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?

What I’m Reading: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Jenna Evans Welch’s debut novel, Love & Gelato, is such a fun and summery read and reminded me a lot of Jennifer E. Smiths books, like This is What Happy Looks Like. I usually don’t buy books before I read them, but when I was only fifty pages into this book and had to return my library copy, I went out and got my own copy. And it’s been a long time since I stayed up late reading a book, but I stayed up finishing this one. I love contemporary YA romances, and Love & Gelato delivered.

The books is about Lina, a girl who is spending the summer in Florence because her mother’s dying wish was for her to live with the father she didn’t know about. And even though Italy is beautiful and has amazing gelato, Lina just wants to go home until she is given the journal her mother kept when she lived in Florence before Lina was born. As Lina learns about her mother’s past and befriends Ren, she learns a secret about her past that changes everything.

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Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

My favorite part about this book was of course the setting. I love books that can take you away to another place, and when I read Love & Gelato I felt like I was in Italy. Everything was beautifully described, and it made me really want some gelato. While I thought the mother’s journal entries lacked depth, Lina’s narrative was funny and engrossing. And though this book dealt with topics like death and domestic abuse, it was hopeful and for the most part light-hearted.

What I’m Reading: When My Sister Started Kissing by Helen Frost

I hate poetry for the most part. Hate seems like a strong word to use as a fellow writer myself, but I just don’t get it. I like writing to be clear, to tell me a story and paint a clear picture in my head. Reading poetry always just leaves me scratching my head and wondering what the heck the author was trying to say. While there are countless books that have affected me throughout my life, I can count the number of poems I actually like on one hand.

So I don’t know exactly why I picked up When My Sister Started Kissing by Helen Frost up at the library. Thanks to hating the hundreds of poems I had to read throughout high school and college, I’d never even thought about picking up a novel-in-verse before. But I’ve been trying to branch out a little bit of my genre when it comes to reading lately. And this book has a pretty cover and an interesting description. So I borrowed the book from my library and tore through it because of how much I liked it.

This book is a beautiful story about two sisters, Claire and Abigail, during the summer they are ten and thirteen. Claire’s family has been spending summers at their lake house her whole life. Claire’s mother died from a lightning strike on the lake when Claire was a baby, but the summers there have always been a special time she gets to spend with her sister and father. But this year everything is different. Her dad is about to have a baby with his new wife, Pam, and Abigail starts caring more about boys than Claire. Claire finds comfort in kayaking on the lake as she tries to figure out where she fits into this changing family.

Three points of view and four poetic forms make up this beautiful story about family. Claire’s poems make up most of the book, with the majority being rhyming quatrains. When she is kayaking on the lake, her poems take the shape of the kayak moving through the water and the last words of the lines are set in bold, creating a sentence that shows what’s truly going on in Claire’s mind. Abigail’s poems are free-verse and lightening-shaped, reflecting the lightning that killed their mother and left Abigail with a scar. The last point of view and form, and also my favorites, are the acrostic poems in the voice of the lake itself. Frost uses lines from some of her favorite poems as the armatures—or the first letter of each line that spells something out when read down the left side of the page—to represent the current of the lake.

This was my first experience reading a novel-in-verse, and I really enjoyed the beautiful language that Frost employs throughout the book. I think she makes her poems very accessible and easy to understand, yet they still have that beautiful language that seems unique to poetry. I love the different forms and points of view she uses. As I said, the lake’s poems were my favorites. I loved getting the chance to see into each sister’s head, but then getting to read the lake’s narrations of what was going on was fascinating. Claire and Abigail are very connected to the lake with everything that has happened there throughout their lives, so it was important for the lake to have a voice in this novel.

What I love most about this book though was that, at its heart, it was about growing up. Coming-of-age stories are my favorite, which is why I pretty much only read in the young adult genre. This story is about the changing relationship between sisters, the changing family dynamics of a new stepmom and half-brother, and simply about turning eleven. Claire’s story has a beautiful innocence to it, and I loved getting to watch her grow.

When My Sister Started Kissing
When My Sister Started Kissing by Helen Frost

What I’m Reading: Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

  1. “What happened to you is not your fault.
  2. You are not stuck in a never-ending cycle of pain.
  3. It is not your job to protect your abuser from the consequences.
  4. There are Bodees [good guys and girls] in the world.
  5. Grieve your losses, but remember this moment does not define you.
  6. Write it down.”

This is the list of truths that Courtney C. Stevens includes at the end of her debut novel about rape and sexual abuse, Faking Normal. These truths are so important for victims of abuse to learn and they can lead to healing.

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Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

In Faking Normal, Alexi Littrell struggles to heal after she is raped. She hides in her closet and scratches the back of her neck and counts the holes in the vent on her ceiling. She is silent about what happened to her, suppressing some of the memories and refusing to speak about what she does remember. But when Bodee Lennox comes to stay with her family after his mother is killed by his father, they help each other cope and share their secrets and try to find healing together.

Faking Normal is an important book that encourages girls to speak up and assures them that they have a right to say “no.” Alexi’s story is heartbreaking, but hopeful. Bodee’s is equally inspiring, and I just loved him as a character and wanted to be his friend. Most of all, I really loved this book because it showed that you can still find healing after abuse no matter how hard it seems, something I try to show in my own writing.

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My favorite quote from Faking Normal

 

What I’m Reading – How it Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes

With her second novel, How it Feels to Fly, I think Kathryn Holmes has officially made my favorite author list alongside Kiera Cass, Neal Shusterman, and Laurie Halse Anderson. Her first novel, The Distance Between Lost and Found, instantly made its way to my favorite books shelf, and I can’t wait to buy my own copy of How it Feels to Fly to join it.

This novel is about a dancer with body image issues. But it’s not your typical ballerina thinks she’s fat and starves herself kind of story. Holmes gives us something unique. The book features Sam, a girl who loves ballet but whom ballet doesn’t love with her new, curvy body type. Sam has only gained fourteen pounds, but now she was barely accepted into a summer intensive program, her mom constantly warns her about her eating habits, and she feels like everyone is looking at her.

To help with her anxiety, Sam goes to a therapy camp called Perform at Your Peak, which is for artists and athletes with anxiety. There, her therapist and peer advisors help her to start to confront her anxiety and come up with coping methods. But Sam’s future in the ballet world is so uncertain and she still feels that her body is against her.

This is a beautiful novel about overcoming anxiety and body image issues. I feel that everyone can relate to this book in some manner with the way that Holmes weaves in the other camper’s stories and problems. I highly recommend Holmes’s novels and I can’t wait to see what she does in the future!

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How it Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes

What I’m Reading – Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson continues to amaze me with each book of hers that I read. Prom is no exception. With Prom, Anderson gives a character that you can really relate to. Ashley is a “normal” girl. She doesn’t care too much about school, she has a large family, she has a crappy job and an even crappier boyfriend, and she really doesn’t care about the prom.

Her best friend, Natalia, however, is on the prom committee and is devastated when the math teacher steals all of the prom money. Then Ashley finds herself roped into helping her school put on the prom anyway with no budget and just about everything against them. Prom is truly a modern Cinderella story, as Ashley makes it to the ball despite everything and learns a lot about what she wants for her life.

Prom, like all of Anderson’s books, pulls you in with its unique voice and doesn’t let you go. I couldn’t put the book down. What I really enjoyed about this book was how real it felt. I felt like I was in Ashley’s school with her, and all I wanted was to help her find the right path for her life. Plus it made me laugh out loud that the slippers she wore to the ball/prom were, in fact, slippers.

Laurie Halse Anderson has quickly become one of my favorite authors and is such an influence on my own writing, and I just found out that she’s coming to Dayton on a book tour in a of couple weeks. I can’t believe I get to meet her!

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Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson

What I’m Reading: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

In a word, This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith is adorable. I normally don’t read romance books like this, but the title hooked me, and I am so glad I picked this up at the library.

The book starts with an email sent to the wrong address. Without even knowing each other’s names and living on opposite coasts, Ellie and Graham start a relationship through email where they talk about everything from Graham’s pet pig to what happiness looks like. When Graham’s movie is set to film in Ellie’s small Maine hometown, he finds her and tries to take their relationship offline. But Ellie has secrets from her past that she doesn’t want coming into Graham’s movie star spotlight. Despite coming from different worlds, they start to fall in love and try to figure out a way to make a real relationship work.

This book perfectly captures summer and what happy feels like, as the title suggests. It is an uplifting read about star-crossed lovers, and will leave you wanting a summer romance in coastal Maine.

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This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith