CARRY ON by Rainbow Rowell

img_6809.jpgI try not to pick favorite books; to me, that seems a lot like picking a favorite child. But contrary to the previous statement, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is my new favorite book.

Carry On is only the second Rainbow Rowell novel I’ve read, the first being Eleanor and Park. I enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t very memorable for me, so I never went on to read any of her others until now.

That being said, I haven’t read Fangirl yet, but I will definitely seek it out after reading this book. The story of Carry On is based on a story mentioned in Fangirl, and while it would have been relevant  background information to have when going into this book, I’m glad I’m reading them in the order that I am. It was interesting for me to go into Carry On knowing nothing about it, and therefore having nothing to bias my enjoyment of the story.

Rowell’s writing goes back and forth a lot between character perspectives, which is usually something that bothers me (and reminds me a little too much of actual fanfiction), but I felt it worked well for the book. I loved the way the perspective changed between Simon and Baz, allowing a look into both of their feelings. (I especially loved Baz, he might be my favorite character of all time.)

The story bears a lot of similarities to Harry Potter as far as the basic idea goes: an orphan boy who doesn’t know he is magic is thrown into a world where he is their “Chosen One,” and attends a boarding school where he takes magical classes. While this may seem like the same storyline, I was surprised and delighted to find that once you get past the basic setup the similarities end and Carry On takes on its own unique identity.

The characters in this story are unique and easy to fall in love with (did I mention that I love Baz?). Simon and Baz start off as roommates who are constantly dreaming of ways to kill each other, but the way their relationship evolves and their true feelings are revealed is unlike any other story I’ve ever read. The emotions were real and beautiful, and I’m probably going to read this book about ten more time just for Simon and Baz.

The only criticism I have of this book is that their should have been more. More pages, more chapters, more books. There is nothing I want more than a sequel to this book (Rainbow Rowell if you are reading this, please). I’ve read a few things that make a second book sound like a possibility, but I haven’t been able to find anything confirmed, so all there’s left to do is hope.

Overall, Carry On was one of the sweetest, funniest, and most heartwarming books I’ve ever read, and I would highly recommend this book to absolutely anyone. Don’t ask questions, just read it.

5 Stars

I’d love to hear what you thought of the book, or what you think I should read next!

Happy reading!



Nanowrimo: Week One Update

Nanowrimo Week One Update

Today marks the end of the first full week of NaNoWriMo, and I can think of one word to describe my experience so far: painful.

It’s day seven, and my current word count stands at 13,444 (the par for the day is 11,666, so I am a little bit ahead of schedule). I’ve made it my personal goal to go a little above the expected 1,667 words per day and shoot for 2,000 instead, which has been working well for me so far.

However, I feel my creativity is running out: I only have 556 words left to write for today, but I’m using any excuse I can find to avoid writing. I’ve already thought about quitting a few too many times, but so far I am still pushing through. But those 2,000 words are feeling like more and more every day, and where it took me only about an hour to finish for the first couple of days, it now takes me significantly longer.

Obviously, it isn’t an issue of the writing itself, because here I am, probably writing more words than I need for the rest of the day in this blog post. But as far as my story goes, I feel like it is a constant and difficult effort to keep the story on track while also keeping it from becoming boring. 2,000 words isn’t a lot, but it’s starting to feel like it when paired with my lack of inspiration.

That being said, I have no plans to give up. I will be writing those last 556 words for today, and another 2,000 tomorrow and for the rest of November. The idea is daunting and I’m trying not to think about it, but I’m grateful to have this blog to keep me on track and accountable for my progress.

As you may know, this is my first year participating in NaNoWriMo, so I don’t exactly know what to expect from here. Will it get better? (Hopefully!) Will it get worse? (Hopefully not!) Regardless, I feel that the only way to really give this experiment with novel writing the chance it deserves is to see this through until the end, no matter how painful that may be.

As far as my actual story goes, I’m liking this one much more than my previous failed attempt. In my past story, I was writing about things I hardly knew anything about, but with this new story I feel much closer to the plot (the main character is a reader and an amateur writer, much like I am). It’s not perfect, it’s not even good, but I see potential in this story that I didn’t see during my first attempt. With a whole lot of editing, it might even get to the point where I could share it with other humans! (Though I doubt it.)

