Four Brandon Sanderson Books to Add to Your TBR

Hello dear readers! After I read Skyward by Brandon Sanderson a while back, I’ve been reading quite a lot of his other works. There are still a ton that I haven’t gotten to yet, but here’s four of the ones I think you should check out!

1. Skyward – YA

Skyward is book one of a science fiction trilogy (book three hasn’t been released yet) that takes place on a different planet. Main character Spensa longs to become a fighter pilot in the planet’s defense force, but her late father’s status as a coward and military deserter make her job pretty difficult.

The Characters. I can not convey to you in this post how much I love the characters in this book. There’s not a single one I didn’t at least like, and I was attached to all of them in different ways for different reasons. They’re all so unique from the other characters in YA stories. Spensa with her small stature, somewhat abrasive personality, extreme threats and believable motivation. Rodge, who learns to find his own passion and voice throughout the book. Jorgen with his strict rules and regulations, who is just trying to be the best flightleader he can be. M-Bot was hilarious. Doomslug was adorable. I could go on and on.

The Plot. The plot was exactly what it needed to be. It was well paced, and flowed nicely. But above all, it put the characters in the exact positions they needed to be in. It let them shine in certain situations, revealing their capabilities and passions. It beat them down at other times. This story didn’t pull it’s punches, and it left the characters questioning their beliefs, but also rising up to accept the challenges set before them. I do not cry easily when it comes to reading, and if I do it’s usually on rereads of series. However, on my first time through this book, I teared up several times.

The Setting. I admittedly don’t usually care a ton about world building. If its interesting, great. If its lacking it wont make or break a book for me. This world building was interesting, and I loved learning about being a pilot right alongside Spensa, as well as the unique challenges the planet presented to the characters.

2. The Rithmatist – Middle Grade/YA

This steampunk-esque mystery takes place in an alternate version of our world and features one of the most unique and intriguing magic systems I have ever read. Main character Joel as always been intrigued by the Rithmatists that share his school campus, as the duels they have by bringing chalk drawings to life. He wishes more than anything that he could be one of them, but he missed his chance. This book will eventually have a sequel, but for now is a satisfying standalone.

The Characters. Though I didn’t get as attached to the characters in this book as I did to the ones in Skyward, they were still interesting and fun. I really felt for Joel, and his interactions with Melody were hilarious. The two of them had a rocky start, but managed to become friends over the course of the book.

The Plot. As far as mysteries go, it did it’s job. I legitimately thought I had discovered who the villain was when I was about half way through the book. I was so very wrong. The twist was excellent and well earned. As far as endings go, the last scenes is one of my favorite conclusions to any book ever. It was so satisfying and adorable, despite not being romantic.

The Setting. This setting managed to combine the accessibility of a contemporary with the wonder of a fantasy story. It was truly masterful and very intriguing.

Elantris -Adult

Elantris, though geared towards adults, is appropriate for teens as well. It is a little less accessible than the previous two books on this list, as the extensive world building and more complex magic system make it a more complicated read. Set in a fantasy world, it is told from the rotating perspectives of three characters. Raodin, a prince who “dies” in the first few pages and is sent into the city of Elantris. Sarene, the woman who was about to marry Raodin before he was sent to Elantris. And Hrathen, a priest who was sent to convert an entire country to his religion, before they are destroyed. This is a standalone with no planned sequel.

The Characters. Raodin was such a refreshing main character. A man who is truly a good person who attempts to make the best of a truly horrible situation. Sarene was also a great character, smart and stubborn and very capable. Hrathen was a little less interesting to me. I understood his motivations, but didn’t relate to him.

The Plot. The plot was unique and interesting, allowing the characters to shine and grow, much like Skyward. The mystery elements, though not the focal point, were very well handled, they kept me wondering and were resolved very satisfyingly.

The Setting. I wont say much about the setting, since learning about Elantris alongside Raodin was one of my favorite parts of the book, but it was interesting and really highlighted the story as a whole.

The Way of Kings – Adult

Disclamer: this book is huge. Its probably one of the biggest books I’ve ever read, and its definitely the most complex and intricate. Because of it’s size, I was worried it would be a slow book that didn’t keep me invested. I was very wrong. This book is an epic fantasy. Like Elantris, it’s adult category is not because of mature content, but rather it’s complexity. It is the first book in a series, in which three books have been released, with the fourth due to come out this year.

The plot is difficult to summarize, so here’s the official blurb:

According to mythology mankind used to live in The Tranquiline Halls. Heaven. But then the Voidbringers assaulted and captured heaven, casting out God and men. Men took root on Roshar, the world of storms. And the Voidbringers followed…

They came against man ten thousand times. To help them cope, the Almighty gave men powerful suits of armor and mystical weapons, known as Shardblades. Led by ten angelic Heralds and ten orders of knights known as Radiants, mankind finally won.

Or so the legends say. Today, the only remnants of those supposed battles are the Shardblades, the possession of which makes a man nearly invincible on the battlefield. The entire world is at war with itself – and has been for centuries since the Radiants turned against mankind. Kings strive to win more Shardblades, each secretly wishing to be the one who will finally unite all of mankind under a single throne.

On a world scoured down to the rock by terrifying hurricanes that blow through every few day a young spearman forced into the army of a Shardbearer, led to war against an enemy he doesn’t understand and doesn’t really want to fight.

What happened deep in mankind’s past?

Why did the Radiants turn against mankind, and what happened to the magic they used to wield?

The Characters. There is a lot of characters, far too many to mention here, so we’ll just focus on the main character, Kaladin. His struggle is so real and raw. His past haunts him, pushing him to try his best to protect those around him, and to blame himself when he can’t. Remember how I said I don’t cry much while reading? Well Kaladin’s arc and struggle hit me hard several times, and he has become one of my favorite characters. Ever.

The Plot. Masterful. Intricate. So vast it’s hard to explain here, yet still remarkably easy to follow and to be invested in. It’s worth the time you’ll have to invest to read this book.

The Setting. This setting brings the “epic” to “epic fantasy”. Everything I said about the plot applies here as well. It’s intricate and vast, and I can’t wait to explore more of it as I continue the series.


I’ve really enjoyed reading these books, and I’m sure I’ll continue to love diving into Sanderson’s novels as I continue to check them off my TBR.

Have you read any of these books? Would you like to in the future? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

Settings: five easy tips for beginners

If there’s one thing that writers never give advice on, it would be the setting. That’s probably because it isn’t that hard to do. But yet, I find myself giving awkward descriptions of stores and restaurants. So to save you from the same tragic fate, I will share all that I know.

1. Less is more

When I first started writing, third grade me though you described everything. The reader apparently needed to know the colour of the chairs to the amount of desks in the room and every single students physical appearance. No no no.

Don’t become like an old classic book where they give you the backstory to all the objects in the room. People in the 1900s might be interested but in the twenty-first century people will swap your book for their phone if you rattle on about a clock for two pages. Less is more.

Give a brief description of the room and keep it simple. Compare these two examples.

The small living room held a small cream couch with a stack of yellowed newspaper overtaking the side table. The windows on the opposite wall only got washed when it rained. There was a stained rug on the floor, faded from years of pacing. A couple of cushions were thrown into a corner next to the flickering floor lamp.

In the small living room, there was a couch that had been torn up from the family’s cat, Paws. A couple of patterned cushions were thrown to the side. On the opposite, there was a bunch of windows, dirty and full of dust bunnies. There was a big rug on the floor, covering most of the space, and it was covered in stains and dusty footprints. A floor lamp in the corner glowed yellow, it’s lightbulb flickering and dying. A big clock was on the brick wall, long since dead. Lots of family pictures on a side table were covered by a towering stack of old newspapers.

Tell me which one is better. Personally, I think the first one is; you can see it all in your head without being overwhelmed.

2. Big to small

A good tip is to go from the biggest things in the room to the smaller details. So from room colour to bed location to dead body on the floor to the snapped pearl necklace.

It flows nicely and zooms into the finer things.

3. Use all five senses

When describing things, I tend to forget my other four senses. I typically rely on sight, neglecting smell, touch, hear, and taste. And while you can’t taste the room, there is plenty of things to touch and hear.

Instead of using only sight to tell the story, immerse your reader. What does the hot dog stand smell like? Is the cave wall rough or smooth, wet or dry? Can you hear the laugh track through the thin walls of your bedroom? Using those things helps the reader envision the scene and get more hooked.

4. Reference photos

I don’t think everyone in the world has been in a castle or the cold dungeon in Mongolia. So instead of assuming what it looks like, google it. Pinterest has plenty of reference photos you can use. Browse real estate websites to get a feel of what a rancher’s home would look like.

There are thousands of resources at your fingertips, so use them.

5. Timing

It all comes down to when to describe your scene and when not too. Would you start off describing the room when a character enters it? That all depends on what is going to happen.

If you’re going to start the scene with action, the boy running away from the murderer through the school hallways, the chances of you spending a paragraph or two describing the place, are slim. That breaks the flow of the scene.

But the character is just introduced to a problem, say they’re kidnapped and wake up in a log cabin, then I think a little description is needed. The readers know what a school hallway looks like, the empty cabin not as much.

If you’re struggling when to describe your setting, ask yourself this: Will it break the flow of the scene?


That my friends, are a handful of tips that can help you out with writing. If you have anymore to add, let me know. I’d love to hear your advice.

As always, have a lovely day and see you next time.

The Cursed Hunter| Book Review

Hello there! I just read the newest book in The Stolen Kingdom series, and it was wonderful. This novella was one of my most anticipated reads of 2020, so I’m excited to share my thoughts. Thank you, Merie, for sending it to me! ❤

The Cursed Hunter is the third book, a novella, in Bethany Atazadeh’s The Stolen Kingdom series. Each book in the series retells a fairy tale. The first book follows Aladdin, the second follows The Little Mermaid, and The Cursed Hunter is a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast. The first two are about the same characters, but The Cursed Hunter features an almost completely new set of characters. I would recommend reading the whole series, but you can read this installment as a standalone if you desire. The fourth and final book, The Enchanted Crown, will have all the characters come together and the overarching plot wrap up.

The characters in this story were almost as endearing as in the other books. Nesrin was a protagonist with loads of determination and courage. When her family was drowning in debt, she stepped up and took action. She had a great attitude and didn’t give up, even when her village mocked her for her efforts in searching for a dragon’s egg. She pushed herself to climb the mountains and cliffs again and again, putting her life on the line for the sake of her family. Her adventurous spirit was a lot of fun.

The other main character, the dragon she finds… I can’t say much due to spoilers. But his point of view was super interesting! As you may have guessed, this was “The Beast” character. I wished he could’ve communicated in some way, maybe telepathically. I think that would’ve strengthened his character and bond with Nesrin. Alas, he was really sweet and I hope to see a lot of him in the finale!

The world was amazing! The dragon cliffs were fun, but my favorite setting had to be the land of Jinn. It was so vivid and imaginative–definitely somewhere I wish I could visit. There’s still more room for exploration in this place. I cannot wait to see what The Enchanted Crown will have to offer.

This was a looser retelling than I expected, but I still enjoyed the original story Bethany told. It might be important to mention, though, that falling in love is not what is needed to break the curse. That’s not to say that there’s no hints of romance, but it certainly wasn’t the focus of the book. I wasn’t super satisfied with the way the curse had to be broken because it seemed too easy/anticlimactic. However, the origin of the curse was tied to the overarching plot of the series, so I was happy with that.

Overall, this was a fast read that entertained me to the end. I wished it had been longer! The story was a splendid addition to the series and made me even more excited for the finale. 🙂

What’s your favorite beauty and the beast retelling?

Have a lovely day,

Introducing: Radiate Literary Journal

Hello dear readers! Today I have the privilege of sharing a new website, and new opportunity for young writers, with all of you!

Radiate Literary Journal is a site where young writers can submit writing pieces. Those pieces will then be edited by the Radiate team, and posted on the site.

I happen to be one of the Fiction Editors for Radiate, and I’m excited to read the pieces that are submitted!

More Information on Radiate:

Our Mission:

Learning: We provide feedback on each submission so writers can learn from their peer editors. Our goal is to let young writers share what they are learning with each other and feature unique submissions.

Growth: “If I waited for perfection I would never write a word.” -Margaret Atwood. Helping young writers reach their potential by sharing their work.

Community: We want to connect student writers. Young writers are the future of literature. Radiate wants to be a thriving community of young writers sharpening each other’s skills.

FAQs:

Who can submit to Radiate Literary Journal? Any student ages 13-22 is encouraged to submit their poetry, prose, essays, or nonfiction to Radiate Literary. We accept works up to 10,000 words and prefer never-published material.We don’t pay for work as a volunteer organization, but we do provide exposure to the writing market for you and and your work and valuable peer feedback from Radiate editors

What do you look for in a piece? Our editors are qualified volunteers that have been instructed in how to best help writers succeed in polishing their work. They carefully select the pieces that have shown the most excellence or growth to showcase in each issue of Radiate Literary Journal. Here’s what they look for in a piece:

  • A complete story arc
  • Life-like characters
  • Inspiration/motivation
  • Excellent use of language
  • Good rhythm and rhyme (if applicable)
  • Comfortable story flow

Can I give feedback on a piece? Absolutely! We love it when young writers share their skills and opinions with each other. If you have feedback on a specific piece, leave a comment or email the editor-in-chief Grace C. at6biobee04@gmail.com. If you want to join our team of editors, please apply. We are always looking for new team members dedicated to helping other writers become great.

How can I get plugged in to the Radiate community? Thanks for asking. A few ways you can get involved are by leaving comments, joining the team, subscribing to the journal, or submitting your work. We also encourage readers to share with their friends so that the Radiate community can continue to grow. As we do, we’ll host contests and community events that you can get involved in.


Here’s the link if you want to check it out: click here.

Until next time,

Writing playlists

I’m a fan of music if you couldn’t tell already. I like music, I like writing, and when I combine the two wonderful things happen. Namely, I get inspired to write.

I’m always on the search for new music to write too, so I thought I would give you some song recommendations according to the theme/genre of your writing project.

And if you want to take a listen to the songs, just click on the titles that will take you to a Spotify playlist I made.

The scholarly essay that you’re writing four hours before it’s due–

Decisions by Ntr.Mnd

First Date by Frad

A brief moment of silence for the lack of better words by Stream_error

Chamomile Tea by Chance Thrash

The Approaching Night by Phillip Wesley

Declarations of love in the pouring rain or just like, at Disneyland or somewhere–

Always, I’ll care by Jeremy Zucker

Talk to Me by Cavetown

If We Have Each Other by Alec Benjamin

Silly People by Blanks

Tear in My Heart by Twenty One Pilots

Teen misfits going on adventures in the middle of the night–

I’m Born to Run by American Authors

It’s Time by Imagine Dragons

With a Little Help From My Friends by Wallows

Runaway Kids by HARBOUR

Idle Town by Conan Gray

Wild Things by Alessia Cara

The same survival story where at the end the guy wakes up in the hospital after being found dead on the side of the road by a farmer or hunter–

Til the Day I Die by TobyMac and NF

Opening Titles by David Arnold and Michael Price

Not Gonna Die by Skillet

The Maze Runner by John Paesano and Pete Anthony

Unstoppable by The Score

Death and break ups–

Lost My Mind by FINNEAS

i think we should break up by Hollyn

How Could You Leave Us by NF

I Miss My Mum by Cavetown

Before You Start Your Day by Twenty One Pilots

Down by Jason Walker

i don’t like u myself by Presence

Mind is a Prison by Alec Benjamin

The escape scene with things blowing up behind the characters who are walking away in slow-mo instead of running like a normal person would be doing–

#SherlockLives by David Arnold and Michael Price

Stayin’ Alive by Bee Gees

Ready Set Let’s Go by Sam Tinnesz

Howlin’ for you by The Black Keys

Immortals by Fall Out Boy

Eye of the Tiger {but it’s the cello version} by 2Cellos

A guild of delicate fairies, mermaids, and a few brooding werewolves on a journey–

Misty Mountains by Richard Armitage and The Dwarf Cast

Dawning of Spring by Anson Seabra

golden thing by Cody Simpson

Woodland by The Paper Kites

Bloom by The Paper Kites

Ends of the Earth by Lord Huron

For when the creepy next door neighbour reveals his true intentions which are luring puppies into his house and then killing them–

Game of Survival by Ruelle

Heathens by Twenty One Pilots

Castle by Halsey

Hide and Seek by Lizz Robinett

Panic Room by Au/Ra

Dig the Crazy by Faith marie

At the End of Time by Atrium Carceri

Some other genre/topic that I happened to miss–

Snake and the Prairie Dog by Cavetown

Seaside by Blanks

Learn to Fly by Surfaces and Elton John

Unfortunate Soul by Kailee Morgue

最強の囮 by Yuki Hayashi and Asami Tachibana


That brings this blog post to an end. If you enjoyed it, please let me know. Also, if you have any song recommendations I would greatly appreciate that.

Have a great weekend everyone!

We Wrote Like Jonathan Stroud for a Day

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to the 50th post on Tales of the Lonely Sun! Today we’re doing a little collaboration with me (Jorja, here) and Mya.

Mya and I both love the Lockwood and Co. series by Jonathan Stroud. We’ve both talked about it on this blog before, because it’s amazing. Go check it out if you haven’t!

Recently Mya was on Jonathan Stroud’s website and found his writing schedule. You can check that out here. We both thought it was awesome and decided to try it out.

So you can keep us straight, Mya will be in bold and I’ll be in normal text.

One day. 5 pages. A whole lot of tea.

Jorja’s Writing Day:

My writing desk. Ooh. Aah.

My usual daily word count goal is an easily attainable 500 words. I picked this number because its something I can hit even when I’m not feeling motivated, which allows me to make continuous progress. 500 words often ends up being about a page to a page and a half of writing per day (unless I feel like writing more). 

All that being said, five pages is a lot for me. Especially because I use a fairly small font (Fanwood Text in Google Docs) and single space my work. So I had my work cut out for me. 

One thing I knew I needed to do was to plan out what I was going to write the night before. I do this every night because if I don’t… I don’t write. I’m becoming more and more of a “planner” as time goes on. So that’s what I did. The night before I planned out much more than I usually do, trying to make sure I could get five pages out of my outline for the day. I finished that up at around midnight. 

The next morning I had some work to do, separate from writing, for my church. I got a bit of a later start than Mya, but I decided I would just write a little longer if I needed to. I got started writing sometime between 10:30 and 10:45. 

For the most part, the writing day went great! I was in the zone most of the day (that doesn’t always happen, it was a nice surprise) so I didn’t stop to check the time. I remember I ate a sandwich for lunch, but the break wasn’t more than 10 minutes. I knew I needed to get back to writing as soon as possible, to keep my streak going. 

I had minimal interruptions, a steady stream of music playing in my headphones, several glasses of iced tea (its 100-degree weather over here, hot tea is not an option), and five total pages by around 3:00. My total word count came out to 2,750 words, over 5x my daily goal. 

I made a lot of progress in my story, including introducing a character I love, working out the details of my magic system, and deepening the motivation for several of my main characters. 

I considered this a total success! While I won’t be writing this way every day, it helped me gauge a lot about my personal process. I now know my capabilities and more details about how I can make my writing day as productive as it can be. 

“Getting that first draft out is a horribly hard grind, but that (perversely) is where the joy of it lies. There is nothing better for me, nothing more uniquely satisfying in the whole process of making a book, than the sensation at the end of each day—good or bad, productive or unproductive—when I look over and see a little fragile stack of written pages that weren’t there that morning.” -Jonathan Stroud

Mya’s Writing Day:

I don’t have a consistent writing routine or daily goal (yet), but I usually write late at night. Jonathan Stroud’s routine starts at 9:30 am and ends at around 5. Which is a significantly longer “work day” than I usually have. 

At 9:30, I sat down with my laptop on the back porch. Technically Jonathan Stroud says he likes to write inside, but I didn’t feel the need to make everything exact. I went through two mugs of tea during the first phases of the day: staring out the window, rereading yesterday’s work, and attempting the first line multiple times. I wasn’t expecting words to come easily to me in the morning, but they actually did! I was quite productive up until lunch and had a good time. 

Then came after lunch. I moved inside due to the heat and tried to begin writing. This is when brain-deadness set in. Stroud seems to get back to work right afterward, and I did also, despite feeling kind of stuck in my story. I pushed through until around 6, which is later than he ends the day. My progress was a lot slower during this chunk of time and I got distracted easily. 

In total, I wrote 1530 words, which came out to four pages. A page short of how much Stroud tends to write everyday, but for me personally it was a pretty good total.

“Each day I kept strict records of what I achieved; each day I tottered a little nearer my goal. Five pages per working day was my aim, and sometimes I made this easily. Other times I fell woefully short. Some days I was happy with what I got down; some days I could scarcely believe the drivel that clogged up the page. But quality was not the issue right then. Quality could wait. This wasn’t the moment for genteel self-editing. This was the time when the novel had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into existence, and that meant piling up the pages.” -Jonathan Stroud


J: I encourage any of you writers out there to try something like this. Pick one of your favorite authors, see if you can find their writing schedule online, and try it out! You can learn a lot about what works for you, and what doesn’t. You may find a trick that you would never have thought to try that works super well for you, or you may spend the day not writing anything. Either way, experimentation is super helpful. There’s a channel on YouTube called Kate Cavanaugh where she tries out the schedules of many famous authors, and she has a lot of helpful tips. 

M: It’s a great way to see if the routine is something that helps you, even if you think you already know how and when you like to write. I was surprised that I worked so well in the morning, so I will probably start working then on a regular basis. The afternoon was not a good time for me, so I would stick to late evening writing sessions as well.

J: Another positive part of this is you can sometimes do more than you thought you were capable of. Maybe you can write 5,000 words in 4 hours. You’ll never know unless you try.

“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” —Christopher Robin

M: The routine wasn’t perfect for me, but it was definitely worth trying. I ended up writing more than I usually do and thought about how I want to go about scheduling my writing. I only did it for one day, but it still had a positive impact on my novel.

J: Doing it with a buddy can also be super helpful. Mya and I had a steady dialogue throughout the day, updating each other on word counts and struggles and scenes. It was great for motivation. We even did some writing sprints with Carlye. 

M: Plus, it was fun to experience firsthand the process my favorite author uses to write his amazing books! In general, writing with friends can be super helpful and a good bonding experience. 

J: All in all, it’s a total adventure and I totally recommend it!

M: I’m planning to follow more of my favorite authors’ routines in the future and see how else I can improve my writing sessions.


(Quote sources: https://nanowrimo.org/pep-talk-from-jonathan-stroud; https://parade.com/935628/parade/winnie-the-pooh-quotes/ ) 

7 Deep and Meaningful MG and YA Books

Greetings! I hope all of you are doing well. Some of you are probably dying of boredom, while others have just as much to do as usual. Either way, book recommendations can’t hurt, right?

