The other night after a (very) happy hour and dinner with my husband, we stopped at our local bookstore so I could run my fingers over spines and stare, starry-eyed, at all the lovely stories I’ve yet to read, and imagine *one day* my book joining them. They had a bunch of signed copies of several books by authors I love, so I decided to buy one (because it’s the next best thing to having it autographed for me, personally). My husband held it for me as I continued to drift around, admiring the beautiful journals and St. Louis-themed children’s books, until next thing I knew, he’d bought it for me.
This seems silly writing it out, because we’re married and what’s his is mine and vice versa (he even said that as he was paying), but there’s something so magical about being gifted a book, even if it’s paid for with the same account that my money goes into. I hugged the book to my chest the entire walk home. Naturally (because, St. Louis), someone sitting outside eating ice cream spotted me carrying my new book like a precious baby and asked what book it was, so I got to make a new friend (read: admit to a stranger I had almost no idea what the book was about but it’s signed by Ally Condie and the MC’s last name is the same as my #1 fiction love’s, so I figured I’d give it a chance, and it might be about pirates?). That’s around the time I *noticed* I was still carrying the book like I was Belle from the beginning of Beauty and the Beast which of course prompted me to sing the line “and her nose stuck in a book” all the way home no matter how many times my husband sarcastically complimented my excellent singing.
In case you’re curious, the book I purchased is The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie. She wrote the Matched series, as well as an interesting, quasi-mermaid tale Atlantia that was really good.
It occurred to me the other day how similar my life is to a season of The Bachelor. Okay, it isn’t really, but just bear with me. I’m part of this online writing community called Scribophile, where we upload chapters of our works-in-progress, and read and critique each others’ works. It’s amazing and encouraging and so so helpful.
But. Sometimes I feel a little guilty about how long it takes me to return a critique. I get wrapped up in some stories and just want to keep reading them, other relationships be damned!, but I try to be fair about returning the attention I receive. If someone takes the time to offer me feedback on a chapter, I want to show my appreciation by offering the same. Also, there are several stories I’m really into–not just one. I’ve established critique relationships with a bunch of people and enjoy the dialogue we maintain about our works on a regular basis, so I feel like I’m missing a friend when we go too long without conversing.
So anyway, I was chatting with one friend about his story and thinking about how I want to just charge ahead and finish his book so we can have a full, big-picture type discussion (and because I’m very excited for the developments I know are coming up because I totally peeked ahead–don’t tell my mom, I hate it when she does this!). Meanwhile, I have the first chapter of a whole new story/crit-relationship pulled up to start on, and I got this irrational thought that it was almost like cheating on his story, because I felt so excited about this new one. And that’s crazy, because loving a new story doesn’t make previously-read stories any less loved (I’ve got several bookshelves of proof).
Maybe it’s because The Bachelorette recently started its newest season, but my mind instantly went to the show, and how one person seems to genuinely enjoy her time with every guy when it’s his turn. It’s always seemed odd to me, like can she really be so *into* this one when she was just laughing so hard with that one?
Obviously this is a very different scenario. I’m just saying that I see now how something can be absorbing and delightful and take up a person’s full attention, only for the same to be true of something similar (and yet, completely different).
I’ve launched my writing website! 🙂 I started it as a blog a while ago when I was *very* excited about a *very* different story, but didn’t do much with it and turned my (admittedly sporadic) attention here instead. I’m hoping to be much better at keeping up the writing site with regular postings (I’m aiming for once a week, we’ll see how it goes) and plan to shift this site away from documenting writing-related updates (since I need *something* for that other site 😉 ). That being said, my first big “share” on the site is a piece of flash fiction from the world of Blood and Water, the book I’ve been working on all year. It’s set well before the actual story takes place, but gives a glimpse into my main character (Solvi)’s childhood.
If you feel like checking it out, it’ll drop *today* at annieatkinstories.com. I plan to share a few more “side stories” to drum up some interest, so if you do check them out, please be sure to leave a comment letting me know what you think–good or bad! I’m very curious to see if the story works without knowing any of the characters yet…everyone who’s read them so far already knows the characters almost as well as I do. 🙂 I’ll also share things like more writing playlists, and I’m sure I’ll have a few more random thoughts on writing to share as well.
Refresher: One of my goals this year is to read 40 new (to me) books. Not to toot my own horn, but I am #crushing this goal…
I’m already halfway toward said goal, and nowhere near the midpoint of the year. And before anyone tries to argue that maybe some books are short/superfast reads (like the graphic novel) I’ll have you know #20 on my list was a whopper of 500+ pages (which all flew by, honestly–LOVE me some Mark Zusak!). Without further ado, here are all the lovely tales I’ve met so far this year:
- The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards – a child born with down syndrome is sent away to be raised by the nurse who delivered her, unbeknownst to the child’s mother.
- The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins by Clint McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, Griffin McElroy, and Carey Pietsch – it’s the graphic novel version of their amazing podcast!
- Wildcard by Marie Lu – a gamer/bounty hunter is enlisted to hunt down a hacker during a worldwide tournament
- Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne – Jane Eyre but with spaceships!
- Seafire by Natalie C. Parker – All-girl pirate ship on the hunt for revenge…until they learn the captain and first mate’s brothers may still be alive and in enemy hands
- Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer – a twist on the Sleeping Beauty fairytale, in which Aurora has a blind sister trying to find her true love to break the sleeping spell
- The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donad Maass – pure writing-craft book, but some really great insights for what attracts readers to story and character
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery – see this post for all my feels
- Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart – sisters separated by bad luck and worse consequences fight to stay alive and find a way back to each other
- The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman – ’nuff said, these two are the cutest and their written “oral” history is a delight
- Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody – intrigue, a hunt for lost loved ones, high stakes gambling
- Courting Darkness by Robin LeFevers – a duology quasi-spinoff of her FANTASTIC His Fair Assassins trilogy
- The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg – see link for my thoughts on how adorable this story is
- The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg – the wonderful sequel
- The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg – the fantastic ending
- The Alice Network by Kate Quinn – two women’s stories intertwine–a young woman searching for her cousin after WWII convinces an older woman, a former spy during WWI to help in her quest. Really beautifully told story based on an actual female spy-ring
- “I Give You My Body…” by Diana Gabaldon – full disclosure, this one is about the craft of writing sex scenes. Incredibly helpful for dialogue and action scenes as well. Maybe not so much “for fun” reading (though there are PLENTY of steamy excerpts from her Outlander and spin-off works) wink!
- Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman – classic western, complete with a hunt for gold, gunfights with a band of outlaws, and a sexy cowboy who doesn’t realize our MC is a girl at first…
- A Question of Holmes by Brittany Cavallaro – the final in her Charlotte Holmes series, one of my favorite book series I’ve come across.
- Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak – I’ve already mentioned how much I adore his writing style. This book is full of his poetic language as well as heartbreakingly beautiful depictions of 5 brothers raising themselves the best way they can. Lots of fist fights, swearing, and love in this book.
I am OBSESSED with these stories! I got The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (the first installment) to check out for free through Amazon Prime Reading, and I just fell in love with Ceony and Emery.
I wasn’t sure at first–fairly early on, Ceony goes off on an adventure (seemingly) far from the magician she’s apprenticing for (the adorable and charming Emery Thane–a pairing I was already shipping HARD) so my interest waned slightly. But, guys, there’s still a pretty great love story woven into her battle for Emery’s literal heart, one that I think is sustained really well throughout the three books. Full disclosure, there’s a fourth book in the series but I haven’t read it…yet.
