Kari, The Spy.

Recently, I was sorting through one of my many memory boxes and found a story that I'd written in 8th grade titled "Food Fights in the Cafeteria: a novellita". At first, I felt really nostalgic and proud. Writers, we make a big deal about how we've 'always wanted to write stories' and such, and for most of us, it's probably true. But I felt like I was holding that dream in my hands. I really had wanted to be a writer all those years ago and I wrote all the time and here was the proof. These warm feelings were immediately followed by terror - what if it's a terrible story? what the hell is a novellita anyway? - but we'll focus on the warm fuzzy memories today. 

I started reminiscing about my childhood, what books had always meant to me, and I tried to remember the moment that reading and writing became so essential to my identity. Then I stumbled upon this super cute book-inspired Halloween costume tutorial, and immediately sunk into a memory that made me so happy I wanted to share it. 

I was that kid that wore things out. I wore my favorite poofy skirt until there were holes in the tulle underneath. The jackets and covers of my books were tattered and falling off because I'd continuously flip through the pages. I even pushed my well-watched Peter Pan video tape in the player backwards because no one was around to help me replay it, and then pulled the film out of the sputtering player inch by inch. And when I was 8 years old, I'd watched Harriet the Spy so many times both of my parents and I could quote it line for line. Harriet the Spy had everything I wanted. She was older (in 6th grade), had two awesomely weird best friends and spent her day snooping on people and recording it all. Nevermind that she had absentee parents and a bully who read her notebooks aloud to everyone, she was the coolest. And I wanted to be just like her. 

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Somehow I convinced my father to outfit me in Harriet's gear. See Harriet wasn't just a "spy"; she was a collector of stories. She snuck around, listening in on people's lives because she was going to be a great writer someday and needed interesting stories to tell. I decided I needed all of that too. So my dad got me an extra utility belt he had from work, complete with a mini flashlight, magnifying glass, and a pair of binoculars. I swear I was probably fifty pounds heavier. We even got a raincoat and tons of various notebooks that I'd slip beneath my jacket into the belt. Bless my parents. They walked around with their little toolbox for lord knows how long while I pretended to record the secret of life in those pages.

That wasn't enough of course. I also had to act like Harriet too. (I've never been one to half-ass things.) I created my own little "spy route", which mostly included different floors of my apartment building and the next door playground. I also refused to eat anything other than tomato-mayonnaise sandwiches for lunch for months, which would be why I can't stomach it these days. Have I mentioned I was a strange, strange child? Umm, Kari, you're a weird adult too. Touché. Umm, aren't you still a child? Double touché. 

So that's one of my earliest memories of my love of writing. Gorging myself on gross sandwiches and running around in an oversized yellow coat like some sort of life-size Paddington fix-it bear. And yet, I can't bring myself to be embarrassed about it. Sure, it's weird. But the nostalgia and pride make it hard to save room for anything else. 

What's your favorite childhood memory? Maybe one your family still laughs about to this day? Tell me in a comment or better yet, write an entire post about it!  

Most Anticipated Books of 2016

We're already over a month into the new year, but I figured it'd still be fun to talk about all the books I'm excited to get my hands on in 2016. 

2015 was a really great year for books, specifically young adult novels. I read so many great stories and there are so many others I didn't get to, but have heard great things about. With all that excellence in literature, you'd think there'd be nothing to look forward to for 2016. Nope! Stories are eternal and there are still so many to look forward to! 

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Passenger by Alexandra Bracken (January 5th) - Look at that cover! LOOK AT IT. I got a eARC last week and although I want to read it so bad, I'm definitely a physical book kinda gal. There is no way I could explain this novel better than the synopsis so I won't even try, but promises of time-travel intrigue and self-discovery lead me to incredibly high-expectations. 

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Truthwitch by Susan Dennard (January 5th) - I happen to be obsessed with Susan Dennard's blog and twitter, but I haven't actually read any of her novels, despite owning quite a few. In Truthwitch, Dennard weaves a story about a continent where the magic of the Truthwitch, a witch who can tell the truth from a lie, is valuable enough that Safi has to hide her abilities. It seems like a perfect high fantasy that delves into witch-y things and I've heard some pretty amazing things about it.   

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer (February 2nd) - The downside to getting the wonderful thing that is Winter a month ago? The Lunar Chronicles is now complete, there is no more stories to read. Well, kind of. Stars Above is a bind up of all the 4 TLC novellas (none of which I've read) as well as a 5 new stories and bonus story that includes a marriage. I. Can't. Wait. 

BlackHearts by Nicole Castroman (February 9th) - I'm really into pirates. I blame my early obsession with Peter Pan (which ironically could also explain my obsession with youth). I'm also really into retellings. BlackHearts is a Blackbeard retelling, but instead of focusing on what I consider his more menacing years, this novel seems to explain his earlier years as a boy who just wants to escape his life for the ocean of possibilities and a life at sea. Gimme, gimme!

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare (March 8th) - So long as Cassandra Clare continues to write novels in the Shadowhunter world, I will continue to devour them. The main characters are Emma Carstairs (JEM <3) and Julian Blackthorn, two characters we met and totally fell in love with in City of Heavenly Fire, and they are trying to find out who killed Emma's parents. Plus, the Shadowhunters show on Freeform makes me eager to jump into this world all over again. 

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This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab (June 7th) - Holy gorgeous cover! I've been wanting to get into Schwab's writing but haven't known where to beginning. All of her novels sound so freaking good. I read the synopsis of this novel, the first in a new series, and I legit felt my eyes pop out of their sockets. Monsters are running lose and sucking out people's souls using music, some monsters are helping to save humans, but it all descends into chaos quickly. Honestly, I'm doing a terrible job at describing it, so click here for a better summary.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer (November 8th) - Surprise surprise, another retelling. Not that it'd matter anyways, I'm sure I'll read anything by Marissa Meyer. But it is an Alice and Wonderland retelling and if it's anything like what I've come to expect from Meyer, than it should be whimsical and nostalgic but also interesting in its own regard. 

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Throne of Glass #5 by Sarah J. Maas (September) - Queen of Shadows may not have been the picture of perfection that it was for everyone else, but that doesn't mean I'm not excited to continue on with this series. I won't say much else for risk of spoiling things, but it seems like the story's finally coming to a head and I can't wait to see what happens next.


I drafted this post months ago, and since then about a dozen books have popped onto my radar (including The Love That Split The World - seriously, check it out!). I simply will never run out of books.

What books are on your radar this year? Give me recommendations. I may never run out of books, but better safe than sorry :)




What's New?: currently

Four. That's the amount of times I've shown up here on the blog since 2016 began. And to think one of my resolutions was to blog more. Enter the fall back recap post to get back into the swing of things (is that like a currently post? or a recently post?). Also, my girl Kristen is hosting a link-up called "What's New With You?" and I could not not participate. That's just, like, the rules of feminism. (Reference, anyone?)  

What's New With You

++ Reading 

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes and Passenger by Alexandra Bracken. Both books that I planned to read in January but got too busy doing other things to get to. So you see, I was being blog-discriminatory.

++ Writing 

While there's always the novel, which admittedly didn't get written for the better half of January, there's also the Huffington Post article that was recently published. !!!!!! Exclamation marks are pretty much the best expression of my feelings at the moment. I mean, it's an older piece and it's technically my second publication on Huffington, but still, you guys, it lives :)

My Second Huffington Post Article Ever!

++ Creating

A planner of my very own. The reason the writing and the reading and the blogging was in such short supply this month -- I made my own planner. *insert nervous, excited emoji here* Late last year, I looked around for a new planner to start of 2016 in at least some sort of organized fashion. But nothing seemed, I don't know, right? So I began toying with the idea of crafting my own, and well, it was all downhill (or uphill, depending on how you look at it) from there. I hope to write an entire post about it soon, not that my track record instills much confidence.

++ Loving

The Magicians on the Syfy Network. I had never even heard of the book/show before my boyfriend said "hey, you should watch this." Well, I did, and damn it, I'm obsessed. For those who may not know, it's based on the novel series The Magicians by Levi Grossman, and it's touted as the "adult Harry Potter." I'm not sure about all that, but it's got magic and the coolest special effects and is basically "what if Hogwarts were a real thing and Potterheads got the chance to go to the school they've been reading about and loving forever?" And the only acceptable answer is, "of course, sign me up! my arm? here, have it!" 

++ Celebrating 

Nothing. But it's one of those things I'm trying to do more of this year. Celebrating the typically acknowledged things and celebrating the small. mundane things too. There is the boyfriend's birthday coming up on February 12th though, so there's that. 

++ Wishing

For a little more winter. I know, call me crazy, but it's weird as hell just skipping over winter like this. I'm not asking for inches of snow or Game of Thrones level winter, but I like crisp weather and bundling up, and I'm just not ready to sweat on the way to the corner store again, okay?

++ Listening To

HALSEY!! What the fuck even, how am I just now getting hip to her music, who knew about this brilliance and didn't tell me? On a whim sometime in December, I thought some new music would help me through a block of writing that just wasn't coming, and I put on her album because everyone was talking about it. I wrote 2,000 words that session.  I have not stopped listening since. She's bloody brilliant in every way. I find a new song to love every listen through. Right now, it's...

++Thinking About

The Kardashian mafia taking over everything. These Kimojis are both a terrible and wonderful idea and I might be like 5 seconds away from buying them from the App Store. I want to be in, I want to be down. Everyone is talking about them and I don't know what they are and I hate feeling left out. But like really, Kimojis, Kari who are you even?

What have you been up to recently, currently, whatever? Basically, what's new? :)

Book Review: Secret Sisters

This post is hours and hours late because yesterday was a hell of a day. But alas, my review for the Literary Ladies Book of the Month.

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Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz

Published: December 8, 2015 by Berkley

Genre: Adult, Suspense, Mystery, Romance

Pages: 336

Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Other Books: Trust No One, River Road

 

 

Quick Synopsis 

Secret Sisters is an suspense novel set nearly two decades after a tragic event involving two best friends. Circumstances bring Madeline back to scene and she has to relive her past while also figuring out the present. 

so Judging You

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All of My Thoughts

Cute is not the word I'd used to describe a novel that starts off with a truly jarring scene from a terrifying point-of-view. But it's also kind of the best word I've got in this case. What I had originally began as an incredibly heavy story turned surprisingly, and fortunately, lighter. 

So let's talk about that rating, huh? I vacillated between stars (part of the reason why I'm a bit late with this review) for a little while. I find that I've become quite a critical reader, especially when it comes to reading adult novels or genres I don't typically read - that's two counts for this adult suspense novel. Sam from Thoughts On Tomes hit it on the head in her recent video: I think reading more has made me more critical. And if I'm going out of my comfort zone for a book, it better damn well blow me away. And as much as I enjoyed Secret Sisters, blow away I was not. 

I'm not sure if it's because I'm generally a YA reader (where characteristics are dwelled on heavily), but I found these characters to be lacking on the development department. I did however like most of what we did get. Like Jack, Madeline's security guy, and his interaction with her. He's strong, secure and unreadable but can somehow read Madeline perfectly, even when she'd rather he not be able to. It's frequently those who see through our bullshit that we need the most. I also really like Madeline's grandmother Edith. I can always appreciate when an author fleshes a character out fully on the page, even when they aren't actually in the scene, and Krentz did that very well with Edith, who had died before the story even begins. The thing that ranked this novel lower for me was the main character, Madeline. I didn't like her very much, and I so desperately wanted to. And she's not supposed to be that protagonist you don't really like (a la Holden Caulfield). I think she's intended to be liked and sympathized with, and rooted for. And although I did sympathize, greatly, and I also rooted for her on some levels, I didn't like her. I also didn't feel her connection to her 'secret sister', probably because we never actually saw how close they were. I cared about what happened to her due to her circumstances not her character, and I'm not sure if that was a result of her actual character or the writing, but nevertheless, it stands. 

That said, the circumstances and the writing completely make this story. It's like a little girl who dreams of being a prima ballerina but tragedy befalls her early on. So long as she doesn't turn into a terror during the journey, you enjoy the ride and want a positive outcome for her at the end. And you continue reading her story because you want to know that she ends up okay. Although the writing was a bit rout sometimes, especially when it came to dialogue, I did really enjoy how easy the reading was. I sat down and read this book one afternoon and when I finally looked up, it was dinner time and I'd turned the last digital page. 

 Getting to the point 

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If you read along with us, what did you think of Secret Sisters? Also, what are your thoughts on reading more critically as we read more?

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The Literary Ladies' next book of the month is You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane, whose title and cover have already sold me. I expect romance and I expect comedy from this story of "the one that got away," and I'm not quite sure if that has something to do with Jerry Maguire :) Hope you'll join us!

A Year of Giveaways

I talk a big talk about stories. How much I love them, how much they mean to me, how much they could mean to you. All of which can be summarized as "let's devour stories together." I've even given away stories by hosting book-related giveaways on my blog and Instagram. And every time I host one I'm reminded of how much I take my ability to experience stories and books for granted. Many of the people who enter my giveaways (many of which are young adults/teens) seemed to be starved for stories. I get comments or read captions spanning from gratitude to frustration, but many of them boil down to something like: "OMG I want this book but I don't have the money." And I immediately want to throw books at people like Oprah tosses cars at her audience members. 

Then I had a thought -- I could sit here, grateful for the means I have to buy whatever book I want or I can do something about those who may not be able to.  And although there is absolutely NO shame in the first option, I'm going for the second, and the start of a new year seems like the perfect time. 

A Year of Giveaways is my pledge (a sort of movement, I guess, although that sounds rather stuffy and too official) to give the gift of stories to fellow readers. Reading is such a major part of my life. Many times books and the stories they held are the things that kept me hopeful, and wearing my new fandom shirt has been the highlight of my day. Gifting books is giving away hope, and happiness and good days, the kind that follow sleepless, read-past-my-bedtime nights.  

It's all pretty simple. Each month I'll choose something to give away whether that be a book or a bookish item (bookmark, fanwear, etc.) on Instagram. And at the end of the month, a winner will be chosen and another giveaway announced up until December.

A Year of Giveaways is my way of giving back all the precious memories my favorite books have given me over the years.

Collect stories like loose change; fill your life to the brim with riches.

Happy Weekend! 

Best Books of 2015!

Although I didn't meet my personal goal of 50 books this year, I did make it to 40 and furthermore,  I read a lot of good books this year. Actually while searching through the books I read this year and choosing favorites, I realized that I generally like the books I read. I can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but it's probably worth considering eventually (maybe). Despite that, it wasn't very difficult to play favorites this year. Some book just really stand apart. 

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

There is so much to say about this book. Asdfghjkl, but I have no adequate words. I'm convinced Rainbow Rowell is magic, and this fantasy-love-story hybrid novel is nothing short of it. In a world baring some similarity (yet still different) to Harry Potter's Wizarding World, Simon Snow and Baz Pitch are enemies -- and roommates. Baz seems to want him dead and even with his sub-par skills and the magic-eating nemesis personally after him, Snow just won't die. Review coming soon, but for now an ecstatic "best book of the year!" should suffice, I think :) 

Perks of Being Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

I can't believe it took me so long to read this book. What's even more unbelievable is that despite having read this months ago, I still remember it so vividly. I think I always will. Perks is a poignant, thoughtful, and at times hilarious, coming-of-age story told in the form of letters from Charlie to his anonymous friend, recounting how he goes from an outcast to finally belonging somewhere. It might just be the coming-of-age story. It's hyped for a very, very good reason. 

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Another Rainbow novel? Why, yes. Because so long as she writes books, they will always be my favorite. The story of how Eleanor and Park, two misfit teens, fall in love hits you in the gut full force; it reaches down into you and holds on until the end. At the turn of the final page, you feel winded, sucker punched and exhilarated all at once. If you need more convincing, there's a full review right over here. 

Aristotle and Dante Discover Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante might be the most underrated novel I've ever read. I just don't get why people aren't raving about this book from every corner of everywhere ever. Sáenz explores the realm of family and friendship and growing up in a way that is so gorgeously written, bordering on poetic without trying too hard. It's simple and elegant and so important. See me rave like mad about it in this full review

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

The best word to describe this book is "fun". Or maybe "sweet"? Either way, this is the perfect novel to pick up when you're in the mood for a good story or are in  reading. It took me mere hours to read Sam's story of getting to know the big Garrett family next door. Taken directly from my review, "My Life Next Door made me laugh, cry and fall in love with summer and all the possibilities the warm air carries." I was expecting a summer romance read and got so much more than that. The characters, OMG!

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

If I'd read Heir of Fire last year like everyone else, I have a feeling that this year's addition to the Throne of Glass series, Queen of Shadows, would have been on this list. But as it stands Heir of Fire wins. It finally gives readers what they've been waiting for - more depth. I felt like I befriended these characters and somehow cared more about their well-being than I had previously. For certain spoiler-y reasons, it felt like starting over, almost like a coming-of-age story. For the first time, we as readers were discovering the world right along with the characters and I really liked that aspect. Not to mention the wonderful cast of new characters we get to meet (Rowan!), who made the novel that much more fulfilling.  

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

You know a book was good when you wanted to hate it but love it anyway. That's what happened to me. A few months after brainstorming and outlining my recent novel, I picked up Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy and found a few similarities to my own story (something I usually hate to discover). I devoured the series anyway. Despite feeling a little to close for comfort, I think I'll write a full review of the books eventually, so for now I'll just say that I really love them, and this novel, the second in the series, escapes the dreaded sophomore slump with flair and a bit of flying :)  

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Every Last Word is an intense yet heart-warming contemporary about a girl who has OCD and struggling to find a safe place and a group of friends that can help her deal with her condition. The novel depicts mental illness in a respectful and relatable way. It's may be something I haven't experienced but through her writing, it's easy to get a feeling for what it's like. The highlight of this story were the supporting characters. Stone shows us full and dynamic secondary characters within only a few paragraphs and it's brilliant writing. 

Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

Ugly Love was my first Colleen Hoover and my first new adult, and it didn't disappoint on either front. If it seems implausible, check out my gushing review. Tate's story of being too busy for a relationship and finding Miles, a guy miraculously more emotionally unavailable than she is, takes a turn when they begin a purely physical relationship. Hoover tells the story from a dual point of view that enhances the story ten fold and depicts her characters personalities really well. There great development, an interesting plot and well, I'll just say it, some pretty steamy sex scenes.    

Winter by Marissa Meyer

Conclusions to book series aren't easy to write well. So when it happens, it worth thanking the stars above. Winter was a wonderful conclusion to the Lunar Chronicles, a fairytale retelling series surrounding four specific stories with a host of interesting characters all tied together in an epic, sci-fi world. It was full of pretty much nonstop action, but still managed to develop our characters and relationships fully. Meyer supplied satisfactory endings for her past characters and introduced two great characters in Winter and Jacin (possibly my favorites). It was a wonderful ride, a great ending to one of my favorite series. 

 

2015 book awards

Sam from Thoughts On Tomes did her favorite books video award show style, and it was so fun to watch. Since I'd previously written out this post, I thought I'd just list my winners this year instead of talking about each one (so this post isn't too long).  

Best Male Main Character:

Park (Eleanor and Park); Baz Pitch (Carry On)

Best Female Main Character:

Penelope Bunce (Carry On), Winter Hayle (The Lunar Chronicles)

Best Plot Twist:

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Best Book Cover:

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Best Male Sidekick:

Thorne Carswell (The Lunar Chronicles)

Best Female Sidekick:

Sloane (Since You've Been Gone) 

Most Unique Plot/World:

Anna Dressed in Blood duo by Kendare Blake

Best Book-to-Movie Adaptation:

Perks of Being A Wallflower; Mockingjay

Best (New) Writer You Discovered This Year: 

Huntley Fitzpatrick; Colleen Hoover

Best Candidate for Animation:

Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

Best Action:

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

Best Novella:

Fairest by Marissa Meyer 

Best Standalone:

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Best ReRead*:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

 

What were your favorite books of the year? Give me some recommendations for a new year of reading in the comments below.