Oct 22, 2017

Pro Advice On The Publishing Industry!

Have you ever finished a first draft of your prized manuscript and not known where to go from there? Did you have an overwhelming feeling of dread or fear about not knowing what to do? 

Don't worry. Us too.

As a new writer, it can definitely be difficult and scary to make your way in the world. While a lot of writers and agents may give advice on what to do after you're published, it's a lot more difficult to find specific information about where to go and what to do right after you finish your first draft. Because we've all gotta succeed together!

So have no fear. We're here for you. We've spoken to dozens upon dozens of agents, authors, and even some publishing companies to get their thoughts and advice on the subject. So without further ado, take a look around (and even check out the credentials of some of the people who gave some advice!). What you'll see may surprise you, but hopefully, more than anything, it will help inspire you and guide you in the right direction...because everyone wants to end up with their books on a shelf in a Barnes and Noble somewhere. So let's make that happen together!

So, I just finished my story...now what do I do?

"If your goal is traditional publishing, a well-crafted query letter is essential. Sites like Absolute Write (the Query Letter Hell forum) and Query Shark can help you learn how to write one and then polish it to perfection. It's really tough to boil a manuscript down into a few words, but getting several sets of eyes on it will definitely help. When you're ready to query, Google is your friend. Research agents before reaching out to them, and always follow their guidelines to the letter. It's possible to get published without an agent, but a good one can make all the difference." - Rebecca Philips, author of These Things I've Done

 - Romina Russell, author of the Zodiac series (from the Latinx in Pub newsletter)

"It is a good idea to get an editor because it can improve the odds of getting a publishing deal. If it doesn't work out, an aspiring author will need one to self-publish a book anyway." - Free Eagle Studios, Publisher

"Love editing. Learn to enjoy the process. Become excited by the idea of taking your book apart and rewriting it from scratch. Take pleasure in killing your darlings. No book is published without edits. If your goal is seeing your work in print then editing must become your new best friend." - Kate Evangelista, author of No Love Allowed

"When just finishing a first draft, my first piece of advice would be to continue editing as much as you can. You don't always have to go out and get professional editing, but it's important that you make sure you go through as many revisions as possible to make sure that your manuscript is in the best place it can be. While there are agents out there that will spend time with editing, there are many that expect a manuscript to be heavily edited already that way they can focus in on smaller rounds of edits before sending it to editors.  You can always start your research for agents after your first round, but I highly advise not to send out a first draft to agents. It's only going to hurt your chances. If you want to start researching agents and build up a list for once you have finished, here is a list of websites I recommend checking out: New Agency Alerts (Writer's Digest)Publisher's Marketplace (Requires Subscription), and Manuscript Wish List. These are just a few of many great sites out there! These are just some of the resources that will help you find legitimate agents. You always have to be careful, and make sure that the agents you are sending to is legitimate. It's also important to note that a lot of newer agents will not be listed on Publisher's Marketplace yet. If you have any questions, please follow me on Twitter (@Justin_941) and watch for when I do #AskAgent sessions and ask me questions during those time slots. I usually don't have time to answer a lot of questions outside of that." - Justin Wells, Jr. Literary Agent at Corvisiero Literary Agency 

"The best advice I can give is to remember that you're not alone. Every time someone finishes a book, they become a beginner all over again. New agents, new beta readers, new CP's, new pitch contests, and a new way of going about finding the perfect place for their work of art. Everyone is a beginner and everyone is consistently stumbling and making mistakes within an industry that is continuously changing and based solely off good timing and luck. Find your people you can trust to stumble with you, learn with you, help you pick yourself off the ground, and never look back. The publishing industry is a lonely place, and friends who understand your journey make it a whole lot easier. Always trust your gut and if a CP, beta, or agent just don't feel right for you and your story, they probably aren't. Remember that your agent should be your professional friend too, as they guide you, support you, and want the best for you. There's nothing wrong with saying, "this isn't the right path for me," and continuing your artistic journey, finding the RIGHT people to support you along the way." Kelly Peterson, Corvisiero Literary Agency 

"Believe in yourself. You're the only one who can keep fighting for your story." - Taylor, blogger at Stay On The Page

"As someone who is Looking to publish, I'm going the traditional route and searching for an agent. I guess the advice would be write the stories you want to read and do your research when subbing to agents." - Camille, blogger at camillesmaby

"I’m Kat Brzozowski, and I’m an editor at Swoon Reads, a division of Feiwel & Friends at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. As an editor, I acquire YA manuscripts of all genres, from horror to romance to fantasy, and I’m always looking for my next favorite book to come across my desk. If you’ve recently finished your novel, my first suggestion for you is to get it out in the world and get feedback from other writers. Done that? Great. Now we would love for you to consider submitting your completed manuscript to Swoon Reads. On swoonreads.com,  you can upload your finished YA novel, receive comments from other writers, readers, and book lovers, and have the chance to get a book deal. Here’s how it works:  We use our site to find the best and brightest new YA manuscripts to publish – the manuscripts that are getting a lot of love from our readers, the manuscripts that Twitter can’t stop talking about, and the manuscripts that we fall in love with because they’re full of voice or create an exciting new world or showcase irresistible characters. Three times a year, we select a list of new manuscripts to publish in hardcover. From there, our authors get a standard Macmillan publishing contract and a full team of dedicated book lovers from editors to marketers to publicists to jacket designers who make the book great. Our whole process is centered on readers, and we involve our community in every step of the publishing process, from choosing a cover to soliciting blurbs for the book jacket to providing editorial updates from our authors about what it’s really like to be published.  If you’re still in the writing stage and not ready to submit, we provide tons of writing advice, prompts, and lessons about craft on our blog at www.swoonreads.com/blog.  And we’re always available to answer your burning questions about publishing and what really goes on behind the scenes; you can tweet at us @SwoonReads. We hope we’ll see your amazing YA manuscript on our site very soon. Happy writing!" - Kat Brzozowski of Swoon Reads Publishers

Some Other Helpful Resources!

*The Novel Gent put together an entire page of excellent resources about indie publishers that accept unsolicited work, query agents and editors, and all sorts of other incredible information that anybody can utilize! They provided so much information that we had to create a whole separate post to contain it -- so you can click HERE to see it!

*Gloria Chao, author of American Panda, has an entire page on her website dedicated to writing/querying/drafting resources -- click HERE to view it!


Justin Wells was awesome enough to offer a giveaway for you all -- so three (3) lucky winners will receive a query critique from Justin! The giveaway ends on October 29th, so enter while you can!

Hopefully this information was of use to you guys! If you're an author/agent/publisher with some more advice you'd like to add, feel free to add it in the comment section down below. And if you think this information was helpful, please let us know! Let's tackle the writing world together, people: We've got this.

Oct 20, 2017

Review: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Title: Dear Martin
Author: Nic Stone
Publisher: Crown Books
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Harcover, 224 Pages
Published October 2017

Summary: Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out. Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack.

Emily and I both received advanced copies of this book at BookCon, and things have been so crazy that I haven't had a chance to pick up this book until now. It turns out that I have excellent timing, because this book came out to the public just a few days ago, so now whoever you are, you're totally capable of getting your hands on this book as well!

As the summary explains, Justyce is a senior in high school, all set to go to Yale, and he finds himself unfairly put in handcuffs after a misunderstanding where he was helping his drunk ex-girlfriend get into her car while the police assumed something different. Throughout the rest of the book, Justyce encounters many different scenarios in which he realizes the racial injustices that happen on both sides, numerous times, and some of these altercations even lead to shocking results. And throughout it all, Justyce is partaking in a self-inflicted social experiment in which he tries to channel the energy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in behaving the way he would have and handling situations in ways he would best be known to do. However, Justyce soon realizes that some things are trickier than he could have imagined.

What I really liked about this book was all the different topics and scenarios it managed to cover. This book wasn't just about Justyce getting arrested for something he didn't do because of a misunderstanding after being racially profiled. This book also covered many different important topics and alluded to several popular cases that have happened recently in American and worldwide media. This book creates conversations that span from racial profiling to "affirmative action" and even what it's like for people not being able to "take a joke." I really enjoyed how this book went in several different directions, but it also managed to somehow go in all those directions simultaneously and everything was executed flawlessly. 

