Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Welcome to my review of The Dream Thieves, the second book in The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater! Since I went so in-depth about setting and writing style in my review of The Raven Boys, I thought I'd skip that for my other three reviews and focus on other things instead. Once again, I'm going to try to make my review as spoiler-free as possible, but I'm sure there will be some that I miss, so beware! 

A hit man comes to Henrietta to find the Greywaren—a magical device that can take things out of dreams and into the real world—for his employer, a collector of supernatural artifacts. Gansey, Blue, Adam, Ronan, Noah, and the other characters from The Raven Boys are also involved with the Greywaren, and become involved with the hit man as a result. Gansey and Blue become better friends, Adam is angry and at odds with everyone, and Ronan is getting into trouble with the drag-racing, drug-smoking Kavinsky. And it all comes to a fiery conclusion on Fourth of July.

The Dream Thieves is my favorite book in the series because, for the first time, we get to see life through Ronan's point-of-view, which gives a lot of insight into his character. This book also has some of my favorite scenes from the entire series in it. This book also features my favorite character, the Gray Man. Also, this book has dragons. As far as plot goes, it's not as easy to grasp as the first book. There are a few things that don't make sense and could be plot holes... though maybe I wasn't paying enough attention. It's a book about secrets and fear and how the characters will handle those two things.

The Gray Man
is my favorite character. His career causes him to be cold, calculating, and dangerous... but, really, he has a huge heart, loves Old English poetry (and can recite it. In Old English. Be still, my beating heart), and can be quite oblivious to normality sometimes. I can tell that Maggie had a fun time writing him because every chapter in which he features is written differently the other chapters in the book. They're very nonchalant and matter-of-fact. The Gray Man is very sensible and also quite heroic. I love him.

We get to learn more about Blue in this book... like, she tries, really hard, to make herself seem different. Also, she's not a tough girl at heart. Someone gives her a pink switchblade, and she's afraid that she'll end up cutting herself instead of enemies (which she does). She stands up for herself, but she blushes furiously as she does it. She knows that she doesn't need to impress people like Ronan or Kavinsky, but she still tries anyway. She is incredibly smart and sensible, but she's also vain. She's got flaws, and that's what makes her human. She's also not just a love interest, and she even says that to Adam (she's a bit of a feminist, but not overbearingly so).

In my review of The Raven Boys, I mentioned that Maggie is great at adding character and setting details but no in an info-dumpy way. She makes every detail count for something, whether it's giving insight into a character, or adding a joke to lighten the mood. I get the strong sense that every word that Maggie sets to paper matters. She doesn't say too much, and she doesn't say too little. She says just the right amount.

Maggie is also great at creating continuity throughout her books. For example, the running joke that Blue hates Gansey's top siders and polo shirts. And let's not forget the continuity she creates by using repetition to her advantage! She uses a lot of repetition to emphasize stuff in her books. The most impressive use of repetition comes in book four when she starts several chapters in a row with "It was 6:21."

Another thing that I love about The Raven Cycle is the linguistic and historical detail Maggie puts into the books. She not only uses English to her advantage, but also Latin, Old English, and French. There is so much Latin in this series! And in this book, a lot of Old English due to the Gray Man. She not only includes many phrases of these languages (often without translation, so you need Google translate near you in addition to a dictionary), but references literary works and events from history also. Maggie must be so smart (and a great researcher!). Serious work goes into these books, and I admire and appreciate that a great deal. If I know that someone has put effort into something, I automatically enjoy it more than I normally would.

Favorite lines
The Gray Man had been called effervescent once, in an article. He was fairly certain it was because he had very straight teeth. Even teeth seemed a prerequisite for effervescence.

Gansey, dangling his arm outside, patted the side of the car as if it were a horse. "That'll do, Pig. That'll do."

As he sat, a single mosquito found its way into the car and worried at his ear, a high tremelo against the basso continuo of the rain and thunder.

Blue noticed that the Gray Man was abruptly not interested in who was on the phone. Which was interesting because he had been so interested in absolutely everything else before.
Which Blue took to mean that, really, he was very interested in who might be on the phone, only he didn't want them to know he was interested.
Which was interesting.

The Maura made something with butter and Calla made something with bacon and Blue steamed broccoli in self-defense. 

Content Advisory
Although this is my favorite book in the series, it also has some of the most worrying content. There's a character in this book called Kavinsky and he is the scum of the earth. He drinks, he makes and does drugs, he swears to rival Ronan (it's real fun when the two of them are in a scene together *rolls eyes*), and he's always making inappropriate sexual comments about everyone. There's one scene in particular that is fairly intense where Kavinsky and Ronan get drunk and pop pills together (for a plot purpose, but still, it's not great to read about).
Luckily, the Gangsey (as Gansey and his friends are so affectionately called by their fandom) knows that Kavinsky is scum, but that doesn't stop us from having to read about him and his despicable lifestyle. This is also the first book where we get a hint that Ronan is gay, but I'll discuss that more in my review of book four.
Maggie holds nothing back in her villain creation. She makes them as horrible as she can and does not spare the sensitive reader at all. If I had a hard time recommending book one because of the content, I absolutely cannot recommend book two, yet there is still a lot to learn in this book about writing. Again, before you pick up this series, think and pray about it.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

I've wanted to review The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater since I first read them last summer. Christmas Break was the perfect time to re-read them and take notes. Clearly, since I've read these books twice in the past seven months, I enjoyed them, yet there are some content concerns that I would like to discuss also. I am going to try and make these reviews as non-spoilery as I can, but some things will inevitably slip out, so beware! Also, this review highlights several things that I like about the entire series. The next three book reviews will be shorter and more specific. 

The Plot
The Raven Cycle is about a group of friends who—in their search for the body of a dead Welsh king buried somewhere in Virginia—discover that magic is real and more powerful and dangerous than they ever imagined.
Within the first few chapters of book one, The Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater introduces readers to her characters and plot. Blue Sargent comes from a family of female psychics who live together in 300 Fox Way, a big house filled with random doo-dads (including a signed portrait of Steve Martin!) and strong opinions. Every psychic that Blue has ever met has told her the same thing: she will kill her true love if she kisses him. Blue, a sensible sixteen-year-old, figures that not kissing people will be easy. Easy, that is, until her life becomes entwined with Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah. These four boys are "raven boys" who go to Aglionby, the expensive, all-boys boarding school in Henrietta, Virginia. Normally, Blue would scorn raven boys, but these boys are different. Gansey has been collecting information about Glendower, a dead Welsh king, for seven years. Supposedly, instead of dying, Glendower was put to sleep and carried to the United States via ley line; he will grant whoever awakens him a favor. Gansey and his friends each have different reasons for wanting to find Glendower, but they are all loyal to the cause, and they soon adopt Blue into their group.

As far as plots go, The Raven Boys is a bit slow to start, but it's not noticeable. Maggie takes her time to set up her characters and her plot, but she does not bog down the reader with useless details. Besides which, her prose is so beautiful and witty that I could read her shopping lists and not get bored. This book and it's villain are tame compared to the later books in the series, but that's a good thing because Maggie gives her plot, characters, and villains room to grow. She is excellent at pacing her character's growth with plot developments, and her plot developments with action scenes. She also does a LOT of foreshadowing that you don't notice until you re-read the book!

The characters are my favorite part of The Raven Cycle. They are not caricatures. They are not archetypes. They are fully developed with pasts, futures, lives, likes, dislikes, and voices. They are real people, and their characteristics are consistently carried out and developed through all four books. One thing that Maggie does to develop her characters so well is slip in sentences or paragraphs of backstory, which shows that her characters existed before this book came into being. They aren't info-dumpy backstory bits either. Usually, they are quirky stories that make you go "ah, so that's why so-and-so is the way he/she is." She also shows her characters living normal lives. Yes, they are searching for a dead Welsh king and messing about with magic that they don't understand, but they still have to go to the store and buy snacks and they still have to go to school, do homework, and (in the case of Blue and Adam) work several jobs. And they still have to sleep sometimes, too, or (in the case of Gansey and Ronan) face the consequences of insomnia. Just because Maggie's characters are on a quest doesn't mean that they forget about real life.

