What I Read This Spring

Today is the first official day of summer! While it may feel like it’s been summer for a month already, I know it is likely to get a lot hotter where I currently live. Last year when I was just getting back into blogging, I wrote a few summary posts of all the books I read during the span of each season. Since I haven’t been writing monthly wrap ups lately, I decided to revisit that old format this year. While my life has been all over the place, my reading has been fun and I want to write down all my thoughts while they’re still fresh.

From March 20, 2019, to June 20, 2019, I read a grand total of seven books. That’s a whole lot more than I would’ve guessed considering how ambivalent I’ve been about being a book blogger. I did manage to stick to my spring TBR for the most part, and I’m really surprised at myself!

Long post made short, here’s the list of the books I read with my star ratings.

  1. Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor(★★★)
  2. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff(★★★)
  3. Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff(★★★★★)
  4. Obsidio by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (★★★)
  5. The Promise by Chaim Potok(★★★)
  6. King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo(★★★★★)
  7. Again, but Better by Christine Riccio (★★★)

I won’t go into detail of why I rated each book the way I did but instead contextualize my reading and give some talking points. Hopefully that will give you an idea of these books if you aren’t familiar with them already and whether you’d like to investigate them some more. I’ve included links to them on Goodreads and Amazon*.

*If you purchase any of the books I talk about in this post after following one of my affiliate links, I may receive a small commission at no extra expense to you.

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Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
⟡ Find on Goodreads | Amazon
⟡ My rating: ★★★

It is a general rule of mine not to buy new books if I don’t intend to read them immediately, and Akata Warrior has been one of those books that is a reminder that I had not been abiding by this rule!

Akata Warrior continues the story of Sunny Nwazue, which started in Akata Witch. After defeating the villain of the first book, Sunny’s destiny is not yet complete as she continues to learn about her magical heritage and how to master her unique gifts.

I talk about this book a bit more in-depth in my full-length review, but I will say that I really love the world and magic system that Okorafor has created. I’ll happily read more by this author, but I think I am done buying these books, at least until I have more disposable income. I think these books are really great and important entries to the young adult fantasy genre.

What these books have taught me as a writer is that books as rich and imaginatively exciting and evocative as Harry Potter are not exclusive to any one culture. You might think that this is a no-brainer, but this book has definitely gotten me thinking more deeply about how culture influences the magic systems devised by authors and what it can mean to people of color moving forward.

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Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
⟡ Find on Goodreads | Amazon
⟡ My rating: ★★★★

I’ve read Illuminae about three times now and I love it every time. I love Kady and Ezra and how the science fiction is so compelling and accessible to young adult audiences (myself included) who are not scientifically inclined. I like to think about all the young girls who may read these books and be inspired to go into STEM fields and kick butt.

I also love that these books deal with the ethical side of the equation. A lot of times in action-filled YA, death counts can be high and violence heavy. I like that the human cost of survival in these space expeditions and battles are highlighted and on the forefront of the characters’ minds, and not in an obnoxious or superficial way.

I would argue that is just about anything you could want in this series (i.e. action, romance, mystery, horror, etc.), so these books are endless fun. After you get into the rhythm of the storytelling (i.e. reading the files), these books are extremely immersive.

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Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
⟡ Find on Goodreads | Amazon
⟡ My rating: ★★★★★ 

This book was another reread on my journey to reach Obsidio. It was as enjoyable as the first time around. I don’t really know where to start with this book. I love it so much. If you hate series that introduce a completely new cast in each book, you don’t need to worry about that with this book.

For one, the protagonists Hanna and Nik just as terrific as Kady and Ezra, maybe even more so. It’s like the authors mastered the romantic formula of the first book and utilized it to perfection in the second book’s lead characters. Hanna is not your stereotypical spoiled princess and Nik is not your stereotypical drug dealer. This book may be more hilarious than the first and more of an emotional rollercoaster.

The other reason you don’t need to worry is we see Kady and Ezra in this book! They’ve not become completely irrelevant to the story. They enter Gemina right when Hanna and Nik need them.

Gemina is definitely my favorite book in the series, which may or may not be remarkable. I know that most bridge books in a trilogy are just that, a bridge that doesn’t really stand well on its own or it’s a clone of the first book. In my opinion, Gemina can’t really be reduced to either.

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Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
⟡ Find on Goodreads | Amazon
⟡ My rating: ★★★

After a short reading break, I finally picked up Obsidio. Unlike Illuminae and Gemina, I have only read this book once, and I’m already a little foggy on the exact plot of this book. Going into this book, I had fairly low expectations despite the fun of the first two because of how big a let down the final book of the Starbound trilogy was for me.

I will say that I did not care for Asha or Rhys very much. I feel like their backstory was a little unbelievable, and I wasn’t satisfied with how it was revealed. I also don’t like the dynamic between oppressed and unwitting oppressor. I would have maybe liked it if Rhys was more ruthless and he underwent more significant character development, but he was kind of pathetic but also brilliant liar somehow. What.

I think the problem is that the authors didn’t have a whole book to focus on them; they had to share page-time with Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik. By the way, I’m not complaining! I’m glad that we got to see how they dealt with the aftermath of the previous books and prepared for the return to Kerenza. I’m just saying Asha and Rhys’s romance was a probably a little lackluster as result.

I was able to enjoy Obsidio. Yes, I thought a few things happened that were a little too convenient and disneyfied to wrap the story up with a pretty bow, but I am aware of how challenging it might have been to conclude this series in just one book. I just wish that the villains of BeiTech, specifically Frobisher, could have been a bigger part of the climactic action.

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The Promise by Chaim Potok
⟡ Find on Goodreads | Amazon
⟡ My rating: ★★★★

Last year in a similar post describing What I Read (That) Winter, I talked about The Chosen by Chaim Potok. It was a book I enjoyed passionately. I felt similarly passionate reading this book, but for very different reasons.

The Promise catches with Reuven as he is studying to become a rabbi. He still lives with his father who has been working on this controversial book, which is radical to conservative Jews because of how it analyzes Jewish texts. While The Chosen follows Reuven and his unlikely friendship with Danny in the years leading up to the formation of Israel, which was a hot button issue amongst Jewish sects in the 1930s, The Promise is set in a New York into which the Jews who survived the holocaust have immigrated. So there’s a lot of, not just, culture clash but also clash of fundamental ideologies that The Chosen merely introduces.

