Tag Archives: reading

September & October Recap 2019

So…it’s been a while. Hi! Sorry I haven’t posted a blog in a long time. Which is something that I’m very sad to say I missed out on. For some personal reasons and the business of life, I had to set blogging aside. That said, I’m back again! Though I don’t know how frequently I’ll be posting, I’ll try to keep up with these monthly recaps again.

So far in my life, last time I updated, I got engaged! My fiancé and I went looking at venues in the beginning of October and finally settled on one! We’re very excited to be planning our wedding! This past week I’ve been really sick, so I’m trying to recover. Luckily I’m starting to feel better!

What I Wrote:

Back in September, I was 18k words into my YA Foreign Princess WIP. I am very happy to say that I officially completed writing that book! I also went through several rounds of revisions for my adult fantasy romance, and submitted it to Pitch Wars! I made a lot of progress and am very proud of myself.

What I Read:

Total: 14

Between September and October, I read fourteen books!

Before I Disappear by Danielle Stinson ★☆☆☆☆

I really, really did not like this book. I felt like the plot was very jumpy and all over the place; the story didn’t make any sense, and it was really repetitive. This one was not for me.

Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin ★★★☆☆

I wanted to love this book, I really did. This book had so much hype built around it and I was very excited to dive in. While I was enjoying most of the book – it was the end that really lost. I found the entire last act of this book to be very contrived, full of conveniences, and the ending had no emotional impact for me. I didn’t hate this book, but I definitely didn’t think it was worth the hype.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid ★★★★★

My CP gifted this book to me for my birthday and I LOVED it. It was a very well-written, well-plotted, and well-placed read with a great cast of characters. I highly recommend this one!

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman ★☆☆☆☆

I saw this at Target several times before I finally decided to pick it up. Unfortunately, I just didn’t connect with this story the way I wanted to. There was nothing creepy or thrilling about this, and I felt like I was reading the same kind of thriller I’ve read dozens of times before.

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Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly ★☆☆☆☆

Another book I’m really disappointed by. I wanted to love this one, especially since it was in my anticipated reads, but I found this book to be so…I don’t know. The characters weren’t interesting, the plot was silly, and I discovered that I really don’t like my fantasy to blend in with realism. I just didn’t connect with this one, and had to force myself to finish.

The Babysitter by Sherly Brown ★☆☆☆☆

I bought this as a two-in-one book at Target. Unfortunately, this was another thriller that I just didn’t find to be “thrilling.” While the writing was fine and the story fast-paced, the biggest problem with this book was that the main twist is given away in the prologue. Our antagonist also gets their own POV, so there was never any mystery behind their actions or motivations, and it just didn’t sit well with me.

The Affair by Sheryl Brown ★★☆☆☆

Because this was part of the two-in-one book, I went ahead and read this one, too. While I liked it a little better than The Babysitter, this one still just wasn’t something I couldn’t connect with.

Party Games by R.L. Stine ★★★★☆

If you didn’t know, I love R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series. This is the first book in his new relaunch of the series, and I picked it up a couple years ago when it first came out, but never got around to reading. While yes the plot is a little predictable, and the writing geared at a younger audience, as a lifelong Fear Street fan I just couldn’t help but enjoy this book.

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Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica ★★★★☆

This is one of those rare books that I enjoyed almost every minute of. I liked the characters, the writing, the plot – almost everything. While I wished the ending would’ve been a little more impactful, I did enjoy this book a lot.

One Night at the Lake by Bethany Chase ★★★☆☆

When I picked this up, I actually thought it was a thriller! Turns out it was Women’s Fiction, which I don’t normally read. Whoops! That said, I was enjoying this book – until the final twist. I just have so many conflicting feelings about how this book ended and I’m not sure how to feel about it.

The Good Sister by Gillian McAllister ★★★★★

Like Every Last Lie, this is a rare thriller that I enjoyed from start to finish. The court-room drama, the twists, and the constant guessing kept me on my toes!

The Missing Season by Gillian French ★★☆☆☆

Oh man, I’m disappointed. I specifically picked this one up, thinking it would be perfect book for spooky season. A new girl moves to town only to learn about the urban legend of “The Mumbler”, a man who kidnaps and kills bad kids on Halloween? This should’ve had everything I wanted and instead…it didn’t. The urban legend plot is shoved the side instead, and most of the book revolves around Clara adjusting to her new life and finding friends. It was such a bore.

