Top Ten Author Duos I Want to Co-Write Together

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week, they post a new Top Ten topic and other bloggers respond with their own lists. 

Hey guys! I love this week’s TTT topic, but I couldn’t come up with ten, so I went with five (which since there are two authors each kind of make it ten…?).

  1. Rachel Hawkins and Ally Carter
    • I love both of these authors because of their ability to create hilarious characters and ridiculous plots. Together, they would be unstopable–as in, I’m not sure that I could stop laughing.
  2. Susan Vaught and Patrick Ness
    • Both of these authors write powerful plots with moving social commentary. Ness’s writing is stronger with fantasy, and Vaught’s style is more centered in modern-day issues. Honestly, I don’t think I could get through this make believe book without crying, but I know I would also be deeply moved.
  3. Erin Morgenstern and Maggie Stiefvater
    • Both of these authors create the most gorgeous, fantastical worlds and some of the most memorable characters that I’ve ever read. Putting them together would create a fantasy-writing powerhouse that I would knock people over in a bookstore to get to.
  4. Sarah J Maas and Kristen Cashore
    • Another fantasy powerhouse, but this one is more badass. The heroine that these two women would create would be a butt-kicking, but emotionally aware protagonist that I’d probably love forever.
  5. Brandon Sanderson and Libba Bray
    • I love both of these authors, but I’ve always felt like Sanderson’s writing needs more social commentary, which Bray rocks at. Together, they’d create some incredible story. I don’t even care what genre it would be, because both of them have written in multiple genres and I’m fairly certain they can do anything.

Which authors would you want to co-write together? Do you agree with my pairings? Happy Tuesday!

Book Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

This book was everything I wanted it to be: hilarious, cutesy romantic, and just a little tear-inducing near the end.

3.5/5 stars

cover the fill in boyfriend

Amazon Description

When Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she decides to do the unthinkable…convince the cute guy waiting to pick up his sister to pretend to be her boyfriend for the night. The task is simple: two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

The problem is that days after prom, she can’t stop thinking about her fill-in boyfriend. But can Gia turn her fake boyfriend into a real one without exposing her lie and possibly destroying her friendships and her newfound relationship?

Smartly observed and wonderfully romantic, Kasie West’s talent shines in this tale of one girl’s unexpected quest to find love…and possibly herself.

My Review

I liked this book a lot, but it was missing that spark of originality that I look for in books.

Gia was an interesting protagonist. I definitely empathized with her, but I also realized that she was not a great person. At the start of the book, Gia is image-obsessed and shallow, with a bit of a manipulator hidden behind her Nice Girl. Thankfully, she wasn’t superficial and bitchy enough for me to hate her (and thus hate the story), especially because she starts to become self-aware early on in the story.

Gia’s transformation into a humbler, more down-to-earth girl was written well. Did it have it’s cheesy Mean Girls moments? Heck yes. But the social commentary (especially pertaining to our modern reliance on social media for validation) hit home for me more than the stereotypical bitch-to-loyal-friend transition, and it actually made me think about my own values in a slightly different light. I never lost sight of Gia’s character, and she was never completely fixed, but she was knocked down a few pegs, and I admired her for it.

Fill-in Bradely (I’m purposefully not saying his name because there is a cute scene attached to it) was an entertaining love interest. I loved the subtle references to his geeky t-shirts, and most of his dialogue was pretty funny. Making him be an actor was a smart decision, plot-wise, because it added some realism to the idea of him playing Gia’s BF for prom night. His sister, Bec, was everything I’ll ever need from a sassy side-character, and I’d love to read a spin-off about her.

Watching Gia and FIB fall in love was adorable and emotional. Though you never would have expected it on the first page, they were actually a good fit for each other. I really appreciated that fact that both of them had had SOs before, so that there was none of the usual “omg I’ve never held hands with a guy before” nonsense that seems to come with plots like this. The arc of the romantic plot line follows the usual chicklit rise-and-fall, but it still told a sweet story.

The plot was the most under-whelming part of the book. While I loved the romantic plot line with fill-in Bradley–it had me cracking up for the first half of the book, then fighting back tears for the second–the various subplots felt cliche. I never understood why Gia’s friends were so bitchy–or if it was just Gia’s neuroses getting in the way–and the plot line lacked believability. Since Gia’s issues with her friends were what drove her to the crazy fill-in boyfriend scheme in the first place, I felt like the foundation of the entire book was weak.

The family plot line was interesting–I was actually surprised when I realized that Gia’s perfect family life was actually pretty crappy–but the scene with her brother (if you’ve read the book you know what I’m talking about) was totally predictable. I saw it coming a mile away, and I didn’t really care for the way the subplot played out.

The Fill-In Boyfriend is a cute romance that dabbles in social commentary but dives in deep enough to lose the light-hearted mood. For such an entertaining premise, the book was a quick read, and I wish that there had been a few more scenes to break the plot out of the stereotypical YA romance template.

Weekend Words #7

weekend words picWeekend Words showcases inspiring quotes from books, about writing, and about life. This feature will happen every weekend, either on Saturday or Sunday, depending on my schedule. While this is a reading/writing centric blog, this feature doesn’t have to be focused on those areas–it is intentionally open-ended to give bloggers a chance to say what’s on their mind.

Everyone should feel free to take part–it would honestly make my day! Complete instructions can be found on the feature’s page. 

1. A Powerful Quote From a Recent Read

depth fill in boyfriend quote

“We rarely find a depth by looking inside of ourselves for it. Depth is found in what we can learn from the people and things around us. Everyone, everything, has a story…When you learn those stories, you learn experiences that fill you up, that expand your understanding. You add layers to your soul.” — Kasie West, The Fill-In Boyfriend

The Fill-In Boyfriend didn’t have a lot of deep moments, but I loved this quote so much. So much of high school is trying to figure out who you are, but this quote makes you stop and realize that the answer isn’t something you can find by sitting around and thinking about yourself.

2. A Quote that Inspired Me This Week

“The problems we face did not come down from the heavens. They are made by bad human decisions, and good human decisions can change them.” — Bernie Sanders

I love the down-to-earth honesty of this quote. After this week, I think we all need a reminder that things can always get better, but only if we actually try to fix them.

3. Something I’ve Been Wanting to Say

I understand a lot of different types of desperation, and I know that not everyone has home lives as positive and compassionate as mine. But I will never be able to get over academic cheating. 

Being a straight-A student isn’t a prerequisite for mattering in this world. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and none of us are good at everything–no matter what it looks like on paper. To people who feel pressured into cheating out there, remember that you aren’t just hurting yourself, you’re dragging down the level of the entire classroom, and you’re probably crushing someone else’s spirit in the process.

And to schools that think the answer to an epidemic of cheating is to lower the punishments for cheating? There aren’t even words for how completely you are screwing your remaining honest students.

Can you tell what my school did this week? :/


I hope you’re all having a great weekend! What quotes have inspired you recently?

Series Review: Shadow Falls by C.C. Hunter (spoiler free!)

A cute paranormal romance series with humorous and touching moments alike, appropriately hot love interests, and a surprisingly emotional writing style.

3.5/5 stars

Amazon Description of Born at Midnight (book 1)

One night Kylie Galen finds herself at the wrong party, with the wrong people, and it changes her life forever.  Her mother ships her off to Shadow Falls—a camp for troubled teens, and within hours of arriving, it becomes painfully clear that her fellow campers aren’t just “troubled.”  Here at Shadow Falls, vampires, werewolves, shapshifters, witches and fairies train side by side—learning to harness their powers, control their magic and live in the normal world.

Kylie’s never felt normal, but surely she doesn’t belong here with a bunch of paranormal freaks either.  Or does she?  They insist Kylie is one of them, and that she was brought here for a reason.  As if life wasn’t complicated enough, enter Derek and Lucas.  Derek’s a half-fae who’s determined to be her boyfriend, and Lucas is a smokin’ hot werewolf with whom Kylie shares a secret past.  Both Derek and Lucas couldn’t be more different, but they both have a powerful hold on her heart.

Even though Kylie feels deeply uncertain about everything, one thing is becoming painfully clear—Shadow Falls is exactly where she belongs…

My Review

I was going to review each book in this series individually, but then I realized that I would be saying basically the same thing five times, so I’m doing a series review instead.

I first read this series freshman year (before I started 52 Letters) and I remember loving it, even though I wasn’t very impressed by the writing or the plot. Having reread the series, my reaction hasn’t changed very much, though I appreciate the emotional power of the writing more.

The Shadow Falls series is fun. The plots are light-hearted but tense, designed to make you laugh as they build-up to each book’s dark climax. It was easy to binge-read these books: the plots were just dramatic enough to be impossible to put down, with just enough humorous scenes to keep a smile on my face.

I appreciated the fact that each book clearly has its own plot and can stand on its own, but also that the characters and their relationships with each other clearly grow and develop from one book to the next. New characters are added with a graceful touch that adds to the series without massively changing its mood. The continual mystery of Kylie’s supernatural identity changed enough with each book that it didn’t get old but still kept me reading, needing to know the truth.

I love all the characters. It was easy for me to relate to Kylie–a girl who keeps finding herself in waaay too deep and who frequently just wants to ignore her problems. Kylie isn’t the classic YA badass–the go-getter who tackles every problem that comes her way–but she’s realer. Some of her problems are romantic, other are deeply personal, while still others deal with supernaturals out to kill her–but all of her reactions are realistic. For once, I honestly felt like I could be Kylie, which added an incredible layer of relatability and emotional connection to the series.

The rest of the characters begin one-dimensional but develop into unique personalities as the series goes on. Kylie’s roommates, Miranda and Della, never failed to add humor to the scenes, but they also served as down-to-earth touchstones for some of Kylie’s most emotional moments. Della–the sarcastic vampire with sore pride and a dirty mind–was definitely my favorite character, and I can’t wait to read her spin off series, Shadow Falls: After Dark.

There are a lot of side characters, but I never got them confused (miraculously). CC Hunter deserves props for keeping all of the side characters distinct from each other and for giving each of them their own plots. I loved getting to see all of the other campers fall in love–this is undeniably a romance-centric series, but it’s done well.

The romance is…exactly what you’d expect from a paranormal story like this. Two insanely hot guys falling for Kylie, with Kylie stuck falling for both of them. Lots of awkward moments and sweet interactions, with just the right amount of steamy scenes. Honestly, the love triangle was done in a way that it didn’t destroy the series for me; on the contrary, it was one of the most entertaining parts of the series to read.

I was happy with the guy Kylie ended up with, especially because CC Hunter didn’t wait until the last moment of the series to “choose”–the reader actually gets to spend some time with the “winning” couple, knowing that they will last. While this was one of the only unique parts of the romance plot, I appreciated it a lot because it took the emphasis of the series away from LOVE TRIANGLE and focused it more on just telling a romantic story.

I am conflicted about the writing of the series. The series is definitely fun to read, and the writing style contributes to the light and quick-paced feeling. However, there is nothing special or breath-taking about the writing. It lacks poetry, it isn’t dying to be quoted. The series’ themes are simple and honest, but don’t expose any deep revelations about the human condition.

On the other hand, the writing style manages to get the reader to feel Kylie’s emotions incredibly deeply. I was taken aback by how connected to Kylie’s character I felt–I was caught up in her emotional thunderstorm for all five books–especially because the series is written in third person.

My main disappointment with this series is its lack of originality. The paranormal creatures that attend the Shadow Falls camp are the regular suspects with few variations: werewolves, vampires, witches, faes, etc. The truth of Kylie’s identity was the most “wow” moment of the series, and one of the only plot points that felt 100% unique. The romantic plot lines follow beaten paths; the side characters fulfill the usual roles: quirky BFF, maternal/sisterly mentor, the dark but attractive love interest, the boy-next-door-type who wants the best for Kylie.

None of this is to say that the series is bad–it’s great. But its greatness is tempered by the fact that I’ve experienced it before. I love it when authors shock me with new ways of storytelling, with new ways of describing emotions and relationships, with new characters for me to fall in love with. These books will make you laugh and they’ll give you a lot of feels, but they don’t break any barriers. I would recommend them to fans of the paranormal genre who need a pick-me-up.

Book Haul #8: September

book haul

September was a great month for me in terms of getting new books! After not having bought myself books since July, I decided to treat myself to some of the books that I’d seen floating around the bookish blogosphere.

book haul 8

Books Bought:

(Click each link to go to their Goodreads page)

Initial Thoughts On Each

cover everything everything

Everything, Everything seems like it will be an extremely bittersweet and inspiring read. Also, look at that cover! It’s gorgeous!


cover the fill in boyfriend

I bought this book because it looked adorable and hilarious. I’m reading it right now and it is exactly as fun as I expected!


cover reborn

After binge-reading the Shadow Falls series, I can’t wait to try out the spin-off series that I never read the first time I read the series. I loved Della as a character, so getting an entire series dedicated to her is basically a godsend.


cover accident season

I love the premise of this book: kinda creepy with just enough originality. Plus…that cover!?


cover hello goodbye and everything in between

Again, I needed cute romance in my life, and this one looked like it would fit the bill. I expect it to be more bittersweet than The Fill-In Boyfriend, but I still think it will ultimately put a smile on my face.


cover queen of shadows

Do I need to explain this? THRONE OF GLASS BOOK FOUR. I bought it as soon as it came out.


cover court of thorns and roses

It’s another book by Sarah J. Maas, this time with Fae? How could I not buy it for myself?


Have you read any of these books? What books have you bought for yourself recently?

Book Review: Illuminae (Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

THIS BOOK IS AMAZING. This book redefines what it means to be a book. I need a new thesaurus just to describe my love of this books. AHHH!

5/5 stars!!!

Release date: October 20, 2015

cover illuminae

Amazon Description

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto one of the evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

My Review Fangirling Mess

I’m having trouble forming complete sentences about this book. I can’t put into coherent words the emotional roller coaster ride that was this books. *draws deep breath* Here goes.

My favorite thing about this book’s premise was the idea of the protagonists being exes. From the first page, the romance is unique and fresh and hilarious, and I wanted to read about that.

Little did I know that this book was going to be so much more than a romance in space. It is science fiction. It is horror. It is a work of graphic design art. It is terrifying and scientific and one-of-a-kind.

I was afraid that the plot was going to be “too much.” I mean, a virus, and artificial intelligence going haywire, and secrets being kept? It could have been a mess of subplots, but it wasn’t. Everything worked together, and what seemed like separate ideas in the synopsis were actually pieces of the same (scary AF) whole.

It’s hard to talk about the plot, because it is so complex. What started as a simple attack on a planet mushroom-clouded (is that a word?) into a web of lies and death and terror. To describe it would be to spoil the surprise, so all that I will say is that the plot is heart-racing, emotionally destructive, and hair-raising.

I read this book over the course of a week and a half, which surprises me looking back on it, because it was really hard to put down. Every time I read it, my heart started pounding and I got legitimately stressed-out. I’m glad that I never read this book at night, because I don’t think I would have been able to sleep.

Ezra and Kady are two of my new favorite characters…ever. Ezra is a classic “good guy” character, the kind of guy you can’t help rooting for. He clearly did not intend to get roped into an intergalactic war–he’d rather stay on his small planet and make cheesy romatic gestures to his girl friend–but he will rise to the occasion when duty calls. He’s got a heart of gold, and I would have myself a new book crush, except that him and Kady are my new OTP and I couldn’t bear to break them up (again…awkward).

Kady is badass to the extreme. She’s a hacker, she’s sassy, she rolls her eyes at romance, she’s reckless and brave, she’s got a problem with authority–I instantly loved her. With every scene that pushed her harder and harder but didn’t break her, I was increasingly impressed by the raw power of her character. (Wow that sounds cheesy…)

What puts this book in a class of its own is the graphic design. The idea of Illuminae is that it is a dossier of compiled files from the aftermath of the attack. But the graphic designer (seriously, who was that person? They deserve a medal) took this original concept and ran with it, taking it as an opportunity to tell a story in a way I’ve never read before. The way that the words were arranged on the pages quadrupled the emotional impact of each scene. Rarely was there a time when I got to a new section of the dossier and didn’t say “wow.” I would put in examples (I’m dying to put in examples) but most of them would be spoilers. Suffice to say that this book doesn’t just create an incredibly graphic and heart-wrenching story, but it also uses graphic design to slam the story straight into your heart.

The ending of this book had me in tears. I was laughing with joy and crying with sadness simultaneously. The series of reveals in the last third of the book were all shocking and tear-inducing. I NEED the next book (and book one isn’t even out yet…fangirl pain).

I recommend this book for basically everyone. This is the kind of book that sticks with you. The kind of book that redefines what “incredible” means. The kind of book you shove into other people’s hands with abandon.

Special thanks to Penguin Random House for giving me a copy of this book at SDCC 2015! This in no way affected my review.

52 Letters Has a Twitter!

I finally did the thing that I’d been planning to do for a while now: make this blog a Twitter account!

twitter

Now, I barely even use social media in my personal life, so I’ve been slightly terrified to venture into the world of Twitter. I’m definitely not a “social media”-type person irl, but I want to interact with more of the blogging community, and Twitter seemed like the way to do it.

Like this blog, my Twitter will be a bit of everything: reading, writing, fangirling, spewing random thoughts into the universe.

Please check me out and follow me! I can’t wait to get to know all of you amazing people more! 🙂

Weekend Words #6

weekend words picWeekend Words showcases inspiring quotes from books, about writing, and about life. This feature will happen every weekend, either on Saturday or Sunday, depending on my schedule. While this is a reading/writing centric blog, this feature doesn’t have to be focused on those areas–it is intentionally open-ended to give bloggers a chance to say what’s on their mind.

Everyone should feel free to take part–it would honestly make my day! Complete instructions can be found on the feature’s page. 

1. A Powerful Quote From a Recent Read

rattle trap streetcar

“Desire!–the name of that rattle-trap street-car that bangs through the Quarter, up one old narrow street and down another…

“Haven’t you ever ridden on that street-car?

“It brought me here.–Where I’m not wanted and where I’m ashamed to be…” — Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

This play is so powerful! We haven’t finished reading it in my English class yet, but each scene adds more drama and suspense to the plot. I’m fairly certain that my heart will have been destroyed by the time this play ends.

I chose this quote because it captures the mood of the story well, and because of the SUBTEXT. That’s how you write a double-meaning, people.

2. A Quote that Inspired or Influenced Me This Week

screw up a few times watson

“I think I’ve earned the right to screw up a few times. I don’t want the fear of failure to stop me from doing what I really care about.” — Emma Watson

This quote. Seriously, I don’t think there will ever be a week when this quote doesn’t help me remember where my priorities lie and stop beating myself up for little mistakes.

3. Something I’ve Been Wanting to Say

I usually say something really philosophical here, but this week didn’t inspire any earth-shattering thoughts. Instead, I’ll simply give a round of applause to Trevor Noah for rocking his first week of The Daily Show. I was so afraid that the show was going to lose its amazingness without Jon Stewart, but Trevor is doing an incredible job, and I can’t wait to watch countless more episodes.

click for photo credit
click for photo credit

I hope you’re all having a great weekend! What quotes have inspired you recently?

Poetry: A Blood-Soaked Pebble

It was a notification on my phone

Waiting for me

When I randomly glanced down

At the end of fifth period.

And I went to sixth period

Just like that

 

Not a blip, a stutter, a collective pause

No announcement of their deaths—

The day goes on

A current rushing too quickly

To be affected

By a blood-soaked pebble

 

Then come the speeches

And the wrung hands

The quiet, removed grief

Of a populace

Too accustomed to these

Moments of Silence

 

Quiet voices

Crash into each other—

Rising—

Sizzling with anger—

A thunder storm of butting heads—

And that becomes the story

Life or Liberty

(The latter does you no good

If you’re dead)

 

And you know the worst part?

There is no need

To write a date on this poem.


My sincerest thoughts and sympathies go out to the Roseburg community. There aren’t words for the horrors that they and so many other towns have to endure.

Book Review: The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson

A powerful glimpse into Civil War Southern society with fascinating characters and conflicts, this book was great historical fiction, but the fairytale elements never developed as fully as I would have liked.

4/5 stars

Companion to Strands of Bronze and Gold

cover mirk and the midnight hour

Goodreads Description

Seventeen-year-old Violet Dancey has been left at home in Mississippi with a laudanum-addicted stepmother and love-crazed stepsister while her father fights in the war—a war that has already claimed her twin brother.

When she comes across a severely injured Union soldier lying in an abandoned lodge deep in the woods, things begin to change. Thomas is the enemy—one of the men who might have killed her own brother—and yet she’s drawn to him. But Violet isn’t Thomas’s only visitor; someone has been tending to his wounds—keeping him alive—and it becomes chillingly clear that this care hasn’t been out of compassion.

Against the dangers of war and ominous powers of voodoo, Violet must fight to protect her home and the people she loves.

From the author of Strands of Bronze and Gold comes a haunting love story and suspenseful thriller based on the ancient fairy tale of “Tam Lin.”

My Review

I actually read this book before Strands of Bronze and Gold. Chronologically, it happens after SBG, but both stories stand on their own well, with only similar settings and eerie moods connecting them (and two side characters).

Ironically, this book focuses more on “real life” conflicts and characters, but it also has more clear fairytale aspects than its companion.

Violet was a good protagonist, though she wasn’t amazingly unique. Still, I liked her maternal instincts and honest emotions. The rest of the characters were interesting, with clearly painted personalities. Since there are a lot of side characters, I won’t go into each of them individually, but all of them grew over the course of the book, and by the last chapter they were more complex than they were in the first chapter–something I absolutely need in books.

The plot of this book is really a lot of subplots woven together skillfully. Foremost is Violet trying to accept her new family–the family her mother remarried into before he left to fight the Civil War. None of the family members are particularly nice–most of them are awful–but they were all realistic. Violet’s anger at the Civil War and the Union surprised me–I honestly had never considered how attacked and victimized some Southerners would feel. At the same time, Violet lived in an idealistic Southern household and was woefully naive about the horrors of slavery. (To her credit, she did eventually recognize this fact.)

The setting was vividly described and gorgeous. I felt like was in the South along with the characters, and I loved every scene in the dark but magical forest.

The romance took a while to get going, but once it started, I enjoyed it. The love interest was one of the most interesting characters in the entire book, and I loved the quaint but touching way that their relationship advanced. The issue of him being a Union soldier and her being a southerner created just enough conflict to be believable without going so far as to be melodramatic. The romance was never the main focus of the plot, but it subtly affected lots of other plot lines and helped Sophia’s character develop.

Throughout TMMH, there is a mild sense of creepiness. The prologue–perfectly short–introduced the paranormal element which faded into the background of the plot and then gradually came to the forefront again. The fairy tale aspect of this book was clear throughout–something that was missing from its companion novel–but I still felt like it could have been more prevalent. The eeriness never felt completely developed for me, though I did appreciate that a human villain helped to fill out the plot, while the fairy tale plot remained more subtle.

TMMH is more than just a fairy tale retelling–it is powerful historical fiction with realistic and emotional conflicts. Everything about this book is vivid: the characters, the setting, the sinister sensation lingering throughout the plot. All in all, I think I enjoyed this book more than Strands of Bronze and Gold, though both plots end up being so different that it is hard to choose between them.