I feel really hesitant talking in depth about these two books, given that everything I know about Jewish theology and scholarship has come from these books. I am not Jewish, nor have I ever really even casually met practicing Jews. Even using the word conservative to describe the opposing viewpoint to Reuven’s feels like it may be inaccurate considering Reuven himself would probably be considered conservative in his own right.

The summary of the book would have you believe that it is about Reuven, Danny, and this boy Michael, but that storyline is more of a marginal thread that ties the book together. What I found most compelling about this book was Reuven’s struggle against his rabbinical professor Rav Kalman, a world-famous rabbi who survived the holocaust and is steadfast in his mission to smear the name and work of Reuven’s father.

I appreciate The Promise coming into my life at this time, because I feel like not enough people are talking about how we should talk to people we don’t agree with. I agonized with Reuven over his frustration with his professor. I was also inspired to see how he persevered. Truthfully, I would have been likely to give up in his position and make my own way. I think there is something to say about seeing things through. (If this is vague, I’m sorry! I just can’t go into more detail in this space!)

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King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
⟡ Find on Goodreads | Amazon
⟡ My rating: ★★★★

Similar to Akata Warrior and Obsidio, King of Scars was beginning to cause me a little bit of book buying guilt. It’s a book I had pre-ordered as soon as I learned about it and then when it came…nothing. I didn’t feel like reading it. Truthfully, I’ve not really been in the mood for fantasy these days. I’m not sure why.

As I had begun to hear hints of conflicting opinions about King of Scars, I was really nervous when I finally picked it up. It didn’t help that the first 80 or so pages were really discouraging. I could tell that Nina and Zoya were going to be central characters in this book, and they were never favorites of mine. Also, I was getting hints about a potential romance between Zoya and Nikolai, and I wasn’t sure I liked that development. Without spoiling anything, I will say that I was able to trust and respect Bardugo’s character choices in the end!

I don’t want to get into spoilers since this book once came out in January and there may be others out there, like I was, who are still waiting to pick up this book. I will just say that the book does end up becoming really exciting and satisfying after about 100 pages. I loved Nina’s storyline and can’t wait to see what she does next. I’m also still in shock-awe about what is revealed at the end! Wow!

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Again, but Better by Christine Riccio
⟡ Find on Goodreads | Amazon
⟡ My rating: ★★★★

Again, but Better ended up being one of my most anticipated reads of this year, because it has honestly been on my radar since Christine started writing it. I had begun to follow her YouTube channel PolandbananasBOOKS somewhere between 2014 and 2015, discovering her from her collaborations with Katytastic. She started writing this book in January 2016 and made periodic writing update videos about her progress.

It was so inspiring to watch her talk about writing it, and I’ve recently gone back to rewatch the first ten or so videos where she talks about writing the first draft specifically. It is such a cool experience now having read the book to know a lot of what she is talking about plot-wise!

As for the book itself, it kind of blew me away. I wasn’t expecting much, especially after the first few chapters or so. I started it feeling like it was a fan-fiction of someone’s idea of college and college romance. But as I got deeper into the story, it began to feel so real and authentic. I could really relate to Shane and her awkward struggles, and even as a proper adult now feel like I’ve learned from her mistakes alongside her.

I do wish this is a book I had when I was still in high school, so I adore Christine for writing this book! I did not have the highest expectations for this book, but it is so much fun but also so relevant, which I think is necessary for contemporary novels these days. I may end up doing a full-length review later on…

End Note

Next Tuesday (6/25) I’ll be sharing the books on my summer TBR for Top Ten Tuesday, which is why I wanted to get this post written and published ahead of it! It’ll a look a little different from past TBRs, because it will feature a lot of books I don’t already own. Before that I’m hoping to share something else this weekend, but I’m not sure what yet! There have been some exciting job hunt developments that I’m hoping I will be able to share next week!

What did you read this spring?

Thank you for reading!
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My Good Reading Habits | Blog Tag

On Monday I was tagged by Siobhan @ Novelties to share my good reading habits in the My Good Reading Habits Tag. Since it’s been a while since I’ve done a blog tag and these posts can be a fun way for new blog followers to get to know me, I decided to do it!

From the outset, I wasn’t sure if I had many good reading habits. I’m not a very consistent reader or blogger, so I worried what kinds of things I could list. But then I realized that there are reasons for why I am the reader that I am, and I’m very happy with how reading fits into my life these days.

Rules

I prioritize reading books that I’ve owned for a long time. 

There’s nothing worse than owning a collection of books you never end up reading. I understand the appeal of surrounding yourself with books upon books, but I think seeing books sit neglected on your bookshelves never to be read is sad. It’s also sad to think about what I could’ve done with that money at this time instead!

I support second-hand bookstores and libraries.

It can be appealing to purchase books brand new, but I find that I can often find books I want in perfectly good condition at second-hand bookstores. It benefits small businesses and can still benefit authors by showing that there is an interest in their work.

This avenue is also great for if you want to protest a problematic author or publisher by putting your money in other people’s pockets.

When I review books, I’m fair to the author and readers who can appreciate the books even when I don’t.

While I love to read negative book reviews (which I don’t particularly find a crime), I can never bring myself to write them personally. I don’t take particular joy in shaming people who put time and effort into their books. In college I learned not to speculate about what goes into a work when I’m analyzing it, so I always assume there’s been some degree of love and/or pride.

I strongly believe books can hold different meaning for different people. I know that who I am as a reader has changed throughout my life. So when I read a book and then critique it, I try to share where I’m coming from so that people who read my reviews can decide for themselves if they might like a book or not.

I DNF books that I don’t like.

It can be painful, especially if it’s a book I purchased with my own money. But if I’m not liking a book, I will put it down. It’s not the easiest decision all the time, as I do try to see the positives to finishing books even if they aren’t doing anything for me personally. But I’m past that mad rush to devour any book in my sight just to add another tally to my Read in [Insert Year Here] list.

I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone but myself. And my reading enjoyment has improved.

