Monday, January 30, 2017

January Book Round Up

I've decided to start a new monthly post this year, beginning today, where I round up all the books I read that month instead of randomly telling you what I think about the absolutely outstanding books that I read. Some months might have more material than others (keep in mind, folks, I'm a junior in college), but I think this is going to be fun! It'll be a way to keep up with my own reading apart from the journal I keep. So here we go: January Book Round up!

1. Pax by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen
      First off, woah, talk about heart wrenching. A boy separated from his pet fox Pax during a time of war. Except Peter knows that they are not meant to be separated, and in order to be with Pax, this young boy begins hiking through the woods, trying to retrace his trail back to Pax, and overcoming horrible struggles.
      This story is unique in the fact that it's told from the alternating perspectives of Peter AND Pax, with the fox's POV standing out completely, mixing in the feelings that we imagine our pets to have along with the natural instincts of a fox.
      This book definitely pulls at the heartstrings for any animal lover, though I challenge anyone to get through this book without grabbing at their chest at least once.

2. Dark Tides by Jennifer Donnely (3rd in the Waterfire Saga)
        I read the first two books of this series a year ago and was really intrigued by the world that Donnely created, especially because mermaid stories aren't quite as popular as I might wish for them to be (The Tale of Emily Windsnap was one of my favorite books when I was younger). However, something about this third book was lacking. I don't know if there were too many characters to keep up with, but I just could not be pulled through the entirety of the story.
        However, I know that Donnely has a retelling of Beauty and the Beast coming out, and because that is the story of my heart, I'm definitely going to give it a read!

3. Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
        My sister from another mister sent me this book for Christmas, and since I am becoming more open toward creative nonfiction, I was not opposed to reading it, especially since I identify with that title. It was very interesting, thought provoking, and she backed up her claim of finding feminism in Christianity with Biblical evidence that I can go back to. She did give a lot of personal anecdotes, which were interesting, but I'd have liked a little more discussion of the actual topic.
        Sarah Bessey also has a blog, which apparently discusses most of what she has in her book, if you are interested in reading some of her work.
       Overall, I was glad I read this book. It made me question my own beliefs in a meaningful way and gave evidence to how I believe my God actually respects all human life.

4. The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd

"True friends turn a bad day into something wonderful faster than a pancake flip." 

         HOLLA for an awesomely charming middle grade fiction that I devoured. I mean, I love middle grade anyway. But Natalie Lloyd just like stepped up the cuteness/seriousness game with this book. It's based in a fictional town in the mountains of Tennessee (whoop whoop!) and is filled with fantastical magic. The narrator, Emma, is spunky, faithful, loyal, and all around adorable. Though she is a confidently mature kiddo, she is self conscious of the scar from her cleft lip, but I appreciate the nod to diversity of all kinds, the movement that allows every child to see themselves in literature.
         This is an absolute must read. I do not care how old you are. Read it with your kid or the kid you babysit if you're embarrassed to read it yourself (which you shouldn't be because middle grade rocks and carries weight no matter how old you are). You might also check out A Snicker of Magic, if you like this book.

5. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

"I would come for you. And if I couldn't' walk, I'd crawl to you." 

        Y'all. Y'all. Y'all. I know I've talked about Leigh on here before, but Y'all. If you haven't listened to me yet and read something of hers, you have no idea how deprived your life is.
        Crooked Kingdom is the second installment of the Six of Crows Duology (so, tear that it's over), and it's placed in the same world as the Grisha Trilogy, with some overlapping character appearances. This is a magical high fantasy novel that reflects our own world, but with a more antiquated sense. Bardugo deals with real world issues, such as politics, racism, bigotry, rape, human trafficking in beautiful, heartbreaking, tasteful ways. Her characters are full, rich, three-dimensional humans that will ensnare any reader. The way she builds backstory makes me want to dive into this book and literally never come out. I'm not kidding.
         Yes, it's a vicious world, but I love the people in it. I want to be their friends. Really, I want to be Leigh Bardugo's friend because she is my writing idol. Ask me about the first time I met her some other time. But seriously, read this book.
          She is writing a Wonder Woman: Warbringer book, which comes out this August (so pumped), and I just saw that she's releasing a collection of short stories! Woohoo!!

Next up: A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern (real life sister to Lady Cora from Downton Abbey)

What are you reading?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews!!!

It's here! It's actually here! And it's wonderful!!

I have been waiting for months for Ascension's review from Kirkus to be published. I was informed that it been read and reviewed near the beginning of December, but we made the executive decision to wait to have it published until January. So I had to sit there, knowing that it was reviewed, that it could be horrible, that they hated it, that they ripped it apart for a month and a half! A wait like that can make a person go mad. Which it almost did.

BUT IT'S HERE AND IT'S WONDERFUL! "...visit to New Orleans. Rials' tale is an exciting and fast-paced YA paranormal romance with an intriguing plot, well-drawn setting, and solid character development." WOAH BABY! Such a huge compliment from the biggest, most well-known, oldest book reviewer in the country that every library and bookstore looks at. This feels like we're hitting the big times, folks, and I couldn't be more star struck or humbled or honored. Check out the full review here

People are actually liking my words, my story that I bled over for eight years of my life, and I just can't believe it. Thank you all so much for all your wonderful support!

Those of you who have burned through Ascension will be happy to know that the second installment is with my fantastic editor right now, and she's so excited about this new manuscript. I am anxiously awaiting my edits and revisions to be completed so that we can get the next book out to you as soon as possible.

On a side note, I am so very impressed by the show of support during the Women's Marches that have happened all over the country--actually all over the world today. Feminism is for everyone. Feminism is about equality. God made us all equal, it says so in the bible. No one is less than. And today has been so inspiring. Thanks to everyone who stands up for what they believe in, no matter your vote.

But again...KIRKUS!!!!!

Until something else cool happens,

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Time to Read Diverse

I've been thinking about this a lot, mulling it over basically since YALLfest where a majority if not all of the panels discussed this in some form or fashion. Read Diverse. Write Diverse. We need more diverse writers so that children who are not of the majority can see themselves in books, connect, and know that they are not alone.
What I've been struggling with since then is how I, as a southern white woman raised in a loving home, can do anything to help this movement. I do have diverse characters in the Cheyenne Lane trilogy (as you will come to see), but they are not the focus of the story. I don't feel that I have the right to tell the story of a black child experiencing racism, or a Muslim child experiencing persecution, or a gay child just realize who they are. It would be my worst nightmare to misrepresent someone's life and their story who might try to connect with these characters.
So what do I do? What do we as white readers and writers do to spur this movement forward? We be informed; WE read diverse and uplift the amazing diverse writers that have come into the YA sphere. We put these books in our bookstores and libraries so that they may fall into the hands of a child who needs to hear that story.
The job of YA authors has become so much more than just telling stories. With the digital age, the realm of connection, we know our readers. We hear their stories, and understand their pain. We feel an obligation not only to these readers, but to our culture, to represent it accurately. The world is not filled with white, middle-upper class girls and boys. We are a race of many colors, with many troubles that connect because we are humans. All of us.
I definitely didn't know this was going to be part of the job when I first had the dream of becoming an author, but I'm going to do my best to Listen, Learn, Read, and Write to the best of my ability.

If you're interested in learning more about the diversity in movement in YA and children's literature, please visit We Need Diverse Books and Multicultural Children's Book Day.

Here's a list of YA authors and books spreading diversity into our reading:

  • Renee Ahdieh: The Wrath and the Dawn
  • Leigh Bardugo: The Grisha Trilogy & The Six of Crows Duology
  • Melissa de la Cruz: Something in Between
  • David Leviathan: Boy Meets Boy
  • Julie Murphy: Dumplin' and Ramona Blue (coming in 2017)
  • Jason Reynolds: Ghost, As Brave as You,  All American Boys, among others
  • Gabby Rivera: Juliet Takes a Breath 
  • Adam Silvera: More Happy Than Not, History is All You Left Me, & They Both Die at the End
  • Sabaa Tahir: Ember in the Ashes & A Torch Against the Night
  • Nicola Yoon: Everything, Everything & The Sun is Also a Star

And this is just a few of many to start with. I haven't read every book on this list. But I have met all except one of these authors, and they are all fantastic, wonderful, caring people.

Keep reading, y'all!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

It's A New Year!

Welcome to the new year folks! I'm so excited to see what 2017 has in store; it's surely going to be awesome.
Yes, 2016 was a rollercoaster of a year, but those highs were absolutely fantastic. It was a year of firsts. On midnight in May of 2016, I was sent the choices for my book cover. Yes, it was basically midnight. I learned that the choices I make at midnight are not always the best choices. I think more clearly in the morning.
My first friend ever got married this summer, and I had the honor of being in the wedding. I heard Coldplay for the first (and mostly likely last) time. I have to say, that was the best concert I've ever been to, despite the hour delay due to a horrendous thunderstorm that lit a car on fire. That's an inconsequential detail.
My appendix came out surprisingly at the end of the month. And minutes before I was rolled into surgery, my publisher delivered my published, printed, beautiful books to my hospital room. Yes, I cried. Then, when I was on the pain pills in the recovery room, I told my nurses to feel my book and made them all come back to my room.
I started my junior year of college (halfway done!), and then a week later, I hosted my book launch party. 300 people from my hometown (and some friends even travelled!) came to support me and this dream that I've had for the past eight years. It was an amazing night that moved as a total blur, and I can't believe it finally happened.
Over the fall, I had three school visits that were fantastic. The students had excellent questions and were all very attentive.
I had 5 book signings in three months that were all super successful. AND the best part of the semester--Ascension got an award! An actual award. First place for the Royal Dragonfly Award. Yes, I cried. A lot. There were definitely tears.
I drank a lot of coffee and tea, ate some delicious food, went to Charleston, Canada, Chicago, and Asheville, read a lot of books.

So obviously--a pretty spectacular year! I can't complain much about anything.

What are the highlights of your 2016?