book review | the gentleman’s guide to vice and virtue by mackenzi lee

the gentleman’s guide to vice and virtue by mackenzi lee

My Rating: ★★★★★

Henry “Monty” Montague is eighteen years old and going on his Grand Tour of Europe. Accompanying him is his best friend and unrequited love, Percy, his younger sister Felicity, off to school, and their chaperone aka “bear-leader”, Mr. Lockwood. Monty has hopes for a Grand Tour full of nights out with Percy, drinks and frolicking aplenty. Mr. Lockwood, on behalf of Monty’s father, has a different idea. Little known to them, the Grand Tour will turn out to be nothing like they expected. Instead, they end up on the run, breaking into prisons, getting captured by pirates, and planning a heist to recover something from a sinking island.

Recommended if you like:

  • tons of diversity
  • tropey adventure stories
  • strong characters with fantastic chemistry and realistic relationships

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My Spoiler-Free Review

This book is just ridiculously enjoyable. It was exactly what I hoped it would be, and I loved every bit of it! It’s a perfect tropey adventure story–and so long as you don’t start taking it more serious than it’s meant to be taken, I think everyone would love this book. Strong characters, relevant societal issues, adventures!, coming of age, the sweetest slow burn romance you ever did read…what more could you want?!

My likes

Monty’s narration was entertaining like nothing else. I usually dislike first person point of view because it’s either too hard to get myself in the protagonist’s shoes OR because the narration is so flat and bland. Neither was the case here. Monty is ridiculous and egotistic, but he’s also super relatable. For all his bravado, he does have self-confidence issues, he’s squeamish about blood, and he doesn’t always say and do the right things. It’s so fun to get into the head of a character like this because half the time they’re putting on their entertaining persona for others, and the rest of the time they reveal to the reader who they are underneath it all.

Felicity. Everyone says she’s a bad ass, and she is. Honestly, not much more needs to be said about that! (Also, I am SO EXCITED to hear that Mackenzi Lee is writing a spin-off sequel about Felicity! HOW AWESOME will that be.)

SIBLING DYNAMICS. I’m very close to my siblings, so I’m always all over sibling dynamics in books, and Mackenzi Lee did a fantastic job with Monty and Felicity! How realistic is their relationship! They don’t get along! They tease each other! They butt heads! But at the end of the day, they have each others’ backs. I’m here for that.

The romance. It’s slow burn. It’s secretly in love with your best friend. It’s friends to lovers. It’s communication mishaps. IT’S EVERYTHING. It was so well done, and it wasn’t even the 100% focus of the book. I kept reading partly because we only get teasing little moments of the romance in the midst of the rest of the adventures, and Percy and Monty were just TOO CUTE.

Diversity. Ridiculously amazing job at this without it being too in your face or overdone. It did not feel like the diversity was added just to make the book diverse. It was a book about real people, with diverse backgrounds and issues, and they had the same adventures anyone else could have. Loved it.

Settings! Descriptions! The Adventures! I enjoyed it all so much.

My not so likes

Basically nothing?!

I will say it did take a while for the actual plot to get going. But I didn’t care. I was so into the characters from the first page that I would have kept reading 1,000 pages and not cared if the plot hadn’t begun yet.

Also, the book is a tad long. But again, this worked out in my favor.

Overall

GO READ IT. This is one to buy, if you like buying books. You’ll love it.

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Have you read The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne

10 tips and suggestions for visiting Chicago

Okay. I’ve already tweaked my blog posting schedule (only one week after creating it). Mostly so I can post this.

I’m lame.

New schedule:

  • Mondays = book reviews
  • Wednesdays = bookish posts
  • Fridays = ~variety~ posts (writing, crafty, personal, etc.)

If you can’t tell already, today we’re doing a post of the personal variety!

So last weekend, I took a trip to Chicago with my younger sister to visit our older sister. It was a very sistery weekend! (And we saw Hamilton, which you may know if you read my last post!) All of us have lived in Chicago for varying amounts of time, so we are old pros at crafting ourselves an awesome weekend. And let me tell you–this past weekend was awesome.

I thought it would be fun to share some wisdom and photos from our experiences over the years, so here are 10 tips and suggestions for visiting Chicago.

