My Summer TBR List

I’m one of those people who feed off of sunshine, so spring and summer are my favorite seasons. I especially love to read in the summer. Back when I was in school summer was pretty much the only time I could read for fun, and now the longer days make me more productive so I have more time to read. So since yesterday was the first official day of summer I thought I’d share what’s on my Summer To Be Read (TBR) List.

  • The Shadow Children Series by Margaret Peterson Haddix
    I read the first book of this series, Among the Hidden, in May for my Favorite Book Feature, so of course I now have to go read the whole series again. These books were some of my favorites back in middle school/early high school. Haddix was my favorite author at the time, and her books made me want to write too.

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  • The Skinjacker Trilogy by Neal Shusterman
    I also read the first book of this series, Everlost, for a Favorite Book Feature, and I now want to read the other two books as well. Shusterman is one of my current favorite authors because of his incredible writing style. His voice is so distinct, and he is one of the best storytellers I’ve ever read. Look for my post on Everlost next Friday for June’s Favorite Book Feature.
  • Legend by Marie Lu
    I was hooked on this series as soon as I read the book jacket and saw that it is a dystopia inspired by Les Misérables. I’ll be writing about this amazing book for July’s Favorite Book Feature.
  • Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
    August’s Favorite Book Feature is going to be this eerie dystopia about a water shortage.

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  • The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
    I’ve been meaning to get to this on for a while. Set in future Manhattan in a skyscraper that’s a thousand stories tall, this book sounds so glamorous and thrilling.
  • The Reader by Traci Chee
    This book is about a world without reading, which I find really interesting. It’s a fantasy, which I don’t tend to enjoy very often, so I’m not sure I’ll like it. But I think it will help inspire me and my current project.
  • Metaltown by Kristen Simmons
    I won the audiobook version of Metaltown a while back from a giveaway by the author, and I’m finally getting around to listening to it. This one is another dystopia inspired by Les Misérables, so I was hooked as soon as I heard Simmons describe it at a signing I went to.

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  • The Selection Series by Kiera Cass
    I think this will be the forth time I’ve read the original trilogy, but I like these books more each time I read them. I want to go through them again to help me as I work on a similar book.

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  • The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
    While these are some of my favorite movies, I haven’t actually read the books except for the first one when it was a new book nine years ago. I also think this series will help me with my current project, so I finally want to read them.

Of course, all but two of these books I already own, so my library stack that’s already as tall as me isn’t getting any shorter any time soon. But I still can’t wait to get to read all of these stories this summer.

When I’m Not Writing: Jewelry-Making

Though I do have stories running through the back of my head most of the time, I’m not actually writing all of the time. I thought I’d start sharing some of my other hobbies and things I like to do when I’m not writing. One of my favorite things to do is to make jewelry, which I’ve been doing for over half of my life now.

When I was eleven a friend taught me how to make simple bracelets out of embroidery floss. These bracelets were really easy and relaxing to make, and they started off a long list of things I like to do that involves working with my hands. I made so many of these little bracelets, and I loved going to craft stores and picking out new colors of floss.

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We moved back to Ohio just after I learned how to make these bracelets, and one of my new neighbors saw my interest in jewelry and taught me how to make beaded pieces. I have spent the last twelve years of my life making jewelry whenever I have time and selling it when I can.

I currently have almost 300 different kinds of beads. I have made almost every piece of jewelry that I wear. I just love all of the colorful beads and I feel at peace when I’m making patterns and stringing beads. These are some of my favorite pieces I’ve made. I wore the blue bracelet on my wedding day.

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I recently found a way to link my jewelry-making and my writing in an exciting project called Hope Bracelets, which you can read about here. I hope to find more ways to combine my two passions in the future.

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So if I have free time in the evenings after a day of writing, you can find me spread out on the floor of our living room with my 18 cases of beads, making patterns and creating beautiful jewelry.

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VOLZ with Engage City Church

As I’ve said before, I love my church. I feel so blessed that God has brought this amazing church to my community and that I get to be a part of it. Engage City Church is a family. I feel home when I am with all of these amazing people. And this weekend we got to come together and celebrate all of the church’s volunteers at their semi-annual VOLZ event.

We gathered at a park and had a big cookout with burgers, hot dogs, and The Little Pink Bakery’s amazing cake balls! The party was a throwback to the 90s, and we had 90s music, trivia, and costumes. It was so much fun to get together with my church family and celebrate.

Engage’s lead team honored the volunteers and Pastor Doug reminded us all why we do what we do. We get to serve at this church. We get this wonderful opportunity to love on and serve people in our community. And each and every one of the volunteers is such an important part of the church as a whole.