The summary, for those who need more: in this world, magicians are bonded to a certain material that they’re able to manipulate (paper, plastic, metal, glass, rubber…). Ceony is assigned to a paper magician despite her desire to become a Smelter (one who works with metal). She grudgingly learns all the weird lessons Emery assigns her, until a woman breaks into his home and steals his literal heart (she’s evil/bonded to flesh, so *mom disclosure* there is some fighting involving tossing vials of blood around, but it never really struck me as graphic/gruesome, so I think even the more squeamish will be ok). Ceony creates a paper placeholder heart and chases her down, determined to save her mentor’s life.
Also, there’s an adorable paper dog who just melts my heart. The whole thing is so imaginative and delightful. It’s a fast read; I read through all three books in about a week (granted, I was on vacation for some of that time, but we were exploring Louisville so my reading time wasn’t *so* extended). I highly recommend this series for anyone looking for a fun, easy read that will still linger in your mind long after you’ve set it down!
Well, I’m a quarter of the way to completing my goal of reading 40 new books this year. I’m trying to expand my reading palette from the usual YA fiction I prefer, and I think my list so far reflects that I’ve at least dipped my toe in other waters. I’ve found a few real gems, a couple felt more like a trudge-through in parts, but my world has expanded regardless.
Without further ado, here are the first 10 books I read this year:
- The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
- The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins by Clint McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, Griffin McElroy, and Carey Pietsch
- Wildcard by Marie Lu
- Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne
- Seafire by Natalie C. Parker
- Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer
- The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donad Maass
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart
- The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
If I *have* to pick one, I’d say Grace and Fury is probably my favorite of those first ten books. Stay tuned for a full blog post about it. Wildcard was also incredibly satisfying–Marie Lu is one of my favorite authors, her stories never fail to fully engage me. I’d recommend checking out the first book in that series: Warcross before moving on to Wildcard, but definitely another excellent duology.
I know, I know: What?? Annie, your favorite movie of all time is Anne of Green Gables. How are you only just now recommending the book?
I’ll tell you: So I’ve seen Anne of Green Gables more times than I can count. I’m talking the 1985 Sullivan Entertainment Anne of Green Gables (I adore the trilogy, but the first one is 100% my favorite movie that has or ever will exist). Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie will forever be the true Anne and Gilbert. And speaking of Gilbert, other girls can keep their Prince Charmings and their Mr. Darcies. Gilbert Blythe is the bar I measured my potential love interests against (fun side story: extremely early on in dating my husband, there was a day I kept pushing back our date to continue spending time with friends until one of them said something along the lines of ‘you can’t keep delaying, he’s going to get pissed’ and I just laughed and naturally as could be said he would “stand on his head if I asked him to!” which I knew to be 100% truthful, and recognized to be the same level of confidence Anne had in Gilbert’s affections and that’s how I knew I’d found my Gil).
Sometime around middle school, I picked up my mom’s copy of Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. I *maybe* read the first page or two before putting it down. It had been (and continues to be) my experience that the movie is never as good as the book. Already, I adored Megan Follows’s Anne Shirley with the core of my being. I simply couldn’t bear the thought that this book might tarnish in anyway the perfection of my favorite movie. What’s more, I didn’t want to read a book and think “that’s not how they did it in the movie” the entire time. I resigned myself to the idea of never reading the series in favor of cherishing the movies.
But then I was searching for the exact wording of one of my favorite quotes (Anne Shirley is the source of so many excellent ones), and noticed a Kindle special: the entire 8 book series for $0.99. Um WHAT. I figured it is time.
I told my mom it’s really nice that I’ve waited nearly 3 decades to read the book. Now, Anne and Gil, Matthew and Marilla, Mrs. Lynde and Diana Barry are all like dear friends, and as I began reading that first page, it felt like that’s all this was: a book about dear friends. Some things might be a little off, not quite what I *know* the truth to be, but an entertaining and rich view of those I love so much.
I’ve only finished book 1 so far, but it was rather delightful. Full disclosure: I skimmed over a lot of the setting exposition. But then, I already know what Green Gables looks like. 😉