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Plan and map out your activities in advance

This is perhaps a no-brainer for you, but I’ve often regretted not thinking things through all the way before visiting the Windy City. If you plan to venture out from downtown (which I highly recommend!), take some time to figure out just where you want to go, how long it will take you to get there, and what other activities to do the same day. You might find a lot of your must-visit places are in the same area. Make things easy on yourself, and don’t get stuck wasting your time traveling across the city every day when you could plan in advance. Trust me, it’s not fun to spend an hour there and back, just for one activity.

Use public transportation

Take the train or bus to the city, and when you arrive, use public transportation or Uber to get around. Google Maps is your best friend! Save yourself the hassle of having to park, pay for parking, and navigate amongst the crazy city drivers. It is really easy to get around on the bus or the train once you get the hang of it. You might fumble at first, but that’s okay. Everyone does.

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Find fun, trendy, yummy restaurants on Instagram

Don’t get stuck eating at the same, overpriced, boring tourist spots! Yes, deep dish pizza is great, but there is a lot of other fabulous food you can and should try while in the city. (Though P.S.–Lou Malnati’s is my pick for deep dish!)

There are some great Chicago-based food Instagram accounts that will inspire you to travel into different neighborhoods for some stellar food. A short trip out of downtown is so worth it for some great food!

My favorite Chicago foodie Instagram: chicagofoodauthority

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brunch at Dryhop Brewers = heart eyes

Research events going on in the city

Again, there are tons of places you can look for more information on events happening in the city. There is always so much going on, and in the summer especially, you can find at least one or two free events to take a look at. From festivals to art fairs, you can find some great fun.

My #1 recommendation is the Grant Park Music Festival, which takes place every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday night in the summer. It’s FREE and you can bring a picnic and booze and relax on the great lawn while listening to classical music. What could be better?

My favorite Chicago events website: events12

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Get your walking shoes on

Or, in my case, shoes that you’re willing to walk in all day. There is so much to see and do, and so many areas to walk around and enjoy the outdoors! That might not be your first thought when planning a trip to Chicago, but especially in the summer months, the areas away from the downtown shopping and skyscrapers are so beautiful.

My recommendation: Check out North Pond, the Lurie flower garden, Maggie Daley Park, or Lincoln Park Zoo (all of which are FREE!).

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Bike along the lakefront

Possibly one of my favorite areas in Chicago is the lakefront, and there’s a wonderful lakefront trail that runs 18 miles along Lake Michigan. This is a fantastic place to walk, relax, and–my favorite–bike! You can rent bikes through different companies throughout the city or you might want to go the blue Divvy bikes from the stands scattered throughout the city–but beware, you have to check your bike back in every half an hour. A hassle, in my experience. However, get your hands on a bike somehow and take a little trip along the lake. It really is lovely.

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Relax at a rooftop or patio bar

Bopping around to so many activities and tourist attractions can be tiring! My favorite way to relax is to stop somewhere for a drink, and why not enjoy Chicago’s beautiful skyline at the same time? There are so many fun rooftops and patios to choose from throughout the city, with some incredible views.

My favorite: the J. Parker rooftop bar

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Visit the Riverwalk

The Chicago Riverwalk is newly completed, and it’s gorgeous! Whether you just want to take a stroll, get a bite to eat, enjoy a drink, or do a fun activity like kayaking on the river, it’s the perfect place! I personally love relaxing on the new steps and people-watching, and also doing the Chicago River architecture boat tours. Even if you think you don’t like architecture and history, you’ll find these tours interesting and entertaining!

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Go to a museum

Even if you claim you don’t like museums, hear me out! There is a museum for everyone in Chicago, and they are all so great! Are you more of a science nerd? Go to the Museum of Science and Industry. Space nerd? The Planetarium! History nerd? The Field Museum or Chicago History Museum. Art lover? Chicago Art Institute. DO YOU LIKE ANIMALS? (WHICH BETTER BE EVERYONE!) Go to Shedd Aquarium, because it is the absolute best. If you need to spice up your trip, do a museum scavenger hunt or an experience at the aquarium like touching sting rays or meeting a penguin. (Which I did a few weeks ago, and let me tell you–it was great.)

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Find a balance

It is so easy to over do it and tire yourself out during a trip in a busy city like Chicago. I always like to find a balance. Do some activities, then take a break. See some more sights, then relax in the evening. Schedule in that time to get a drink on a rooftop or relax by the river, otherwise you’ll fill up your time with too many other activities and you’ll end up so tired and cranky that you’ll forget to enjoy your trip while you’re doing it.

