On 5 Things I’m Obsessed With This Summer

I don’t know about you guys, but summer absolutely flew by for me. I start school again in a couple of weeks, which is even scarier since it’s my last semester of college (eek!). It’s been a good summer of writing, working, and developing for a few reasons. It’s the first extended period of time that I’ve lived by myself and worked the entire time, so that’s fun. Over the last few months, I’ve discovered quite a few random things that I can’t live without.

  1. Absolute Write forums

Guys. GUYS. If you’re a writer, I 100/10 recommend checking out this forum. I love the NaNoWriMo community, but that’s only super active during the fall. This forum is a community for writers. Everyone that I’ve talked to on it is kind and respectful. I’ve found a handful of beta readers through the forum as well, and I’ve beta read for over a dozen users there. It’s just an incredible community of talented writers and there is so much good advice available.

2. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

Yeah, this one isn’t surprising at all. I’ve talked about it multiple times on here. If you haven’t read these books, you have to. The series follows a group of wealthy, troubled Southern boys and a feisty teenage girl on their quest to discover a Welsh king. That’s a horrible summary, tbh. I took a few folktale classes throughout my college career and I’ve heard more than enough “sleeping giant” tales, as they’re called, so this was an incredibly fresh take on old legends.

3. Glossier Boy Brow

I’m busy and I don’t have time/energy to put on makeup in the morning. This is a great, low-cost product that makes me feel instantly put-together. I don’t know about you, but I like having nice eyebrows that don’t look overdone. This is usually the only product I use and I always feel so much better.

4. Penny Dreadful

If you love Victorian gothic literature, you’re going to love this series. It ties together Frankenstein, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Strange Case of  Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Dracula. It’s gritty and dark and beautifully done. The show is only three seasons, so it shouldn’t take longer than a few weeks to finish if you’re binge watching. It’s on Netflix, and I think it’s also available on Showtime.

5. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

We need to talk about Jenny Han. Actually, I’ve already talked a lot about Jenny Han, but we still have to. They’re making TATBILB into a movie, and it looks INCREDIBLE. I’ve shamelessly followed the stars on insta, and the pictures from the movie make my little heart flutter. Seriously, read this book before it hits theaters and everyone is trying to get their hands on it. The second book in the series is also beautiful. The third fell a tiny bit flat for me, but overall, it’s a cute way to wrap up the series.

So anyway, those were some of my best summer discoveries. Did you stumble upon anything you can’t live without this summer? Tell me about it! Especially if it’s a book. I’m always looking for book recommendations.

 

 

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On Anniversaries and Going Abroad

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Well, I’ve taken quite the little hiatus, haven’t I? I was watching a makeup tutorial earlier today and the person was talking about bloggers/YouTubers apologizing for taking so long in between posts. The gist of it was that nobody is hugging their computer screens, waiting for an update, and I’m about 99% certain that that’s the case with all of you. I hope that this post comes as a nice little surprise in your afternoon.

I also got the notification that yesterday was this blog’s second birthday. Yay! Two years of subpar blogging under my belt! I guess that’s something to be proud of, amiright?

So when I last talked to y’all, I was about to leave for Europe. The trip was amazing. We went to Kotor, Montenegro; Corfu, Mykonos, and Santorini, Greece; Dubrovnik, Croatia; and Venice, Italy. It was unreal. I can’t believe places this pretty even exist in real life.

There was a lot more hiking in this trip than anticipated. For Kotor, we took a trail up to the city fortress, which was a crazy-long hike in the heat. The view was worth it. You could see the entire city and the coast and it was just incredible. The old city itself wasn’t big at all, but not in a bad way. And the people there were just so nice. If I could go anywhere else again, I’d probably pick Kotor (or Dubrovnik, but we’ll get there).

We mostly did Corfu as a shopping day, so I won’t bore you with the details. Interestingly, Santorini was a letdown. I was most excited to go there out of all of the destinations since that’s the one you hear about the most. At least, that’s the one I’d heard the most about. The island itself was… depressing, probably due to the recent economic struggles with Greece. Still a beautiful place, of course, but it was sad to see all of the abandoned houses over the island. Mykonos was my favorite destination in Greece, even though it involved more hiking. My family just has this tendency to search for the highest ground possible in every location we visit. We also went beachin’ in Mykonos, which I loved.

Dubrovnik was seriously everything I dreamed of and more. Also, there was a wine tour, so that was cool. The Old City is where they film the King’s Landing scenes in Game of Thrones, and I’m such a GoT geek. I was nerding out the entire time we were there. Croatia also still has its own money, so I just happen to have 50 kuna hanging out in my wallet (it’s like 8 bucks).

We rounded out the trip by spending a few days in Venice. Our apartment there was GORGEOUS. We used booking.com and it was like $300 for the three nights we stayed, which we split between the four of us. Seriously, it was so much better than a hotel. Venice is an interesting city. I liked the lack of cars, but it was nearly impossible to get anywhere since we didn’t know where we were going and there’s no way to go in straight lines with the canals. I’d probably visit there again, but only with someone who knew the city better than I did.

All in all, it was a successful trip. Now we’re back to the grind and I’ll hopefully have more useful things to say.

 

On Quotes and What I’ve Been Reading

The 100 book summer is progressing nicely, which means I’ve read so many books that have ABSOLUTELY SHATTERED ME. I’m seriously obsessed with Maggie Stiefvater and Jenny Han at this point. I read The Raven Boys earlier this summer and it was incredible, and I’ve had The Scorpio Races living on my shelf for about a year now. It took me a while to get through the first 150 pages, but after that, ooh boy. I read the rest in a day. I was a bit put off by the slow start but then again, I think that’s something that Stiefvater does incredibly well. She builds the world in such a way that you don’t realize how much information she’s given you, but when the plot kicks into high gear, you know everything you need to know about the setting and characters in such amazing depth that there’s no need to slow down for world building. Once I finished The Scorpio Races, I went back to The Raven Boys and realized that the beginning of that one is on the slow side, too, but it doesn’t feel that way because of the sheer amount of material afterwards. If you haven’t picked up TRB or TSR or you’ve stopped because they felt slow, I’m begging you, for the sake of the salivating reader within me, to give them a try.

I wasn’t planning on going on literary rants today, but since I’m on a roll, we have to take a moment to talk about Jenny Han. I already talked about The Summer I Turned Pretty, but I just read To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You (still waiting for the library to have Always and Forever, Lara Jean) and oh my God, I felt all the things. The voice is literally perfect. Lara Jean is so much like I was in high school (minus the attractive boys) that it feels like deja vu. I’m the quiet, meek, baking girl that’s also a ridiculous hopeless romantic. It was a bit like reading my own thoughts, which was creepy but cool. Jenny Han just gets it, you know?

Okay. Now that we’ve covered that, let’s move on to what I was actually going to talk about. I brought up my lists of goals and dreams in “On Introspection,” but I don’t think I talked about the notebook they’re housed in. I tried to get into bullet journeling but it didn’t work, so I ended up with this Gansey-like journal/planner/mood-board hybrid that’s vaguely ridiculous.

When I’m reading, there are certain sentences that just make me stop, go back, and reread. You know the sentences I’m talking about. I try to recreate that feeling when I’m writing. I feel like most of my writing time is spent looking for The Sentence. That’s the way I like to think of writing: you’re trying to build up to these statements that are like, yes. This is it. This is everything that I’ve been thinking, that this character feels, and they just punch you in the gut.

I’d like to share some of my favorite sentences with you. Mind you, these are from January-now, and it’s not an all-inclusive list, but I liked them enough to write them down in my journal thing.

“I shall die by the light of the stars.” – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

“…and their eyes met with that peculiar meeting which is never arrived at by effort, but seems like a sudden divine clearance of haze.” – George Eliot, Middlemarch

“When you travel alone, you are free to be unpredictable.” – Siobhan Vivian, Not That Kind of Girl

“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.” – Neil Gaiman (not from a book, but I just need to include this quote)

“The world doesn’t care who wins. It’ll go on spinning no matter how many people are slaughtered tomorrow. No matter if you and I are slaughtered. I almost wish it wouldn’t if we aren’t allowed to go on spinning with it.” – Kristin Cashore, Fire (Side note – I’m going to do a separate post about this book alone, because it’s my favorite)

Oh, thought Blue, so this is what I can’t have.
Not being able to kiss whoever she fell in love with didn’t feel so different from not having a cell phone when everyone else at school did. It didn’t feel very different from knowing she wasn’t going to be studying ecology abroad for college, or going abroad period. It didn’t feel very different from knowing that Cabeswater was going to be the only extraordinary thing about her life.
Which was to say that it was unbearable, but she had to bear it anyway.” – Maggie Stiefvater, The Dream Thieves

I have one from P.S. I Still Love You, but it’s a spoiler, so I’m not going to include it. This is just a minuscule selection from, like, pages of words, but yeah. Do you all have any quotes that just… ugh. Shatter your heart? Let me know!

Also, in case you’re keeping up, this is what else I’ve read this summer:
Fire by Kristin Cashore
The Last Boy And Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han
We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han
You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nancy LaCour
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Congratulations if you made it to the end of this post! I’ll try to write again this week, but I’m leaving for Greece on Saturday so I’ll be taking a small break. Expect a full write-up when I return.

On Best Friends

I’m still rolling with my 100 book summer, and this week, I read a series that I’ve been wanting to get my hands on forever. Seriously. It’s the Summer series by Jenny Han (The Summer I Turned Pretty, It’s Not Summer Without You, We’ll Always Have Summer) and I think I’ve wanted to read them since I was like fifteen, but I never had the time. I wasn’t disappointed.

One thing that really stuck out to me about this series was the main character’s mother’s relationship with her best friend. If you haven’t read the book, the MC, Belly, spends every summer at a beach house with her mom (Laurel), brother, her mom’s best friend (Susannah), and her two boys. Obviously, Laurel and Susannah are middle-aged women, and that isn’t really the focal of YA lit. Their relationship was just so incredible. I love the depth the two of them have.

Reading about Laurel and Susannah made me think of my own best friend. She just got home from a semester in London, and it’s legitimately the longest I’ve gone without seeing her since kindergarten. It’s not like we live in the same town anymore, either. We go to different schools. We’re friends with different people. All my life, I wanted a relationship like this, to have someone who I could tell anything to, someone who I knew would be there forever. I don’t know when we became this way, but it happened right under my nose. I just remember when we graduated high school and we marathoned Harry Potter. After the last movie, B and I laid on the floor crying, because Harry Potter was something we grew up with and it was over, and high school was over. Becoming an adult was hard.

But I did it with B by my side.

I think when you find your person, you don’t realize it at first. How could you? It wasn’t like I sat down in kindergarten and looked at B and thought, Yes. This is my friendship soulmate. This is the person that’s going to be my other half for the rest of my life. That didn’t happen in middle or high school, either. Eventually, she just eroded the places in my heart and carved herself a little permanent spot.

Sorry for the sappiness, but that book got to me. Now all I need is for our kids to get married, amiright?

On Stubbornness

Side note before I begin – doesn’t “stubbornness” look like it just has too many letters? I use Grammarly so I know it’s spelled correctly right there, but it looks strange to me. Oh well.

Anyways. I swear I don’t have voices in my head or anything like that, but when I’m writing, I tend to listen to what the characters have to say. There’s usually a better story if I work that way. Sometimes I ignore them, because I am The Writer and I think I know better, and then it turns out that I don’t.

This happened to me fairly recently. My latest project ended in a fairly melancholic but understandable way. I have this thing where I absolutely refuse to break the rules I’ve set up in a novel, so I thought that this was the only way to end the story. It went through about five or six beta readers and all of them liked the ending. I also sent it to one of my good friends, who happens to be my best/favorite critic, but she was busy and didn’t get around to reading it until recently.

She texted me as soon as she finished and said that she was “immensely frustrated” with the ending. Beta readers are great, but I know that this particular friend would not sugarcoat her opinion if she didn’t think something was working.

Meanwhile, throughout all of this, my characters had been moving around shiftily in the back of my head, poking my brain. They didn’t really like the ending either, but what could I do? I was The Writer. That was The Ending.

My friend’s critique kept gnawing at me. I knew she was right. Like I said, I don’t break my own rules to get characters out of situations, but there’s also that quote that as a writer, you make a contract with the reader. I read through the draft again and tried to figure out what that contract was, and so many things jumped out at me. I had somehow foreshadowed an ending that didn’t happen. I knew it. The characters knew it. My friend knew it. But I was too stubborn to admit that I had messed up, that things shouldn’t have ended the way I wanted them to.

So this week, I went back and did a rewrite after not touching the book for a while. I changed the ending. And it looks like I’m writing a sequel.

I guess the moral of this is all is fair in love and words. And listen to your characters. They might have something important to say.

On Thoughts, Conferences, and Clothing

This is going to be one of those posts where I just ramble, so I’m sorry if you came here hoping to find something enlightening.

I’m attending my first ever writing conference this weekend and I’m excited/terrified/anxious/pumped for it. I’m pitching to an agent and an editor while I’m there, which honestly sounds kind of terrifying. It’s my first time pitching in person to someone that I don’t know so that’ll be fun. I’m reading so many articles and watching videos about how to do it right and I’m just a bundle of nerves.

I also ordered my first round of business cards because I’m apparently a real adult now and that’s something that I should have. Fingers crossed that those get here on time…

It’s too bad that there’s not a guidebook that tells you how to dress for these things, either. My closet is separated into two classifications: hippy-manic-artist and very-super-duper-businessy. There’s no in-between, which is what I need for the conference. I had to go shopping for new stuff and every time I bought something, I just had to keep whispering to myself, “It’s fine. It’s okay. You’re investing in your future.” Here’s hoping that it all pays off.

Well, those are my ranty thoughts for the day. Thank you for joining.

On My 100 Book Summer: Week 1

I haven’t been able to read very much during the school year, but I’ve still managed to collect a ton of books. Right now, there are 55 books in my room at school that I haven’t read, which is an insane number. I’m trying to tackle those and 45 more. Reading is an important part of writing, so I’m getting back down to the basics. I’m trying to do a blend of poetry, fiction, and some non-fiction. I’m also reading a lot of YA that came out over the last few years, just to see what the market has been up to. This is what I read during Week 1 (and a few days before)!

  • Don’t Cry by Mary Gaitskill
  • The Divine Salt by Peter Blair
  • Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

My favorite from this round was definitely The Raven Cycle. The writing is beautiful and the characters are excellent. I have some more extensive thoughts on the structure of the series but I’m not going to bore you will all of the details. I’m always more drawn to characters than plot, and this series had both. Plus, it’s being made into a TV show, which will be interesting. I can’t wait to see what happens with that. I also really enjoyed Not That Kind of Girl. I think the voice was different than a lot of other YA contemp stories. The Divine Salt is a poetry collection, and it was poignant and well-written. This week, I’m taking on an Irish novel, more YA, and poetry!