What I’m Reading: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

The past couple months I finally got around to reading a series I had heard about for a long time. I’ve wanted to read these books for a while, and I finally had the time to do so thanks to Hoopla Digital providing the audiobooks.

Retelling the stories of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White, Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series takes the fairy tales I love and makes them even more incredible by turning them into science fiction stories in which Cinderella is a cyborg. These books and Cinder and her friends reminded me of the show Firefly, with the ragtag crew aboard a spaceship and the heists they try to pull off. But they’re even better than Firefly because they’re all based on fairy tales.

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The Paperback box set of The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Set in the future in New Beijing, Cinder forms allies with Scarlet, Cress, and Winter and tries to overthrow the evil Queen Levana of Luna. The four books—Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter—each focus on one of the fairy tales, but they build on top of one another as each character is introduced to the series.

While I didn’t care for the character of Scarlet or the second book in these series that focused on her, I loved this series as a whole. Cress, who is based on Rapunzel, was my favorite of all of the girls, but that’s probably because Rapunzel’s story is also one of my favorite fairy tales. These books are just so imaginative in how they combine a dystopian revolution with the fantasy of fairy tales.

I think retellings are amazing. I’ve written about how some of my favorite stories (Wicked and A Little In Love) are retellings. Taking a story that already exists and putting your own spin on it is a fun and sometimes easier way to write. If you come up with something truly creative—like Cinderella being a cyborg—that idea can explode into a whole series of books.

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Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

I finished listening to the audiobooks of the series at the end of 2018 and received the box set of paperbacks for Christmas. Now I’ve been reading Stars Above, a book of stories set in the world of the Lunar Chronicles!


Have you read The Lunar Chronicles? What’s your favorite book series?

My 2019 Writing and Reading Goals

The beginning of a new year makes me reflect on the work I’ve done over the past twelve months and plan ahead for what I’d like to accomplish in the following year. So today I’d like to share my writing and reading goals for 2019.

Being a stay-at-home writer, I struggle with motivation. I have gone through many iterations of schedules and reward systems to try to figure out the best way for me to stay motivated and get work done. But the problem with doing this is that it became more about hitting the hours and achieving the reward than about doing the work God has called me to.

So now my goal list on my cork board only has one item—to write the book I’m working on. Because that’s all that matters

I’m not putting a timeline on it, because that system doesn’t work for me. I can’t rush this. I simply need to remind myself each day that I’m writing for God and that he’s called me to do this work. Motivation comes naturally when I realize I’m working for the Lord.

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (Colossians 3:23)

As far as reading goes, I crushed my 2018 goals. My goals were to read 35 fiction and 10 nonfiction books, totaling 45 books. I ended up reading 43 fiction and 17 nonfiction books, for a total of 60 books.

I’m going to up my goals, but keep them under the totals that I read this year so I don’t push myself too far. The only reason I read as many as I did is because of audiobooks, but I’m going through a phase right now in which I’m not really listening to them and I don’t know how long this phase will last.

So because of that, my goals for 2019 are to read 40 fiction and 15 nonfiction books, for a total of 55 books. I do hope to read more than that, but I don’t know if that’s realistic if I’m not listening to audiobooks as often.

2019 Writing Goals
What are your writing and reading goals for the year?

In 2019 I want to keep things simple and focus on the reason why I’m doing this work in the first place. God called me to be a writer. My purpose is to write stories for and about women finding hope despite pain. And that’s enough for me.


What are your writing and reading goals for this year?

A Book I Turn to When…

Books can be friends and reminders. We turn to books to learn and sometimes to escape. Books can hold special memories and can be comfort to turn back to.

If you’re like me, these are your favorite books—the rereads you keep coming back to for different reasons. Today I wanted to share with you some of the titles I read over and over again, and why I turn to them.

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Some of my favorite rereads: Everlost by Neal Shusterman, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Selection by Kiera Cass, and Somewhere Only We Know by Bri Marino

A book I turn to when…

…I want to go on an adventureThe Skinjacker Trilogy by Neal Shusterman

The Skinjacker Trilogy—Everlost, Everwild, and Everfound—are incredible books about the world between life and death. The series follows Allie and Nick as they journey through Everlost, and it’s full of so much adventure and imagination that I love turning back to these books.

…I want to escapeThe Selection Series by Kiera Cass

I think I’ve read the original trilogy more times than any other books. I’ve written on here many times how much I love these books. The Selection is simply a fun, swoon-worthy, light read that still packs an emotional punch.

…I want to be inspiredSpeak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak is probably my favorite book ever. This is such a powerful story about rape and healing and finding your voice, and every time I read it I feel so inspired.

…I want to enjoy a classicFahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 is my favorite classic novel, and one of only a few classics I actually like. I love turning back to this older book from time to time because it is science fiction at its best.

…I want to encourage myselfSomewhere Only We Know by Bri Marino

Writing can be discouraging work, and if I need inspiration to keep going, what better work to turn back to than my own? Rereading my published book reminds me that I’ve done it before and can do it again.


What are your favorite rereads and why do you keep turning back to them?

5 Tips on Starting a Writing Project

Writing a novel is a daunting task.

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quote by Stephen King

Starting with nothing but an idea and a blank page, you have to come up with thousands of words to tell a story. Hours of brainstorming, world-building, drafting, and editing are before you, and it’s one of the scariest places to be.

I’m at the beginning right now. I’ve had my idea for a few months and have been researching. I feel like I’m getting very close to the point when I can actually start writing the novel. And I’m remembering just how scary the beginning can be.

So today I wanted to share with you my tips on starting a writing project. These tips are what seem to work for me at the beginning of the daunting task of writing a novel. I hope something in here resonates with you and can help you tackle the beginning of your own writing project

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I don’t think anything is scarier or more exciting than a blank notebook.

1. Let the idea simmer.

I don’t like to jump in right away once I have an idea. I always find that letting the idea sit in the back of my mind for a while helps it develop. It’s also important when you first think of a story idea to not talk about it to anyone. The story idea will never be as special and exciting to you as when it’s new and only yours, and talking about it with someone else can make it lose it’s specialness, thus making it less exciting to you.

2. Read/watch all of the comparable titles.

After thinking through my idea for a while, I make a list of every book and movie related to it. These comp titles help you see how other authors and filmmakers take on a similar topic, and these titles will also be used down the line when pitching your work to be published. I then spend a month or so watching all of the movies and reading all of the books to help me further develop my own story idea.

3. Immerse yourself in research.

The next crucial step is to immerse yourself in the necessary research for your project. A lot of the advice I see out there is to just start writing and make a note to come back to it later when you need to research something. That might work for some genres, but when you’re writing something more research-intensive like historical or science fiction, I find it best to do all of your research up front. Doing this will help you be better-informed about your topic and I’ve found it helps me come up with story and plot ideas as well.

4. Get to know your characters.

This is probably the most important step before starting a writing project. Stories are all about the characters. And if you don’t know your characters well before you start writing, you will feel lost and the story will lack direction. Of course, characters will surprise you and you’ll get to know them better through writing the story, but you still need to learn about them before you start.

5. Breathe.

Lastly, take a deep breath. You’re about to spend weeks/months/years with these characters and this story. So take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you can do this. And start writing.


What tips on starting a writing project would you add to this list?

I Liked the Movie Better…

I like to stay out of the book vs. movie debate.

Book-lovers everywhere love to argue about how accurately film versions portray their beloved stories, but I’ve never thought it made sense to compare books and movies. To me, it’s like comparing a painting to a song. Books and films are two completely different mediums in which to tell stories.

Books of course can contain many more details and story lines than can be included in a two-hour movie, but movies are a chance to see a story truly come to life. And in some cases—even as a book-lover and as a writer—I like the movie versions even better than the books.

This past month I watched the new movie To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and thought it was amazing. Since I liked it so much, I picked up the book from the library. While I thought both were good, I definitely liked the movie version of this story more, and so I wanted to write about it and the other movies I like better than their respective books.

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Some of the books of which I like the respective movies better

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Over the past couple years, I’ve been getting more and more into the romance genre, and this story is just too cute. I saw the movie first, and was smiling the whole time because of how fun it is. I really enjoyed the writing in the book, but I thought it didn’t have a good ending. The movie wrapped up the story in a much better way, in my opinion. I’m waiting on the other two books in this series from the library.

The Hunger Games Series
As I’ve wrote about before, these movies were made for the screen. The author was a screenwriter, and I think that just comes through in the writing of the books. I think the essence of the story just works better in a movie.

The Harry Potter Series
It’s not that I don’t like the Harry Potter books, it’s just that they’re so long. I have trouble sitting still long enough to read books that long. I read the first six Harry Potter books a few times when I was in middle school, but I haven’t read any of them since reading the last book when the final movie came out. I love the films though because you can see all of the magic come to life.

Stardust
The book Stardust is on my favorites list because of the excellent writing and cool story. The movie is actually pretty different than the book, but I love it even more because, again, I love seeing all of the magic come to life on screen.

Cloud Atlas
Like Harry Potter, this book is long. I’ve only read it once, and—while I think it’s amazing and I put it on my favorites list—I don’t think I have the patience to read it again. I thought the movie version was very well done, and I love what they did with the actors playing different roles in each storyline.

Les Miserables
I’ll confess, even though Les Mis is my favorite story ever, I’ve only ever read the first page of the book. It’s written like a history book, which I find boring. But I love both the movie and the musical of this story.


How do you feel about the book vs. movie debate? Do you like any movies better than the book versions?

Favorite Book Feature: Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Last year I featured some of my favorite books each month with special posts saying why I love these books. You can check out my favorites book page to find links to my reviews of all of my favorites. But because I’m always adding new books to my favorites list, I thought I’d do new features each time another book makes the list.

Ask any book lover their favorite book, and they’ll find it nearly impossible to name just one. I have over fifty books on my favorites list, if you count all the books in series. If I absolutely had to say one book, it would be Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. But there are so many books that resonate with me for many different reasons, and so I call them all my favorites.

The newest addition to the list is a novel-in-verse (the first poetry to make the favorites list!)—Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough.

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Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Blood Water Paint is based on the true story of Artemisia Gentileschi, a 17th century Roman painter. Artemisia had incredible talent and was one of the most talented painters of her time, but no one knew because her father would sign his name to her paintings. And despite how little women were valued in her time, Artemisia chose to speak the truth in her art and take her rapist to court, no matter the consequences.

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The afterword in Blood Water Paint

I’ve been trying to branch out a bit more in my reading this year, and one of the things I’ve been trying to read more of is verse. While I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy regular poetry, I am loving all of the novels-in-verse I have read. There is just something I love about reading the bare bones of a story along with the poetic language.

I also love that this book is not entirely in verse. Throughout Artemisia’s story, McCullough intersperses prose narrative stories that Artemisia’s mother told her when she was young. These stories are about Susanna and Judith, heroines who end up being the subjects of Artemisia’s most famous works and who inspire Artemisia to not be silent.

The best part about Blood Water Paint is its strong take on violence against women. This book takes place a long time ago, yet not much has changed in how charges of rape are handled. Artemisia struggles to have her voice heard and risks everything to stand up for the truth. And she also finds healing through her art, which is a theme I love to explore in my writing.

Blood Water Paint is Joy McCullough’s debut novel, and I can’t wait to see what else she does!

My Favorite Genres

Last week I talked about the genres I don’t like to read, so this week I want to tell you the genres I do! There’s a few genres I don’t read because they don’t resonate with me and I don’t get a lot out of reading them. Because time is precious and I want to be spending my time on books that I get a lot out of, these are the genres I usually turn to:

Young Adult
Pretty much everything I read is YA. I don’t know if it’s because these books meant so much to me growing up or because I love a good coming-of-age story or because I make up stories for a living and don’t quite feel like an adult, but YA books have always been my favorites. When I go into a bookstore or library, you can find me heading straight to the teen section.

Science Fiction and Dystopian
I’ve always been fascinated with the future and with space, and so that’s why I’ve always loved science fiction books. I love the dystopian subgenre in particular because even though these stories depict negative futures, they’re usually full of so much hope.

Fantasy
I don’t read fantasy books as much because they’re usually so long and I have trouble sitting still long enough to read them, but I love fantasy books because of the amazing world building. Because I write a lot of stories set in the future, world building is a big part of my writing process. Fantasy books are a great addition to science fiction to read and be inspired about world building

Christian Nonfiction
My faith is the most important part of my life, and so I love reading Christian living books and devotionals. These books help me to focus on God and grow in my faith, which I always want to be doing.

Romance
I only recently got into the romance genre, but because I read a lot of heavy and dystopian books, romance novels are light and fun to take a break with.These are some of my favorite books in these genres.

These are some of my favorite books in these genres.

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Some of my favorite books from my favorite genres

You can definitely see the influence of my favorite genres to read on what I write. I primarily write young adult contemporary and science fiction because those stories have always resonated with me the most. What are your favorite genres to read and write?