Tag Time

Actually, it’s confession time. I’ve not been very good at keeping up with all the lovely blogs I follow lately. There’s a hand few of people who comment on almost every blog post I publish and make me feel so loved, even though I’m so inconsistent. I feel like I’m always tagging them when I do a tag!

So today (well, Tuesday) I decided to look through the blogs I’ve most recently followed to randomly select some bloggers I don’t interact with much at all yet. Yay for new friends!

Nicole & Isis | Anthony | Czai | Carolina | Krista & Dawlyn | Zuki | Dani

(If you are tagged and have no interest in this tag, no pressure!)

endnote

I really enjoyed thinking about how I read and what habits might qualify as “good,” so thanks again to Siobhan for tagging me and Ally for creating this tag! I feel like doing more discussion-based blog posts soon, and I got kernels of ideas from doing this post.

If you decide to do this tag, please do link back to this post so I get a ping and can go read yours. Alternatively, let me know in the comments what habits we share ^_^

Thank you for reading!
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NaNoWriMo 2018 Kick-Off

First of all, let me start by saying Happy Halloween! I’m sorry it’s taken me a little while to get back to the blog and talk about my writing. Truth is I didn’t accomplish very much this month. It’s now been exactly two weeks since I had my nose surgery and I’m just now starting to feel more like myself again.

For NaNoWriMo I will continue working on Troubling a Star, which I’m renaming A Familiar Story. It suits it better and will mark a new leaf for this project. I recently looked back at my plot summary for the project this weekend and fell back in love with the story. I think trying to write chronologically was messing me up, so I’ll probably be jumping around this month in an effort to maintain my enthusiasm and momentum.

November Writing Goals

The official goal for NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words by the end of the month, which translated to about 1,667 words per day on average. I’ve long been a proponent of each participant picking a goal that works for them and their schedule; the most important thing being participating at all. This year I will be aiming for that 50k word count goal.

Additionally, I have mini-goals for the month that relate to writing.

  • Write at least 5 minutes every day
  • Write somewhere different at least once a week
  • Use my bullet journal
  • Don’t start any new books or T.V. shows!!!

My Bullet Journal

I’ll share it next week!

❧ ☙ END NOTE ☙ ❧

Sorry this post went up a little later than I meant for it. It actually published before I was finished drafting it. I had decided not to post it, then it went up and I realized I should just polish it up.

I would like to start blogging a little more regularly, but this is not the month for me to commit to anything major. I’m planning to do at least one post per week related to NaNoWriMo and it is simply going to be a weekly log of my progress. I’ve already started it and I’m super excited about it.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, how are you preparing?

Thank you for reading!
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OctoWriMo | NaNoWriMo Prep

Hey! Sorry for the short absence! October started with a bang and I didn’t want to burn myself out so I took a little unexpected break while I worked on other things that I want to begin to share. I’ve been working on my story, so that’s been a lot of fun!

I decided I wanted to gear up for NaNoWriMo this November by practicing in October with a modified daily word count goal. Instead of the goal of 1,667 words, I decided to merely write 1,000 minimum a day. That’s not been happening every day yet, but I’m optimistic I will end the month at that pace and with 31k words total regardless of my slow start.

I encourage anyone who is thinking about NaNoWriMo to start practicing making time to write and putting words on the page. If you want to be a writer, you don’t need to wait until November to start writing. In this post, I hope you are inspired to start writing! I’ll be sharing what I’ve been up to for the past 10 days and my revised plans for the month of NaNoWriMo Prep!

Writing This Month So Far…

As you may already know, for the past couple of months I’ve been working on my WIP currently titled Troubling a Star (TaS). The title no longer fits, but it was never meant to be a final title anyway. For the sake of continuity I will not be changing it until I’m done with the first draft! I started writing it in August with a very loose idea of the plot and where the story needed to go.

see: A New WIP

In August, I had decided to start writing in a Google Doc so that my writing buddy could check on my progress (or lack thereof) and give me positive feedback whenever she wished. I’ve since taken away her viewing privileges so she can be surprised when she reads it for the first time, but I’m still writing primarily in that Google Doc! I’ve added a Table of Contents, so it’s easy to jump directly to the chapters I’m working on when I open the webpage.

I’ve talked about how I initially plotted this story last month, but I recently completed a more detailed plot outline by summary outlining. With the major plot points I had as light posts guiding me through the murky swamp that was my story, I wrote short paragraphs in which I elaborated about what happens to my protagonist. So essentially I told myself the story in 1,315 words.

I am so glad I dedicated more time to plotting in this way because I truly believe it will help me write a book that feels very cohesive and not just like disjointed parts glued together. I added characters and mini plot arcs that will strength the main story.

When I was at the midpoint I started breaking my outline into chapters by copying and pasting excerpts from the summary under the corresponding chapter headers, breaking paragraphs up where it felt most natural to start a new chapter. I assume as I write there will be even more that happens that might change where I break up chapters, but for now it will just help me know where I am in the story.

My Google Doc currently has 3,465 words in it but a lot of that is stuff I wrote before my more detailed plot outline, so I feel like I’m starting from scratch! However, the thing about NaNoWriMo is you must not delete anything. If something doesn’t fit anymore put it aside but DON’T DELETE! So I’ve moved about 2k words to the very bottom of the document to a “chapter” titled “Unsorted”. (These include scenes I still very much like and will be saving for future projects, perhaps.)

Now that I’ve got a better idea of what I need to write, my goal is to start writing at least 1,000 words a day as originally planned. I will most likely be jumping around a bit to write the stuff that seems the most compelling or important to write first. I’m keeping a journal to help me keep track of all my writing progress on a day-to-day level.

October NANoWriMo Prep

I shared my NaNoWriMo Prep schedule for this month last month before I took my little break, but I still want to stick to that, so you can expect what should’ve been today’s post at some point before next Wednesday (fingers crossed)!

  • Oct. 3: OctoWriMo | NaNoWriMo Prep
  • Oct. 10: Deciding What to Write | NaNoWriMo Prep
  • Oct. 17: A Writing Bullet Journal + Organization Tips | NaNoWriMo Prep
  • Oct. 24: NaNoWriMo Survival Kit | NaNoWriMo Prep
  • Oct. 31: Making Time to Write | NaNoWriMo Prep

I’d don’t know how long it will take me to finish up a first draft of TaS, but I’m still really energized by the opportunity of starting something completely new for NaNoWriMo next month, specifically a contemporary. I just saw A Wrinkle in Time (2018) and actually thought it was a really good modernization and adaptation of the book. Even though it did drag on a bit and get a little lost on the way to the original message of the story.

I would really like to try to write my own L’Engle-inspired work! By that, I mean a book that deals with contemporary issues and modern day scientific discovery. I think I will talk about this more in my next post in which I try to help aspiring writers tips for generating story ideas.

❧ ☙ END NOTE ☙ ❧

I was hoping to include my writing updates this month at the beginning of every post, but I may actually start sharing the odd writing update in single posts as I do find myself having a lot to say. I’ve thought about starting up my YouTube channel again instead to dedicate specifically to my writing updates, but that presents its own challenges!

So I guess we’ll see! I’m hoping to be back with regular blog posts again this weekend so stay tuned for that. ^_^

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, how are you preparing?

Thank you for reading!
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Setting Writing Goals | Novel Progress

My writing buddy and I usually Skype at least once a week, typically during the weekend, and for as long as I can remember we tend to end each call with plans for what we would like to accomplish on our own before we next talk. These are really simple, achievable goals that are easy to remember so that we can hold each other accountable.

We pick these goals for ourselves. They are things we would like to achieve, that are within reason, and the only obstacles to them is ourselves and how we choose to spend our time during the week. She’s amazing and meeting and exceeding these goals. I’m so-so. But I love setting goals. I love knowing what I should be doing (even if I don’t do it)!

Types of Writing Goals

Whether you are a fan of setting goals or not, I think we can all agree they serve some function of motivation. I think they also help writing a novel seem more manageable. Each goal is a stepping stone that leads to the ultimate destination: a complete novel draft.

There are a few different types of goals you can consider setting for yourself. There are long-term and short-term goals. With long-term goals you may have dates in mind for completing your WIP as a whole or for beginning your novel querying. Short-term goals are often stepping stones toward the long-term goal. They take less time to complete and account for different methods to achieving the long-term goal.

Here are some writing goals you might consider on a daily or weekly basis:

  1. Word count goals. Similar to NaNoWriMo, you may aim for productivity by consistently adding new words to your draft. If you know exactly what you want to write, or have no problem writing on the fly, then this goal might be great for you. You can be ambitious or realistic, adjusting the exact number of words as needed.
  2. Finish [x] chapters/scenes. If you want to prefer to look at your novel as a collection of discrete parts, you might feel more productive meeting a goal where you are writing scene-by-scene. Instead of a random number of words, you can know when your writing session for the day is complete when you’ve finished a specific part of your book. Word count doesn’t matter. You’re weighing your satisfaction upon the completion of a scene.
  3. Task-oriented goals. Maybe you like to edit as you go. You might have a goal of writing one chapter this week and next week you’re going through a round of edits. Maybe you leave a lot of fill-in-the-blank spots in your draft and like to attend to those all a once. These can encompass a number of things: naming places/characters, writing witty dialogue, adding hints of foreshadowing, fixing plot holes. Its all still work you can quantify as progress.
  4. Sitting down at [this time] to write. If actually sitting down to write is your problem, then you might consider making it your writing goal to write at specific times/places during the week. No, it may not relate directly to your novel. But this goal will help you complete your novel in the long run.

You have got to know yourself and your writing in order to set good goals for yourself. I personally jump back and forth between all of these different writing goals each week.

If I’m having trouble making the words flow, I find having a word count goal can help. If my mind is on a specific part of the novel, I may dedicate my time specifically to working on that. Sometimes I just want to spruce up the words I already have. I find that by looking closely at my words from time-to-time sparks ideas for things that can happen before and later.

October NANoWriMo Prep

In case you’re new to the blog, you may not know that I love participating in NaNoWriMo each year. When I was younger, NaNoWriMo always seemed to sneak up on me, so in an effort to promote the writing event and encourage others to participate, I organize a weekly NaNoWriMo preparation series on the blog in the place of the regularly scheduled writing updates.

I announced my schedule in my Week in Review this past Sunday, but I also wanted to share it here for anyone who might have missed it.

  • Oct. 3: OctoWriMo | NaNoWriMo Prep
  • Oct. 10: Deciding What to Write | NaNoWriMo Prep
  • Oct. 17: A Writing Bullet Journal + Organization Tips | NaNoWriMo Prep
  • Oct. 24: NaNoWriMo Survival Kit | NaNoWriMo Prep
  • Oct. 31: Making Time to Write | NaNoWriMo Prep

I’m hoping to finish up my current WIP so I can start something entirely new for NaNoWriMo, but I don’t know yet if it will be possible. I have to make sure I’m in a good place to stop with Troubling a Star, if I’m going to start a new project.

❧ ☙ END NOTE ☙ ❧

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I started a bullet journal, specifically for writing. It’s turned into a real bullet journal, now though, so it’s taken me some time and research to create page layouts that work for me. The actual writing-related sections are in my October spread, so I’m excited to start seeing how those work next month. Hopefully I’ll be able to share my success on the 17th as currently planned!

What kinds of writing goals do you set for yourself?

Thank you for reading!
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How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation | Anthology Review

A few years ago, one of the first major YouTube scandals occurred that affected me as a regular watcher of YouTubers from many different circles. A precursor to the #MeToo movement, several young fans came forward online with their stories of abuse and manipulation at the hands of many OG YouTube creators of 2014.

It turns out that many of these big name YouTubers, including one of my favorites at the time Alex Day, were exposed for using their power as influencers and fame to manipulate and coerce their young fans and female friends into things they were uncomfortable doing. Around this time, I remembered coming across this beautiful Tumblr post written by Maureen Johnson reflecting “ABOUT THE RECENT EVENTS CONCERNING YOUTUBE.”

While I had been casually aware of her from her appearances in vlogbrothers videos and even remembered her name from years ago when I read 13 Little Blue Envelopes, this post gave me an entirely new impression of and respect for this author. She completely opened by eyes to the broader issue of harassment women have been forced to tolerate for simply going out and trying to live their lives.

This past all came back to my mind when I discovered this book and saw Johnson’s name attached to this anthology. It is the reason I decided to purchase this book even though I recognized so few of the contributors. I figured it would be a valuable, eye-opening read. And that it was.

I definitely feel like it provides a great array of views and perspectives on a variety of issues that are related to resistance. The very word resistance is redefined throughout the book as we learn about how such a diverse collection of people individually view their work, art, and mere lives as acts of resistance.

• • • How I Resist • • •

Released: March 1, 2018
Pages: 224 pages (paperback)
Theme(s): Activism, forms of resistance, fighting oppression, raising awareness, making art
Genre(s): Young Adult / Activist Essays
Age Group: 10+

★★★★½

An all-star collection of essays about activism and hope, edited by bestselling YA author Maureen Johnson.

Now, more than ever, young people are motivated to make a difference in a world they’re bound to inherit. They’re ready to stand up and be heard – but with much to shout about, where they do they begin? What can I do? How can I help?

How I Resist is the response and a way to start the conversation. To show readers that they are not helpless, and that anyone can be the change they wish to see in the world, in their news, and for their future.

*  ⁎   My Thoughts   ⁎ * 

This anthology includes 29 pieces written by a range of people from celebrities to authors to people lauded for their activism. I was originally trying to review each piece, but I quickly realized how long this review would turn and I didn’t think anyone would actually go through my thoughts on each piece.

I also found it was hard to objectively review each piece. I found some pieces really aggravating and narrow-minded in their quest to awaken new activists. I found some pieces really brilliant in exemplifying how diverse this country really is, illustrating the struggles of people who don’t fit traditional gender roles and the variety of ways in which people can be oppressed.

I found this anthology truly fascinating given its target audience of young adults and how odd it was that it had taken this long to write a book that I assumed would speak so well to today’s youth of passion and activism. When I was in high school, Tumblr was still relatively a new thing. It’s a platform I’ve long credited with my generation’s interest in social justice.

I’ve been surprised over the years to see slacktivism turn into true activism, especially after Stoneman Douglas High School shooting earlier this year. It’s been truly inspiring to see how many of the victims have decided to prioritize their activism just as they are entering adulthood.

I would say this book is a great entry-level text into activism for young people today. There are some pieces I hated and think unfair, but I think that their presence in the book is justified if only for inspiring healthy debate. However, Johnson doesn’t provide any commentary of her own on individual pieces. So I think if this book was to be taught in school, the teacher would need do their own homework and provide context that will help frame how the students read each piece.

 ❧ ☙ END NOTE ☙ ❧

I’m sorry this review has taken me over a month to share! It was hard figuring out exactly how I wanted to format this review and what I felt I most wanted to say. This is a really important book, and I just wanted to do it justice. I haven’t seen it talked about by any of the people I follow on BookTube or in the book blogging community. So if I was going to be the first to introduce this book to people, I wanted to get it right. Basically, I psyched myself out!

Have you read How I Resist? If so, what’d you think?!

Do you consider yourself an activist?

Thank you for reading!
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My Writing Routine | Novel Progress

Time and time again as blog hop, I discover that many of my fellow book bloggers are also aspiring writers. I say aspiring, because although many (like me) have the urge to write, think of stories, and plan writing projects, we all struggle to sit down and put words on the page. We find ourselves coming with up reasons to not write.

It’s not the right time. I need to finish my outline. I’m too busy. I’m not feeling inspired. All of these excuses pile up and it becomes easy to work on anything but our novels.

I find myself wondering all the time how people like Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo do it. Obviously, they are super successful authors who can afford to make writing their main priority and they have deadlines which publishers, editors, agents, etc. hold them to those deadlines. But how do they do it? Do they have more fun when they’re writing? Is there something mystical that sets them apart from us?

The more I think about it, I think the answer is alarmingly simple; they have writing routines.

Why Develop a Writing Routine

When I say writing routine, I mean these established know when they are going to sit down and write each day. They know where they will work. They know how they are going to work. They may have a quiet part of their home where they do nothing but write. They may turn off their phones and wi-fi to eliminate distractions. Maybe they go somewhere more conducive than their homes for a productive work environment.

It’s important to know where you need to go and what you need to do to to avoid being distracted. Just the way you could explain your whole night-time routine (everything you use and explanations for why) you should know your ideal writing routine.

It may take some experimenting with different times of day or locations. You may find it necessary to get everything else that needs to get done in your life first (e.g. homework, chores, errands) so these things are not in the back of your mind.

Once you have your writing routine down pat, you will find that it’s easier to get into that writing mindset where you are not waiting for inspiration to strike or for divine intervention to somehow produce your novel’s words with little effort on your own part. Writing is work. It takes time. You need to put in the time if you ever want to be able to hold your book in your hands.

The main reason to develop a writing routine: If you are sitting down to write regularly, you learn how to diagnose the problems that may easily set you back right now.

  1. Don’t like your story anymore? Think about why you feel that way now. Brainstorm options to fix whatever caused you to see your story differently from when you first decided it was the story you wanted to tell.
  2. Don’t know what to write next? Think about a scene that sounds more fun that the one than the one that might technically come next. Maybe you can stop writing and jump back into planning mode. If you didn’t have an outline before, make one now so that you can think about your story from a more holistic perspective. It all counts as working on your novel.
  3. Don’t like how the words have come out? Remember that it’s easier to edit a bad draft than no draft at all! If there’s no rush to finish up your current draft, maybe you could spend some tie editing the words you just wrote. Make them pretty and you might find it motivating to continue writing because you’ve had a glimpse of what will ultimately be.

Finding Your Writing Routine

We are all different. We all lead different lives, have different home situations, and different life commitments. Everyone will need to do some experimenting until they find the writing routine that works best for them.

I’ve always found it easiest to write in the early mornings before most people are awake and when I am working with my writing buddy. But she’s not always available, so I have needed to think about why I find it easier to work with her. For one, it keeps me on task. I couldn’t very well watch YouTube or pick up a book when she can see and hear what I’m doing. I also like our breaks where we’re able to talk about what we’ve written and bask in our excitement together.

I’ve found writing these Novel Progress updates are similarly rewarding to talking to my writing buddy. I can share my excitement and progress with you all, feeling encouraged by your feedback in the form of comments and views. I also get the satisfaction of knowing that others out there may find themselves inspired to write by reading about how my own writing is going.

So that’s additional motivation to write, to keep having stuff to share. ^_^

I don’t really find it very easy to go out and write in cafes anymore now that I’m living a suburban lifestyle, so finding a good place to write has been a little tricky. I prefer quiet places. I don’t really prefer to listen to music or hear T.V. in the background while I write, so my bedroom is the main place I have. But my bedroom is also where I sleep and lounge about, so it can be hard to transition from relaxation to work .

I’m thinking about tidying up some of the other spare rooms in my house where I can work and find it easier not to think about all the other stuff I’d rather be doing.

Writing Update

So I’m in a weird stage of writing right now. I’m not really plotting this novel in great depth at the moment. I have some short paragraphs that provide a path for the story to take. I know there’s a lot of room where I could expand it with more scenes and plot points, but a part of me wants to discover these things as I write.

I’m using a Scrivener document so that I can more easily see each scene I write and move them around later when the novel begins to take a real shape. It also helps me start each day, knowing if I don’t like what I’ve written, the words are not set in stone. I can move the scene out of manuscript, but keep it for proof that I did write that day.

❧ ☙ END NOTE ☙ ❧

Something new that has begun to take up some of my free time is the creation of a bullet journal. I wanted it to be specifically related to writing, but as I did more and more research I realized I ought to also use it to keep track of my blog work. I wanted to make it the subject of next week’s Novel Progress, but I’m not sure if I’ll be ready to share it!

I only want to share it if I’ve found it valuable to my writing and feel like it’s something you all would find useful, so I may sit on this idea for a while longer. That being said, I’m not sure what the subject for next week’s Novel Progress will be sure to check out my little writing update in my weekly Week in Review post for any news ahead of next Wednesday!

Do you have a writing routine established yet? Have any tips to share?

Thank you for reading!
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How I Plotted Troubling a Star | Novel Progress

As promised last week, today I want to share how I’m plotting my current WIP, Troubling a Star (TaS). I have a few different methods that I’ve found useful in the past. Rather than go through all of them, I just want to share what methods I used to figure out the plot of TaS.

If you want to follow how I plot, there are a couple of things you should already know about your story:

  • a) what kind of story you want to write (e.g. romance, mystery, adventure, etc.)
  • b) your main characters, &
  • c) the world/genre of your story (e.g. contemporary, high fantasy, dystopian, etc.)

These are the elements I find come to me quite naturally when I’m beginning a story. Some people will do a lot of world-building and character development at the beginning, which may be necessary if their novel isn’t meant to be very plot-driven.

My favorite books are strongly plotted, and that’s how I aim to write. So I don’t personally find it all that productive to start a new novel by developing characters or the world in too much detail at the beginning because I like to be able to feel out the characters/world while I write.

All I need to figure out before I start properly writing are the plot beats. By that, I mean the things that need to happen for the story to progress. They can entail character decisions, major world events, points at which relationships change. Ideally they’ll cumulatively show the arc of character development in conjunction with the story’s action.

Pre-Plotting

With vague idea of the story I want to write in mind, I’m ready to start plotting. In the past, I’d summary-outline my novel and discover the story in the moment, writing down everything came to mind first. Over the last year, I’ve come to realize that I wasn’t liking where those outlines ended up. So now before I start, I try to first think about the final product as a whole.

I ask myself,

Can you think of any famous works that seem to mirror the kind of story you want to write?”

With TaS, I knew that I had a character that was a kind of ethically ambiguous witchy character who the young female protagonist would need to face, so I thought of all the works I know that feature similar character dynamics. If you think about it, the ideas I present above could relate to any number of existing works! From the works that came to my mind, I picked the one I thought most closely resembled the story I would like to write, Vassa in the Night.

Without going into too much detail, I soon realized Vassa didn’t actually work very well, for I didn’t want to have my protagonist being trapped and forced to toil in my witch-like character’s underwater world. So I had to think about how my protagonist would need to toil for the witch. Said toiling would consist of the bulk of the novel, so it was important to figure that out.

Then it hit me! Somehow, I had another idea of the kind of journey the witchy character could put her through. I won’t tell you exactly which character specifically, but I will say the current iteration of my protagonist’s journey in TaS is, strangely enough, now somewhat inspired by the sub-plot of a minor character from the Harry Potter (HP) series!

Step-By-Step

  1. I took a look at the source material (i.e. the HP book).
  2. I wrote that minor character’s story out in a bullet-point list.
  3. I bolded the major beats of that plot (i.e. the points in the story where the protagonist experiences trials and tribulations finally culminating at the point at which the character knows what they have to do to solve their problem).
  4. Finally I began replacing the source beats with my own. My beats mirrored the ones from HP by fulfilling the same roles that the originals do for the source book. For example, if a beat from the source material is “mysterious note with threat left on desk,” the beat I create would need to include some sort of threat meant to intimidate my protagonist.

I don’t have the ending quite figured out yet, but that’s because the climax of the story is the point at which my story derails from the HP subplot. That is 100% fine, as I still have enough that I can get started as soon as I commit to the specifically tailored beats I develop to fit my story.

Everything can still change when I start write, but the important thing is that I’m not going into the story blind and with no direction. I can start to flesh out the world and the characters, and adjust course as needed.

My Goal

My main goal is now to just complete the draft. If midway through writing the story I decide I want to change the whole plot of the story, I will write down my ideas so they don’t get lost but I WILL KEEP WRITING WHAT I’M WRITING. The most important thing will be simply to finish the draft that I start. I will follow the plot bunnies later and not let them convince me to stray from the path.

❧ ☙ END NOTE ☙ ❧

This weekend I was inspired to start a new creative project related to my novel that should help me keep all my ideas in one place and track my writing progress in a more personal way. I’m hoping it’ll prove successful and that I’ll be able to share it with you in a couple of weeks. But in the meantime, you can continue look forward to weekly progress reports on Wednesdays with my Novel Progress installments and on Sundays in my Week in Review posts!

Thank you for reading!
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August Goals + TBR ➹

I realize we are more than halfway through the month, but going out of town threw a wrench in my plans. What should have been a nice, pleasant trip turned out to be quite stressful and unhappy. I came back home kind of overwhelmed by all the projects I had started and questioning whether it was all worth it.

I guess you could say the blog has been somewhat on hold this month while I figure it all out. I’m still trying to figure it out, but I’m dipping my toes back into it slowly. Even though it is late, I didn’t want to look back on this entire month and wonder what happened.

So I ruminated about what I’d like to get done by the end of August minimally and came up with this list of three things. I also thought about what books are my priority TBR right now as I’m just trying to keep my head above water!

Goals

➴ 1. Develop a more healthy reading-blogging-writing balance

I feel like I have a strange habit of taking on all the things and then struggling because I find one thing more interesting than all the others. Looking back at my monthly notes/goal posts from this past year, the pattern is really clear! My passion jumps between reading, writing, and blogging all the time. This month in the couple weeks I have left, I want to better prioritize.

Unless I find a way for the blog to become a major source of income, I don’t want to be spending all my time on it. Blogging should be for reflection anyway, so I don’t want it to take up all my time. Neither do I want to feel like all I have time to do is read, because that can become just as dangerous as watching YouTube or Netflix all day long.

So when it gets down to it, writing is what I want to focus on more while I still have the luxury of free-time.

2. Look for a Job + Share the Search

In July I realized I really do need to start looking for a full-time job again. It’s something I don’t really like to talk about, because it’s kind of embarrassing. But I know the longer I put it off the worse off I’ll be in terms of future job opportunities and debt repayment. So I want to overcome my job lack of confidence and interview anxiety to apply more widely for job paths I may not have considered before.

I also want to start talking jobs on the blog for anyone who is still in high school and college and doesn’t know what they want to do or anyone who may not be happy with their current employment and might like to consider other options. Job searching seriously sucks, and I hope to make it more fun by blogging about it!

3. End in the month with all my loose ends tied up

I can never fully relax while I know there are things that I’ve left incomplete. Blog-wise, there’s a lot that I still want to finish up and would like to do before the end of the month. This list of things is less for you, my blog readers, and more for my own peace of mind. It does include books, though! I really want to end the month having at minimum finished all the books I’m “currently reading” (Strange the Dreamer, How I Resist, and Rebel Spring).

I also don’t want to start anything that I’m not going to complete this month! If I start something, I want to keep it to myself until I’m sure I’ll follow through with sharing it.

TBR

In July I met my Goodreads Reading Challenge 2018 goal of reading 30 books. At the start of the year, I literally had no idea that I’d be where I am with my blog today. It’s kind of insane. I thought I might’ve peaked in 2015 with my blogging career, and I’m just so happy that I’ve fallen back in love with reading and reviewing books.

As it’s halfway through the month already, I don’t think I’ll read more beyond what I’m currently reading. I do have some books I’m itching to start once I can commit to them. I’m on a contemporary/non-fiction/literary fiction kick right now, and I’m going to see where it takes me!

Disrupt You!  by Jay Samit

In today’s volatile business landscape, adaptability and creativity are more crucial than ever. It is no longer possible-or even desirable-to learn one set of job skills and to work your way up the ladder. At the same time, entrepreneurs with great ideas for new products or technologies that could change the world often struggle to capture the attention of venture capital firms and incubators; finding the funding necessary to launch a start-up can feel impossible. The business leaders of our future must anticipate change to create their own opportunities for personal satisfaction and professional success. In Disrupt You!, Jay Samit, a digital media expert who has launched, grown, and sold start-ups and Fortune 500 companies alike, describes the unique method he has used to invent new markets and expand established businesses.

Samit has been at the helm of businesses in the ecommerce, digital video, social media, mobile communications, and software industries, helping to navigate them through turbulent economic times and guide them through necessary transformation so that they stay ahead of the curve. In Disrupt You!, he reveals how specific strategies that help companies flourish can be applied at an individual level to help anyone can achieve success and lasting prosperity-without needing to raise funds from outside investors.

Incorporating stories from his own experience and anecdotes from other innovators and disruptive businesses-including Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, YouTube, Circ du Soleil, Odor Eaters, Iams, Silly Putty, and many more-Samit shows how personal transformation can reap entrepreneurial and professional rewards. Disrupt You! offers clear and empowering advice for anyone looking to break through; for anyone with a big idea but with no idea how to apply it; and for anyone worried about being made irrelevant in an era of technological transformation. This engaging, perspective-shifting book demystifies the mechanics of disruption for individuals and businesses alike.

For my birthday this February, I treated myself to some non-fiction books of the self-help variety, hoping I might find some inspiration from them on what my next step should be. I wouldn’t say they lit any lightbulbs personally, but they were motivational in the sense that they made me get more productive. I decided to save on of those books, Disrupt You!, for later and have decided that now as I need to switch gears again is a great time for it.


The Promise by Chaim Potok

“A superb mirror of a place, a time, and a group of people who capture our immediate interest and hold it tightly.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer

Young Reuven Malter is unsure of himself and his place in life. An unconventional scholar, he struggles for recognition from his teachers. With his old friend Danny Saunders—who himself had abandoned the legacy as the chosen heir to his father’s rabbinical dynasty for the uncertain life of a healer—Reuvan battles to save a sensitive boy imprisoned by his genius and rage. Painfully, triumphantly, Reuven’s understanding of himself, though the boy change, as he starts to approach the peace he has long sought…

The Chosen by Chaim Potok was one of my first reads of the year (see What I Read This Winter), a book that got me back into reading after a few months of despair and uncertainty. I loved it and immediately looked into what other books the author had written, happy to find that there is a “sequel.” I had to order it on Amazon, but shelved it soon after as I was on a mission to read more popular fiction. I’m in a funny place again where I need to read more books that feed my soul, so I’m hoping this one does not disappoint!


Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

In this seductive, wistful masterpiece, Truman Capote created a woman whose name has entered the American idiom and whose style is a part of the literary landscape. Holly Golightly knows that nothing bad can ever happen to you at Tiffany’s; her poignancy, wit, and naïveté continue to charm.

This volume also includes three of Capote’s best-known stories, “House of Flowers,” “A Diamond Guitar,” and “A Christmas Memory,” which the Saturday Review called “one of the most moving stories in our language.” It is a tale of two innocents–––a small boy and the old woman who is his best friend–––whose sweetness contains a hard, sharp kernel of truth.

Like most young girls, I went through an adoring Audrey Hepburn phase. I first watched Billy Wilder’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1960) in high school. I even gave myself horrible baby bangs à la Holly Golightly my senior year. It was not a good look, considering I never ever wore my hair up back then! Also my hair was all bleached.

Anyway (and in case you didn’t know), the movie is based on Truman Capote’s short story. It not supposed to be anything like it, but I still find myself wanting to read the source material. The specific book I have includes three short stories in addition to “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which I think will be a fun read as I don’t read a lot of short fiction.

I read the first 50 pages or so of Capote’s non-fiction masterpiece, In Cold Blood, so I know he’s a brilliant writer. The only reason I didn’t finish that book is at the time I wasn’t in the mood for something quite so chilling . . .

✄ —– End Note ——–

In case you missed it, my July Notes ➴ in which I summarized my successes and failures of last month went up on the blog last week shortly after I returned from my trip. The first thing on my agenda is to start tying up those loose ends this weekend with regards to the books I’m reading and the blog stuff I want to complete. Maybe I’ll share my to-do list on Sunday . . .

What are your goals for the month?

Thank you for reading!
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Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene | ★★★½

I picked up a copy of Summer of My German Soldier earlier this year, after browsing my local 2nd and Charles store for books I might get in exchange for the store credit I accrued by un-hauling a number of old books I saw no purpose in keeping. They had a bunch of nice copies of this book; I assume because it’s been an elementary or middle school class reading. Since I’ve been on a bit of a German kick all year, I decided to purchase one.

I do not recall ever reading this book when I was young, but I figured it’d be a nice, light read that fits well with the other stuff I’ve been reading this year. And after reading Ceremony (which I reviewed last week), I knew I wanted to read something light.

Today review is pretty short. I didn’t see fit to include a Craft section, because there wasn’t much I found note-worthy about prose. Most of the time, I felt like the book omitted or lacked in details I would’ve found helpful to the book’s flow. I enjoyed this book, though, and I’m glad I read it so soon after buying it! Usually, I keep new purchases on the shelves far longer than I originally intend to when I buy them (*cough cough* Obsidio).

• • • Summer of My German Soldier • • •

Released: 1973
Pages: 230 pages (paperback)
Theme(s): Love, domestic abuse, validation, inner strength, choosing your family, race, pride, war, loyalty
Genre(s): Young Adult / Historical / Fiction
Age Group: 12+

★★★½

It was a summer of love. A summer of hate. A summer that would last a lifetime.

The summer that Patty Bergen turns twelve is a summer that will haunt her forever. When her small hometown in Arkansas becomes the site of a camp housing German prisoners during World War II, Patty learns what it means to open her heart. Even though she’s Jewish, she begins to see a prison escapee, Anton, not as a Nazi — but as a lonely, frightened young man with feelings not unlike her own, who understands and appreciates her in a way her parents never will. And Patty is willing to risk losing family, friends — even her freedom — for what has quickly become the most important part of her life.

*  ⁎   My Thoughts   ⁎ * 

While it did not blow me away, I found Summer of My German Soldier a quick and satisfying read. I was expecting this book to be a somewhat light, pleasant romance between people from two completely different worlds. Instead, I found the book much less about the actual relationship Patty develops with the soldier and more about how he came into her life at time that she really needs it. It’s actually kind of dark.

It would be overly reductive to criticize this book by today’s standards for its large age gap between the girl (a child of 12) and the soldier (a 22-year-old man) or for a message that may seem to imply at surface level that a girl needs a boy to come into her life and save her. I will admit, I found these things irksome while I read it last week, I’m certain that my 12-year-old self would probably have found this book super thrilling for those exact reasons.

What surprised me most about this book is the horrible home life that could be interpreted as to partially to blame for Patty’s treason in the book. It’s really heart-breaking. Her parents are not just neglectful but openly cruel to this poor little girl who keeps trying to win their love and admiration. Her father doesn’t even try to hide that he beats her, later in the book we discover town’s sheriff knows, and it’s a sad reminder of a time in history when the law did not interfere to protect children from abusive households.

Despite her horrible parents, Patty is a bright girl with a open heart. She’s not hardened to the world or people in general, despite the cruelty she has endured, which makes her all the more sympathetic. While I found it hard to connect with Patty on a super personal-level (she has a tendency to lie in order to get attention), I found a lot to admire in the girl and inspiration in her strength of patience and optimism.

I haven’t read much YA where the protagonists are the victims of parental abuse, and I end this review wondering how many girls throughout the decades have found hope or strength in Patty’s story in a time when it seemed like there was no one they could turn to for help. While I don’t think this book is especially insightful about WWII or American Jews (honestly it’s horrible in that regard), I can see it being of some value to young readers who feel under-appreciated by their family.

CompleMentary Books 

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood To Kill a Mockingbird The Book Thief
Also features young southern girls with dysfunctional families in the early 20th century. Also features a girl in the American south learning about social prejudice. Also features a young girl who hides a person her country considers “the enemy.”

 ❧ ☙ END NOTE ☙ ❧

I’d be really interested to hear from anyone who has read Summer of My German Soldier, especially if it was in school, and what your biggest takeaways from the book were. I don’t know if I think it would still be a good book to teach nowadays. I also wonder about real-life German POWs who were sent to the U.S. during the war and how they were treated / how they found life in the states.

With this book, I completed my Goodreads Reading Challenge of 30 books! I set only 30 at the beginning of the year as my goal, because I wasn’t sure how this year would shape up.

I won’t set a new goal, but I imagine that my reading will continue at a pace of at least one book per week. I still would like to read some more of the books I’ve had on my TBR for a long-time and re-read some more of my favorites that I’ve not yet reviewed on this blog.

Have you read Summer of My German Soldier? If so, what’d you think?!

Thank you for reading!
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