Top 10 Books I Read in 2017

2017 Top 10 (1)

 

It’s already MAY, but I had such a hard time choosing between the 56 books I managed to read last year. I am SO PROUD of that number. I worked hard for it. I figured that now is as good a time as any to share them with you because maybe you’ll want to pick them up over the summer. People read then, right?

In an effort to shorten the judging process that got me to this point, I decided to only nominate books that I read for the first time, and to exclude all re-reads from this contest. In no particular order, here are the top 10 books I read in 2017.

 

 

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

1 – Grace, Not Perfection – Emily Ley
This book changed my life. I read it while I was nannying for my baby cousin, so even the more maternal bits really hit home. Whether you are young and virtually single like me, or raising a bunch of munchkins, or just living your best life, this book will help you make it even better. I can’t wait to pick up Emily’s second book, A Simplified Life, this year.

 

 

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2 – The Diviners – Libba Bray
1920s New York City + strange magical abilities + teens sleuthing to stop a supernatural serial killer? SIGN ME UP. This is one of those books that you pick up at the library because of the cool cover and then run away with it once you finish reading the blurb because it’s so cool. And even at a whopping 500+ pages it just flies by because the writing is just that good. I’m saving my reviews of this series for October. Look out for it then!

 

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

3 – A Novel Bookstore – Laurence Cossé
Let me just say… WOW. This birth-of-a-bookstore/mystery novel about the fictional The Good Novel bookstore in Paris and its founders blew me away. A tiny bit slow in some places, but the intertwining narratives of the founders, reviewers, and their loved ones was wonderfully written and lovingly translated from the original French.

 

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

4 – A Gathering of Shadows – V. E. Schwab
This whole series is wonderful. I’ve never read anything like the Shades of Magic trilogy, and I am so SO excited that Schwab will be blessing us with a spinoff sequel trilogy, as well as a prequel comic book. Of the trilogy, the second novel was my favorite, and the cover art especially drew me in. The character development is just expert level here, and I can’t wait to get my hands on more of Schwab’s work.

 

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

5 – Uprooted – Naomi Novik
This book. THIS. BOOK. I haven’t read a story like this since I picked up the actual Grimm’s Fairytales. The plot is phenomenal, the characters aren’t perfect, or entirely lovable or hateable, and the forest. is. alive.

Uprooted gets a lot of hate for the romance aspect of it, but I think it was handled really well and people need to get used to the idea that semi-immortal beings need love too. You don’t hear people complaining about Bella and Edward being together because Edward is like 900 years older than her, do you? So don’t come at me about Agnieszka’s romance. It’s as healthy a love as she is going to get in these crazy times.

 

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

6 – Elantris – Brandon Sanderson
An arranged marriage alliance + a religious war + a mysterious plague that only effects the god-like people of Elantris? Trust me when I say the roughly 600 pages are worth it. I haven’t read worldbuilding like this since Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time saga — which makes sense if you think about it because Jordan chose Sanderson to finish his work when he was passing.

 

 

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7 – M Train – Patti Smith
I’ve never read a memoir written by a musician before, and let me tell you, this was delightful. Patti Smith is not just a musician, poet, and author, but also a mother, wife, icon, and member of a former mysterious society. This memoir is written mostly stream-of-consciousness style, but that only adds to the magic of the words. From writing in coffee shops (like I am now), to traveling the globe, to singing in cafeterias at midnight, M Train is sure to inspire you to write more of your own work and see the everyday magic around you.

 

 

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8 – Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella – Megan Morrison
It’s no secret that I adored the first Tyme novel by Morrison, Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel,  but Disenchanted did me one better if that’s possible. “Cinderella” comes from a family of fashion. Her new stepmother is a trial, but she probably means well. The private school she goes to is full of rich and royal brats, most of whom will grow up to work in the family business: that is, fashion. The entire Blue Kingdom runs on fashion. But not everyone loves it. Ella knows which families use sweatshop labor, and sets out to bring. them. down. Even if it means ruining her chances with the cute but cursed prince in the process. I can’t wait for the third installment (involving the Frog Prince!), due out in the next year.

 

 

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9 – In Other Lands – Sarah Rees Brennan
If you’ve been reading fantasy your entire life and wondering why tropes are what they are — the guy gets the girl, everyone loves the hero, the maidens need rescuing, etc. etc… LOOK NO FURTHER. Brennan turns every single trope on its head and it’s flawless. Not only does everyone hate Elliot, he doesn’t even get the girl, or get to save the world, or have a touching reunion with his parents. Nope. Elliot gets shipped off to a school in a war zone in a magical land because his teacher doesn’t like him, and spends most of his time in the library wishing he could meet mermaids despite everyone telling him how dangerous they are. Elliot is not a hero, and he certainly doesn’t like the would-be hero, Luke Sunborn, with the beautiful golden locks. Nope. Not one bit.

 

 

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10 – Lois Lane: Fallout – Gwenda Bond
I didn’t even know I needed a series about Lois before Clark until I saw Bond’s book on the shelf, and now I need her to be consulted with on anything and everything to do with Superman and Lois Lane that is ever created in the future. I have always loved Lois, but never before have I gotten the chance to really get to know her. Now that the military brat has settled in one place for the first time, attending a Metropolis high school and interning at The Daily Planet, she has a bit of free time on her hands, and a lot of bad guys to take down. Now if only she could convince her online crush SmallvilleGuy to meet in person.

 

 

Honorable Mentions:
Elise Kova’s The Alchemists of Loom
Helen Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

Top 10 Board Books I Read As A Nanny

For the last ten months, I have had the pleasure of nannying for my sweet baby cousin (A.K.A. Grandchild #20, or G20 for short). Now that he’s going on 18-months-old, he’s getting ready to start daycare as I prepare to start a more corporate job. Before my tenure as his nanny ends, however, I wanted to share with you all some of our favorite board books. We read each of these upwards of six or seven times a day, often over and over again in a row. I know what you’re going to say, “Amanda! You’ve created a monster!” and I, of course, will reply to that by saying YES, I HAVE! A READING MONSTER! MUAHHAHA!!! Because I am so proud of the little reading monster he has already become such a very young age. On that note and in no particular order, here are the top 10 board books that I read every day as a nanny.

 

 

#1 – Are You My Mother by P.D. Eastman

A baby bird hatches and cannot find his mother anywhere, so he leaves the nest to search for her.

This was one of my favorites growing up, so I bought it for G20 when he was born. It has quickly become a fan favorite, and I like to think that is t least partially due to my rendition of animal and machine noises to accompany the story.

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Source: Goodreads

 

#2 – Jamberry by Bruce Degen

A boy and a bear go berry picking and end up in a land made of food.

Another childhood favorite, my mom sent this one for G20. His favorite part? Pretending to eat all of the berries!

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Source: Goodreads

 

 

#3 – The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

A caterpillar is born and eats everything in sight until he becomes so tired that he builds a little house and wakes up to a miracle!

G20’s favorite part of this one is all the foods the caterpillar eats every day. Good for counting, and the foods all have little holes in them where the caterpillar eats through. Great for little fingers!

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Source: Goodreads

 

#4 – Little Blue Truck – by Alice Schertle

Little Blue Truck makes friends with all of the farm animals, and doesn’t hold a grudge against the big dump truck that runs him off the road and then gets stuck in a mud puddle.

An old neighbor sent this because their own boys were loving it. G20 is obsessed with all of the noises we make to go along with this one (especially the dump truck horn)!

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Source: Goodreads

 

#5 – Chicka Chicka Boom Boom – By Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault

The lowercase letters dare each other to climb a coconut tree, but will it hold all of them?

Anyone have this one memorized? *raises hand*

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Source: Goodreads

 

#6 – Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

A little bunny says goodnight to all of the objects in his room.

This story always turns into a game of find the mouse.

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Source: Goodreads

 

 

#7 – The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

A little blue engine volunteers to drive toys over a mountain when another train is unable to do so.

Teaching kids they can do anything they put their minds to, no matter their size, since 1930. Props to Piper for first realizing that ‘I think I can, I think I can’ actually sounds like a train going ‘chugga-chugga, chugga-chugga’ and thereby convincing the world’s children that trains are always giving themselves a pep-talk.

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Source: Goodreads

 

 

#8 – Good Night, Sammy by Cyndy Szekeres

Sammy the fox can’t get to sleep, so his parents sing to his twitchy tail and rocking chair until everything falls asleep, including them!

A good bedtime book, bringing everything down a notch so your child can get off the hyper train and go to sleep.

Goodnight-Sammy-Cyndy-Szekeres
Source: Goodreads

 

 

#9 – Little Hoot – by Am Krouse Rosenthal

Little Hoot just wants to go to bed, but as an owl he must stay up late, late, late! How ever will he manage?

A bit of reverse psychology never hurts. You may recognize the author from being touted on various celebrity Instagram accounts, as her books are loved far and wide. Although Rosenthal passed very recently, she was in the news this past year for setting up an online dating profile for her husband. You can read her essay about it here, but be sure to have a box of tissues nearby, because I just re-read it sitting in the library and now I’m a mess.

Little-Hoot-Amy-Krouse-Rosenthal
Source: Goodreads

 

 

#10 – Guess How Much I Love You – Sam McBratney

A father puts his son to bed, but first the baby bunny tries to convince his father that he loves him more.

This book is just adorable. Our grandparents sent it to G20 for his first birthday, and we read it frequently.

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Source: Goodreads

 

What books do your little ones love? Share them below!