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And there you are! Ten tips and suggestions for visiting Chicago. Have any of you ever visited Chicago before? Did you follow any of these tips–or now wish you had?

Until next time,
Brianne

hamilton book tag

This past weekend, I finally got to see Hamilton on stage. I was thrilled! My sisters and I bought our tickets in December, and I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for even longer, so I’d been anticipating the show for a while.

The verdict?! IT WAS AMAZING. WHEN CAN I SEE IT AGAIN?

In order to continue the wonder and excitement of my Hamilton weekend, I thought I’d do the Hamilton book tag. This tag is super old; it was created by maureenkeavy on Youtube nearly two years ago. But who cares? (Not me, obviously.)

Here we go!

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the (wish we were Schuyler) sisters at Hamilton

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*warning: there are some spoilers ahead for the Mistborn series, A Court of Mist and Fury, and A Darker Shade of Magic, but they are marked!*

The Room Where It Happens: A book world you would put yourself in

There are SO many possible answers for this, but I’m going to go with the world from the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. There’s something so magical, whimsical, eerie, and intriguing about that world–and let’s be real, who WOULDN’T love to go hang out in Cabeswater?! (Also, I want to be part of the Gangsy, but I shouldn’t get ahead of myself.)

art by @yerawizardberi

The Schuyler Sisters: An underrated female character

I’m going with Luna Lovegood on this one. I know she has a decently large fanbase, but others–and I’m among them–take her for granted sometimes! She’s so wonderfully quirky and refreshing, and she actually does play an important role in the series. Perhaps abstractly, but it’s there. I need to appreciate her more.

My Shot: A character that goes after what they want and doesn’t let anyone stop them

Kate Harker in The Mosnters of Verity duology. She’s unafraid, bold, and determined. She doesn’t give up, even when she has to sneak her way out of a few tight spots (and sometimes fails).

Stay Alive: A character you wish was still alive (spoilers!)

I’m going to cheat a little and list two: Elend and Vin from the Mistborn series. I was crushed–CRUSHED–when I realized they were dead, for good, at the end of the series. (At least, dead for good for now anyway–dare I say I have the tiniest bit of hope we might see them again someday?!.) I totally understood why it happened, but I was still truly devastated.

Burn: The most heartbreaking end to a relationship you’ve ever read (spoilers!)

Another Mistborn mention: Sazed and Tindwyl. They JUST got together, and then she dies. Um, NO!? Possibly the rudest thing Sanderson has ever written. I can’t imagine a more heartbreaking end to a relationship than that.

You’ll Be Back: Sassiest villain

Was the Darkling sassy? (Featured in the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo.) I can’t quite remember, but I do remember that I enjoyed him and found him a really interesting, different villain. So sure, he can be my answer.

art by @waricka

The Reynolds Pamphlet: A book with a twist that you didn’t see coming

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Basically, everything goes wrong. And it goes really wrong. Like wronger than you’d ever expect. Lynch really took it there, and I was not expecting any of it. Also, it made me depressed.

Non-Stop: A series you marathoned

I have been so lucky to marathon a TON of series this year! Since I was not reading really at all from 2014-2016, a bunch of series have finished and are ready for my consumption. So far I’ve marathoned the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson, the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown, the Darker Shade of Magic series by V.E. Schwab, the Six of Crows duology and the Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo, the Captive Prince series by C.S. Pacat, the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater…and probably more.

Satisfied: Favorite book with multiple POVs

For this I’ll go with the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. He has LOTS of POVs going on in this series, with a few main POVs in each book and then also “interludes” and prologues and epilogues in other POVs. It sounds overwhelming, but he handles it with finesse. It’s so cool to see how stories end up weaving together–or imagining how they will in future books. Plus, Sanderson manages to write interesting stories and characters from each POV, so even when they don’t intersect, it’s still highly enjoyable to read.

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story: A book/series you feel like will be remembered throughout history

Harry Potter. Enough said.

Helpless: A relationship you were pulling for from the very start

I’m going with Monty and Percy from The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. I just finished this book, and let me tell you, Monty and Percy are THE SWEETEST. And of course, the romance is a slow burn–maybe even more of a questionable burn. But seriously I loved them from the very first page until the very last.

Ten Duel Commandments: Favorite fight scene (spoilers!)

