January 28, 2016

Book Review | Second Star

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9781250062987

**Review also posted on GoodReads

Second Star is a reimagining of Peter Pan set in California. We experience the story as Wendy Darling, who has just graduated from high school and is looking to start at Stanford University in the fall. However Wendy’s mind is more focused on the disappearance of her younger brothers, twins John and Michael, who reportedly passed away during a surfing accident nine months prior to the start of the novel. Wendy doesn’t believe they are dead, however, and vows to spend her summer finding them. At her school’s graduation bonfire on the beach she meets a surfer named Pete. She later finds him again on a beach called Kensington, where he lives with a gang of homeless teenage surfers, including his ex-girlfriend Belle. There is another group on Kensington led by a drug dealer named Jas. Wendy spends pretty much the entire novel talking to Jas, Pete, and Belle trying to find out if they know her brothers, and learning how to surf in order to feel closer to her brothers.

Overall I really liked this book. It was an interesting take on one of my favorite stories. I loved the author’s descriptions of the beach and the waves. It made me wish it was summer.

There were only two things I didn’t really like.

First, the love triangle thing. I didn’t buy it for a second. I never get fully invested in that trope, and it didn’t seem really necessary for this particular story.

Second, the ending was…I don’t know. I didn’t like it. It wasn’t bad, but for the last 20 or 30 pages I was in a constant state of confusion.

Again, I really enjoyed this. Will it be the first book I reach for when recommending things to friends? Probably not, unless they are big Peter Pan fans themselves, but I definitely think this is a book people should check out.

December 18, 2015

Let it Snow

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Hello everyone!

I’m here with another Christmas book recommendation: Let It Snow!

This is a collection of short stories written by YA authors Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle that are set in a small town in Virginia during a massive snowstorm.

I first discovered this in 2009. I was at Borders (back when Borders was still a thing) with my mom and I was browsing in the Teen/YA section. This looked really cute and fluffy, which some might not like, but I actually enjoy that.

I had not read anything by any of these authors before. Heck, I didn’t even know who John Green was back then! But I enjoyed each of the stories immensely.

I think my favorite is the first story by Maureen Johnson. “The Jubilee Express” is about a girl named Jubilee who is on a train to Florida to see her grandparents after her parents are arrested during a riot at a store that sells collectible toy villages. She’s annoyed because she is supposed to be at her boyfriend’s house with his family where they would be celebrating their one year anniversary. She gets caught in a snowstorm and winds up hanging out with a guy named Stuart and his family for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. This can’t get any fluffier, but it is easily the best book in the story (my opinion of course). I didn’t really like Jubilee’s boyfriend. He reminds me a lot of Amanda Seyfried’s boyfriend in Letters to Juliet (which is an adorable movie that you should watch if you haven’t). This was the perfect story to start off the collection, and I felt it established the town in the stories as well as the tone of the book vey nicely.

My second favorite was John Green’s story “A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle.” This story is about a group of friends trying to get to the local Waffle House where there is a cheerleading team who they think they’ll have a shot with. I think it’s a great introductory piece of his that can show his humor where some of his novels might not (since we all know he has the ability to wrench our hearts out and toss them across the room). Is it a little cheesy and ridiculous at times? Yes. But it’s definitely worth reading.

I like some parts of Lauren Myracle’s story “The Patron Saint of Pigs,” but the main character, Addie, could be a little irritating at times. She made everything about her and that’s supposed to be something she fixes by the end of her story. I thought she made a bit of a headway, but the TV in her head was still tuned to The Addie Show. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the strongest closer to the book.

Like I said before, it’s a light and fluffy read, which some people might not like, but if you think it’s up your alley, then definitely check it!

Thanks for reading!

December 15, 2015

Skipping Christmas

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Merry almost Christmas everyone!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and one of my favorite times of the year, but if I’m honest, I’m not one hundred percent in a festive mood. I suppose it’s because I spent the first two weeks of the month worrying about finals and presentations for my second to last semester of college, which doesn’t leave much room for festivities. Then I can home and started watching Christmas movies, listening to music, staring at our family’s Christmas tree…and I still didn’t feel the way Christmas used to feel. I felt like Cindy Lou Who in the live action Grinch movie, wondering where the feeling of Christmas had gone.

That is until I picked up Skipping Christmas by John Grisham.


I’ve read Skipping Christmas every year since the fifth grade, so about eleven years now. It’s only 177 pages long, but the story is so captivating and told so well that it doesn’t really seem that short. I also adore the movie, Christmas with Kranks, which was based off of the book.

If you don’t already know, the story is about a married couple who decide to go on a cruise instead of dealing with the stress that Christmas tends to bring while their daughter is off in Peu with the Peace Corps. The book centers around them avoiding all the hullabaloo that comes with the commercialized expectations of Christmas.

The story itself is hilarious and that’s a big part of why I read it, but I think what I love most about this book is how many memories I have of the past Christmases where I read this, and through the pages of this I was able to relive all those moments.

If you have never read this novel, I highly recommend it. It’s just the thing to get you in the holiday spirit if you, like me, have been feeling less than festive.

December 15, 2015

Timing and Outlining

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Hi everyone!

As I mentioned in my blog post, Revisiting Old Ideas, I have been working on the novel that I first started writing when I was sixteen. I am so glad to finally have the story the way I want it. The only trouble is getting it all on the page.

The story revolves around a marching band season, which can span from the end of July until the end of October, or in some cases, mid-November.

And that’s my problem.

My first novel that I wrote last year took place in the span of four days or a long weekend. There is obviously only so much you can do in one place for four days, and it wasn’t hard to figure out what was going on, probably because my main character felt very real and dragged me along with her to the various places she visited in that one city.

I’m having a bit more trouble now.

Four months is a long time. A lot more can happen, and I want to make sure it’s all clear without it seeming to be rushed or dragged out.

The big problem I’m facing is second-guessing myself. This story isn’t a memoir by any means, but it’s probably the closest I will ever get. Marching band was a big part of my high school years, so obviously I’m borrowing a lot of my experiences to put in this particular novel.

I find that making an outline has started to help me sort it all out. I only really do that when I have the whole book in my head and need a way to sort out where each new chapter begins.

It’s a lot of organizing, a lot of rewriting, but eventually it will get there. All there’s left to do is just keep writing.

A question to any fellow writers: Do you have similar problems with creating a realistic flow for stories that span a few months? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

November 10, 2015

Book Review | A Whole New World

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Aladdin has always been one of my favorite Disney movies. There is even an old home movie of me at age 2 or 3 standing in front of the TV singing the entirety of “A Whole New World” (and nailing almost all the words). Something about the land of Agrabah has held a special place in my heart of the years, so I was beyond excited when I learned about this book.

A Whole New World by Liz Braswell is the first book in the Twisted Tale trilogy, stories which are inspired by classic Disney movies. This particular novel poses the question: What would happen if Jafar got the lamp?

The novel starts off pretty close to how the animated film starts. The dialogue is pretty much all lifted from the film, but we get to learn a bit more about Agrabah  and what it is like for Aladdin to be growing up in this environment. We then meet Jasmine, Aladdin is arrested and “rescued” by Jafar who takes him to the Cave of Wonders. And this is where the Twisted Tale kicks off. As Aladdin tries to escape the collapsing Cave of Wonders he asks Jafar for help getting out. Jafar asks for him to give him the lamp, which Aladdin does, before Jafar kicks Aladdin and he falls and is trapped in the cave. We all know that in the movie Abu the monkey stole the lamp back from Jafar, but in this version, Jafar is victorious in getting his hands on it and is quick to take over the kingdom.

I thought this would kind of like that Twisted musical that Starkid has on YouTube (which is hilarious and I recommend checking it out, unless you don’t like swearing or things that might ruin your childhood, in which case you might not like it).  Unfortunately a lot of the humor and characters were flat.

The Genie is not funny. I know a huge part of his humor comes from his character being voiced by Robin Williams, but you would have thought that the author would have carried over some of his humor, especially in this darker situation with Jafar being in charge. That seems more in character for him. Sadly, he was just a sad blue guy who popped into Jasmine’s parts of the story on occasion.

Aladdin and Jasmine were relatively the same as their iconic movie counterparts, although it felt like they needed a little extra something. There were just a few scenes where they felt flat, but for the most part they were good.

