In Honour of Valentine's Day, I Give You A Rejected Proposal!

I was really thinking I'd do a lurve excerpt today to honor Valentine's Day. But I'm going to be doing that on Friday over at Austen Variations with my new WIP.

So I decided to go the sort of anti-love route instead. This is for all of you out there who hate V-Day, or who are just plain bored/sick/tired/annoyed by it. Me, I don't care a fig about the holiday. I'm married, and have been for a long time, and we've gotten to the point where it's like, do we really need to celebrate this? We have our anniversary, what do we need this day for? So for all of you who don't want to read yet another mushy-gushy love scene or kissing scene, check out my first chapter from COLLIDE.

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Chapter One

MAGGIE

The sky was a rich blue, the kind that belonged over a Van Gogh wheat field, not the lawn in front of Hank’s family ranch. The bright sun warmed the bare skin of my arms and legs while a breeze blew into my hair, twirling the ends like silk. But I couldn’t breathe.

All this cloying perfection suffocated me, right down to the plaid blanket I sat on, the wicker basket full of wine and roses, and Hank. Especially Hank, and the four words he had just spoken. Four little words that sucked the air right from my lungs.

It really was a sweet proposal, and I knew Hank thought he was going all out with the picnic and the perfect day, as if he had ordered it all especially. It would’ve been easy to say yes. In fact, I felt the word at my lips, so close, so ready to slip out, before I swallowed it back down.

Hank knelt across from me, the cowboy hat I used to think was so sexy perched against his knees. He’d ruffled his hair as soon as he took it off to avoid hat head, but all it did was give him a look of wispy childlike innocence. The kind of look that was hard to erase. And yet, all too easy.

“I can’t.”

His smile froze before it fell altogether. He leaned back on his heels. “What?”

“I’m really sorry,” I said, not taking my eyes from his, “but I can’t.”

“Maggie…” He reached for me, then dropped his hand. “Why?”

I couldn’t answer because I didn’t know. I’d loved Hank since I was a freshman in high school. Everything about him, from his worn jeans to the dirt under his fingernails and how he masked the smell of horses with Calvin Klein cologne. How he called all women “ma’am,” how he could tame the wildest horse and yet every touch on my skin was gentle.

I loved Hank. But I couldn’t say yes. It was the “yes” that made it so hard to breathe.

“I’m not ready.”

I should have seen this proposal coming. We’d talked about the future lots of times, of being together and living on Hank’s family ranch and having kids one day. But it seemed so far off. Unreal. We were only nineteen, after all. It was an adult’s life we talked of, and I didn’t feel like an adult.

“Then I’ll wait. We’ll wait.” Hank scooted closer, his knees pressed into my thighs. “You can finish community college, and by then Dad will let me run the ranch on my own and—”

“No.” I couldn’t let this go on. This was his dream. For a long time it had been my dream too, but I knew in that moment I’d only been borrowing it until I could find my own.

Hank gaped. Then, jamming his hat on his head, he stood and walked away, his shoulders hunched.

“Hank.” I followed. I couldn’t leave things like this. “I’m sorry. I really am.”

He whirled around, brushing my forehead with the brim of his hat. I was taller than Hank without it. The hat gave him height, which is why he wore it all the time, even in church. My dad thought it was sacrilegious, but he never made Hank stop.

“You’re sorry?” His sunburned face turned a deeper shade of red. “Maggie, we’ve been dating for four years.”

The pain he was trying so hard to hide brought tears to my eyes. “I know.”

“This is what comes next.” He tipped my chin up with his finger. Hank loved to touch my face, always marveling at my smooth, pale skin compared to his year-round sunburn. “I want it, your parents expect it—”

My eyes narrowed at that, and he quickly changed tack.

“I love you. Don’t you love me?”

I swallowed. “I’m sorry.” I couldn’t explain, couldn’t say I love you like I had so many times before. There was nothing I could do but escape.

Hank followed. He pleaded. He even cried. I cried. He didn’t touch me.

“Please don’t do this,” I said.

The swish of his footsteps behind me died out. He’d finally given up.

“Maggie!” he shouted. “At least let me give you a ride home!”

