldn't choose a favorite. I cared for all of them, and I wanted all of them to succeed.

2. Backstory
Speaking of characters and backstory, the way Leigh Bardugo wove the plot with the characters' backstories was truly magical. It never felt dull or awkward to be thrust suddenly into a flashback or a glimpse of something from their past. It all came together, perfectly crafted. I'm still amazed at how well she did that.

3. World-building

The Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows duology are set in a fictional world based on Russia instead of Western Europe. And I loved that it was different. The world-building is phenomenal. There is a lot of diversity and detail to every place the characters go and every country involved in the story. The Grisha trilogy had fantastic world-building as well, but I feel that Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom was a step up. It's almost as if you can tell that Leigh Bardugo has grown in her story-telling craft.

4. Diversity
Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom is chock-full of diversity across the board. But it's never done in a trite or stereotypical way. Yes, race and beliefs come into play, but it's not the focus or a plot device. It's just part of who the characters are and what this world is made of. And it's fabulous. I'm tired of diverse themes being thrown into the story to create conflict or raise the stakes; I just want characters to be diverse because that is how the world truly is. Leigh Bardugo pulls that off splendidly.

5. Plot

The plot of Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom is wild. Leigh Bardugo basically described it as "Ocean's Eleven with magic," but I think it's better than that. It's a heist story filled with the bottom-of-the-barrel (pun definitely intended) characters that suddenly becomes so much more. While The Grisha trilogy was about saving the world, this is toned down a bit--sort of. It's not so big picture, but it's about saving your own skin and maybe your city from internal destruction. And I just love that. So many stories are about saving the world or the galaxy or whatever, but sometimes, I want a story that isn't so cataclysmic. And the Six of Crows duology is that. Yes, the stakes are raised. Yes, they still have to save a large population. But it just comes across different, I guess. Plus, every element of the plot is woven together in a fantastic way that kept me guessing and kept me interested. It was amazing. I admire Leigh Bardugo's writing so much.

6. Waffles
Okay, so this isn't a serious point, obviously, but I loved it nonetheless. In Crooked Kingdom, there are several (almost a dozen) instances where the characters mention waffles or are eating waffles. And it was hilarious. Despite the more-serious tone of the books or the darker themes, there was still room for humor and fun and just good-old bonding over waffles. It made me realize that I can write stories that are serious, that point to real-life situations and problems, but that also have a ray of hope and light amidst the darkness. Whether that hope is through humorous waffle scenes or characters that care for one another, I want to write stories that resound with the same feelings Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom evoked within me.

As always, I'm sure there can be flaws nitpicked from these books. Nothing is ever perfect. But nevertheless, Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom stole a piece of my book-loving heart and gave me a grand adventure that I was able to enjoy and also learn from. That, in my opinion, makes for a wonderful story. I look forward to more by Leigh Bardugo.

No mourners. No funerals.

Why yes, I did meet Leigh Bardugo. You can read about it on The Fangirl Initiative.

What books have inspired you to make your writing better? 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Beautiful Books: November 2016

November has proven to be a busy month. I started a new project with a few friends: a high fantasy serial story called Thieves of Bakkaj. Basically, the four of us will switch off writing chapters to tell a story about a handful of heroic thieves. And it's going to be epic. The first four chapters are already available to read, and we'll be releasing a new chapter every week. Check it out and let me know what you think! (Also, I'm super stoked for you to read because this is the project Ryker and Wren are from!)

In addition, I've been rewriting and editing A Girl and Her Dragon for Nanowrimo. How is it going? Well, I'm glad you asked. This month's Beautiful Books link-up is all about mid-Nano progress! Here are the questions. Huzzah!

Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?
Surprisingly, my mental state is fine. Nanowriomo is actually the calm part of my mental state right now. Overall, it's going splendid, which is not a word I ever thought I'd use to describe the editing and rewriting process. But I'm making progress and ideas are coming together. I'm impressed with myself.

What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?
Since I'm editing/rewriting the middle of the draft, I don't have a "first sentence." Instead, I'm going to share a favorite line:

"But here, the books lived and breathed. Here the spines squabbled for space. Here the ink lifted right off the page and danced before Brielle’s eyes."

Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?
Making me pick a favorite character is like picking a favorite pet or a favorite food. It's hard. And I can't choose. Nope, no. I can't. I love them all.

The whole gang

What do you love about your novel so far?
The characters are the heart of the novel. They are guiding this story (which is great except the plot kind of just gets sidetracked at times). I just love that each character is so distinct and their own person without even being real.

Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?
I'm sure I have, but nothing significant comes to mind. Since I'm editing/rewriting, I've been looking over my "baby" draft of this novel, and oh, boy, there are tons of awkward taco scenes that should never, ever, ever see the light of day again. I'll just burn them. It's fine.

This kind of happened also.

What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?
Usually, I like to write beginnings--the thrill of a new story sweeping me away is what I live for. But since I'm rewriting, I'm actually focused on the middle of the story. And surprisingly, I'm enjoying the journey. I like putting in the conflict points and watching the story unfold as the characters grow and learn. It's amazing.

What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!
My writing habits consist of thinking of great ideas at inopportune times when I can't sit down to write, spending too much time working myself up to writing, and also writing late into the night so I'm dead tired the next morning. I don't have a specific snack to eat, but I've learned keeping water nearby is definitely good. (Who knew writing made one so thirsty?)

I've been listening mainly to the soundtrack for Stranger Things, which has been oddly motivating and conducive to focusing. My novel doesn't relate at all to the 80s-style synth music of Strange Things, but it works.

My writing space is pretty much anywhere I can sit down and write.

How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?
It depends on the person. I've been telling a few close friends about my progress, but otherwise, I'm find just barreling through this thing by myself. So maybe more like the Flash then Batman?

What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?
I guess I keep writing because I want to see how the story comes together. I want that sense of accomplishment when I finish off the draft and know I did the thing. It's also helpful to have people begging to read your story, so you're motivated to do good and not give them a messy pile of writing vomit.

What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?
1. Carve out time every day. Even if it's not necessarily writing toward a specific work or if it's only ten minutes, writing every day gets you into a habit. Habits help get things accomplished. When I don't write, I tend to slack off and then suddenly it's a month and I haven't written anything. Bad.

2. Find time to read. We all know that to be a writer you have to write a lot and read a lot. So make sure you have time to read. Sometimes we need a break from writing--it's okay to do that. Just don't binge-read an entire book series in one sitting instead of writing. Balance is key.

3. Have fun. I know, cheesy. But if you're not having fun while writing, why should you continue? Why should you write? If a story isn't working for you--if you're not having fun writing it--put it aside or toss it completely. It's okay to write something fun, that's the whole point of writing.

Tell me about your NaNoWriMo month below!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Book Review: Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

"Children can sail easily over the fence that separates reality from make-believe." -E.B. White

Sometimes I find myself so overwhelmed with a pile of books that I completely ignore the entire pile and go find something else to read. That's what happened when I read Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet.

I had plenty of other books to read, but my mom told me I should at least look at this book and put it on my list to read some day. Instead, I sat down, opened the book, and read through it all in two sittings. It was definitely worth it.

Surprisingly, I didn't know a whole lot about E.B. White's life. I knew he wrote Charlotte's Web, but I honestly didn't even know if he was a man or a woman. I had no clue he wrote Stuart Little or that it was banned from several libraries when it was released in 1945. Or that he wrote for The New Yorker and had a snarky personality or contributed to The Elements of Style (which I have either read or heard of frequently in college). I didn't know when he was born or when he died or what his life was like. The only thing I knew was that his name was printed on the cover of a book about a pig and a spider that I must have read at some point in my childhood.

So Some Writer! was a pleasant surprise for a number of reasons. The dedication to documenting this beloved children's author was astounding. There were pictures from when E.B.--known as Andy--was a baby until the last years of his life. There were letters and drawings and manuscripts of his work collected in this book. It was fascinating to see it all collected together.

In addition, the book was set up differently than most biographies. It was kind of like Melissa Sweet did an art journal of his life instead of just regular chapters and paragraphs. So there was cool backgrounds and art collages and all sorts of knick-knacks thrown across each spread. The detail of what Melissa Sweet did to bring E.B. White's history, writing, and imagination to life was touching. There were moments I paused to admire the small, intricate details she perfectly placed on the pages. (Can I please be paid to do this for an author? Because it's so cool.)

The actual narration/story of E.B. White was interesting. It, obviously, focused on the writing aspect of his life, but it also revealed details of how and where the stories came from. It was interesting to read, and I found myself easily relating to this man who was born in 1899 and died years before I was born.

It's not often that I enjoy non-fiction, but Some Writer! swept me away. It was an interesting take for a biography, especially of a man that had so much to offer the world. I want more biographies like this. And now I want to read all his children's books just like the book suggested.

Have you read anything by E.B. White? What is your favorite biography?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Audiobook Review: Star Wars The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster

Ever since Star Wars: The Force Awakens released in theaters, I've thought about reading Star Wars books again. I did a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away?) when I was young. I demolished all the Jedi Knight and Jedi Quest books. I read tons and tons of the children's Star Wars books. But there are so many. So a few months ago, I started at the beginning--the chronological beginning--and told myself I wanted to read all the books under the "Legends" heading in chronological order. It was a terrible decision, but I'm going to keep trying.

But I took a break from that list--that forever long list--and decided to read the novelization of The Force Awakens. I've been told it contains a lot of interesting scenes and bits of dialogue that weren't in the movie. (*peers around suspiciously*) But sometimes I have too many books to read. So, I checked out the audiobook from my library.

I've listened to quite a few audiobooks in the last year, and almost none of them have music of special effects. (No, the weirdo songs in A Series of Unfortunate of Events does not count!) So it was delightful to pop in the first CD and hear not only familiar Star Wars music, but special effects from the film such as BB-8 beeping or ships flying or lightsabers humming. It was brilliant. Maybe all Star Wars audiobooks are all like this and I'm just missing out.

While the writing isn't the most stellar, it was still fun to listen to (especially on an eight-hour drive). The narrator, Marc Thompson, was great. He did iconic voices fairly well but also had his own voice for the narration parts. I enjoyed his voice-acting ability.

There was a lot of moments--dialogue, scenes, etc.--that made me stop and clutch my car's steering wheel with excitement. There are things that are enlightening about this book and the theories fluttering around the Internet. I am considering reading the print version just so I can see these moments with my eyes. (And maybe take pictures or make notes or do research or something. You know, nothing huge. Or crazy. Nope. No.)

Overall, the audiobook of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was an exciting, enjoyable ride. It follows the movie, obviously, but also reveals a few other tidbits as well. I think it's worth your time if you like Star Wars as much as I do. (Which is a lot.)

Also, from here on out, I should just listen to Star Wars audiobooks instead of read them. It's much more thrilling.

Which Star Wars books are you favorite? Do you like to listen to audiobooks?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Beautiful Books: October 2016

It's taken me a while to figure out what my plan for this year's National Novel Writing Month. As a "pantser" (or if you prefer the term "gardener"), I don't plan a whole lot. I have a bunch of ideas in my head that come together and find a way to make it work together with a plot. Writing a novel for me is a long journey of discovery. Thus Nanowrimo is both good and bad. Good because it's all about writing the sloppy, first draft where I can chase rabbit trails and add new characters halfway through the story. Bad because I never know what's going to happen, which can sometimes lead to a disaster.

I wanted to start a new story this year. I've been thinking about a particular story for a while now, even telling myself all year that I'd shelve it until November. But I don't think I'm going to write it this time. I don't think I'm ready--despite being a pantser. Instead, I'm going to be a "rebel" and use my November to continue editing and rewriting A Girl and Her Dragon. (Boring, right?)

Thus Beautiful Books this month feels... repetitive. I've talked about A Girl and Her Dragon numerous times. At this point, do I really need to explain how I got my idea or what it's aesthetics are? Probably not.

So instead of doing Beautiful Books for A Girl and Her Dragon, I'm going to do it for the story I wish I could write but know I'm not ready to. The novel I'm shelving once more in order to stick to editing and rewriting. It's affectionately dubbed The Superhero Novel. (I know, it's so original and creative.)

1. What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
A few things inspired this novel: my adoration for superheroes (comics and movies and television shows) and the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan. I know what you're thinking: "Jaime, what does Percy Jackson and superheroes have to do with one another?"

Well, you see, the concept of the Percy Jackson books is this: what if demigods--children of the Greek gods--existed in our world today? Thus we get Percy Jackson and the rest of the Camp Half-Blood campers fighting monsters of mythology and completing quests like the ancient legends.

So what if the famous superheroes had children? What would those children do? Would they be heroes or villains? Would they get a choice? How would they feel about their parents being famous and in the public eye? How would they deal with their powers?

I know, you're probably thinking: "Wait! That's been done before. Disney had a film about the children of superheroes that went to a superhero school, Sky High!"

