YALLFest Recap & (a very late) November TBR

I’m back and ready to do some serious damage to my reading and writing goals for the remainder of the month. Last week was… difficult, to say the least, so by the time Friday rolled around I was more ready than ever for book-themed mini-vacation.

I had no idea what to expect going in to YALLFest and the whole event was a whirlwind. The schedule was jam-packed full of signings, panels, and giveaways. Deciding which events to jump in line for when was difficult (because naturally I was dying to do everything), but it was so much fun to be part of the chaos and excitement. I got to meet Adam Silvera, Libba Bray, and Sabaa Tahir, who wrote some of my favorite reads from this year. I also picked up a few ARCs of books that come out in early 2017, all of which I’ve been anticipating for months already and I’m so excited to have the opportunity to dig in to them early!

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YALLFest was a great experience over all and I’m so happy I was able to attend this year. Most importantly, I will never be in need of a spare tote bag again.

Now that we’re midway through November, I guess I could like you all know what I’ve been reading this month. I had a bit of a slow start but once work and life calmed down and I had some time to pick up a book, I decided that this month it’s FINALLY time for me to jump in to some of the series I’ve been pushing aside all year.

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I grabbed Six Of Crows first and I have been completely hooked from the start. I’ve heard from countless Leigh Bardugo fans that this is her crown jewel, and although I haven’t read the Grisha Trilogy (nor do I plan to) I know that to be true. The world she has built and the characters we’re introduced to in Six of Crows are unlike anything else I’ve encountered in YA Fantasy and I LOVE this book. I’m about halfway through, and finding it impossible to put this one down.

Next I’ll finally be getting to Sabaa Tahir’s A Torch Against the Night. I received an ARC of this one back in July and still hadn’t read An Ember In the Ashes (which I now have read and loved) at that point. I won’t be putting the sequel off any longer – even though I know waiting for the third installment will be impossible.

The last book I’ve planned to read this month is Throne of Glass. I’ve heard incredibly mixed reviews of this series as a whole, although most seem to agree that the first in the series is definitely worth reading. I’m pretty sure I won’t end up continuing with the series in its entirety, but I at least want to give Throne of Glass a shot since it’s been sitting on my shelf for over a year.

That’s it for now! The downside of a weekend trip is that there’s zero time left to relax and do nothing before the next work week begins. I’ll be spending the remainder of the evening in a blanket cocoon with my face buried in Six Of Crows. Until next time. -S

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Self-care has been imperative to my well being during the last few weeks. This blog has not been a part of that.

Yesterday was hard. Today was worse. My break from social media is going to last a bit longer, but I’ll soon get back to what I wanted this blog to be.

I’m headed to Charleston, SC for YALLFest this weekend and I’m so excited for a quick break from reality. I need that right now; I think a lot of us do.

Talk soon.

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I hope everyone has had a wonderful October so far. I spent this morning rereading a favorite of mine in preparation for tonight’s premiere of The Walking Dead!

I’ve been lacking in the way of updates, but some personal issues have kept my mind and time preoccupied for much of this month. I’ll be back with a wrap up of this month’s reads (which have been few in quantity but excellent in quality) in a few days.

September Wrap Up

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September was a rough month life-wise and I’m happy to be rid of it. I welcomed October with open arms this morning, wrapped up in a light sweater, thanks to the chill in the air, and  a cup of autumn blend coffee in hand.

Glad as I am to leave the stress and the heat behind, September was a good reading month for me so let’s wrap it up:

An Ember In the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir ★★★★★
Still Here, by Lara Vapnyar ★★
Why We Came To the City, by Kristopher Jansma ★★★.5
The Thousandth Floor, by Katherine McGee ★★★★
Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson ★★★★★
Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff ★★★★

I had been wanting to pick up An Ember In the Ashes for months, so when I heard that Sabaa Tahir would be stopping by a local book festival at the beginning of September, I immediately grabbed a copy. I could not put the book down. The world Tahir created was both familiar and imaginative, and the depth of her characters left me so excited for how they’ll grow as the series continues. This was easily my favorite read of the month (and one of my favorites of this year), and I’m so excited to get to A Torch Against the Night.

I’m going to hop on my soap box for a minute and strongly encourage everyone to pick up Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy. Stevenson explores the issue of capital punishment and the roles of empathy and justice as they are often forgotten in America’s criminal justice system – both past and present. If you have any interest in criminal justice reform, equality, and the fight for justice for oppressed populations, this is an important read.

That’s it for September! In October I’m hoping for some creepy reads, so let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions.

Review – The Thousandth Floor, by Katharine McGee

This book has been absolutely EVERYWHERE for the past month or so, and I’ve been dying to get my hands on it. I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of The Thousandth Floor from Harper Collins a couple of weeks ago and it didn’t disappoint!

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The story follows a group of friends who reside in a (you guessed it) thousand-floor tower in Manhattan, where the wealth flows upward and so does the drama. Our five main characters are struggling to maneuver their every day lives when a tragic chain of events further complicates life in the tower. Each character offers their own perspective, and as their stories begin to tangle and collide we discover that nothing is as it seems and the truth is more threatening than anyone expected.

If you’re a fan of Gossip Girl, science fiction, and crimes dramas, this one is for you. McGee did not skimp on the drama; while it was a bit much a times, over all this was a fun read. I got through it fairly quickly and I was definitely captivated by the intensity of the characters’ stories. McGee’s writing is vibrant, and the futuristic world she has created is lively, fast-paced, and thrilling.

I’m hearing that there will be a second installment in this series, and I’m anxious to get my hands on book two. A big thank you to Harper Collins and Katharine McGee for the chance to review this exciting fall release!

September Book Of the Month selection!

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Fresh off my disappointing foray into Russian Lit, I was greeted by this surprise in the mail today!

Book of the Month is a monthly subscription website that allows you to choose from five different hardcover new releases each month. Selections are carefully curated by judges, and once you’ve selected your book you’ll receive a special hardcover edition accompanied by a note written by the corresponding judge.

Book of the Month’s selections are timely, exciting, and from a variety of genres. I was so excited when I saw that Amor Towles’ latest novel “A Gentleman in Moscow” was available this month and immediately snatched up my copy. I have a feeling it’s going to be the perfect mix of beautiful storytelling, wit, and early 20th century Russian politics. Who could ask for more?! (I spent two hours casually Googling the Bolshevik Revolution at work the other day… I have a problem.)

New Book of the Month selections come out October 1st! This is definitely one of my favorite book subscription boxes and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Review – Still Here, by Lara Vapnyar

I’ve always had an interest in Russian history, but haven’t ventured much into contemporary Russian literature. When Penguin Random House sent me an ARC of Lara Vapnyar’s “Still Here” about a month ago I was eager to jump into a genre I knew little of.

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Unfortunately, this was not a good start.

“Still Here” is a character study of four lifelong friends – Vica, Sergey, Vadik, and Regina – who have immigrated from Russia to New York City, or Staten Island in Vica and Sergey’s case (much to Vica’s chagrin). While Regina and Vadik live under the guise of having “made it” in the big city, Vica and Sergey struggle in their personal and professional lives as they continuously try and fail to pitch and sell an app called “Virtual Grave” that would maintain the online presence of deceased individuals.

The premise of the story is compelling. An app that allows your voice to live on through social media after death. Four friends navigating the complexities of a new home and the turbulence their relationships with each other and those outside of their group face as a result. A commentary on love, sex, and what defines “success.”

Sadly, the “Virtual Grave” subplot was tied only very loosely into the over all story; it almost felt like Vapnyar forgot she had introduced the app as a major plot device and only threw it into the mix the few times it popped up in her mind.

The biggest disappointment, however, was how completely insufferable each of the four protagonists turned out to be (particularly Vica).This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem were it not for the fact that Vapnyar clearly did not set out to write entirely unlikeable characters.

Maybe I just didn’t get this one, but “Still Here” was definitely not for me. Incomplete storytelling and lack of a single likable character made it difficult to trudge through this one. I had to make myself to sit down and read just a little bit each day, and didn’t finish for nearly two weeks.

When you have to force yourself to finish a book just for the sake of finishing it, all the fun gets sucked out of reading. I’m glad to put this one behind me and move on to the next.

 

On writing for yourself

I am not a writer. At age eight I began to tell my family and friends that I was going to be one, and so began my illustrious writing career.

One day in the third grade I was for some reason allowed to spend three uninterrupted hours at my classroom’s computer, and there I wrote my first short story: The Leprechaun Adventure. It was eighteen pages long typed in 18-point font, and an absolute masterpiece.

I don’t know why so many girls in my generation found themselves morbidly fascinated with the Salem Witch Trials at a young age (and why the adults in our lives weren’t more alarmed by it) but around age ten my storytelling was dominated by witches and fake spells and historical inaccuracy. Because this was also the point in my life where I decided I was a very talented fashion designer, these stories were often accompanied by dark, dramatic (terrible) sketches of cloaks and gowns.

In the sixth grade I decided that I was very misunderstood and also very much a poet. There were composition notebooks filled with angst darker than my smudged eyeliner. I was an absolute nightmare and I’d like to formally apologize to everyone who experienced it first hand.

The point here isn’t about what I was creating, but the simple fact that I was creating. I wrote freely and I was excited to do it. I genuinely enjoyed writing and I wasn’t thinking about what people would think of the content while I was writing – I just wrote.

Fast forward ten or so years and I’m incapable of writing anything without imagining someone hating the writing or the story or me. No one asked for eighteen pages of my friends and me chasing a leprechaun through the green hills of Ireland, but they damn sure got it and I can’t remember being so proud of anything I’ve created since then. Those sixth grade poems were god awful, but they were as real as the feelings I experienced.

When I was young I wrote because it made me happy and I had stories to tell. I still have stories to tell, but I’ve lost sight of the joy in the process and become insecurity in my ability to see the stories through.

There are things I need to say that I’m not ready to put a face to. That feels a bit cowardly, but it’s a start. I need to heal. I need to move on from some things that I’ve experienced. I need to create new experiences and stories for myself. I need to remember how to do that freely and because I want to – not because I feel obligated to follow a specific formula in order for my writing to be consumable. I need to write for me.

I’ve struggled for a long time with what I considered “perpetual writer’s block,” but I now realize that it’s just my insecurities manifesting in the most obnoxious ways. I still don’t know what this blog is going to take shape as, but I’m hoping that having an outlet for my frustrations and inspirations will allow me to combine the two into something wonderful. I don’t think there’s another Leprechaun Adventure in my future (that was a once-in-a-lifetime masterpiece), but it’s at least worth a try.

On starting over

This is the story of a girl who is completely fed up.

Three months ago I decided I had finally had enough of working two dead-end jobs in a town I never liked with people I never grew into. A month and a half ago I packed up my entire life into a cargo van and crossed state lines into a brand new city and (hopefully) a brand new life.

So… now what?

Allow me to introduce myself – I’m a chronic non-starter. I’m sort of interested in so many things that I have never been able to fully commit to anything, and therefore have rarely done anything completely or effectively. Hobbies, extracurricular activities, career paths, relationships – I’m terrible at all of them. I never say yes to anything for the sole purpose of having an easy out later on. I have never lasted longer than six months in a new “setting” in any context of the word without getting restless and feeling the need to bail. I hate and crave change all at once.

The flaky girl lifestyle may go over well with John Green fans, but in real life it’s not a good look. When you reach my age, there’s a certain pressure that hangs over everything you do and asserts the idea that it’s time to have your entire existence figured out. What career path are you going to take? What do you enjoy? What do you hate? Who do you want to spend eternity with? What does it all mean?! I DON’T KNOW, STOP YELLING AT ME!!!

The only thing I have figured out for sure is that I love stories. Whenever my world got too crazy or sad or annoying, I immersed myself in someone else’s. I’ve turned to the stories of others countless times; now I need to write my own.

That’s where whatever this is comes in. No one asked me to chronicle my life and the mess I have made/am making of it, but I’m going to do it anyway. Remember how I mentioned being a lifelong non-starter? Blogging and journaling and writing pretty much anything of substance has been a big part of that. I’m ready to start that process from the beginning and make an honest attempt at something real for once. I have no idea what shape that’s going to take over the course of however long I let this go on for, but I’m ready for it.

And you get to watch. Congratulations! And I’m sorry.