I should probably get back to writing now (as much as I really don’t want to). I’d love to hear how your project is going, and if you have any advice for a new novelist like myself!

Happy writing!



PASSENGER/WAYFARER by Alexandra Bracken

51NEHrJQBCL._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_“In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.”

The Passenger duology follows the format of a lot of adventure novels: Etta discovers she is part of a world she has never heard of, which her mother spent her life trying to keep her away from. But after she is kidnapped and sent through a portal to another time, she discovers that she may be more important to this other world than she knows.

In the meantime, she meets Nicholas, a boy born far from her time who earned his freedom from slavery and now spends his days on the sea under the supervision of his captain, who knows of time travel but is not a traveler himself. Nicholas takes interest in Etta as a job, but he quickly starts to care for her much more than that.

Etta and Nicholas’s relationship is one of the most compelling of any novel I’ve ever read. The connection between them can be felt at full force through Bracken’s words, and the development of their relationship feels natural and unrushed, despite the short time period in which they get to know each other.

Passenger and Wayfarer are definitely high up on my list of recommended books, as well as anything written by Alexandra Bracken. The Darkest Minds series is perfectly crafted, and the relationship between Liam and Ruby leaves you on the edge of your seat just as much as Nick and Etta. Bracken’s talent for writing is obvious: her words are elegant and they always seem to fit, which is one thing that makes the Passenger duology stand out.

Personally, I didn’t feel that this duology passed up The Darkest Minds in terms of plot, and I was a little disappointed. They are great books in their own regard, but sometimes the story felt as if it was dragging a little bit, which I never felt when reading TDM.

Bracken’s other stories aside, Passenger and Wayfarer have very intricate storylines, with several different timelines and settings woven in, and the difficult plot was pulled off very nicely. There were the usual plot holes of course, which are almost unavoidable when time travel is on the table, but I didn’t feel as though that took away from the story in any way.

Bracken’s characters almost seem to come off of the page: they are very human and multidimensional, which can be a difficult thing to pull off for many writers. I think character development was a strong point in these books that made them stand out among other YA stories.

I’m not going to lie, these books definitely made me cry, which is just another reason I know they were good. I really felt connected to the characters throughout the story, and I enjoyed it even when I wished the pace would pick up a bit.

The elegance of the word choice mixed with the lessons the story has to offer were a great match. I especially love the quote: “But we are, all of us, also wayfarers on a greater journey, this one without end, each of us searching for the answers to the unspoken questions of our hearts. Take comfort, as I have, in knowing that, while we must travel it alone, this journey rewards goodness, and will prove that the things that are denied to us in life will never create a cage for our souls.

Overall, Passenger and Wayfarer were well-crafted novels, and they definitely have a space in my heart among my favorites.

5 stars


Nanowrimo: Planning vs Pantsing

Nanowrimo Planning Vs Pantsing

Happy Halloween!

Tomorrow is the first day of Nanowrimo, and I’m already questioning my decision to participate. It’s going to be a lot of work, but hopefully I can push myself through it until the end!

With less than 24 hours until the challenge begins, I want to address one of the big questions when it comes to Nanowrimo, or novel writing in general: are you a planner, or are you a pantser?

If you are a planner, you’re probably finished with your outline already and just waiting to turn it into a story, and if you’re a pantser, you probably have an idea and a whole lot of build-up creativity ready for next month. In just about every aspect of life, I am a planner, and my first attempt at National Novel Writing Month will be no different.

When I started my first novel this summer (and quit at about 25,000 words, realizing it was going nowhere), I went in with a very rough outline, and about a million unresolved plot holes waiting for me. Needless to say, this was a disaster; however, at that time I knew that planning would have stalled the project forever, and if I wanted to get something written I just had to go for it.

This time around, I went with a different strategy and made a detailed outline, and I’m already glad I did. I feel as though I know my characters better, and it was almost like their goals and desires propelled the plot along on its own as I outlined. That’s not to say it’s perfect, there are still a few blaring holes I have yet to fill, but I’m satisfied that this will keep me on track during the next 30 days.