You're right. Disney did do that. But that's not what I'm doing. Disney made up superheroes for that. Will was the son of the Commander and Jetstream, two superheroes that only exist within that film. No, instead, I want to use the superheroes people know and love. I want to know what Bruce Wayne's daughter would be like or how Captain America's son would view the world. I want to use a conglomeration of comic book heroes and villains the world knows and loves.*

(*I realize this sounds a lot like fanfiction. Maybe it is. And maybe it's breaching several copyright laws. I'm a pantser, remember? Things often change while writing and editing.)

2. Describe what your novel is about!
J.J. [last name withheld until files are made public] learns she's the daughter of a famous superhero--superheroes that should only exist in comic books and the movies--after a security breach threatens the lives of several superhero children. She's taken to a secret base where she meets other superhero children and undergoes training for her non-existent powers. Someone, however, is targeting them from within the base--and J.J. doesn't know who to trust. Not even herself.

3. What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

Pretty much.

4. Introduce us to each of your characters!
All Records compiled by [name withheld]
J.J. [last name withheld]
Age: 17
Powers: N/A
Other traits: quiet, loves to read, has an affinity for remembering historical events

Picture her with shorter hair. 

Kal Kent
Age: 17 by Earth's standards
Powers: flight, enhanced strength, super snark
Other traits: loves the ladies, likes to make jokes at inappropriate times, also likes dogs and pizza

Kal's resting face is a smirk 

Willa Cage
Age: 19
Powers: Unavailable
Other traits: her hair is amazing, she likes to sing

Willa with her half-brother.

Brett Wayne
Age: 17
Powers: None
Other traits: Martial Arts training, observes everything, she always looks angry? No, really, she's glaring at me as I type this up.

Brett likes to frequently change her hair color.

[name withheld]
Age: 23
Powers: None, though I'm a wizard at technology
Other traits: Yeah, right. I'm not telling you.

[picture withheld]

I have several other characters like a kid who thinks he's Loki but isn't (basically, a young, hipster Loki wandering around), the director of the secret group (shhh, secrets), and a league of super villains who are all females (except for their secretary who is a sassy guy named Stanley).

Number Three, Number Four, Number One, Number Two, and Stanley

5. How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)
Howl. Stock up on chocolate and then immediately eat all of it. Mope around the house with a sore throat and upset stomach. Write down ideas that come beforehand so I don't lose them. More howling.

6. What are you most looking forward to about this novel?
Whenever I get around to writing this, I'm looking forward to how all the superhero children interact. They all come from different places with difference parents and different standards. It'll be interesting to see how they work together. I'm also stoked to flesh out the super villains. Because they're awesome, right? And to find out who the mole is. And who J.J. belongs to.

7. List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

8. What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
At the beginning, J.J.'s goal is to just figure out what in the world is happening. Who is she? Who is her parent? Why is she there? But as the story progresses and she starts to learn who she is, her goal is to figure out where she belongs: with the heroes or the villains. She also wants to live up to the standards of being a superhero's child. Most of what stands in her way is herself, but her new teammates and the allure of the villains will create conflict as well.

9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
I think she becomes more confident in who she is--not necessarily just as the child of a superhero, but as the kind of person she is and wants to aspire to be. Since I haven't written it yet, it's hard to know, but I think she changes for the better.

10. What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?
I think there will be a lot of themes of finding identity and this sense of belonging to a family/team throughout the novel. I want my readers to feel the same as they would after watching a Marvel movie--when the heroes have saved the day but also learned something about themselves, the world, or humanity. I want there to be hope and confidence and just an overall sense that the world can truly be a better place. We just have to be willing to save it.

(Wow, that got deep real fast.)

What are your plans for November? Did you participate in Beautiful Books?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Tolkien Lover Book Tag

This really cool person named Kristen runs a writer's advice (?!?) website and also her own personal blog! And she decided to make her own book lover's tag all about... Tolkien!

Basically, I saw her post, cried a lot, and knew deep in my hobbit heart I would participate. Because I love Tolkien and Middle-earth and the whole shebang. So basically, she presented a set of questions about Tolkien, answered them, and then challenged us (her readers) to complete the tag and spread the word faster than the Nazgul fly (or something).

How this works: I will answer the questions (and link back to Kristen's original post) and then tag a few people to also answer the questions and link back to me and Kristen. Got it? Good.

So here I am, ready to take the hobbits to Isengard (Isengard-gard-gard-gard). Well, not really because I don't want them to end up in Saruman's clutches. Maybe we'll just take a long walk to the Lonely Mountain or maybe just down to the Green Dragon for a pint.


1. The Lord of the Rings is Tolkien's most famous work. But did you read the books or see the movies first? What are your opinions on each?

When I was about nine, my brother challenged me to read The Hobbit within a year (because I had boasted that the book wasn't that long). I didn't win that challenge. I may have started the book, but I know I never finished it within that year. So technically, I saw the movies first (especially since I didn't read Lord of the Rings before the movies). I do remember watching a VHS copy of The Fellowship of the Ring and hiding behind the couch whenever Gollum shows up in Moria. He was terrifying.

Overall, I adore the books and I enjoy the movies. Okay, I more than enjoy the movies. I love them. While there are things from the books I wish they could have included (the Battle for the Shire, Glorfindel) or done differently (well, there's a lot), I think the movies did a fantastic job bringing the story to life and introducing it to people who otherwise wouldn't have read the books. Every time I read the books again, I discover something new; it's marvelous.

It's kind of been a crux of my childhood and journey as writer.

Basically my life

2. Who is your favorite member of The Fellowship? Does this person differ from your favorite Lord of the Rings character in general?

Samwise Gamgee. He is, and always will be, my favorite character. But I adore so many members of the Fellowship for different reasons. (It's so difficult to choose!) But Sam is just a sweetheart and loyal to a fault. He's probably also my favorite character overall (I cry about him often), but again, there are other awesomazing characters like Eowyn and Faramir and Galadriel.

3. Now for some fun! If you could be any character from The Hobbit, which would you be and why?

If I could be anybody, I would want to be Eowyn. (Fun fact: My dad tried twice to convince my mom to name one of their children Eowyn. Just think, that could have been my name!) Eowyn is awesome. She's regarded as one of the greatest female characters ever (at least, I think she is). She kicks butt and also learns a deep lesson about war, while keeping true to herself.

There is also this scene...

But if we're going to be honest, I'm 100% Bilbo Baggins. (Sneaks around the house, refuses to answer the door, eats a lot of food, wants adventure but also to stay home with books and comfort and food. But mountains, Gandalf! Mountains!)

Actual footage of me

Unless I'm with a close friend. Then we totally turn into Merry (me) and Pippin (her).

Shenanigans and all 

4. Tolkien's work goes beyond The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Have you ever read any of his other books? How about books about Tolkien?

I have read The Silmarillion, which was fantastic, and The Children of Hurin. I also have a book called Letters from Father Christmas, which is a compilation of photocopied letters he wrote for his children as if they were from Santa. It's adorably weird. That's all I can say. I have several of his other works (Unifinished Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight), but I have yet to read them in completion. I have a single shelf on one of my bookcases dedicated to Tolkien and Lewis (with a little bit of George MacDonald thrown in).

I really want to read his version of Beowulf and The Fall of Arthur. Basically, anything he wrote.

I've read a few books here and there about him because I took a class on Tolkien and Lewis and I wrote several essays in college about him (one specifically on his creation of Elvish). But I'm definitely interesting in reading more about him.

5. Let's talk romance! Pooling from all of Tolkien's work, which two characters do you ship together most?

Gollum and the Ring? (Just kidding.)


I mean, I pretty much love all the couples that are canon already. I didn't really have a choice in deciding who I thought should end up with who. Beren and Luthien's story is beautiful. Arwen and Aragorn are gorgeous. Faramir and Eowyn are perfect. And Sam and Rosie are just so stinking adorable I can't even handle it. I ship them all.

(But sorry, best BROTP is Legolas and Gimli.)

6. Alright, alright. We all have at least one thing from Tolkien's work that makes us waaaay too giddy and excited. Something that we could talk about for days. What's yours?

I just love all the little bits about how Tolkien developed Middle-earth and the story. Like how when he started he knew about Tom Bombadil, but Aragorn was a shock. Or that he had inklings (pun intended) of areas of Middle-earth but not the whole picture.

And the fact that any of this even exists is because Tolkien loved words and languages and created his own language (Elvish) and decided to create a world and people to speak the language!!! WHO DOES THAT? Who creates a language and then decides to create a world to speak that language? Shouldn't it be the other way around? Not if you're name is John Ronald Reul Tolkien.

The Challenge:

-Kristen @ Coffee and Literary Rage
-Victoria @ Wanderer's Pen
-Jameson @ Lovely Whatsoevers
-Sarah @ On Another Note
-Anna @ If you ever get a blog, you fool of a Took! :D

Also don't forget, tea is a four. Don't bother knocking!