One thing I will say about this book is that it offered a look into Aladdin’s life as a “street rat.” I found the different layers of the poor people in Agrabah to be interesting. There was like a whole class system of thieves, with Aladdin at the top of the system (stealing only what was necessary to get by) and those who kill and steal for sport/as a career at the very bottom. We have a lot moments where this system is explored and how Jasmine discovers this later on when they are trying to defeat Jafar.

Overall, I would give this book about a 2.5 out of 5 stars. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it, it was just okay. There are two more books in this series for Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast, two of my other favorite Disney movies so I am holding out hope that those are good.

Have any of you read this book or the others in the Twisted Tale series? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

October 13, 2015

Quotes

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I’ve always collected things. Chocolate Frog cards, coins with the states printed on the back, souvenir cups from the movie theater, and quotes.

It’s amazing how a single strand of words can speak to you on a visceral level.

I used to carry around a notebook in my purse that had my favorite quotes in it, adding on whenever I found a new one. Eventually the notebook filled up, and I wanted another place to display my collection of words. There was a space above my desk in my dorm room that seemed really bare so I decided to fill it with quotes that were funny, thoughtful, and inspirational.

There are so many of those sentences and paragraphs that I can relate to, but there is one I’ve found recently that seems to really encapsulate me and my passion for writing:

 

“I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.”

- Issac Asimov

 

I can relate to this so much. I feel like I was born to write, to share stories, to make something out of words. When I have writer’s block, or I don’t feel like I have time to write, I feel like I am drowning, and it’s the worst feeling ever.

Are there any other writers out there who feel that same way? Let me know.

Also, do you have a favorite quote? Feel free to share

Thanks for reading!

September 9, 2015

Revisiting Old Ideas

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It’s funny as a writer when you look back at when you first start a story and how it’s gone a different route than you were expecting.

Take one I am working on right now. It was the first novel I ever actually started writing. I’ve always wanted to be an author, always dabbled here and there with different story ideas, but at the age of 16, this one actually stuck.

The original story was going to be sappy, cliché, your typical young adult contemporary that would be considered a light, guilty pleasure read, nothing groundbreaking.

Now here I am, 21, already finished with a different novel and making great headway with a second, and this idea decides to appear once again, only it has taken a new turn.

The characters for the most part are the same, with the exception of two characters whose names have been changed. The setting is the same, the situations are more or less the same. But it’s a totally different story, a totally different angle. Because what I thought was important (in life and in a novel) are not the same now as they were 5 years ago.

It’s been fun to revisit this old idea, picking out what scenes to carry over and which to say good-bye to. And although some of the descriptions and dialogue are really cringy to read, it’s a reminder of how far I’ve come with my writing.

Remember to look back at your old works. Who knows? They might have just needed a little more time to think about where they were going.

August 6, 2015

Summer Beach Reads 2015

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Hey y’all! I just posted a new video to my YouTube channel!

I filmed this back in July when my family went to the beach. With school starting back up again soon I’m really missing the sand and the sun and how perfect that weekend was, especially because it meant lots of time for reading. These are some of the books I took with me and that I think are perfect pool/beach books.

What books do you like to read at the beach? Let me know :)

Thanks for reading!

Love always,

Lauren

August 5, 2015

Favorite Book Covers

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I am the type of person who gets really excited when I finish a great book and feel like I need to share its amazing-ness with the world. However, I never really had any close friends who were as enthusiastic about reading as I was when I was growing up. They would listen politely as I talked about this book I thought they would enjoy, only for them to reply with, “Sounds interesting” or “That’s nice” without another thought.

One of my best friends has been a great book buddy. We have the same tastes and would share books and discuss the things we liked in each one back in our high school days.

While I love that bond, I wanted to talk with more people about the novels I was reading, the worlds I was exploring, and hopefully learn of stories that would become new favorites.

Then last April I stumbled across this wonderful little community that I didn’t know existed on the Internet.

That community was BookTube.

Here were people sharing their opinions on books and getting all hyped up over their respective fandoms. And something told me to give it a shot.

I did try to film a video back during Labor Day weekend last year (which was forever ago), but I got so nervous and camera shy that I put it to the side.

I’ve figured, “Okay, it’s a new year, time to give this another shot.”

So while I work on overcoming the camera shyness, here’s a quick little video of some of my favorite covers. I’m curious to know what your favorites are so please share them in the comments either here or in the comments on the video :)

 

 

Love always,
Lauren