WRITING UPDATE #1: After Nanowrimo

Writing Update One After Nanowrimo


As most of you know, I participated in Nanowrimo for the first time last month and hit 50,000 words on November 25th. My story continued on briefly after that, but while I had projected it would be in the 55,000-60,000 word range for the first draft, it actually ended up being less than 52,000.

So now that my first draft is out of the way, I’m left with the daunting question of what to do next. Do I give myself a break? Do I start editing? Do I try writing something else?

I’ve received a number of comments attempting to help me solve this problem, and the overwhelming response has been that I should wait so that when I return to the story I will be more distant from it and better able to look at it objectively. I was unsure about this at first, but when I caved in this morning and read a few pages I wasn’t completely repulsed by it, so it has definitely not been enough time.

So I’ve decided on option three: I’m going to start a whole new project, and only when I finish the first draft of that will I return to my Nano story. I’m hoping this goes as planned, because I’ve only successfully completed one full-length novel and expecting to finish another one in a short period of time may be a lofty goal.

I’ve already started planning out my new story, but this time I have taken a much different approach. I have always been a firm believer in the use of Google Drive and its automatically-saving, online-accessible wonderfulness, so it feels strange to say that I won’t be using Google Drive at all this time around.

That’s right: I have finally given into the hype of Scrivener.

I’ve always been a little skeptical about Scrivener, even though I’ve only ever heard positive things about it. I probably never would have even tried it out if it weren’t for the 50% off coupon for Nanowrimo winners. I figured that if everyone loves it so much, there must be a reason, and after playing around with the trial version I can see why people swear by it. I’m enjoying the ability to access my plans in the same document as my writing; it makes the process much more efficient, and I have a feeling it will help me to better stay on track.

I’m satisfied with how it’s helping me plan, and I’m even sort of excited about what this new idea might become. I’m not at all the kind of person who comes up with story ideas left and right (or at all, really: I have a decent one like once a year), so I’m crossing my fingers that this one might have potential. It centers around a heavy theme, so I’m going to do my best to pull that off!

I wish everyone the best of luck in all their writing endeavors! Now that Nano is over, I’m going to have to change a lot about my routine, and hopefully this new habit of writing daily will catch on in the long-run!

Happy writing!



THE CEMETERY BOYS by Heather Brewer

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 6.15.56 PMWhen Stephen’s dad says they’re moving, Stephen knows it’s pointless to argue. They’re broke from paying Mom’s hospital bills, and now the only option left is to live with Stephen’s grandmother in Spencer, a backward small town that’s like something out of The Twilight Zone. Population: 814.

Stephen’s summer starts looking up when he meets punk girl Cara and her charismatic twin brother, Devon. With Cara, he feels safe and understood—and yeah, okay, she’s totally hot. In Devon and his group, he sees a chance at making real friends. Only, as the summer presses on, and harmless nights hanging out in the cemetery take a darker turn, Stephen starts to suspect that Devon is less a friend than a leader. And he might be leading them to a very sinister end…”

The Cemetery Boys is different from what I usually read, but when I read the synopsis (and saw the pretty cover), I couldn’t resist picking it up.

The story is dark and mysterious, and these effects are emphasized well in the initial setup of the book. It has all the perfect ingredients for a spooky story: a small, quiet town where everybody knows everybody and nobody ever leaves, a mysterious tale from the town’s past that everyone seems to believe, and a few mentally unstable parents with chilling messages. Each time a character is introduced, you can almost feel the mysterious tension surrounding them through Brewer’s words. Each resident of Spencer seems to have their own unique story of the town and its history, which creates a puzzle-like effect in which things seem to fall into place. The experience is entirely immersing and leaves you feeling like you’re in the room with the characters, trying to solve the mystery.

What I loved about this story is that, as I said, it had all the right ingredients for a dark and creepy story, but it also manages to pull them all together in a way that makes sense and keeps the reader interested. Not only do the characters seem to come alive on the page, but the setting descriptions really make you feel what it’s like to live in Spencer. In their small town, kids hang out at the “playground,” which is really the local cemetery, which makes for a few interesting scenes.

When Stephen meets his first friends, a girl named Cara (who may be more than a friend) and her dark, brooding twin brother, they don’t hesitate to share their own creepy Spencer story of a friend who drowned in a refrigerator. Their story sets up the background of the town and the history of the bad things that happen there, even before Stephen discovers the real threat of Spencer—a threat that might put him in more danger than he knows.

The story is full of suspense and betrayal at every turn of the page, and by the end you’ll want to reread the story just to see what clues you missed the first time around. It was surprising and exciting, and a reading experience that was very different for me, since I’m not one to read a lot of creepy mystery stories. I’m definitely glad I picked this one up, because I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. This is a very quick read at less than 300 pages, so if you are looking for something short and suspenseful, I would recommend The Cemetery Boys.

4.5 Stars

(PS I’m also planning to read The Blood Between Us by the same author, so if you have read it let me know what you thought!)

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

Also, be sure to add me on goodreads if you want to see what I’m currently reading!

Happy reading!


My Month in Books: November 2017

My Month in Books November 2017

Hello everybody!

I hope you all had a wonderful November! As you may already know, I participated in Nanowrimo for the first time this month (and won!!), so a lot of my time in November was dedicated to that. I thought this would impact the number of books I got around to reading, but I’m actually pretty happy to say I managed to finish twelve books this month.

I’m not quite sure how many I typically read on average per month—I’ve never actually kept track—but this probably a few more than I usually finish. This is great, but I think I may need to slow down a little bit to keep up with actually purchasing these books.

Thanks to the nagging voice in my head that forces me to read every single book I buy, I’ve read almost everything on my shelf so far, despite the fact that I go to Half Price Books almost weekly and leave with another huge stack. I’m down to only about six books, so I’m definitely going to have to stock up soon if I want to match this number in December.

THE MURDER COMPLEX by Lindsay Cummings

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 9.15.24 PM“Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.

The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?”

This is the first book I finished this month, but I feel a little guilty about how long it’s taken me to read it. I preordered this book and received it the day it was released (in 2014…) and now here we are, over three years later, and I’ve just now finished reading it.

I was excited for this book when it came out because I was active on Instagram and a big fan of Sasha Alsberg (who just co-wrote a book with Lindsay that will be coming out in January) and she had been promoting the book on her Mortal Instruments fan page. I was a part of the “street crew” or whatever it’s called to promote the book, but by the time I received it I just wasn’t that interested anymore. Now that I’ve read it though, I’m glad I didn’t put it off forever because it really wasn’t bad. Not my favorite, but not bad either. 3.5 Stars

WAYFARER by Alexandra Bracken

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 9.16.44 PM“All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. 

Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are racing through time in order to locate Etta and the missing astrolabe with Ironwood travelers hot on their trail. As Etta and Nicholas fight to make their way back to one another, from Imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, time is rapidly shifting and changing into something unrecognizable… and might just run out on both of them.”

This book is the second in the Passenger duology, and while I really loved this series, it took me a lot longer to get through this book than I would have liked. The language was beautiful and the story was exciting, but for some reason, it felt a little too slow for me, though I ended up enjoying it. You can read my full review here.

4 Stars

CARRY ON by Rainbow Rowell

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 9.17.47 PM“Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.”

Carry On is my favorite book of all time, no explanation needed, just read it. And if you need more convincing on why you should read it, read my review first. (But don’t question it, just read it)

5 Stars

UNTAMED by PC Cast and Kristin Cast

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 9.18.33 PM“Life sucks when your friends are pissed at you. Just ask Zoey Redbird – she’s become an expert on suckiness. In one week she has gone from having three boyfriends to having none, and from having a close group of friends who trusted and supported her, to being an outcast. Speaking of friends, the only two Zoey has left are undead and unMarked. And Neferet has declared war on humans, which Zoey knows in her heart is wrong. But will anyone listen to her? Zoey’s adventures at vampyre finishing school take a wild and dangerous turn as loyalties are tested, shocking true intentions come to light, and an ancient evil is awakened in PC and Kristin Cast’s spellbinding fourth House of Night novel.”

Honestly, part of me is ashamed to say I’m even reading this series, but it’s the kind of guilty pleasure read that has absolutely no substance but is entertaining nonetheless. I hate a lot of things about these books (especially the main character, who has like ten boyfriends at a time but still whines when they get mad at her for it), and reading them is kind of like watching a train wreck, but a really entertaining train wreck. I’m ashamed to say I do plan to read the remaining eight books…

2.5 Stars

THE RED PYRAMID by Rick Riordan

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 9.19.41 PM“Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a “research experiment” at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them —Set— has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe – a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.”

I am a huge Rick Riordan fan: I’ve read all the Percy Jacksons, the Heroes of Olympus Series, and the Trials of Apollo and loved every single one of them. I have been eying up The Kane Chronicles at half price books for months now, expecting to find a typical witty and exciting Riordan novel, so I was disappointed to find that this book was a little…boring. Maybe it’s the introduction of a whole new set of gods that I had no prior knowledge of, or just simply the fact that it didn’t live up to any of Riordan’s Greek mythology-based stories, but I wasn’t really a fan of this one. It wasn’t completely terrible, but I don’t see myself finishing the series anytime soon.

2.5 Stars


Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 10.27.22 AM“After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom.”

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead … quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.”

So I may be a little late on this bandwagon (or a lot late, are you sensing a theme here?), but I finally got around to Throne of Glass and yes, it lived up to the hype. I had heard so many good things about this series before I started it, and I honestly wasn’t even convinced I’d like it that much, but it ended up becoming one of my favorites.

5 Stars

FIRECRACKER by David Iserson

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 10.28.07 AM“Astrid Krieger lives in a rocket ship prototype in the backyard of her parents’ estate. Her recent expulsion from the elite Bristol Academy has won her a unique punishment: She’ll have to attend public school for the very first time…”

Buying Firecracker was mostly just an impulsive decision, as I had never heard a single word about it before reading it. It was just one of those days where I happened to be at Half Price Books (which seems to happen pretty often, if you’ve picked up on that), and it happened to be cheap and have a pretty cover. And I’m a sucker for a pretty cover…

I was actually pretty surprised when I ended up enjoying this book (because yes, sometimes I buy books purely for the joys of looking at them on my shelf rather than for reading pleasure), and it was a fun, quick read that didn’t take up enough of my time for me to regret it. You can read my full review here.

3 Stars


Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 10.25.45 AM“From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie… and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.”

Again, I’m a little late on the bandwagon. I expected that I would like this book because I liked the first one so much, but I didn’t expect it would live up to Throne of Glass. I find that especially with fantasy series, I tend to like the books less and less as they go on, but I actually maybe even liked this one more than the first. Since the characters had closer relationships in this story, there was more emotion and I cared more about what happened.

5 Stars

ANOTHER DAY by David Levithan

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 10.26.27 AM“Every day is the same for Rhiannon. She has accepted her life, convinced herself that she deserves her distant, temperamental boyfriend, Justin, even established guidelines by which to live: Don’t be too needy. Avoid upsetting him. Never get your hopes up.

Until the morning everything changes. Justin seems to see her, to want to be with her for the first time, and they share a perfect day—a perfect day Justin doesn’t remember the next morning. Confused, depressed, and desperate for another day as great as that one, Rhiannon starts questioning everything. Then, one day, a stranger tells her that the Justin she spent that day with, the one who made her feel like a real person…wasn’t Justin at all.”

I read Every Day a few years ago, and I had no idea that this “sequel” (companion?) even existed until I ran into it at (you guessed it) Half Price Books. I had such high expectations because I loved the story the first time around, but I was disappointed to find that it was pretty much the same exact book, except much more boring. Rhiannon’s perspective was a little dry, and all it really did for me is make me really hate her character. If you haven’t read either of these books, I recommend picking up Every Day and stopping at that.

2 Stars

HEIR OF FIRE by Sarah J Maas

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 6.15.08 PM“Celaena has survived deadly contests and shattering heartbreak―but at an unspeakable cost. Now, she must travel to a new land to confront her darkest truth . . . a truth about her heritage that could change her life―and her future―forever. Meanwhile, brutal and monstrous forces are gathering on the horizon, intent on enslaving her world. Will Celaena find the strength to not only fight her inner demons, but to take on the evil that is about to be unleashed?”

I know you’re probably expecting another satisfied, five-star review on this one, but unfortunately, the series plague seemed to finally set in in the third book. After the first two, I figured it was pretty much a given that I would love this one, but my predictions were wrong.

I understand how this story pushed the plot along for the whole series, but I just wish it could have been done a little quicker. It seemed to drag on and on forever, and I felt myself losing focus often as I read. Nothing particularly interesting seemed to really happen in the almost six hundred pages of this book, and I really hope it gets better from here because it would be a shame if the series falls flat like this.

3 Stars


A Short History of the Girl Next Door“Fifteen-year-old Matt Wainwright is in turmoil. He can’t tell his lifelong best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her; his promising basketball skills are being overshadowed by his attitude on the court, and the only place he feels normal is in English class, where he can express his inner thoughts in quirky poems and essays. Matt is desperately hoping that Tabby will reciprocate his feelings; but then Tabby starts dating Liam Branson, senior basketball star and all-around great guy. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough; but, as Matt soon discovers, he’s close to losing everything that matters most to him.”

This book was has become an unexpected favorite of mine, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a short, cute story. I won’t say much more because I have a lengthy review here.

4 Stars

THE CEMETERY BOYS by Heather Brewer

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 6.15.56 PM“When Stephen’s dad says they’re moving, Stephen knows it’s pointless to argue. They’re broke from paying Mom’s hospital bills, and now the only option left is to live with Stephen’s grandmother in Spencer, a backward small town that’s like something out of The Twilight Zone. Population: 814.

Stephen’s summer starts looking up when he meets punk girl Cara and her charismatic twin brother, Devon. With Cara, he feels safe and understood—and yeah, okay, she’s totally hot. In Devon and his group, he sees a chance at making real friends. Only, as the summer presses on, and harmless nights hanging out in the cemetery take a darker turn, Stephen starts to suspect that Devon is less a friend than a leader. And he might be leading them to a very sinister end…”

This probably goes without saying, but yes, I bought this book because I was at Half Price Books and I liked the cover. The story is creepy and dark and full of surprises and betrayal at every turn. I should have a book review posted on this soon, so once it’s up I will link it here.

4.5 Stars

So that’s all the books I got around to this month! I just started the Lengend trilogy, and I have a few more stray books waiting to be read for December. (But not nearly enough, so I’m going to have to hold out for Christmas)

What did you read this month? Have you read any of the books I talked about? Are you also addicted to Half Price Books? Let me know!

Also, follow me on twitter (@readerbailey) and goodreads (@baileylsims) because both of those accounts are pretty weak right now, but I’m working on it!

Have a great December and read lots of books!!

Happy reading!



A Short History of the Girl Next Door

“Fifteen-year-old Matt Wainwright is in turmoil. He can’t tell his lifelong best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her; his promising basketball skills are being overshadowed by his attitude on the court, and the only place he feels normal is in English class, where he can express his inner thoughts in quirky poems and essays. Matt is desperately hoping that Tabby will reciprocate his feelings; but then Tabby starts dating Liam Branson, senior basketball star and all-around great guy. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough; but, as Matt soon discovers, he’s close to losing everything that matters most to him.

I went into A Short History of the Girl Next Door having almost no idea what it was about, but high expectations based on the buzz around this book. I just assumed, naturally, that it was about a girl next door and subsequently, a love story. It is, in fact, both of those things, but it’s not your everyday run-of-the-mill teenage romance where, despite all obstacles, the main characters figure things out in the end and kiss passionately before proceeding to their happy ending.

Those things only happen in Matt’s head. One of the things I loved most about this story was that it was full of clichés, but they appeared mostly in Matt’s thoughts, and sarcastically at that. Matt resents the “overdramatic movie director in his head” who controls his thoughts and fills his mind with hopelessly theatrical scenes.

Matt is in love with his best friend, and in typical movie fashion, Tabby is oblivious to those feelings and opts to date a popular senior guy instead, and Matt is crushed. That storyline itself didn’t bother me—though it is a little overused in contemporary fiction—but I found it difficult to empathize with Matt’s love for Tabby, as her character is the most underdeveloped in the whole story. I felt like the only thing the reader really knows about her is that she has red hair and likes Nerds, and two boys love her. Her and Matt’s backstory was enough to make the story cute, but it sometimes felt like a story about a boy who is in love with a cardboard cutout of a girl rather than an actual, three-dimensional human.

When I started this book and realized it was about basketball, my hope that I would like it faded away almost instantly. I don’t mind basketball itself or occasional mentions of sports in books, but I tend to stay away from stories where sports are the main focus of the plot. It tends to breed characters that have no depth beyond the stereotypical dedicated athlete, but I was pleased to find that this wasn’t the case with Matt. Even though basketball is one of the most important things to him, and he is especially good at it for only a freshman in high school, the development of his character is more centered around his humor and his relationships than simply one of his hobbies.

The story is full of shocking twists and turns that you don’t see coming, but I can’t say more than that without ruining the story. I’m happy I had no inkling of the direction the story would turn in as I read because it made the rollercoaster ride that is this book that much more enjoyable.

Overall, this story isn’t what I expected it to be. Where I thought I’d find another love story like every other in the world of young adult fiction, I found a story that embraces clichés while giving them a new twist. The humor and sarcasm dripping on every page kept my interest, and this was one of those stories that remind me why I love to read. Jared Reck did a great job crafting this story, and I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick read full of humor and emotion.

4 Stars

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

Happy reading!


I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

FIRECRACKER by David Iserson

IMG_6846“Astrid Krieger lives in a rocket ship prototype in the backyard of her parents’ estate. Her recent expulsion from the elite Bristol Academy has won her a unique punishment: She’ll have to attend public school for the very first time…”

Firecracker was definitely an impulse buy, I’m-at-Half-Price-Books-and-the-cover-is-pretty-so-I-have-to-buy-it type of thing, so I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this story. I was interested by the idea of a comedy about a girl who lives in a rocket ship (a rocket ship which is, unfortunately, rather absent from the story), and I thought it would be something different to try out.

I went into Firecracker with low expectations, and they weren’t surpassed by much. The story was funny, and there were even a few parts that made me laugh, but the overall plot was scattered and seemed to be thrown together at the last minute. This would usually be something that would put me off completely to a book, but I’m going a little easier on this one because it was more of a light-hearted, funny read than something you’re supposed to really get something out of.

Even though this book wasn’t very powerful or life-changing in any way, that’s not to say it didn’t carry a few lessons within it. However, the lessons that are obvious in the text are pretty much as cliché as it gets. For example, spoiled rich girl who believes she is above everyone else thinks, “But maybe I was not the only person in the world who was more complicated than everyone assumes.” (And then, just after, goes back to acting exactly the same as before).

One thing about this story that I thought really stood out was Astrid’s confidence. Sure, she definitely errs more on the side of arrogance, but I still think it’s unique to have a main character who is self-assured and can recognize her good qualities rather than one whose main conflict is not believing she’s beautiful. Astrid may have a stuck-up attitude, but I think readers can learn from her independence and the way that she only has herself, but she has found a way to be happy about that.

Also, this story is unique because Astrid is not looking for love. There are a few boys that care about her, and sometimes she even reciprocates those feelings, but she is not dependent on anyone else for even a minute in the story. She doesn’t need love to be happy, and that is an important quality and one that is not often portrayed in young adult books.

Overall, the story was very enjoyable (though I was hoping for more about the rocket ship…) and I would recommend it as a lighthearted story if you ever need a laugh. It is a very quick read—I finished it in just a few hours without difficulty—and the entertainment value of the story outweighs the parts where it lacks in any real substance. David Iserson did a nice job in creating a funny story for readers to enjoy, and I’m glad I picked this one up.

3 Stars

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

Happy reading!



Nanowrimo: Week Two Update

Nanowrimo Week Two Update

Today is day fourteen of Nanowrimo, and I’m pleased to say that I have not yet given up, despite how much I have sometimes wanted to.

My current word count stands at 26,048 words, and keeping up with my trend of 2,000 per day, I should be at 28,000 by tonight. The goal for today is 23,333 so I am still well ahead of schedule and I’m very happy with my progress.

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 1.35.06 PM

For one thing, I reached the halfway point yesterday, so my outlook on the rest of the month has changed a little. It’s nice to see that I have fewer words remaining than I have written, and I’m quickly approaching those 50,000 words! (At this rate, I should be finished on November 25th). On top of that, I beat my own personal best for word count, which was 23,000 in my previous attempt. This week has been stressful, but I’m satisfied that I have been able to stick to my goals and keep working toward the end.

The second week was a little bit better than the first; I wouldn’t describe it as painful like I did in my previous update, but that’s not to say it didn’t come with its own obstacles. On two separate occasions, I found myself not having the opportunity to write until my later at night (and I am a morning person for a very good reason), and both of those times I wanted to skip writing for the day and go to sleep, but I forced myself to stay focused and get those words onto the page first.

While some may argue that it’s okay to take a day off, and that it may not be the best thing for the quality of my writing to write when I’m so tired, I find that I work best when sticking to a continuous goal. For me, that one day off is an excuse to take the next day off, and the next and the next, until my story is abandoned for good, and I don’t want to see that happen. Two thousand words a day has proven to not be as big of a time commitment as I had anticipated, so I’m going to stick to that goal until at least the 25th.

Overall, I am still feeling confident and motivated to finish out the month, and I’m happy I didn’t quit on one of the many occasions I was tempted to. It’s not easy, but I really think it will be worth it to me when I have a rough draft to build on at the end of the month and hopefully form into a real novel. I haven’t lost interest in my story yet, so I’m hoping everything stays on track from here!

Also, thank you to everyone who has left me encouraging comments in these past two weeks, it really helps to keep me accountable when I know there are people who believe I can do this. Thank you so much for the support!

Now time to write my 2,000 words for today…I hope everyone participating is having a great Nanowrimo, whether you’re on track for 50,000 or not. As long as you’re enjoying yourself and working toward your goal, it will be a successful month.

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


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