 

 

 

Until next time,

Amanda

Camp NaNoWriMo – July 2017 Intro

 

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Source: Pinterest

 

That’s right! I’m working on a new novel! Camp NaNoWriMo starts today, and I’ve decided to push The Everest Chronicles off to the side a bit to work on something new.

Last November, during NaNoWriMo proper, I had a dream that turned into 13 handwritten pages of something, which I then tucked away so I could focus on the project I was trying to work on at the time. I’m not going to reveal a whole lot about what occurred in the dream because that would give away the entire plot of the book. In fact, I’m going to keep this project fairly secret. Seriously. I shared the dream notes with one of my sisters back in November, and I just told one of my writing buddy friends about it last week. No one else knows anything about anything. I will say though, that it is a Regency Romance, and that for citing purposes I’ll be referring to it as Aunt Bea’s Pearls.

I’d like to write 25,000 words towards it this month. I’m only doing half the normal goal because I have a hundred other things to write this month, what with my birthday and the TOTY (Theme-Of-The-Year) going live among other cool projects for the blog. I’m excited! It should be a fairly intense month of writing, trying to balance fiction and blog posts while still getting my reading done for book reviews, but I think I’m up to it.

And honestly, I need something to distract myself until September when Grad School starts because I am B-O-R-E-D and my job search is going nowhere fast.

 

My writing buddy, and one of my oldest friends, Shannon is going to be doing Camp NaNoWriMo with me, so I am very excited to get started. I’ve been doing writing exercises for the last week trying to stretch my brain into shape so I can use my imagination to it’s fullest potential. Fun times.

You can expect writing updates just like last November here on the blog in the coming weeks. I’m planning to post them on Saturdays this time around if that works for you guys.

Until next week, good luck and happy writing!

~Amanda

Cover Reveal (& Other Goodies!): The Dragons on Nova – Elise Kova

COVER REVEAL

 

Today is the day!! Today, Elise Kova and Rockstar Book Tours are revealing the cover for The Dragons of Nova, which releases July 11, 2017! I am beyond excited to get to be a part of their Cover Reveal Blitz Team, which means this blog, along with many others, get to bring you the cover in all of its glory, along with a synopsis and an EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT from the book, AND a giveaway of an ARC (Advanced Readers’ Copy), signed by Elise!

Scroll on down to see everything! IT. IS. SO. GOOD.

 

 

 

 

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Title: THE DRAGONS OF NOVA (Loom Saga #2)

Author: Elise Kova

Pub. Date: July 11, 2017

Publisher: Keymaster Press

Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook

Pages: 488

Find it: Amazon | B&N | TBD | Goodreads

 

Can we just talk about this gorgeous cover?! It features Cvareh, as we met in the first book, The Alchemists of Loom, standing on top of what can only be a Dragon glider! And the immediate background of Nova with the boco birds flying past, not to mention the scaling in the far background and the House Xin symbol in the O of Nova, oh my goodness, this is all just too cool!

If you haven’t read The Alchemists of Loom yet, it’s ON SALE through May 7th as an eBook for 99¢! You can access the sale here. There’s also going to be a read-along of The Alchemists of Loom starting May 8th and running through the end of the month, so now is the perfect opportunity for you to catch up on the series before The Dragons of Nova releases in July! Find the Facebook group for the read-along here.

If I haven’t yet managed to convince you to start this series, check out my review of the first book here!

 

Now let’s get into the synopsis and the excerpt!

 

Cvareh returns home to his sky world of Nova with the genius crafter Arianna as his temperamental guest. The mercurial inventor possesses all the Xin family needs to turn the tides of a centuries-old power struggle, but the secrets she harbors must be earned with trust — hard to come by for Ari, especially when it comes to Dragons. On Nova, Ari finds herself closer to exacting vengeance against the traitor who killed everything — and everyone – she once loved. But before Ari can complete her campaign of revenge, the Crimson Court exposes her shadowed past and reveals something even more dangerous sparking between her and Cvareh.

While Nova is embroiled in blood sport and political games, the rebels on Loom prepare for an all-out assault on their Dragon oppressors. Florence unexpectedly finds herself at the forefront of change, as her unique blend of skills — and quick-shooting accuracy — makes her a force to be reckoned with. For the future of her world, she vows vengeance against the Dragons.

Before the rebellion can rise, though, the Guilds must fall.

*****Exclusive Excerpt!*****

“They’re coming from the front!” Nora screamed over the crescendo of the engine gaining speed. On cue, the train lurched as an endwig was splattered to a bloody mess on the point of the engine’s pilot.

“Bloody cogs,” Florence cursed. The Vicar Alchemist had sent her to protect the mission as the Revolver, but one of her wasn’t going to be enough. “I’m going to the engine.”

“What are we going to do?” The usually self-sure Nora had the face of a cornered hare.

“You’re going to fight.” Florence passed her a weapon.

“I’ve never shot a gun before.”

“Now is a great time to learn.”

“I’m an Alchemist!”

Seriously, Florence was a breath away from shooting the woman herself. “You’re dead if you don’t adapt! There’s three more bombs exactly like the ones you just used, right there. Just fend them off until the train gets up to speed. But don’t use any other disks.”

Florence had no more time to waste as the train lurched again. They just had to survive until the train reached full speed. For all the endwig were, they certainly couldn’t keep up with a locomotive.

She hoped.

The wind whipped her hair around her face as she stuck her head from the train car. Florence reached out for the ladder to the right of the door, scaling up before another endwig could emerge. She swung up just in time as an explosion nearly blew her foot clean off.

“By the five guilds, you two only had three bombs!” she screamed over the wind, not knowing if they could hear. “Ration them a bit!”

Standing, Florence looked in horror at the tracks ahead. Dozens of endwig lined the path, running eagerly to meet the train. She loaded six canisters at once.

Jumping to the tender, Florence lost her footing atop the moving train car. A nail snapped clean off as she sought a grip that would prevent her from being thrown to certain death. If she fell now, she would never get back on the vessel. She’d be torn limb from limb.

Gritting her teeth, Florence rose to her knees, shooting two endwig in the process. She wedged herself between two grooves on the top of the tender. Blood pooled around her shins as she dug them into the metal for a grip where there was none, but she was stable enough to take aim, and that meant she could open fire.

Five shots down, and Florence reloaded her gun. Endwig came relentlessly like a never-ending nightmare. But the train didn’t gain any more speed. She repeated the process, waiting for the vessel to be like her bullets, whizzing through the night at deadly speeds.

“Anders, now would be a great time to open her up!” she screamed.

There was no reply.

“Anders, Rotus, we need speed, get us out of here faster!”

Five long claws curled around the door of the engine in answer. Florence watched in horror as the white silhouette of an endwig, dotted in the black blood of a Chimera, pulled itself from the engine room. Florence swallowed hard.

They were without Rivet and Raven, stumbling through the darkness, enemies at all sides. She raised her gun slowly, looking fearlessly at the face of death itself. Her revolver was steady over the rocking of the train.

“You think I’m not used to this?” Her mouth curled into a mad grin. “I’ve been fighting my way out of the darkness my whole life. And you’re not going to stop me now.”

Gunshots echoed through the forest.

*****

About Elise:

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Elise Kova has always had a profound love of fantastical worlds. Somehow, she managed to focus on the real world long enough to graduate with a Master’s in Business Administration before crawling back under her favorite writing blanket to conceptualize her next magic system. She currently lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, and when she is not writing can be found playing video games, watching anime, or talking with readers on social media. She is the USA Today bestselling author of the Air Awakens Series as well as the Loom Saga (Keymaster, 2017).

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Tumblr | Goodreads

 

And last but definitely not least, the ARC giveaway! Click through to the Rafflecopter page to enter your details and be entered to win!

Giveaway Details:

One (1) Winner will receive a signed advanced readers’ copy of THE DRAGONS OF NOVA.

Enter to win through Rafflecopter using your Facebook account or email address HERE!

 

 

 

Thank you all so much for coming by today and checking out the cover reveal! I don’t know how I’m going to wait until July to read The Dragons of Nova. I may just have to re-read The Alchemists of Loom a few more times before then!

If you enjoyed this post, give it a like to let me know, and feel free to share it on Facebook and other social media platforms to spread the word!

 

 

Until Next Time,

Amanda

Life Log February 25th, 2017 – Meeting Elise Kova

Today is one of those days that I hope I remember forever, and it all started by sleeping in for the first time in a month.

The original plan was to get up at 6:30 and do some early morning writing at one of my two favorites Starbucks locations in the city, but when my alarm went off I decided to sleep in instead. I got up around 11:30 and ate some lunch before heading out into the city to explore, as I have most weekends since I moved here in October. I’m always discovering new things.

My first stop was Coolidge Corner, where I wanted to scope out Brookline Booksmith before I attend the V.E. Schwab signing there on Monday (Update: It was CROWDED, but awesome, and Victoria is pretty great). It’s always good to know where you’re going, folks. After I found it and browsed for a bit, I decided to follow Beacon Street back towards  Boston Common and see what else was in the area. In as little as 10 minutes I was overwhelmed with my love for this city. Everything, even the deserted parts of the streets and the little half-hidden parks and personal gardens make me smile. I felt like standing the middle of the road, twirling, crying, and screaming about how much Boston means to me, but I didn’t because there was traffic and quite a few people around. I did smile and skip through the drizzle that started soon after though, and that was almost as fun.

When the rain started to get harder and the wind began blowing it into my eyes I ducked into the nearest Starbucks, which happened to be at Kenmore Square near Boston University, and settled in to wait out the downpour. Can I just say that the baristas there are super sweet? I was sitting at the counter, working on a map for The Everest Chronicles and sipping my hot cocoa (Starbucks Cocoa is the best), and listening to them chat. One of them was new, and while she had a handle on everything, she was one of those employees that knows exactly the right questions to ask those who’ve worked there longer, like “it’s this syrup, 4 squirts, right?” not “how do I make that again?” She was just fantastic, and her eyeliner was on point. The guy sitting next to me apparently also works there, but he wasn’t on duty and was instead actively studying for midterms. Still, their convos were hysterical to listen to, and they even included me in them occasionally, which was kind of them. Everyone there was just nice, and it made the time fly until the rain stopped.

I emerged back into the sunshine and crossed the street to a Barnes & Noble I had spotted just before I’d reached Starbucks. As I walked through the door I noticed one of those events signs they always have up. The book pictured on the poster was The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova, and it said she would be there at 3 pm on February 25th. I looked at my phone, and wouldn’t you know it, it was 3:15, on the 25th.

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If you’ve never heard of The Alchemists of Loom, fear not. I hadn’t heard of it either until last month, but three authors/BookTubers I follow on social media: Sasha Alsberg from A Book Utopia, Lindsay Cummings, and Regan from Peruse Project on YouTube, have since been raving about it. Lindsay blurbed it, and Sasha and Regan are reading it for their virtual book club this month. It’s been very high on my radar, and therefore I got very excited when I saw the poster. I walked back to the sci-fi/fantasy section and bought the book, and then asked the cashier where the event was. He cheerfully told me it was upstairs, and off I went.

I walked in to find a group of about 10 people sitting in chairs, listening to Elise explain the publishing process. She talked about editing, querying, and the writing process in general. When I asked her, she said that she started writing in 6th grade, when the teacher assigned the class a 5-page story, due at the end of the year. Everyone groaned because in 6th grade five pages sounds like a life sentence, but Elise immediately decided to write a chapter book. Her teacher tried to dissuade her, but Elise was determined. The book ended up being novella length, and while she says it was truly terrible, she did suggest that she might share a few pages with her newsletter subscribers one day.

One mom asked if Kova had any advice for young writers, especially those in high school. I found out later that her daughter and a friend were sitting across the aisle from me, 9th graders. “Write a lot, and often,” Elise said. “Read. And get on Twitter. There are a ton of authors on Twitter to engage with and ask questions of.”

After everyone’s questions were answered, Kova signed her books and chatted with all of the attendees. When it was my turn, I admitted that I hadn’t read the book yet, but I’d heard so much about it from Sasha and Lindsay (and Regan!) that I couldn’t wait to read it. I also told her that I loved what she had to share about publishing, and how I was applying to a graduate publishing program and writing my own stuff. She was extremely nice, and warm, and simply lovely to talk to. She signed my copy of The Alchemists of Loom, personalizing it with ‘To Amanda, You’re perfect! ~Elise Kova’, which made me smile and do an inner little cheer because she’s really just so nice and the fact that she thought I was nice was very cool!

As I left the BU Barnes & Noble, it was still beautifully sunny outside and the cool breeze left by the rainstorm made the city feel like paradise. I continued my exploration for another hour or so before heading home, where I’m currently writing to you from while I eat my Kraft Mac & Cheese. I’ve only now realized that I forgot to grab any of the swag from the Kova event, and also that I didn’t ask to take a picture with her, but since it was my first time at a book/author event, I guess it’s okay that I didn’t do any of that. I was too excited to remember. Maybe next time!

I’m about to dive into the first episode of Stranger Things, and then I’m going to read some more of the book I’ve been carrying around with me all day, A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. I’m hoping to be knee deep in the final installment, A Conjuring of Light, by the time I meet her at the book tour event on Monday. As soon as I’m done with that book, however, you can bet that I’ll be devouring The Alchemists of Loom. Stay tuned to Highlights and Hot Chocolate in the coming months for a review. I just have to find somewhere in my posting schedule to fit it in!

I wish you all a good evening, a good book, and a comfy place to read. ❤

I hope you’ve enjoyed this new type of post on my blog, a sort of written version of a vlog (because I don’t have a decent camera or editing software to actually make one of those). I don’t know yet if I’ll keep doing them, so let me know what you think in the comments. While you’re down there writing things, what was your first book/author event? I’m interested to hear everyone’s experiences!

Until next time,

Amanda

January/February Update – 2017 Goals Check-In

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Hello!!

