Summer is officially here, and I couldn’t be happier about it. May is always a whirlwind month, and this year was no different, full of reading, drafting, revising, unpacking, cleaning and working.
But I stayed extremely focused on my goals and was able to knock out quite a bit. I even did a week-long sprint of 1000 words per day!
First, let’s kick things off with some reading.
What I Read
GRAND TOTAL: 5
A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas ★★★★☆
We all know how obsessed I am with this author. The ACOTAR series absolutely wrecked me, so the anticipation for this new installment was intense. My friend Devon and I even had a Twitter reading party upon its release.
This is a follow up novella taking place directly after the events of the trilogy and centered around the upcoming Winter Solstice. Now let me warn you: there is not really a plot. The story is entirely character-centric, focusing on each character’s recovery after war. And it’s beautifully done. All members of the Night Court have a certain amount of growth needed, and watching them struggle with their demons AND start to actually enjoy some quieter moments is really heartwarming and lovely.
That being said, there were also a lot of little details used to hint at the upcoming novels: a strange darkness, Mor’s decision whether to travel beyond the Night Court, the unrest within the Illyrian camps. They kept the story suspenseful even with the lack of plot.
Overall not my favorite novel from Maas but a sweet installment that left me wanting even more. Luckily we are getting it – with the next novel focusing on playboy/warrior Cassian and hateful (but I still love her) Nesta. I can’t wait!
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson ★★★★★
I hate memoirs, but Jenny Lawson is one fucking hilarious lady. I know I usually don’t cuss on this blog, yet I am using is it as a fine example to weed out the easily offended. If that’s you, don’t read this book.
The subject matter of Lawson’s memoir is really nothing special – growing up in small town Texas. Lots of us do it – including myself – and we all have similarly insane stories. My shooting water moccasins with an air rifle and then swimming in the fish tanks at the bait shop are pretty comparable. But her narrative style makes them all the better with long-winded, stream of consciousness stories interspersed with pictures and gems of hilarity. I think this book will be particularly funny for other small town Southerners, but it appeals to all walks of life. Just don’t starting judging us for our weird ways…
She also touches on some dark subject matter – her questionable childhood, debilitating anxiety and fertility issues. Yet even while she acknowledges her pain, she keeps it light and relatable. Above all, my favorite parts were the detailed arguments with her husband. The pure patience of a man who tolerates his wife’s search for the dead bodies in their neighborhood in case of a zombie apocalypse – so she knows which direction they’d come from.
Sounds perfectly reasonable to me, right?
The Elizas by Sara Shepard ★★★☆☆
From the author who brought us the blockbuster hit Pretty Little Liars (which I never read but loved the TV show), The Elizas is her first foray into adult fiction. Eliza Fontaine is an author with a extremely sketchy past – brain tumor, multiple suicide attempts, alcoholism – who finds herself at the bottom of a pool. She says she was pushed. Her family insists it was another attempt. So she embarks on a mysterious journey to convince them and learn who pushed her… And why?
The novel itself alternates POV between Eliza and chapters from her novel, The Dots. And throughout the story, they begin to blend together, not knowing what is fact and what is fiction. I love a good unreliable narrator, and Shepard executes that piece pretty well, although the issues with her memory felt a little far-fetched and easy. She also gives great insight into life as an author which obviously resonated with me. The characters are interesting if not a little underdeveloped. But Eliza’s dry humor, her odd but lovable love interest, and the enigmatic and gregarious fictional aunt are great additions.
Here was my big issue: it was marketed as a thriller along the likes of Girl on a Train and Gone Girl. It was a well done family drama with some light mystery, but it is nowhere near gritty or fast-paced enough to belong to that group.
Toward the beginning, I bought into it. But I saw the ending a mile away, making it far too predictable. Overall, easy to read and entertaining. Definitely worth a look, but don’t go into it thinking it’s a thriller.
We’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss ★★★☆☆
I was instantly intrigued by this book when I heard it consisted of letters from a death-row inmate to his friend. The alternating third-person narrative follows Toby and Luke, teenage best friends with seriously shitty home lives.
Let me start by saying I couldn’t put this one down while reading. We don’t know what landed Luke in prison until the final chapter, and that intrigue carried the story. Without it… I think it would’ve fallen flat. The two main characters felt a little interchangeable for the first few chapters until their individuality became better developed. The friendship between the two is powerful, and I loved seeing a novel focused on that. In fact, I could’ve done completely without the romances – especially Luke’s – and focused just on the boys.
The build up of Luke’s anxiety and anger issues was done perfectly, so that when he finally snapped, I understood. His voice in the letters and in the narrative was quite different, and I struggled a bit to connect the two. But one is a young, idealistic teenager and the other is a convicted felon… So maybe that’s why. There was no real resolution either although I am not sure how he would have done it. But it left me feeling a little underwhelmed.
It’s a tearjerker – so be prepared – surrounding a controversial issue in today’s society, but it didn’t leave as much of a lasting impression on me as it could have.
To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo ★★☆☆☆
So I didn’t realize this was a Little Mermaid retelling until a few chapters in, but it’s an extremely unique – if a little dark – twist on the fairytale. Every princess does need her prince. Except in this case Lira wants him for an altogether different reason – to rip out his heart. She’s a siren after all, and that’s what they do by bewitching men with their song and luring them to their deaths.
Elian is a prince, but even more than that, he’s a pirate, captaining an impressive crew and warship with one goal: kill sirens. You can see where the conflict comes in, yes?
Christo’s writing is just beautiful, very lyrical and high-level while still easy to read. I was particularly impressed by her attention to make all descriptors sea-related – such as her legs being “pale as a shark’s belly.” I thought that added a really unique touch that kept us obsessed with the sea as the characters are. The banter is also spot-on and gives a little levity to a pretty dark and violent story.
But as much as I wanted to love it, I felt underwhelmed. Everything lacked the intensity I was wanting – the fight scenes were tame, the romance tamer. Even the story itself seemed to drag, with way too much exposition up front. Both main characters had a big change of heart, but neither was fleshed out enough to make a striking difference. And the ending itself felt very anticlimactic. Overall, it just felt sort of meh. A book that didn’t live up to its amazing premise.
What I Wrote
It’s a miracle… I accomplished ALL of my writing goals for May. I deserve all the champagne toasts.
I was able to crank out a blog each week – including my two-part series on procrastination and habits. I am also hosting my first Writer’s Cheer chat on Twitter tonight, so hop on over and join us as we discuss editing!
I also made it to 22K of my New Orleans voodoo novel which mean’s I am spot on with my timeline so far. Only two more chapters until Act 1 is done! It’s a first draft – which means it still needs a lot of work – but I am really happy with how it’s coming so far. In fact, I think I even promised you guys an excerpt…
BUT that is going to have to wait because I am planning a super special blog post introducing you to the story.
June is going to be a stressful month – the plan is for 700 Main to go out on submission – so I will be keeping myself busy and distracted with lots of writing and reading. For my current WIP, I am aiming to write a few thousand words of Act 2. But since that chunk isn’t outlined yet, it may move a little slower. I also have a few good blog topics planned!
As far as reading goes, here’s my list:
- Legendary by Stephanie Garber
- Finding the Light by Kelsey Atkins (shout out to my friend and CP!)
- Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
In addition to the books listed above, I’ll also be beta reading for two dear writing friends. AND I will be slowly rereading the Throne of Glass series over the next few months in anticipation of the final installment, Kingdom of Ash, which comes out in October. I won’t be including these in my monthly wrap ups, but if you are interested in my reviews from the first read, you can check them out here, here, and here.
Stay tuned for more updates, and share yours below!