But I couldn’t do that either. I needed to get away from him. Away from myself.

Hank called out again but I ignored him. I didn’t stop until I reached the gravel road leading off Hank’s family property.

I half expected Hank’s pickup to come by, with him hanging out of the window telling me to get in. But he never showed and I was grateful. It was a long walk back into town, but it gave me time. Time to cry, to hate myself, and to think.

A year ago, I’d graduated high school with a mediocre GPA and a diner job I’d had since I was fourteen. My grades weren’t good enough for a top university, so I’d enrolled in the local community college, kept the job where everyone knew my name and gave me crappy tips, and stayed with Hank.

But the whole time I’d had this dream. An alternate life I imagined living when I went to bed at night, or while zoning out at the diner.

In this alternate life, I left Hank and Hillstone behind and moved far away—to Las Vegas. I had fabulous friends, a big studio apartment, a job at a trendy boutique, and best of all I danced with Essence Dance Theater, a renowned contemporary dance company I’d seen perform once.

Maybe this alternate life was straight out of a TV show, but I couldn’t help wanting something different from what I knew. It’s not that I didn’t have great friends, because I did. But Drina was at Brown, Stace and her boyfriend were backpacking in Europe, and Melissa had changed her name to Misty and moved to California to be closer to the Mother Ocean, as she called it.

Only I was left, and Hank. Me and Hank. Hank and I. And my parents. Me and Hank and my parents. And his parents and his horses. Me and Hank and my parents and his parents and his horses.

It wasn’t enough, yet it was all too much.

My pinkie toes began to sting, the beginnings of blisters. Hillstone was still a mile off. I passed the Williams farm and their pasture of Jersey cows. The same pasture where I’d watched Stace and Melissa/Misty get wasted at Fox Williams’ annual New Year’s party while I drank a hot chocolate, because my dad would have murdered me if I had one sip of alcohol. I trudged by the old, rotting barn that everyone said was haunted by headless chickens. I slipped off my sandals as I entered Hillstone, the gravel turning to chipped pavement, hot under my bare feet.

Hillstone was all I knew. It was familiar and safe. Like Hank. But if I couldn’t say yes to Hank, I couldn’t say yes to Hillstone either.

Maybe it was time to make my daydream a reality.

By the time I got home, the perfect sun was setting in perfect rays of pink and orange. It turned the white siding of my house into the color of Pepto Bismol. I sat on the porch, wrapping my skirt under my legs, unwilling to go inside.

“Maggie?” Mom’s voice called through the screen door. “How was your date?”

She knew about the proposal. I could hear it in her voice—the hope, the barely contained excitement.

“We broke up,” I said, quick and painless. Like how I’d refused Hank. Except that hadn’t been painless at all. And neither was this.

My mom was by my side in seconds—one of those superhero Mom tricks I figured I’d inherit one day if I ever had kids. I didn’t even hear the screen door slam like it always did.

“Honey, why?” Mom put her arm around my shoulders. “What happened?”

I couldn’t meet her eyes. “I said no.”

Her silence said everything.

I gave her the side eye. “You knew he was going to propose, didn’t you?”

“I might have known a thing or two.” She pulled my head against her shoulder. “Are you okay?”

“Not really.” I’d given up something. I’d given up a life, a future that was certain once, a future I’d set for myself whether I’d wanted it or not. I couldn’t keep living in Hillstone, going to community college, working at the same diner. I wanted to be a different Maggie Hale. I needed to be.

It was time for me to try.

If you want to read more of COLLIDE and find out what happens next, you can check it out on Amazon and other ebook retailers! Happy V-Day! 

Monday Reads: YA Contemporary... Mostly

Last time I posted Monday Reads, I was going through a book slump and decided to reread a fave YA of mine.

Well, I didn't reread. Instead, I took a trip to my library and randomly picked up a couple of books. The first was JUST LISTEN by Sarah Dessen. This was the first Dessen book I've read and I really enjoyed it. It was the perfect book to get me out of the slump- exactly what I'd been looking for. After that, I read THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS by Ann Brashares, a book I'd meant to read for a long time after seeing the movie. I really enjoyed this book as well, although I was disappointed by Lina's story. I'm so used to the movie and how there's more of a romance there, that the book version of Lina and Kostos was a bit blah. 

Then I took a slight detour and read a YA... dystopian? RENEGADES by Marissa Meyer is a superhero story that took me a bit to get into, but once I did I was totally hooked. I'm itching to read the conclusion when it comes out late this year. After RENEGADES, I went back to YA contemp and read AMY & ROGER'S EPIC DETOUR by Morgan Matson. Another great YA read- this one about a road trip. I heart YA contemp a lot and it's making me look forward to the next MS I plan to write which is a- yep, you guessed it- YA contemp!

After these awesome books, I tried out an NA story but couldn't get into it, so sadly had to DNF. Now I'm reading a Jane Austen retelling but I'll talk about that next time!

Monday Reads: Pioneer Stories

After reading the Magnus Chase series, I decided to completely switch genres and finally read a book series my mom lent me (that I knew she wanted back soon). I was hesitant to commit to the series because the first book is an 800 page whopper. I hate long books. Mostly because I feel like they're going to waste my time... as in I could read two, maybe three books in the time it'll take me to read one really long one.

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But I gave THE UNDAUNTED, by Gerald Lund, a try. Gerald Lund is a Mormon author. Everything I've read by him so far are Mormon or religious books- The Work & the Glory series is about the early members of the Mormon church, and The Kingdom and the Crown trilogy takes place during Jesus Christ's time. The Undaunted is the same, this time about pioneers in the late 1800s who were asked to settle the San Juan area. 

So here is my very contradictory opinion about The Undaunted. I was into it from start to finish. But it was too long. I mean, the first couple hundred pages were backstory basically. The story didn't get to the main premise (the pioneers going through the Hole in the Rock) until the last two hundred pages. I mean... it irks me when authors are allowed to get away with this kind of thing. I mean, why? At the same time, aside from a short section in the middle, I enjoyed every bit of it. But it still could've been shorter.

The second and third books of this series, ONLY THE BRAVE and TO SOAR WITH EAGLES, introduce new characters. They're much shorter. BUT... here's where I really contradict myself. I just couldn't bring myself to care as much, and I think it's because these characters weren't developed enough. I didn't want another 800 page book, but I just wasn't as into their struggles because I didn't really know them. I gave THE UNDAUNTED 4 stars, and these other two 3 stars. Not the worst reads but not my favorite either.

Now I'm totally in this slump. I started a contemp romance I had on my Kobo, but quit because I just wasn't into it and some of it was a bit ridiculous. I'm waiting on two books from my library, so I really don't know what to read. Right now, I'm debating between reading one of my kids shorter MG books, or rereading Anna and the French Kiss, a book I loved and have always wanted to reread. I'm thinking I'll go the latter because I hate being in a book slump and I think Anna will bring me out of it.

What do you do when you're in a book slump? 

Monday Reads: Magnus Chase & the Gods of Asgard

So I got a bit romanced out around Christmas. I just read a few too many Christmas romance novels in a row, combined with lots of Hallmark movies and I just... couldn't anymore. So I switched it up and read Rick Riordan's Magnus Chase & The Gods of Asgard trilogy.

I love Rick Riordan. His books are always exciting, funny, and have great characters. This trilogy was no different. In fact, I thought I might get a bit fatigued and was going to read something else in between the books, but I ended up hardly touching the other book because I was so into the story of Magnus and his friends. It was a bit weird to see Thor and Loki portrayed differently than they are in the Marvel Universe (I prefer the Marvel versions), but it was fun to read about Norse mythology- something I know basically nothing about (again, see Marvel). Magnus was a different MC- kinda soft in a way that Percy and Jason from Riordan's other books aren't- but I found that refreshing. I also loved all of the secondary characters- all of them totally compelling, as always (although I was happy that we finally learned more backstory about Magnus's hallmates in the third book).  

I could gush on but you get the point. I always know what I'm getting with a Rick Riordan book and these ones did not disappoint.

Monday Reads: Some Anthologies, a YA Historical, and a Forgotten Book

COLLIDE's blog tour is underway... check out the previous post to see the stops and enter for your chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card! 

So while I've been busy with the blog tour (and trying not to over-spam people with the posts), I've also been reading. Last week I mentioned that I'd only read two books but that didn't feel right... well now Goodreads is showing I read another book in between those two books! Clearly, I forgot about it, and clearly GR wasn't showing it at the time, though who knows why.

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The book I read a few weeks ago was THE ROSIE PROJECT by Graeme Simsion. I'd heard so much good stuff about this book but it didn't end up being what I thought it was. Still an interesting and entertaining read, but I didn't love it like I wanted to. 4 stars.

The past couple of weeks I read two short story anthologies: DANGEROUS TO KNOW: JANE AUSTEN'S RAKES AND GENTLEMAN ROGUES edited by Christina Boyd (editor extraordinaire of THEN COMES WINTER and THE DARCY MONOLOGUES) and MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME: TWELVE HOLIDAY STORIES edited by Stephanie Perkins. I also read Mackenzi Lee's THE GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE.

Both anthologies were excellent. The Christmas one had a nice mix of funny/serious and contemp/fantastical stories. There were a couple I didn't like as much as the rest, but in all I really enjoyed this anthology. DANGEROUS TO KNOW was sooo good. I wasn't sure how I'd feel reading about Austen's rakes (I prefer the heroes myself), but each author delved into their backstory so well that I often found myself sympathizing, despite their bad behavior. I don't think I could name a favourite because they were all so well done. 

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THE GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE... was a great book. But warning: it definitely had more vice than virtue in it. The MC was sometimes idiotic, sometimes annoying, and sometimes weak, and yet he still remained likable which is saying something. I definitely liked both Percy and Felicity better as characters, but as a trio they were compelling and fun and they balanced each other out nicely. Fun read and 4 stars.

 

 

Monday Reads:

Oh wow. I only read two books in two weeks. What is going on with me???

This is why I don't give myself a reading goal for the year, though. Because I don't want to feel pressured to read a certain number of books. So when life gets busy and I don't have as much time for reading, I don't feel all the guilt.

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Anyway... I read THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE by Cynthia Hand. I wasn't sure I was in the mood for this kind of book. It's about a girl who is trying to get over her brother's suicide. But the book pulled me in. The character development was excellent, the struggles and actions of the MC so real and raw. The only thing I didn't like was there were times when the book got a bit descriptive about things that didn't matter. There were paragraphs of the MC describing how a casserole was made or how their playhouse was built. Who cares? One or two sentences: good. Paragraphs: bad. Also, not very realistic for a child to know exactly how her dad built a playhouse. In general though, it was a great book and I totally bawled at the end.

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Then I read KINDRED by Octavia E. Butler... also not the lightest of books, but WOW. What an incredible book. It's about a black woman married to a white man who time travels (against her will) to the antebellum south in the early 1800s. She even takes her husband back with her once. I can't even describe this book, it's just so good. The story is moving, to see what the characters go through, how the MC has to struggle with her time and the past, with the many and horrible racial injustices, the decisions she makes... it's all perfection. There's not much I can say but, read it!

So I've been wracking my brain, positive that I read something in between these two books. I think what I'm missing is I did a final read-thru of The Pemberley Journals for the authors before they published on the Austen Variations book page. I mention it because this time travel story where the modern-day MC switches places with Elizabeth Bennet is so fun! It's a great read, and free at Austen Variations so check it out if you're a Pride and Prejudice fan!

 

Monday Reads: Late As Usual

One of these days I'll get my act together.

Unfortunately, today is not that day.

Anyway... as of last Monday Reads, I had just gotten three books from the library that I was really excited for. Here they are:

I can tell you right now, THESE BOOKS DID NOT DISAPPOINT. All were 5-star reads for me.

WARBRINGER was fun to read. It was a bit hard at first to get used to this different origin story when I'm so used to the movie, but I didn't enjoy it any less. I especially found the minor characters to be totally compelling and I loved the insight into Diana's life on Themyscira.

WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI was such a fun contemp and I love reading from another (diverse) perspective. It's so interesting to learn where other people are coming from, to learn their differences, and to also see our similiarities and where I could totally relate despite my different religion. I thought this story was so cute. I've heard criticism about Dimple as an MC, but I didn't mind her at all. While I didn't always agree with her choices, I still found them honest and true to her character. Also, Rishi was totally adorable.

MOXIE. Wow, MOXIE. This really deserves five billion stars. It was such a great story about feminism, friendships, first love, and did I mention feminism? I bawled at the end, I found the story so moving, and yet it wasn't one of those super hard to read books you never want to read again because they were disturbing or whatever. This book was an excellent mix of relationships and real issues. I'm definitely owning this one. I mean WOW. A million times WOW.

After those three, I decided to finally finish up a series I've had sitting on my shelf for forever. So I read THE HEIR and THE CROWN by Keira Cass. I enjoyed the first three Selection books. These I didn't like as much... the MC Eadlyn is such a massive brat in the first book it was hard to read sometimes. But the books were still fun, had some great romance and laugh-out-loud moments, and she finished up the series quite nicely. Both 4 stars.

So that was a lot of YA... What did you read this week?

Monday Reads: A Whole Lotta Romance

I'm not the kind of person who can only read one genre. Heck, I don't even like to read the same genre back-to-back. I tend to switch it up usually. 

Except for the past couple of weeks when it seems all I read was Romance.

There were some differences though. I went from country romance to billionaire romance to historical, then retelling, then YA, plus non-fic. So. 

The YA- Lucky in Love by Kasie West- was the only book I awarded 5 stars to, and actually it was more like 4.5 because it drove me crazy how the MC spent her lottery winnings. But I rounded up instead of down because the character was 18 and we can't expect an 18-year-old to spend their newfound millions wisely. Otherwise, another supercute story from Kasie West and I loved the love interest, Seth!

Two of these books were retellings: Persuaded by Misty Dawn Pulsipher, and Find Me In Paris by Alix Nichols. Although I think the author played it a little loosey-goosey with the word retelling for Find Me In Paris. There were very few similarities with Pride & Prejudice, but the book was entertaining nevertheless. I also enjoyed Persuaded as I do most things Persuasion, although I've started to find that I'm extra picky with Persuasion retellings. It's when I find other authors doing things I did that my beta readers/CPs pointed out to me as problematic that I then changed- that's when I get picky. Can't help it.

Chasing Charlie was cute, though way too rushed and lacking character development. My Fair Gentleman was really good and I only had a few small nitpicks with it. I also read When Love Hurts: A Woman's Guide to Understanding Abuse in Relationships. This was a research read for my latest WIP and it was very informative. Because of it, I know of a few changes I'll need to make to the WIP because I've got things wrong or just not right enough, if that makes sense.

I'm super excited for the three books I just got from my library over the weekend: all YA, all new(ish), and all popular which means anticipated. We'll see how they go... 

 

Terrifical Travels, Part Two: PARIS

I still can't believe I actually went on the trip of my dreams. 

Paris. I've been there. It still seems unreal.

I've always wanted to go to Paris. Not sure why, except I would guess it's the mix of the romanticism, plus taking French Immersion since Grade 1. (Which means from Grade 1 on, most of my classes were in French- the teacher spoke in French, we spoke in French, all assignments were in French. Hence- immersion.)

Nearing the trip, I was actually kinda worried that the trip wouldn't live up. I mean, it's PARIS. I had this inflated notion in my head of romantic walks and decadent meals and opulent apartments. 

So did it live up? Absolutely. I mean, it wasn't Paris in a movie. The weather was horrible, the food was expensive, and everyone smoked. "La Vie En Rose" did not serenade me as I walked down along the Seine. I wasn't perfectly make-upped or wearing heels and a swishy skirt (did I mention the horrible weather?). But it STILL LIVED UP. It was incredible and I loved every minute. The architecture, the macarons, the art, the language, the pastries. 

I went with the hubs and two other couples and they mentioned how they don't really want to go back but I don't feel that way at all. I could go back and back and back again- although I would like to see the coast next time. I think one of the big things that connected me to it, that really made me love it, was my handle on the language. I couldn't speak fluently, and I couldn't understand everything, but I did pretty good, if I do say so myself. Because of that, I felt a connection to the place. 

If I'm ever stinkin' rich one day (ha, yeah) then I totally want to own an apartment in Paris so I can spend time there anytime I want. So I guess, Paris is still a dream to me.

Monday Reads... a day late

I could've sworn I did a post about recent events or a Monday Reads post, but... nothing. So either I'm going crazy or I dreamt it or I don't know. Life has been crazy and sometimes sucky but also okay and I feel like a mix between I got this and a total failure. So here I am on a Tuesday, weeks since I've posted with a list a mile long of books I've read. Which makes me realize two things: one, I've gotta keep this post short and how the heck am I going to remember my thoughts on some of these books? And two, at least I've been reading through life's craziness.

So here's what I've been reading:

Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen were all five-star reads for me. The rest were 4-star, so still solid. I can't remember why I gave Jesse's Girl and A Little in Love 4 stars instead of five because I remember enjoying them both (but there must have been something). Eliza and Her Monsters got 4 because there were certain minor things that bugged me about the MC. This Is Where It Ends got four because I felt the antagonist could have been developed more fully, otherwise it was a gut-wrenching read. The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy was 4-star because it started slowly for me, but about 100 pages in the story really took off. 

Eight very different books but all solid, entertaining, and well-written reads. I'd recommend them to anyone.

Monday Reads: Series Ends and Austen Retellings

It's always great to finish up a series. It's an accomplishment of sorts. And if the books are good, it's seeing favorite characters get the endings they deserve. It's finishing with a sense of satisfaction and closure. Hopefully.

Luckily, both of these 3rd books in YA trilogies did that for me. 

ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN by Jenny Han and THE ENDS OF THE WORLD by Maggie Hall. Great ends to great trilogies. 

I also read two modern Jane Austen retellings. EMMA: A LATTER-DAY Tale by Rebecca H. Jamison, and FIRST & THEN by Emma Mills.

With Emma, it was a book where the characters share my religion. I thought I'd really enjoy this modern retelling, but unfortunately it just didn't do it for me. I had a lot of issues with the book and the characters, and in fact rounded up to a 3-star rating because it's really difficult for me to give lower. I enjoyed FIRST & THEN decidedly more, although calling it a PRIDE & PREJUDICE retelling isn't quite right. The MC likes Austen, and sometimes thinks things using a regency voice, and there could be a parallel made with how she feels about the hero at the start with how Elizabeth feels about Mr. Darcy, but that's where the Austen/P&P similarities end. I did like the book though and it gave me the feels in quite a few spots. 

In all, not a bad reading week. What have you read lately?

Monday Reads

It's Monday Reads, Labour Day edition. Which basically means I'm writing this post at 6pm instead of in the AM because I was out with the kids all day. So here's what I read:

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DARK DESIRES by Eve Silver. I heard Eve Silver speak a couple of years ago at WHEN WORDS COLLIDE. I really connected with her story of writer struggles and how her writer heart got broken over and over and over again (like, ALOT. It made me feel better). Since then, I've wanted to read something by her and finally, I did. Dark Desires didn't disappoint. The mystery was good and I especially loved the romance and the swoony hero. I did get a bit irked by the MC at times. I can't really say why without giving the mystery away, but it was all good in the end.

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P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU by Jenny Han. This book was a lot of fun. I laughed out loud lots and really connected with the MC. I've heard a lot of criticism about how the MC's voice is young, but I find it refreshing. Not every teenager is going to sound jaded, mature, experienced, etc. and it bugs me when they're expected to be that way. So I've liked the two books in this series so far and onto the third!

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THE EPIC CRUSH OF GENIE LO by F.C. Yee. My local librarian told me to pick this one up- she loved it- so I thought, why not. And I'm so glad I did. The MC was so awesome. She was snarky, tough, mean, unapologetic, and funny. It was awesome reading about a mythology I know nothing about. And I liked the slow burn of the romance. 

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THE SUMMER OF CHASING MERMAIDS by Sarah Ockler. This book was on the slower side, but still good. The premise was so interesting, as was the MC and her backstory. I thought it might be difficult to read a story where the MC can't talk, but it wasn't at all. The romance was the best part for me- a great mixture of sweet and sexy and romantic.

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PREJUDICE MEETS PRIDE by Rachael Anderson. Based on the title, I assumed this was a Pride & Prejudice retelling. Um, no. It's not. Which left me a little disappointed because the book wasn't what I thought. Aside from that, I enjoyed the story, but it wasn't amazing. Just good. Good enough to finish but I wasn't wowed. 

I will not mention the book I DNF'd after two pages based on the shoddy writing, because whatcha gonna do. It happens.

*Terrifical Travels, Part One: Maui

I love to travel. If I could, I would go everywhere, and often. Unfortunately, time, money, and four children prevent that. Fortunately, I have managed to go to some pretty great places in the last year and thought I'd share some pics from the places I've visited.

Last November, I visited Hawaii for the second time. First time was a few years ago for my brother's wedding on Oahu. This time, me and the hubs plus my brother-in-law and his wife went to Maui.

Can I say how much I love Hawaii? I really do. Yes, it's expensive, but it's such a beautiful place and the weather is perfection. I was really worried it wouldn't be warm enough (for me, who hates the cold) in November but it was gorgeous. It never rained and it was never too hot.

We stayed at a time share right on the beach, although the waves near us were massive. Lucky for me and the hubs, it was our turn to get the "good" room, and whoo did we ever. Check out this view!

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The trip was the perfect mix of relaxation and sight-seeing. We snorkeled, we tried some great restaurants, we shopped, drove around the island, saw a huge surfing competition (from afar) and even took a helicopter tour, which was so cool. And of course, we went to a luau. The food was iffy but the show was incredible! 

Have you ever been to Hawaii? I would love to go back again. The hubs hasn't been to Oahu and would like to see Pearl Harbour so hopefully one day...

*Is terrifical actually a word? I'm not sure if it is, but I liked the sound of it anyway. I really wanted to call these posts Travels With Trolls but thought the people I traveled with might object. *Bonus points if you know where Travels With Trolls is from. 

 

Monday Reads

It's hard to read anything after HARRY POTTER... I mean, nothing lives up, right? And maybe I was just a bit judgmental after because I found myself nitpicking a lot of the books I've read since.

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Like THE SUNFLOWER by Richard Paul Evans. This is the first I've read by this author although I've seen some movies based off his books. But I found this story lacking. It was sweet and nice, and a quick read, but too quick I think. It didn't delve as deeply into the characters as I would have liked, so when they are having feelings, I had trouble believing them. Also, the dialogue was forced at times. A nice story though, and I did like the setting, some of the places they traveled, and the kids at the orphanage.

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I SEE LONDON, I SEE FRANCE by Sarah Mlynowski. So, this was a strange one for me. I picked it up because I loved the premise and I wanted just this kind of story for a summer read. I assumed it was YA, it read like YA, and then the MC says she's 19 and already done a year in college. I was super confused. It took my probably half the book to finally get used to the younger voice compared to the age and experience of the character. There was very blase talk of sex and drugs that didn't fit for me. I did enjoy the romance part of the story though and all the places they visited. 

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THE BELLES  by Dhonielle Clayton. Isn't the cover gorgeous? I also love the premise. However, it took me a while to get into it. There was a lot of beautiful description, and I get why, but it became too much for me. Other than that though, I really enjoyed the story, was bummed it cut off so abruptly and I'll pick up the next one for sure. Unfortunately I read an ARC because the book hasn't released yet so I have a long time to wait.

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ON THE FENCE by Kasie West. Kasie West does it again. LOVED LOVED LOVED. The characters, the romance, the feels. She gets me, every time. A 5-billion star read.

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DARCY'S ULTIMATUM by Jennifer Joy. I enjoyed this Pride & Prejudice variation. The addition of Darcy's father was really interesting and I loved him as a character. I also liked seeing how Darcy and Elizabeth's relationship played out in this setting, plus I got a bigger glimpse into Darcy's character. The stakes felt a bit low to me at times, but otherwise it was a great read.

So ON THE FENCE was definitely my fave but the rest were solid reads. Unfortunately I also DNF'd a book this week but I don't like to talk about those. If I finish a book, then there are definitely things I like about them, despite the nitpicks.

What did you read this week? 

 

 

On Conferences and Anxiety

This weekend I had the chance to attend a writers conference- WHEN WORDS COLLIDE in Calgary. It was my third time attending WWC and my third time attending any writers con. It was a great experience, I learned a lot, participated in some panels, and sold some books. 

But I wanted to say some things... 

Most writers are introverts. A lot of us get really nervous about attending cons. We feel awkward and insecure and lonely and weird. We worry about having no one to talk to, or about trying to talk to someone. We worry about the stress we'll feel from being around so many people. We worry about the toll it will take on our bodies and minds.

These are all worries I have personally. I get anxiety about it every single time. For at least a week leading up to WWC- or any author event, I'm sick to my stomach. I tell myself I won't go, then tell myself I will, then won't, then will, and back and forth. I feel absolute dread about the whole thing. I get sweaty and nervous before I have to appear on panels, or work the shared author table where my books are sold. I wish I was a different person who isn't like this. Who can saunter into any class or room and talk to random strangers- because after all aren't we all writers or artists of some kind? Aren't these my people? It doesn't matter what I tell myself on the drive in (nobody really knows you and you can be anyone), I still end up being mostly silent and alone and nervous and scared.

So. This isn't me trying to drum up pity. And it's definitely not me telling you not to attend writers cons. Because YOU SHOULD ATTEND WRITERS CONS. Despite all the stuff I go through before and during, despite the need to de-stress afterward, I will keep attending.

Why? First, I learn stuff. If I hadn't gone to WWC this weekend I never would have learned how to write a better fight scene, how to find influencers, and that I can pitch my book to Hollywood producers myself (no joke, you can!). I don't learn something new in every panel or class, but like I said earlier, just being around other writers is motivating. It's inspiring. It's beneficial. It's a must, especially for those of us who don't know many (if any) writers in real life.

Second, people learn about me. I haven't done many in-person events. Mostly because I don't know where/how to book them. So when I know of one, a clear chance to get my name out there and my books on a table, where I can share what I've learned about the writing process/craft/business, then I need to take it. And you do, too.

Third, I need to push myself out of my comfort zone. I know this. My therapist has told me this. I don't want my anxiety to beat me so I have to beat it. I'm hoping one day it will get easier, but I also know it probably won't. But I do it anyway because I know I should. 

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To help my anxiety, I wear a fake tattoo. I started this with my first ever author appearance and it's become tradition. So when I start to get anxious or stressed or nervous or down or less in any kind of way, I look at the tattoo (usually on my wrist) and it helps ground me. So if you get anxiety about going to a con, find something that will center you. That will remind you that you are awesome and that you can do anything.

Go to that writer's con. You won't regret it.

Monday Rereads

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of when Harry Potter was first published. The 19 years later at the end of Deathly Hallows happens this September the 1st. July was also the month I visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the 2nd time (the first time in California). So naturally, it felt time for a reread.

I spent July rereading the Harry Potter series and I loved it just as much as I did the first time, the second time, the tenth time... I will always love these books. If you asked me what one book I'd want with me on a desert island, I'd answer all seven HP books. (Because you can't read one without reading the rest.)

I've often wondered why I love the books so much. There are a lot of reasons, but the main one is the world J.K. Rowling created. It just feels so real. I want it to be real. And if it is, I better not be a Muggle! I want to live in it, and get my letter to Hogwarts, and my own wand, and...

So yeah, I'm a Harry Potter fangirl. Probably always will be. I can totally picture myself at 70 years old still reading them, watching the movies, and wearing an I Solemnly Swear I Am Up to No Good shirt. 

Harry Potter? you ask. And I reply, Always. 

Monday Reads... on Wednesday!

I've read nine books since I've posted last. NINE. So I don't think I'm going to talk about each one. I've rated them all on Goodreads, but most of these books were stellar reads. POISON'S KISS, ALEX & ELIZA, SOULLESS, and of course the first two Harry Potter's were all five star reads. The rest, 4-star. So yay for that. Good books make me happy.