(Major spoilers ahead, so please skip to the next paragraph if you haven't read the book yet!) When the incident with Manny happened, I was honestly so shocked that I dropped the book. I was totally taken off guard. I had known Manny was going to die because I accidentally dropped the book while reading it, and when I picked it up, it was open to the last page and I hadn't realized until I started scanning it. So at first, I was super disappointed in myself for spoiling such a major plot point, but I was still shocked with the way things played out, so I'm still going to say that Nic Stone caught me off guard with an aspect of the story that I definitely hadn't seen coming.

My favorite character in this book was definitely Justyce. Even when things were getting tough around him and he found himself to be the victim of accusations he had no part of, he was working so hard to channel the inner mind of one of the greatest and most influential men of his century, both in America and across the world. There were some times that things got really, seriously tough, and Justyce held on tight and help his ideals in mind and didn't give in. (Although there were some moments when he lost his temper, which were honestly a long time coming and so deserved, and it was good to see him let out his anger and frustration. Nic Stone did an excellent job of showing the day-to-day injustices that people of color face, and as a non-POC reader, it was eye-opening and made me rethink a lot of what I've seen going on around me in my life. This book brings so many different important topics to light that all need to be talked about, and I'm very, very glad that she did. 

The only thing I didn't enjoy about this book was the length! I really wish this book had been just a little bit longer, because Justyce's story hooked me right from the start and I just wanted to keep going. But other than me wishing the book was longer (which isn't a real complaint, if you know what I mean), there's nothing more I can really critique about this book. It was very tastefully done and packed a punch in all the right ways.

Overall, I really liked Dear Martin. I am pleasantly surprised at how shocked this book made me at all the right times, and how interesting it was to be in Justyce's head. This is a book that everyone needs to read. Similar to The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, this book will touch you and shake you up in ways that you didn't expect. And it's the kind of shake-up that you need -- so you should add this book to your TBR as soon as possible and experience this excellent story for yourself.

Oct 18, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine where we highlight some of the upcoming books we can't wait to read!

Jessica's Waiting on:

Title: Not If I Save You First
Author: Ally Carter
Publisher: Scholastic  
Publication Date: March 27th, 2018

Summary: Maddie thought she and Logan would be friends forever. But when your dad is a Secret Service agent and your best friend is the president's son, sometimes life has other plans. Before she knows it, Maddie's dad is dragging her to a cabin in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. No phone. No Internet. And not a single word from Logan. Maddie tells herself it's okay. After all, she's the most popular girl for twenty miles in any direction. (She’s also the only girl for twenty miles in any direction.) She has wood to cut and weapons to bedazzle. Her life is full. Until Logan shows up six years later . . . And Maddie wants to kill him. But before that can happen, an assailant appears out of nowhere, knocking Maddie off a cliff and dragging Logan to some unknown fate. Maddie knows she could turn back- and get help. But the weather is turning and the terrain will only get more treacherous, the animals more deadly. Maddie still really wants to kill Logan. But she has to save him first.

I'm a huge fan of anything by Ally Carter, so I'm super excited to get my hands on this book. The entire plot sounds like something I haven't read before, and it's always nice to read something refreshingly new. The title and the cover itself (as well as the little blurb on the cover!) also have me hooked, so I'm eager to see exactly where this story takes me.

PLUS it comes out the day before my birthday. It's pretty much a sign...right?

Counting down the days for this release!

What are you waiting on this week? Leave your links so I can stop back! 

Oct 16, 2017

Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

Title: Warcross
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: Putnam
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
Hardcover, 368 Pages
Published September 2017

Summary: For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation. Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

I won a copy of Warcross in a giveaway, and I honestly wasn't sure what to expect. I figured that I'd give the book a try since I had a copy, but I was not a huge sci-fi fan and I've never read anything by Marie Lu before, so I went into this entire ordeal totally blind. Amber has read and enjoyed some of Marie Lu's books before, but other than that, I really had no idea what to expect.

However, I was delightfully surprised. As someone who isn't a huge sci-fi fan, this book had me hooked from start to finish. It's also such a great feeling to be giving two books in a row five-star ratings, which is something that hasn't happened to me in the longest time. From the second I opened this book, I was immediately immersed in Emika's story. This book had just the right moments of sadness, action, badassery (yes, I recognize that as an official literary term), and even heart-fluttering gasps. Emika's story and the futuristic world that she lives in is so complex and gripping that any reader will find themselves wrapped up in its awe.

As the summary explains, Emika is a teenage bounty hunter in New York City. Warcross is a popular virtual reality game of sorts for the generation, and Emika one day finds herself accidentally hacking into one of the largest Warcross championship screenings in the world. She figures that she's going to get arrested (since that is a crime), but instead, doors open for her that she couldn't dream of even in her wildest imagination. Hideo Tanaka, the business mogul who coined the game and was officially one of the richest (and most eligible) young men in the world, immediately takes an interest to Emika. He even winds up hiring her for a secret job to help discover someone who was threatening the future of Warcross...but what Emika steps into is a mess that she never could have imagined.

What I liked best about this book was Emika's personality. She was tough and brave and stood up when she needed to, and she was incredibly intelligent. I mean, she manages to attract the attention of one of the most famous men in the world because of her excellent hacking skills, and then finds herself with the bounty hunter job of a lifetime. How cool is that? (Minor spoilers coming, so please skip to the next paragraph if you haven't read this book yet!) I also really loved the blooming relationship between her and Hideo. Especially those scenes where they got super close -- I remember openly squealing in public while I was reading them and blushing from head to toe because it was just so damn cute. But I also really liked how their relationship wasn't the primary focus or goal of the book -- it was Emika completing her mission and being a total badass in the process. I also really liked the futuristic world of Warcross itself -- it's such a unique idea that basically turns The Hunger Games up to 1000000 and makes things even more badass. There is seriously so much badassery in this book -- I can't handle it. This book made me want to go out and start hoverboarding through New York City and catching bounty hunters and being fierce and brave and cool. I wish.

I really can't think of anything I didn't enjoy about this book, which is shocking to me since I'm normally really confused by sci-fi and therefore always have at least one thing to point out. This book had me hooked from start to finish, and it was riddled with plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting. There were several plot twists (especially towards the end) that I weren't expecting, and I found myself delightfully shocked and surprised. I'm satisfied with how the book left off, but I'm also itching to get my hands on the next copy to see where Emika goes with everything and how everything pans out. 

Overall, I absolutely loved Warcross. I've already added the unreleased second book to my TBR on Goodreads and I'll be eagerly anticipating it. This book had me hooked from start to finish and I tore through it much faster than I've read any book in awhile, and I'm incredibly grateful and thankful towards Marie Lu for giving me the reading bug again -- something which is pretty hard to come by when you're in college and drowning in midterms! I literally carried this book with me everywhere I went and read it on the walks to and from class (without tripping on too many things, thank goodness). If you think Warcross isn't your cup of tea and you find yourself shying away from it, I encourage you to pick up the book and give it a shot anyway. It got me hooked in ways that science fiction books haven't since I first read the Zodiac series by Romina Russell. I really, really loved Warcross and I will officially be pushing it on everybody I know -- which includes you! So what are you waiting for?

Oct 15, 2017

Preparing For NaNoWriMo 2017!

Image result for national novel writing month

Hi everybody! National Novel Writing Month is officially only a few weeks away, which means that writers all over the world are gearing up for an entire month of noveling mayhem. This year, once again, that includes me! This will be my fourth year participating in NaNoWriMo, and I'm super excited for the chance to flex my writing muscles again. I'm hoping to utilize NaNoWriMo to write (and complete!) a story idea that I've been toying with for awhile and I can't wait to bring it to life. I'm a little nervous about how everything will work out since I'm also going to be juggling college classes and extracurriculars again, but I'm confident that I can make it happen.

I know that we spend a lot of time on The Book Bratz talking about books and reviews, but this is just a heads up that throughout the month of November the occasional NaNoWriMo post or two may pop up, so be on the lookout for that. I'll be checking it from time to time to talk about my progress, what I'm expecting out of the rest of the month, prompts, write-ins, etc. I'm excited to see how it all goes this year, and I can't wait for the victorious confetti when I CRUSH it again!! (I mean, I'm really just hoping it'll happen. But there's nothing like pure, unadulterated confidence to help with writing motivation, right?)

So my novel is outlined, my typing fingers are ready, and I'm all set to get as much candy as possible on Halloween so I'll have plenty of fuel for late night midterm-studying and novel-writing sessions. I'm excited to get this year under my belt because I've been slacking with writing lately (thank you, overwhelming amount of college responsibilities) and I'm ready to get back on the metaphorical horse, so to speak!

So, are any of you guys participating in National Novel Writing Month? What are some of your plans and your goals? Are you looking for some writing buddies? Comment down below and share all of your NaNo-related (or not!) thoughts! I can't wait to read them. :-)

Oct 13, 2017

Review: Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover (Jessica's Review)

Title: Maybe Someday
Author: Colleen Hoover
Publisher: Atria Books
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
Paperback, 385 Pages
Published March 2014

Summary: Sydney is living in an idyllic bubble—she's a dedicated student with a steady job on the side. She lives with her best friend, has a great boyfriend, and the music coming from the balcony opposite hers is fast becoming the soundtrack to her life. But when Sydney finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her, the bubble bursts. The mysterious and attractive man behind the music, Ridge, gives Sydney hope that she can move on and they begin to write songs together. But moving on is harder than she expects, Sydney can only hope…

Emily and I are huge Colleen Hoover fans, so I was more than eager to get my hands on this book. It's a little large (about 370 pages), which normally isn't a big deal, but as a college student with such a small amount of free time, I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to actually sit down and enjoy this book without having to take a million pauses to get everything done that I had to.

However, I was wrong to worry about it at all, because I tore through this book so quickly that my eyes couldn't scan the pages fast enough. Maybe Someday had me hooked from start to finish, and every passing chapter was filled with so much love and drama and emotion (and even some heartbreak) that made me want to keep reading. There were also plenty of moments where some of the characters would throw in quips that kept me laughing -- so this book truly has everything!

As the summary explains, Sydney finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her, and her life seems to be going downhill from there. She finds herself single, homeless, fired from her job, and on top of everything, incredibly hurt and heartbroken and furious. She ends up moving in with her neighbor Ridge, who is a musician and ends up enlisting her help with writing lyrics for some songs. Before long, things between Sydney and Ridge start to change, and some incredibly important and shocking secrets are unearthed...and messiness undoubtedly follows.

What I really loved about this book was the dynamic between Sydney and Ridge. There were some parts of this book that literally had me swooning and sighing out loud -- the people on the train with me weren't as enthusiastic as I was. There were some pretty classic CoHo scenes with lots of heavy, heart-racing stuff and also some sweet, adorable moments that brought tears to my eyes. This book just has so many layers and different relationship dynamics, and you learn so much more with every page that you turn. Out of all of Colleen's books that I have read, it's safe to say that this one is undoubtedly my favorite.

There are some pretty big spoilers in this paragraph, so please skip to the next one if you haven't read the book yet! I was completely shocked when I found out that Ridge was deaf. He said it so point-blank that I actually gasped and went back and reread, because it was a total plot twist that I wasn't expecting. I actually really like how Colleen didn't mention it right away when Sydney first met Ridge, but ended up letting the reader know after they may have already formed some opinions about Ridge's character in their minds. I almost dropped my book with surprise at first. And as the book continued, I really enjoyed seeing how Ridge was able to be a musician while lacking arguably one of the most prominent senses when it comes to music itself. The ways he made it work, and the way he made everything with Sydney and the rest of his friends work was also incredible to see. Ridge's lack of hearing made him aware of so many other things that able-bodied people may miss -- including the sound of his own heartbeat. This book just really opened my eyes towards what it would be like to live as Ridge does and I also got to explore the dynamics of the relationships with everyone around him. I'm really glad I got that chance, and I'm incredibly grateful that Colleen gave me the chance to witness it.

This was the first five-star rating I've given in quite some time, and I fully believe that this book deserves it. Maybe Someday had me hooked from start to finish, tearing through the pages and being met with sadness when I finished. However, I can happily shelve this book filled with satisfaction after the emotional rollercoaster it took me on. Easily now becoming one of my favorite books, Maybe Someday is filled with heartbreak, emotion, drama, love, laughter, overcoming boundaries, taking leaps, and everything in between.

Hats off to Colleen Hoover. If this book isn't on your to-read list, I recommend that you head over right now and fix that right away. You won't be sorry!

Oct 11, 2017

Waiting On Wednesday: Restore Me (Shatter Me #4) by Tahereh Mafi

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine where we highlight some of the upcoming books we can't wait 

Emily's Waiting on:

Title: Restore Me (Shatter Me #4)
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre: SciFi 
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: March 6th,2018

Summary: Juliette Ferrars thought she'd won. She took over Sector 45, was named the new Supreme Commander, and now has Warner by her side. But she's still the girl with the ability to kill with a single touch—and now she's got the whole world in the palm of her hand. When tragedy hits, who will she become? Will she be able to control the power she wields and use it for good?

When I first heard the news that this was being written, I was basically shocked. I also wish that after a series ends the author would decide to continue it at a later point and my wish finally came true. I'm overly excited to read this book and I'm sure were all wondering the same thing; will we get more Juliette and Warner or will Adam make a reappearance? Let us know what questions you hope will be answered in the comments below!

What are you waiting on this week? Leave your links so we can stop back!

Oct 7, 2017

Review: Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King

Title: Still Life With Tornado
Author: A.S. King
Publisher: Dutton Books
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Hardcover, 295 Pages
Published October 2016

Summary: “I am sixteen years old. I am a human being.” Actually Sarah is several human beings. At once. And only one of them is sixteen. Her parents insist she’s a gifted artist with a bright future, but now she can’t draw a thing, not even her own hand. Meanwhile, there’s a ten-year-old Sarah with a filthy mouth, a bad sunburn, and a clear memory of the family vacation in Mexico that ruined everything. She’s a ray of sunshine compared to twenty-three-year-old Sarah, who has snazzy highlights and a bad attitude. And then there’s forty-year-old Sarah (makes good queso dip, doesn’t wear a bra, really wants sixteen-year-old Sarah to tell the truth about her art teacher). They’re all wandering Philadelphia—along with a homeless artist allegedly named Earl—and they’re all worried about Sarah’s future. But Sarah’s future isn’t the problem. The present is where she might be having an existential crisis. Or maybe all those other Sarahs are trying to wake her up before she’s lost forever in the tornado of violence and denial that is her parents’ marriage.


I was assigned this book in my Young Adult writing class, and I'm so glad I did because it introduced me to A.S. King! I was also assigned another book of hers for a summer reading project this year, Ask The Passengers. (You can read my review of that book by clicking here.) 

Still Life With Tornado tells the story of Sarah, a sixteen-year old girl who finds herself obsessed with the idea that nothing is original. In the middle of feeling stuck in her own struggles, she's also unaware of her parents' failing marriage and the struggles with her mysteriously gone older brother Bruce that they aren't allowed to talk about anymore. Confused and alone, Sarah suddenly finds herself visited by a ten-year old version of herself, and later on by twenty-three and forty-year old versions as well. She's completely convinced she's hallucinating...until other people can see them too. And these past and future Sarahs help her come to terms with things she hadn't ever stopped to consider before, and the truth opens up an entire whirlwind of struggle, secrets, pain, and disaster. 

I really enjoyed reading this book. I wasn't sure what to expect when I first started reading it, because the book seemed to pretty much be realistic fiction, and then all of a sudden there was a ten-year old version of Sarah sitting around. Not only that, but other characters in the story were openly acknowledging her, so you know that Sarah wasn't just making her up. And the more Sarahs that appeared, the more confused I was getting. And Sarah is also incredibly apathetic and numb in the beginning of the story, seeming to go through the day-to-day motions, skipping school, making up scenarios in her mind at her "new school," and just generally seeming lost and unhappy. The first few chapters of the book were definitely difficult for me as I struggled to grip what Sarah's purpose in the story was and where the narrative was going to take me.

However, as the book went on, I found myself delightfully surprised. As the story moves forward, Sarah remembers more and more of her fateful past and you even get some chapters from her mother's perspective, and you learn a lot about her family history that starts to unravel and make a huge mess. The reader even gets a lot of this information before Sarah does, so there are those highly tense moments where I knew something that Sarah didn't and I was just urging her to hurry up and put two and two together before things exploded.

My favorite part of this book was definitely Sarah's love affair with art. I've been on both sides of the fence with her struggle, torn between loving a craft so much that it's all you ever want to do and sometimes feeling so lost and helpless and uninspired that you think you're better off dropping it forever. As a writer, I feel like this is a struggle I am constantly battling with and to see it put out on the page in a totally different way -- but with the scenario still the same -- was both refreshing and reassuring to see.

Overall, I really enjoyed Still Life With Tornado. I'm really glad that I was assigned to read this book in my class because I may not have known about it otherwise, and I would've been missing out on an incredibly touching, heart-wrenching, confusing-yet-clear story. I enjoyed how King pushed the boundaries with this one and did a few nonconventional things that I wouldn't expect as a reader or a writer, and these things actually ended up working for the novel and kept things refreshing and interesting. After reading this book and Ask The Passengers, I'd definitely be open to reading more of A.S. King's work in the future -- so it's time for me to go on Goodreads and update my TBR!

Oct 5, 2017

Event Recap: Lecture By YA Author A.S. King

Image result for a.s. king
Author A.S. King

Hi guys! I'm here with you today for a somewhat unusual post. I received an incredible opportunity through my school recently that I just had to share and I figured a lot of you would appreciate. So here we go!

SoulPancake books chase study soulpancake GIF

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of going to a talk hosted by author A.S. King at my school. It was such an awesome time listening to her talk about her writing process, her editing process, and even her publishing process. She answered a lot of great questions from the audience and really gave some interesting facts and tidbits about her previously published books (and even her upcoming one!), and I was honestly just so happy and excited to have the chance to get to see her.

One of my favorite moments of the night was when A.S. King was talking about her editing process and getting into specific detail about each of the steps she uses. My personal favorite was the "HOLY SHIT CHAINSAW REVISION" round of edits, which I can totally relate to. She even put it on her presentation slides!

The rest of the conversation was about all sorts of things. She discussed her writing process, which is the total opposite of mine but still incredible based on all of the amazing work she puts out -- it turns out that she's a pantser rather than a planner! She also gave some little pieces of information about her book that she just recently handed in to her editor, which means I'll be routinely checking the bookish news feeds for word of this story soon. She's also so freaking funny, and some of her jokes and little asides had me laughing so hard I could barely breathe.

It was just such an incredible night to be surrounded by so many writers, which is something that I don't get very often. It was refreshing to hear an author make writing related jokes and speak with literary jargon that everyone in the room understood without needing additional explanations. As I always say, book peeps are the best peeps! And being surrounded by them while listening to such an incredibly amazing and professional writer give a presentation gave me such a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Like I said, I'm super glad that I got a chance to go to this event. A.S. King is a spectacular author and speaker, and she really made me that much more excited to go sit in bed and write until sunrise that night. (I tried to do that, but my exhaustion got the better of me. But the attempt was definitely there!) Now I'm also going to be super fortunate to have her be leading my YA Fiction Writing class in school later this week, so I'm looking forward to another opportunity to pick her brain about her writing process.

And if you haven't read any of A.S. King's books, I definitely recommend you give them a shot! The two I've read (and loved!) so far are Still Life With Tornado and Ask The Passengers, but I'm super eager to pick up some more. Add her books to your TBR recently! You can check out her books and her Goodreads author profile here.