It’s been nearly two months, hasn’t it? I’ve been wishing I could hibernate until spring comes, but with the snow piling ever higher I know that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Boston is still pretty fantastic, especially now that I’ve re-located the Starbucks I wrote so well in back in November. I may have visited every Starbucks in the city over the last 10 weeks in the course of my search. Which is actually quite a feat considering. #SorryNotSorry

So, snow: Check. Starbucks: Check. I saw Hidden Figures recently and oh my goodness is it amazing. And wonderful. And just positively breathtaking. It’s radical. I loved it. I also made it to the Museum of Fine Art in January to see the Impressionist exhibit and actually cried when I saw all the Monets and Renoirs. My mother loves impressionist artwork, especially by those two, and seeing them in person was magical. I am physically tearing up thinking about it. I also bought a postcard size of Renoir’s Grand Canal and have tacked it up to my storyboard. The colors are so amazing, the water even now seems to ripple in a light wind. Beautiful.

I also made it to the Museum of Fine Art in January to see the Impressionist exhibit and actually cried when I saw all the Monets and Renoirs. My mother loves impressionist artwork, especially by those two, and seeing them in person was magical. I am physically tearing up thinking about it. I also bought a postcard size of Renoir’s Grand Canal and have tacked it up to my storyboard. The colors are so amazing, the water even now seems to ripple in a light wind. Beautiful.

This weekend I am traveling up to the University of Maine, Orono (which I’ve just found out I’ve been spelling wrong for years. I thought it was Orohno, which I found amusing.), for their home meet for Woodsmen’s Team. If you’ve never seen lumberjack sports, you are in for a treat! Despite the deep snow, it promises to be exciting. And cold, as usual. Also, my parents are visiting, so yay, family!

Hopefully, I’ll have time to write individual and more lengthy posts about those three excursions, but I can’t guarantee it right now. Okay, enough chitchat. Onto the goals check-in! I suddenly have a lot of them. Que trying to organize my life.

TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day:
Nope. But I did write over 2000 words on Saturday between camping out at the library and writing at Starbucks. So that’s pretty good! December was plain nuts with holidays and visiting family, and January was consumed by my Grad School application and severe writer’s block.

I finally realized that my last chapter and a half from NaNoWriMo went off a cliff because I hadn’t written enough background for the side characters to have personalities. Oops. So Saturday I wrote character backgrounds. Fun times.

Apply to Full Time Jobs: #BabysittingLife

Apply to Grad School: You guys, I did it! I got everything, including essays, references, resumes, and transcripts in before the scholarship/fellowship deadline. And now the waiting begins. *Breathes Deeply*

2017 Goals:
Stick to My Budget: meh. Not terrible, but not great. If you follow Curio Street Reads you’ll notice I have a weakness for books.

Pay Lots of Student Loans: Not so much of a party in my bank account. But I’m getting there. Yay monthly payment plans!

Build Savings Account: Actual party in my bank account.

Spend Less Than $500 on Books This Year: Yes, this is a real, albeit first-world, problem. If only people would actually get me books for my birthday/Christmas… JK, I would still have this problem, I’d just also have MORE BOOKS! Rather than attempt to curtail my book buying habit, I’ve decided to try to buy from sites like Thrift Books and Book Depository, and occasionally Amazon (Okay, there’s actually a lot of Amazon. I have prime specifically for this reason.), rather than Barnes and Noble (to which I have a membership because duh.). LET’S JUST AGREE I HAVE A READING/BOOK BUYING ADDICTION, OKAY? Also, I need more bookshelves. And don’t even get me started on all the independent bookstores in Boston that I haven’t located yet. They exist. There’s one I pass on my way to church. I’ve started going to early church just so I’m out of the area before that store opens. My life is a struggle.

Only Buy New Clothes Seasonally: This is agony because I recently discovered I have Primark and Madewell in Boston, but so far I’m doing okay.

Get 8+ hours of sleep/Go to bed by 10 pm: HAHAHAHAHA self you are silly. There are books to read and Netflix shows like The Crown and Stranger Things to watch. Not to mention they’ve done a spectacular job of keeping my favorite cheesy rom-com, A Christmas Kiss (which I own btw, but that’s not relevant), in the streaming library for days like today when I’m all exhausted because hormones.

Only Watch Three Movies/Five Episodes Per Week: Because the struggle is real. I watched five episodes of The Crown this week and it’s only Wednesday. I want to start Stranger Things but this goal is helping me stop myself. I have writing to do. And reading. Yeah. Reading. And writing.

Finish Craft Projects: I have three projects (Crochet, Latch-Hook, Embroidery) that I started over a year ago (some over 10 years ago) that I never finished. They will be done by the end of the year. Period.

Post Regularly: Oops.

Keep Up With Book Reviews: At this point not posting my weekly book review makes me feel like my life is falling apart. Maybe someday this part of the blog will feel the love too. But not just yet.

Plan Monthly Post Schedules: Did that. Didn’t write the posts. Am sad.

Read 50+ Books: I think I’m a book behind to reach 52. But guys, Elantris (Review out 4/25) was long. SO worth it, but the first 300 pages were slow for me. Argh.

Get In Shape: I’ve been trying to explore the city every weekend, but it’s hard to do anything with all this snow.

Walk 40+ Miles Per Month: So far, so good! Pretty happy about this one.

Finish Everest Draft: I Think I Can, I Think I Can. Ideally, I’ll be done by July, though if I have to keep stopping to write character and country background, it might be November. I just sent the first three chapters to three friends who read some of the very rough versions I wrote originally (think grades 7-10), and am letting them edit/comment/proof those for flow, etc. We’ll see what they think. In the meantime, I want to focus on chapters 4-6 and worldbuilding now that everyone is in roughly the same place.

Write 20,000 Words Per Month: Not in January. We’ll see if I can even hit 10,000 in February.  The child is teething.

Run a 5K in under 30 Minutes: If I ever see the ground again, maybe I’ll actually start running and this goal will be feasible.

January Goals:
Submit Grad School Application: YES!

Order New Computer: After SIX years on the same Dell laptop, I am happy to say I am now the proud owner of a new HP Pavillion laptop (and it’s RED!). You have no idea how exited I am, or how happy my back is to be carrying only 5lbs now, instead of 10lbs. *tears of joy* Also, the storage space is positively luxurious by comparison. MY PRECIOUS.

Read 3+ Books: (* indicates finished)
*Grace, Not Perfection by Emily Ley,
*Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson,
and Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, which I didn’t finish until February.

Write 4+ Book Reviews: (* indicates finished)
*Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling (Screenplay),
*Stone Heart by Luanne Rice,
*Grace, Not Perfction by Emily Ley,
*The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss,
and  *Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson.

Re-Outline Everest: That’s right, I re-outlined and added a whole new thread to the story because I had a huge dead spot in the second half, and now we’ll see where this takes me. It’s going to be a lot of fun to write at least!

February Goals:
Read 7+ Books: (* indicates finished)
*Elantris by Brandon Sanderson,
*Nancy Drew and the Curse of the Arctic Star by Carolyn Keene
*Sandry’s Book by Tamora Pierce,
Daja’s Book by Tamora Pierce,
Tris’ Book by Tamora Pierce,
Briar’s Book by Tamora Pierce,
A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé and translated from French into English by Alison Anderson,
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald,
A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab,
and *Farewell Speeches by Barack and Michelle Obama.

Write 4+ Book Reviews: (* indicates finished)
*Nancy Drew and the Curse of the Arctic Star by Carolyn Keene (Review out 2/7),
*The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (Review out 2/14),
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Review out 2/21),
A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé (Review out 2/28),
*Sandry’s Book by Tamora Pierce (Review out 4/18),
and Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Review out in 2018).

Write 20,000 Words of Everest: We’ll see! Currently: 2513. HA!

Run 12 Miles: Not in this snow, I won’t. I’ll let the people training for the Boston Marathon have the icy roads to themselves, thanks.

 

 

So, that’s me. Plodding along and clearly not hibernating. Oh well, try again next year.

Until Next Time,

Amanda

NaNoWriMo Update #4 and Wrap-up – Week of November 22-30

writing-dory-1

Source: Tumblr

This week. Oh boy. It was a fun one! and by fun I mean miserable and yet liberating all at the same time. Yes, that’s an odd sentiment for me to have about the end of NaNoWriMo 2016. Did I win? Nope. Did I get close? No way. Did I learn anything? TONS.

NaNoWriMo for me is not just about ‘winning’, it’s about practicing the discipline of writing. I wrote a solid 25,000 words this month, not to mention the book reviews I’ve caught up on writing in this week after I threw in the imaginary NaNo towel of defeat. So I didn’t hit 50,000 words. Last year I wrote a total of 4,500. This year I wrote more than 5x that. I call that a win in my book, and since it’s my life, my scorebook is the only book that matters, right? Right.

The week started off rough. I had driven home for the weekend for Thanksgiving, and I was spending the whole week there. Little did I realize how good I have it in Boston. My parents’ house is much darker than I remember it (60-year old houses don’t really have recess lighting), and since I was working at the dining room table, I wasn’t feeding the woodstove regularly, which meant I was basically always cold. Not ideal working conditions.

Beyond that, I finally had a breakthrough with the scene I was writing, but the cold and the dark sapped my energy, to the point where it was quite a struggle to hit the 25,000 word count mark. And that’s with my scrapped scene still included, by the way. Still, I can’t blame my failure purely on lack of warmth, light, or discipline. They all contributed in some way, but I was also missing something else. I was spending so much time writing that I hadn’t left myself any time for reading. My imagination thrives on reading. I had tried to cut out as much of my reading as possible because I didn’t want to distract or influence myself from or about my story in any way, but this led to one of my least favorite things in the world: a reading slump. Which quickly became a writing slump, and then the Thanksgiving holiday (and my entire family being home) enabled me to put off writing again and again until I was back in Boston, where I looked at my computer and felt, well, nothing.

There was no spark left. The reading slump (and very probably some hormones as well) had taken all my inspiration from me, and I just wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. Instead, I admitted that I needed a vacation from writing (probably until January) because my family is super important to me, and the holidays are just too insane to get any reading done and still write.

I threw myself into finding things that inspire me all over again, but I also let myself cry. I cried watching the Gilmore Girls revival. I cried finishing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (review coming December 13th). I cried watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (twice. I saw it twice. review coming January 2017.) I cried reading The Boston Girl in a single day (review coming December 20th). Like I said, I needed to cry. Crying is extremely cathartic. And, now that I’m caught up on my reviews (I actually finished writing my last reviews for the year yesterday!), and I’m back on a regular reading schedule, I’m feeling much more myself, but I still haven’t found my spark. Hopefully, it will come back sometime in the next month or so, but if I have to put off working on The Everest Chronicles a little longer, I’m okay with that. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs with this book in the last 12 years. What harm is there in another few months?

So, no NaNoWriMo win for me, but I am 25,000 words closer to having a complete first draft! Woohoo! I’m pumped to see where my story ends up taking my characters. I have the main plot outlined, but the in between bits keep running off in new directions, and it’s exciting! If you want to know what I was up to during the last week, check out my notes below.

(Day) Day # – Goal/Actual Word count (Daily word count) (ahead/behind)

(Tuesday) Day 22 – 36666/24044 (250) (-12622)
Having been gone for a month, I made a point of driving over an hour to meet a friend for lunch and then head over to the bridal shop to visit my old coworkers. It was a slow day, and everyone who was there was pretty psyched to see me, so it was a very nice visit. 🙂
(Wednesday) Day 23 – 38333/ 25347 (1303) (-12986)
My sisters arrived home for the holiday Tuesday night, so Wednesday was dedicated to hanging out with them. I also had to drive my dad to the dealership because his truck was acting up. But I did find time in the afternoon to sit down and pound out some words. I’m beyond excited that I hit 25000! Those last 5000 words were the hardest part of the entire month for me, but I made it. I can’t say that I knew I was going to give up here, but I had had a pretty good feeling I was going to quit at 25k for the last few days. I just wouldn’t allow myself to give up before I got there.
(Thursday) Day 24 – 40000/ 25347 (0) (-14653)
Thanksgiving was amazing. On my dad’s side, the biggest family holidays are Thanksgiving and Memorial Day. Every other holiday you have no idea who;s going to show up, but on those two days just about everyone is there. This year, of the 38 of us, we were missing only six, and that includes the newlyweds, the one working in LA, and the group who went to Cali to visit the other side of their family.
(Friday) Day 25 – 41666/25347 (0) (-16319)
Black Friday at my house doesn’t mean shopping until you drop. It’s all about baking. We baked 33 dozen cookies in under six hours this year. We have six or seven different kinds of cookies that we’ve perfected recipes for over the years, though we’ve only made three kinds this year so far. While it’s just me and my mom and whatever friends I can recruit doing the baking now, it used to be my great-grandmother, my grandmother, my mother, my aunt, me, and my siblings. Baking day has always been my favorite. We also went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Yay!
(Saturday) Day 26 – 43333/25347 (0) (-17986)
I spent the day leisurely driving back up to Boston, but I made a point of stopping to visit my friend from highschool who lives in Connecticut. She was my first ever best friend, and while we’ve been friends for TEN YEARS now, I still hardly ever get to see her. Hopefully, with my travellig back and forth from NJ to MA now, I’ll get to see her a lot more!
(Sunday) Day 27 – 45000/25347 (0) (-19653)
I think I spent the entire day watching Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Wait, yes. I did. It’s six hours long, and I needed to take breaks to breathe. I also found a church to go to in the area! Hooray!
(Monday) Day 28 – 46666/25347 (0) (-21319)
After crying through Gilmore Girls, I thought I couldn’t make my face look worse by finishing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I was wrong, but it was worth it!
(Tuesday) Day 29 – 48333/25347 (0) (-22986)
I may have the read The Boston Girl in one day, and it might need to be added to my list of favorite books of all time.
(Wednesday) Day 30 – 50000/25347 (0) (-24653)
I decided to take a rest day. I wrote this post, and did a lot of ‘End of NaNoWriMo Processing’. I accomplished a lot this year, and I am super proud of myself. Even though I didn’t win, I think I deserve a T-shirt and a mug. Also the theme this year for NaNoWriMo was/is pretty awesome.

I’m not giving up in any way, shape, or form, but I do need to do some work to get my spark back. Don’t worry, I’ve lost the spark many times before and it always returns. In the mean time, I’m looking forward to diving into my reading list for next year to try and get ahead on my reviews. That way, when inspiration does strike, I’ll be ready for it, and I’ll have time to devote to writing without getting too far behind on my reading. Here’s to another amazing year of being surrounded by and creating works of art with words.

Until Next Time,

~Amanda