To make my outline, I strayed from my usual paper-and-pencil method and opted for a spreadsheet, which I made using Google Sheets (I use Google Docs for everything, I am horrible at remembering to save files). I made two separate sheets: one for characters and one for the outline.

For the characters, I mixed and matched questions from a few different “character questionnaires” I found online, and answered the questions which I felt were relevent for each character. For my outline, I made a column for each of the following: chapter/scene number, description of scene, time/date, setting, characters involved, subplots relevant, and total word count per scene (to be filled out as I write). I am not completely finished with the outline, but hopefully I can squeeze the rest in tonight before November starts and it’s time to begin writing.

For me, planning is a great way to keep my focus and stay on track with my goals, because it stops my story from reaching a dead-end. I know many people swear by pantsing, and if you are one of them I would love to hear how you keep your ideas organized! Regardless of which category you fall under, I wish you a happy Nanowrimo and the best of luck on whatever project you choose to pursue.

I can’t wait to hear everyone’s Nanowrimo updates throughout the month and I’ll try my best to keep blogging; until then, happy writing!


THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas

THE HATE U GIVE by Angie ThomasStarr Carter is caught between two worlds: Garden Heights, where she grew up, and Williamson, the prestigious private school where her parents send her to protect her from her own community.

Starr learns from a young age to stay quiet around the police, but nothing her dad taught her could prepare her for the night her old friend Khalil becomes a victim of their hate. On their way home from a party they are pulled over, and despite the fact that they were both unarmed and innocent, the officer shoots and kills Khalil while Starr watches from the passenger seat.

The Hate U Give is a beautifully crafted and compelling story that puts the reader in the shoes of this 16-year-old girl as she deals with the aftermath of her friend’s murder. I felt that the conversational tone of the novel helped to form a connection between the reader and the character, and the injustices she endures leave you feeling just as helpless as anyone would in that situation.

The story shines a new light on the already trending issue of racial discrimination in today’s age. We hear stories on the news constantly of police shootings and #blacklivesmatter, but it’s rare for someone outside of the action to really understand the feelings that come along with it.

Starr was the only witness to the events besides the police officers present, and she is caught in the unsavory situation of my-word-against-yours, which clearly puts her at a disadvantage in the trial process. Even after it is discovered that Khalil in fact possessed no weapons when he was shot, the media uses the fact that he allegedly sold drugs to justify his murder.

Starr is overwhelmed with processing with her friend’s death, and in the meantime she is forced to assume a whole different identity at school. She attends a private school called Williamson, surrounded by kids that come from money and live in high-scale neighborhoods that Garden Heights can’t compare with. She feels out of place at school despite her group of friends, and feels the need to censor herself around them to avoid being perceived as “ghetto.”

I found the opinions of her classmates to be very powerful to the meaning of the story, because they only farther outline the helplessness Starr is feeling. She puts up with a few racist comments here and there from her friend Haley, but things start to change when the conversation turns to Khalil and Starr begins to learn how to stand up for herself.

Throughout the course of the novel, Starr makes a transformation from a girl who is taught to keep her mouth shut to a girl who leads a revolution. Overall, The Hate U Give is an empowering and inspiring reading experience, and I believe it is important for people of every background to read this book and understand Thomas’s message in her writing.

5 stars



NaNoWriMo: Is it Worth the Stress?

Is NaNoWriMo Worth the Stress?

Today is October 23rd: just over a week away from the first day of November.

When most people think of November, images of falling leaves, pumpkin spice lattes (which are disgusting, by the way), and the occasional Christmas tree are probably what comes to mind. But for the writers out there, November is infamous as the most stressful, and perhaps most rewarding, month of the year.

November is National Novel Writing Month, 30 days where thousands of people lock themselves up in their offices and attempt to write 1,667 words a day, or 50,000 over the course of the month. Nanowrimo is simultaneously exhilerating and anxiety-inducing, and I have yet to decide which weighs out the other.

