Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee (Review)

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Started: 7/19/2017
Finished: 7/21/2017
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Tash Hearts Tolstoy is one of the best YA contemporary new releases I’ve read this year. It was funny and sweet and fun and heart-wrenching and absolutely delectable. I loved every moment while I was reading this book and practically breezed right through it.

We follow Tash Zelenka as she and her best friend, Jack, are creating a breakthrough YouTube series called Unhappy Families based on the novel Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. In a flash their show is mentioned by a famous YouTuber, they get 45,000 subscribers, and are nominated for a Golden Tuba (a fictional YouTube award). Fame really does happen overnight for Unhappy Families and Tash has to figure out how to deal with all of the attention on top of figuring out her sexuality and fielding flirty texts and emails from a YouTuber friend.

I was really impressed by the asexual representation in the book and the way her feelings were described by Tash. I don’t solidly identify as asexual, but I am questioning and trying to figure myself out as well. But everything that Tash explained she was feeling, or not feeling, I could relate to in a way that confirmed emotions that I have personally been trying to understand.

The writing was beautiful and witty and exquisitely paced. It never felt rushed or drawn out, and I loved how realistic everything was, despite the fact of their overnight success. In the age of the internet, fame is fickle and can flicker bright or dim at the drop of a hat. And the way YouTube, Tumblr, and other forms of social media presented in this novel were described feels true to life. As a YouTuber, I could tell that Ormsbee really understood how it all works. (Or she is very good at imagining and guessing how it works!)

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Tash Hearts Tolstoy. I want to scream from the mountain tops how absolutely amazing this book is and why everyone should read it. Such a beautiful coming of age novel, and I can’t wait to reread this in the future.

Writing Day: 7/20/2017

Current location: Starbucks
Current WIP: #GayAdventureStory

Word count: 61,575
Today’s WC goal: 1,000

Recently, I read a thread on Twitter that had me thinking about my WIP and how I would like it to be perceived when read by people that aren’t me. I know exactly how I want my work to be perceived, but that’s not exactly how everyone else will feel about it. Readers bring their own opinions and viewpoints and experiences before jumping into a book, and I think I have to be more mindful of that. Not that I necessarily think that my book is riddled with problematic elements that I need to immediately fix, but I think that there are places for improvement and expanding on ideas that I’ve had.

I can’t easily place my WIP into a genre, and that’s where the issue starts. It’s sort of fantasy without the magic, and also an adventure story, but I know what it definitely isn’t: alternate history. This genre has been coming to my attention more and more lately, and everytime I see it I’m reminded that I do not want my book to be perceived as alternate history. My story is not an alternate Russia or alternate United States or alternate whatever. The fantasy world I created is just that: a fantasy world. And not a fantasy world in the sense of Game of Thrones where the places are vaguely like Europe or Asia or Africa, etc. My world isn’t a world that exists on a parallel plane to ours. IT’s completely and 100% made up. But I don’t want to make it seem like I’m being insensitive to the nuances that exist in our reality.

I have always admired the way the Star Wars universe was created, but the more I think about it the more I wonder how much of it is problematic. Where the elements stop being good and start being bad; where things begin to be inherently exclusionary.

I think that the concept of race within my “fantasy” world is something that I would like to tackle at some point during the drafting process. Currently my world is ruled by politics, and race hasn’t played a part in the story telling at all.

Anyway, I think that this is all something that I should talk to an editor about and find a solution with. I thought I was going in the right direction, but after reading that Twitter thread I’m second-guessing myself. I think that’s a good thing, though. I want my story to be the absolute best that it can be.

Happy writing!

Taking Bookish Photos

I’m going to admit: photography is not my strong suit. Okay, that’s probably pretty obvious, but hey I like to take pictures of my books! Being part of the book community on multiple platforms, you can start to feel bombarded with trying to live up to everyone else’s standards. I’ve certainly been guilty of that. But I really want to be able to set my own standards and enjoy the things I do.

I’m definitely trying to be less hard on myself, especially when it comes to bookstagram. It’s easy to begin to compare your photos with other people’s photos and feel like you won’t measure up. Or it may be that your books are a few years behind the trend and aren’t able to get newer releases. Whatever it may be, you’re totally not the only person feeling that way.

Anyway, just take pictures of your books, enjoy it, and screw anyone who tries to bring you down. They’re not worth it.

Writing Day: 7/18/2017

So ever since I started this blog, I had the idea of documenting my writing process and when/where I write. This is mostly for me to have some sort of incentive to take my writing seriously and get stuff done. If you find any enjoyment from it or would like to ask me questions, then that makes me inexplicably happy.

Current location: Starbucks
Current WIP: Let’s call it by its Twitter name #GayAdventureStory

Word count: 60,711
Today’s WC goal: 1,000

I really enjoy writing at Starbucks when I don’t really have a clear direction of where I’m wanting to go. If I’m writing at home, a clear direction is pretty much necessary. I tend to get spacey and distracted writing at home, though that’s probably because I have four dogs and no good coffee.

I recently just got out of a writing slump and filled up a lot of plot holes during a recent plotting session, but now I’m pretty intimidated by all of it and it’s seeming like an overwhelming task to even get started. This happens to me a lot and the only solution I’ve found is just forcing myself to write. There’s no trick that gets me out of that funk, I just need to force myself to face it head-on. That’s the only solution.

If you have any suggestions on how to not be so incredibly intimidated by my ideas, then let me know! I would love to hear any ideas.

For now, I mainly need to work on finishing chapter 30, moving on to chapter 31, and going back into my WIP to fix some of the things I figured out during my plotting session. If anything else comes up, I’ll work on that as well, but my main focus is chapter 30.

Without any further sentiments, I’m off! Happy writing!

Prom Queen Perfect by Clarisse David (Review)

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Started: 7/7/2017
Finished: 7/7/2017
Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

This was such a sweet novella! I was expecting something light and quick and fun, and that’s exactly what I got and more. It’s definitely a mix between Gossip Girl and quintessential teen rom-coms, with the feeling of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

Prom Queen Perfect follows Alexandra dela Cruz (I was so excited to find that we share a first name!!) and she is the most popular girl in her school and is currently in the running to win the coveted title of prom queen. But her once less-than-kind feelings towards her classmate Adam Cordero turn romantic and she finds herself helping out a socially-invisible girl at school who turns out to be her best friend.

I don’t read too many novellas, but I loved the pacing and the way that it felt like this was a complete story. Nothing was missing and there was enough drama and romance and teen angst to make the reading worth-while.

Also, the fact that Alex isn’t exactly the most sympathetic narrator was one of my favorite parts! I have a soft spot for main characters that are rough around the edges, and she goes through such a nice and realistic character arc, which was certainly refreshing. I also loved Adam and how serious, but funny and witty he was. The characters’ romance was completely believable and I was definitely rooting for Alex by the end of the novella.

All in all, I completely recommend this novella for anyone looking for a fun, short, and easy contemporary to dive into and read in one sitting.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (Review)

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Started: 7/9/2017
Finished: 7/12/2017
Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

If you have seen my reviews for Sarah J. Maas’ other books, you’ll know that 3-stars is a pretty low rating for me. A Court of Thorns and Roses failed to entice me and enchant me the way it has seemed to do so for everyone else and their mother. There are some things that I found I liked, but for the majority of the book it was teetering on almost a 2-star rating. Other parts it could have been a 4-star rating. But 3-stars seems to be where I continued to fall everytime I reflected back on my experience reading this book. Would I recommend it to anyone? No.

Things I liked:
-Feyre (She was a good mix between clueless and strong and smart and stubborn. However she did mostly remind me of Celaena, so I’m still on the fence about how original of a character she was.)
-Lucien (Honestly he’s probably the best character in the book next to Feyre’s sister Nesta. He was funny, quick-witted, loyal, and just one of my favorites in any scene he was in.)
-Tamlin (Also fantastic, and I actually liked him as a “Beast” sort of character. The masks were an interesting addition as well.)
-The family dynamic in Feyre’s family.
-The loyalty of Tamlin’s court.
-The world building. I love the idea of the different courts representing day, night, dawn, etc. and also the seasons.

Things I disliked:
-The utter lack of representation was appalling. It was blatantly exclusionary to POC and LGBTQ+ people. I’ve never seen this kind of intense lack of representation. Even in Throne of Glass there was more rep. It’s kind of incredible.
-RHYSAND. How do people even like this guy? I kept thinking back to all of the “villain” characters I have loved over the years, and Warner from the Shatter Me series comes to mind. I absolutely loved him (and still do) despite him being portrayed as a “villain” for a lot of the series. Still, he had more redeeming qualities compared to Warner. I honestly don’t understand the draw towards Rhys. I can understand Tamlin (as he is sort of an anti-hero and not necessarily completely likable), but Rhys? Really? I don’t want to spoil anything and give exact examples, but damn. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around how people like him so much.
-The intense misogyny was a bit too much for me. I’m kind of tired of fantasies being so heavily misogynistic. It’s as if fantasy writers think they can’t write a fantasy without it. So many scenes made me extremely uncomfortable, and the idea that so many people were consuming this and enjoying it without a critical eye disturbed me. (Especially considering how many people call Rhysand their book boyfriend.)
-The convenience of it all. Really, so many things just felt so convenient. The ending especially. It felt like it wrapped up too fast and too neatly, I’m not even sure how she was able to write another book continuing on with the story. This could have 100% been a standalone, and maybe it should have.

A lot of this stuff makes it seem like I hated the book more than I did. I honestly didn’t hate it and actually kind of enjoyed it, but there were so many problematic elements I couldn’t leave them out and feel good about writing this review. Again, I don’t think I could (in good conscience) recommend this book to people. If you enjoyed the book more than I did, then I’m glad you had a better experience and I don’t shame you at all for enjoying it. I really wish I could have enjoyed it along with everyone else. I don’t think I will be continuing on with this series anytime soon. I might give a little glance to the second book’s summary, but I might just try to check it out at the library if I REALLY want to read it.

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman (Review)

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Started: 7/13/2017
Finished: 7/15/2017
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

This was such a sweet novella and I’m glad that I finally broke down and decided to buy it! I absolutely loved how fluffy and sweet it was. It’s definitely refreshing considering how much high fantasy I’ve been consuming lately. I loved the characters and the incorporation of religion and just how light it was. However, I would have really enjoyed seeing it as a full-fleshed novel. I felt like it had so much room to grow and expand on the story and characters, but I don’t mind the novella length either. It’ll be a nice little nugget of goodness to come back to later whenever I’m feeling down.