Monday... er, Tuesday Reads

Meg Cabot is one of my fave authors. I loved the Princess Diaries books, enjoyed some of her stand-alones, and Avalon High is probably my favorite by her. So when my library had a ginormous used book sale, I quickly snapped up her Abandon trilogy. 

I have mixed feelings about these books. They're definitely not my top Meg Cabot books. The romance went from non-existent (she was totally creeped out by the dude) to mega-I'll-give-up-everything-for-you-love, the MC was annoying and annoyingly stupid at times, and there were moments when I scoffed out loud at what was happening. AND YET... I kept reading. Not really sure why, but the books were interesting enough to keep me going and I read all three in a relatively short period of time. Three stars for all three because obviously something- and I have no clue what- kept me going.

daughter of the pirate king.jpg

After those, I read a 5-star read: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller. I loved this book. It did take me a bit to get into it, but once I did, I didn't want to put it down. The dialogue was great, the tension between the two leads was awesome, it was funny, exciting, and basically everything I wanted it to be. Can't wait to pick up the second book in the duology, Daughter of the Siren Queen. But before I do, I'm immersing myself in the world of Crazy Rich Asians...

Monday Reads: After the DNF

When I realized I hadn't done a Monday Reads post since the beginning of the month, I groaned. Oh no, I'll have a huge list of books I read and I'll never remember what I thought of them.

And then I checked out my Goodreads list and remembered. Three books. A measly three books in three weeks, which is kinda pathetic for me. BUT, I DNF'd two this month. Yikes. I rarely DNF but I just had to with these two books. One of them was just so ridiculous I couldn't even read on. Like, just no. The other had an excellent voice, but it wasn't what I wanted out of the book so I decided to give it up and move on. 

Luckily, the three books I did read were amazing.

I already raved about TINY PRETTY THINGS by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. I also read the sequel, SHINY BROKEN PIECES which was just as good. This world of cutthroat ballet totally had me. The characters felt real to me. I even finished the second book and thought, so-and-so made a bad decision in the end, as if that person was a real person. Would I want to be friends with these characters? No. But I loved being part of their world. 

ashes on the moor.jpg

I also read my first book by Sarah Eden, ASHES ON THE MOOR. Sarah was the MC at Storymakers this year and has quite the personality! ASHES ON THE MOOR was not a disappointment. An excellent historical romance and I'll definitely pick up another book by this author. 

So after a disappointing book slump, I'm glad I found some amazing books to pull me through! 

Friday Loves: The Librarians and Tiny Pretty Things

It's been a long time since I've done a Friday loves post, but I feel the need to celebrate the positive right now.

tiny pretty things.jpg

I've gone through a bit of a slump when it comes to both TV and books. I DNF'd two books in a row, which is very unlike me. I really thought it was my mood until I picked up TINY PRETTY THINGS by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. This book was full of mean characters who did horrible things to each other, and yet I was totally engrossed by the world of ballet. I borrowed four novels about dance from my library and THIS is exactly what I was looking for. The only thing I was disappointed by is that they didn't do a reveal in the end. They left the mystery a mystery which is kinda annoying because this is a contemporary book. I'm waiting for book 2- SHINY BROKEN PIECES- from my library and I'm hoping they tell us by the end who was the one who did the worst stuff to Gigi.

the librarians s1.jpg

With TV, I was trying to watch The 100. Season 1 didn't start great for me but someone told me to stick with it and it did get better. The cliffhanger ending led me right into season 2, but then I was kinda back where I started, feeling like I just wasn't interested. They killed off my favorite character (in a totally stupid way, IMO), and I just didn't like anyone else enough to want to keep watching them try to kill each other every episode. So I finally quit it and decided to try The Librarians. This show is super cheesy. Rebecca Romijn's acting isn't great (although I feel it's improving), but I'm totally into the show. I love how lighthearted and goofy it is, while also being exciting. It reminds me a little of Doctor Who, just more American fantasy rather than British sci-fi. But it has the same fun feeling to it. I guess that's what I've been needing all along. 

So that's what I'm loving right now. I need to stop feeling guilty for not being into things that are hugely popular or critically acclaimed or whatever, no more beating myself up for quitting something, and just enjoy what I enjoy. 

Monday Reads

Another two weeks, another five books. 

like magic.jpg

First up, LIKE MAGIC by Elaine Vickers. I've "known" Elaine online for awhile and then I happened to randomly pick a table at Storymakers for lunch and there she was! She is as lovely a person in real life as online, and her book was just as beautiful. LIKE MAGIC is a middle grade story of three different girls. I loved their different stories and how they interwove together. It was such a sweet story and I'll definitely pick up another story by Elaine!

attempting elizabeth.jpg

Next up, ATTEMPTING ELIZABETH by Jessica Grey. This was a cute Pride & Prejudice variation, both modern and regency. There were things I loved about it (really funny) and things I didn't (the groundhog-day-esque repeat scenes, the very fast love). Also, some mistakes, but it was good enough for me to read to the end and I enjoyed the story.

baby in boyland.jpg

BABE IN BOYLAND by Jody Gehrman. This book was like reading an alternate SHE'S THE MAN. I love that movie and I loved this story. Cute, fun, funny, great voice, and perfect ending. Predictable, but that's okay. The main thing that knocked down my star rating was two uses of the R-word. Yikes. 

captain of my heart.jpg

CAPTAIN OF MY HEART by Danelle Harmon. I picked this historical story up for free on my Kobo, probably from BookBub or something similar. I wasn't expecting to like it and was pleasantly surprised. The writing is stellar and the story great. My only complaint was length. It felt way too long at times, certain scenes could've been cut, and things could've happened a lot faster in my view. Otherwise, a great story by an author who knows her stuff.

the walls around us.jpg

Yesterday and today I read THE WALLS AROUND US by Nova Ren Suma, a magical realism novel, which isn't my favourite genre. This book? Wow. It's the kind of book I'm glad I read because, whoa, but I will never read again because, whoa. Excellent voice, super disturbing and sad and haunting, and... whoa. So yeah, if this is your type of thing... well, you've probably already read it, otherwise get on that right now. Because whoa.  

After that book, I need something light, fluffy and fun. We'll see what I pick up next...

 

Monday Reads, Despite My Anxiety

No matter how much I read, my Goodreads TBR just keeps getting bigger and bigger. It gives me legit anxiety sometimes when I really think about it. There are so many books I want to read and I'll never, in my lifetime, get to read them all. *cue panicked breaths*

Here's the books I checked off my reading list lately:

DREAD NATION and UP TO THIS POINTE were excellent, 5-star reads. I especially loved the voice in both. The rest were solid 4-star reads for me. So yay for good books!

What are you reading this week?

First Ever Storymakers Conference

At the beginning of May, I had the opportunity to attend my first ever Storymakers conference in Provo, Utah. I'd heard a lot about this conference, and I've been part of the Storymakers guild for about a year and a half, but could never make the trip until now.

I'm so glad I did. I got to attend a ton of excellent classes, buy a bunch of books, meet some new people, and listen to Shannon Hale speak! It was an energizing weekend.

It was also nice to attend a different conference for a change. I love When Words Collide here in Calgary, but I've been the last three years in a row and wanted to try something different. Both are great conferences, by the way. I'm going to skip WWC this year since I did Storymakers but I'll be back next year and hopefully with some new things to share.

 Me and Shannon Hale! (Wish I looked better in this picture)

Me and Shannon Hale! (Wish I looked better in this picture)

The highlight of Storymakers was definitely Shannon Hale. Her keynote speech was AH-MAY-ZING. Brought me to tears multiple times amazing. It was really cool getting to meet her briefly as well, plus she signed my copy of Austenland! (And my daughter's Squirrel Girl.) 

The hardest thing about the conference was not knowing anyone. I went alone and knew no one there at all, unless you count recognizing a few faces I "know" from social media (which I don't). I don't tend to know people at WWC either, but here's where Storymakers gets tricky: they provide meals. Which is awesome, but it also means I was transported back to high school where I'm holding a tray of food and figuring out where to sit in the intimidating cafeteria. Ugh. But I did it, I survived. I even talked to people. (Shocking!)  Next time, though, I'll probably go with someone I know. Because let's be real, that was Hard. 

