Book Reviews

My Top Reads of 2020

Despite this rollercoaster year, I managed to read some pretty great books! Here are my top ten of the year:

  1. Straight on Till Morning by Liz Braswell. Part of Disney’s Twisted Tale series, this is a Peter Pan retelling. Check out my full review here.
  2. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake. This was so good, and it’s one of those books I can’t believe I’ve waited so long to read. I’m excited to read the rest of the series to see how the three sisters’ stories end.
  3. Finish First by Scott Hamilton. Figure skating is my favorite sport to watch, and Scott Hamilton is one of figure skating’s greatest athletes. He is also an outstanding role model, and all of his books are uplifting and inspiring.
  4. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reed. This was an unexpected top read. I had heard lots of great things about the book, but the blurb did not really pull me in, and it is not my typical genre. So, I was sort of expecting this book not to live up to the hype. However, it did live up to the hype and made it’s way to my top ten list. 🙂
  5. Home Before Dark by Riley Sager. I have enjoyed all of Sager’s books, but this one along with Lock Every Door, are my favorites.
  6. Roaring by Lindsey Duga. I was lucky enough to be on a blog tour for this one. I was really intrigued by the unique blurb, but was not expecting to love it as much as I did. Check out my full review here.
  7. The Companion by Katie Alendar. I read a sampler of this book and was immeditely hooked. I bought the book as soon as I had finished reading the sampler. Check out my full review of this book here.
  8. Horse Crazy by Sarah Maslin Nir. I enjoyed this book so much, I’m doing my own spin on the premise of the book in a blog post. Coming soon!
  9. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson. This had everything I love in a YA mystery/thriller novel, and I am eagerly awaiting the sequel!
  10. Atomic Habits by James Clear. As someone who often struggles with forming good habits, I found the tips and strategies in this book to be very helpful. Many of them I will be trying out in the New Year. 🙂

What about you? What were your best reads in 2020? Let me know in the comments!

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My Writing Goals 2021

I have a lot of writing goals, some more achievable than others. 🙂 For this year, I wanted to narrow in on a few primary goals, divided by topics. Since it always great to have accountability, I’m sharing them here with you all.

Novel Writing

As of right now, I have seven completed manuscripts in various stages of revision. One I have set to the side, unsure if I can get it into the proper form for publication. My current WIP is the closest to publication ready, and this is the one I’m focusing in on for this year. I also have a sequel – the manuscript is nearly complete, so I would like to finish that manuscript this year as well.

  1. Finish all the revisions/edits for my current WIP (TBSK).
  2. Prep TBSK for publication.
  3. Complete first draft of NN.
  4. Start revisions/edits of NN.

Blog/Website

Another thing I want to focus on is this blog! I’m fairly good at posting, but I know I could do better. 🙂

  1. Post at least once a week, ideally twice a week.
  2. Create newsletter incentive.
  3. Send newsletter out periodically.

Social Media

My main writerly platforms are on Instagram and Twitter, so I am going to focus on growing both platforms.

  1. Grow Instagram and Twitter.
  2. Plan out content for posts.

Reading

I do lots of reading – especially in the genre I’m writing. I participate in several reading challenges each year, and you can check out the challenges I’m doing this year here.

But I don’t read as much nonfiction, and I want to read more books on all aspects of writing. So, my goal is to read at least one book on writing per month.

What about you? What are your goals for 2021? Let me know in the comments!

Reading Challenge

My 2021 Reading Goals

For this year, I have five main challenges I’m participating in:

  1. The Book-olopy Challenge

This challenge is based on the Monopoly game. There is a printable game board with spaces that have reading prompts. You choose how many books you want to read per month and make that many plays on the board to determine what kind of books you will be reading.

I rolled the dice three times and came up with these three prompts:

*College Corner – I’ll read Freaky in Fresno. *Fae Fairway – I’ll read Whisper. *Retelling – I’ll read Unbirthday.

You can find out all the details about this challenge here.

2. The Unread Shelf Challenge

I have participated in this challenge for the last several years, and the idea is to read unread books from your own shelves. I have a ton of unread books on my shelves, so this challenge is perfect for me.

My first pick for this challenge is Unbirthday by Liz Braswell. You can find all the details about this challenge here.

3. The Modern Mrs. Darcy Challenge

The challenge is a little different this year. Instead of having random prompts, you go through some evaluation exercises and create your own list of prompts.

There are also some prompt lists for various types of reading. Since my reading time is my relaxing time, I’ll be checking off the prompts for “Reading for Comfort”, and my first read for this challenge is Little Women.

You can find all the details about this challenge here.

4. The Beachcomber’s Mystery Reading Challenge

The idea behind this challenge is to fill up four “beach bags” (cards with prompts). Each beach bag has a theme: Detectives, Victims, Weapons, and Crime Scenes. As you find each thing from the cards in your books, you mark it off.

My first pick for this challenge is The First to Die.

You can find all the details for this challenge here.

5. The Fairytale Reading Challenge

This is the challenge I am hosting! 🙂 This is a monthly challenge – each month has been assigned a fairytale, and you can read the original fairytale, a retelling(s), or both.

January’s fairytale is Alice in Wonderland. My primary read will be Unbirthday by Liz Braswell, but I would also like to reread the original story as well as Splintered by A. G. Howard and The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor. Check out all the details and get a printable bookmark here.

What about you? What reading challenges will you be participating in this year? Let me know in the comments!

Reading Challenge

Introducing the Fairytale Reading Challenge!

For 2021, I am hosting a reading challenge! Since I write and love to read fairytale retellings, I decided to make that the theme for the challenge. 🙂

The challenge is pretty simple. Each month has a fairytale assigned to it, and you can choose any retelling of that fairytale to read for that month, or read the original fairytale. If you are feeling ambitious, you can read both. 🙂

Feel free to share the graphic on social media with #fairytalereadingchallenge. I’ve also created a printable bookmark with all the prompts which you can find below.

I’ll be participating in the #unreadshelfchallenge again this year (more about this to come in another post), and I’ve selected mostly unread books I have on my shelf for this challenge. Here are my picks:

My Picks

January – Unbirthday by Liz Braswell (Alice in Wonderland)

February – A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer, Rebel Rose by Emma Thieriault (Beauty and the Beast)

March – Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson (Peter Pan)

April – Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, The Wish Granter by CJ Redwine (Rumplestiltskin)

May – Entwined by Heather Dixon Wallwork, House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig (The Twelve Dancing Princesses)

June – Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan (Sleeping Beauty)

July – Part of Your World by Liz Braswell (The Little Mermaid)

August – Hood by Jenny Elder Moke, Sherwood by Meagan Spooner (Robin Hood)

September – Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George (Red Riding Hood)

October – The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad, The Stolen Kingdom by Bethany Atazedeh (Aladdin)

November – Enchanted by Alethea Kontis (The Frog Prince)

December – Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige, Conceal, Don’t Feel by Jen Calonita (The Snow Queen)

If you’re looking for books to fill a specific prompt, check out the Epic Reads list and the Fairytale Central list for some more options.

What about you? What fairytale retellings are you planning on reading this year? Let me know in the comments!

Uncategorized

My Christmas Recs – Books and Movies

Christmas is one of my favorite times of year! It’s the end of something, but it’s also bringing a new beginning. And this year, I think we are all ready for a new beginning.

Every year, I pull out my favorite Christmas books and movies, and set aside time to read and watch them as part of my own personal Christmas celebration.

Favorite Christmas Books

  1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Although this is not strictly a Christmas book, it’s opening scene takes place at Christmas, and the whole book gives you cozy Christmas-like vibes. When I have the time, I like to do a reread (or listen to the audiobook) of this classic.
  2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Speaking of classics, this one is a must read for every Dickens fan or any fan of Christmas. And truthfully, this is my favorite Dickens book.
  3. The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand. This is a YA retelling of A Christmas Carol and it is so good! Once I finished reading it the first time, I knew it was going to be a yearly reread.
  4. Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. I know this one is a children’s picture book, but there is just something so magical about the rhyming prose. I have loved this one for as long as I can remember.
  5. Everything I Need to Know About Christmas, I Learned From a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow. There’s a whole series of these humorous books, that just happen to look like Little Golden Books themselves. And I may be giving away my age a little here, but as a kid, I loved Little Golden Books.

And of course, I always find some new books that I want to read, so here are my most anticipated reads for this Christmas:

  1. In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren. I’ve heard so much about this book, and seen it all over the place, so it’s at the top of my TBR pile. 🙂
  2. Snowed In by Rachel Hawthorne. While not specifically Christmas, this book is touted to still have all the cozy Christmas vibes, so I’m pschyed to read it.
  3. The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody. Written by the author of Save the Cat Writes a Novel (find out more about this awesome book here), this one has been on my TBR pile for a bit. After rereading the book’s blurb, I decided I wanted to read it this year. This one is set on New Year’s Day.
  4. The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale. This is a Nutcracker retelling and was on my Christmas TBR list last year, but I didn’t get to it, so it’s near the top of my list this year.

Favorite Christmas Movies

  1. A Mom for Christmas. This is an old favorite from childhood. It originally aired on TV as a Hallmark movie, and my grandparents taped it on a VHS tape for all the grandkids to watch at Christmas. (My grandfather loved doing this – taping movies and having them ready for us to watch either at Christmas or during the summer when we come and stay awhile.) Bonus: Olivia Newton John plays the wished for “mom”.
  2. Mickey’s and the Muppets Christmas Carol Movies. These are another couple childhood favorites that I always try to make time to watch each year.
  3. Elf. You knew this was going to be on here. 🙂 I don’t always like the slapsticky comedy, but this one has its own sort of charm. Maybe it’s the Christmas setting that makes it such fun.
  4. Season of Miracles. This is another Hallmark movie, but it’s a throwback one, so it has a slightly more complicated plot than girl finding the perfect man.
  5. While You Were Sleeping. Not only is this one of my Christmas favorites, it’s one of my favorite Sandra Bullock movies and I’m willing to watch it anytime of the year.

Movies on Netflix/other worth a watch

  1. Holiday in the Wild – Set in Africa, the beautiful scenery itself makes this worth a watch, but it also has a good storyline too.
  2. Christmas Chronicles – So cute! This is a fun Santa story.
  3. The Knight Before Christmas – So this one might be a little cheesy, but I really enjoyed it!
  4. Noelle (Disney+) – This is another fun Santa story, with a twist.
  5. Godmothered (Disney+) – This one is new this year and is so fun! Perfect for a family movie night.
  6. The March Sisters at Christmas (Hulu, possibly available other places too.) A modern day retelling of Little Women, with a Christmasy theme.

And of course there are a few I’m highly anticipating, but have not watched yet:

  1. Christmas Chronicles 2 (Netflix)- The first one was great, so of course I want to see this one too.
  2. Jingle Jangle (Netflix)- I’ve heard a lot of great things about this one.
  3. Operation Christmas Drop (Netflix) – The preview for this movie caught my eye and so it’s also on my watchlist.

What books are you reading this holiday season? What movies are you watching? Let me know in the comments!

Blog tours, Book Reviews

The Cousins Book Review

I was so excited when I heard about this ultimate blog tour hosted by TheWriteReads! I love Karen M. McManus’s books and was eagerly looking forward to this new release. I was thrilled to get to read it early!

About the Book

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus 
Published by Penguin UK on December 3rd 2020 
Genres: MysteryYoung AdultThrillerSuspense 
Pages: 304 
Format: PaperbackARC 
Source: Publisher 
Buy on Amazon 
Goodreads 

Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised… and curious.

Their parents are all clear on one point—not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious—and dark—their family’s past is.

The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over—and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.

About the Author

Karen M. McManus is the #1 New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of One of Us Is Lying, Two Can Keep a Secret, and One of Us Is Next. Her fourth novel, The Cousins, will publish in December 2020. Her work has been translated into more than 40 languages worldwide. Karen lives in Massachusetts and holds a master’s degree in Journalism from Northeastern University, which she mostly uses to draft fake news stories for her novels. 

For more information, visit www.karenmcmanus.com or @writerkmc on Twitter and Instagram. 

My Review

This book was fast-paced and thrilling, just like McManus’s other books. I enjoyed the way she moved back and forth between the viewpoints of the three main characters. I think that technique works really well for this kind of novel. With each additional chapter, you discover another piece of the puzzle. There was also a flashback point of view at several intervals, which I thought was a nice touch.

The characters were likable and relatable, and I was immediately invested in finding out what was going to happen to them. There were lots of twists – some I knew were coming, but there were a few I did not see coming. This is always impressive to me, since it is not often that I don’t see the twists coming beforehand.

If you’ve enjoyed McManus’s other books, you’ll enjoy this one too! It will also appeal to fans of Kara Thomas’s books, the Pretty Little Liars series, the Truly Devious series, and A Good’s Girl’s Guide to Murder. Basically, if you like dramatic teen thrillers, you’ll like this. 🙂

Have you read any of McManus’s books? If so, how did you like them? Let me know in the comments!

Blog tours, Book Reviews

Never After: The Thirteenth Fairy Book Review

I’m excited to be part of Turn the Page’s blog tour for Melissa de la Cruz’s new book Never After: The Thirteenth Fairy. I’ve really enjoyed every book I’ve read by Ms. Cruz, and if you have followed my blog for very long, you know I love fairytales, so I signed up for this blog tour right away. 🙂

Don’t forget to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the post to enter the giveaway!

About the Book

Never After: The Thirteenth Fairy
by Melissa de la Cruz
Published by Roaring Brook Press
Releasing on December 1, 2020

Nothing ever happens in Filomena Jefferson-Cho’s sleepy little suburban town of North Pasadena. The sun shines every day, the grass is always a perfect green, and while her progressive school swears there’s no such thing as bullying, she still feels bummed out. But one day, when Filomena is walking home on her own, something strange happens. 

Filomena is being followed by Jack Stalker, one of the heroes in the Thirteenth Fairy, a series of books she loves about a brave girl and her ragtag group of friends who save their world from an evil enchantress. She must be dreaming, or still reading a book. But Jack is insistent—he’s real, the stories are real, and Filomena must come with him at once!

Soon, Filomena is thrust into the world of evil fairies and beautiful princesses, sorcerers and slayers, where an evil queen drives her ruthless armies to destroy what is left of the Fairy tribes. To save herself and the kingdom of Westphalia, Filomena must find the truth behind the fairytales and set the world back to rights before the cycle of sleep and destruction begins once more.

Goodreads Buy a Copy

My Review

The author did not disappoint with this book. Exciting and fast-paced, it was a quick read that I really enjoyed. I love the way the fairytale world was woven into the real world, and I thought Filomena was a relatable character. Being a book lover myself, I also appreciated Filomena’s eagerness to read the next book in the Never After series. I loved the diverse characters, and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Fans of Rick Riordan’s books as well as the Ridley Pearson’s Kingdom Keepers series will enjoy this book!

About the Author

MELISSA DE LA CRUZ is the #1 New York Times, #1 Publisher’s Weekly and #1 Indie Bound bestselling author of many critically acclaimed and award-winning novels for readers of all ages, and edited the inspiring anthology of true stories, Because I Was a Girl. She grew up in Manila and moved to San Francisco with her family, where she graduated high school salutatorian from The Convent of the Sacred Heart. At Columbia University, she majored in art history and English. Melissa de la Cruz lives in West Hollywood with her husband and daughter.

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Giveaway

Click here to enter the giveaway: https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1e4a114d14/

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A Thanksgiving Reflection

In the US, we are celebrating Thanksgiving today. This year has been such a crazy and difficult one, it may seem hard to find things to be thankful for. But, once I think about all the things I have to be thankful for, I find my mood is raised and my hope is restored.

I have food, clothes, and a place to live. And fortunately, I also still have my job which I know is not true for some people. I am able to celebrate today with my loving and supportive husband, my adorable little dog, and my wonderful in-laws. I have several other family members I’ve been able to celebrate with virtually. This year, I’ve made progress with a couple different writing projects and have become part of a great virtual writing group.

I have a faith that sustains me even in difficult times, and I have witnessed wonderful acts of kindness even in the midst of troubled times. As we move into the Christmas/holiday season (which is my favorite holiday, btw), I’m going to continue to remember the things I have to be thankful for and look for ways to spread kindness. It is through kindness and love that we can bring change and help make the world a better place for those who come after us.

What things are you thankful for today? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

For Writers

Here Comes NaNoWriMo….Ready or Not!

It’s hard to believe it’s nearly November, and with it comes NaNoWriMo time. I’m pretty excited about NaNo this year, as I’ve had an idea percolating in my brain for the last several weeks. It’s going to be a sequel to my previous WIP, another NaNo novel, The Bloodstained Key. My working title is Never Neverland, and it will be a Peter Pan retelling. Here’s my working cover and playlist:

And here is my fancast and setting inspiration:

Also, I’m bringing back my NaNoWriMo Bingo board, and there are a couple of ways you can get the board this year. You can screenshot/print this one to use:

You can also go to this link: https://www.flippity.net/bi.php?k=1ZWofMRcuWyL5rLoioNYNRy2dsjNjO-rb-1B4nKZLank

It shows a checklist of all the prompts, but when you click on the print tab, it will generate a board to print. If you click on the play online tab, a QR code will pop up that you can scan with your phone’s camera and it will generate a board to your phone. When you tap a square, a bingo chip will cover it. Have fun and share your bingo board progress across social media with #nanobingo20. 🙂

Also, if you looking for a NaNo calendar, my writing friend Camilla Tracy has an awesome one you can download.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? What are your favorite tools for NaNo? Let me know in the comments!

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Nemesis and the Swan Blog Tour Book Review

I’m excited to be part of The Favourite Pages Book Club’s blog tour for Nemesis and the Swan by Lindsay K. Bandy.

About the Book

by Lindsay K. Bandy

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing

Release Date: October 27th 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Fiction, France

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | BookDepository | Kobo | Google Books
Synopsis:
From her prison cell in revolutionary Paris, nineteen-year-old aristocrat Hélène d’Aubign recalls the events that led her to choose between following in her parents’ unforgivable footsteps or abandoning the man she loves.
Despite her world of privilege, Hélène is inspired early on by the radical ideas of her progressive governess. Though her family tries to intervene, the seeds of revolution have already been planted in Hélène’s heart, as are the seeds of love from an unlikely friendship with a young jeweler’s apprentice. Hélène’s determination to find true love is as revolutionary as her attempt to unravel the truth behind a chilling set of eye-shaped brooches and the concealed murder that tore her family apart.
As violence erupts in Paris, Hélène is forced into hiding with her estranged family, where the tangled secrets of their past become entwined with her own. When she finally returns to the blood-stained streets of Paris, she finds everything-and everyone-very much changed. In a city where alliances shift overnight, no one knows who to trust.
Faced with looming war, the mystery of her family’s past, and the man she loves near death, Hélène will soon will find out if doing one wrong thing will make everything right, or if it will simply push her closer to the guillotine.

My Review

The cover for this book caught my eye and piqued my interest. Also, the title is so creative, and it’s great how it’s meaning is explained in the story.

The story starts with Helene in prison, and I love that the chapter numbers look like the slash marks she makes to count the days she is there. The flashbacks were done well, and the story was fast-paced, and hard to put down. I also enjoyed the way the author weaved in all the historical details, and how all the little pieces came together in the end.

I’d recommed this book to any fan of historical fiction, and fans of These Northern Lights by Jennifer Donnelly would also enjoy this one.

About the Author

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram

Lindsay Bandy writes historical and contemporary young adult fiction as well as poetry. She lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with her husband, two daughters, and two cats, and currently serves as the co–regional advisor of the Eastern Pennsylvania region of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.