why i read (and write) YA as an adult

DSC_0341The YA community, as readers and writers, consists of a wide range of people. Sometimes adults who are within the community are given a hard time. While this is diminishing (as far as I have seen), it is still there. Admittedly, I am even sometimes hesitant to go into the YA section in bookstores because I’m weary of being judged. (Ridiculous, I know.)

I was pondering YA a lot the other day. Truth be told, I’ve been in a big slump (which is why you haven’t heard from me) with reading and writing. It wasn’t until I read SMOKE IN THE SUN that I was reminded again just why I love YA so much.

When you’re an adult, it’s very easy to lose sight of hope and adventure. Maybe not always, and maybe I’m setting myself up to get a slew of comments on this. I think, for most adults, even if you are working your dream job and have everything you ever could have hoped for when younger– it’s still easy to get caught up in the every day “adulting” and lose a bit of yourself.

Yes, we grow and we learn and mature and all that truly good stuff.

But I think there’s always a piece of us that should stay, well, young.

I love YA for the hope. For the young adults facing problems so much bigger than themselves and conquering them. Maybe it’s not normal to see a seventeen year old save the kingdom/world… but some teenagers save their family every.single.day. It’s amazing to see a fourteen-year-old face problems that seem so far fetched, but when held to the “real life” scenarios some face, they’re nothing.

That’s hope. It’s hope that these everyday problems are conquerable, solvable, achievable. It’s hope that young adults in real life have the ability to do extraordinary things because these characters show them that it’s not impossible. It’s the hope of chasing dreams, love, life, adventures, jobs and the reality that it is scary, and that’s okay. It’s the hope that they can believe in themselves and not back down from challenges, but face them.

 

Hope is what makes me go back to reading it. Not because I can’t handle adult books, or because adult fiction is too boring or hard to read. And it’s not because I don’t think I could write adult fiction, either, because I imagine I could if I really put my mind to… and there’s part of me that hopes I can write at least one in my lifetime.

Goodness, though, that hope is so strong. It’s motivational, to see characters and write characters in a time or place or event that is outside of my own with that motivation and determination that we can sometimes lose. They don’t settle.

I’m not saying I’ve settled, and I’m not saying that I’ve lost hope. I’m saying that in this world we are a part of, there are things each and every day that can suck the life and hope out of a person. And, to me, YA counteracts it.

Hope.

True, undeniable, tangible hope.

That’s what I love about YA.

 

Do you read and/or write YA? I’d love to hear from you on this!

 

Wait For Me book review

Sorry for the absence, guys. I am in a new season of life and it has been kicking my butt!

I had been waiting to read Wait For Me by Caroline Leech since before it came out. From the cover reveal to release, I’ve been very excited about this WWII Historical Fiction. And I was not disappointed! Here’s the description:

It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?

But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him—from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany—the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate.

The story of Lorna and Paul really brought me into Lorna’s world. I enjoyed getting to know the characters, and above all loved how much their relationship tugged on my heartstrings. The struggle of their story was real, and it was a good change from many other romances in YA literature.

I felt like I really got to know Lorna through her relationships and inner dialogue. She was a teenager that others can relate to, even with the historical time period. The only thing I wished for more of were perhaps descriptions of her surroundings. I wanted to see more of where she was in Scotland, and feel it with her. There was just a small piece missing in this, but it didn’t hurt the story or character development by any means.

One thing I have learned lately is to always read the notes from the author, especially when it comes to historical fiction. It’s intriguing to know what is real and what was changed for the sake of the story. I found it so reassuring to know that the author had received a letter from someone who had a grandmother who actually married a POW- knowing that Lorna and Paul’s story could have some truth to it made it that much more heart-wrenching.

If you love period pieces, particularly learning more about WWII, and you love a good romance- I highly recommend this book!

 

flame in the mist by renee ahdieh, a review

IMG_9142If you’ve read my reviews of The Wrath & The Dawn and The Rose & The Dagger, you know I’m a big Renee Ahdieh fan. Her use of history and periods of time, with a fantastical twist, are beautifully done to the point that I’m not always sure I’m ready a version of fantasy. She weaves her worlds and characters in a way that suck you in immediately, so I was more than excited when I found out she was writing another series.

I finished Flame In The Mist in a mere 32 hours, and I’ll forever be grateful for that because it was right before my new little man came into the world. Here’s the Goodreads description:

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

I loved this book because it threw me for a few loops I wasn’t expecting, something her previous duology did as well. Mariko was a very strong character, and initially I thought her love interest might be someone who it didn’t turn out to be. I loved how torn she was between her blood-relatives and, in the end, a new found family.

If you loved Renee Ahdieh’s previous works, I highly recommend this new read. An interest in Japanese culture is also a plus, as this weaves in some very beautiful peaces of dress, food, honor, and more.

Go read it!

 

 

The Hate U Give book review

IMG_6904I had been looking forward to this book since way back when. I love being plugged in to the author/writing community on Twitter. While I’m not going to lay any sort of claim to knowing the author personally, I know someone who knows her– and that always brings books closer to my heart.

But this one, y’all… this one would have been there anyway.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. What everyone wants to know is: What really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life.

I read this book in 72 hours, and it would’ve been faster if I didn’t have to adult. The characters/setting was so vivid that I was pulled into every detail of what was going on. Starr was amazing with her torn life and decisions, and I loved every character. As in, no character was lacking story or personality. They all came to life.

This book is extremely relevant to current events, and one that makes you want to sit and think and discuss so many issues. No matter where you stand or what you believe– you should read this book.

Everything Everything book review

IMG_6288EVERYTHING EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon was a book I kept seeing around Instagram, and honestly picked up once I saw the trailer for the movie (don’t hate). While I love YA, I’m not always a huge YA Contemporary person. I have had my moments with John Green and other authors and loved them, but overall I will admit I tend to stick with Historical Fiction the most.

However, one must always branch out. And I’ve made it a goal to do that more and more this year.

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I loved the creativity that went into this book. All of Madeline’s drawings, diagrams, lists, etc– it adds so much to the book. I love books in any genre that take everything one step farther, and I really think this book did that.

The only negative thing I thought during my time with this book was how realistic some of it was. Of course that’s the fun of fiction, but books like these you have to wonder and question certain aspects of it all. Not saying things/situations aren’t possible, just saying I couldn’t decide how believable it was to me- even in moments I was immersed in the story.

No spoilers, but there was a twist that I was not expecting. And my goodness how it made my heart throb/break/beat. See what I did there? Now you hopefully don’t know what kind of twist it is!

I would suggest reading this before the movie (May 19) if possible. You won’t regret it!

iron cast book review

img_0076Iron Cast was one of the last books I read of 2016, and as soon as I started it I had a hard time putting it down. It’s a beautiful historical fantasy set in 1919 that is full of twists a reader would be hard to catch until that very moment in the story.

Historical fantasy really seems to be growing on me. Being a lover of historical fiction, I’ve been branching out more and more and I’m not sorry for it. Although I’m pretty sure historical fantasy will never be something I, myself, could write– I thoroughly enjoy the authors who do.

And Destiny Soria’s work is no exception. Here’s the description from Goodreads:

In 1919, Ada Navarra—the intrepid daughter of immigrants—and Corinne Wells—a spunky, devil-may-care heiress—make an unlikely pair. But at the Cast Iron nightclub in Boston, anything and everything is possible. At night, on stage together, the two best friends, whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art, weave magic under the employ of Johnny Dervish, the club’s owner and a notorious gangster. By day, Ada and Corinne use these same skills to con the city’s elite in an attempt to keep the club afloat.

When a “job” goes awry and Ada is imprisoned, she realizes they’re on the precipice of danger. Only Corinne—her partner in crime—can break her out of Haversham Asylum. But once Ada is out, they face betrayal at every turn.

This description, to me, does not adequately portray the book. While it obviously grabbed my attention, a little more insight to the details might make one want to read it even more.

The dual point of view in this book really helps the reader get to know the two main characters, Ada and Corinne. Their friendship is what drives the book, which is one of the reasons I loved it so much. While there are romances brought into the chapters, they are not the focus, or even big highlights, that run the plot.

The magic in this book is beautiful, and it brings up some good questions with it. The characters toe the line with their gifts between what is right and what is wrong, but the justification that is brought to light in all of it is because they have been forced into a position where they cannot use their gifts solely for good.

This point and thought, as off as it might seem, made me think of X-Men and how the mutants are forced between what is right and what is wrong because of how the world sees them. It’s the same type of concept, and one that can be applied to many issues constantly arising in our world today.

I would not have heard of this book had I not just been perusing Amazon one day for more historical fiction/fantasy, and I worry that it’s the same for others. If you haven’t heard of it, and are a lover of historical fantasy, you’ll want to pick this up.

Now.

This instant.

Go.

 

wayfarer book review

img_2408After a VERY LONG YEAR of waiting, the sequel to Alexandra Bracken‘s Passenger was finally released earlier this month, and I had to wait two whole days after it came out to receive my copy in the mail.

I could have gone to the bookstore, but seeing as how I ordered it the day before it came out, I was responsible. And I waited.

Once I got the book, I was semi-thankful that I was under the weather, because I finished it in approximately 32 hours– and that was only because I fell asleep and dropped the book on my face. Otherwise it would have been shorter.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I will admit it didn’t wrap me up in the world of time travel and history as much as the first one did. Perhaps it’s because the two characters we came to love together so much, Etta and Nicholas, weren’t together for almost the entire book… or perhaps it was something else I can’t put my finger on. But before I go into more (without spoilers, I promise), here’s what Goodreads has to say:

All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. When help arrives, it comes from the last person Etta ever expected—Julian Ironwood, the Grand Master’s heir who has long been presumed dead, and whose dangerous alliance with a man from Etta’s past could put them both at risk.

Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are racing through time in order to locate Etta and the missing astrolabe with Ironwood travelers hot on their trail. They cross paths with a mercenary-for-hire, a cheeky girl named Li Min who quickly develops a flirtation with Sophia. But as the three of them attempt to evade their pursuers, Nicholas soon realizes that one of his companions may have ulterior motives.

As Etta and Nicholas fight to make their way back to one another, from Imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, time is rapidly shifting and changing into something unrecognizable… and might just run out on both of them.

I did absolutely love the secondary characters in the book. I loved getting to know Etta’s father, Julian, Li Min, and more layers of Sophia, Nicholas, and Etta. But, like I said earlier, the fact that the fight for Nicholas and Etta to be together took almost the ENTIRE book… I found myself desperately wanting to skip ahead to the part when they FINALLY REUNITED. This, I’m sure, is the romantic in me.

Since the first book took us on a crazy adventure that brought these two lovebirds together, I hoped the second would bring them together at least halfway through so we could experience more of their balance in the midst of the craziness. This wasn’t the case. However, in a few months I’m hoping to reread both the books in succession and perhaps I won’t feel as torn about my feelings for Wayfarer then.

Overall, this book was beautiful. The places we got to go and the emotions I felt through all of the characters wrapped it up in a wonderful end as a sequel. I especially loved all the toying with history and the potential repercussions of what that could mean.

If you loved Passenger, I would still highly recommend picking up the sequel. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

the rose & the dagger book review

img_0975The Rose & The Dagger is Renne Ahdieh sequel to The Wrath & The Dawn. I went through this book as quickly as I did the first, though I must admit there were slower places in this one, where the first one kept me intrigued and desiring more and more.

Not saying this one didn’t do that, juuuust saying that there were a few places that we were in character’s heads for a little too long for my taste. More action would have been nice to break it up a bit, though I understand why the thoughts were necessary.

Here’s what Goodreads has to say about it:

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

 

I loved the new characters we got to see in this book, as well as the old. Being introduced to Shazi’s sister was a definite plus for me, since I have two sisters of my own and understood the struggle Shazi had with that relationship and the secrets she had to protect.

However, with new characters meant that I was taken away from my two favorites for longer periods. While it was necessary to the story, and it helped tie some loose ends, I thought that there could be a little more between Shazi and Khalid to help bring their relationship even more to life in this second book.

Over all, Ahdieh did her story justice, and I was sucked in the second book as quickly as I was with the first. I would recommend these books to anyone who loves One Thousand and One Nights. I’m really looking forward to Ahdieh’s next project, which is said to focus around the legend of Mulan.

trackback thursday: the mountain meadows massacre

mountain meadows massacreIn September of 1857, a wagon train that originated of families mostly from Arkansas, was held under siege for four days until they were lead to their deaths.

These emigrants were headed to California, and consisted of a few wealthy cattle and horse herders, as well as others looking for a better life out West.

When they traveled through Utah, at the time under the “theocratic” ruling, if you will, of Brigham Young and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as LDS or Mormons), they were refused supplies in Salt Lake City and Cedar City due to the Mormons suspecting them or taking part in the murders of some of their church members back East, including their late leader/prophet Joseph Smith.

On the first day, the settlers were attacked at Mountain Meadows, Utah by the local Indians, but when they were lead to their deaths it was under the direction of the local Mormon Militia.

The Mormons rode in under a white flag, offered the settlers help to escape the siege of the Native Americans, and had them march on as though leading them back to Cedar City. The settlers were then attacked by Mormons disguised as the Native Americans, so as to skirt away from blame. Around 120 settlers were killed, leaving only children under the age of seven alive.

There were around 17 survivors.

This massacre has been under debate since it happened. The LDS of the time first claimed innocence. Brigham Young did an “investigation,” which was then blamed on the local Native Americans. But upon further investigation and pushing from the national government, Brigham Young and the Saints sought to blame it on Major John Lee, the one who supposedly lead the attack under no orders from anyone higher ranked.

This post could be incredibly long, for this massacre is the setting for my YA historical fiction novel. So, I’ll just sum it up. But you can visit the Mountain Meadows Association site as well as read witness reports from all those years ago if you are interested.

After completing my novel and preparing to query, I got to visit the massacre site in December 2014. I was mixed with emotions of excitement and heartbreak. For somewhere so beautiful to be ever tainted by these innocent Westward travelers was haunting.

mountain meadows selfie

The massacre itself happened on September 11, 1857.

what i’m learning from re-reading Harry Potter

imageIf you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you may have caught on to my rereading the Harry Potter series for the last month. It started around Harry’s birthday (July 31st) and it’s been hard to slow me down since. In fact, I thought I was overdoing it when I posted that I wanted to read Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban by the end of September, but somehow I managed to squeeze in Goblet of Fire as well.

I don’t say that to brag at all. I say that to show how much I love this series, and how distracting it is– even when reading it for the umpteenth time.

But as I reread these books as an adult, I thought it would be incredibly different. I did this about three years ago as well, and that was when my oldest was near/around two. But now I have two boys, my youngest having just turned one, and I wondered if it would change the way I read these books somehow.

If anything, though, it’s only excited me more for when I can share this series with the two of them.

Not looking for booing or hisses, I will admit that this time I find them as an easier read. I’m not sure my reading skills have gotten better, or if it’s because I’ve read them before, but I find that the language is much simpler than I remember it being. There’s nothing wrong with that at all– it’s just a new observation.

My other observation, however, is one of astonishment. Rereading these books, I’m always amazed at the little slips of information that Rowling had in them at the very beginning. Mention of Sirius, Dumbledore’s fleeting looks of happiness or surprise, things that the narration or a character might mention that make my eyes want to pop out of my head.

She knew. Rowling knew the entire time.

I know she had to, writing a series like that, but I have to admit I’m amazed. My books don’t fall into place like that, and while I’m sure she hit her struggles and went through the feelings that every writer does at one point– I still bow down to her. She wrote seven amazing books, set in a completely different realm of sorts, and people are still enjoying and learning and exploring it today.

So, what am I learning from all of this?

I’m learning that great books don’t ever become “ungreat.” I’m learning that not every writer is created equal, and that’s OK. But most of all, I’m learning that even reading these books as an adult– I’m still learning from them.

Yes, I’m learning that I’m still learning.

These books offer hope, and courage, and adventure, and friendship, and love, and deceit, and hate, and fear– so much of our own world is wrapped into these books, even if it doesn’t seem blatantly recognizable. And I think that’s why we all love them so much. Not just for the magic and the idea of going to Hogwarts for a school year or learning magic or having Hagrid as a friend and Dumbledore as a mentor: but the reality that they’re not just a place to escape to when our “real world” is getting overwhelming or crazy, they’re ‘home.’

It’s been said before, I know. But I don’t mean it in the traditional sense.

I mean they’re home because Hermione could be my best friend. Or Harry could be the dorky cool kid I’d want to be friends with. Or Dumbledore could be the principal that goes the extra mile to keep his students up to par, and does’t treat them like children but the young adults they wish to be. The books are so close to our reality (besides that little part about the wizarding world).

This has to be one of the reasons we all love them so. Or, at least, it is for me.

 

 

Want the recipe for the Treacle Tarts pictured? Head over to The Newfangled Housewife!