So I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but the last two weeks have been NUTS! Major changes at my day job, balancing new projects and revisions, a dog with bloody urine, Dallas for my mom’s birthday and Halloween…
A fun yet crazy and somewhat strange month. Let’s get down to the #amwriting and #amreading details…
What I Read
GRAND TOTAL: 7
A Map for Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor ★★★☆☆
This debut was a quick, addictive read that I inhaled in just a few days. Two sisters who have recently endured a brutal falling out are stranded on island, fighting for survival… Yes please! The “stranded on an island” thing a familiar trope in TV and movies, but I’ve never actually read it. I loved seeing the daily survival activities, and Taylor did a great job mixing both the beauty and the terror of the island.
The pacing was also very well done with a great sense of adventure which can be rare in contemporary YA. It’s another book that alternates between past and present – is this becoming a thing? But the plot was well structured, slowly revealing the secrets of what exactly happened between the two sisters.
Henri and Emma were brilliantly developed, but I couldn’t quite connect to their relationship. It was very dependent, almost obsessive, but maybe it’s because I don’t have a sister. Emma is enthralled by her older sister, and the sense of guilt she carries throughout the novel is very realistic – and honestly unearned. Henri is a total bitch – like unnecessarily so – and the reunion between the sisters seemed a little easy… Emma went through a pretty big character evolution, and then Henri… well she’s still pretty much a bitch. I was getting some major Shannon from Lost vibes (without the emotional development).
Lastly – this may be the first time I’ve ever said this – but I could’ve done without the romance. It’s not that I didn’t like Alex because I actually liked him very much. But you’re stranded in the middle of the ocean and about to die… Is romance really on the brain? Plus I would have rathered Emma’s self discovery not be tied up with her relationship with a boy.
The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor ★☆☆☆☆
I think this is the first time I have ever disagreed with a review from Tomes and Tequila, but reading this novel was a trial for me.
Gaynor’s novel alternates point of view between two women – one in the past and the present (I am sensing a theme here). Frances is a young girl who moves to Yorkshire during WWI and is the center of the sensationalized Cottingley fairy pictures. Her story balances the sweet memories of childhood and the magic of fairies with the tragedy of war. We see Frances and her cousin Elsie concoct a scheme and see just how a childish story can get out of hand – but are the fairies real or not?
While Frances’ storyline was sweet and whimsical, I had to force myself through the rest. In present day, Olivia moves back to Ireland to run her grandfather’s bookshop after his death. She then finds an unpublished manuscript by Frances. I have to say, I can not stand Olivia. She’s supposedly heartbroken over the recent discovery of her infertility but it seemed very shallow to me. She also has this horrible fiance that she doesn’t want to marry… But he’s very one-dimensional, and no reason is given for why she’s with him in the first place. Then add a TON of internal reflection and some insta-love… I’m out.
From a style perspective, I think Gaynor is probably just not the writer for me (albeit I have not read her other novels). All the characters speak in mottos and lessons, not like real people. Obscure poems and song lyrics were constantly quoted, and the ratio of internal thought/observation to actual action and dialogue was probably 90:10. Lastly, the phrase “tears slipped down her cheeks” was probably used twenty times.
Overall, not my favorite, but other reviewers seem to disagree with me.
The New Orleans Voodoo Handbook by Kenaz Filan ★★★★☆
If you take a look at the other reviews of this book on Goodreads, you can see that they are varied. So I want to clarify one thing before I continue with my thoughts. This is NOT a handbook on how to actually do voodoo. Instead, this is a handbook on learning more about the religion including relevant history and important figures as well as an outline of important spirits and a few more common practices.
That being said, this was the perfect book for my introduction to voodoo. Most of the historical information was given as a framework for how voodoo began and has continued. It was a little long winded at points, and I could have done without some of the traditions section – music and food didn’t seem super relevant. But overall, I learned everything I needed for a research foundation for my next book.
Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land ★★★☆☆
First of all, I typically hate audiobooks, but this narrator was fantastic! I would actually recommend listening as opposed to actually reading this novel. From my research, listening also gets rid of some of the funky style like no actual dialogue for the first half of the book…
Milly, a 15 year old, has recently entered into foster care after turning in her serial killer mom. But Milly struggles with dark urges of her own and hears her mother whispering in her ear… Sounds like a thriller right? It’s not. The story moves pretty slowly, involves a lot of internal from the main character, and the twist at the end was pretty predictable.
This novel read more like a psychological profile detailing the battle between nature vs. nurture. Milly’s conflict was beyond fascinating, and the characters were all very well developed. I listened quickly, anxious to know what happens. But unfortunately, I think this is another example of the hype becoming too much. Advertised as “one of the most extraordinary, controversial and explosive debuts of 2017” is a lot to live up to. And while the book was perfectly okay and enjoyable, the slow pacing was a drawback.
I also read the first three books in the Harry Potter series, but I won’t bore you all with reviews. Because quite frankly it would turn into me babbling about how amazing they are, how J.K. Rowling is a bona fide genius, and how these books light my soul on fire… So I’ll just leave it at that.
What I Wrote
I finally picked an idea for my next book… And New Orleans witchcraft and voodoo was the winner! I did a lot of research this month in addition to sketching out my characters and plot. If you haven’t checked out Kristen Kieffer’s Pre-Write Project or Crafting Incredible Characters workbooks, do it now. Extremely helpful to kick your brainstorming up to the next level.
At the beginning of November, I also traveled to New Orleans to get a sense of the city. But I’ll talk more about that in next week’s dedicated post… Speaking of, I know I didn’t post much this month. I am hoping to do better with that this month, and I have a few good topics lined up:
- All the fun things I did and learned in New Orleans
- How to choose between story ideas
- I may even review Taylor Swift’s new album… Who knows.
So I am not participating in NaNoWriMo this month.
It takes longer than you might think to start writing a new project. For me, it takes a few months to percolate. Your first general idea may evolve or change. Your characters continue to develop, and additional research can spark a new plot point or scene. There’s no need to rush it.
So in addition to moving forward with my new project, I have decided to go back and begin revisions on either 700 Main or State of Grace. One is more of a reorganization, the other is a total rewrite. Haven’t decided which to start on yet, but I needed to be actively writing/working on something. My brain was starting to rot, and my fingers were starting to twitch.
On the reading front, I have a few good ones lined up for this month, all recommended to me by fellow readers:
- If We We Were Villains by M. L. Rio
- Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham
- Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
- Finish the Harry Potter series (rank them in next post)
For those of you who are doing NaNo, how’s it going so far? Which project do you think I should revise first?
Let me know in the comments below!