Blue is sensible and vain. She is the only non-psychic is a houseful of psychics, and so she tries to make herself unique in other ways. She sews and crochets clothes together to make new creations, she wears her short hair up with many clips to contain it, and she prides herself on being an enigma at school. She is also a reader. Maggie doesn't make a huge deal of this, but it's there if you look close enough.
I like Blue a lot. I like that she's sensible. I like that she has purpose. She's not just there to fall in love with someone. She's a great example of a strong female character. (She's also got great style.)

Gansey is at once passionate and polite, depending on which Gansey is needed at the moment. When he is with his friends, he is Gansey-driven-to-insomnia from his intense passion for Welsh history and Glendower. When he is with the world at large, he is Gansey-the-heir-to-millions who can talk to anyone about anything.
It's impossible not to love Gansey. At first, he comes off as a naive pretty boy who doesn't know anything about the real world (this is how Blue first perceives him), but then when you get to know him better, you see that he cares deeply for his friends, family, justice, and Glendower. He also has anxiety, though it may not be noticeable to those who don't have experience with it.
Actually, that's something else that I love about Maggie's characterization... Gansey has anxiety, but that's not what the book is about. Blue (and her mother) cares for the environment, but that's not what the book is about. The Raven Cycle is full of real-world issues, but that's not what the series is about. Maggie doesn't make them a big deal. She treats them as normal, which is a brilliant way to make your characters into real people rather than archetypes or poster children for disease or mental health or abuse. She's inclusive, and she does deal with some hard topics, but it's a subplot instead of the main storyline. Kind of how my asthma is a subplot to my life, rather than the main storyline.

Adam is practical and prideful (and a little like Blue in that way). Adam comes from a trailer park and an abusive home rather than from money, like Gansey and Ronan. To pay for his tuition at Aglionby, he works three jobs. And he refuses help from his friends. He insists on doing everything by himself. He doesn't want to owe anybody anything—he doesn't want to be owned by anyone (which is probably a result of being abused his whole life).
Adam's story arc is heartbreaking and hard to read about, but he is also the character who has the most growth in the series. It's interesting to watch his interactions with each of the other characters. You learn to care deeply for Adam in this book.

Ronan is the most immature of all of the characters, at least in book one. He is most what you'd imagine a teenage boy to be. In his grief over the death of his father, he has become an explosion of anger, swearing, crazy stunts, and unhappiness. Glimpses of pre-father's-death Ronan emerge, though, like in his care of Chainsaw (his pet raven) and his fierce loyalty to those he cares about.
In spite of his foul language, Ronan is one of my favorite characters because of his development and because of a special ability that he possesses. There are many more interesting things about Ronan. For example, the language he understands best is action. He's not great at expressing his thoughts or feelings through words (unless they're swear words), but you'll definitely know how Ronan is feeling through his actions.

Noah is the quietest and most awkward member of Gansey's friend group. Nevertheless, he is vitally important to the plot.
Even though Noah is easily looked over, he is one of my favorite characters. He's rather pitiful, and he's as courageous as the lion from The Wizard of Oz, but he's a good friend and his dog-like affection for Blue is adorable.

Blue's family are also important in the story, which is wonderful since so many YA books feature missing parents. Indeed, none of the boys have present (Gansey), loving (Adam), or alive (Ronan) parents, but the women of 300 Fox Way adopt the boys and give them advice as mothers (and psychics) are wont to do. Blue has never met her father, but her mother Maura is an integral secondary character. Additionally, Maura's two best friends Calla and Persephone are important, as are Blue's half-aunt, Neeve; cousin, Orla; and aunt, Jimi. Despite being secondary characters, Maggie has developed each of the women at 300 Fox Way into real people, too. Well-done secondary characters are my favorite, and The Raven Cycle is full of them.

Setting and Such Things
So, Maggie Stiefvater makes her setting INTO A LITERAL CHARACTER. Like, the setting is alive. Cabeswater is a magical forest that lives and responds to the characters' thoughts. How cool is that? There are several other (non-living settings)...
-Quirky and female-dominated 300 Fox Way.
-Henrietta, Virginia, where the characters live.
-Monmouth Manufacturing, a re-purposed factory where Gansey, Ronan, and Noah live.
-The Pig, Gansey's constantly breaking, bright orange, 1973 Camaro.
Maggie's settings are aesthetic embodied. They are so much entangled with the plots and characters that I can't help but think of the settings when I think about the series. I have never read a book where the setting is so prevalent before. Maggie uses the same type of details that she uses about her characters to describe her places. She drops in details like they're nothing, but they really stick in the reader's mind because of her word choice.

Writing Style
If you've heard anything about Maggie Stiefvater, it's probably that her prose is gorgeous. Well, it's true. She is incredibly good at stringing words together in a pleasing manner. She is the Master of Metaphor and a Wizard of Wit. Here are a few of my favorite lines from The Raven Boys to give you an idea of her writing style, since I don't think I can do it justice by simply describing it:

Maura had decided sometime before Blue's birth that it was barbaric to order children about, and so Blue had grown up surrounded by imperative question marks.

Both of them could trot out logic on a nice little leash, wearing a smart plaid jacket, when they wanted to.

...he had the overpowering chemical scent of a manly shower gel. The sort that normally came in a black bottle and was called something like SHOCK or EXCITE or BLUNT TRAUMA.

She is also able to write dialogue very well; it sounds as though her characters are really speaking because she writes dialogue more like actual speech patterns than like grammatically correct sentences. Additionally, Maggie inserts snippets of identifiable truths into her novel in a quiet, unassuming way, just like she does with her character and setting details. One last thing that I enjoy about Maggie's writing is her vocabulary. She uses words like "quiddity" and "striated" and makes you take out the dictionary and expand your word horde. 

Content Advisory
In the words of Hamlet, "Ay, there's the rub" (III.i).
The Raven Cycle has a lot of problematic content for Christian readers.
First of all, the psychics. Blue's family does tarot readings, they scry, they do rituals, they meet with spirits. Neeve, Blue's half-aunt goes a little too far with her rituals sometimes, and the other women in 300 Fox Way know that, so I suppose there is a limit to what they're willing to do... But, according to the Bible, that kind of stuff—however "far" a person takes it—is wrong. I believe that if someone is engaging with spirits/a spiritual power that is not the Holy Spirit, that spirit/spiritual power is of the devil, for if it is not of God, then it must be of the devil. It's a little more complicated than that in The Raven Cycle, however, for the magic system is based in psychic activity (like the magic system from the Mistborn books is based in metal alloys). Thinking of the psychic content in this way made me enjoy and understand the books more, but I still want to caution readers who are wary about psychic activity. This may not be the series for you if psychics and spirits bother you.

Another content issue is Ronan's swearing. He swears. A lot. And not just PG-13 movie swearing... We're talking rated R for language books here, people (and also a lot of taking God's name in vain). Although I don't condone Ronan's swearing, as a writer, I do think it's an interesting character trait to have him swear so much when the other characters hardly ever swear. That's true to my experience of life... I have some friends who swear (like Ronan), but I have other friends who never swear (like Blue). Maggie clearly does not put swearing in her books because she doesn't have a good vocabulary, because she has excellent word choice in her novels. She does it because it's just a part of who Ronan is. If you are sensitive to language content (and specifically the f-word), you may want to skip these books.

There are some intense scenes as well. Adam is beaten by his father several times, and there are a few attempted murders/actual murders.

I think The Raven Boys (and The Raven Cycle in general) can teach writers a lot about character development, the use of setting as an integral part of the story, and how to use words themselves in beautiful written prose; however, there are also content issues that make me very hesitant to recommend this series. My advice to you, if you are thinking about picking up this series, is to do some serious thinking about what your tolerance for psychics and swearing is. Pray about it. Everyone is sensitive to varying degrees to different things.

Stay tuned for my review of the second book in The Raven Cycle later this week!

I'm curious, have any of you read The Raven Boys? What do you think about serious content issues in novels, movies, or TV? If the story features great characters and great writing, does that make up for content issues? Where do we, as Christian readers, draw the line? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Meet Annie Jones

Remember ages ago (way back in October!) when I introduced y'all to Una, one of the main characters in the next book that I want to write? Today, I want to introduce you to another one of my old ladies (a.k.a. the main characters).

1. How old is she mentally and physically? 
Annie is 69 when the book begins, but she feels about 80. Annie is an old-fashioned broad made even older by her conservative upbringing. She's also not in the best of health (so she thinks) and complains (though she wouldn't call it that) about her joints and her bones and her skin all day every day. 

2. Did she have a happy childhood? Why/why not?

Not particularly, by today's standards. Her parents were very strict and didn't allow their children to have much fun. Annie's childhood consisted of working hard in school, working hard at home, and going to church. 

3. Past/present relationships? How did they affect her?

-Annie grew up with both of her parents, a younger brother, and a great-aunt in the house. Her great-aunt and father were the ones inspiring a good work ethic and unwavering devotion to church into the other members of the family. While Annie appreciates these things, they did cause her to grow up a bit judgmental with a low tolerance for nonsense and imagination. They've also caused her to be grumpy and easily-annoyed because, somewhere, deep down, she is under the impression that fun=laziness. You'd be grumpy, too, I suppose, if you thought you could never have fun. 
-Annie is married to Herbert, who is also traditional and stuck in his ways. He doesn't usually take other's feelings into account and under-appreciates everything Annie does for him. Although he is not mean, he believes that force is a good way to accomplish things. As a result of being married to Herbert, Annie has become a bitter old lady and a bit spiteful. 
-Una and Mae are Annie's best friends from forty years previous when they met working in a factory during World War II. They remain the only people who can get Annie to have fun and not feel guilty, belly laugh until she cries, and be nice instead of stingy to strangers. 

4. What does she care about?

The loves of Annie's life are her four sons, three daughter-in-laws, and six grandchildren. Annie despises coffee with the other old ladies at church, she hates small talk with grocery store clerks, and she can't stand conversation with her husband, but she has all the time in the world for her children and grandbabies. 

5. What is she obsessed with?

See above question. Also, she's obsessed with knitting her grandchildren clothes while their mothers look on, horrified. 

6. Biggest fear?

Annie worries a lot about her grandchildren and their health and safety. Her biggest fear is that one of them will fall ill, or fall over, or fall in love with the band Queen (whom she thinks is the spawn of the devil himself [*cough cough* a view that the author does NOT share]).

7. What is the best thing that ever happened to her? The worst?

The best thing that has ever happened to Annie is meeting Una and Mae. Without them in her life, Annie would be even MORE crotchety than she already is! I dread to think of an Annie with her Una and Mae. The worst thing to happen to Annie was losing her first baby, a girl. She doesn't talk about it. 

8. Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to her?

One time, Annie and Herbert were having an argument about who should clean up the kitchen and Annie's mother-in-law came into the room and not only heard them fighting, but also saw Annie's messy kitchen. Annie, who prides herself on being a proper hostess and a good housewife, was mortified. 

9. Biggest secret?

Annie's biggest secret is that, occasionally, with Una and Mae, she enjoys a glass of whisky. The three of them would sometimes drink a glass after walking back from the factory together on cold, winter nights. It's the most rebellious thing that Annie has ever done, but when she tries to drink a glass by herself, it just isn't the same. 

10. What is the one word you would use to define her?

So, there's a small look into Annie! I'm looking forward to writing her. I think she'll be an entertaining character. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Bibliophile Sweater Tag

On the blog today, I am stealing a tag created by Sunshine and Scribblings (I say steal because I don't think anyone has tagged me, but I thought it looked like fun because I love sweaters. And books, of course :P). I'm disregarding the rules (because Maryliz said they're more like guidelines anyway!), but if anyone would like to do the tag themselves, here is link to the original post.

Fuzzy sweater (a book that is the epitome of comfort)

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall are definitely the epitome of comfort for me. They're full of kids adventuring, dogs, family, music, books... Basically, the recipe for making Abbey happy.

Striped sweater (book which you devoured every line of)

I read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte in a high school literature class and could NOT put it down for some reason. Maybe it had to do with the setting—a secluded English moor with only two houses. Or, the characters—two families falling in love with and marrying the wrong people. Or, the genre—my first Gothic novel! 

Ugly Christmas sweater (book with a weird cover)

This is a book called Alfred Hitchcock's Haunted Houseful. Yes, that is Alfred Hitchcock's face built into the house.

Cashmere sweater (most expensive book you've bought)

I had to buy The Norton Anthology of English Literature for my British Literature class. Twice! The first time, we bought them used and when they came, one volume was missing! School (and classes) had already started by this time, so I had to re-buy them from the campus store. $75 later...

Hoodie (favorite classic book)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee has been my favorite classic (and book) since I read it eight years ago! Kids adventuring, family, important issues, Atticus Finch... what's not to love?

Cardigan (book that you bought on impulse)
This is not the actual cover, but since my physical copy is at my dorm, I figured I'd make my own interpretation of the book. 

Once upon a time last semester, I was feeling sad and stressed, and my friends brought me to Half Price Books, and I had a coupon, and they had an illustrated edition of one of my favorite books, The Princess Bride by William Goldman. It was so beautiful. I was weak. Disclaimer: buying books is not a healthy way to work through your feelings (but that doesn't mean I'm unhappy about my purchase). 

Turtleneck sweater (book from your childhood)

Thomas the Tank Engine by Reverend W. Awdry was four-year-old Abbey's life. She read the books, watched the TV-show, and even got Thomas, Percy, and some track for her birthday. Here is a video of her singing the theme song:

Homemade knitted sweater (book that is Indie-published)

My friend and fellow-blogger DJ Edwardson recently published his first fantasy book, The Last Motley! I haven't read the finished product yet, but the version I beta-read was pretty great, so the finished version must be fantastic. Go check it out! It's about a boy with motley skin and a strange power, and the kind tailor who wants to save him. It's about family (I'm sensing a theme with the books I like) and magic.

V-neck sweater (book that did not meet your expectations)

Unfortunately, Odd and the Frost Giants—and everything else I've read by Neil Gaiman—has fell short of my expectations. This particular book is a retelling of Norse mythology (complete with Loki), but it wasn't... enough for me. All of the Gaiman books that I've read have really unique ideas behind them, but the ideas don't translate to the page in a way that captures my imagination like they are supposed to. 

Argyle sweater (book with a unique format)

S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst is, well, VERY unique and has multiple layers. The first layer is the story, The Ship of Theseus. The second layer is two characters who have read The Ship of Theseus and write each other notes in the margins. They are trying to discover who the mysterious author is, and where he has gone. They compile clues (such as the napkin in the picture above) and piece together the mystery. The third layer is the reader, because they have to read the story (the book), and the comments in the margins (in several different colors, marking different stages of the investigation), and the extra bits (like the napkin or maps or postcards. This book has a lot of pieces that fall out if you're not careful!). This is such a fascinating concept for a book, but it's too daunting for me to read, especially since there are several different ways you could read it! Someday I'll take on the challenge. 

Polka dot sweater (a book with well-rounded characters)

I have never read a book/series with better characters than The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. At the time that I'm writing this post, I'm in the middle of re-reading the series so that I can review it on the blog. I'll talk more about the characters then, but now I'll say that the characters in this series are real people with real problems, hopes, fears, pasts, loves, hates, and personalities. They aren't caricatures or archetypes. They mature and grow throughout the books and it's astonishing to watch. As a writer, I can only hope that I can create characters this real in my own stories! 

Do you like sweaters? How about books? Consider yourself tagged, if you like! 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Long and Winding Editing Road—Condensing

Here's the deal, friends: I know what has to happen during the next draft of my novel, but I don't want to do it. This past semester burned me out emotionally and creatively. It's been nice to blog because I don't have to put as much effort into a blog post as an essay or a piece of fiction. But, my book has been bouncing around in the back of my head. It's been more of a "hey, hey you, hey, you should work on your novel" than an "Oh, boy! I can't wait to work on my novel!" but I'm hoping that talking to you guys about my next step will make me excited to start writing again. 

What is my next step? 
CONDENSING! Right now, this story is over 147,000 words, which is way too long. Before I start hacking my manuscript to pieces with the backspace key, however, I need to outline once again (this book has more outlines than drafts!). I started to outline before last semester got crazy, and condensed the first twenty chapters into fourteen. If I can do the same to the remaining forty chapters, that should cut out a significant amount of unneeded verbiage. 

In addition to condensing my story, Draft Five is going to be the last draft that I edit for major content concerns. After that, I am going to pay more attention to sentence fluency, diction, inconsistencies, and grammatical errors. I'm hopeful that by creating a streamlined outline, my plot and characters will be better developed because I'll have to be efficient with how I use my words. 

My plan is still to self-publish this book at the end of the summer, but if next semester is as harrowing as the last, I may have to push the release date back.

...Well, look at that! Writing this tiny post has boosted by motivation. Talking about outlining has made me excited to outline. I do love a good outline (maybe someday I'll show you the three-page monstrosity I wrote to accompany a 1,300 word essay). I'm even a bit excited to go after my story with the backspace key (don't you worry! I have all previous drafts of this book saved). 
I want to have Draft Five finished by the end of the school year. My semester should be less hectic than the last one, so I have hope that if I'm dedicated to making time to edit, it will get done! 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018


2017 was filled with friends, parents, road tripping, reading, family reunions, canoeing, hiking, cashiering, Silmarillion Awards, and school school SCHOOL (I'm sorry, I just watched Eloise at Christmastime, so I am saying things three times like Nanny). 2017 was full, and fun, and hard, and I feel like I've learned so much more about what being an adult means.

These were my goals for the year:

-Give my blog a makeover, including changing the name to "Regarding Reading, Writing, and Sometimes Life." Additionally, post at least once a month, if not more. 
CHECK! I changed the name of my blog, changed my header, AND posted at least twice every month except for February, when I mysteriously disappeared due to homework. I'd call that a success.

-Eat less sugar and exercise more.
Check...? I didn't do that well with the less sugar thing, but I did increase my exercise (though that may have been due to the walking class I took *cough cough*). 
-Read thirty-five books.
CHECK! I read forty-five books this year (despite what my Goodreads challenge says). I read two series: Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones and The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. I also took four literature classes, so I read a lot of British poetry, several books based off of Shakespeare's plays (for Modern Shakespearean Fiction), selections in Russian literature, and five Shakespeare plays. Left to my own devices, I read a lot of YA and middle grade, several nonfiction, and a classic or two (like Jane Eyre and Peter Pan). I'm most proud, however, of reading the entire Bible for the first time in my life. 
-Continue to do well in school. 
-Find a home church in Minnesota and continue growing in my relationship with God. 
CHECK! Nearly every week this school year, I went to church with one of my friends. When she was gone, I even asked for a ride from someone else in the church (yes, my poor, introverted soul asked a near stranger for a ride)! The final week of school, I went with another friend to the start-up church that meets in one of our campus buildings. I really liked that church, and I want to try it again in the New Year. While I know more about God, I'm not sure my relationship with him has grown all that much... there are always periods of growth when I consistently read my Bible and pray several times a week, but I've fallen out of that habit over the past two months or so. 
-Finish my fantasy novel.
 Check...? I've given this a hesitant check mark for a reason... but I'll save that for my next post ;)

2018 Goals:

1. Eat no candy or baked goods in January (and if I survive January, then do the same in February, and so on through the year).

2. Walk 90 minutes every week.

3. Post at least twice a month on Regarding Reading and Writing (and Sometimes Life).

4. Read 50 books.

5. Publish my Fantasy Novel.

6. Continue doing as well in school as I have been.

7. Continue going to church every week and get into the habit of reading my Bible and praying (if not every day, then at least four or five times a week).

8. Grow myself. Take more risks. Become better at confrontation. Become better at expressing my wants, needs, fears, and frustrations. Become better at setting up boundaries so that I can take care of my mental health.

What was the most memorable thing you did in 2017? What are your goals for 2018? Let me know in the comments below!