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A Game For All The Family by Sophie Hanna ★☆☆☆☆

Again – this book should’ve had everything I wanted in a thriller: a compelling mystery, intrigue, perhaps a ghost? No. Instead, I got a boring plotline with an annoying main character. I struggled to push myself through this one, and was skimming by the end.

Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young ★★★★☆

This has been one of my favorites of the year – and this book had everything I could’ve wanted! An interesting main characters, a boarding school, mysterious things happening, strange behavior…I really enjoyed this one! I struggle to give this one 5 stars since I wasn’t blown away, but I highly recommend reading!

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What I’m Watching:

My fiancé and I started our rewatch of Lost and we’re already halfway through Season 4. Gonna be honest and say that Lost is one of my all-time favorite shows! What’s yours?

I also watched You and I started watching Designated Survivor. I’ve never really been into political thrillers before, but this one intrigued me.

Currently Reading:

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How I Did: September & October Goals

At the beginning of September, I gave myself several goals:

• Finish writing Foreign Princess WIP
• Organize list of literary agents
• Get submission materials ready for Pitch Wars
• Submit to Pitch Wars
• Plot out adult fantasy WIP sequel

I’m happy to say I completed 4 out of 5 of these goals! The only one I didn’t get around to was plotting out my sequel, but I’m pretty sure that’ll still take a while. Since I finished my Foreign Princess WIP in early October, I decided to spend the rest of the month taking a writing break!

November Goals:

• Plot out new adult fantasy romance WIP
• Plot out YA Alice in Wonderland Retelling Idea
• Do one more small revision for Forbidden
•Begin querying Forbidden
• Reread my YA Thriller and decide if I want to pursue working on it or not
• Plot out Forbidden sequel


How is everyone’s fall? What was everyone up to while I was gone? Let me know!

XOXO – Devon

Writing Advice I Wish I’d Learned Sooner

I’ve been writing almost consistently for fifteen years now. Once I realized I could put my ideas down on paper, I’ve never been able to stop. The last fifteen years of my writing journey have been a whirlwind of learning my process, learning the writing craft, getting involved in the writing community, and so much more. But in all that time, there are three things I wish I’d known before I ever started on my writing and publishing journey. If I could go back in time and tell my younger self these three pieces of writing advice, I absolutely would.

So, what three pieces of advice do I wish I’d learned?

1.) Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
2.) Read – and Read a Lot
3.) Writing is Rewriting

I’m sure you’ve heard these pieces of writing advice before. But when I first started writing, we didn’t have the internet to look up common writing advice, or search Youtube for “newbie author mistakes”, and so on. Through trial and error, I made huge writing mistakes, but had I known these three tips beforehand, I’m sure I could’ve avoided them – and I want to help you avoid them, too!

1.) Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

This tip isn’t just limited to writing. You’ve probably heard it in regards to many different areas of life. But for me, it really means one thing: Don’t put all your hopes and dreams into one story idea.

I wrote my first novel when I was twelve, and fell head over heels in love with the idea. So much so that it took over my entire writing life. I rewrote that first novel – from scratch – about eleven times. I queried it endlessly. I even wrote the sequels. And as you can imagine, my journey through the query trenches resulted in…nothing. No response, no literary agent.

I finally had to trunk it.

But this led me down a path of wondering what to write next. Sure, I had other ideas in my head, but for the last almost ten years of my life, I had only pursued that one novel. I’d never branched out, never written another idea. I didn’t even know if I was capable of writing another novel.

But I was.

It was a very long and hard journey in teaching myself how to write another book. While I don’t regret rewriting that novel over and over again – it definitely helped me develop my own process and a writing habit – the anxiety, depression, and overwhelming sense of failure of not knowing if I was capable of writing another book is something I wouldn’t want to wish on any writer out there.

Remember: just because you have to put your project aside and work on something else, it doesn’t mean you’re giving up. Put all of your heart and soul into the book you’re writing, but don’t limit yourself to that one idea. You do have other ideas inside of you, and you are capable of writing them.

2.) Read – and Read a Lot

If you haven’t read my “How Reading Made Me a Better Writer” blog post, I’ll link it here, as it goes more in-depth on what I want to touch on for this tip.

I’d been an avid reader most of my life. It wasn’t until I hit my late teens and early twenties that I suddenly lost my love of reading. I wanted to read, but nothing on the shelf caught my interest. I wasn’t interested in fantasy either, which had become widely popular. I was only reading – maybe – a couple of books a year.

It wasn’t until one day that I realized I wasn’t “leveling up” as a writer. My writing reached a level where it wasn’t improving. I didn’t know the popular tropes and clichés, or why some books were bestsellers and others weren’t. I realized that if I wanted to be a professional writer, and have a life in this business, that I needed to bust my butt and actually pick up reading again.

So I did.

And I vastly improved in so many ways. From my writing craft, to my knowledge of the interest – everything about me and my writing improved. Since then, I’ve become an avid reader once again, and I read several books a month now. Reading can do so much for you, not as just a wonderful hobby, but

As Stephen King says, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”

3.) Writing is Rewriting

For the longest time I never understood this concept:

“What do you mean I have to rewrite the book?”
“I just finished the first draft. You mean I have to write everything all over again?”

Those – and other misconceptions – wracked my brain whenever I heard this piece of writing advice. But guess what? It’s true.

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to write your entire book from scratch, like I’d been led to believe. What this really means is that the first draft of anything you write will be crap. It will have awkward phrasing and prose, character motivations might not be clear, the dialogue might be stilted and awkward, crucial descriptions might be missing…and the only way to fix these issues to rewrite what you’d already written.

But having all of that in your first draft doesn’t make you a bad writer. Every writer in the history of writers has had to revise their books. It’s just part of the process.
When I first started writing, I didn’t understand this. I thought my first drafts were fine after a little reread and some editing – but I was very wrong.

Every novel needs time to sit after you’ve finished writing it. Every writer needs to come back to their project with a clear mind, so they can see what is and isn’t working within the manuscript, and that’s why getting feedback from outside sources is so important, too.

This is a concept I wish I’d understood years ago. If I’d known this sooner and given my earlier manuscripts time to sit and get feedback on them – and then give them the revisions they deserve – I wonder how much of a better chance I’d have had at hooking a literary agent. This is one piece of advice I’ve had to learn the hard way, but I’m so glad I understand it now.

Learning these three pieces of writing advice have helped me tremendously, and I hope they help you too!


Have any other pieces of writing advice you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!

XOXO – Devon

Questions to Ask Beta Readers (My List)

Since we talked all about beta readers a few weeks ago, today, I thought I’d share my list of questions that I send out to my own betas. When I was first looking for betas back in the end of February, I came up with this list, and have been sending it out each time I enlist a beta. I find this list touches on everything that will help me as a writer know what needs to be fixed.

The important thing is to make sure you’re asking clear, concise questions that betas can answer easily. If you need more feedback based on something within the world, or a character, be sure to ask more detailed questions regarding that certain subject.

Note: This list is tailored to my own tastes and what I’m looking for betas to answer. Feel free to copy this list and switch it up to meet your own needs!

#1: Did you notice any obvious repeating grammatical, spelling, punctuation, or capitalization errors? Examples?
#2: Is there anything about the world-building that doesn’t make sense and could use elaboration? If so, please explain.
#3: Did the setting interest you? Was the world vivid in your imagination?
#4: Did the story hold your interest from the very beginning? Why or Why not?
#5: Were there any parts that confused you?
#6: Did you notice any inconsistencies? If so, where/what?
#7: Were there any spots where the story lagged or you lost interest? If so, why and where?
#8: Were there any scenes that bored you or had you skipping pages? Why?
#9: Was there enough conflict, tension, and intrigue to hold your interest?
#10: Were any parts of the plot predictable?
#11: What grabbed your attention most?
#12: Were you confused by the multiple POV’s?
#13: Who was your favorite POV? Why?
#14: Who was your least favorite POV? Why?
#15: What was your favorite and least favorite part of the book?
#16: Did the climax feel climactic, was the payoff in the end worth reading the whole book?
#17: Was the end satisfying?
#18: If this book were part of a series, would you pick up the sequel?
#19: What was your immediate thought after finishing the book?
#20: Lastly, why did you keep reading?
Bonus Question: Is there any way I can repay you for taking your valuable time to read my work? I am available to return the favor of a beta read as well!


What do you think of this list? Are you going to use it the next time you’re looking for betas? Let me know in the comments!