The very first thing that came to my mind was the scene in A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas when Velaris is attacked and Feyre draws on her water powers to fight back. She creates water wolves and it’s just SO COOL. I remember getting goosebumps when I first read it.

Say No To This: Guilty pleasure read

The Captive Prince series by C.S. Pacat. This series is SO controversial, and I admit I wasn’t entirely comfy with all the content in the first book. However, I devoured the series and guiltily loved it despite its problems and controversy.

art by @merwild

What Comes Next: A series you wish had more books

The Grisha world from Leigh Bardugo! I’m just really hoping for more on Nina or Nikolai (or BOTH!?) because I would love a little more satisfaction at their endings. Basically, I want more for them because they are my beloved snowflakes.

Right Hand Man: Favorite BROTP (spoilers!)

Kell and Rhy from the Darker Shades of Magic series. Their lives are literally TIED together and they still love each other. They want the best for each other, they have great banter, and GOSH I just love them.

What’d I Miss: A book or series you were/still are late to reading

Lately I’ve been thinking about the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. Haven’t even picked up one yet! I’m not sure I’ll like them, but I’ve heard so many good things that I do want to give them a try soonish.

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Since I’m so late to the party, I’m not going to tag anyone for this. But if you’d like to complete this awesome Hamilton tag, consider yourself tagged!

Until next time,
Brianne

book review | our dark duet by victoria schwab

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

My rating: ★★★★☆

Our Dark Duet is the sequel to This Savage Song, and the conclusion to the Monsters of Verity duology. The story continues with Kate and August, and their efforts to eradicate their world of monsters born from violence. August is at the very center of the task force in Verity, a key player as a Sunai monster and very hard to kill. Kate is drawn back to Verity herself in pursuit of a new kind of monster. Once again, their paths cross and together they question who they are, what they stand for, and how to better the world they live in.

Recommended if you like:

  • Monsters
  • Music
  • Books that make you question your moral and ethical beliefs

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My Spoiler-Free Review

*Note: There are slight spoilers below for This Savage Song, so beware if you haven’t started the duology yet!*

I had a hard time deciding how to rate this book, because I love Victoria Schwab. I love her as a person and a writer. She seems like an awesome person. The way she puts words on a page is beautiful but concise, and I envy her writing skills.

However, her books don’t always have the impact on me that I wish they would. Unfortunately, Our Dark Duet is one example of such a case.

There are so many things I love about this duology and this book in particular. But, there are other things that don’t quite work for me. I didn’t find myself completely engaged in this book once I got to the second half or so. I finished the book feeling a little let down, which feels bad on its own, not to mention how frustrated I felt because I so wanted to finish it and love it.

That said, I’m still not sure I’m happy with giving Our Dark Duet 3.5 stars, but I’m going with it for now. Maybe a re-read in the future will change my mind.

My likes

The concept. I LOVE the concept of this book, that the characters are dealing with monsters created by acts of violence. I love the moral and ethical questions it brings up and makes me ask myself. I love seeing the characters’ internal battles with defining what makes a monster or a sinner and, particularly in Our Dark Duet, if people can change and if they are deserving of a fresh start. All of this is so deep for YA yet also very relevant for anyone and important to think about.

The evolution from book one to book two. Mainly I really like the set up at the beginning of Our Dark Duet; I felt very satisfied with where the characters were in comparison to book one, and also where they had to go and how they had to grow. Their character arcs weren’t complete yet, which brings me to my next like: August’s character arc. I just loved his personal journey. He ended This Savage Song accepting what he is–a monster–and now in Our Dark Duet, he needs to spend some time also accepting WHO he is–a compassionate, thoughtful boy.

Ilsa. And Allegro. Need I say more? (I really wish we had gotten more and more and more Ilsa. She’s so lovely.) Also, Alice. She was creepy and scary but wonderfully done. I really enjoyed reading her, and her interactions with Sloan. (Parallels between Kate and her dad much?!)

August’s violin. As a violist myself, I simply find the notion of August walking around with his violin all the time SO endearing. And also, when it’s used as a weapon, SO awesome. In general, the way Schwab ran with the musical themes and metaphors in this book was really lovely; not overdone at all, but incorporated at just the right moments.

art by @nucleicacid

My not so likes

The pacing. As mentioned before, I didn’t love the second half of the book. I was not engaged. I was SUPER engaged in the first half; interesting, actiony things were happening in both Kate and August’s POVs, and there’s always that sweet anticipation of reunion when the two characters are kept apart. HOWEVER, when we got past that reunion, things got a little messy plot-wise. There was a lot of back and forth, short scenes, not as much action. I was a little confused by the inclusion of some events–(view spoiler)–and the sequence of some events. When reading, this makes me distance myself from the plot, disengage, and as a result I wasn’t hyped up when I reached the climax and ending of the book.

Kate. I didn’t enjoy her in This Savage Song, and while I liked her more in Our Dark Duet, I still didn’t really connect with her. I guess I didn’t understand her motives? Also, her character development was not as clear as Augusts’s; in fact, I’m not sure she had any.

The Sloan POV. Now, there were moments I really liked this. Sloan is so creepy that in a way I perversely enjoyed reading all the icky things he was doing. But there were various chunks of his POV that seemed completely not needed; they didn’t contribute to the plot. Other times, it felt they contributed too much. I personally like to be more surprised about the villain’s next move, being surprised by it just like the main characters. In Our Dark Duet, reading everything from Sloan’s POV, I was surprised by nothing.

And then…a certain moment occurred that really bothered me. I think my enthusiasm for the book went downhill from there and just kept going down. But it’s a spoiler, so  check out my review on Goodreads if you’re interested in reading more about that (and a few other spoilers).

In the end

I think the fact that I have so much to say and pick apart from this book is an indication that I did enjoy it, at least to some extent. And I did! Certain things just turned me off, and it didn’t quite live up to my expectation towards the end.

Do I still love Victoria Schwab? YES. Will I still read her books? YES. Will I reread this duology someday? PROBABLY.

Should you read this book? YES.

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Have you read Our Dark Duet? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne

writing blog | beautiful people meme

Announcement: I have finally gotten my stuff sorted and made a tentative blogging schedule for myself. Woohoo!

In case you’re interested:

  • Mondays = book reviews
  • Wednesdays = bookish posts
  • Fridays = writing posts / crafty posts (switching out every other week)

Rather ambitious, eh? We’ll see how long it lasts.

So let’s start things off with the writing posts! I’ve been super into my writing lately. I write mainly fanfiction, in various fandoms, but I have ventured into original fiction a little–and that is my eventual goal. I’ve been writing (on and off) for about five years now.

I saw the Beautiful People writing meme on Cait Paperfury’s blog, and thought, this is the PERFECT way to introduce my writing on my blog and talk about some basic writerly things. The meme is hosted by Cait and Sky, and it’s a monthly linkup, so check it out if you’re interested in joining in.

Here we go!

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1. How do you decide which project to work on?

I’m not the type that’s constantly overflowing with ideas, so these sorts of decisions aren’t too hard for me. When I’m in the mood to tackle one of my projects, I’ll just go with whichever one I’m most enthusiastic about at the moment and then commit to it!

I’ll try to make daily progress on it. If a day comes when I need a break and want to work on something else, I’ll give myself that time. But the next day, I’ll get back to the original project and (hopefully!) see it to its completion!

2. How long does it usually take you to finish a project?

It TOTALLY depends on what I’m writing. Within my fanfiction writing career, I’ve written many one-shots and a few longer novellas / chaptered fics. The one-shots might take me a week or two to write and polish up. The longer works tend to take me a LONG time. Like the better part of a year or more. It all depends on my motivation and my Real Life schedule.

3. Do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?

Not usually! Sometimes I’ll go on Pinterest to work on my story board and get some visuals for the scene I’m writing. But other than that, I just tell myself to sit down, open the doc, get my hands on the keyboard, and type.

(Anyone else use the BICHOK technique?!)

4. What time of day do you write best?

Morning or afternoon. I am so much more motivated and productive in general at the beginning of my day. Also, I find it really satisfying to accomplish a writing goal before noon. It makes me feel like there is so much potential for the rest of my day!

I do NOT write well at night. I’m always too tired, sluggish, and lazy. Most of the time I won’t even open up my writing document if it’s past 8:00pm.

5. Are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?

This is a tough question, mostly because I don’t really look at myself as a real author. I’ve never even THOUGHT to compare myself to a real author. Even considering it now makes me feel so pretentious.

I will say in general, I’m definitely NOT a flowery writer. I’m more straightforward and concise, I think? At least I try to be?

6. Why did you start writing, and why do you keep writing?

I started writing because I would daydream all the time during school, and I wanted to put those stories onto paper. Also, sometimes I couldn’t find the sorts of things I wanted to read, so I decided to write them myself.

I keep writing because I like the challenge and the satisfaction it gives me. Also because I want to get better, and it’s always been a dream of mine to publish a novel.

7. What’s the hardest thing you’ve written?

Possibly my current project??? I’m not sure. My current project is a fantasy fanfiction, and when I first started it, I didn’t know where it was going and ended up setting it aside for a few months. When I came back to it, I had to do a lot of planning, outlining, and brainstorming to come up with the plot I have now. I’m proud of what came out of all of that work, but it’s taking even MORE work to get all the words to come out right on the page.

I’m also putting more pressure on myself for this project, just because I want to see if I can really write something more complex and detailed and fantastical like I’ve always wanted to do.

8. Is there a project you want to tackle someday but you don’t feel ready yet?

Probably writing a real original fiction novel to publish and fulfill that lil dream of mine. I don’t think I’m a good enough writer, nor do I know if I ever will be. For now, fanfiction is my comfort zone, and I like the platform it gives me for sharing my work and receiving feedback.

Someday, I’ll stick my toes out there and attempt something original. I’d love to do something that has to do with sisterhood.

9. What writing goals did you make for 2017 and how are they going?

So I looked this up on my fanfic blog, and here are the goals I wrote:

  • Finish my WIPs
  • Work on character development
  • Write and publish something without overthinking it

I’m currently in the process of working on my 2 WIPs. I have worked some on character development…I think? I could do more.

As for writing and publishing without overthinking it…L O L. Great idea, Brianne. Totally not going to happen, but sure, you can try.

10. Describe your writing process in 3 words or a gif!

I want to be:

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But most of the time, I’m:

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And that’s it, my first ever writing post. If you made it this far, did you find this post interesting? No? Eh? I should probably just stick to books, shouldn’t I.

Until next time,
Brianne

top 5 wednesday | july 12

I’m back again for another Top 5 Wednesday!

Top 5 Wednesday is run by Sam at thoughtsontomes. Check out the Goodreads group if you’re interested in learning more or joining in on the fun!

Today’s prompt: Top 5 Children’s Books

As I suspect is the case for many a book blogger, I was huge reader when I was younger. I would beg my mom to take me to the library, I would track my reading progress during the summer, and I stayed up late–or in some cases, woke up early!–to read my books. I just loved books! And here I am today…still loving books. I haven’t changed a bit.

Many books came to mind for this list, and I remembered even more when I looked back on my collection at home. So I stayed true to the prompt and talked about five below, but I included a few honorable mentions, too.

Let’s get into it!

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Some of the faves I managed to scrounge up.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

This was possibly my first-ever favorite book and even more, the book that made me venture into the fantasy genre. I ADORE this book even still–and if you haven’t read it yet, I would totally recommend it, no matter your age! This book is just the best. It’s a Cinderella retelling that has charm, a unique twist, and a sweet, sweet romance. It’s wonderful.

Side note–For those of you who have read Ella Enchanted, PLEASE tell me I’m not alone in my deep hatred for the movie adaptation!? I love Anne Hathaway, and I actually liked the soundtrack when it came out, but they COMPLETELY butchered the plot. It’s possibly the worst book to movie adaptation I’ve ever seen. I’m still bitter about it. (Obviously.)

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Anne Hathaway = lovely! Ella Enchanted movie = HORRIFYING.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt

I read this book more recently, in a college course on Children’s Literature, and I absolutely fell in love. Gary Schmidt is from my hometown and actually teaches at my college as well, so of course we had to include his book on our reading list. However, it was not just added on because of the connection. It truly deserved its place among the other great children’s books we read.

I was so charmed by Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster boy. The setting is Maine, and the descriptions are to die for. It’s a book with surprisingly deep themes for a children’s book, and also some amazingly gorgeous quotes.

“The world turns and the world spins, the tide runs in and the tide runs out, and there is nothing in the world more beautiful and more wonderful in all its evolved forms than two souls who look at each other straight on.”

Redwall series by Brian Jacques

More of my first fantasy books! This time of the speaking animals variety!

I don’t know if I ever read ALL the books in the Redwall series, since there are a ton, but I remember going back to the library to grab the next one, then the next, and the next, until I had read so many of them. Who doesn’t love stories about tough little mice standing up to the scary animals of the woodland forest?!

(Also, I totally had ships for some of the sweet mices…Possibly my first ever ships?!)

The tapestry by chichapie
art by @chichapie

 

Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis

I know I mentioned this series last week, but the Chronicles of Narnia series are possibly my favorite books of the ever, and I can’t not include them in a list about children’s books. I read one or two of the books when I was a true child, but I read the rest in high school (still a child, let’s be honest). I had a little frenzy, reading through the entire series in a week, borrowing my dad’s very old copies of the books that he read when he was a child.

I just adore all the deeper messages in these books; as a Christian myself, I always admired the way C.S. Lewis incorporated his faith and religious themes into his writing without being too blatant about it. I took a lot away from these books, and they’ll always hold a dear place in my heart.

Image result for chronicles of narnia gif

 

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

I couldn’t not include Harry Potter. I am sure you all know what this series is about and why it’s so wonderful, so I’ll spare you.

I have a strange, vivid memory of the reason why I started reading Harry Potter. I was in third grade. Over breakfast one morning, my older sister was telling my mom about this book about a kid who lived under the stairs with his horrible aunt and uncle, and he learns he’s a wizard. I was instantly sold. My mom had to ask my teacher if she thought the series was age appropriate; thank GOODNESS my teacher approved.

My childhood would not have been the same without the obsession, the new releases every summer (I got up early to snag an express copy at my library three–maybe four–years in a row), and my older sister reading the books out loud to us around the campfire. So many good memories.

“Mischief Managed.”

Honorable Mentions:

  • Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
  • The Tale of Despereuax by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • North by Night by Katherine Ayres
  • Holes by Louis Sachar

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There you have it! My top 5 children’s books and series. What are YOUR favorite children’s books? Do we share any in common? Comment down below!

Until next time,
Brianne

book review | an ember in the ashes by sabaa tahir

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

My rating: ★★★☆☆

In this book, two worlds collide. On one side, we have Laia–newly made a slave and a secret spy for the resistance movement. On the other side, we have Elias–the golden boy of his academy, competing to become the next emperor. These two cross paths and, together and individually, start to uncover their true selves, what they’re willing to fight for, and just what freedom is.

Recommended if you like:

  • YA romance–and inevitable love triangles/squares
  • Plot lines that keep you guessing
  • Troubled, angsty boy characters or determined, hardworking girl characters

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My Spoiler-Free Review

When I first started reading An Ember in the Ashes, there were a few elements I was intrigued by. I hoped they would mold the book into something really interesting. Alas–not so much.

In the end, I liked this, but I didn’t really love it.

My likes

Laia’s character development! She grows a lot throughout the story, and I enjoyed her journey. I can certainly relate to not quite feeling like you can compare to others around you or in your family, so I did feel a connection with her. Her growth was realistic and gradual, too. She wasn’t suddenly some bad ass female protagonist like in other YA books.

The writing. Clear, concise. Not overly flowery, which I prefer. Also, the POV shifts were so nicely done! The chapters were short, so you flip back and forth often, which I find preferable to those long chapters where you’re aching to get back to the other POV. Both Laia and Elias’s POVs were enjoyable to read.

Elias and Helene’s friendship. I adore deep friendships such as theirs. They really have each others’ backs and their friendship is founded on years of trust and shared experiences. I liked the way their friendship played out through the Trials and how it also added a unique tension.

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art by @banana-books

My not so likes

The love square. I could SO do without this. I hate love triangles, and I hate love squares even more. Sometimes they can be written really well, but in this case it just did not work for me. The characters were too flighty, able to switch back and forth between their love interests so easily. So annoying to me! By the end of the book, I didn’t want anyone together because I was so fed up.

The pacing/plot. The book just felt so dragged out. Nothing much really happened until the very end! I did want to continue reading and find out what happened next, but I found myself getting bored. It was easy to put the book down.

The world-building. I mean–it was nonexistent. I could not picture the world at all, and the culture was only described in bits. This created a huge disconnect for me as I tried to immerse myself into the book.

Overall

It was certainly more enjoyable than other YA books I’ve picked up this year. But will I continue the series? Eh. I’m not in a rush at all. Though I’m slightly more motivated now that I’ve learned Helene gets some POV chapters in book two.

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Have you read An Ember in the Ashes? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne