Tell me, do you read used books? Does your book collection contain a patchwork of miss-matched series, or numerous, old, mass market editions? Mine does. My shelves are filled with books that are out of print, worn and torn with yellowed pages, stains and spills. Odd copies that contain hand-written dates, love dedications, and even an occasional scribble or two in the margins. Used books, to me, are like finding a buried treasure– a diamond in the rough. Finding that treasure requires nothing more than a bit of patience as you comb through miles of shelving, and a keen eye.
I must admit, most of the stories I come across are entirely a mystery to me. Never before have I set eyes on them, nor do I know what lies within. It’s a risk to choose such a book, but the thrill of discovery is too great to pass up. Without the familiar comfort of reviews, or recommendations, I have only my most basic reader instincts to rely on. The cover, the title, the feel of the paper in my hands– those simple things will determine the fate of the book. The little tome of bound pages must speak for itself, and it is up to me whether I listen to its voice, or not.
Despite the well-known saying, we all know that it is well-nigh impossible not to judge a book by its cover, especially when it comes to newer books. I won’t so much as breathe in their direction if I don’t fancy the cover. But when it comes to used books, I will pause and consider whether the strange colors, and illustrations on the cover are disguising some hidden treasure waiting to be found. Though I would never dare to crack a spine on any book, or mistreat a page, strangely, in old books, even those flaws cannot turn me away. In fact, when I see a book that is worn, and scuffed, annotated, or dog-eared, I find it to be a curiosity. It tells me that someone, somewhere, handled it, and maybe even enjoyed it.
Sometimes, I wonder if all the time it’d been left alone, unread, and covered in dust, was because it was waiting for someone like me to come along and give it another chance. Usually the books that find their way into second-hand shops are stories from bygone eras, or books that might have been underappreciated at the time of their release. Each has lived a long life, and I often wonder at the history of the lives they’ve led, and what brought them to the shops.
Books are much like people, too. Each has a character of their own, a personality that shines through the font on the pages, and the binding at their spines. And just like people, there is more than meets the eye at first glance. So next time you see an old, shabby cover on a book, perhaps you should pause for a moment, and look past all the dinginess. You may find a bright, and glimmering treasure waiting inside.
I think I’ve turned over a new leaf–or perhaps I’ve just hit a stroke of luck. Whatever it is, I mean to say, that I had a really good reading month. With these long, dark, winter nights, my favorite thing to do is curl up with a fluffy blanket, or sit beside the fireplace and read. I don’t know why, but reading in the winter makes me feel like the heroine in a Brontë novel, or some other classic work of literature. I wonder if anyone else feels like that? Back in my hay-day as a teen, reading was pretty much all I did, so I flew through most books. In more recent years, my reading habits have changed quite drastically. But this month, I read a book a week, which is more than I’ve read in a really long time. Some of the books I read were real gems, so I thought I’d share them with you.
1.Spin the Dawn, by Elizabeth Lim
This story is a little reminiscent of Mulan, but with a lot more magic. When the Emperor holds a competition to find a new imperial tailor, to create a dress for his bride to be, Maia, must go to the palace in place of her father. Women aren’t allowed to be tailor’s, so Maia, must go in disguise in order to prove her skills. But that’s just the beginning of her story. Soon, strange enchantments, and a nearly impossible request pushes Maia to the limits of her strength, yet she doesn’t back down. With the help of a mysterious enchanter, she achieves the impossible to protect her own life, and her family’s–but it comes at a great cost.
This book was a Christmas gift, and my first official read for 2022. I was really happy that this story lived up to my expectations, and I enjoyed immersing myself is this new world. This story read like an old legend, or a classic fairy tale, and the way it flowed was great. The setting, and characters felt a lot different from most current fantasy YA novels, so it was a refreshing read.
2.Calculated, by Nova McBee
This story follows a teenage math genius–a prodigy. After graduating with a PhD at age fifteen, Josephine Rivers signs up for a special program in China where gifted teens like her can put their skills to use. But on the day she is set to leave for home, she is kidnapped. Everything Josephine has ever known, or dreamed of, is crushed–except for her special gift. This gift is the only thing that keeps her alive, but it becomes exploited when dark forces use her for their evil schemes. Josephine is tossed from one nightmare to another, until everything changes, and she is presented with an opportunity to undo the harm she helped create. Beginning in Seattle, this story takes you to a secret prison, and gang hideout in China, to the lux high-rises of Shanghai.
This book has been on my TBR for a long time, and I was glad to finally cross it off. This story dealt with the extreme reality of smuggling, and millionaires, and the world they live in. My mind was completely blown when I realized the story was a re-telling of the life of Joseph, and how God turned his kidnapping, and terrible circumstances into something that would change the entire course of history. This story kept me thinking about it for days after I had finished it, and it’s one I think I’ll always remember.
3.100 Days of Sunlight, by Abbie Emmons
After a car accident with a drunk driver, Tessa’s whole world is upended as she loses her sight from a brain injury. The doctors tell her the condition is temporary, but the struggle to come to terms with her trauma is almost too much to bear. That’s when Weston, a boy with his own skeleton in the closet, makes it his mission to help Tessa face the reality that there is so much more to life than merely–sight.
This is another book that has been on my TBR for a while. I borrowed the audio-book version of this story from the library, and I really enjoyed it because the author herself, did the recording. This is a feel-good, contemporary novel that shows you that there can be joy in life, even in the midst of darkness. It was nice to read a lighter story, in between some of the heavier books I’ve been reading.
4.What Lives in the Woods, by Lindsay Currie
Ginny Anderson’s summer plans are ruined, when her parents tell her that they are going to spend a month in an old mansion that her father has been hired to renovate. She’s not happy when they arrive at the creepy old place, but soon, things get even worse. Ginny begins to experience strange events, and see disturbing apparitions throughout the house. With the help of her brother, and a boy from town, Ginny is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, and end their stay at the mansion.
This is a middle-grade horror story that I wanted to read before I passed it on to a family member. It was a fun, spooky story, but nothing too scary. I liked the mystery surrounding the mansion, but I was underwhelmed by the character development, and story progression. I think a younger reader might enjoy it more than I did, but I was still a little disappointed.
5.Every Bright and Broken Thing, by Brian McBride
This is the story of two brothers, and the tragedy that overtakes them after the death of their mother. Caught up in lies, and the pit of substance abuse, their lives are slowly destroyed. As things come to a breaking point–they have the chance to be redeemed, but will they take the chance?
I picked this book up on a whim, because I’d seen some good reviews on it and I needed something new to read. It deals with some very heavy topics, which was a little difficult to read at times. I have some mixed feelings about this novel, and while it did have a redemption arc in the end, it’s not something I would recommend to just anyone. Overall, the writer did deliver a good story, with some powerful themes.
And that’s everything I read in January. Sometimes these dreary winter nights can feel a bit lonely, but with a good book for company, they become a lot less so. So now I want to hear about your reading month. What was your first read for 2022? How many books did you get to?
Hey friends! We have arrived again at the end of another reading year, where we look back at all the of the wonderful worlds, and words, that crossed our paths in 2021. This was a much better reading year for me, than the past couple of years have been. It felt so good to get back to the joy of reading and immerse myself in so many amazing story worlds. So without further ado, it’s time to share my completed reading list for 2021. Let’s see how I did.
Rating: 1-5stars (Favorites in bold.)
The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux – 5
Dracula, by Bram Stoker – 5
The Epic of Gilgamesh – 4
The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery – 5
Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy – 4
Old Herbaceous, by Reginald Arkell – 4
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson – 4
Bach Flower Therapies, by Mechthild Scheffer – 5
A Different Shade of Green, by Gordon Wilson – 4
The Right to Write, by Julia Cameron – 5
The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben – 4
The Successful Author Mindset, by Joanna Penn – 5
Successful Self-Publishing, by Joanna Penn – 5
As Far As You Can Go Without a Passport, by Tom Bodett – 5
The Unseen Realm, by Michael S. Heiser – 5
Dust, by Kara Swanson – 4
Before the Coffee Gets Cold, by Toshikazu Kawaguchi – 4
Dearest Josephine, by Caroline George – 5
Hood, Stephen R. Lawhead – 5
Greenglass House, by Kate Milford – 3
The Forest of Wool and Steal, by Natsu Miyashita – 5
Storming, by K.M. Weiland – 5
Cinder, by Marissa Meyer (reread) – 5
Scarlet, by Marissa Meyer (reread) – 5
The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater – 4
Blue Lily, Lily Blue, by Maggie Stiefvater – 4
The Raven King, by Maggie Stiefvater – 4
Dark Souls, by Paula Morris – 3
The Rise of Kyoshi, by F. C. Yee & Michael Dante DiMartino – 3
The Songkiller’s Symphony, by Daeus Lamb – 4
At Night I Become a Monster, by Yoru Sumino – 5
The Alchemyst, by Michael Scott – 3
Six Crimson Cranes, by Elizabeth Lim – 5
An Enchantment of Ravens, by Margaret Rogerson – 4
Liar, Liar, You Are Hired, by Devin Joubert – 4
Ignite, by Jenna Terese – 4
Knight from the Ashes, by Shari L. Tapscott, and Jake Andrews – 5
Q & A Time.
Q: What was the biggest book you read in 2021?
A: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, coming in at 480 pages. This year I didn’t tackle anything over 500 pages. It wasn’t intentional, and I didn’t even realize until now.
Q:What was the shortest book you read in 2021?
A: Liar, Liar, You are Hired, by Devin Joubert. Sitting at 90 pages, this is actually the first part in an ongoing serial novel.
Q: What was the most surprising book you read in 2021?
A: I Would have to say, Hood, by Stephen R. Lawhead. This book surprised me in a number of ways. I thought it was a fantasy novel, so I was anticipating some form of magic, but as I reached the end of the book, there wasn’t an ounce of magic among any of the pages. It turned out to be more of a historical fiction, and I actually learned a lot about a time in history I knew very little about.
Q:What was the most disappointing book of 2021?
A: There were a few books I found rather disappointing this year, but if I had to choose one, it would be, Greenglass House, by Kate Milford. This book is quite popular in the book-community, so I felt let down when I finally read it. For a middle-grade book, I thought it was a little boring, and felt like it was written for an older audience despite being labelled for kids. It could have been a good story, but by the end of the book, it just felt dull to me.
Q: What book left the biggest impact on you?
A: Definitely, The Right to Write, by Julia Cameron. I read this collection of essays slowly throughout the year. Each time I read it, I found a new little nugget of truth, or inspiration to take away. Her writing felt like a hug and encouragement to a struggling writer. At times the author put me off by some vulgar references, and I considered giving up on it, but I’m so glad that I pushed through. I think this is a book I will return to again.
Q: What was your favorite book from 2021?
A: I would have said my favorite book from 2021 was The Blue Castle, but since I already raved about that book in another blog post, I’ll choose a different one. And since I also ranted about how much I loved The Forest of Wool and Steal, in the same post, I won’t choose that one either. I read a lot of books that I loved this year, but for the sake of this post, I’ll choose just one, and that is, Dearest Josephine by Caroline George.
I’m not quite sure how to label this book. Contemporary? Historical Fiction? I suppose the genre doesn’t matter, when it’s a book you really love. Dearest Josephine is told through letters, emails, and a shifting time-line that alternates between Josie De Clare, a girl from 2021, and Elias Roch, a boy from the year 1821. Dearest Josephine is about two broken-hearted souls that become strangely connected to one another, though separated by a span of 200 years. It’s a rare thing when a story can make you feel something so bittersweet, and heartfelt. I came away from this story with so many emotions, and warm feelings. It’s one of those books that after you’ve finished reading it, you just have to sit still for a moment, and appreciate all the little details that made you adore it so much.
Aside from that, my honorable mentions would have to be, At Night I Become a Monster, by Yoru Sumino. A fascinating story about a boy who becomes a monster when night falls, and a classroom overshadowed by bullying.
I was also completely blown away by Dracula, a classic that had been on my list for quite some time. I was not prepared for such a deep, and impactful story. This is another book I want to read again, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything the first time around. The memory of this story still haunts me.
In conclusion, I read a lot of great books, and found some that have become my forever favorites. I realized this year, that reading is a give and take activity. In years past, I wasn’t giving it enough time or attention, and so my attitude towards reading reflected that. This year, I made an effort to make more time for reading, and be very intentional about it, and in the end, I enjoyed it all the more.
I hope you read lots of great books this year, and I hope you read even more next year. What was your favorite book from 2021? Tell me a little about your year in books, I’d love to chat with you.
Hello, everyone! Today I have a special book review for you. I was fortunate enough to receive an Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) of the first book in a brand new epic fantasy series by author, Daeus Lamb. I received the novel early, in exchange for a review with my honest thoughts and opinions. I’m excited to talk about this book, so let’s get started.
“You may hate me when this ends. For the crimes I committed. For crimes I couldn’t dare commit. I have seen the face of God a thousand times and buckled beneath his blows. But I made him bleed as He bled my heart.
I am a hero. They say.
Have you ever run in terror from your perfect past?
Do you yearn for redemption for the time you failed your dying mother? Will you sever immortal evil’s head to get it?
Are your dreams filled with damnation, or has the offer of a free wish broken your soul?
Then let me tell you my story. Venturing with a world-weary bard, a battle-hungry ranger, and a best friend who soon doubted me, I set off to destroy the Songkiller. It is only in looking back that I perceive the devilry of the song that made us fools. The monsters we fought bore our faces.“
The first thing that struck me, was how this story hit the ground from the first page, and kicked into high-gear. The cast of characters were as wide, and as varied as the differing lands, and cultures that were explored. In particular, I thought the unique race of the Ublideck’s, and the swampy environments they inhabited were an interesting, and refreshing change from the typical dwarves, and elves most often seen in fantasy novels.
The story begins with our main character Exton, during a secretive meeting with his father, and a legendary, if somewhat mystical bard. Bards in this world are something similar to a wizard–a person with special abilities–and in this story, that ability is called “Songweaving”. Exton’s two closest friends arrive, and they are presented with an incredible challenge, and something Exton has been waiting for his entire life. Along with his two companions, Exton agrees to the daunting task and sets off with the bard on a dangerous journey, bringing them to the brink of death, and their very sanity.
Ventar the bard, was probably my favorite character. I admired his straightforward, rational way of thinking, and I was fascinated by his past and his role as a bard. I only wish we had spent a little more time exploring the magic system–the Songworld–and how the act of Songweaving worked. I had a general understanding of the system, but a bit more of an explanation would have been nice.
In contrast, Exton, our main character, was a wild card–young, passionate, and a little reckless. He tended to be over-confident which led him into some difficult situations, but he did persevere despite the setbacks. By the end of the book, it was clear that he still had much to learn, and his true journey was only beginning.
The Songkiller’s Symphony boasts an incredibly large cast of characters and alternating points of view. At times that made it difficult for me to navigate through the story. New POVs appeared throughout the book, and while they each shared an important detail, I wasn’t thrilled when I had to acquaint myself with so many new characters.
I enjoyed this story, and writing style, but I never felt a real connection to the characters. I felt that I didn’t have the chance to really settle in, and get to know the characters as much as I would have liked. The fast pace kept things interesting, but I missed having some slower moments with the main characters instead of hopping around between POVs.
This story tackled some difficult topics, like morality and war, and they were handled well and didn’t avoid the ugly consequences. The Songkiller’s Symphony, is a promising start to the series, and I’m curious to see where the characters will find themselves next. Lastly, I’ll leave you with a few lines from the book which perfectly capture the essence of this story.
“Do not lose your light, nor let your heart run dry. Run wild, but not too far. Stop before you can never regain your innocence. Don’t touch the night too closely, or it will consume you.”
Greetings friends. I hope this entry finds you well, in body and spirit. I’m doing quite well, thank you. Fall has arrived, and I’m very happy about it. Most days are still in the upper 90s, but the morning’s and evening’s are so dusky and crisp, and I’m loving them. But I’m not here to talk about the weather (*again), I’m here to talk about books–my other favorite topic of discussion. It’s about that time when readers all over the world start to rummage around, and squirrel up some juicy reads for the remainder of the year. And since we are all eternally, foraging for good books to add to our lists, I thought it would be fun to share a few books that you may not have heard of before. In the book world there are many books circulated that nearly everyone has read, or has plans to read. But there is a vast library of hidden gems out there, and maybe your new favorite book is still waiting for you to find it. Today, I’m sharing a few books that you may not have heard of, that I really enjoyed, and that you might enjoy as well.
The Dark Lord of Derkholm, by Dianna Wynne Jones (Middle-Grade Fantasy)
I’ve mentioned Dianna Wynne Jones on my blog many times before, since she is one of my favorite authors. But apart from Howl’s Moving Castle, not many of her other books get much attention, which is a shame because she’s written a lot of books. One book that I truly adored was, The Dark Lord of Derkholm. This is a fantasy book, with a premise that’s almost too convoluted to describe. It takes place in the same universe as all her other works–which consist of many different worlds. In this novel, there is an event which takes place each year, where those from across the worlds can take part in a Pilgrim Party–an all expenses paid trip to a neighboring world where “pilgrims” a.k.a. “tourists” can take part in a rehearsed adventure. These so-called pilgrims get to defeat dark lords, and dragons, and experience a “real” adventure. And for this year’s event, Derk, and his eccentric family are chosen to host it. We follow our main characters as they endeavor to put on the show of a lifetime, and create a convincing experience for the good paying tourists. The book is hilarious and completely enthralling.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë (Classic Literature)
We are all familiar with the Brontë sisters, and their widely acclaimed books, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights–but you don’t often hear about the third sister, Anne. If you haven’t heard about this book, I’d just like to say that in my humble opinion, the The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, far surpasses the two aforementioned, both in plot and writing style. Wildfell Hall, centers around a reclusive young woman, and her son, and their mysterious past. When a young gentlemen takes a liking to the woman, he makes it his goal to befriend her, and find the truth about the unfortunate events that lead her to the quiet, secluded cliff-side town. This is one of the most honest, and poignant works of fiction from the 18th century, I’ve ever read.
Blur, by Steven James (YA Thriller)
Occasionally, I like to pick up a story in the thriller, or paranormal genre. I read this book on a whim, when I wanted something gripping and dark, and I was pleasantly surprised by the story. It takes place in a small, quiet town in Wisconsin, where the body of a teen girl is discovered. The death is ruled an accident, but the main character Daniel, soon comes to believe that may not be true after all. He tries to get to the bottom of the case, while strange and unexplainable things begin to happen in his personal life. For anyone interested in a chilling, and mysterious story you might want to pick this book up. Oh, and Blur, is the first book in a trilogy, but I didn’t really like the other two books as much as I liked the first.
The Forest of Wool and Steel, by Natsu Miyashita (Contemporary, Slice of Life)
This year I’ve been delving into some Japanese Fiction. I decided to pick up The Forest of Wool and Steel, and the title is what initially drew me to this story, but I then stayed for the characters. This story is about a young piano tuner, apprenticing at a piano shop in a small mountain village. The main character Tomura, was someone I really related to in many ways. The book managed to make the challenges and difficulties he faced while pursuing his dream, somehow feel like my own struggles in life. This is a heartwarming and true to life story about a young man forging a path for himself, while walking in the footsteps of great teachers.
The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery (Classic Literature)
As a self-professed member of the Lucy-Maud-Montgomery-Fan-Club, you can imagine my surprise when I found this book, while doing some online book shopping. I knew Miss Montgomery wrote other books besides her famous Anne series, but somehow, The Blue Castle slipped by my radar. As soon as I read the title, I immediately, ordered the book. I might be the only one living in ignorance of this book, but in case you too have not heard of it, don’t worry, I just fixed that problem. It was interesting to read a more modern book by L.M. Montgomery, and a story very unlike that of Anne of Green Gables, or Emily of New Moon. Our main character, Valency, is only months away from turning thirty when she receives shocking information that spurs her to break free from her overbearing, and stifling family. Much to the chagrin of several aunts, uncles, and cousins, Valency casts public opinion aside, as she chooses to live the life of her dreams. This is probably my favorite read of the year, and is one of those books I know I’m going to want to read over and over again. So if you’re in the market for something humorous, uplifting, and heartfelt, I think this is just the book you’re looking for.
Thus concludes my list of lesser-known masterpieces. Searching for hidden gems in the book world is one of my favorite hobbies, and something I intentionally seek out. The mainstream book market dominates nearly all of social media, yet when you take the time to find books outside of that realm, you may be pleasantly surprised by the treasures that are out there.
Tell me, have you heard of any of these books before? What are some of your favorite lesser-known reads? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!
Have you any treasure? Is it something special, or rare? Perhaps it is in a wooden chest, hidden away from prying eyes? Deep in the shadows, clothed with cobwebs and dust, I have such a box. I revel in the thought that only I know what is within, and where it is kept hidden. But today, I make an exception and invite you to come along with me, as I uncover this secret treasure, and let the sun shine upon its precious contents.
A few years ago, I was given this wooden chest. It is heavy, and quite old, with a metal latch securing it. Long before I called it mine, it belonged to my mother, given her by her mother. I have always had a fascination with the box, and would peak inside it whenever I could. Like a pirate’s trove, it encased its precious jewels well. Since it has become mine, I’ve endeavored to keep it the way it has always been–tucked away safely in the shadows. But every so often, I will bring it out into the light, brush away the dust like an old pirate, and lift the lid to marvel at my riches.
Inside, are several, worn and aging books, resting between layers of crisp white paper, (novels, to be exact). Each of them ranges from ninety, to even one hundred and twelve years old. Very gently, I lift them from their paper nest and sift through the yellowing pages. Fading floral embossed covers, and swirling script, display the titles of each one. I count the number of volumes that I have read, and finger through the number of those I have yet to. The sight of them, calls to mind the stories within and the voices, and feelings they convey. Stories of struggles, and heartaches, but also of triumphs, and reconciliation.
Each one carries a message that can be heard through the ages. Sometimes a hard truth, or just a tender reminder; stories of young orphans, a distant mother and daughter, a couple drifting apart, or a small girl awaiting the return of her brother, and so much more. Peppered among these tales, like blossoms in spring are beautiful details of nature and earth. One mentions the unique call of a songbird, another, the magnificent colors decorating the wings of the Emperor moth, and still another reflects upon the manner in which one should walk through a still, and quiet forest. While their words enthrall me with tales of life, and longing, the subtle call of nature pervades them all.
In The Keeper of the Bees, a soldier battling illness takes up residence in a cottage by the sea for rest and healing. While there, he finds infinitely more. An old man and his garden, bursting with flowers, and honeybees, teaches him to treasure the simple things. And the little girl who enters his life, teaches him that no one is too small, to befriend.
In A Girl of the Limberlost, a lonely girl endeavors to capture and record the vast number of moths, and butterflies residing in the swamp near her home. In the process, the rift grown wide between her, and her mother begins to close, and love and friendship blooms instead.
In Michael O’Halloran, an orphaned boy, delivers newspapers to scrape together a meager living for himself. No more than a child, he manages to rescue a poor disabled girl from going away to an orphanage. His courage and honor inspires those he encounters in his young life, to live life freely and with love.
I read these stories to remember the times of old, and the way of things long ago. But in the sea of plots, and prose, there are truths that slip beyond the realm of time, and reach into the present. For a truth spoken once, will be true always. If you’ve grown tired of the tales and woes of today, perhaps, you would like to step back into the pages of days gone by. You may find these tales more captivating than the newest, or most popular fables of today. Miss Gene Stratton-Porter’s stories have impacted me greatly, and have remained close to my heart in the years since I’ve read them.
“To my way of thinking and working, the greatest service a piece of fiction can do any reader is to leave him with a higher ideal of life than he had when he began. If in one small degree it shows him where he can be a gentler, saner, cleaner, kindlier man, it is a wonder-working book. If it opens his eyes to one beauty in nature he never saw for himself and leads him one step towards the God of the Universe, it is a beneficial book, for one step into the miracle of nature leads to that long walk, the glories of which so strengthens even a boy who thinks he is dying, that he faces his struggle like a gladiator.” -Gene Stratton-Porter
Recently, my bedroom has gotten a major makeover — fresh paint, new floors, the whole shabang. As a result, I had to completely empty out all of my belongings, including my bookshelf which was a major undertaking, due to the fact that it’s a hefty floor to ceiling structure, (custom made by my brother, I might add ;p). It was easy enough to empty all of my “junk” a.k.a., shove everything in storage bins. But when it came time to unpack it all and return everything to its proper place, boy oh boy, was that a challenge. It took me several hours to complete the job, likely because I spent most of the time sitting on the floor staring dismally at the piles and piles of books, instead of delivering them back to their designated place.
It can be very hard to let books go, but I realized I had so many books that I was never ever going to read, and even books that I disliked but was still hanging onto. I was determined to minimize, and be honest about the books I didn’t want, so I buckled down and weeded out lots of books that simply did not spark joy in my heart. (Marie Kondo, anyone??) I was able to eliminate a whole bin full of books that were taking up very valuable space on my shelves! Clearing things out not only cleared my mind but allowed room for my future acquisitions.
While sorting through almost every book I’ve collected in the last ten-or-so years, I was able to rediscover so many books I’d forgotten about. And today, I wanted to share with you some of my most epic finds from the depths of my little library. Some weird, some awesome, and some slightly eccentric books I didn’t even remember that I owned. Let’s start with…
Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart
Let’s just call this one book research. Yeah, that sounds reasonable. Plants and herbs have the ability to do amazing things from healing wounds, and disease, to becoming a valuable tool for sabotage. Because you never know when you might find yourself in a situation where you need to poison your enemy– I mean, when your characters need to poison their enemies, you know, in fiction. ;p
When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt
Next, we have a middle-grade book, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. This is one of the oddest books I’ve ever read, about a strange boy who appears in a small town in a camper trailer which he is unable leave, for reasons I’m not going to tell you. Some of the other children in town visit him regularly, and try to get to the bottom of the mysterious predicament the boy is in. If you want to find out more, and don’t mind reading something a little wacky, you’d better get yourself a copy.
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
I stumbled across this series at a thrift store, and it sounded interesting so I snatched it up. I found book 1 and 3, but I was missing the second book, so I waited patiently and lo and behold, the next time I went thrifting there it was, just sitting on the shelf waiting for me, (a major success in my book). Honestly, about 90% of the books I own came from thrift stores, many of which I knew nothing about before I purchased them. Sometimes they can be a flop, but sometimes they are true winners. This is an extremely underrated series, that I think a lot of people would enjoy if they knew it existed! It’s a sci-fi/dystopian retelling of Alice in Wonderland, and it’s totally epic.
The Milagro Beanfield Wars
A lot of the books on my shelf were inherited by me, from my brother when he moved out, and thus I have no idea how, or why he acquired some of these titles. The perfect example, would be these books right here. I don’t know much about this series, other than it being a historical, and possibly magical tale. It looks so strange and creepy I just have to keep it, and perhaps read it one of these days.
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
I’m sure a lot of you have heard of this book, and probably read it, as it is the rightful bearer of the Newbery honor medal. I’m not someone who cries easily, but this is the one and only book that has ever made me shed actual tears. Heartwarming, and heartbreaking, this is a touching story of a young girl on a journey to her mother. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve read this book, but it left a lasting impression.
Michael O’Halloran by Gene Stratton-Porter
I love to collect vintage books, and read them too. There’s something so captivating about cracking open an old book with yellowing pages, and a creaky spine. Not to mention, the musky old-book smell, that generally accompanies such treasures. The thrill of diving into a story from days gone by is priceless, and Gene Stratton-Porter is one of my all-time favorite authors, and I’m slowly reading my way through all of her works. She has a unique talent for making somewhat simple stories, flow so deep, and tug on your heart-strings. I would recommend any of her books.
Back in the day, my brother was quite the magician, always showing off his newest trick and such. He used to guard his secrets with his life, but no longer… Looks like his secrets are about to be exposed. What do you think? Should I try out some of these tricks on my own, or keep his mysteries hidden?
Dune by Frank Herbert
I bought this book more recently, and I read it only last year. It’s considered a classic in the sci-fi world, so naturally I wanted to give it a go. While I did find it interesting, and somewhat entertaining, it was just a little too weird for my taste. It had some very dark, and slightly occult themes which admittedly, turned me off. Though I must say, I did like the sand worms, and thought they were absolutely terrifying. I would describe this book as Star Wars meets Tremors. There are many more books in this series, so I can’t say if/how my opinion would change if I were to continue on with with it, but as of now I’ll call it a done deal.
Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel, book 2 of the Airborn Series
This is another one of my favorite underrated trilogies. I borrowed this series from the library, so I don’t own all of the books, except for book two which I happened to find at–you guessed it–a thrift store. I would really like to re-read this series if I ever get my hands on the other two books. From airships to spaceships, this story takes you on a wild ride, and really gives you that “steampunk” vibe. Fun fact: I found out about this series from Adam Young, (a.k.a, Owl City), after I learned that one of his songs was based off of a line from book two. All I can say is, Adam never let’s me down and if you like adventure you’ll like these books.
So there you have it, the conclusions of my discoveries for today. It took a lot of work to get my books looking all nice on the shelf, and my back surely paid a fair price. It was a lot of fun to remember many of the books I had forgotten about, and fawn over my favorites. And it was surprising to find that I have so many awesome, yet underrated books that I don’t think many people have heard of. If you’re interested, I can do another post dedicated to some of my top underrated books, and series. Let me know.
I hope you enjoyed exploring my bookshelves with me, and maybe added a few new titles to your TBR. Do you have any strange books on your shelf? Do you like to search through your shelves for old and forgotten books? Tell me about it down below, I’d love to hear from you.
As always, thank you for reading,
P.S. If you’re curious, this is the Owl City song I mentioned. Give a listen.
How goes it? Are you keeping afloat in this sea of uncertainty? It feels like monsters, mayhem, and certain death is lurking around every corner…or so we’re told. Besides all of that though, we’ve made it into the thick of summer – which means swivel fans running nonstop, long lazy days too hot for anything, ice cream, and cold drinks all around. It’s supposed to be monsoon season here, but one little rain shower, doesn’t qualify as a monsoon, does it? So this heat-wave has me feeling more like a puddle, than a person. And to make matters worse, there isn’t a single beach within five-hundred square miles of me, or even a pubic pool open to wade in, so I’m left with many, sweaty afternoons to fill. And what’s better than to fill my time with books?
As with all readers, my TBR (To Be Read) list is ever growing and expanding, while the list of books I’ve actually read is criminally short. But amongst the eternally broadening TBR, there are some titles that are calling out to me louder than all the others. Some of these books have been on my list for ages, and others are newly added. I am hoping to cross these titles off my list very soon, so I thought I’d share with you the top five books I’m so looking forward to reading this summer.
1. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
In this “utopian” future, humans are genetically engineered, socially manipulated, and pharmaceutically anesthathized to become docile, and uphold the authoritarian ruling order… all at the cost of freedom, humanity, and our very souls. Is it me, or does this sound a little too, familiar?
I’ve known about this book for a long time, but my curiosity was first piqued when I heard from someone that they preferred this book, to 1984. (Not that I’ve read 1984 either, but that’s beside the point.) A couple of months ago, I got this book as a gift for my birthday, so now that I have it in my possession, I’m going to be reading it very soon.
2. The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy
Set in the year 1792, this story takes place in France, during the Reign of Terror. Sir Percy, and Lady Marguerite Blakeney find themselves targets, at the center of a deadly political scheme. And only one man can help them–The Scarlet Pimpernel— a master of disguises who leaves only a calling card behind, after his covert rescues, emblazoned with the infamous red flower.
This book is relatively new to my list, but when I heard about it, it jumped straight to the top. I was at a book store and saw this book sitting on a table, so I snatched it right up. I think the themes, and content of this book could be especially valuable in today’s world.
3. Heart of a Samurai, by Margi Preus
In 1841, Manjiro and his four friends are castaways on a deserted island. Beyond the island are countless unknowns – demons, monsters, and barbarians, or so they’ve been told. One day, an American whaling vessel passes the island, and brings the castaways aboard. Together, they sail across the high seas, and visit places they never could have dreamed exist. But years later, Manjiro wants to return to his home in Japan–to become samurai.
First off, can you think of anything cooler than samurai’s? If I could be anything, I think, I’d become a samurai. So as you can imagine, when I read the title of this book, I knew I had to read it. I’d seen the book floating around the book world, at libraries and such, and I got lucky and found a copy at a thrift store. So I’m excited to dive into this story very soon. (Also, this book has pictures. Bonus points!)
4. Shirley, by Charlotte Brontë
Centered around two young heroines, this story takes place during a difficult time in history. With the Napoleonic wars raging, Luddite revolts, and industrialization of England, this story covers many social struggles of the contrasting characters.
I’m a huge Brontë fan, so this book was a given, for me. I’m ashamed to say though, this book has been sitting around, gathering dust on my shelf for far too long while I waited for the right time to pick it up. But there’s no time like the present, right? Charlotte usually writes very deep, and profound books, so I can’t wait to start Shirley.
5. The Wingfeather Saga book 1: On The Edge of The Sea of Darkness, by Andrew Peterson
“Once, in a cottage above the cliffs on the Dark Sea of Darkness, there lived three children and their trusty dog, Nugget.”
Just about everyone and their grandma has read this book and loved it – and I’m starting to feel a little left out. I’ve heard such great things about this series, so I am really stoked to read it. And if there’s anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s that the so-called middle-grade books can truly be some very impactful stories.
So that’s the list. This year hasn’t been a very good one in terms of getting books read. I’m sure it has a lot to do with procrastination, and the threat of extinction hanging over our heads, so its understandable that I’ve been reading less than usual. But in June, I decided I was going to make more time for reading, and spend less time endlessly scrolling on social media. And happily, it’s been working. The more I read, the more I want to read, and I’m feeling ambitious about crossing these books off my TBR. So wish me luck, friends, and I do the same for you!
What are some books on your TBR? How is your reading year coming along? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.
Welcome to part three of the Writing Diaries. (If you missed the first/second post, you can start here.) Today, we’re going to discuss how you tell your story.
When you think of your favorite story, what comes to mind?
Often, when I think back on stories, whether it be in the form of a book, a TV show, or a movie, the first thing that comes to my mind isn’t necessarily the plot – it’s usually everything else. Essentially, story and plot are one in the same, but I consider plot to be the black and white road map, whereas, story is the rainbow of color that makes it unique.
Say you’re planning a road trip – your plot is the destination, and your story is the route in which you take to get there. You might take the scenic route, or you might take the highway. Either way, the path you choose is up to you. While the plot is still the ultimate destination, how you get there is what really matters. You have the freedom to expand, and explore across a vast variety of landscapes. And if you happen to stray too far from the path, you always have your road map to get you back on track.
Here’s an example of plot vs. story – if someone asked you to describe the plot of a particular book, or movie, you could probably do so in just a couple of words, and it wouldn’t sound very exciting.
Someone: “Hey what did you think of the plot for The Lord of The Rings?”
Me: “The usual, hero must destroy the evil thing to save the world.”
Not all that gripping.
But if you’re asked to describe what the story is like, the imagery, and nuances require a bit more detail.
Someone: “Hey what did you think of The Lord of The Rings?”
Me: “It was awesome. The hobbit, Frodo, and his friends, had to battle evil forces, on their journey to Mordor, in order to destroy the One Ring, that held great powers, in the fires of Mount Doom. They had to go through the terrifying, Mines of Moria, and I’ll never forget how real the dank cold, and darkness felt. Oh, and I loved it when they visited the elves in Lothlórien. I wish I could live in a tree house like they do.”
That statement still describes the plot, but it also shows a glimpse of the route, that brought the characters to their destination.
To bring this back into context, my novel right now, could similarly be condensed into a short statement; hero must stop bad guy from doing bad thing. Sounds pretty generic, right? A dozen stories with the same problem probably popped into your mind when you read that. But if so many stories fit that idea, what sets them apart? How you choose to tell your story, a.k.a., the path you take, is what truly matters. The places, the faces, and everything in between are what makes each story unique, and memorable.
While the ultimate goal in many novels is to defeat evil, we don’t necessarily read stories just to find out if good will triumph over evil. We read stories to experience new worlds, and see life through the eyes of the characters who live there. Through books, we are able to see things we may have never imagined, and feel things we never knew we could feel.
It’s our job as writer’s, to bring our characters to life, and open the door to their world, to create lasting images, feelings, perceptions, and experiences that readers will remember for some time. As a writer, I’m still learning, and like anything else, storytelling takes practice to fine tune your skills and expose your flaws, along with determination and a certain amount of vulnerability, to do better on the next round.
By taking time to develop and explore your story world, you might find that it opens your mind up to new possibilities that may have gone unnoticed, if you’d only taken the highway. And if you’re like me, and lean more towards the pantser side of the street, you may find this idea of exploring your world to be an unlikely key to fleshing out your plot as well. At one point, I was struggling with how to move my plot forward, but I was able to find the answer I needed hidden in one of the physical features of my world. (The answer to my struggle, came from within the story itself!)
Remember, a story is more than the plot. It’s the people you get to know, the places you get to see, the life you get to experience – all through words on a page. Don’t be afraid to explore new avenues and leave no stone un-turned. If you want your story to affect readers, you’ll have to give them something to remember. So be sure to infuse your story with as much richness of life, and character as possible.
“Hey Siri, let’s take the scenic route.”
This little series is dedicated to exploring, and documenting the different threads and shreds it takes to write a story worth reading. So thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you next time.
Hello friends, how are you doing? I hope this post finds you well.
I’d said that I would be posting each month, but with all that is going on these days, my blog has slid down the list of my priorities. But after much thought and consideration, I see that was a mistake. Sitting at my desk, chin in hand, staring out at the blue sky and bemoaning my existence – I realized something that had been staring me right in the face. I saw plainly that life is not on hold, contrary to what we’ve been told. The sun is still shining, birds are still singing, and life is brimming just beyond the front door. With that in mind, I built up the courage to finish up the draft that had been sitting untouched for over a month.
I bring you – TheWriting Diaries: In The Beginning.
In this second installment, I’m going to cover exactly how I began my outlining process for my new novel, and what worked for me. As the title states, I’m taking you back to the very beginning…
In late 2018, as I was finishing up my [then] current novel, I felt that it was time to prepare for the next one. One day, I was wandering among the many notebooks at Michael’s craft store, and I figured it was the perfect opportunity to buy myself a shiny new notebook for my new outline. I love writing on smooth paper, so I chose a Rhodia dot pad. (My favorite, by the way.)
I took my treasure home and opened it up to the first page, ready for the story that had been building inside of me for years, to unfold across the silky pages. But with my pen poised above the paper, no words came. I had decided that it was time to officially begin, but I didn’t know where, or even how to start. Should I begin with chapter 1? The first plot point? The ending? Since it was only my second novel, I didn’t have a proven method for getting my brain into gear. (And I still don’t.) I knew that many authors like to list numerous possibilities, all with a what if attached to them. So I gave it a shot, but it wasn’t giving me the answers I needed.
I knew the general direction of the story, but I was having trouble conveying that idea on paper. So I wrote a short opening scene. It wasn’t much, but it was the first real glimpse I got of my novel’s world. For the very first time, sights and smells were described through the senses of my main character. Colors and feelings came to life in just a few sentences. Somehow, that small scene provided me with enough inspiration to get my creative juices pumping. Though it was more like a vitamin shot, which gave me a little boost, yet left me hesitant to start on the actual outline. I got a look at the surface skin of my story, but I needed to go deeper and work on the skeletal structure.
I drew a little map of what my world looked like, physically. Next, I wrote down some bits of information about the technology used there, the way people lived, and how the social structure was aligned. Then it was time to get to the actual story, but I still couldn’t find the traction to prompt my characters into action. It was then that I realized I needed to go back – years – and even centuries before my novel takes place. You may think it’s unnecessary to go so far back in time, when your characters weren’t born or even thought of yet, but that was exactly what I needed.
I knew that backstory was important, but I didn’t realize how necessary it was for getting my own brain into motion for developing the future of my story. Taking a moment to go down history lane, tracing all the way back to the exact domino that will effect the course of events for years to come, is vital for building a firm foundation under your story. And most surprisingly, the words did come – flowing easily from my pen.
As I traversed the past, I was amazed at how much information I gathered. I found answers and explanations I would need later on, that I may not have known about if I hadn’t gone back in time. If you’ve hit a road block, and you’re having trouble moving your story forward – why not go back? Even if only a fraction of that backstory makes it into your novel, that knowledge will keep your feet grounded as you wade through a sea of new ideas, and concepts.
What about you? What is one thing that helped get your story off the ground? Leave a comment down below, I’d love to hear from you!