Who are some authors that you'd love to experience an opportunity like this with? Comment down below and let me know!

Oct 4, 2017

Waiting On Wednesday: Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine where we highlight some of the upcoming books we can't wait to read!

Jessica's Waiting on:

Title: Here We Are Now
Author: Jasmine Warga
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: November 7th, 2017

Summary: Despite sending him letters ever since she was thirteen, Taliah Abdallat never thought she'd ever really meet Julian Oliver. But one day, while her mother is out of the country, the famed rock star from Staring Into the Abyss shows up on her doorstep. This makes sense - kinda - because Julian Oliver is Taliah's father, even though her mother would never admit it to her. Julian asks if Taliah if she will drop everything and go with him to his hometown of Oak Falls, Indiana, to meet his father - her grandfather - who is nearing the end of his life. Taliah, torn between betraying her mother's trust and meeting the family she has never known, goes. With her best friend Harlow by her side, Taliah embarks on a three-day journey to find out everything about her 'father' and her family. But Julian isn't the father Taliah always hoped for, and revelations about her mother's past are seriously shaking her foundation. Through all these new experiences, Taliah will have to find new ways to be true to herself, honoring her past and her future.

I've been a fan of Jasmine Warga ever since she tore my heart out with My Heart And Other Black Holes (and my review can be read here). This book seems to be filled to the brim with everything I love in a story -- a mysterious father, an epic adventure, and learning secrets that have been hidden in plain sight for years? Count me in!

And that cover -- I just love the color scheme. (If our blog layout is any indication!) I can tell that this is going to be a great book that I'll end up loving -- I can just feel it. So here's to crossing my fingers and hoping I get a copy soon to check it out for myself!

What are you waiting on this week? Leave your links so I can stop back! 

Oct 1, 2017

October Book Recommendations!

 black and white halloween tumblr grunge skeleton GIF


It's officially the spookiest month of the year!! Let's get excited! To celebrate the beginning of October, I'm here with another installment of my monthly book recommendations. While none of these books are new releases, they're still super interesting and chilling reads that are perfect for Halloween month! 

So without further ado, here are my recommendations for October!


Title: Roseblood
Authors: A.G. Howard
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams 
Why I'm Recommending It: I am a huge Phantom of the Opera fan, which is exactly what this book is centered around. Imagine going to a school that believed he was still around and haunting everyone -- this book is all the right amounts of chilling, creepy, and even (at times) romantic. And if you're a huge Phantom fan like I am, then this is the perfect season to enjoy a book like this. If you want to read my review, you can click here!


Title: Hotel Ruby
Author: Suzanne Young
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Why I'm Recommending It: It's been several years, but this is still one of my favorite books of all time. It tells the story of a girl who is traveling with her family and suddenly winds up in a hotel that seems really luxurious and awesome at first...but then things start to go wrong, and things aren't adding up, and no matter how hard she tries, she cannot leave. And then she finds out that the hotel stands for something scarier than she could've ever imagined...gosh, I'm getting chills just thinking about this book again. You can read my review here.


Title: (Don't You) Forget About Me
Author: Kate Karyus Quinn
Publisher: HarperTeen
Why I'm Recommending It: I reviewed this book a really long time ago, but it's still stuck with me and I tend to recommend this book for all different scenarios because it's just that good. It's the story of a creepy town that has a time of year where all the teens are driven to do dangerous, destructive things -- sometimes even resulting in their deaths. But one girl sees through it all and knows that she has to stop the murderous cycle before it can continue yet again...but when she discovers is worse than she could've ever imagined. If you want to read my review, you can click here.

I hope everyone enjoyed my October book recommendations! Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Do you have any spooky recommendations of your own? Comment them down below!

 black and white halloween tumblr grunge skeleton GIF

If you want, check out my book recommendations for previous months in 2017!
January Recommendations
February Recommendations
March Recommendations
April Recommendations
May Recommendations
June Recommendations
July Recommendations
August Recommendations
September Recommendations