XOXO – Devon

The 101 on Beta Readers (And Where to Find Them)

One of the most important steps in an author’s writing journey is getting feedback on their work. No matter if you’ve written your first draft or your tenth, feedback is always valuable. As authors, we are so close to our own work that it can be difficult to catch mistakes – whether they be plot holes, character inconsistencies, or pacing. This is where having a beta reader comes in.

Critique Partners and Beta Readers

Critique Partners

A critique partner – or CP, for short – is a fellow writer on the same journey as you. Unlike beta readers, who will be reading the work as a whole, a CP will help you look at your work on a more personal level. They’ll help you spot plot holes, character and world inconsistencies, help you brainstorm ideas, and so much more. With your CP, they’ll not only be looking at your own work with a close eye, but you’ll also be looking at their work as well.

It’s both polite, and common curtesy, to give back what you receive. Don’t be a bad CP and take their feedback without giving some of your own!

More often than not, by gaining a CP, you also gain a friendship. Having someone in your corner who roots for you every step of the way is so helpful in the writing process.

Beta Readers

Beta readers – or simply known as betas – can be writers themselves, or just people who love to read. Unlike CP’s, who will most likely know your book inside and out, a beta will go into your book with fresh eyes, unknowing what awaits inside, much like a reader would if they picked your book off the shelf.

A betas feedback is beneficial, as they’ll tell you how they felt about the book as a whole. Did they like the story? Did it grip them the entire way through? Were there any parts where the pacing dragged? These are all things betas will be able to point out to you. They’ll be able to tell where the weakest and strongest parts of the novel are in a way that the writer – who’s so close to the project – can’t always see.

While you can enlist family and friends to be beta readers for you, it’s best to find someone who has an unbiased opinion of you and your work. Your family and friends most likely won’t be honest with their feedback, in an attempt not to hurt your feelings, so finding someone who can lay on the hard truths about your work is more beneficial to your growth as a writer.

NOTE: A beta reader and CP are in no way obligated to do any editing for your novel. Don’t expect them to do line edits, copy edits, developmental edits, etc…unless you and your CP or beta have specifically agreed to exchange any type of editing for one another.

But How Do You Find Them?

The only way to find beta readers and critique partners is to get involved in the Writing Community. I find Twitter in particular to be the easiest place to meet writers, but there are plenty of other places, too.

Twitter Hashtags and Chats:

• #amwriting
• #amreading
• #amrevising
• #amediting
• #WritingCommunity
• #AngstySquares
• #MuseMon
• #1lineWed
• #StorySocial (Every Wednesday at 8pm CST)
• #Chance2Connect (The second Tuesday of every month at 8pm CST)
• #WritersPatch (Every Sunday at 10am CST)

Facebook Groups:

Free Beta Readers, Free Critiques, and Paid Editors
Professional Beta Readers
Beta Readers & Critiques
Writers Helping Writers
Writers, Beta Readers, Critique, Advice, Writing Exercise & Rainbows!
First Chapter Critique Group

Reddit:

BetaReadit
Beta Readers

NOTE: I’ve also heard that Goodreads is an excellent place to find beta readers, but I’ve personally never tried it. I’ve found all of my beta readers and CP’s from Twitter.

When Should You Start Looking?

You can start looking for beta readers whenever you feel ready, but it’s important to do so BEFORE looking for a literary agent, editor, or attempting to publish. It’s also recommend that your draft is as clean as possible before sending it to betas. You want them to focus on the STORY – not the grammar and spelling mistakes inside.

A good beta reader can catch many of the mistakes as I’ve mentioned above, and many of these things can be fixed with a few rounds of revisions. No matter if you’re looking to traditional or self-publish, you always want to have your manuscript as good as you can get it. Having a manuscript littered with easily fixable mistakes will not only bring rejection, but often, more work for an editor (who will only charge you more for their time, if you’ve hired a freelance editor).

What Should You Ask?

The more specific you are, the better the feedback will be. Give your betas something to look for or keep in mind while they’re reading. Here’s some examples from my own beta reader questionnaire that I sent with my last WIP:

• Is there anything about the world-building that doesn’t make sense or needs elaboration?
• Did the setting interest you? Was the world vivid in your imagination?
• Did the story hold your interest from the very beginning? Why or why not?
• Were there any spots where the story lagged or you lost interest? If so, why and where?
• Were there any scenes that bored you or had you skipping pages? Why?
• Was there enough conflict, tension, and intrigue to hold your interest?
• Were any parts of the plot predictable?
• What grabbed your attention most?

Feel free to be as detailed or simple with your questions as you see fit!

How Many Beta’s Do You Need?

As many as you think you do! There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, but my personal advice would be to secure ten beta readers, at least!

The reason I say this is because you want a wide variety of people to look at your manuscript. Everyone will come at it with a different opinion and take on what they get out of the story. With ten different pieces of feedback from ten different people, it can be easier to pinpoint what is and isn’t working.

Example:

If you have ten beta readers and eight of them finish the book saying they LOVED the ending, but two said they were disappointed, whose feedback do you agree with? But if eight beta readers say they hated the ending, and two say they loved it, what do you do then?

If a majority of beta readers come to the same conclusion on what aspect of your story isn’t working (Act I dragged, this character fell flat, they loved the ending, etc…) more often than not, they’re right. If one or two beta out of ten mention, it could be their personal opinion.

It’s also beneficial to have a larger number of beta readers in case someone doesn’t finish. People are very busy, and even though people may commit to read your work, not everyone always sees it through. Make sure you have enough betas that if someone does stop reading, then you’ll still have plenty of feedback to work with!

What To Look For in a Beta Reader

Familiarity in Your Genre

You’ll want to find someone who actively reads what you write. For example, if you’re writing an epic fantasy complete with sword fights and dragons, but give your manuscript to someone who has never picked up a fantasy book in their life – well, their feedback might not be the best.

You want to find someone who would be in your target audience.

Honesty

Finding someone who can be brutally honest is the next thing to look for. It may sting at first, but you’ll have to grow a thick skin. Find someone who won’t sugar coat things.

How to Work With a Beta Reader

Develop a Thick Skin

To be a writer, you have to have thick skin. It’s just the way the profession goes. You will face rejection every step of the way, and working with betas readers will be no different.
The beta reader stage is all about whipping your manuscript into shape. It’s about fixing everything you can’t see with your own eyes. A beta reader’s job is to judge your manuscript, not you.

Ask Questions

As I mentioned above, asking questions is so important. By asking detailed questions and getting detailed answers back, you can see where your manuscript will need the most work.

Analyze Their Feedback

Once you get your feedback, it may take a while to digest. I recommend reading all of it and letting it stew in your mind for a couple of days before trying to make changes. Having betas also gives you a chance to step away from the manuscript. Take a step back and really think about what they’ve said, why they’ve said, and if they’re right.

NOTE: Beta readers are not always right. Take everything they say with a grain of salt. Remember, this is still your work, and you can choose to agree or disagree.

Swap

I personally think the best way you can pay a beta reader back is by offering to beta read for them in return. Betas take time out of their lives to read your work, and returning the favor is one of the best things you can do. When I enlisted my beta readers, I offered to return the favor to every one of them.

At the end of the day, having beta reader’s feedback is one of the most valuable things you can have as a writer. Beta readers help to make your story stronger, and help you grow as a writer. It’s important not to skip this step in your writing process!


How do you work with beta readers? Are these tips helpful? Let me know in the comments!

XOXO – Devon

Book Unhaul #1

After several years, I’ve finally done my first book “unhaul”. This isn’t a traditional unhaul, where I’ve donated these books or given them to family and friends. I’m actually keeping most of them in case I ever want to reread them or use them as a reference for anything. However, these books are leaving the bookshelf to be hidden somewhere out of view.

There’s currently three bookshelves in our apartment. One is in the bedroom, where I keep most of my books. The second is also in the bedroom, but we use that one for comic books and other knickknacks. The third one is the living room, and we keep our boxset books and other special book series on the shelves in there. But this third bookshelf also has a lower cabinet beneath it, where I can hide anything unsightly I don’t want to see anymore. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, all of these books are being “unhauled” from the good bookshelf to the bad one.

Please remember, if these are any of your personal favorite books, then that’s okay! We all have different opinions and tastes, and what doesn’t work for me, might work for you!


Books I May Reread in the Future

Keeper by Kim Chance
The Other Child by Lucy Atkins
Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson
Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown

Books I Liked, But Not Enough

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
The Third Twin by Ken Follet
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Divergent by Veronica Roth

Books I’ll Probably Never Reread

The Bargaining by Carly Anne West
The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn
Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mathers
Haunting the Deep by Adriana Mathers
Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline
My Sweet Audrina/Whitefern by V.C. Andrews

Books I Just Didn’t Care For

The Summer I Turned Pretty Trilogy by Jenny Han
Pretty Dead Girls by Monica Murphy
Eve the Awakening by Jenna Moreci
Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart
The Window by Amelia Brunskill

Books I Really Didn’t Like

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
The Alpha Drive by Kristen Martin
Shadow Crown by Kristen Martin
A Line in the Dark by Malinda Cho
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry
The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green
Chain Letter by Christopher Pike
They All Fall Down by Roxanne St. Claire
People Like Us by Dana Mele

Books I DNF’ed

Cradle and All by James Patterson
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Sea Witch by Sarah Henning
Enter the Dark House/Return to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Books I Gave Away

The Cabin by Natasha Preston
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

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I decided to give away the last three books for a few reasons. The Cabin by Natasha Preston was a complete disaster for me, so I knew with 100% certainty that I had no interest in hanging onto it. The Bones of You I read several years ago during a vacation, and while I remember thinking it was okay, it just wasn’t memorable enough for me to want to hold onto it. The same thing goes for Pretty Girls. I decided to put these into the Little Free Library in our town, so I hope someone can appreciate and find more enjoyment in them than I did.

 


What books did you unhaul recently? Let me know in the comments!

XOXO – Devon

July Recap 2019

July has been a hard month. A lot has been going on in my personal life, and I’m finding myself both emotionally and creatively drained. On a high note, I began revising my adult fantasy romance WIP, Forbidden, and finished round one of revisions, which is amazing! But on the bad side of things, my mom had a mini-stroke and I had to take her to the hospital. She’s recovered well and luckily nothing too serious happened, but there’s still the worry of another stroke possibly happening again. On top of that, I started a new job! I’ll be working weekends, and still get several days during the week to dedicate to writing! But just between all the travel, the hospital visits, and the stress of the new job, I’m worn out. But I’m hoping I can bounce back soon!

What I Wrote:

Like I mentioned above, I finished round one of revising Forbidden. The previous draft was sitting at 128k, and I managed to cut it down to 117k! I’d still like to cut those extra 2,000 words, but I’ve made a plan on how to tackle the next few rounds of revisions. Otherwise, I really haven’t dedicated time to any of my other projects. All of my focus has been going towards these revisions instead, but I did get an idea for a new WIP that I’m very excited begin plotting.

What I Read:

Total: 8

My Sweet Audrina/Whitefern by V.C. Andrews ★☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

My Sweet Audrina ★☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Whitefern ★☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

If I could say two words to describe these books, it would be: just don’t.

Seriously.

I saw this two-in-one book on the shelf at Walmart one day and thought it sounded intriguing, so I decided to pick it up, thinking it would be right up my alley. Unfortunately, I bit off more than I could chew, and found myself spiraling into a book series I wish I’d never discovered.

The story follows seven-year-old Audrina, who after her older sister – also named Audrina – was brutally murdered, struggles to become “The First and Best Audrina” instead of “The Second and Worst Audrina”. As Audrina grows and lives her life, she uncovers the dark secrets that her family has been keeping from her. Whitefern, the sequel, follows Audrina as an adult, as she struggles to come to terms with the secrets she’s learned.

The premise itself is very interesting – but the problem is everything inside the book. It’s chock-full of melodrama, long, drawn-out scenes, and abusive themes and messages such as:

Trigger Warning:

*Hints of pedophilia
*Spousal Abuse
*Verbal and Physical Abuse
*Child Abuse
*Rape/Sexual Assault
*Misandry
*Misogyny
*Disability Abuse
*Substance Abuse
*And much more

The worst part about reading these two books is that they’ve put me in a very negative headspace, and many of the negative messages inside have burrowed their way into my brain. I definitely did not feel good or excited while reading these, and I wouldn’t recommend these books to anyone.

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The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins ★★★★☆

The Hunger Games ★★★★★
Catching Fire ★★★★☆
Mockingjay ★★★★☆

Okay, I have a dirty little secret: I’ve never read The Hunger Games. Until now. The books came out when I was in high school I think, but for some reason, I just never picked them up. Even though I’ve seen the movies and knew the plot o each book, when my boyfriend asked me to read them (since he has the box set) I said sure!

Even though I knew what was going to happen with every scene, I still found myself completely enthralled in the world of Panem. I loved the writing, the story, and found myself constantly on the edge of my seat in anticipation. I really don’t have anything negative to say about the series – except when it comes to the final book, Mockingjay. I did find Mockingjay, at times, to be rather confusing to read when it came down to the war and battle scenes, but other than that, the series was a very satisfying and fulfilling read.

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To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo ★★★☆☆

I was really loving this book, until about halfway through. Something shifted in the middle of this book. Everything about the tone, the pacing, the characters – things took a very drastic turn that I just couldn’t get behind, and I found myself growing bored as I got closer to the end. By the time I did reach the final fifty pages or so, I was skimming just to get this book over with. Unfortunately, the plot became very unrealistic and cliché towards the end, and it wasn’t my cup of tea.

I Invited Her In by Adele Parks ★★★☆☆

I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t love it either. The writing was compelling, and I was really interested in the story. Even the twists and turns I didn’t expect! But as I was drawing closer to the end, I kept thinking there was going to be some big, mind-blowing twist, but there really wasn’t. While the story hooked me and kept me reading, I just wasn’t satisfied with the ending.

Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M. Martineau ★★★★☆

This was one of my anticipated releases for this year, and it was definitely worth the hype! I loved the characters and the world, particularly the magic system – it was all so unique and interesting to read! I don’t have really any complaints about this book, other than I felt like the ending was just a tad rushed, but other than that, this was an enjoyable read! If you love fantasy romance, you should definitely pick this one up!

Heartwood Box by Ann Aguirre ★★☆☆☆

I wanted to love this book, I really did. Everything about this premise sounded right up my alley. While the writing is nice and the story is fast-paced and an easy read, it felt like the author had multiple ideas that she wanted to write about, and decided to mesh them all together in this one book. Unfortunately, the difference in the ideas just didn’t work well together for me. There’s so much going on in this book, and not nearly enough time is spent developing each plot point. The ending wasn’t fulfilling, and there were multiple plot holes and subplots that felt neglected. Despite my complaints, I didn’t hate this book, but I feel like it was wildly miss-marketed. This is a really close three stars, but in the end, I just wasn’t happy with this one.

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What I’m Watching:

I finally finished The Fosters, which I was very sad to see end! My boyfriend and I also watched Netflix’s Castlevania series, which was actually pretty good, and I’m very excited for Season 3! We also finished The Tudors, which was very good, and I definitely recommend watching it. We’ve started rewatching Dragon Ball Super in preparation for the last two volumes to be released on DVD, and as always, DBZ Super is a fun time, and an amazing show.

Currently Reading:

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How I Did: July Goals

Back in July, I gave myself several goals:

• Revise adult fantasy WIP
• Finish writing YA Thief Idea
• Send adult fantasy WIP back out to readers
• Make a final decision about going back to school
• Create my blog schedule for August and September

Unfortunately, I only managed to complete one of these, which was revising my adult fantasy WIP! Since I still have a few more rounds of revision I want to complete, it probably won’t go back out to beta’s until August! I also didn’t finish writing my YA thief idea since I was so preoccupied with these revisions. I did create my August blog post schedule, but not my September one, so I guess I completed half the goal.

And then there’s the school thing. Ugh. Ever since I started posting monthly recaps, I’ve been talking about wanting to go back to school – and I did. But at this point in time, I have no debt, and I’m scared of getting into a ton of debt. Have any of you gone back to school later in life? How did that turn out?

August Goals:

• Finish revising adult fantasy WIP
• Finish writing YA Thief Idea
• Send adult fantasy back out to beta readers
• Create blog schedule for September and October
• Start writing YA Foreign Princess Idea
• Start plotting new adult fantasy romance idea
• Research literary agents
• Revise query letter for adult fantasy WIP


How was everyone’s July? Let me know in the comments!

XOXO – Devon

Birthday Book Haul

With my birthday come and gone, I’m sure you can imagine there’s something I asked for: books!

Lots and lots of books. With so many new titles releasing, I just couldn’t wait to get my hands on them! Luckily, my friends and family were gracious enough to buy me several books or give me gift cards to buy the books myself! So, I thought I’d share with you all the books I’ve received for my birthday!

(Books in no particular order!)

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I also have to give a huge thank you and shout out to my friend and CP, Tauri Cox, for gifting me Kingdom of Exiles, You Are a Badass, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo!

Are there any books here that you’ve read? Or any you want me to read first and give my review? Let me know in the comments!

XOXO – Devon