I have never personally tried Nanowrimo (though I’ve had more than a few hopeful Octobers, only to finish November with a blank page), but I have high hopes for this year. I have more writing experience than any previous year I’ve dreamt of Nanowrimo success, and thanks to my half-written novel I somewhat abandoned this summer, I have learned a few lessons about what it really takes to be a writer.

But part of me isn’t quite convinced. Thinking about it now, it sounds almost glamorous—sitting at the keyboard for hours every day and coming out much more productive because of it—but the realist in me knows that this could easily turn into a negative thing. 1,667 words a day isn’t an unrealistic goal, it would take only a few hours, but in those few hours you are forced to sacrifice other things that you might rather be doing: reading, blogging, sleeping, etc. This is the reality whether you write a novel in a month or in a year, but I worry that the stressful nature of the challenge might spark a resentment toward writing itself.

In other words, when I write a novel I want to enjoy writing a novel. Of course, it’s unrealistic to think that in any span of time writing such a long story will constantly be your top priority, but regardless, it should be something you love. But how do I decide that Nanowrimo is not for me without even giving it a fair shot?

In Nanowrimo’s defense, it takes a huge amount of discipline to get yourself to the computer or notebook and writing those thousands of words, and that amount of discipline would be good for anyone to learn. Discipline and stress are likely to go hand in hand, but all good things require hard work and sometimes pain. The idea of working so hard on something and giving up other things I enjoy scares me, but I know that the reward in the end will be worth much more than anything I have to give up to achieve it, and the difficulty of the challenge even makes it a little more appealing.

Really, it all boils down to one question: do I want my story written, or do I want to sit on it forever while waiting for inspiration to strike (which could literally never happen)? Nanowrimo isn’t an easy task by any means, but whether I finish or not, I’ll come out of it with a lot more if I try than if I let the bad days discourage me from the whole endeavour.

Whether or not you believe in Nanowrimo, it is always worth a try. Writing your story in such a short period of time has a lot of pros: the flow will be better, the ideas will find their way onto the page quickly, and you will have a few hundred pages of horrible writing that you can spend December turning into something that can one day be amazing. But you’ll never know if you don’t try.

I don’t know how far I’ll get this Nanowrimo, but if it’s a little more than one blank page, I’ll take that as a win. I would encourage anyone considering trying it out for the first time not to let fear hold you back, because every little effort counts.

Hopefully I will have positive updates in the future, now time to start planning…happy writing!



IMG_6717A few days ago, John Green released his fifth solo novel: Turtles All the Way Down, starring Aza Holmes, an awkward girl with a dead father and crippling anxiety.

Based on Green’s reputation from his previous four novels, I had my expectations set high for his newest publication, and it fell a bit short.

Turtles All the Way Down begins when Aza Holmes, known affectionately as “Holmesy” by her best friend and partner in crime, Daisy, hears news of a $100,000 reward being offered to anyone with information about the whereabouts of billionaire Russell Pickett. She and Pickett’s son, Davis, knew each other briefly from a camp for children who lost a parent, and upon being reunited they hit it off almost immediately.

Of course, in typical John Green fashion, their romance has more than a few obstacles, the most prominent of which being Aza’s own mind. She struggles with anxiety, giving her uncontrollable “thought spirals” and inescapable fear of contracting a disease known as C. diff.

By experiencing this story through Aza’s head, Green allows the reader a rare glimpse of the thought process of a teenager struggling with anxiety and other mental illness, and highlights the inescapability of these invasive thoughts. Aza’s anxiety gets in the way of her friendships, her relationship, and even her ability to do most mundane tasks.

Once Holmesy is reunited with Davis, the story’s focus strays from the mystery of finding his father, and becomes more of a minor subplot compared to the events of their romance and Aza’s thoughts. I expected there would be more regarding the enigma of his father’s disappearance, but where the story lacks an abundance of crime-solving excitement, it makes up for in heartwarming romance and valuable life lessons.

The title Turtles All the Way Down refers to the idea that the Earth is flat and resting on the back of a giant turtle, who is standing on the back of a giant turtle, and so on: it’s turtles all the way down. The reference brings up questions of the existence of God, which is never directly mentioned in the book, but contemplation of the meaning of life is hardly new of John Green’s writing. His intended message with this title is left up to the interpretation of the reader, but it certainly bears some relation to mental illness and the “thought spirals” that Aza experiences.

Turtles All the Way Down is a short, easy read with a good bit of power. The characters are interesting but not very relatable, and are basically the same as those in every other John Green novel. Overall, the story has its ups and downs, but I do believe it has earned its spot alongside John Green’s other novels.

5 stars



5 Unique Places to Find Writing Inspiration

There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting down in front of your laptop or notebook, ready to write, and having nothing to say. It’s a feeling most people can relate to, and that can (most of the time) be easily fixed.

One of the best ways I have found to cure the issue of writer’s block is to break down all the elements of my story. These are plot, character, conflict, theme, and setting. If you can’t come up with an idea for a story, hone in on one element or create a random mixture of a few and just see where it goes.

Probably the most common way to do this is the internet, but that’s not always the most fun or original approach. I like to find my inspiration in everything around me, and it’s amazing how places you visit every day can become major sources of inspiration just by changing your perspective.

1. Public Transportation

It’s crazy how many ideas I’ve picked up from riding the trolley. Public transportation is full of different types of people, and watching them can inspire characters with more depth. Overheard conversation can turn into story starters and anything you see along the way could be your setting. Be creative and let your imagination turn these situations into stories, the possibilities are endless!

2. Peoplewatching

Peoplewatching (from a distance!! please don’t follow people around), is one of the best ways I’ve found to develop characters. Similar to what you might do on public transportation, take note of the people around you and pay attention to the little things about them that make them stand out to you (streaks in their hair, interesting tattoos, clothing choices, mannerisms) and write them down. Another exercise I like to do with this is to pick a person and try to guess as many details about their life as possible, which can lead to the making of a great character with little effort.

3. Conversations

Inspiration can even come from the people you talk to every day. Noticing little things about you conversations can help you to create more realistic dialogue, and a topic you’re discussing could spark a story idea. It’s all about paying attention and noticing things that we let slip by us every day.

4. Reading

It may sound cliché, but to be a good writer it’s important to be a good reader first. That’s not to say you should copy ideas from your favorite books, but reading new stories will get you thinking and expose you to the ways other writers go about crafting their stories. Write down things you like, such as how well the character development was pulled off and how they did it, or other things that stand out to you and seem to tie the story together.

5. Get Out of Your House!

Finally, some of the best ideas you’ll find are the ones you get when you get outside and start living. It’s amazing the things you can discover when you go for a hike or even just hang out with your friends late at night; take note of the things that make little moments special and think about how you can articulate that feeling into your writing.

I wish you all the best of luck on your projects, and I hope you find some inspiration on this list!

8 YA Series You Need to Read Right Now

If you’re looking for something new to read, or just something to add to your already huge TBR list, you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite series for you, which I’ve read over the past few years and  still hold close to my heart. Most of them are pretty well-known, but if you’re skeptical whether to read them, you should definitely give them a try!

1. Harry Potter

First and most obvious, we have Harry Potter. If you haven’t read Harry Potter yet, I’m not really sure how you’ve made it this far, but you need to pick it up it right now (watching the movies doesn’t count!). You will not be disappointed. (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

2. Percy Jackson

If you’re looking for adventure, look no farther than the Percy Jackson series. The story follows a young boy as he discovers his father is Poseidon, the god of the sea. The stories are filled with plenty of exciting run-ins with famous characters from Greek mythology, and the humor and cleverness of the young heroes make for an interesting ride. (The Lighting Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, The Last Olympian)

3. The Heroes of Olympus

Another Rick Riordan series full of references to Greek mythology, we have The Heroes of Olympus. The series is somewhat of a continuation of Percy Jackson, but could most likely be understood without having read the previous series. If you love Percy Jackson, this is the perfect way to get more of his exciting stories. (The Lost Hero, The Son of Neptune, The Mark of Athena, The House of Hades, The Blood of Olympus)

4. The Trials of Apollo

If you’re sensing a theme here, you’re right. Basically any Rick Riordan series is amazing, and The Trials of Apollo is no exception. This series follows the god Apollo after he is turned mortal by his father, Zeus. This could also be read out-of-order, but references are made to both preceding series, so I would recommend saving these books for last. (The Hidden Oracle, The Dark Prophecy, The Burning Maze (coming 5/1/18!))

5. The Darkest Minds

One of my favorites on this list is the Darkest Minds series by Alexandra Bracken. These books are perfectly crafted with some of the best character development and storylines I’ve ever read. The attachment you will feel to the four main characters as they run from the adults who fear their powers will leave you in tears countless times. I won’t give too much away, just read them! (The Darkest Minds, Never Fade, In the Afterlight)

6. The Mortal Instruments

These books were pretty much my favorite thing in the world in middle school, and at almost any age you can enjoy them as much as I did. This journey through the world of shadowhunters follows Clary Fray, a girl with a hidden talent her mother never wanted her to discover. The six-book series is full of ups and down, love and war, and just about everything you can imagine. (City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls, City of Heavenly Fire)

7. The Infernal Devices

The Infernal Devices series is also written by Cassandra Clare, and is a loose companion to The Mortal Instruments. It takes place hundreds of years before the other series, and in my opinion is even better than the other shadowhunter stories. The love triangle between Tessa, Jem, and Will will break your heart, but it will be worth every second. (Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince, Clockwork Princess)

8. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Finally, we have Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As the name suggests, the quirky characters make up an odd bunch, but they are balanced out by a painfully ordinary boy who discovers he may not be so ordinary after all. The stories will pull you into a fairy tale and show you what friendship really means. (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Hollow City, Library of Souls)

If you haven’t read any of these series, you should definitely pick them up! These are my personal favorites, but let me know if I missed any of yours!


5 Easy Tips to Stay Focused When Writing

As much as I enjoy writing, I can’t pretend it’s always my top priority. This summer I was busy with two jobs, tennis, and summer classes, and on the rare occasion I wasn’t doing any of that, all I really wanted to do was sleep.

But despite that, I managed to write 25,000 words of my first novel over the course of my summer break.

I’m not going to lie: my goal was a bit higher at 33,000 words, but I am proud of the progress I made and I owe it to these five tips I’m going to share with you today. Hopefully you can put them into practice in your own writing!

1. Make a Writing Playlist

Listening to music is one of the easiest ways to stay focused on writing. Personally, I use a playlist of my favorite songs, all of which have lyrics, but you might find it easier to focus with instrumental music. Either way, music helps to drown out background noise and get you ready to write.

2. Set Goals

When I started writing my novel, I set word count goals on my Google calendar, making my goal 500 words a day. I by no means followed this guide (some days I would write 250, some days 2500), but it was useful for me to track my progress and make sure I was staying on track. This also helped make writing a priority, because it added a fun challenge and a motivation to meet my goals.

3. Reward Yourself

Not only should you set goals, but you should reward yourself when you reach them! I decided that for every 10,000 words I wrote, I would earn a reward. Rewards can range from ice cream to new shoes to just a day off from writing. Whatever it is, it should be something that you want and don’t normally allow yourself to have.

4. Find a Comfortable Workspace

There is no right answer to what is the perfect space to write. For some people it’s a desk, but for others it could be a table at Starbucks, a quiet bench outside, or the comfort of your bed. Wherever you decide to write, it should be somewhere you feel comfortable and ready to focus.

5. Find Ways to Enjoy It

This is easily the most important tip on this list. If you’re writing at all then you probably have some love for it, but that’s not to say you’ll always be jumping for joy when you sit down in front of the keyboard. Writing can be difficult, and often discouraging, so it’s important to think of it as a fun part of your day and not just another chore. You could put on your pajamas (if you’re like me, you were probably already wearing them), light a candle, pick up your favorite snack, or anything else that makes you feel comfortable and might make the writing process a little more fun.

I hope these tips help you out, and let me know what helps you stay focused when writing!