August 2017: Monthly Recap

While most people are slammed with getting all their children back to school, my August was crazy in a totally different way!

The search for an agent kicked off this month, and my fingers, toes, and eyes have been crossed while also checking my email every 18 seconds. But don’t worry, I did my best to keep busy.

In addition to my writing, reading, and my day job, I also do a little freelance marketing. My dad is opening a new store in a few weeks (!!!), so lots of this month was focused on PR activities.

I also got to take a mother/daughter trip to Boston in what turned out to be a fantastic and also very nerdy weekend: Kenny Chesney concert, Louisa May Alcott’s house, and lots of colonial history.

In other exciting news… This month, celebrated its 1 year anniversary with over 20K views! Thank you all so much for the support. I love sharing my writing journey with y’all!

Now on to the good stuff!

What I Read

GRAND TOTAL: 7

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon ★★★★☆
So unless you have been living under a rock, this series and its related television program have skyrocketed to rabid fandom in the past few years. And if you read the first two books, you know all about the epic historical romance that is Claire and Jaime. I have read this series before, but in preparation for Season 3, I went back to reread book 3 and refresh my memory.

At the end of book 2, Claire travels back through the stones to the 1900s and her first husband Frank… pregnant with Jaime’s child as he fights the losing battle for Scottish independence at Culloden Moor. Twenty years later, Claire has done her best to forget about Jaime while raising his daughter, Brianna. But then she discovers that Jaime survived the battle… And everything changes.

I don’t want to lie to you… The first two hundred pages or so are a bit brutal as there is ZERO interaction between Jaime and Claire. Instead, we see them living their lives apart.

The amount of historical research that went into this series is jaw-dropping. Even more so is the way Gabaldon takes all that information and weaves into a setting that instantly draws you in. This book takes the reader to a totally new setting (hint: there’s a beach) but it’s just as enchanting as Scotland.

I love that Jaime and Claire’s reunion is not easy. Nor is their life afterward. They are hit with challenge after challenge. And while it’s obviously enhanced for the novel’s sake, it mirrors real life in a way most romances don’t. So Outlanders, I know the length of the novels are intimidating. I know Voyager has a slow start. But keep reading. It’s worth it.

Stay tuned for a blog on everything you need before Outlander Season 3 begins on September 10.

These Things I’ve Done by Rebecca Phillips ★★★☆☆
Sophomore year of high school, Dara accidentally kills her best friend and flees to live with her aunt and uncle. Two years later, she returns to confront her grief, guilt, and her best friend’s little brother, Ethan, who may or may not hate her.

Philipps’ second novel is an easy – somewhat predictable – young adult read that touches on some really serious subject matters. I loved how she switched back and forth between before and after (sophomore and senior year) gives a great insight into the gaping hole left in her life though I wish we had seen a bit more of Dara and Aubrey’s friendship before the issues started. Stupid teenage boys ruin everything.

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While she really nailed the characterization and development of teenage friendship and romance, I wasn’t as attached to the characters as I would’ve hoped. They were lacking in something, especially the secondary characters who blended together. But overall, Phillips really delivers on the heartbreaking subject of grief and guilt with a particularly gorgeous refrain of Dara telling herself “I am a statue” to explain her reluctance and terror to touch or be touched. A perfect end of summer read as school starts back up again, and a reminder to hold your friends close.

Hello Sunshine by Laura Dave ★★★☆☆
Guys, Laura Dave’s voice in this book is freaking phenomenal. Crystal clear, unique, intimate and absolutely infatuating. The plot itself had some holes, but I kept reading just because I was so in love with her writing style and voice. Plus the message of caution in sharing so much of our lives on social media struck a major chord.

Sunshine Mackenzie is a celebrity YouTube chef who is outed on social media for not knowing how to cook, stealing all her recipes, and cheating on her husband. So she goes back home to the Hamptons figure out her next steps, trying to get back to her roots, and maybe reunite with the sister and niece she hasn’t seen in years.

So Dave’s main character might not be the best person in the world, but I really enjoyed her journey. Her evolving friendship with her smart-as-a-whip niece was my favorite part, second only to the amazing character development of secondary characters and descriptions of setting and food. I could seriously see this story taking place in my mind.

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Me while reading Hello Sunshine

But there were a few big things that turned me off. First, there was no real devastation/hopelessness from Sunshine after her hack. Her life is literally ruined, and she doesn’t even shed a tear. Also, the ending… When we finally discover the culprit behind her ruin, and… No one seems to be as upset as I was! I was searching for outrage, defiance, tears… Nothing. This was a really satisfying piece of chick lit – perfect for the beach – but I wish it would’ve dived a little deeper into the reactions to the hack.

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen ★★☆☆☆
This was my first SAA novel, and this author comes with quite a bit of hype, heralded as the foremost player in the magical realism genre. So needless to say – since my newest novel contains threads of just that – I was excited to dive in. But alas… I was disappointed. Allen’s writing style and setting are indeed magical, and I loved how the setting was almost a character of its own. The multiple characters had great and inventive backstories, and I found myself feeling like I was in an adult version of a children’s book.

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But the overall lack of emotion was something I really struggled with. While the character development was good, they lacked that depth, connection, or growth. For someone who reads specifically for characters – even above plot which was also very predictable in this one – I expected more. I am not swearing off Allen forever, but I am not as excited as I’d hoped to dig into her other novels.

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas ★★★★☆
Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas ★★★★★
Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas ★★★★★★ (yes, that’s six)

So I am not going to review each of these here in an effort to not annoy all my non-YA fantasy fans. And because I binge-read them so quickly that I can’t quite remember where one ends and the next begins. But I am going to review the three books in one fell swoop to encourage readers to continue after reading books 1 & 2 (reviews here).

Maas has an incredibly unique ability to create a series that just builds and builds and builds in both pacing, tension and character development. I read each of series in only a week or two. Also, what starts out as a relatively simple plot in first book evolves into something massive over the entirety of the series. Take Throne of Glass… Celaena is offered an escape from her sentence in a salt mine if she competes in and wins the role of King’s Champion. But the rest of the series follows her acknowledging her true identity as the lost Queen of Terrasen, rallying troops from around the world, becoming a renowned magic-wielder and gearing up to fight an evil Fae queen and the king of demons.

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The addition of characters like Manon, Elide, Lysandra and the rest of Rowan’s cadre add such an exciting level not only in their own chapters but in the main plot as well. Action scenes – particularly Lysandra’s battle as a sea dragon – are written over multiple pages with fascinating (and historically accurate) detail but fly by. Guys, I have never turned pages so quickly.

Plus in these three installments, there’s finally a few romances I can buy into! The relationships in books 1 & 2 were childish and shallow, but boy, our characters have grown up.

Lastly, let’s talk about the ending of Empire of Storms. Celaena/Aelin’s character has always been a little annoying and arrogant for me, but her character development really becomes complete in the best last few chapters I’ve ever read. And I thought my book hangover for ACOWAR was bad… Sarah Maas did it again. I can’t wait for May.

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August Reads

What I Wrote

August was spent putting the final touches on 700 Main and the accompanying necessary submission materials: query letter and synopsis. Also known as the worst part of being a writer.

To try to help others in this process, I did a blog series on the in’s, out’s and must-have’s of querying successful. And once mine were done, I sent 700 Main out into the universe. Really hoping I will have a few pieces of good news to share soon!

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Coming up…

So do you guys think I can plan, outline, write and edit another book in six months? I don’t know either, but I am gonna try! I’ve got a few ideas simmering, and this month I cam going to finally pick one and see what imagination starts to bubble. Hopefully Kristen Kieffer’s Pre-Write Project will help! Review on that to come too.

As far as reading, September’s reading list includes some hotly anticipated new releases:

  • One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake
  • Reading People by Anne Bogel
  • The Dazzling Heights by Katherine McGee
  • The Host by Stephenie Meyer
  • Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Now it’s officially fall – my favorite time of year because football, boots, and cooler weather. What are you goals for the second half of 2017? Share below!

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