These are some books that I’ve found quite thought-provoking/deep/meaningful/wholesome. They’re the books that really resonate with you and make you think about the world around you in a different way. Many of these are dystopian, but those books really do make you reflect.

A Monster Calls

Synopsis:

An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor.

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting – he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth.

I went into this book blind, not expecting the raw, heart wrenching story I found in those beautifully illustrated pages. I was expecting more of a thriller. I wasn’t disappointed in the least, but I thought I should throw that out there.

Conor’s story is a touching one indeed, and also very different. Prepare to cry and not be able to stop thinking about this after you finish. The dark and dramatic illustrations make the themes of life, death, and grief hit you even harder. So definitely read that edition.

A Time to Die

Synopsis:

How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?

Parvin Blackwater has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside.

In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the crooked justice system. But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall — her people’s death sentence.

What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her Clock is running out.

This entire trilogy is life-changing. The themes are super important, and the way Nadine Brandes tackles them in her books continues to inspire me as a writer. This book isn’t preachy, but it boldly woven with powerful truths. With a strong and relatable cast of characters, a gripping plot, and rich world, what’s there not to love? It stands out among the many shallow, hopeless dystopian books out there. No matter what genres you typically read, I urge you to pick this trilogy up.

The Hunger Games

Synopsis:

WINNING MEANS FAME AND FORTUNE.
LOSING MEANS CERTAIN DEATH.
THE HUNGER GAMES HAVE BEGUN. . . .

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and once girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weight survival against humanity and life against love.

At first, I wasn’t interested in reading this wildly hyped trilogy because I thought it would just be senseless killing for an entertainment. I was wrong. It is a darker read with killing and other tragedies, but it is very thought-provoking. As for A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, I have yet to read it. But I look forward to seeing what it has to add to this iconic series.

Anne of Green Gables

Synosis:

As soon as Anne Shirley arrives at the snug white farmhouse called Green Gables, she is sure she wants to stay forever . . . but will the Cuthberts send her back to to the orphanage? Anne knows she’s not what they expected—a skinny girl with fiery red hair and a temper to match. If only she can convince them to let her stay, she’ll try very hard not to keep rushing headlong into scrapes and blurting out the first thing that comes to her mind. Anne is not like anyone else, the Cuthberts agree; she is special—a girl with an enormous imagination. This orphan girl dreams of the day when she can call herself Anne of Green Gables.

I read this for the first time as a teenager, but I found it just as lovable. Anne’s vivid personality makes her a believable protagonist you can’t help but root for. Reading about her as she grew up felt quite nostalgic and sweet. Anne’s love for life and joy found in the simple things had me reflecting on our world and wanting to think a little more like her.

Salt to the Sea

Synopsis:

While the Titanic and Lusitania are both well-documented disasters, the single greatest tragedy in maritime history is the little-known January 30, 1945 sinking in the Baltic Sea by a Soviet submarine of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German cruise liner that was supposed to ferry wartime personnel and refugees to safety from the advancing Red Army. The ship was overcrowded with more than 10,500 passengers — the intended capacity was approximately 1,800 — and more than 9,000 people, including 5,000 children, lost their lives.

Sepetys (writer of ‘Between Shades of Gray’) crafts four fictionalized but historically accurate voices to convey the real-life tragedy. Joana, a Lithuanian with nursing experience; Florian, a Prussian soldier fleeing the Nazis with stolen treasure; and Emilia, a Polish girl close to the end of her pregnancy, converge on their escape journeys as Russian troops advance; each will eventually meet Albert, a Nazi peon with delusions of grandeur, assigned to the Gustloff decks.

It’s been a long time since I read this book, but I remember that it was heartbreaking. This overlooked tragedy should really be taught to people. Ruta Sepetys wrote about these distinct characters in such a real way that you could never be truly prepared for the end. This is a beautiful novel that I will definitely be revisiting in the (hopefully) near future.

In 27 Days

Synopsis:

Hadley Jamison is shocked when she hears that her classmate, Archer Morales, has committed suicide. She didn’t know the quiet, reserved guy very well, but that doesn’t stop her from feeling there was something she could have done to help him.

Hoping to find some sense of closure, Hadley attends Archer’s funeral. There, Hadley is approached by a man who calls himself Death and offers her a deal. If Hadley accepts, she will be sent back 27 days in time to prevent Archer from killing himself. But when Hadley agrees to Death’s terms and goes back to right the past, she quickly learns her mission is harder than she ever could have known.

Hadley soon discovers Archer’s reasons for being alone, and Archer realizes that having someone to confide in isn’t as bad as he’d always thought. But when a series of dangerous accidents starts pushing them apart, Hadley must decide whether she is ready to risk everything – including her life – to keep Archer safe.

This book was probably my favorite I read last year, and definitely on my favorite-books-of-all-time list. It is so wholesome and meaningful and I fell in love from the beginning. We rave about this one a lot here on the blog, but for good reason.

The City of Ember

Synopsis:

Many hundreds of years ago, the city of Ember was created by the Builders to contain everything needed for human survival. It worked…but now the storerooms are almost out of food, crops are blighted, corruption is spreading through the city and worst of all—the lights are failing. Soon Ember could be engulfed by darkness…

But when two children, Lina and Doon, discover fragments of an ancient parchment, they begin to wonder if there could be a way out of Ember. Can they decipher the words from long ago and find a new future for everyone? Will the people of Ember listen to them? 

The most prominent way this book was meaningful to me was appreciating the world and opportunities we have. The plot and characters were fun and engaging. Despite the dark, bare setting it takes place in, the book was ultimately hopeful. I admit to crying happy tears over the lovely and impacting ending.


Thank you so much for reading this lengthy post! I hope that if you end up reading these books, they mean something to you. Have a lovely day,

A Plethora of Quarantine Reviews

Hello dear readers! I have been reading a lot lately. I have a stack of library books that comes up to my knee on the floor of my bedroom, with more to come. So I figured I would review a bunch of books today. Five to be exact. This is going to be a pretty long post, so let’s get right into it.

Moonscript by H.S.J Williams

3.5/5 stars

Blurb: “It is said that Darkness is empty and whatever vanishes into its depths is lost forever. I know this better than anyone. For I have suffered here in the shadows, and there are none who might find me.”

Seventy years. Seventy years the elven prince has been lost to the darkness, assumed dead by his people and endlessly broken for a book that connects to the hidden realm of his ancestors, a land untouched by evil.

And now a light in the shadows. A chance for freedom. But those willing to help him come from the unlikeliest of worlds.

The orphan girl, yearning for a loving family, and the boy who won’t leave her side. A healer maiden given an unexpected chance for a life beyond narrowed expectations. A grieving creature flown far from home.

They all search for something and now their fates are tied to his. If their quest for life can pull him from the dark mire in which his soul drowns, then perhaps he can be saved.

Or else he will drag them all down to a fate worse than death.

The beginning of an epic saga, MOONSCRIPT is a journey of innocence, despair, and redemption.

Overall:

I have friends who loved this book with every fiber of their being (Looking at you, Hannah) but I didn’t love it. I didn’t dislike it, I didn’t dread picking it up every time I read it. I did finish it. I just didn’t get super into it. 

There are a lot of people out there who do and would love this book. If you love large scale adventure stories, elves, and great themes, be sure to check it out. Fans of Lord of The Rings, this book is right up your alley. 

What I loved:

Themes: The themes in this book were presented very well. You’re are never too far gone to be forgiven, there is a family out there for everyone, the loyalty of friends. Overall, the themes were great. 

Descriptions: There was a lot of setting description, some of it beautifully poetic. I could imagine every place the characters went. 

What I didn’t love:

Characters: The characters are where I really struggled with this book. I felt that the only character who truly had an arc was Errance. And, other than small paragraphs at the beginning of each chapter, we never really got to see the world from his point of view. My favorite character, Kelm, was a sweet and honest young man. While he was a rather flat character, I did enjoy it when he was on the page. All in all, I never really got invested in the characters, which made the rest of the reading experience less immersive and less suspenseful. 

Plot: I didn’t dislike the plot of this book, per se. I just I never really got into it. The reason for that, however, is because I didn’t really get into the characters. 

I was given an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. These were my honest thoughts. 

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

5/5 stars

Blurb: A sinister Problem has occurred in London: all nature of ghosts, haunts, spirits, and specters are appearing throughout the city, and they aren’t exactly friendly. Only young people have the psychic abilities required to see-and eradicate-these supernatural foes. Many different Psychic Detection Agencies have cropped up to handle the dangerous work, and they are in fierce competition for business.

In The Screaming Staircase, the plucky and talented Lucy Carlyle teams up with Anthony Lockwood, the charismatic leader of Lockwood & Co, a small agency that runs independent of any adult supervision. After an assignment leads to both a grisly discovery and a disastrous end, Lucy, Anthony, and their sarcastic colleague, George, are forced to take part in the perilous investigation of Combe Carey Hall, one of the most haunted houses in England. Will Lockwood & Co. survive the Hall’s legendary Screaming Staircase and Red Room to see another day?

Readers who enjoyed the action, suspense, and humor in Jonathan Stroud’s internationally best-selling Bartimaeus books will be delighted to find the same ingredients, combined with deliciously creepy scares, in his thrilling and chilling Lockwood & Co. series.

Overall:

This book had been sitting on my TBR for ages, due to a friend of mine with obvious great taste (Thanks, Evie) and when Mya got the first book for me for Christmas (Thanks, Mya) I finally got around to reading it.

I was skeptical at first since paranormal fiction had never even been on my radar as something I would read. Ghost hunting teenagers? Not my cup of tea (British pun very much intended). Or so I thought. 

I was very wrong. This book had me hooked in seconds. 

Fans of Sherlock, immersive world-building, engaging character development, and a touch of horror (I don’t generally like horror, and I liked it) would love this read.

What I loved:

Characters: I. LOVE. THESE. CHARACTERS. The Screaming Staircase is told in first person from the perspective of the fiery Lucy Carlyle. The other two main characters are the fearless Anthony J. Lockwood and sarcastic George Cubbins. All three of them stole my heart, especially when they were all together, arguing about cookies or ghosts. Lucy’s narration and perspective on the other characters made this book so immersive, and her sass and stubbornness are amazingly portrayed. Anthony Lockwood is a secretive character whose past is elaborated on as the series continues. Despite the mystery surrounding his childhood, his personality is clear and very entertaining. And then there’s George Cubbins. Though he first comes off as abrasive, he quickly grows on you and his humor makes potentially dark scenes a lot lighter. 

Plot: Despite the fact that I would read about these characters doing literally anything, the plot is super unique and engaging. It showcases all of the character’s flaws and quirks so wonderfully and had me invested and intrigued right up until the end. 

Description: Atmospheric is the only word. All the settings in this book were so vivid, from the streets of London to the clutter of 35 Portland Row to the eerie haunted houses the characters visit throughout the book. I could also imagine each character with extreme clarity. 

Flashbacks: I rarely see a more excellent use of flashbacks than is utilized in this series. They reveal so much about the characters and add so much depth, without wrecking the flow of the overall story.

Suspense: Not gonna lie, parts of this book (and the whole series) legitimately scared me. I’m a total wimp when it comes to horror of any kind, so it’s not much of a surprise. However, the humor in this book balanced the suspense out beautifully. It succeeded in having me on the edge of my seat without giving me nightmares. 

Themes: The characters certainly grew over the course of the book, and much more so over the course of the series. Themes like learning to trust yourself and others, dealing with grief and fear, and many others were showcased. It added another layer of excellency to the books. Although they didn’t change my life or inspire me greatly, they contributed very well to the story.

What I didn’t love:

Ending: I didn’t have a problem with the ending, just the fact that it ended. 

Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter

5/5 stars. All the stars.

Blurb: April didn’t mean to start the fire. She wasn’t the one who broke the vase. April didn’t ask to go live in a big, creepy mansion with a bunch of orphans who just don’t understand that April isn’t like them. After all, April’s mother is coming back for her someday very soon.

All April has to do is find the clues her mother left inside the massive mansion. But Winterborne House is hiding more than one secret, so April and her friends are going to have to work together to unravel the riddle of a missing heir, a creepy legend, and a mysterious key before the only home they’ve ever known is lost to them forever.

Overall:

Ally Carter is one of my favorite authors, so when I heard she was writing a middle-grade book I was thrilled. I had high expectations for this book, and they were blown out of the water. It’s like everything Ally Carter had ever written was building up to this glorious novel. 

I smiled throughout this whole book. 

What I loved:

Characters: These characters stole my heart and didn’t give it back. They will have it for all eternity. April is the perfect main character for this story, and she was the perfect balance between clever and a kid. Violet is a shy girl who is amazing at art and really grows over the course of the book. And you can’t mention Violet without mentioning Tim, her “guard dog” during her time in the foster care system. Each little glimpse into is past casts him in a new light and I can’t wait to learn more about him as the story continues. Next is the adorable Sadie, inventor extraordinaire, even if her inventions often… malfunction. And finally, Colin. Up and coming con-man, British, and probably my favorite character in the book. They all have their pasts and quirks, but my favorite thing about these characters is that they’re kids.

Plot: This book had a mystery element to it that propelled the story along in a series of questions, answers, and more questions. The characters drove the plot, which made it much more engaging. Saying much more would give away some of the excellent plot twists, so I’ll leave it there. 

Themes: I’m a sucker for found-family stories, and this is the epitome of that trope. It leaves you with that warm and fuzzy feeling and is one of my favorite themes ever. Your family isn’t just who you’re related to. That’s just the best. 

Description: Although the descriptions aren’t as atmospheric as books like The Screaming Staircase or Caraval, Ally Carter used them as a way to expand on April as a character, and how she sees the world, which I just loved. 

What I didn’t love:

I have no complaints. Ally Carter is a genius.

In 27 Days (Blink) by Alison Gervais

4.5/5 stars

Blurb: Hadley Jamison is shocked when she hears that her classmate, Archer Morales, has committed suicide. She didn’t know the quiet, reserved guy very well, but that doesn’t stop her from feeling there was something she could have done to help him.

Hoping to find some sense of closure, Hadley attends Archer’s funeral. There, she is approached by a man who calls himself Death and offers her a deal. If Hadley accepts, she will be sent back twenty-seven days in time to prevent Archer from killing himself. But when Hadley agrees to Death’s terms and goes back to right the past, she quickly learns her mission is harder than she ever could have known.

Time ticks away as Hadley looks for ways to not only talk to Archer but to know him on a deeper level. But just as she and Archer connect, a series of dangerous accidents starts pushing them apart. Hadley must decide whether she is ready to risk everything—including her life—to keep Archer alive.

Overall:

Carlye and Mya recommended this one to me, so I grabbed the kindle copy from the library. It’s safe to say that those two know what they’re talking about. I read it all at once, almost walked into a few walls too, I couldn’t put it down.

What I loved:

Characters: I found the characters in this book interesting. Main character Hadley could have had some more internal conflict, in my opinion, since most of her conflict was linked with Archer. Archer was developed very well, and his huge Italian family was absolutely amazing.

Plot: I knew from the blurb that this book was going to be very unique and deal with some heavy topics, such as suicide. I thought it was done very well, and was presented in a very considerate and realistic way. It focused on the real effects and consequences of suicide and was very impactful.

Themes: The themes in this book were tied so closely with the plot, so I feel like I already touched on them, but again it was a very impactful read.

What I didn’t love:

Pacing: The pacing was a little off for me during certain parts of the book. The climax especially felt a bit rushed.

Dear Ally, How Do You Write a Book? By Ally Carter

5/5 stars

Blurb: Have you always wanted to write a book, but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you’re really great at writing the first few chapters . . . but you never quite make it to the end? Or do you finally have a finished manuscript, but you’re not sure what to do next? Fear not — if you have writing-related questions, this book has answers!

Whether you’re writing for fun or to build a career, bestselling author Ally Carter is ready to help you make your work shine. With honesty, encouragement, and humor, Ally’s ready here to answer the questions that writers struggle with the most.

Filled with practical tips and helpful advice, Dear Ally is a treasure for aspiring writers at any stage of their careers. It offers a behind-the-scenes look at how books get made, from idea to publication, and gives you insight into the writing processes of some of the biggest and most talented YA authors writing today.

Overall:

This is the only non-fiction book I’m reviewing today, so I wont be going over characters and plot and stuff like that.

This book was super helpful, and I recommend it to writers everywhere. It had really great perspective on plotting vs panting, editing, outlining and a bunch of other stuff. It had solutions to so many writing problems that I was having. I also loved that it wasn’t just Ally’s answers, she got input from a ton of other authors to, which showed a lot of different methods. 10/10 recommend.


Woo, that was a long post, but I hope at least one of these books interested you. I can vouch for the fact that they’re wonderful time-passers during quarantine.

Until next time,

Interview with author P.D. Atkerson

Today I come to you with an exclusive interview with PD Atkerson, the author of the AKA Simon Lee series and the Of Aleanare series.

You check both of the series out on Goodreads here.

So without further ado, I present to you the interview that is long overdue.

1. Where did you get the inspiration for Simon Lee from?

If I had to pick, I’d probably say it’s a mix of the Alex Rider books and the White Collar TV show, though my books are a lot different from them as well.

2. Where do you write most often?

I probably do ninety percent of my writing in the main room in our house. The rest of the time I write either in bed or at my desk.

3. Which three fictional characters are you most like?

My mom and sister say Mozzie (from White Collar ironically), Rita Haywith (from Sign, Sealed, Delivered), and Frodo. Because I couldn’t pick them. 🙂

4. What is your favourite childhood book?

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

5. When did you write and complete your first novel?

I finished a couple three or four years ago, but I never published them and I’d burn them if my mom would let me. 🙂 The first book I finished and published was last January.

6. Do you have any hobbies outside of reading and writing?

Does learning French count? Other than that, I’d probably say Cardistry, though I’m not very good at it and most of the time I forget about it too. Maybe low carb baking too.

7. 5 songs that remind you of the latest book you’ve written

Oh, that’s a hard one! This might be more of songs I listened to while I was writing: Even Then, by Micah Tyler, Let You Down, by NF, Yes & No, by David Dunn, Human, by Rag’n’Bone Man and LOL maybe They Call Me Mando, by ChewieCatt, but that might have had something to do with watching the Mandalorian.

8. If you could go back and change something about one of your books, what would you change?

Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have published my fantasy books. I don’t know if it was because I’m not good at writing fantasy, or something else, but they just weren’t as good as I’d hoped they’d be.

9. Who is your favourite character that you’ve written?

That would probably have to be Lee, without much of a hesitation. That might have something to do with the fact that he’s sarcastic, and I may or may not be. LOL 

10. The best or meaningful snippet that is included in one of your books

“When you were little, I always made sure you went to church, but it was never your choice,” his dad said. “I don’t even know if you ever believed what you were learning. But I know you’re smart enough to know that no one can make you believe any of it. You have to make the choice on your own.”

Lee sighed and just nodded, fighting the urge to run out of the room. This was something his brains couldn’t help him with.

His dad placed his hand on Lee’s shoulder and forced him to look at him. “Do you know what we celebrate this time of year, besides delicious food?” he asked. “We celebrate the birth of Jesus, of Hope. But even more than that, we celebrate the forgiveness God gave us when he sent his son.”


Once again, you must go and take a look at her books, they’re pretty awesome.

I hope everyone has a wonderful day!

Writing Endings and Saying Goodbye

Endings: one of the hardest parts of the writing process.

When you commit to writing a novel, you’re not just putting words on paper– you’re embarking on a journey. You’re diving into the hearts and minds of real human beings (even if they’re not biologically human– don’t give me that excuse) and seeing the world through their eyes, pushing them through the joys and hardships of life, watching them grow and bond and develop. Some live and some die. But even the best novel ever written has to end somewhere.

Of course, writing an ending doesn’t meant you’re saying goodbye for good– these are your characters, and this is your story, so they’ll be with you forever! But the same doesn’t exactly go for your readers; they’ll expect and want a good ending when it comes to that. So here are three tips to make your ending impact your reader as much as that long-ago first line.

#1: Coming Full-Circle

This is when the first line/beginning of your story ties in with the ending by including the same phrase or situation. I LOVE it when books come full-circle, especially with long series!

Here’s an example from Jill Williamson’s Mission League series (which I really recommend, by the way!):

Beginning: The first book opens with Spencer playing basketball with C-Rok and his “gang” in the park. This hook, while seemingly small in the long course of the four-book series, does serve to lead into the major events that bring Spencer into a new– and much more thrilling– chapter of his life.

End: The very last scene of book four at the end of the series brings Spencer back to the old park and once again playing a game with C-Rok and his boys. In this way, this series brought the story full-circle.

I had another example coming your way, but I conveniently forgot what it was while writing the above xD

#2: Waiting ’til the End

Here’s a don’t for endings… Please don’t wait until the last minute to tie up an alarming subplot or storyline or questions the reader might have. Please do that BEFORE the resolution of the story, or at least long enough before the very last scene that you don’t end up just telling the reader what really happened. Say you’re writing a romance story, and earlier on in the story someone disappeared in suspicious circumstances.

If the very last scene is a wedding or proposal scene (because let’s be honest here, most romance stories do end that way), it would be jarring for you to suddenly mention “and as it turned out, Bob had not died but in fact had just been taking a really long time at the grocery store” whether that be spoken directly or in the narrative. Readers become disgruntled when their questions aren’t answered in a timely fashion (or at least I do, especially when I don’t like super-sweet romantic ending scenes).

#3: Give room for further development

Remember, this may be the end of your story, but it’s far from the end of theirs.

Your characters will still keep living and growing even without their stories being committed to paper, or at least you can give the illusion of that by teasing into their future lives in your ending. I mean, you could just have a really big dramatic climax and then they calmly walk off the battlefield, but I’m sure we all prefer nice, solid, resolute endings where we can feel fully satisfied that the end is just the beginning.

It also gives the reader a nice, solid, resolute feeling of the story having actually ended– by not ending the characters’ lives (I mean that in the most figurative way possible). Every person continues growing and learning throughout every stage of their life– unless they don’t, but we’re using positive change arcs in this example– and single arcs are really just capturing one stage. That way, the readers can feel as if these characters are moving on to another.


And with that… the time has come for a rather bittersweet announcement.

This post is my last here on TotLS. I’ve had such a wonderful time among this community and the other three girls, and I’m so happy for this experience. But, yes, for multiple reasons, I’m officially leaving the TotLS team this week. I’ll still be posting on my personal blog, Imperial Scribis, and I’ll be putting up writing-related stuff from time to time, so come say hello!

But this is my goodbye on this amazing platform. So cheers, everyone, and don’t forget to always be a happy camper!

Until we meet again,

~ Merie Shen