February Wrap-Up

Hello, everyone!

My final semester of university has kept me busy, but I want to write a quick wrap-up for February. I did manage to read ten books, and I loved the majority of them! This month, I was also chosen as a rep for 2 different bookish companies – a YA book box based out of Australia called Booked for the Weekend and a bookmark company called Novel Trimmings. I hope that you guys check out these two amazing new shops that I’m so proud to be a representative for in their first rounds.

  1. Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (5/5 stars)
  2. The Uncensored Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (4/5 stars)
  3. Tandem by Anna Jarzab (5/5 stars)
  4. The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (4/5 stars)
  5. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (5/5 stars)
  6. Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay (4/5 stars)
  7. The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien (5/5 stars)
  8. Hamlet by William Shakespeare (3/5 stars)
  9. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (re-read 5/5 stars)
  10. George by Alex Gino (4/5 stars)

If you see any books that we had in common and have any questions on any of these books, please feel free to comment! I’m going to try to be more active on this blog, though I’ll only be reacting to ARCs and new favorites in the future.

Thanks,
Xandra

Who wants to share their opinions? (2 Questionnaires)

Hello, fellow bloggers!

As many of you know, I’m a student at university currently taking summer courses. One of my classes – anthropology – has a major paper coming up, and I’m gathering information from people (anonymously) within the next few days (until Friday, July 21st).

There are 8 questions (+ 1 personal question at the end that you can decline to answer) on each of the questionnaires. Each of the 8 questions gives a scenario then asks for your opinion on how the person in the situation would most reasonably react.

One person so far has pointed out that it was actually really interesting! Maybe they’re just being nice, but hopefully if you decide to help out, you’ll enjoy it a bit.

Here are the links in order:

Questionnaire #1

Questionnaire #2

Thank you so much for your help! Me and my grade seriously appreciate all the answers I can get, haha.

Writing Update: His Silent Music #1

Writing Update: His Silent Music #1

Recently, I decided to do something different. After finishing my first novel and while trying to find a literary agent, I am writing a fantasy book called His Silent Music and publishing twice a week on wattpad. Some of you may have already seen some of the links to it on my blog, but if not, go check it out (if you want!): His Silent Music on wattpad.

Why am I writing about this to you guys?

Well, I haven’t been updating very often except for the chapter links as I write and publish them. This story has become a huge part of my summer! I still read a lot and I hope to write another reader reaction very soon about one or two of the six novels that I read in June. That being said, I’ve been keeping busy. I’ve been taking two online courses this summer for my university to catch up on credits, so that takes up a lot of time. Also, of course reading has eaten away big chunks of my summer, and so has time with family and friends.

Still, I wanted to write something to fun. This is my fun, no-pressure story that I came up with a couple months ago. It’s a fantasy retelling of The Little Mermaid with mythology as a focus. I wanted to write something that’s fun but still means a lot to me; this is a story that I just want people to read. Even if I one day decide that maybe it would’ve been better not to publish on wattpad and just write it to publish elsewhere, writing something and seeing the number of views slowly rise has been an amazing feeling! Yes, there are less than 100 views as of right now, but that means that there are at least a few people out there who have actually looked at my story! How amazing is that? Very.

I’d love for more people to read it and talk to me about it as I’m writing it. Even though I knew where this is going, I want it to be a really long story that doesn’t just cover the main plot. Because I’m publishing online, I can make chapters about relationships and ideas that still relate to the plot and further it in one way or another but also aren’t as relevant as others. Doesn’t that sound like a terrible idea – to write about things that aren’t absolutely necessary? My answer to that is no; no it is not.

Why do I think this?

When I was in high school, my very favorite author was Robert Thier – author of the wattpad sensation Storm and Silence. I’d stay up once a week past when I was supposed to be in bed to wait for his chapter updates. My life was consumed by the fictional love story between Lillian Linton and Rikkard Ambrose that became so real to me. Why was I so in love with it, though? It wasn’t just the romance, no. It was Lilly; it was her life and her friends and her family and her passion; it was everything that was more than the romantic aspect of the novel. I loved it for the chapters about her progressive, feminist, suffragist friends fighting for equality; I loved it for her sister, their relationship, and her sister’s secret relationship that Lilly takes on as another one of her duties; I loved it for the adventure that had absolutely nothing to do with romance and everything to do with Lilly. Sure, I lived for the chapters that had that spark between Lilly and Ambrose, but the other chapters were what made the spark into a fucking flame that burned itself into my heart.

This is why I decided to become a wattpad writer: to become more like the author who made me want to write romance one day.

Reader Reaction: An Ember in the Ashes

Reader Reaction: An Ember in the Ashes

Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Series
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Released: 9 February 2016
Favorite quote: “You are full, Laia. Full of life and dark and strength and spirit. You are in our dreams. You will burn, for you are an ember in the ashes.”
goodreads

This is a novel that my friend, Taylor, bought me for Christmas. She works at a bookstore and thought/knew that I’d love it. Well, she was right. Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes is one of those novels that makes me uncomfortable in the best way possible. On goodreads, I rated it 5 stars (though it’d be more like a 4.5, if we could do half stars). Slight spoilers, but nothing major.

Characters.

Laia, a young girl who is forced to make tough decisions and face death straight on, is the protagonist. Usually when there are inner monologues on the page that stress the discomfort and pain of the main character, I’m turned off by how it’s done. However, Laia’s “complaints” were well written and didn’t make me want to face palm myself even once. Even though she does complain at times, I think her character is what makes it more than tolerable – appreciated. (That and the fact that the situations that she’s in are outrageously stressful.) She’s a self-proclaimed coward, and yet she does what she must to save the ones she cares about. When it counts, she’s brave. Never does she say that it’s easy. In fact, she points out constantly how easy it would be to not do what she does and instead turn away, but it’s her compassion and heart that drive her to bravery. I think that Laia, in this sense, is one of the most relatable characters that I’ve read in a while.

Elias, the golden boy/literal bastard who is the sole drop of water pushing against the waves, is the (/a?) love interest. (I’m kinda confused about where the romantic side of this series is going, even after having read the last chapter. It seems like it would clear some stuff up, but I think that even though this is set up to have the Elias/Laia love plot, it’s still going to be a love triangle?) The thing that I hate about stories like this is that there’s always the head-of-class/powerful/terrifying character archetype that seems like it comes from nowhere. Why do they think differently? Because, duh, they’re special! No. No. This is unacceptable. So! When Elias’ background actually makes complete sense in building his moral code, I instantly became a happy camper. I love his character.

Cook, Izzi, Helene, Marcus, Zak, the Commandant, and the others. I know that this is rushes, but I want to make a general statement about these characters rather than go into detail. They’re refreshing. They aren’t the two-dimensional characters who are written to serve a single purpose. Everyone fluctuates as characters as they would as people. No one is really straight-forward and sure (except maybe the Commandant) because these characters are subject to change! I love that. It’s awesome to read side characters that I root for just as much (if not more than) the main protagonists.

Setting and plot.

Should I stop saying that I love everything? Because it seems a little difficult for me to stop while writing this review.

Honestly, the plot was unpredictable and the setting has as much life as the characters. The layout descriptions create this stunning yet ravaged land that furthers the plot and the develops a specific atmosphere that envelops the reader as easily as wrapping a tired child in a blanket.

The history of the land is unique and definitely something that fascinated me right off the bat. The only negative thing that I have to say about that is that it set up for a couple major plot developments later on were too clearly foreshadowed, making some things easy to pick up on (though not anything that ruins the main twists and turns!). Also, I felt that when it did get to the explanations near the end, the whole thing felt rushed, like something that you’d read in an old cliche adventure story than what I typically expect from novels now. Other than that, it was awesome.

Definitely read this novel/series if you haven’t! It’s amazing and I think it’s appropriately written to attract both males and females. Warning: mentions of rape and physical abuse, so be cautious if you are squeamish. I don’t like reading stories with rape, but there wasn’t anything direct in An Ember of the Ashes. The physical abuse in present tense was kept to a minimum, but there were tons of references to what had been done in the past. It was a bit upsetting, but nothing that made me even consider putting the book down.

Reader Reaction: Cruel Beauty

Reader Reaction: Cruel Beauty

Title: Cruel Beauty
Series
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Released: 28 January 2014
Favorite quote: “I was not born to be saved.”
goodreads

Cruel Beauty is one of those novels that has been recommended to me repeatedly on bookstagram whenever I post photos of my latest Beauty and the Beast themed read. When I’ve had so many people in the past tell me that it’s a must-read, I have rather high expectations. When Beauty and the Beast retellings are my favorite to read, it’s impossible for me not to draw comparisons to others that I’ve read. So as I sit at my desk with my pint of peanut butter ice cream (courtesy of my dear friends – Ben and Jerry) and listening to “Evermore” sung by Dan Stevens (Beast) in the new Disney film, let me tell you a thing about why this novel was okay.

The characters didn’t click. I had about the worst time trying to fall in love with the “Beast” of the story. Why? There was no spark whatsoever. Maybe other people read it differently, but the male love interest – Ignifex – fell about as flat as the floor for me. Also, I couldn’t get behind Nyx – the female protagonist. Why? I can’t put my finger on it. She’s strong and thoughtful and rigid, which is a hard combination to pull off, but she does. So why wasn’t I easily slipping myself into her shoes as I read? I think it wasn’t so much her character as it was how she was written. I’m a bit supporter of inner monologues that convey feelings, but the strands of self reflection in this novel just about killed me. They got the point across, but it felt much more character driven rather than plot because of how it was written, when in reality, the story realllllllllly moves because of the amazing plot!

So here’s another thing about this retelling: the plot is freakin’ perfect! I love it and I would recommend it to people based on the awesome happenings of the book (that have little to do with character development, because even though these action/explanation parts of the novel are what develop the characters, I’m looking at what happens as standing separate, and let me tell you: it’s awesome). The background explanation of the world, the Beast, the Sundering, and the “spirits” of the novel are truly fantastic. Towards the end, it felt like I was reading a historical fantasy without romance, which was great (except for the fact that it’s flippin’ Beauty and the Beast/Persephone and Hades…). What I’m saying is that the plot and the background information of the world and everything within it is fantastically done! There were parts that were mind-numbingly predictable, but those didn’t really bother me because the story on a larger scale was definitely not. There were twists and turns that made it all worth it.

If you want to read a good romance, don’t read this. I was disappointed by the lack of sizzle between Nyx and Ignifex… Highly disappointed. However, if you just want to read an interesting take on the original Beauty and her Beast, I recommend this novel for that alone. Hopefully you won’t be let down!

Limit on Current Reads?

So this is going to be a short post inspired by my pile of 6 current reads that I’m working through.

Do you all have a cap for the number of current reads you’ll take on and actually work toward finishing at least once or twice a week (so no books on the back burner!)?

I want to say that I usually focus on solely one novel at a time, but being an English major has changed that for me. I’m currently reading three books for school on top of the manga and novels that I’m reading for my own enjoyment. It’s different for me and I feel like I’m going a bit crazy, but logging my progress and updates on goodreads has helped so much!

The question: Can you comfortably read more than 1 book at a time? How many are you currently reading? Is it too much? Too little??

General Update

So I’m in college. Yes, nothing new.

I’m in college and I’ve finished mid-terms. Great!

I’m in college and we’re started 2 term papers. Not so great.

Life has been pretty hectic lately. Balancing school, writing, reading, and attempts to maintain a society life has proven to be difficult, but I’m making it work. Sadly, one of the things that I still forget about doing when I do get free time is blogging. I feel like every single time I post now, I apologize for my inactivity! But truly, I am sorry. I’m sure you all know how it goes.

So here’s a quick literary update on how my life has been going!

Academics

School is going wonderfully. Even though it’s getting busy (since it’s the middle of the semester), I’m managing well enough to stay afloat. I’ve made a couple friends in my classes. I’m not sure if I can really call them friends yet. We’ve bonded over mutual tastes in manga and novels, so that should count for something, right?

I submitted a fiction piece that I originally wrote on WordPress for a daily writing prompt challenge. How cool is that? I edited it and added some more to it, but I’m really excited to either get accepted or rejected. The sooner I know of either outcome, the better. What did I submit it to? It’s a literary “magazine” for my university. It’s called the Sequoia somethin’-rather. It’s probably a bad sign that I can’t remember the title of it, but it’s changed about 3 times in the last 20 years, so who can really blame me?

Editing

I’m so close to being done editing my novel for the third time! After talking with some people on here and Instagram who were kind enough to offer advice, I’ve decided that after I’m done editing this third and final time, I’m going to try to find a literary agent. Ta-da! That’s big news. Well, maybe not for any of you, but it’s big news for me. It’s a huge decision for me, on top of that! I’d thought that I would never need representation because my work would speak for itself. Honestly, that was probably the most naive thing that I could’ve thought and I’m extremely glad that I’ve come to realize the reality of writing/publishing. Maybe I don’t know the whole of it yet, but I’m learning. If I really want to do this in a way that would work best for me, I’m going to need someone else helping me who knows what they’re doing, because Lord knows I don’t.

Reading

I’ve been reading a lot! – a lot for school and a lot for myself. Lately, since my workload at school has increased significantly, I haven’t had much time to read novels for enjoyment. However, I have been reading more manga recently to fill in short gaps between classes or before bed. They’re too short for chapters but too long to just sit around and waste, y’know?

I’m currently re-reading A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas because I plan on having both it and A Court of Mist and Fury finished for the second time by May when the third book in the series will be coming out. Who else is flippin’ excited for its release?! I’ve talked to a couple people on Goodreads about it and everyone seems to be in agreement that this is one of the most anticipated young adult novels of 2017. Does anyone else agree?

As always, thanks for reading! Please feel free to comment and strike up a conversation. I love talking to everyone. Hope that you all have a wonderful Spring! Oh yeah. Happy first day of Spring!