New Beginnings

I am moving! If you’re interested in staying updated on my life, be sure to head over to my new site, baileysims.com, for more posts! I am not completely giving up on this blog, I might post every once in awhile, but this will be my main site!

Hello!

Welcome to my brand new blog. Some of you may know me already, some of you may not. If you were directed here by my other site, prettyinprint.blog, then you may already be familiar with who I am; if not, allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Bailey, I’m 17 years old, and I’m currently somewhere between a high school senior and a college freshman. By that I mean I graduated high school a semester early, and I am now finishing up a full fifteen-credit semester at my local community college before I start at Duquesne University in the fall with major in Elementary Education and a minor in Creative Writing. I’m a reader, oversized sweatshirt collector, Disney World enthusiast, ukulele player, and most of all, a writer. 

I started my first blog, prettyinprint.blog, in August of last year as a place to post my thoughts…

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17 Things I Learned from Writing My First Novel at 17

17 Things I Learned from Writing my First Novel at 17 prettyinprint.blog

Writing a novel has been my dream for as long as I can remember. Ever since I picked up my first Junie B. Jones book in elementary school and fell in love with reading, I knew that writing was what I was meant to do with my life. I knew that I wanted to write something someday that inspired someone else as much as Barbara Parks inspired me.

Sometime a few years later, I made a promise to myself that I would write my own book before I graduated high school. At the time, it seemed so far off, and the books I wanted to write then are much different than the books I want to write now. It seemed like such a lofty goal at that age, and as my deadline started to approach this summer, it still felt so unachievable, especially with half a year left and nothing written.

So over the summer, I started my first novel. Long story short, it was terrible, and nothing actually happened in the 23,000 words I got written, so I abandoned that project for good. I was disappointed by this failure, but I wasn’t that quick to let my younger self down.

I started blogging about a month after my first failure, which introduced me to a whole community of writers who had their own experiences and advice to give, and I learned a lot. Most importantly, I was pulled into the hype of Nanowrimo, something I had tried in the past but never succeeded beyond a few words.

With the support of the blogging community behind me, I committed to writing 50,000 words in thirty days. I went into the month feeling nervous but excited, and I set my writing goal at 2,000 words a day. Overall, the experience was amazing. I had a few days where I wasn’t feeling up to it and I wanted to quit, but I knew that the feeling of finishing would outweigh the inconvenience of taking an hour or two of my day to just write.

And as a result of my persistence, I finished my novel and achieved my lifelong dream five days early, on November 25th. Needless to say, I was so proud of myself to have pushed through any obstacles and go after what I wanted. I kept my promise to my younger self with a month to spare, and I know little Bailey is smiling at me right now from somewhere in the past.

So with all that said, writing a novel at 17 was one of the most pivotal experiences in my life so far, and it taught me so many amazing lessons that I will carry with me as I go into any future projects.

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1. YOUR FIRST DRAFT IS GOING TO SUCK

You’ve probably heard this about a million times by now, but I thought it might be nice to start off with this classic cliché. I’ve read this phrase on more blogs and Pinterest graphics than I can count, but those words never really meant anything to me until I began my novel-writing journey. My story sucks. It is really, truly terrible, but one thing I love about this phrase is that it reminds me that it’s okay that it sucks, because there is so much room for improvement and it can only get better from here.

2. IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER #1, BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT YOU SHOULDN’T TRY TO MAKE IT SUCK LESS

This is a mistake that I am unfortunately very guilty of. I went into my story knowing that it wasn’t going to be the best and that I had plenty of time to go back and edit it later, which allowed me to finish the first draft with less stress. However, when I started editing a few weeks ago, I realized that I may have let myself off the hook a little too much, and now my editing will suffer because of it. It’s okay to turn off your inner editor and just keep getting words on the page, but it’s also important to make sure the quality doesn’t slip too much because of it.

3. SHOW, DON’T TELL

I’m not proud to admit it, but this is my biggest issue in my writing. I try to play it through my head like a mantra as I write, I’ve even considered getting it tattooed in huge letters across my arm, but for some reason this concept just goes right out the window for me when I write longer works, and that makes all the difference between a good novel and one a kindergartener could write. This is never an issue for me when writing short stories, but for whatever reason when the word count is longer my descriptions go downhill, and that’s one thing I will definitely be working on in my next project.

4. SOMETIMES QUANTITY COMES BEFORE QUALITY, SOMETIMES IT DOESN’T

The main goal of Nanowrimo is pretty much just to get words onto the page as fast as you can, and that’s one of the things I love about it, but also one of its downfalls. In some instances, it’s better to just skip over some things (like detailed backstories, poems, or anything else that requires a great deal of time and effort), but sometimes quality should be prioritized higher. In the case of my story, my main character is writing a book of her own, but I mention nothing in the story about what her book is about. I planned on going back and adding that in later, but I realize now that her story could have affected major plot points and ultimately changed the course of the story, so I would have benefited from taking more time here.

5. WRITING A NOVEL IS HARD, BUT IT’S NOT NEARLY AS IMPOSSIBLE AS IT FEELS IN YOUR HEAD

Writing a novel always seemed like some far-off thing to me, something that somehow millions of other people managed to do but just wasn’t realistic for me. That mindset seems so crazy to me now, and I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t matter who you are, you are capable of writing a novel. It may seem like an insurmountable task, but once you get started it’s just putting words on a page from your heart. You can do it.

6. PLANNING IS NICE, BUT SOMETIMES YOUR CHARACTERS MAKE DECISIONS FOR THEMSELVES

When it comes to writing, I definitely categorize myself as a planner. I even wrote a whole blog post on why I chose to outline my story, but I may have failed to mention one important thing about planning: your plans will change. I had my whole story planned out chapter by chapter when I went into it, but once you start getting to know your characters better you start to realize what would be natural for them to do in certain situations. With my first draft finished, I now have 2+ characters that I wrote nothing about in my outline and a whole list of new plot points, and that’s okay. Planning is great, and I still swear by it, but sometimes the magic of writing is in giving your characters a little room to think for themselves.

7. YOU WON’T GET THROUGH IT IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN YOURSELF

This is definitely a big one, and part of the reason I didn’t finish my first novel attempt. If you don’t believe you can do it, or if you don’t believe it will be good enough, you just aren’t going to be able to push yourself to finish. While I was writing, doubts would pop into my head constantly because I knew what I was writing wasn’t the best or even worthy of being read yet, but I forced those thoughts out and pushed myself to finish anyway. Everybody is going to doubt their abilities at one point or another, and that’s okay, but it’s important to remember that it’s a learning process, and nobody is going to be a bestselling author overnight.

8. IF YOU THINK YOU DON’T LIKE COFFEE, YOU’RE WRONG

This one is a little different from my other tips, but also true. If you think you don’t like coffee or don’t need it to survive your writing, you probably just haven’t found the right kind of coffee (I recommend the Donut Shop k-cups, they changed my whole view on coffee). I waited until the third week of Nanowrimo to discover this and I wish I would’ve known sooner, so don’t make the same mistake as I did. Coffee makes everything easier, no argument.

9. PACING IS EVERYTHING

This is yet another thing I struggle with, mostly in my beginning chapters. I have a tendency to jump right into the story with only a few paragraphs of introduction, and when I read it over later it just sounds rushed and sloppy. I want to make a point to slow things down my next time around, paying attention to character and setting descriptions mixed in with a few back stories. Making sure your reader knows what’s going on and can picture it vividly can be the difference between them reading on and abandoning the book.

10. EDITING IS MUCH LESS FUN THAN WRITING

Being the perfectionist that I am, I was more than ready to jump into editing and wave my red pen freely over all my imperfections. Unfortunately, it only took about three pages for me to get so discouraged that I decided to put it away for awhile and revisit it later. I thought editing would be much more fun than writing and much less work, but it turned out to just be a big headache that I don’t really want to deal with. My best advice for this (though many people advise against it) is to every so often while you’re writing just go back and reread a few chapters. This can avoid a domino effect that comes from changing one thing early on and therefore having to change everything after it.

11. YOU MIGHT NOT WANT TO PUBLISH YOUR FIRST NOVEL

In most cases, your first novel isn’t going to be your best work or something that you’re going to want to present to a publisher (I don’t speak for everyone, but this is definitely true for me). Publishing is a daunting process to begin with, and when I decide I’m ready to give it a try I want to go in with something I’m confident in, and something I built from years of experience and plenty of failed novels behind me as a cushion.

12. DON’T LET BEING “TOO BUSY” HOLD YOU BACK

This is probably the most common excuse for not writing, but in most cases, it just isn’t true. Again I can’t speak for everyone, but most people can take at least five minutes out of their day to sit down and write. Any little time you put in will add up quickly until one day you have a complete story to hold in your hands. Whether you wake up and hour earlier and write or go to sleep an hour later, there are always little things you can do to work toward your goal.

13. TAKING BREAKS IS IMPORTANT

While it is important to make time for writing, it is just as important to make time for relaxing. If you’re constantly on the go working or going to school or taking care of a family and you use up all your free time writing, you’re going to burn out and you just won’t be happy. Just pace yourself and know your limits and every day you will make yourself a better writer.

14. SET REALISTIC GOALS AND REWARD YOURSELF FOR ACHIEVING THEM

My favorite way to take on a big project is to set little goals for myself and put in place rewards for when I meet them. For example, my goal for Nanowrimo was to write 2,000 words a day, and I would come up with rewards for every 10,000 words or so. They don’t have to be big things, it could be as simple as getting an ice cream or taking a break to walk your dog, just as long as it’s something you look forward to that will make you want to write.

15. WRITING A NOVEL IS A LOT MORE FUN WITH A COMMUNITY TO BACK YOU UP

Probably the best part of my Nanowrimo experience, and maybe the main reason I made it through it is because of the amazing community that comes along with this challenge. There are so many people going through the same thing you are at the same time, which gives you plenty of people to talk to and to motivate you. Without this blog and the Nanowrimo family to hold me accountable I probably would’ve given up in the first week. If you want to write and it’s not November, don’t worry! You can find like-minded people online or even ask your friends and family to hold you accountable for your word count every day, whatever it takes to keep you motivated!

16. WRITING A NOVEL IS SOMETHING TO BE PROUD OF

This is something that absolutely everyone should remember. I would even say print it out and frame it if you think that will remind you because you should never forget that you’re doing something amazing. Writing a novel is hard, and it takes a strong and determined person to push through all the obstacles that come along with it and keep fighting until you’re finished. Don’t be afraid to celebrate, this is a huge win.

17. THERE IS NO AGE LIMIT ON ACHIEVING YOUR DREAMS

Finally, it doesn’t matter how old or young you are, your novel doesn’t know your age. Whether you’re five or ninety-nine, it’s never too late or too early to work hard for what you want. I always kind of thought in the back of my mind that only adults could write books, but I realize now how wrong I was. People of different ages have different stories and experiences to bring to the table that nobody else can. No matter how old you are, your story deserves to be heard.

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This post is probably the longest one I have ever written, but it is also one that I have been excited about writing for months now. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to share with you what I’ve learned from my writing, and I hope you can learn something from it too.

I’d love to hear any advice you’ve picked up from your own writing experiences, so please let me know in the comments anything you have to share.

Happy writing,

Bailey

New Year, New Blog, New Me

New Year, New Blog, New MeBack in November, I was at my peak of productivity, probably in my entire life. In just thirty days, I wrote an entire 51,000-word novel, uploaded nine blog posts to this site, and completed 12 full-length books. I came out of the experience feeling more confident and satisfied with myself and my abilities than I had ever been before, but needless to say, that kind of creative sprinting takes its toll.

I went into December with the bar set high for myself, ready to have another month full of lengthy blog posts and knocking titles off of my TBR, and ended the month with two posts written and no log of how many books I completed. Essentially, I gave up and allowed myself to fall off the radar in terms of this blog.

This was a welcome break for me, and while I am still somewhat new to the blogging world, my experience the first time around was tainted with unrealistic expectations and a foggy vision of what my intentions really were. I started off on the wrong foot, modeling my posts after what I saw on Pinterest and focusing too much on what the reader would think rather than focusing on writing from my heart, and writing what I really knew.

My first few posts were an absolute mess in this aspect: the posts themselves lacked any substance or lesson to be gained, and I spent twice as much time creating endless failed Pinterest graphics for the posts than I did actually writing them. In essence, I came up with posts that I thought people would like to read, but not really topics I had anything to say about.

When I started writing book reviews and writing updates, however, I started to feel more like I was in my element. I knew what I was talking about and I enjoyed it, and the content improved tremendously as a result, but when December rolled around it stopped being enough for me. I started to get the feeling again that I was doing it for everybody else but myself: I was more concerned about scheduling and making sure my posts were perfectly spaced out, even when I knew that my heart wasn’t in it, so I took a few weeks off.

To be completely honest, I had no intentions of returning to this blog when I gave up on it originally. It felt like it just wasn’t for me anymore, and I was willing to just appreciate that I had a good run and move on to my next big project. It wasn’t until recently that I started to change my mindset about why I burned out so quickly.

I love writing fiction, and while I’ve spent most of my life limiting myself to that genre, I found through blogging a new form of getting words out that makes me feel confident and keeps me working toward my goals. The reason I let this blog go in the first place is that, while I love writing and reading with all my heart, those two things just don’t encompass the entirety of who I am. I started to feel like those were the only things that mattered about me, but I’ve come to realize that there is more to my life than that, and I have a lot to share about plenty of other things as well.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to continue with this blog while also continuing to make myself happy is to broaden the scope of my blog’s content, and to write because I have something to say, not because someone is telling me it’s what will make me most successful. This time, it isn’t about the numbers. This time, it’s about writing what I feel and what I think the world deserves to hear, and I believe that will make all the difference in the quality of my posts.

This page will still feature the occasional book review and writing update, but I have other plans in the works as well. I hope to share travel stories, health and fitness tips, school and studying advice, short stories and general musings, and anything else that comes up in my life. From this point on, this blog is about who I am, and I’m excited to find out more about myself in the process.

Thank you so much for reading, and I hope that if you decide to stay and see what new things will be coming to my blog that you enjoy the change as much as I do.

XOXO,

Bailey

WRITING UPDATE #1: After Nanowrimo

Writing Update One After Nanowrimo

Hello!

As most of you know, I participated in Nanowrimo for the first time last month and hit 50,000 words on November 25th. My story continued on briefly after that, but while I had projected it would be in the 55,000-60,000 word range for the first draft, it actually ended up being less than 52,000.

So now that my first draft is out of the way, I’m left with the daunting question of what to do next. Do I give myself a break? Do I start editing? Do I try writing something else?

I’ve received a number of comments attempting to help me solve this problem, and the overwhelming response has been that I should wait so that when I return to the story I will be more distant from it and better able to look at it objectively. I was unsure about this at first, but when I caved in this morning and read a few pages I wasn’t completely repulsed by it, so it has definitely not been enough time.

So I’ve decided on option three: I’m going to start a whole new project, and only when I finish the first draft of that will I return to my Nano story. I’m hoping this goes as planned, because I’ve only successfully completed one full-length novel and expecting to finish another one in a short period of time may be a lofty goal.

I’ve already started planning out my new story, but this time I have taken a much different approach. I have always been a firm believer in the use of Google Drive and its automatically-saving, online-accessible wonderfulness, so it feels strange to say that I won’t be using Google Drive at all this time around.

That’s right: I have finally given into the hype of Scrivener.

I’ve always been a little skeptical about Scrivener, even though I’ve only ever heard positive things about it. I probably never would have even tried it out if it weren’t for the 50% off coupon for Nanowrimo winners. I figured that if everyone loves it so much, there must be a reason, and after playing around with the trial version I can see why people swear by it. I’m enjoying the ability to access my plans in the same document as my writing; it makes the process much more efficient, and I have a feeling it will help me to better stay on track.

I’m satisfied with how it’s helping me plan, and I’m even sort of excited about what this new idea might become. I’m not at all the kind of person who comes up with story ideas left and right (or at all, really: I have a decent one like once a year), so I’m crossing my fingers that this one might have potential. It centers around a heavy theme, so I’m going to do my best to pull that off!

I wish everyone the best of luck in all their writing endeavors! Now that Nano is over, I’m going to have to change a lot about my routine, and hopefully this new habit of writing daily will catch on in the long-run!

Happy writing!

Bailey

 

THE CEMETERY BOYS by Heather Brewer

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 6.15.56 PMWhen Stephen’s dad says they’re moving, Stephen knows it’s pointless to argue. They’re broke from paying Mom’s hospital bills, and now the only option left is to live with Stephen’s grandmother in Spencer, a backward small town that’s like something out of The Twilight Zone. Population: 814.

Stephen’s summer starts looking up when he meets punk girl Cara and her charismatic twin brother, Devon. With Cara, he feels safe and understood—and yeah, okay, she’s totally hot. In Devon and his group, he sees a chance at making real friends. Only, as the summer presses on, and harmless nights hanging out in the cemetery take a darker turn, Stephen starts to suspect that Devon is less a friend than a leader. And he might be leading them to a very sinister end…”

The Cemetery Boys is different from what I usually read, but when I read the synopsis (and saw the pretty cover), I couldn’t resist picking it up.

The story is dark and mysterious, and these effects are emphasized well in the initial setup of the book. It has all the perfect ingredients for a spooky story: a small, quiet town where everybody knows everybody and nobody ever leaves, a mysterious tale from the town’s past that everyone seems to believe, and a few mentally unstable parents with chilling messages. Each time a character is introduced, you can almost feel the mysterious tension surrounding them through Brewer’s words. Each resident of Spencer seems to have their own unique story of the town and its history, which creates a puzzle-like effect in which things seem to fall into place. The experience is entirely immersing and leaves you feeling like you’re in the room with the characters, trying to solve the mystery.

What I loved about this story is that, as I said, it had all the right ingredients for a dark and creepy story, but it also manages to pull them all together in a way that makes sense and keeps the reader interested. Not only do the characters seem to come alive on the page, but the setting descriptions really make you feel what it’s like to live in Spencer. In their small town, kids hang out at the “playground,” which is really the local cemetery, which makes for a few interesting scenes.

When Stephen meets his first friends, a girl named Cara (who may be more than a friend) and her dark, brooding twin brother, they don’t hesitate to share their own creepy Spencer story of a friend who drowned in a refrigerator. Their story sets up the background of the town and the history of the bad things that happen there, even before Stephen discovers the real threat of Spencer—a threat that might put him in more danger than he knows.

The story is full of suspense and betrayal at every turn of the page, and by the end you’ll want to reread the story just to see what clues you missed the first time around. It was surprising and exciting, and a reading experience that was very different for me, since I’m not one to read a lot of creepy mystery stories. I’m definitely glad I picked this one up, because I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. This is a very quick read at less than 300 pages, so if you are looking for something short and suspenseful, I would recommend The Cemetery Boys.

4.5 Stars

(PS I’m also planning to read The Blood Between Us by the same author, so if you have read it let me know what you thought!)

I’d love to hear what you thought of the book, or what you think I should read next!

Also, be sure to add me on goodreads if you want to see what I’m currently reading!

Happy reading!

Bailey

My Month in Books: November 2017

My Month in Books November 2017

Hello everybody!

I hope you all had a wonderful November! As you may already know, I participated in Nanowrimo for the first time this month (and won!!), so a lot of my time in November was dedicated to that. I thought this would impact the number of books I got around to reading, but I’m actually pretty happy to say I managed to finish twelve books this month.

I’m not quite sure how many I typically read on average per month—I’ve never actually kept track—but this probably a few more than I usually finish. This is great, but I think I may need to slow down a little bit to keep up with actually purchasing these books.

Thanks to the nagging voice in my head that forces me to read every single book I buy, I’ve read almost everything on my shelf so far, despite the fact that I go to Half Price Books almost weekly and leave with another huge stack. I’m down to only about six books, so I’m definitely going to have to stock up soon if I want to match this number in December.

THE MURDER COMPLEX by Lindsay Cummings

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 9.15.24 PM“Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.

The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?”

This is the first book I finished this month, but I feel a little guilty about how long it’s taken me to read it. I preordered this book and received it the day it was released (in 2014…) and now here we are, over three years later, and I’ve just now finished reading it.

I was excited for this book when it came out because I was active on Instagram and a big fan of Sasha Alsberg (who just co-wrote a book with Lindsay that will be coming out in January) and she had been promoting the book on her Mortal Instruments fan page. I was a part of the “street crew” or whatever it’s called to promote the book, but by the time I received it I just wasn’t that interested anymore. Now that I’ve read it though, I’m glad I didn’t put it off forever because it really wasn’t bad. Not my favorite, but not bad either. 3.5 Stars

WAYFARER by Alexandra Bracken

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 9.16.44 PM“All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. 

Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are racing through time in order to locate Etta and the missing astrolabe with Ironwood travelers hot on their trail. As Etta and Nicholas fight to make their way back to one another, from Imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, time is rapidly shifting and changing into something unrecognizable… and might just run out on both of them.”

This book is the second in the Passenger duology, and while I really loved this series, it took me a lot longer to get through this book than I would have liked. The language was beautiful and the story was exciting, but for some reason, it felt a little too slow for me, though I ended up enjoying it. You can read my full review here.

4 Stars

CARRY ON by Rainbow Rowell

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 9.17.47 PM“Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.”

Carry On is my favorite book of all time, no explanation needed, just read it. And if you need more convincing on why you should read it, read my review first. (But don’t question it, just read it)

5 Stars

UNTAMED by PC Cast and Kristin Cast

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 9.18.33 PM“Life sucks when your friends are pissed at you. Just ask Zoey Redbird – she’s become an expert on suckiness. In one week she has gone from having three boyfriends to having none, and from having a close group of friends who trusted and supported her, to being an outcast. Speaking of friends, the only two Zoey has left are undead and unMarked. And Neferet has declared war on humans, which Zoey knows in her heart is wrong. But will anyone listen to her? Zoey’s adventures at vampyre finishing school take a wild and dangerous turn as loyalties are tested, shocking true intentions come to light, and an ancient evil is awakened in PC and Kristin Cast’s spellbinding fourth House of Night novel.”

Honestly, part of me is ashamed to say I’m even reading this series, but it’s the kind of guilty pleasure read that has absolutely no substance but is entertaining nonetheless. I hate a lot of things about these books (especially the main character, who has like ten boyfriends at a time but still whines when they get mad at her for it), and reading them is kind of like watching a train wreck, but a really entertaining train wreck. I’m ashamed to say I do plan to read the remaining eight books…

2.5 Stars

THE RED PYRAMID by Rick Riordan

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 9.19.41 PM“Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a “research experiment” at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them —Set— has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe – a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.”

I am a huge Rick Riordan fan: I’ve read all the Percy Jacksons, the Heroes of Olympus Series, and the Trials of Apollo and loved every single one of them. I have been eying up The Kane Chronicles at half price books for months now, expecting to find a typical witty and exciting Riordan novel, so I was disappointed to find that this book was a little…boring. Maybe it’s the introduction of a whole new set of gods that I had no prior knowledge of, or just simply the fact that it didn’t live up to any of Riordan’s Greek mythology-based stories, but I wasn’t really a fan of this one. It wasn’t completely terrible, but I don’t see myself finishing the series anytime soon.

2.5 Stars

THRONE OF GLASS by Sarah J Maas

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 10.27.22 AM“After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom.”

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead … quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.”

So I may be a little late on this bandwagon (or a lot late, are you sensing a theme here?), but I finally got around to Throne of Glass and yes, it lived up to the hype. I had heard so many good things about this series before I started it, and I honestly wasn’t even convinced I’d like it that much, but it ended up becoming one of my favorites.

5 Stars

FIRECRACKER by David Iserson

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 10.28.07 AM“Astrid Krieger lives in a rocket ship prototype in the backyard of her parents’ estate. Her recent expulsion from the elite Bristol Academy has won her a unique punishment: She’ll have to attend public school for the very first time…”

Buying Firecracker was mostly just an impulsive decision, as I had never heard a single word about it before reading it. It was just one of those days where I happened to be at Half Price Books (which seems to happen pretty often, if you’ve picked up on that), and it happened to be cheap and have a pretty cover. And I’m a sucker for a pretty cover…

I was actually pretty surprised when I ended up enjoying this book (because yes, sometimes I buy books purely for the joys of looking at them on my shelf rather than for reading pleasure), and it was a fun, quick read that didn’t take up enough of my time for me to regret it. You can read my full review here.

3 Stars

CROWN OF MIDNIGHT by Sarah J Maas

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 10.25.45 AM“From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie… and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.”

Again, I’m a little late on the bandwagon. I expected that I would like this book because I liked the first one so much, but I didn’t expect it would live up to Throne of Glass. I find that especially with fantasy series, I tend to like the books less and less as they go on, but I actually maybe even liked this one more than the first. Since the characters had closer relationships in this story, there was more emotion and I cared more about what happened.

5 Stars

ANOTHER DAY by David Levithan

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 10.26.27 AM“Every day is the same for Rhiannon. She has accepted her life, convinced herself that she deserves her distant, temperamental boyfriend, Justin, even established guidelines by which to live: Don’t be too needy. Avoid upsetting him. Never get your hopes up.

Until the morning everything changes. Justin seems to see her, to want to be with her for the first time, and they share a perfect day—a perfect day Justin doesn’t remember the next morning. Confused, depressed, and desperate for another day as great as that one, Rhiannon starts questioning everything. Then, one day, a stranger tells her that the Justin she spent that day with, the one who made her feel like a real person…wasn’t Justin at all.”

I read Every Day a few years ago, and I had no idea that this “sequel” (companion?) even existed until I ran into it at (you guessed it) Half Price Books. I had such high expectations because I loved the story the first time around, but I was disappointed to find that it was pretty much the same exact book, except much more boring. Rhiannon’s perspective was a little dry, and all it really did for me is make me really hate her character. If you haven’t read either of these books, I recommend picking up Every Day and stopping at that.

2 Stars

HEIR OF FIRE by Sarah J Maas

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 6.15.08 PM“Celaena has survived deadly contests and shattering heartbreak―but at an unspeakable cost. Now, she must travel to a new land to confront her darkest truth . . . a truth about her heritage that could change her life―and her future―forever. Meanwhile, brutal and monstrous forces are gathering on the horizon, intent on enslaving her world. Will Celaena find the strength to not only fight her inner demons, but to take on the evil that is about to be unleashed?”

I know you’re probably expecting another satisfied, five-star review on this one, but unfortunately, the series plague seemed to finally set in in the third book. After the first two, I figured it was pretty much a given that I would love this one, but my predictions were wrong.

I understand how this story pushed the plot along for the whole series, but I just wish it could have been done a little quicker. It seemed to drag on and on forever, and I felt myself losing focus often as I read. Nothing particularly interesting seemed to really happen in the almost six hundred pages of this book, and I really hope it gets better from here because it would be a shame if the series falls flat like this.

3 Stars

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE GIRL NEXT DOOR by Jared Reck

A Short History of the Girl Next Door“Fifteen-year-old Matt Wainwright is in turmoil. He can’t tell his lifelong best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her; his promising basketball skills are being overshadowed by his attitude on the court, and the only place he feels normal is in English class, where he can express his inner thoughts in quirky poems and essays. Matt is desperately hoping that Tabby will reciprocate his feelings; but then Tabby starts dating Liam Branson, senior basketball star and all-around great guy. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough; but, as Matt soon discovers, he’s close to losing everything that matters most to him.”

This book was has become an unexpected favorite of mine, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a short, cute story. I won’t say much more because I have a lengthy review here.

4 Stars

THE CEMETERY BOYS by Heather Brewer

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 6.15.56 PM“When Stephen’s dad says they’re moving, Stephen knows it’s pointless to argue. They’re broke from paying Mom’s hospital bills, and now the only option left is to live with Stephen’s grandmother in Spencer, a backward small town that’s like something out of The Twilight Zone. Population: 814.

Stephen’s summer starts looking up when he meets punk girl Cara and her charismatic twin brother, Devon. With Cara, he feels safe and understood—and yeah, okay, she’s totally hot. In Devon and his group, he sees a chance at making real friends. Only, as the summer presses on, and harmless nights hanging out in the cemetery take a darker turn, Stephen starts to suspect that Devon is less a friend than a leader. And he might be leading them to a very sinister end…”

This probably goes without saying, but yes, I bought this book because I was at Half Price Books and I liked the cover. The story is creepy and dark and full of surprises and betrayal at every turn. I should have a book review posted on this soon, so once it’s up I will link it here.

4.5 Stars

So that’s all the books I got around to this month! I just started the Lengend trilogy, and I have a few more stray books waiting to be read for December. (But not nearly enough, so I’m going to have to hold out for Christmas)

What did you read this month? Have you read any of the books I talked about? Are you also addicted to Half Price Books? Let me know!

Also, follow me on twitter (@readerbailey) and goodreads (@baileylsims) because both of those accounts are pretty weak right now, but I’m working on it!

Have a great December and read lots of books!!

Happy reading!

Bailey

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE GIRL NEXT DOOR by Jared Reck

A Short History of the Girl Next Door

“Fifteen-year-old Matt Wainwright is in turmoil. He can’t tell his lifelong best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her; his promising basketball skills are being overshadowed by his attitude on the court, and the only place he feels normal is in English class, where he can express his inner thoughts in quirky poems and essays. Matt is desperately hoping that Tabby will reciprocate his feelings; but then Tabby starts dating Liam Branson, senior basketball star and all-around great guy. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough; but, as Matt soon discovers, he’s close to losing everything that matters most to him.

I went into A Short History of the Girl Next Door having almost no idea what it was about, but high expectations based on the buzz around this book. I just assumed, naturally, that it was about a girl next door and subsequently, a love story. It is, in fact, both of those things, but it’s not your everyday run-of-the-mill teenage romance where, despite all obstacles, the main characters figure things out in the end and kiss passionately before proceeding to their happy ending.

Those things only happen in Matt’s head. One of the things I loved most about this story was that it was full of clichés, but they appeared mostly in Matt’s thoughts, and sarcastically at that. Matt resents the “overdramatic movie director in his head” who controls his thoughts and fills his mind with hopelessly theatrical scenes.

Matt is in love with his best friend, and in typical movie fashion, Tabby is oblivious to those feelings and opts to date a popular senior guy instead, and Matt is crushed. That storyline itself didn’t bother me—though it is a little overused in contemporary fiction—but I found it difficult to empathize with Matt’s love for Tabby, as her character is the most underdeveloped in the whole story. I felt like the only thing the reader really knows about her is that she has red hair and likes Nerds, and two boys love her. Her and Matt’s backstory was enough to make the story cute, but it sometimes felt like a story about a boy who is in love with a cardboard cutout of a girl rather than an actual, three-dimensional human.

When I started this book and realized it was about basketball, my hope that I would like it faded away almost instantly. I don’t mind basketball itself or occasional mentions of sports in books, but I tend to stay away from stories where sports are the main focus of the plot. It tends to breed characters that have no depth beyond the stereotypical dedicated athlete, but I was pleased to find that this wasn’t the case with Matt. Even though basketball is one of the most important things to him, and he is especially good at it for only a freshman in high school, the development of his character is more centered around his humor and his relationships than simply one of his hobbies.

The story is full of shocking twists and turns that you don’t see coming, but I can’t say more than that without ruining the story. I’m happy I had no inkling of the direction the story would turn in as I read because it made the rollercoaster ride that is this book that much more enjoyable.

Overall, this story isn’t what I expected it to be. Where I thought I’d find another love story like every other in the world of young adult fiction, I found a story that embraces clichés while giving them a new twist. The humor and sarcasm dripping on every page kept my interest, and this was one of those stories that remind me why I love to read. Jared Reck did a great job crafting this story, and I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick read full of humor and emotion.

4 Stars

I’d love to hear what you thought of the book, or what you think I should read next!

Happy reading!

Bailey

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Nanowrimo: Reaching 50,000 Words

Nanowrimo Reaching 50,000 Words

Five Nanowrimo blog posts, twelve years of dreaming about writing my own novel, twenty-five long days of reaching my daily word count, and 50,000 words that nobody would ever want to read later, I am officially a Nanowrimo winner.

Just one month ago, I decided on whim to write a blog post about my feelings on Nanowrimo, with no expectation that I would reach 50,000 words or even get to one. I learned about Nanowrimo about three years ago and have always dreamed of the day I would win, but despite my good intentions, I never gave it a try until this year. I always used the excuse that I was too young, or that I didn’t have enough time, or that I wasn’t good enough, but I put all those thoughts aside for the last twenty-five days and did what I never thought was possible: I didn’t give up.

Nanowrimo Winner

I’m still in shock that this day is actually here, but the winner banner is real and very, very beautiful. My story is not quite finished but it is close, and without this challenge I probably never would have started it at all. Right now it’s a complete mess, but it’s less of a complete mess than I expected it would be in the first place, and that in itself is a small victory.

The end of my story is well within view, and I’m happy with how everything came together, even if I did branch off a little from my original outline. In an earlier post I described myself as a planner, but looking back on the month I would say I am definitely more of a plantser, and it worked out well for me. I enjoyed the freedom of new characters introducing themselves by surprise and smaller conflicts cropping up in the middle of something bigger, while still having the structure of an outline and the guarantee that my novel will not reach a dead-end.

I haven’t decided yet whether I will edit this story right away or move on to planning my next project, but one thing I know for sure is that my consistency this month has formed into a new habit, and I don’t plan to take writing out of my daily routine for a long time. I feel this month alone has helped me grow as a writer more than anything else I’ve done before, and I don’t regret participating at all.

Overall, I’m proud of myself for sticking to my goals and working toward something I’ve wanted for so long, and I can’t wait to read my first novel when I’m finally finished. It’s not perfect and I still have plenty of room to grow, but I’m only seventeen and I have my whole life ahead of me to make my writing great, and now I’m confident in my ability to do that.

To anyone else who has reached their 50,000, congratulations! To everyone participating this year, whether you think you’ll make it to the finish line or not, we should all be proud of the hard work we’ve put in this month. And if you aren’t participating and you would like to, why not start now! Even though November is almost over doesn’t mean it’s too late to start something great. You’ll never regret trying.

Thank you all for keeping me motivated and accountable this month, and as always,

Happy writing!

Bailey

Nanowrimo: Week Three Update

Nanowrimo Week Three Update

It’s the twenty-first day of Nanowrimo, and I’m ashamed to say that it took me until week three to discover coffee.

Coffee is mentioned on pretty much every single page of my WIP so far, but I have never really been much of a coffee drinker, so I had been avoiding this key Nanowrimo staple until finally, last week, I found some that I liked. I now credit all my writing for the past seven days to that coffee. Otherwise, I don’t know if I would have made it through.

This week was probably the best so far in my journey, and it almost feels natural to sit down and write those two thousand words at the point. I would love to keep this habit going even after the month ends, but I know eventually life will get in the way. As of yesterday, my word count stands at 40,390 words, and I’m on schedule to reach my 50,000 by Saturday, which is pretty exciting stuff.

At the beginning of the month, I honestly didn’t think I’d make it this far, and even wrote a whole post about why I wasn’t sure I should participate in the first place. But now that I’m twenty-one days into the month and still meeting my daily goals, I’m pleased with my decision to join. Had I avoided participating because of my worries that I wouldn’t finish, I wouldn’t be here today with 40,390 more words than I had at the beginning of the month.

I’m starting to dread writing less every day, and even though I stress about how horrible my story is about every other minute, I’m starting to enjoy the process of getting it onto the page. My words are starting to feel less forced, and my plot is finally moving along. I’m not sure how long my first draft will be once I’m finished, but I expect it will be between 55,000 and 60,000 words. Even though I plan to finish a few days early, I am still going to try to stay consistent in writing those last few thousand words before the end of November.

My overall feeling for the week is proud. I’m proud that I’ve kept going this far, and I’m excited to see the final outcome when all is said and done. It’s an amazing feeling to watch that blue bar get closer and closer to turning green, and I’m happy that I’m to the point where I’m fully confident in my ability to finish out the month, because the first week I wasn’t so sure I’d make it this far.

If it weren’t for this blog, I probably would have quit the second day, so thank you to anyone who read my previous posts and therefore kept me accountable to finish out the month. Without the pressure of an audience and the support from a community of fellow writers, I never would have made it this far. I hope your story is going well, and I hope you’re excited and prepared for the final stretch. No matter where you are in your story, stay positive, you can do this!

Time to go write those 2,000 words, let me know how your project is going and if you haven’t already, add me as a Nanowrimo buddy!

Happy writing!

Bailey

FIRECRACKER by David Iserson

IMG_6846“Astrid Krieger lives in a rocket ship prototype in the backyard of her parents’ estate. Her recent expulsion from the elite Bristol Academy has won her a unique punishment: She’ll have to attend public school for the very first time…”

Firecracker was definitely an impulse buy, I’m-at-Half-Price-Books-and-the-cover-is-pretty-so-I-have-to-buy-it type of thing, so I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this story. I was interested by the idea of a comedy about a girl who lives in a rocket ship (a rocket ship which is, unfortunately, rather absent from the story), and I thought it would be something different to try out.

I went into Firecracker with low expectations, and they weren’t surpassed by much. The story was funny, and there were even a few parts that made me laugh, but the overall plot was scattered and seemed to be thrown together at the last minute. This would usually be something that would put me off completely to a book, but I’m going a little easier on this one because it was more of a light-hearted, funny read than something you’re supposed to really get something out of.

Even though this book wasn’t very powerful or life-changing in any way, that’s not to say it didn’t carry a few lessons within it. However, the lessons that are obvious in the text are pretty much as cliché as it gets. For example, spoiled rich girl who believes she is above everyone else thinks, “But maybe I was not the only person in the world who was more complicated than everyone assumes.” (And then, just after, goes back to acting exactly the same as before).

One thing about this story that I thought really stood out was Astrid’s confidence. Sure, she definitely errs more on the side of arrogance, but I still think it’s unique to have a main character who is self-assured and can recognize her good qualities rather than one whose main conflict is not believing she’s beautiful. Astrid may have a stuck-up attitude, but I think readers can learn from her independence and the way that she only has herself, but she has found a way to be happy about that.

Also, this story is unique because Astrid is not looking for love. There are a few boys that care about her, and sometimes she even reciprocates those feelings, but she is not dependent on anyone else for even a minute in the story. She doesn’t need love to be happy, and that is an important quality and one that is not often portrayed in young adult books.

Overall, the story was very enjoyable (though I was hoping for more about the rocket ship…) and I would recommend it as a lighthearted story if you ever need a laugh. It is a very quick read—I finished it in just a few hours without difficulty—and the entertainment value of the story outweighs the parts where it lacks in any real substance. David Iserson did a nice job in creating a funny story for readers to enjoy, and I’m glad I picked this one up.

3 Stars

I’d love to hear what you thought of the book, or what you think I should read next!

Happy reading!

Bailey