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When we came home after the party I was thinking about how much volunteering means to me. I love being a part of this church. I love taking care of the babies in the nursery and holding open doors and greeting people when they arrive for the worship experiences. I love getting to love on people and spread the love of Christ to my community. Engage City Church is doing big things, and I’m so happy that my husband and I are a part of it.

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My Blog Turns 1!

Today is my blog’s first anniversary!

On May 31st of last year, I published my first post about reading the Selection series and how meeting Kiera Cass helped me to finally write and publish my first novel.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like blogging. Writers learn to write in other’s voices. We write as our characters and we tell their stories. It was an interesting experience to start writing as myself and to tell my own story. I’m really happy with how my blog and website have evolved over the last year, and I really enjoy posting about my writing, books I’m reading, and anything else that affects my life as a writer.

To celebrate my blog’s anniversary, I wanted to look back on some of my favorite posts from the past year. Help me celebrate and check out some of my old posts!

Behind the Scenes of Somewhere Only We Know: Writing a New Story: This post explains what I want readers to take away from my novel, which is of course the most important part of writing the book in the first place.

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World Changers: In this one I explain my calling to be a writer and how I want to use writing to do what I can to make a difference.

Top 10 Reasons I Love My Husband: In honor of Valentine’s Day, I created this list of all the reasons I love my husband.

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Being a “Real” Writer: In this post I reflect on making writing my job and give my view on what makes someone a real writer.

Why I Love Engage City Church: In this one I brag about how awesome my church is.

Why Write?: Here I talk about an important lesson I learned back in college-that everyone has something important to say.

Reading Your Own Writing: When I read through my novel for the first time after it’s publication, I had both a negative and positive feeling about it. Here I write about trying to focus on the positive.

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Molly and me reading together

Finding Motivation: In this post I talk about having the right mindset to write and how I created a reward system to keep myself motivated.

Somewhere Only We Know Launch Party: Here I have pictures from and talk about my book launch party.

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Getting Re-inspired by Les Misérables: Lastly, in this post I talk about finding inspiration from my favorite story ever.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog over the last year, and I hope you continue to join me on my writing journey by reading my blog for the years to come!

Favorite Book Feature: Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Last weekend I got to return to the town where I lived when I was in middle and high school for a family friend’s graduation party, and I was feeling nostalgic as my husband and I drove around the town where I grew up. So when I was looking through my favorite book shelf for May’s featured book, I picked Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix. I first read this novel when I was in eighth grade after Haddix came to speak at my school, and Haddix was my favorite author at the time.

Among the Hidden is about Luke, a twelve year old boy who has never left his family’s property, never gone to school, never met another person outside his family, and spends his days reading in his attic bedroom because he is an illegal third child in hiding from the Population Police. When the government buys the land behind his family’s farm and builds a new housing development, he’s no longer even allowed to go outside.

Then Luke sees a child’s face in the window of one of the new houses where he knows two other children already live, and he finally meets a fellow shadow child. But Jen has a dangerous plan to be able to come out of hiding, and wants Luke to join her. Among the Hidden is the first of the seven-book Shadow Children series.

Among the Hidden was the first dystopian book I’ve ever read, though I didn’t have the name for it at the time. It was still a while before young adult dystopian novels gained their popularity that they still have today. But even ten years ago I knew that I was holding something special when I read the Shadow Children books.

Haddix is so skilled at making her books suspenseful, quick reads that are appealing to all ages. I like her books now just as much as I did when I was in middle school. As I’ve talked about here, Haddix made me want to be a writer.

I love Among the Hidden because the book immediately grabs you with its premise. You’re instantly invested in Luke’s story when you learn he can no longer go outside because he’s an illegal third child. Haddix does an amazing job of showing his parents’ worry and, sometimes, overprotection. And then when Luke meets Jen, his world is shaken at its foundation, and you get to watch Luke’s journey as he goes from wondering what he should fill his day with to wondering whether he should risk his life to help shadow children like himself. This book is compelling and thrilling, and is an impressive start to the series.

Behind the Scenes of Somewhere Only We Know: The Books Frankie Reads

One of my favorite things about Frankie Worthington, the main character of my novel Somewhere Only We Know, is that she’s a reader.

Like me, her mother instilled a lifelong love of books in Frankie when she was a young girl, taking her to the library often and getting lots of books into her hands. Unlike me though, Frankie didn’t have anyone to actually buy her books and she resorted to stealing them.

When her father gives Frankie her very first book as an apology for hurting her, Frankie can’t believe that she gets to write her name inside the cover and that the book is all hers. Frankie has a deep respect for books and turns to them when her life is too difficult to bear. For Frankie, and for many readers, books are a way of escaping reality and going someplace better. When Frankie is reading, nothing can hurt her.

These are some of the books that Frankie reads that I featured in Somewhere Only We Know. Some of them I read when I was Frankie’s age. Some of them reminded me of Frankie so I chose to include them. And some of the featured books inspired and reflected themes of Somewhere Only We Know.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Frankie’s class is reading The Giver at the start of my book. I chose to include this novel because when Jonas is introduced to books his world is completely changed. This is the very first book that Frankie is given, and it shows her how important books are. The Giver is also a source of inspiration to Frankie when she attempts writing.

Esperanza Rising by Pan Munoz Ryan

Esperanza Rising was one of my favorite books when I was Frankie’s age. I figured she would also enjoy a book about hope.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

I actually read this one in college, but it’s about a thirteen year old girl who lives in a poor neighborhood that’s full of mistreated girls. I knew that Frankie would identify with Esperanza and would enjoy the poetic prose.

Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis

When the Pevensie children return to Narnia in Prince Caspian, there is the feeling of both going back to someplace familiar and of everything being different. In Somewhere Only We Know, Frankie and her friends return to the tree where they used to play often. Frankie loves being able to return to this place that was once wonderful, but at the same time their lives are completely different now and something about their special place feels really different.

Keeper of the Night by Kimberly Willis Holt

This last book is only mentioned briefly in Somewhere Only We Know, but this book reminds me a lot of mine. In Keeper of the Night, Isabel’s mother has killed herself and she now has to go on, acting brave and taking care of her younger siblings. Isabel reminded me a lot of Susan, and also of Frankie with their mutual love of swimming.

Books Frankie Reads

Favorite Book Feature: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

This year I’ve been featuring one of my favorite books on the last Friday of every month, telling you why it’s one of my favorites. You can find the full list of my favorite books here. April’s featured book is Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

This is a hard book to read. It’s about a young girl, Hannah, who committed suicide. But before she died, she recorded thirteen cassette tapes, one for each of the reasons she killed herself. Each of these tapes features a person who affected her life and what they did to make her want to kill herself. Hannah blames these thirteen people for her suicide—for what they did, and didn’t, do to make her want to kill herself. And we get to hear these tapes through the perspective of Clay, a boy who really liked Hannah and thought he was always nice to her, but who is one of the thirteen reasons. We hear Clay’s commentary throughout the book as he listens through all thirteen tapes in one night.

As Hannah tells her story, she shows how the things that happened to her had a snowball effect, getting bigger and bigger, and that once the ball got rolling it was almost impossible to stop. She recounts multiple instances of rumors being spread about her and also tells about unwanted advances from boys that were results of those rumors. She talks about how every time she tried to get close to someone she ended up hurt. All of these smaller instances add up quickly until everything becomes unbearable for Hannah.

This is not a happy book. We know from the start that Hannah killed herself, which makes this story rather depressing. Though at the end we do get to see that Clay has changed for the better after listening to Hannah’s tapes.

This book is amazing for so may reasons. First of all, the structure of the book is just incredible. I love Asher’s idea of having Hannah tell her story with cassette tapes. It is so unique, and it’s really interesting getting to watch as Clay listens to the tapes—how her voice affects him and the fact that it’s audio rather than something written making it feel “live.” I love that we get to follow good-guy Clay, knowing that somehow he’s one of Hannah’s reasons but also knowing he’s a pretty good person because of what we learn through his narration. The way Asher sets this up leaves you on the edge of your seat wondering how Clay fits in to the story. The book is written like a suspense novel, which keeps you turning pages. And it takes place over one night, which keeps the book tight and fast-paced.

It’s also fantastic that Asher chose to tackle such a tough topic in Thirteen Reasons Why. Teen suicide is a really important and big issue, and this book does the perfect job of showing how seemingly small incidents can lead someone to want to kill themselves. Hannah shows how one thing leads to another, and how when they just keep adding up it becomes almost impossible to keep your head up and keep going. Starting a rumor about someone, taking away encouraging notes, not staying and talking to someone who needs you—all of these things add up quickly. Asher does a great job showing why Hannah wants to kill herself, allowing the reader to really understand why someone would want to commit suicide, and also showing the missteps Hannah took in trying to find help and stop herself.

I highly recommend this book because it opens up a dialog about a topic that people don’t want to talk about. In the interview printed at the end of my copy of the book, Asher says that he wrote the book as a suspense novel in order to get people thinking about the characters rather than the issues themselves to make it easier for people to read the book. Suicide is hard to talk about, and it’s especially hard for the people who are considering it to talk about. Books like Thirteen Reasons Why are wonderful and necessary because they provide a way for people to see outside there own situations and open up about difficult topics.

I chose to read Thirteen Reasons Why this month because I am working on a new book that is also about teen suicide. I read this book again to remind myself of the skill Asher used in writing about this topic, and to get ideas on how I can write about it myself. I hope that my book can also help open up a dialog about this difficult topic.

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