Five Things Friday- August 2018

One- What I’m Writing

I submitted my YA thriller, Not Dead Enough, to Pitch Wars! (Keep your fingers crossed for me!) I’m editing my YA horror novel, Acheron Crossing, along with my amazing critique groups. And I’m outlining/ brainstorming/ writing/ cursing another YA novel, currently titled Hide in The Light.

Two- Random Fact About Me

I used to practice with a roller derby team. I had to quit before I could ever join (because I got a new job that conflicted).

Three- What I’m Grateful For This Month

I’m grateful for no kill shelters and rescues… they do great work and have amazing volunteers.

Four- When I Wasn’t Reading

I went on a ghost walk in Austin and went to a roller derby bout, both of which were a lot of fun. We also brought a new dog home.

Five- Favorite Picture This Month

Ripley and Midnyte never could have lay this close without grumbling and growling, but Comet and Ripley get along with no problems. It really warms my heart to see them together.

The Dinner List- A List & A Review

I found The Dinner List, by Rebecca Serle, on the Book of the Month Club. It was one of the picks for August, so I thought, “Why not?”

It’s something we’ve all done; picked 5 people (living or dead) we’d like to have dinner with. I expected a light, fluffy, read, especially when I saw that one of the dinner guests was Audrey Hepburn.

What I got was a book that was an easy read, but had some surprising depth, exploring how complex relationships can be. The diners were Sabrina (the birthday girl), her estranged father, her best friend (who’s been growing away from her), her estranged boyfriend, and a college professor. Oh, and Audrey Hepburn.

This book doesn’t offer up solutions to thorny relationship issues, but it is an exploration of the way we sometimes sabotage the very thing we want, and how two people can feel wronged in a relationship and both be right. It also explored the grief we feel over the loss of loved ones, and the loss we sometimes feel even when they’re technically still there.

Despite all that, it’s charming and funny at times. I finished it knowing I’d recommend it to others.

I haven’t done this in ages, so I thought now would be a great time to make a new list. I’m not including anyone from my day to day life on this list because… well… I can go to dinner with them whenever I want!

The five real people I’d love to have dinner with:

  1. My grandma (gone since 1993)
  2. My grandpa (gone since 2006)
  3. Bryn Greenwood (an amazing author)
  4. Drew Barrymore (I’m a fan!)
  5. Paul McCartney (only the best musician ever)

Who’d be on your list of 5 people?

Engaging a Non-Reader

IMG_2182My husband and I will be together 18 years this fall. I read 132 books last year. My husband has read perhaps half a dozen books in all the years we’ve been together.

I’m not quite sure how I ended up with a husband who doesn’t read. I must have fallen in love with his other good qualities.

For years, this frustrated me. There are books I want him to read, that I just know he’ll love, but when I recommend them, he says, “maybe.” (Which means no.)

Earlier this year, when I was editing my novel, Not Dead Enough, I wanted to discuss it with him, but he hadn’t read it.

At the same time, I got advice that when editing a book, you should read it out loud.

The light went on. I could combine the oral read-aloud with having my husband read the book, by reading it to him.

He loved the idea. So, over the course of a few weeks, that’s what we did. Sometimes it was only one or two chapters in a night, and sometimes we read several.

I did catch mistakes I hadn’t caught the first eleventy-billion times I read it silently to myself, and my husband did have good input.

This has become our thing. If I’m reading a non-fiction book I think he might like, I mark passages (either with a highlighter or post-it flag, depending on if I own the book or not) to read out loud to him later. This method has generated some interesting discussions.

Before I started reading audiobooks, this method never would have occurred to me. But reading is reading, and I do enjoy discussing books.

Do you have any tricks for engaging a non-reader?

Please Stop- Tropes I Hate

As I said earlier this week, I love me some tropey goodness as much as the next person, and YA (my preferred genre) is full of them. But there are some tropes I’ve seen enough of, and here’s a few.

  1. Girls who don’t know how attractive they are. Okay, I get it. We all thought we weren’t attractive in high school, even if we were. But the reason we (I) thought that is because none of the guys were interested in me. I’m pretty sure that if I’d had a bunch of guys fighting over me telling me how pretty I was, I would have been like, “Oh, okay. I’m gorgeous. Cool.” Why is it such a terrible thing if the protagonist is attractive and knows it? It doesn’t have to be her only characteristic, (PLEASE don’t make it her only characteristic) but when everyone else comments that she’s the fairest of them all, and she’s clueless, I just roll my eyes. Make her confident and gorgeous and own it, or maybe she can just be average. Lots of people are.
  2. The love triangle. For the record, I don’t hate all love triangles. Some of them are done well. The fact is that most of us have never been involved in a love triangle; they just don’t happen that much. The love triangles I object to are the ones that seem to happen just to make the main character more interesting, or so that she has someone to fall back on when her main love interest breaks up with/ cheats on/ tries to kill her.
  3. The best friend pining for the main character. This one is my absolute least favorite, especially if it’s just a pawn of the love triangle. How to fix it: Have the relationship actually be platonic. Platonic guy-girl relationships are great.
  4. The main character has no friends. This one drives me crazy, especially in mental health fiction. Sure, there are some people out there who are isolated, but not everyone gets dumped by their friends when bad things happen. This is just a plot device so that the love interest who comes along can save them. Because there’s always a love interest who saves the day in these books.
  5. The main character is so different/ special/ not bitchy like other girls that she has no girlfriends. This one really needs to stop. I tend to get along better with guys, but I have plenty of girlfriends. If a girl gets along with no other girls, she’s probably a problem. Let’s all support one another and realize that our differences make us awesome. It doesn’t have to be Manicures vs. Getting Your Hands Dirty. We can all coexist.
  6. The love interest is really an immortal creature who’s been around for hundreds of years but still acts exactly like a teenager and falls in love with a teenager. Maturity is not a function of what you look like! Just because you look like a 16-year-old doesn’t mean you should still be acting like one forever. If you are, that’s a sign of a serious problem. There are reasons why maturity level might not happen and this relationship could become plausible. In Anna Dressed In Blood, Anna is a bloodthirsty ghost who loses her identity. When she falls for Cas, it makes sense because when you’re just tearing people apart, you don’t have much time for personal growth.
  7. Stalking = love. It doesn’t. No means no, and go away means go away. While we’re on the subject, possessiveness and jealousy don’t automatically equate to love either. I can give these somewhat of a pass in YA fiction because teenagers are immature and hormonal and do stupid things… but let’s not act as if it’s romantic.

What tropes do you hate?

Related posts: Shut Up and Take My Money! Tropes I Love

Shut Up and Take My Money! Tropes I Love

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Every genre has tropes, those basic devices that repeat in plots. Readers and watchers like to be surprised, but we also like to know what to expect. Murder mysteries are supposed to start off with a body. Romances have to end with happily ever after.

We all have tropes we love and those we hate. Here are some of my favorites.

  1. Undiscovered powers. I don’t love the “chosen one” trope, but I do love when someone finds out that they’re part of something bigger than normal life. I love when a character makes choices that set them on a hero’s journey. Though Harry Potter was the chosen one, he also made choices. He didn’t just sit back and let fate happen.
  2. Angry, overprotective men as a romantic lead. I’m sorry, but I really do love this one. There’s a fine line to walk between angry/ overprotective and possessive/ stalkerish, but when it’s done well, it’s a lot of fun to read. I’m a sucker for a bad boy, especially one who will do anything to protect his beloved.
  3. Strong, irritable women. I love when a female character is having none of it and lets everyone around her know. When she’s got great character development and I can live vicariously through her snark.
  4. Friends to lovers. I’m a fan of the slow burn, and there’s nothing slower burn than two friends realizing they have feelings for one another.
  5. Hate to love. This one is even better than best friends to lovers, in my opinion. (This is assuming it wasn’t insta-hate, which is almost as bad as insta-love). Pride & Prejudice is one of my favorite books, and I’m a sucker for all those intense feelings.
  6. The underdog. Though I’m not a fan of the chosen one, I do love when someone succeeds against all odds, overcoming their fatal flaw and becoming someone even they didn’t dare imagine. I want to cheer that person on all day long.

What tropes do you love?

Deciding If I Liked A Book Or Not

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Have you ever finished a book and thought, “I can’t decide if I liked it or hated it”?

Normally, it’s pretty simple for me. If I can’t put the book down and function in real life, I loved it. If it takes me a long time to read because I’m not obsessed, then I didn’t like it.

It doesn’t happen to me often that I can’t decide, but when it does, it causes me to go into deep thinking mode. What was it I didn’t like about the book, and why?

Normally, when this happens, it’s because there are things I both loved and hated about the book, causing a tug of war in me. For some books, the ending is enough to turn my like into dislike, but others cause more complicated emotions.

I recently read a book that I really wanted to like, but just couldn’t. It didn’t draw me forward. I liked the idea of it and where it was going, which was why I kept going back to it. But I tired of it easily and even put it down in the middle of chapters sometimes.

When I got to the twist in the middle of the book, that invigorated me quite a bit. But then I hated the ending. The whole book led up to this one moment, and it felt like a letdown.

When I finished reading, I kept mentally going back to the good parts of the book and thinking about how the bad parts could have been made better. I wanted it to be a different book, and that’s how I figured out that I didn’t like it, after all.

I like when books cause complicated emotions in me, make me think and feel, but it makes me sad to decide I don’t like a book that had so much potential. Maybe that’s what it’s really about for me… all that potential unrealized.

Does it ever happen to you that you can’t decide if you like a book or not? What makes it hard for you to decide?

 

Book Challenges- July 2018

Vacation did me a lot of good, as all vacations should! I was in a reading slump, and boy did I come out of it over vacation.

Popsugar Challenge

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A book by a local author: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, by Brene Brown (Memoir/ self-help): It took me a long time to read the first half because it was pre-vacation and I wasn’t in the right mindset. After vacation, it went fast. I’m going to have to go back and re-read the first half because I don’t think I got much out of it. It’s a lovely inspirational message that has helped me rekindle creativity.

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A book about a villain or antihero: Vicious, by VE Schwab (Fantasy/ Science Fiction): Victor and Eli decide to try an experiment to become ExtraOrdinary people (basically superheroes). While they do gain powers, the experiments don’t go exactly as planned. It’s told in dual timelines, and is a thoroughly entertaining story chock full of ambiguous morality.

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A book about mental health: The Weight of Zero, by Karen Fortunati (YA Contemporary): I loved this book. It’s a breathtaking story about a girl with bipolar disorder who fears “Zero,” her depression, coming back. So she makes a plan that next time it does, she’ll kill herself rather than live that way. But when she gets a new therapist who sends her to an intensive outpatient group of other kids struggling with various issues, she starts to see herself (and them) in a different light.

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A favorite category from another year (2017- a book that’s been on your TBR for way too long): The Hike, by Drew Magary (Fantasy/ horror): I was first attracted to this book by the cool cover and the description of it being like a fairy tale mixed with a video game.

I liked this book a lot, maybe more now that I’m done reading it than I did while I was reading it. It’s not the best book ever, but I expect it to stick with me. This is the kind of book that I might read again and decide I like better the second time around when I’m not so disoriented and trying to figure everything out.

This book doesn’t make a lot of logical sense, so if you go into it expecting that, you’ll be disappointed. There are a lot of layers to it. It’s not a book for everyone, but it’s worth reading. Jason Sheehan calls it a “summer beach book for dudes.” Accurate.

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A book mentioned in another book- The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery (mentioned in The Little Paris Bookshop) (fiction/ philosophy)- I ranted about this on Goodreads, so if you’d like a review, complete with spoilers, click here. What I will say here is that while I didn’t hate the book, I didn’t really like it either. The first 50% of the book is the two main characters discussing philosophy (separately… they haven’t met yet), talking about how misunderstood they are, and doing absolutely nothing. Halfway through, they start doing things after a new person moves into the building where they live, and the book was enjoyable until the end. The ending did not pay off for me. I’m sure this book is beautiful and well-written, full of deep thoughts, but it didn’t entertain me, so it’s a dud. (Okay, maybe I did hate it.)

(23/50)

While I Was Reading Challenge

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A collection of poetry: Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur (Poetry/ Feminism): When I was a kid, I loved poetry. As I grew up, I’m not sure what happened, but I just got away from reading it. I’ve seen Rupi quotes on Pinterest and Instagram, so I was intrigued to read her collection. It’s lovely and raw. Not every poem spoke to me, but enough did that I’d recommend it.

(5/12)

The Unread Shelf

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Ashley Bell, by Dean Koontz: I haven’t read any new Koontz books in a few years. Growing up, he was my favorite author. I’ve noticed that he goes through cycles. For a few years, I love everything he writes, and for a few years, I don’t.

I picked up Ashley Bell at Half Price Books because I saw on Koontz’s blog that he felt that it was the best book he’d ever written. That’s a bold claim, and I thought that if he loves the book that much, I’d try it.

I didn’t like it, and it really pains me to say that. I loved the concept and the twists, but for me, it was overwritten with a disappointing ending. Although I have almost every Koontz book ever written, I’m seriously considering putting this one back in the box I take to trade in.

Running Total: 28

5 Classic Books

(1/5) No progress this week

Miscellaneous Reading

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Shelter in Place, by Nora Roberts (Romantic Suspense): If you like Nora Roberts, you’ll like this book. It’s got a great storyline and interesting characters.

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A Million Junes, by Emily Henry (YA Magical realism): I tried reading this book on audiobook once, and for me, it went way too slow on the audiobook. On paper, it was paced just right. It’s a sweet story about grief and first love told against the backdrop of a family curse.

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Northern Lights, by Nora Roberts (Romance/ mystery): This is a reread, but it is one of my favorite Nora Roberts books. I was in Alaska, and this book is set there, so I started thinking about it and ended up downloading it to my Kindle.

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Not a Drop to Drink, by Mindy McGinnis (YA science fiction): Lynn has always defended the pond because her mother told her to. They live in a future where water is scarce, and the pond is their life. When her mother dies, and Lynn encounters some travelers in need of help, what her mother taught her and her sense of compassion go to war as she tries to figure out what’s right.

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My Heart And Other Black Holes, by Jasmine Warga (YA contemporary): Aysel meets Roman on a website for people looking to partner with others to commit suicide. They both have their reasons and believe they’re good ones. But as Aysel starts to let herself open up to someone, she starts to question whether or not she really wants to die.

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The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green (YA romance): This was another re-read. I was looking for something simple and interesting to read because I was getting a crown, and I was nervous about it. (I didn’t need to be; I have a fantastic dentist.) This was the perfect “sick day” reading book.

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I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L Sanchez (YA contemporary): This was so good, and so completely not what I was expecting! It’s an interesting book on multiple levels and a fast read. I enjoyed following Julia’s journey, and watching as she both demanded understanding from her parents and then started better understanding them as people. It didn’t give simple answers to Julia’s problems, but explored them and left some things open ended.

Abandoned

None this month.

2018 Running Total: 86

 

Have you made any progress on your TBR or book challenges?