A Shadow Bright and Burning

Hellooooooooooooooo!

That was a lot of o’s, I apologize (but I’m not changing it. I like it). Anywho I hope everyone who is reading this is having a fabulous day/night. As I write this I am packing to go back to school (semester starts Monday. Send help). College is still hard (shocker of the century right?) but I’m really looking forward to a couple of my classes this semester. I’m taking a poetry workshop and a class about female writers, in addition to a bunch of other classes. So things are about to get VERY busy for me. 

Don’t worry, I won’t let it alter my reading or writing schedules (I sincerely hope). I just wanted to share, because I felt the need to do so.

Time to move on from all that boring school talk. So last night I finished A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess. And, remember how I said I wanted to do more book reviews? WELL, I decided to make this my very first (short) book review of the new year! So, let’s get down to it.

This is a spoiler-free review.

From Amazon: 

“I am Henrietta Howel. 

The first female sorcerer in hundreds of years. 

The prophesied one. 

Or am I? 

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. 

Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she’s shocked when instead of being executed, she’s invited to train as one of Her Majesty’s royal sorcerers. 

Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. 

But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one.

As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, what does it mean to not be the one? And how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?”

One of the first things I noticed about the book is the relationship dynamics. There is a mixture of friendships and love interests and the lines are often blurred and overlapping. While this is common in YA, the relationships weren’t the central focus of Shadow. They were motivation and important to the main character, Henrietta Howel, but there was only one that could be considered central to her goal. I liked the lack of “real” love interests. Some might argue Henrietta’s friendship with Rook is a love interest but I disagree. The bond there is strong no doubt, but desperation and a need for closeness does not make a true love interest to me. Their friendship triumphs over what romantic love they might possess, in my eyes.

Another thing I noticed was that the idea of a female sorcerer is nearly ludicrous in this world. Women are viewed as not being capable of handling magic. This, to me, is a thinly veiled representation of women in power in reality. I understand that this is at the core of so many YA novels as well, but I think it could’ve been done a little better. I think it would’ve added to the story. While I did not appreciate how transparent this was, overall I enjoyed the book. 

One note: in my opinion it’s a very plot-driven story. The characters are strong but not as fleshed out as they could be. As Shadow is the first in a series I’m sure they will be more developed as the books go on. According to Amazon, book two comes out in September. I’m hoping to see more character development in the sequel. As it is, the most eye-catching character to me was Blackwood, and he was one of the more silent characters Cluess chose to focus on.  

As far as books go I would rate it above average, but not fantastic. I gave it four out of five stars on Goodreads. Still, I recommend it if you enjoy YA fantasy (I know, I know, you’re thinking “more YA fantasy? Really?” Well guess what: YES). It might not crack my all-time favorite list, but it is for sure worth a read. 

I hope you guys found this helpful. If not, I’m sorry about that. If you’ve read Shadow already let me know what you thought in the comments!

I have to get back to packing, unfortunately. I hope everyone has a very bookish day/night!

Kailey

Most Anticipated Books of 2017

Happy new year!! A couple of days late, but the thought is still there. I hope everyone had a safe and happy new year. Since it’s only been two days, I don’t have much to say as far updates. I’ve gotten a little farther in outlining one of my stories? That’s about it. So, let’s get down to talking about books!

Alright so the title is a little bit misleading. Maybe these aren’t the “most” anticpated books of 2017. And I guess this isn’t an “official” list. But for my first post of the new year, I thought I’d share a few books that I’m looking forward to being released this year. So, without further ado, here’s my top ten books as of today that I’m looking forward to coming out this year:

  1. Windwitch by Susan Dennard. The sequel to Truthwitch, one of my top five favorite books of all time (I’m not exaggerating)(when I read this I devoured it)(I told the author and she gave me a hug). I’m looking forward to the continued adventures of Safi and Iseult, plus all of the other beloved characters that sucked me into their world last summer. I know how hard the author worked on this (all authors work hard but if you follow her you’ll know she worked herself into creative exhaustion for this novel). I can’t wait to see how that pays off. Take me back to the world of the Witchlands! Genre: YA Fantasy. Release Date: January 10th. Purchase: Amazon B&N
  2. Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody. Carnivals, and illusions, and murder, oh my! This debut author caught my eye back when I was applying to Pitch Wars. She has woven a tale of murder and romance all set in a travelling circus that has me drooling in anticipation. And her novel aesthetics? Swoon. Genre: YA Fantasy. Release Date: July 25th. Putchase: Amazon B&N
  3. Bad Blood by Demitria Lunetta. Yet another author I found through Pitch Wars. While working on revising I got to talk to Demitria a bit and she was kind enough to critique my query letter. The description of this particular book grabbed my attention when I was researching her and I’m excited and intrigued to see if it lives up to my expectations (here’s a hint: it will). A bit of mystery? That takes place in Scotland? Sign me up! Genre: YA Fantasy. Release Date: March 14th. Purchase: Amazon B&N
  4. 27 Hours by Tristina Wright. LGBTQIA+ main characters? Deaf main character? Themes of friendship and romance and a story that is positively bursting with conflict? Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes PLEASE!! This is a story I stumbled upon accidentally but that I quickly became excited to read. One of my goals for the year was to read more diverse books, and with these characters, this book may just top that list. Genre: YA Sci-Fi. Release Date: October 3rd. Purchase: Amazon
  5. Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare. If you’re like me, you love love love all things Shadowhunters (well, maybe not the tv show as much)(I’ve only seen a few episodes though. Still going to give it a chance). The Shadowhunters world is one of my favorites. Cassandra Clare is my favorite author. This next installment in the Dark Artifices series is highly anticipated, not just by me, but by all of those who love the characters and the stories, new and old. The continued conflict with the faeries and forbidden romance will make for another late night reading adventure that I cannot wait for. Genre: YA Fantasy/Paranormal Fantasy. Release Date: May 23rd. Purchase: Amazon B&N
  6. Once and for All by Sarah Dessen. So, Sarah Dessen is the reason I learned to love reading. She’s the reason I decided I want to be a writer. I’ve read everything she’s ever written, and I actually screamed aloud when she announced this book. The classic romance and lessons in learning to love and grow as people call to me with her books. I may or may not have a countdown set for it. If you like teenage romance and lessons in growing up, pick this up. Genre: YA Contemporary. Release Date: June 6th. Purchase: Amazon B&N
  7. A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas. If you know me at all, you know that SJM is one of my biggest writing influences. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I want to be her when I grow up (no 21 is not grown up shhhh). Her work ethic and writing style leaves me in awe. The worlds she creates and the characters she imagines are close to my heart. I have a particular (very deep) love for Feyre and her sisters (both blood and not blood)(Amren and Mor are killer don’t you dare fight me on this), and I have been waiting on the edge of my seat for ACOWAR since last year when A Court of Mist and Fury came out. (I’m serious. I bought ACOMAF the day it came out and finished it that night. Then I turned to my mom and said I want the next book). I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this comes out the day finals finish at my school (okay maybe it is but shh don’t ruin this for me). Reward for studying maybe? Genre: YA Fantasy. Release Date: May 2nd. Purchase: Amazon B&N
  8. History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera. Remember that book from earlier with the queer characters? Remember my excitement? You don’t? WELL GUESS WHAT THIS BOOK HAS LGBTQIA+ REPRESENTATION TOO! I AM VERY EXCITED FOR THIS BOOK TOO! (How about now? Remember that energy yet? Thought so.) But, in addition to this beautiful thing called representation, it deals with very serious issues such as tragic death and mental illness. Mental illness especially is something I think needs more visibility in YA. It’s an issue close to my own heart and I want to see how it’s laid out here. Plus, I am a sucker for a love story gone wrong. I found this book, once again, by accident. Accidents might just be getting me some great new books this year. Genre: YA Contemporary. Release Date: January 17th. Purchase: Amazon B&N
  9. Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo. I have a minor (*cough* major *cough*) love for superhero movies (let me be clear here: I have never read a comic book. And I don’t care if I ever do. To me it’s all about the movies and novels). And I have a really major love for female superheros. You’ve gotta love women in positions of power being unashamedly badass. Plus, this novel holds basis in greek mythology which makes me go heart eyes (yes I know I’m a geek. Sue me). *Grabby hands* Can I buy it yet? Genre: YA Fantasy. Release Date: August 29th. Purchase: Amazon B&N
  10. One Blood Ruby by Melissa Marr. Let me just say something about this author. She knows how to write faeries. Her Wicked Lovely series was a favorite of mine a while back, and I still pick up the first book sometimes. If you want a faerie book go buy hers. I’m serious. Go buy her books, read her books, and fall in love with her books. It’s that simple. Seven Black Diamonds roped me into her world of faeries and spellbinding love stories. I am more than a little excited to attack the sequel and get back into the adventures of these complex and addicting characters. Genre: YA Fantasy. Release Date: February 28th. Purchase: Amazon B&N

Wow, those descriptions got long. I hope they tempted you to read some of these books though!

Keep in mind, these books were in no particular order (except for Windwitch)(because, I mean, come on. Truthwitch is in my overall top five)(Windwitch is clearly my number one anticipated). Also, all release dates are according to Goodreads, so I’m sorry if they are off. And, yes, there is a pattern of genres I like. Hint: it rhymes with Rung Madult Schmantasy. So there isn’t too much of a range of genres here, and I will be the first one to admit I need to broaden my reading horizons a bit. I’m working on it.

The reason I made sure to put that this is a list at the moment is because I’m always looking for new books. And there is always a good chance I might find a book I want to read more than one of these that comes out this year. There are numerous books being released this year and I can’t be aware of all of them right this moment. I’m looking forward to discovering them. Let me know some of your most anticipated releases below! Or talk to me on twitter! I’m always down to talk books.

Okay, I must get back to writing. I haven’t hit today’s word count yet, and I don’t want to develop bad habits so soon. Go read a book! Or buy one! Or write one! Just, go do something with books, okay?

Kailey

Writer Resolutions

Hi all! Long time, no write. I hope if you’re reading this you’re doing well. And I hope if you’ve celebrated a holiday recently that it was good and not stressful!

So the last time I was on here I was talking about NaNoWriMo. That was about two months ago. You might have already guessed that a lot of stuff has happened since then.

A brief update on everything since I’ve last posted. I finished NaNoWriMo (shockingly). It was painful and pushed me way past my limits, but i finished it. Even a month after it’s done I feel the same sense of accomplishment as when I hit the submit button. 

In addition to NaNo, I’ve continued working on my two major WIPs. One is almost done, with maybe another 10k words to go on it. The other is just getting started but I’m in love with the world and the characters alike.

In non-writing news, these past couple of months have been stressful for me in my personal life. I’m trying not to get political but let’s just say I am not happy about recent events. I have very strong opinions on this matter and this has strained my relationships with some of my family members. But I know it’s been a lot worse for some people. The reason I bring this up is because I want to make sure everyone knows they can talk to me if they ever feel upset or threatened or uncomfortable by what’s happening in the world right now. You are not alone, I promise.

I won’t go off on a tangent (because this could turn into a several thousand word rant) but I needed to say that. 

Now then, let’s get down to the writing stuff. 

In the spirit of New Year’s Eve, I, like most everyone else, am making my resolutions. But when I started to do this I noticed a lot of what I was making goals for had to do with my writing. Hence, my Writer Resolutions. Here’s what I came up with.

1. Write 1k words a day. Even if it’s nonsense and terrible, just write something. Getting the words out is what matters the most.

2. Finish revising my first (and favorite so far) completed draft. It’s gone through quite a bit of editing so far but it needs a lot more work before it’s ready to start querying again.

3. Finish my Captain Swan fanfic. Yes, surprise, I write fanfiction. And I love Captain Swan. Don’t get me started on them or we’ll be here a very long time. But I’ve been plotting and outlining and tentatively planning this story for a while. It’s only a few chapters in so far and I’m excited to take it places, but I have to actually write it first.

4. Finish writing and revising my current pet project. I want to have it ready for fall contest submissions (like Pitch Wars)(I liked that one a lot). Or maybe even send it out to agents by the end of the year. I want to have it ready for anything, basically.

5. READ!!! I know this isn’t writing, but it’s related. Everyone I’ve ever seen talk about this has said that to be a good writer you need to be a good reader as well. And I am a very good reader. My goal is to read 50 books (school books don’t count) by the end of the year. Seems pretty doable to me considering I have triple that amount on my bookshelf.

6. Write some book reviews. The plan is just to put them up here. I don’t have a set number in mind. But I figure if I can reach Resolution #5 then I can get a couple of reviews posted on them. 

That’s all I’ve got as of now. I’m sure I’ll add some more as the night goes on. I’m an ambitious person. I have some personal goals as well, but the ones I wrote here are very important to me. Feel free to share your writing goals too! I’m curious to hear what you guys are trying to do for the new year.

That’s it for now. I’m going to go read a book (shocker! I know). See you guys in 2017!

Kailey

NaNoWriMo Begins!

Plus a little randomness because it’s me.

Hello my lovely people! I hope you’re all doing well. 

It is now November! And do you know what that means? Hot chocolate of course!

Just kidding. It’s 78 degrees in this stupid city. Hot chocolate is not a thing that will be happening just yet.

But what November really means is (drumroll) NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH! Also known as NaNoWriMo (and henceforth referred to as NaNo in this post).

So it is November first. I know, congrats Kailey, you know how to read a calendar. Well, yes, yes I do. Thank you for noticing.

November the first marks the very first day of this month long contest. I’ve already updated my word count for the day and am about to tackle some more writing after I finish up here. But I couldn’t let this go by without posting something about it.

I’m not sure how many who read this are doing NaNo but I wanted to share some resources I’ve found for it.

The website itself has a lot of great resources, naturally. Make sure to check those out.

Next, I got this handy dandy word count tracker from Tera Lynn Childs. She has it available in two separate forms and I recommend using it as it has a graph and I like graphs.

Also, here and here are two good videos from my friend Lily Meade who is a really cool writer and booktuber. She makes great videos that are very helpful when it comes to writing tips and such. Her story is also a strong one and I recommend checking her out. She’s so nice too! Go watch her videos! I promise you’ll enjoy them.

Finally I wanted to remind everyone that your friends and family are good resources as well! Make sure you use your support system when things get stressful. That’s what they’re there for. The tumblr writing community has been very kind to me in the past but I understand that some people have people outside of a computer who enjoy their company. I say take advantage of that.

(I’m kidding guys I have friends in real life. Two of them are probably going to give me a look when they read this because they also happen to be my roommates. Who will be listening to me whine about NEW characters for the next month. I’m sure it’ll be a fun change of pace.)

So that’s it on the NaNo update. A few odds and ends before I end this post though.

One: I want to thank everyone who actually reads these posts. You are truly wonderful people and from the bottom of my cold, lifeless heart, thank you.

Two: I am always looking for more writer friends. Feel free to talk to me on twitter or comment here! 

Three: I want to point out again how amazing my friend Lily Meade is. We met at a Harry Potter/writing conference last summer and she is the sweetest person! She is also going through a tough time right now. Watch this video, it explains everything. She doesn’t know I’m doing this but I want people to see how strong she is. We might not be really close but I’m inspired by her and her story and I think others should know how strong this girl is. She really believes in this community she is a part of. Please watch the video.

Four: I hope everyone has a good day and sees a puppy they can pet.

That is all. I had more points but decided to cut this post short since this is a writing blog and they were not writing points.

Ok, I’m off to work on my NaNo project. Bye!

Kailey

Updates & Some Notes on Inspiration

Hello I am alive! Barely. So for whatever reason I thought this semester was going to be super easy. HA GOOD JOKE! Nope it sucks. Crazy hard. Next semester is going to be worse. Yay for me.

But no one really cares how my life is going. Nope if anyone is reading this they are doing it for the writing stuff probably. So here is that writing stuff for you.

So in my last post I talked about how I had special beta-readers in mind for my WIP. Well they all said yes! I’m so excited. I’ve sent two of them the first chapter already (I don’t think they’ve ever done this before so I wanted to ease them in)(plus they’re kind of really busy too) and I’m sending out the other three the first chapter this week. It will probably be a month until I hear from them again but I’m excited to get this process going!

You also might remember I said I wanted to have this done by, oh, October 9th? Guess what? It didn’t happen! Writer’s block is a vicious thing. It likes to attack you right when you need to make things happen. And when you’re on deadline. And, well, just about all the time if you’re me. Luckily I’m (finally) able to get my life together and (double finally) able to write consistently again. I should have the whole thing done by time NaNoWriMo rolls around. (Have you seen my post about it? Go look at it! Let’s be writing friends!)

So you are officially updated on my writing life. (If you want to be updated on my life-life follow me on twitter.) Now that you’re up to date on all the parts you care about let’s move on to the part where I explain why I’m typing this up for the world to see.

So, inspiration. Inspiration can come from a lot of places. So many of my own stories and writings come from my dreams. I find dreams to be a good source of inspiration because mine are extremely vivid. Certain details or experiences tend to unravel into entire plotlines in my mind. I always tell my friends and people I know and random people I see on the street to pay attention to their dreams because they mean something. Okay not random people on the street but you should still pay attention to your dreams! They could turn into an idea and that idea could be The Thing that gets your writing going. 

But recently I’ve learned that ideas can come from songs and music as well. Theoretically, I already knew this. But I’ve only put it into practice recently. My inspiration for my current work in progress came from the album Stories For Monday by The Summer Set (available on iTunes and at Best Buy)(they’re one of my favorite bands do not judge me for plugging them because their music is phenomenal). I misheard one of the lyrics and BOOM twenty minutes later I was plotting this story out. So music can be a catalyst for writing as well. Obviously you can’t steal stories from songs (plagiarizing is wrong)(and punishable) but if one sparks an idea go for it.

I’ve found that inspiration can also come from people watching or listening to conversations. Certain phrases you overhear or a person in a seemingly odd situation can make a great place to start a story. Build off of that. The story will come eventually. 

I know these were pretty basic places to look for inspiration but they’re also very decent (and simple and easy) places to start. Your stories are not just going to come to you fully formed inside your head (in most cases anyway). Look around you. Use your resources. DO NOT STEAL SOMEONE ELSE’S IDEAS but let other people inspire you. Stories are everywhere you look. It’s up to you to find them and write them down for the world to enjoy.

On that super cheesy note, I’m heading out. This story isn’t going to finish itself and I have betas to get it to (and a NaNo outline to finish)(and a presentation for a class to make)(but no pressure or anything). Go write something down. Even if it’s just “This Kailey girl rambles a lot about nothing.” It counts. Byeeeeeeee!

Kailey

PS – I just got back after going to a concert out of state last night so I’m exhausted. I did proofread and edit this but I’m sorry if it still doesn’t make sense. 

Fall Contests & Some Ramblings

Hello!  My cat says hello too as she is currently butting her head against my hand as I type this. She doesn’t like to share my attention it seems.

Hope everyone is enjoying the nice weather! It’s finally fall!! Time to break out the jeans and sweaters and hot chocolate right? If not, well, too late on my part! 

I love fall. Mostly because it’s my birthday season and because of all the great holidays. I’m a huge Halloween fan. Love October and the awesome Halloween themed everything it brings. And then we get November and Thanksgiving! An entire holiday dedicated to eating? Um yes please! But really I love seeing a spending time with my family more than anything. There’s something about doing it on that day that makes it so much better than every other time of the year. 

But November has another holiday too! Did you know that? Yes oh yes it does. November has … (insert drum roll here) … NaNoWriMo!

Okay, so I guess technically that is not a holiday. It’s a contest (ta da! We’ve reached the contest portion of the post! Hooray!) and it’s a huge deal. 

In case you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is I’ll explain as best I can. NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, and it’s basically exactly what it sounds like. During the month of November, if you are participating, you write a novel (or fanfiction if that’s your thing). You have all 30 days to write 50k words on it. You don’t edit it, you just update your word count on the website. And at the end of the month, you have a novel! A really rough novel most likely but a first draft is a HUGE accomplishment. 

You’re probably wondering, well what do I win if I finish this? Good question! You can find the list of prizes here on NaNoWriMo’s website. You can also check out the contest itself and poke around for more information if you’re interested in signing up. (If you do, feel free to add me as a writing buddy! I’m KSteward on there. Come join me as I cry over yet another book I’m writing!)

So yes, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo. If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you’re probably thinking, “Wait, I thought she was writing a book right now! And doesn’t she have a manuscript she said she was querying?” Well you would be right! (This is where the ramblings part of the blog comes in. See aren’t I awesome at making this thing flow? What’s that? Shut up Kailey? Okay yeah probably should do that.)

I am currently more than halfway done wth my WIP. I plan to actually be done with it by next Saturday (original deadline was that but it will probably be more like late October). I have very special beta-readers in mind for this and I only get to see them two times this month and those are my only two chances to ask. So if you could please wish me luck on a) finishing the MS and b) asking them that would be really cool of you!

As far as the MS I’m querying, the original round of queries I sent out have all been rejected. I’m putting it through another round of edits before sending it out again. I have multiple betas sending me notes and two CPs who have already given me great feedback so I have a good feeling about the next time I query it.

In other news, I dropped way too much at Barnes & Noble last weekend but what else is new? Got some great books (and a coloring book) that I’m looking forward to devouring next time I get a chance.

I think that’s all I wanted to say. If anyone else is doing NaNoWriMo or has done it in the past let me know! My roommate is doing it too and we’re both sort of panicking aha. Advice welcome! 

Alrighty I’m off to go get a couple thousand words on my WIP. Bye!

Kailey

Food For Thought

Super, super, SUPER short post but I had a question and wanted to see what other people thought.

I finished reading Carry On by Rainbow Rowell yesterday. And while I LOVED the concept and most of the story, I felt like the ending was rushed and could have been better. 

I was talking with one of my roommates about it and she told me how she thought it read like a newbie fanfic writer wrote it: all build up and then rushed action. I thought that made sense.

One of my own theories is that because this was written as a fanfiction in a book originally, maybe she wanted to keep the feel it might retain.

No matter what the reasoning, it’s really bothering me. I was wondering if anyone else had read Carry On and could give me their opinions and thoughts on the second half of the book. What did you think of the structure when you read it? How did you feel the characters were treated? Do you think the speed of the plot was appropriate to the latter part of the story?

Anyone who has read Carry On is more than welcome to leave their opinions below! And I wanted to say that, despite my disappointment in the ending, I still really loved this book. Simon and Baz are amazing characters and I am glad that I got to read their stories. If you haven’t read it I say do but I really recommend you read Fangirl first.

Ok I’m off to my mythology class (it’s pretty cool). Bye!

Kailey