 Storymakers book haul! 

Storymakers book haul! 

Anyway. I'm still so glad I got to go and I'll definitely go back again sometime. Not every year, because it's a trip for me, but I'm thinking in a few years when my daughter is old enough to go. Now wouldn't that be fun!

Monday Reads: Two Historicals and a Romance

As April wound down, and I focused on finishing my latest WIP, I did manage to squeeze in a little reading time. Luckily for me, they were all fantastic books!

sarah's key.jpg

SARAH'S KEY by Tatiana de Rosnay. This book= WOW. It was just as incredible for me to learn about a not-talked about time in French history as it was for the main character. I had no idea the French police rounded up Jews, leaving them in an arena for a few days and then sending them on to camps. This book gutted me in so many ways and I thought it was really well done. The only thing I wasn't so sure on was the ending. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. (I feel safe to give spoilers since this book has been out a few years.) I get why the author showed us the start of a possible relationship between the MC and the son of Sarah... it made sense, and yet to me it's like, this is a relationship that will never last because it's two people who are obsessed with each other in a strange way and obsessed with the past. I'm not explaining myself well, but it was strange to me. 

a primcess in theory.jpg

After reading such heavy material, I wanted to go lighter, so I picked up A PRINCESS IN THEORY by Alyssa Cole. This was such a fun, sexy romance. Very funny and excellent characters, this book is exactly what great romances are made of. 

an extraordinary union.jpg

Then I read up another Alyssa Cole book, this time a historical romance called AN EXTRAORDINARY UNION. This was a civil war era novel about spies and rebs and I loved it like crazy. The only thing I had a hard time believing was the MC's insta-attraction to the love interest. She fights it, like a lot (as she should) but I still had trouble believing she'd be even moderately attracted to a white man so quickly. BUT, it's not insta-love, and everything else about it, including her reluctance to get close to him, was super well done. I've put sequels to both Cole books on my TBR. 

What are you reading?

Monday Reads: CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE and More

Another four books in two weeks. Here's what I read.

gilded cage.jpg

GILDED CAGE by Vic James. My local librarian recommended this one to me. I thought the premise was super interesting, and the world building excellent. There was a romance subplot that was very minor but felt very sudden to me, which I didn't like, and there were a lot of POVs going on, but otherwise I enjoyed the book. Not sure if I'll pick up the next in the series though.

children of blood and bone.jpg

CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE by Tomi Adeyemi. A lot of hype around this book and it totally lived up. It was a tad long, but that's my only complaint. Excellent characters, compelling world, and I loved the underlying message. 

secret of india orchid.jpg

THE SECRET OF THE INDIA ORCHID by Nancy Campbell Allen. Despite the title really having nothing to do with the book at all (I mean...?), this was another great historical by Allen. She has a way with sweet historical romances and I've enjoyed every one I've read so far. 

zeroboxer.jpg

ZEROBOXER by Fonda Lee. I've seen Fonda Lee speak at When Words Collide multiple times. This last conference, I decided to finally pick up one of her books. Sci-fi isn't my fave genre, and I've never been into MMA, but I found myself really getting into this book and rooting for Carr and his fights. Man, can Lee write a fight scene!

So... super vague thoughts on these books but what can I say? They were all solid reads.

Who Is Your Fictional Boyfriend?

There's always tons of talk about fictional boyfriends among both YA and adult readers. I love reading a hero I can swoon over, a hero who gives me the tingles, makes me laugh, makes me feel.

fictional boyfriend meme.jpg

I could make a (massive) list of fictional boyfriends. (Captain Wentworth! West! An older Percy Jackson! Edward Cullen! Gansey! Mr. Darcy! Cricket Bell! Captain Thorne! Mr. Tilney! Etienne St. Clair! Pretty much every boy in every Kasie West book!)

See what I mean about massive?

boys in books.jpg

But if I had to choose just one...

I would pick Peeta Mellark.

peeta quote.jpg

Last week during Easter break, we watched all four Hunger Games movies. My 11-year-old daughter wanted to see them, mostly because she'd seen Studio C videos and wanted to know what the real story was about. (And if you haven't seen Studio C, check out one of their Hunger Games sketches below, or their most famous sketch Scott Sterling.)

Anyway, I was reminded again what total perfection Peeta is.

Okay, he's not the most handsome. Not the strongest, the bravest, the toughest. Not the tallest (if we're thinking the movie version). BUT. I don't know if there's another character anywhere who loves as hard as Peeta does. Whose love never wavers. If you know of one, I challenge you to name him! Peeta never stops loving Katniss. And it's not the clingy, I-love-you-so-bad-you-must-be-mine-for-all-time kind of love. It's not toxic, and it's not jealous. When they're competing in the Quarter Quell, Peeta designs his token from Effie to be a gift for Katniss- a locket with photos of her mom, her sister, and GALE. Not himself. When they get back from the first games, he's willing to let her go, despite how she used him and how much he's hurting. When he's healing after being hijacked, he stays away from her until he's fully healed and safe to be around her again. Peeta loves Katniss, no matter what she does.

Peeta is just so good. You can call that boring or blah or vanilla or whatever you want, but I call it perfection.

 Ha!

Ha!

Who would you choose as your fictional boyfriend and why? No matter who it is, they won't beat Peeta in my view. ;) 

Monday Reads with So Many Opinions

Sometimes I read a book and all I can really express afterward are generic feelings- I liked it, I loved it, it was meh- without really knowing WHY. 

Sometimes I read a book and I have ALL the opinions. Last week's NOW I RISE was one of those where I couldn't pinpoint exactly how I felt. This week, I have a mix of both.

poison princess.jpg

POISON PRINCESS by Kresley Cole. The whole premise was kinda weird, like there was a lot going on (apocalypse! visions! powers! demons!) and I wasn't sure where it was going. The will-they-won't-they between the two MCs was fun at first and then got a bit exhausting after awhile. But I was into the whole thing. Fast-paced and interesting, I'll pick up the next book in the series for sure.

one of us is lying.jpg

ONE OF US IS LYING by Karen McManus. This book was SO WELL DONE. The characters were all interesting and well-fleshed out, the pacing was spot on, and I loved loved loved how the reader gradually learns different secrets about each character and how you're never really sure who did it. For a mystery this was the tops. I immediately handed it to my oldest daughter when I was done and said, READ IT!

nora and kettle.jpg

NORA & KETTLE by Lauren Nicolle Taylor. The premise of this was intriguing. BUT. It wasn't until 60-some percent that Nora & Kettle actually meet. So basically half this book was backstory. Plus, there was a ton of purple prose. Beautiful, but too much for my personal taste. I still gave it four stars because there was a lot I liked about the book, but I doubt I'll pick up another by this author.

the jane austen book club.jpg

THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB by Karen Joy Fowler. I've already seen this movie, and the book was pretty close. But I found myself not really liking any of these characters much on the page. There was very little plot throughout. Most of it is learning about the different backstories of the characters and that's about it. Prudie, especially, had no character arc to her story. Most didn't. So, a bit of a disappointment. I'll stick to the movie from now on. 

long way down.jpg

LONG WAY DOWN by Jason Reynolds. WOW. Wow wow wow. I read this in an afternoon. It's a novel-in-verse and I thought I wouldn't like that format, but I couldn't put it down. And I couldn't stop thinking about it when I was finished. Just so well done, I loved it. 

Lost Words

Once upon a time, there was a girl who had something to say. She used to write funny, witty, inspiring, or insightful blog posts. 

At least, she thinks she did... 

you are but words.gif

The point is, she had something to say. Something to write about. Something to share.

I'm not sure what happened to that girl. Maybe all her words are going into her books, or into her life. Maybe, because life goes on and doesn't change much, she doesn't have anything new. Maybe she's bored with herself. Maybe her inspiration well has run dry. Maybe she's scared. Maybe she's burnt out.

Probably, it's a mix of all of these.

I miss that girl. I miss when things were easy. Words should not be hard for me, ideas shouldn't be scarce, I shouldn't be afraid when I've conquered so many fears since I started. 

she used to be mine.gif

But. I'm not that girl anymore. I've finally realized I can't go back to who I was, I have to move forward. I have to be who I am now and strive to be better each day that comes. Even if that means I have no words for a funny, witty, inspiring or insightful blog post. Even if that means life, my books, and other social media takes all my words so there are none left.

I'm sorry, mostly to myself, that I'm not a constant blogger like I used to be. I wish I could be that girl I used to be, but I'm not. Instead, I gotta celebrate the days when the lost words come back to me, and share them when they do. 

Monday... er, Tuesday Reads

Oh boy. It's been... AWHILE since I've posted Monday Reads. And there have been A LOT of books in that time. (Of course there have, this is me we're talking about.) So here's what I've read in the last month and I'll try to keep my thoughts short and sweet.

I could write a book.jpg

I COULD WRITE A BOOK by Karen M. Cox. This is an Emma (Jane Austen) retelling set in the late 60s that I really enjoyed. The author stayed too close to the original in my view, but purists will love that.

I believe in a thing called love.jpg

I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED LOVE by Maurene Goo. This was just so cute and sweet and why haven't I started watching K-Dramas yet? Near the end I wanted to throttle the MC (don't do the same stupid thing AGAIN!) but I still loved every bit of it.

gunslinger girl.jpg

GUNSLINGER GIRL by Lyndsay Ely. Loved the premise, loved the world, loved the not-so-black-and-white choices the MC had to make. I find though, now that it's been a couple of weeks since I read it, that it's not all that memorable. *shrugs*

being sloane jacobs.jpg

BEING SLOANE JACOBS by Lauren Morrill. I picked this up because it had a figure skater (Olympics fever, anyone?). Loved the idea of a hockey player and figure skater switching spots, but I would've liked to see more of how that played out in the beginning. Ex: "toe pick!" from The Cutting Edge. I wanted some of those moments. But it was a great contemp read with some swoony love interests!

wonder.jpg

WONDER by R. J. Palacio. Awesome book. There's actually some things I like better in the movie version but the book was excellent too. A must read for everyone, IMO.

love life and the list.jpg

LOVE, LIFE, AND THE LIST by Kasie West. Another Kasie West book that made me swoon, made me laugh, made me cry. She's my favourite. 

geekerella.jpg

GEEKERELLA by Ashley Poston. This was a totally cute book with so many fandom references that I felt like a Geekerella myself. Loved it!

the boy next door.jpg

THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Katie Van Ark. Another figure skating book- this one about a pairs couple who think about taking their relationship off the ice. (Virtue and Moir, anyone?) There were things I loved, especially the whole figure skating world, but there was a lot of the same back and forth going on between the two MC's (let's make-out! let's misunderstand each other, let's make-out! let's misunderstand each other, and on and on) that it got a little overdone. Great ending though!

guernsey literary.jpg

THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY by Mary Ann Shaffer. Heard great things about this book. Started it, then a few pages in I flipped through and WHAT? This book is ALL LETTERS? Oh no! Okay, I was wrong. Loved, loved, loved it! Had a book hangover. Can't wait for the movie. So charming, so well-written, so everything. Format still isn't my fave but it was done amazingly.

not if I save you first.jpg

NOT IF I SAVE YOU FIRST by Ally Carter. If you want girl spy books or heist books or just girls who totally kick butt, then Ally Carter is the author for you. She's also a fave, and this book didn't disappoint. I especially loved how the MC is both tough (she can survive in Alaska completely on her own after all) but also girlie (she bedazzles her hatchet and cares about how her hair looks). More of this in YA books, please! 

Phew. Now I need to go take a nap. 

 

 

 

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.

Cover- Collide.jpg

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.

The Undaunted.jpg

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.

the rosie project.jpg

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. 

the gentleman's guide.jpg

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.