I didn’t have high hopes for productivity in July. The first week was spent in Jamaica doing nothing but lounging on the beach, a much needed break from the real world. But I always have a bit of a vacation hangover, and between that and how freaking hot it’s been in July, I assumed it would be a lazy month.
Boy was I wrong…
But first things first, reviews! And I read a LOT of books this month thanks to my lovely beach vacation. So I am going to keep these short and sweet. Some great recommendations and a few disappointments…
What I Read
GRAND TOTAL: 9
Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno ★★★☆☆
The combination of a mysterious island and magical realism and was an instant sell for me. It’s the story of two sister witches who live there but are about to leave for college – the first time either of them have left the island which is famous for the three hundred year old bird who roosts there (and happens to be one of their ancestors).
I’ll admit the bird thing was a little weird for me at first but I caught on quickly. Leno has an extremely enchanting writing style and I loved how all of the descriptors were sea-themed to tie into the story.
The first half was slow, but it picked up a bit and took a dark turn I wasn’t quite expecting. I loved all the characters – although the romance was a little blah for me. There were so many good elements, so I don’t know why… But I just couldn’t get emotionally invested in the story. I saw Georgie’s power come from a mile away and that made the whole story a tad underwhelming.
Royally Screwed by Emma Chase ★★★★★
So a normal girl and a prince falling in love is totally cliche and overdone… But I fell in love with this book!
The author nailed so many things that are hard to do. The male POV was perfectly done. And while they were insta-attracted to each other, the love came gradually. We all know how much I hate insta-love. The sex scenes were hot without being too much, and the characters were fantastic. Especially the secondary – they shone as much as our MCs and I am pumped that the next books expand on them.
I also thought Chase provided some really interesting insight into the pitfalls and challenges of being famous, especially for royalty who didn’t really choose that for themselves.
But the icing on top of the cake was that I really couldn’t tell how it was going to end. I knew it was going to be a happy ending – because romance, duh – but I couldn’t see how. I won’t spoil it, but I was thrilled with how it turned out.
The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E Reichert ★★★★★
Amy is represented by my agent, and she writes women’s fiction like me! I had heard of her novel The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, but the cover and setting of an apple orchard in Door County, Wisconsin made me choose to read this first.
First and foremost, I thought the cider making and apple harvesting processes were fascinating. I learned so much without being inundated with the technicalities and logistics. The real-life details were beautifully balanced with more magical doses like Sanna’s ability to see the colors of her cider.
Speaking of Sanna, she was such a unique heroine. I don’t think I’ve ever read one like her. She was intense and almost a little masculine, claiming to hate kids and not care about most of the things heroines do. But her love story was so charming and realistic as was her character’s evolution. I adored her budding relationship with Bass – who was the perfectly written little boy. All butts and farts.
It also packed a serious emotional punch. Sanna’s love for the trees shone through on every page, and Isaac’s battle of whether or not to tell Bass the truth about his mother was devastating. Even though he made a mistake, I understood his struggle.
This is a must read for lovers of women’s fiction, and I look forward to reading more from Amy!
Little Black Lies by Sandra Block ★★★★☆
We all I know I love thrillers, and Sandra specializes in them. And she’s also another one of my agent’s clients, so I was desperate to read.
This novel follows a psychology resident who is not only trying to treat her patients but herself. And when she gets a new patient whose murder of her mother starts to stir up her own past, things start to get crazy.
First of all, I love books set in mental hospitals. I don’t know why, but I find them both creepy and fascinating. And Block took full advantage of both! We got to see several different characters and their illnesses through the lens of our MC Zoe who had such a strong, funny and sarcastic voice.
I wanted a little more dark tension through the story itself, but I can honestly say that I did not see the twist at the end coming. Which is extremely rare for me, and I loved it!
Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas ★★★★☆
A high stakes thriller that retells famous murders like Amanda Knox and Natalee Holloway seems like the perfect beach read, right?
A group of snotty teens go to Aruba for spring break, but one of them ends up dead. Her best friend is the prime suspect, but Anna promises she’s innocent and is determined to discover who actually killed Elise, even while she’s locked up in prison awaiting trial.
The book was extremely well-balanced between the present day investigation and flashbacks to Elise and Anna’s developing friendships. It added a layer of complication, and I felt myself reading between the lines, searching for hints. And beyond that, it was a great study of friendship, betrayal and loyalty.
I devoured this, loving every minute of it… until I got to the end. And I was so disappointed. Not only was it a little confusing and anti-climactic, it felt like the author had just run out of space and ended it abruptly. I wanted to see the murder, the crime scene, more of the psychology behind the murderer’s decision. Plus, the “how much do you love me?” thing sort of threw me.
I’d still definitely recommend this read, but beware that the ending may not be as satisfying as you wish.
Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young ★★☆☆☆
This is one of the more-hyped YA release of the year, but I have to say I was sort of disappointed. It had so much potential!
The world was based on the Vikings, and I loved everything about it from the setting itself to the gods, the societal expectations, and the unique characters. I mean a badass warrior woman? Yes please. I really enjoyed these aspects, and the first chapter was fantastic.
But then it sort of fell apart. I couldn’t connect to the characters, and there was not near enough emotion. I liked them all, and I think they could’ve been fantastic. But I just couldn’t bring myself to care… Not to mention that the romance came out of nowhere and really didn’t enhance the story.
My biggest issue though was that there was so much buildup and then the climax was barely there! There’s a quick battle scene and then happy endings for everyone! Overall, it was an okay read, and I felt it lacked follow through on a fantastic concept.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir ★★★★☆
I’ve been holding out on reading this one for a while because of all the hype. But with the release of the third novel in the series, I finally caved and was really happy with the results.
Tahir’s novel is set in a cruel empire under martial law, and our main characters are a slave/spy for the rebels and a soldier who plans on deserting. The plot itself felt a little recycled between the rebels overthrowing the empire and the competition to become the new Emperor. But honestly I didn’t mind at all. In fact, I hardly noticed because everything else was done so well.
The world building is fantastic. I felt I was there in every scene, and the different roles and rules were extremely interesting and unique. I mean soldiers who have silver masks that adjoin to their skin? Pretty dang cool. And in every scene, the stakes were clear and couldn’t wait to read more
Beyond that, the characters really shone. And that goes for our two MCs and the secondary characters. The Commandant was evil as all get out but I loved her. Elias was fantastic and I loved his backstory. Laia was… fine. I found her a little annoying but still well-developed. A warning though: if you are anti-love triangle, this may not be the book for you. There are two! And it felt a bit much at times.
I wouldn’t say it’s my new favorite fantasy, but I definitely encourage you to pick it up and can’t wait to read the next installment.
Camino Island by John Grisham ★☆☆☆☆
So I am not a Grisham fan. It’s not that I don’t like him, his subject matter has just never really appealed to me. But when I heard this was a bit different than his typical story – a heist involving stolen, precious manuscripts and the literary black market – I decided to pick it up.
And the first chapter had me so excited. It was full of action and intrigue. But it went downhill from there. I thought the characters were interesting and well-developed but the plot was just… non-existent. It moved very slowly with zero thrill. And it made authors seem so boring! I promise we aren’t! I even held out for the end thinking there would be some big twist. I never got it. I did learn a lot about first edition collecting which was interesting, but everything else was a definite disappointment.
Write Naked by Jennifer Probst ★★☆☆☆
Romance is not my strong suit in writing. So when I read the subtitle “A bestseller’s secrets to writing romance and navigating the path to success” I was pumped.
The first half reads like an autobiography or memoir of Probst’s journey thus far. I thought it was fine, interesting enough. There were some very relatable sections. But it lasted too long and I wanted to get to the good stuff. She even acknowledged it with several sentences along the lines of “I know you want to read about how to write sex scenes, I’m gonna get there” and then continued talking about herself.
I did however love the chapter that compiled common secrets of success from other romance authors. I learned several good pointers from just that.
But the second half – which was supposed to be secrets to writing romance – was a total letdown. All seemed very geared toward authors who either plan to self-publish or have already published. Which is fine – but not relevant for me and not what I was expecting. Half of the advice was about marketing and social media, and the advice on writing romance that she did give wasn’t really anything I hadn’t heard before and contained a lot of excerpts from her own books.
The quote in one of her first chapters about not living up to what you promise a reader definitely applied here. Or maybe I’ve just already read so many writing books that I’m jaded.
I am not counting them here, but I also made great progress on my goal of rereading the Throne of Glass series before the finale is released in October. A little too much progress as I read five out of the seven this month alone. So much for savoring them… Oops.
What I Wrote
Like I said above, I wasn’t expecting July to be very productive. Between my vacation and family coming in town at the end, I didn’t even really have a full month to work with.
But I had agreed to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo with a few writing friends, so I figured I’d do my best.
For those of you unfamiliar with Camp NaNoWriMo, it’s a month-long challenge to write as much as you can. In November, it’s a whopping 50K words. In April and July, you can set your own goals but are encouraged to challenge yourself.
At the start of the month, I set a goal to write 20K words in July. To my immense surprised, I hit that on Day 10. So for the hell of it – thinking I’d never make it – I doubled my goal to 40K. I hit that one week ago. And throughout the month of July I ended up with a grand total of 50,146 words!
Granted they are terrible and the entire draft is a hot mess. But that’s what first drafts are supposed to be, so I will take it! I am extremely proud of my accomplishments this month and am hoping to carry that momentum over to August.
Next week, I’ll be releasing a blog discussing the lessons my friends and I learned during Camp NaNo in the hopes that it will help you on your writing journey too!
My goal for August is to finish writing Act Two of my WIP, The Blood Between Us. That’s about 10 chapters, so I am aiming for 30,000 words. I am also going to outline the rest of the novel, including the ending which I am pumped to write.
I’m also happy to announce that I have my first editing client, and I will be line editing her novel throughout the next week or two. If you are interested in booking my editorial services – whether queries, synopses, or your full novel – check out your options here.
As far as reading goes, I’ve gotten back in the habit of reading each night before bed instead of watching TV, and I’ve loved it. It helps my brain start to relax, and we all know electronics don’t help you sleep. So here’s the list of books I plan to attack this month:
- Sea Witch by Sarah Whining
- Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
- Royally Matched by Emma Chase
- Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
- A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman