Wow, it’s been a long time since I last posted a review! Almost two years, to be precise. I really didn’t mean to let it go this long. But between college and its ridiculous amounts of homework, 2-4 jobs (yes, there was a point where I was working 4 jobs), living on my own, getting a dog, and other adulty things, I just didn’t have the time to read.
Last year, I only read 9 books. (Yes, I am ashamed that I have to write that sentence. But it’s true. Only 9. Less than half of which were fiction and one of which was technically for school.)
The good news
I’ve graduated college (finally!), so I now have time to do things. Like pick up hobbies that I haven’t done in three years. So if you’ve missed me – and even if you haven’t – I’m back!
You didn’t think I could be gone so long and not make changes when I came back, did you? 🙂 I like to think it’s nothing major, but here’s what’s changing around here.
The book grading system is going to go. It’s too much effort, and honestly it’s nothing I couldn’t put in the review text anyway.
No posting schedule. I don’t need any more stress in my life, and trying to force myself to read and review one book a week is just going to take the enjoyment out of everything. I’ll post a review when I finish a book. (Which will hopefully be around once a week)
More nonfiction. I know in my last changes post (admittedly in 2014) I said reviewing nonfiction was going to be a thing. Well, it’s going to be more of a thing now, since it’s a much larger proportion of what I read now. And self-improvement is going to be a big theme.
Everything is gay and feminist. Because I am 🙂 I’m putting more effort into reading distinctly feminist books (fiction and nonfiction) and novels with queer characters. That’s not to say that I won’t ever read something about The StraightsTM, but I’m prioritizing LGBT+ authors and characters.
Picky, but in different directions. I used to be picky about profanity, sex, homosexuality, and anything that didn’t wholeheartedly support the Christian belief system. Those things don’t really matter to me anymore – now I’m more sensitive to misogyny and sexism, rape and sexual assault, and racism and ableism.
I realize this is a massive change from what Jalyn Reads used to be – but I think I’ve reinvented this blog no less than four times already. Either way, I hope you’ll stick around for the ride.
As of yesterday, I’m officially done with my first year of college. Somehow. Still not sure how I survived some of those classes.
But anyway, tomorrow I will be home for the summer, (hopefully) working, and having a lot more spare time now that finals are over. Even though I’ll probably have more time to read, I’m going to continue my bi-weekly posting schedule and attempt to work through the backlog of books on my shelves.
In 2013 and 2014, I created special summer to-read lists – but I’m never very good at following those. So instead, I’m setting a smaller goal: read at least one of the three books left on my “Want to Read 2015” list.
Judging by my last trip to Barnes & Noble, I’m most excited about Firefight (i.e. I squealed, confused my boyfriend by abandoning him for the display, and wished I hadn’t already spent so much money that day so I could afford it). But I’m pretty sure all three will be great.
Happy summer, everybody! What do you hope to read in the next few months?
I don’t know how this happened, but it’s 2015. 2014 has been a year of huge changes for me – mainly because I left for college in August. And I only read 89 books this year, 44 fewer than 2013 – the first time since I started tracking my reading in 2010 that the number has dropped below 100. A little disappointing, but still not bad.
So, to start the new year, I’ve put together three lists: My top 5 favorite books of 2014 (since I can never decide on just one), some 2014 reads worth mentioning that didn’t make the top 5, and the 5 books I’m most excited to read in 2015. None of the lists are in any particular order.
Blackout(Darkness #1) by Madeleine Henry. I had a deadline of one week to read and review this book, which I agreed to against my better judgement … and ended up devouring the entire book during the busiest week of my year. The characters, concept, and amazing execution blew me away, and I would be happy to read book two with a yesterday deadline if that means I get it soon.
Etiquette and Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger. Steampunk is my current obsession anyway, but steampunk, in high-class Victorian England, at a finishing school, that teaches girls to be spies? Absolute perfection.
New Sight by Jo Schneider. Giving a new twist to the idea of psychic powers, this Indie urban fantasy added beautifully dark, gritty tones of insanity and addiction to the traditional master-your-powers-help-the-good-guys plot.
Win the Rings (Cracked Chronicles #1) by K.D. Van Brunt. Despite a vague blurb, bland cover, and seemingly nonsensical title, this Indie book was amazing. Tense, action-packed, amazing concept, and told from two perspectives that gave the best of both worlds – the hunter and the hunted.
The Rithmatist (The Rithmatist #1) by Brandon Sanderson. This is the second year in a row a Sanderson book has made my top 5, and for good reason. Fascinating and original magic systems, great characters, a delightfully complicated plot, and I never could decide on a prediction for the bad guy.
Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson. The first book, Steelheart,was amazing (honestly, anything Brandon Sanderson writes is amazing), so I’m really looking forward to reading more of this fabulous series.
Exposure (Virals #4) by Kathy Reichs. I’ve loved the Virals series since I discovered it, and after the way Code, the third book, ended, I need to know what happens.
UnWholly (Unwind #2) by Neal Shusterman. Unwind has been a favorite for a while, so I was thrilled to find it was first in a series (I actually just bought this book – now I have to get around to reading it).
The Shadow Throne (Ascendance Trilogy #3) by Jennifer A. Nielsen. I absolutely loved the first two books in this series, even though it’s middle grade, and I’m looking forward to finishing the series.
Data Runner(Data Runner #1) by Sam A. Patel. Couriers running information in a high-tech world, including cool aliases and conspiracies – sounds like a fun, action-packed ride.
So that’s my year in books. What were your favorite books of 2014? What books are you looking forward to reading in the coming year?
Right now, I’ve been at college just over a month – land of homework, classes, and staying up until 1AM every single night. And in that month, I’ve managed to read 2 books.
So I’m making a few changes to my reading habits.
Ditching the 100 page rule
If you’ve been hanging around here for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with my 100 page rule: give a book 100 pages (75 if it’s short) to get good before I abandon it. But I don’t have time for that. I’m now following the “literary agent rule” – any point after the first five pages where I’m not dying to read on, I won’t.
I’ve always read a little bit of nonfiction, just not enough to bother reviewing. But the proportion of nonfiction I read is going up. So I’m going to try my hand at reviewing nonfiction.
Not reading books I’m not absolutely thrilled about
Without a car and living on a campus within walking distance of nowhere, the only library I have access to is IPFW’s library of study rooms and reference works. The only novels I can get my hands on are review copies and ones I order online. So there will be very few “this looked vaguely interesting” reads.
With a lot of books, I’ll run into something I don’t like early on, but unless it’s blatant, I’ll give it a hundred pages to see if I can suffer through. From now on, I’m not going to do that. If I find something I don’t like, I’ll stop reading. Period.
It’s too much pressure to try to do all my homework and read and review two books a week. So I’m only going to post every other week in the forseeable future. I should be able to maintain that.
Quality over quantity
Life is too short to read bad books. So I’m not going to.
Yes, I know I’m supposed to be on a blogging break right now. But I had this opportunity for a blog tour, and the book sounded awesome. So I’m temporarily taking a break from taking a break and spotlighting a book that is jumping to the top of my to-read list as soon as I get some spare time.
About the book
Release date: September 19
Fifteen-year-old Ethan Denby doesn’t know how he got on the Marian. He just woke up one day inside the body of its captain.
The Marian is unlike any ship Ethan has ever seen. It crawls on long, metal legs over dunes of salt in search of water, despite laws granting exclusive harvesting rights to a corrupt organization known as HydroSystems Worldwide.
HydroSystems is closing in, tensions are mounting aboard the Marian, and on top of all that, Ethan is beginning to think the dreams he’s been having aren’t completely harmless. If he doesn’t get home soon, Ethan could die inside someone else’s body in this wasteland of a world. The only way back seems to be through a place known simply as the Cloud, but how can he convince the crew to take him there when it means confronting a dangerous cult and venturing into a place where the very fabric of reality has worn thin?
On Thursday, I leave for college. I’m going to IPFW (a joint campus of Indiana University and Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Indiana), which is about two hours from where I live now.
I’ll be living in the on-campus apartments with three apartment-mates (but I’ll have my own room for the first time in 10 years!), do my learning in a classroom for the first time since driver’s ed, and basically going through the biggest transition of my life so far.
So I’m going to be taking a blogging break until the end of September, and when I return, I’ll be slowing down to one post a week. Hopefully, I’ll be able to maintain that, but everything’s kind of up in the air at the moment.
Enjoy the back-to-school season, and I’ll see you in late September!
I absolutely loved Johnny Worthen’s Eleanor, a fantastic take on shapeshifting (see my review here). So I’m completely thrilled to be part of the Eleanor blog tour!
Below is an interview with Johnny Worthen, plus a giveaway of TWO copes of Eleanor: a signed copy, and a signed ARC!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing? Do you have a day job?
I was born and grew up in Utah. I earned a B.A. in English, minor in Classics and a Master’s in American Studies from the University of Utah. I’ve had many careers, and jobs, owned businesses and traveled extensively. I’ve lived in Europe for a time and about a decade in the Northwest. I’m back in Utah now, back in the dirt I was raised in.
I consider myself a full time author. It takes most my time. I do some things here and there, write for other people, speak and help out, but writing is my job.
In six words, what is ELEANOR about?
Eleanor is not what she appears.
Have you written anything else?
I’m working on my eleventh novel now. Of my previous ten, five have been picked up for publication. My debut is BEATRYSEL is an adult occult thriller and came out last fall. A companion piece, DR. STUART’S HEART came out last month. I have a story called THE POINT appearing in an anthology called in an anthology called LITTLE VISIBLE DELIGHT.
ELEANOR will begin my Unseen Young Adult Series with a different publisher, Jolly Fish Press. ELEANOR is a standalone book but there are two books that follow it that carry on the story: CELESTE and DAVID respectively. My final currently sold book is called THE FINGER TRAP, it a contemporary adult comedy/mystery introducing a slacking sarcastic everyman detective named Tony Flaner.
Where can we buy/see ELEANOR and/or your other works?
Where did you get the idea for ELEANOR? How did you come up with the title?
I was thinking about what the ultimate outsider would be like, someone vulnerable and afraid, lonely, and needing to be unnoticed for her own safety. Then I took the idea of hiding in plain sight to a extreme. Years ago, I ran across a Navajo legend in Tony Hillermans’ novel, SKINWALKERS and it stayed with me. I used that a springboard for my imagination of the story and thus ELEANOR was born.
From the beginning, I knew my main character would be a girl, a lost daughter, poor and noble. I love the name Eleanor. It is to me an old name, out of fashion and so suggested age. Also too a name of quiet strength. A name for a shy but extraordinary girl. Usually the working title for my books are the names of the main character and in this case there was no changing it. It is her story. She had to be there. The story is Eleanor. Originally I intended to call the series Eleanor, but as the story evolved and the trilogy took shape, we went with THE UNSEEN for the series name and ELEANOR, the standalone, is the first book.
How long did it take between having the idea and publication?
About two years, give or take a lifetime.
How much of the book is based on people you know and/or things you’ve experienced?
There are people I know throughout the books, places I’ve visited, experiences I’ve had. None are directly from my life but everything is a distilled version of it. Eleanor has become to my mind the daughter I never had. I modeled her much after my niece who was so shy when I first met her.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Keeping Eleanor and David apart. They’re both such strong and loving characters. I felt bad keeping them apart as long as I did, but of course I had to. Eleanor understands.
What part or scene was the most fun to write?
The first kiss between Eleanor and David was such a wonderful moment for me. I was so happy for them both.
If you had to do it over again, what (if anything) would you change about this book?
I might change my paragraph structure a bit. I don’t mind long paragraphs; it’s how I was trained. Today, there’s a push for more white space on the page, more frequent paragraph breaks, even in paragraphs that don’t necessarily need one. This is done to make the page more attractive to modern readers. It’s a different style and some say it can help sales. I’d like people to read my book, love Eleanor as I do, so I might have changed that to help her along.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I’ve always written. As soon as I could write, I loved it. I think best on paper. I decided to make it my entire life only three years ago. Before that it was always a hobby, a love and an obsession. It’s still all that, but now also it’s a job.
What is the hardest thing about writing? What is the easiest?
The hardest part is pretending someone after me will want to read what I write. There’s no guarantee it’ll be read, let alone appreciated or liked.
The easiest part happens sometimes when the story is so alive that I’m not writing but taking dictation. Sometimes when I get stuck where to go next, I put some characters in a room and they talk it out and decide for me. I love that.
How much research do you do?
Depends on the project. Several month is not uncommon. I’m in the third year of research for an Historical novel I’m mulling over. ELEANOR is a character piece so the research wasn’t so bad, a couple of months during the pre-writing phase. I did however take my family on a vacation through Wyoming to see the lonely western towns far from freeways where Eleanor is hiding.
Do you work from an outline or just write and see where the story takes you?
A bit of both. I have to know where I”m going. I always have a few way points – plot points, scenes and such, that I’m working toward. I always know the climax before I write a word. I then move between the points, letting the story unfold and adjusting course if I need to.
Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
There are days I just don’t feel like writing. It’s a discipline thing. When you approach it as a job, you just do it. Sometimes I have to write three thousand words to get five hundred I’ll keep. That’s writer’s block for me, wasted effort.
Who designed your cover, and how was it created?
Jolly Fish Press handled that. I was terrified. I knew from my contract that I had no say in it. Jolly Fish Press has a reputation for awesome titles, so I wasn’t too worried. Not too much, but still some. When I saw it however, I cheered. Wonderful I say. I haven’t met the model, but I want to.
How do you market your books? How much time do you devote to marketing?
Social media and networking is my main marketing tool. I do a lot of conventions and writer’s workshops. I try to give back. I’m no expert, but I’ve been there and can act as a scout for those coming up behind me. The online stuff and such takes a lot of time. A couple of hours each day. Lots.
Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?
I’m a publicist’s nightmare: I’m a multi-genre author. I wish I could focus on one type of fiction and so develop a reputation and a following for that, but I’m all over the place. I write adult horror and YA coming of age stories. I write comedy, mystery, political thrillers, short stories and shopping lists. “I write what I want to read.” My palate is broad and so is my writing.
What do you think of “trailers” for books? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your book?
I did a long blog project looking into them. If I may, could I direct you there?
That’s part five, but it has all the links for the other parts.
My conclusion is that they’re like a book signing – another form of promotion, probably not cost or time effective but still good to have in the hopes it’ll pay dividends later, provided it’s done well and not too dearly.
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
No. People don’t value things that are free. I don’t like giving them away for this reason. I still do it though. However, I try to find people who’re genuinely interested in reading it and draw from them a promise that they will, in fact read it and then review it – Amazon, Goodreeds, Blog etc. You might say it’s not free then, but it’s not like I follow them home and check on them.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Elmore Leonard. I love his style. He’s so cool and clean. Crisp and dialog to die for.
What is your favorite book and why?
THE ROAD, by Cormac McCarthy. The story and the language are so stark. Being a father of sons, the story resonates with me particularly well. It’s powerful. I read it once a year to remind myself of what writing can do.
Is there any particular book or author who made an impact on your life?
They all have, but Jacques Derrida’s work in Deconstruction changed the way I see the world profoundly and permanently. He’s the reason why many of my books are called “upmarket” ie “literary.” I’ve been trained in literary criticism.
Do you prefer ebooks or hard copies?
Hard copies over ebooks. I don’t have a kindle. I read on my phone and my computer if I have them and it’s kind of a pain. I love audiobooks. It makes waiting for the kids time well spent.
What book(s) are you reading right now?
I’m re-reading Elmore Leonard’s CAT CHASER to get in the mood for a project I’m working on.
What are you currently writing?
The working title is HOLLAND, the name of the main character.
Can you tell us about it, and do you know when it will be released?
Elmore Leonard died last year and HOLLAND is my tribute to him. I should have the rough draft done by July. After that, I gotta edit and convince my current publishers to take it, or shop it around. If I’m lucky, I might appear as soon as Fall 2015. If I’m unlucky, it’ll be longer.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Get on with it. Memento mori.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
You DO NOT need an agent to get published. Look to small presses.
Is there anything else you want to say to your readers?
You can find me at the following places on the net. Let’s hook up.
I know I’m a little late to the ball game here, but I just recently came across Ruth Graham’s article Against YA. I’ve seen responses blowing up Twitter with the #promoteaYAinstead and #NoShameYA hashtag, but I wasn’t really sure what started it all until yesterday.
When I read the title of the article, I was set to argue. You bash YA, I’m going to bash back! But as I read, I realized something:
I understand her point.
That’s not to say I agree with the article. On the contrary. I read a lot of YA. And even though I do read some adult books, I much prefer the subjects and variety of YA. But I can understand Ruth Graham’s perspective, because it’s the same perspective my mom has.
My mother knows I read mostly YA. And she doesn’t really approve. She keeps pushing me to read adult books – “real” books.
See, Ruth Graham, my mother, and pretty much anyone older than forty were teens when YA wasn’t really a “thing.” There were children’s books, and there were adult books, and as soon as you outgrew Nancy Drew it was time to head to the adult section. To them, YA is children’s books.
Graham also mentions outgrowing YA. That’s completely understandable. I’ve tried to reread some of my favorite books from the preteen years, and they don’t have the same appeal. And many middle grade books don’t appeal to me as much as I think they’d appeal to my eleven-year-old sister. I’ve pretty much outgrown middle grade, and that’s okay with me. If you outgrow YA, that’s okay.
As Graham claims, some YA is purely entertainment. Some of it is all about “escapism, instant gratification, and nostalgia.” And I will be honest – sometimes, I want a just-for-fun read.
But not all YA is useless. Take the Hunger Games trilogy: sure, a reality-TV show where kids kill each other is just plain ridiculous, but Katniss and Peeta both ended up with PTSD and the revolution practically destroyed their world.
And Divergent, which Graham called “trashy” and a book that “nobody defends as serious literature”: I found themes of identity, priorities, using your unique gifts, and the power of choices. And in the end of the series, their entire world falls apart and a whole lot of characters I’d grown to care about died.
How much more real does Graham want? And who would call those endings “satisfying”? Not me.
Just because a book is classified as “YA” doesn’t mean it’s pointless. And just because a book is “adult” doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile. YA can contain important themes, and adult can be pure escapism.
I see where Ruth Graham is coming from. She holds the view common among older adults that YA is children’s lit. And she’s outgrown it. That’s okay. I can respect that.
I think the real issue here is not YA versus adult books – it’s because people are being shamed for what they like to read. 42% of college students in America will never read another book once they graduate. Shouldn’t we be happy they’re reading, instead of criticizing because they’re not reading “literary” stuff?
Ruth Graham has the freedom to read whatever she wants – and if it’s not YA, that’s okay. But the rest of us have that freedom, too.
If you don’t like YA, that’s okay. But please don’t hate on me because I do.
Last week I went to Washington, DC with my family. Freshman year, my dad promised me we’d go before I graduate. I graduate high school on Friday. We called it a little close, but it happened.
And being the huge book nerd that I am, I forced my family to go to the Library of Congress.
I didn’t realize the Library of Congress is actually three buildings: the Jefferson Building, the Madison Building, and the Adams Building. We visited the Jefferson Building because it was closest to where we ate lunch and I couldn’t convince my siblings to see all three.
The original Library of Congress was established in 1800 by President John Adams, and it had 740 books and 3 maps. They were kept in the Capital Building until the British burned it in 1814. Thomas Jefferson offered his 6,487-volume personal library to replace it. The current library opened in 1897 (later renamed the Jefferson Building when the library expanded) and was the first building in DC constructed with electric lights.
What I found was not really what I expected. I expected amazing architecture (like every famous building in DC) and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. It was actually a museum.
There were some awesome exhibits, like Thomas Jefferson’s original library (I wanted to take pictures, but they didn’t allow photography in the exhibits). But I expected to see more books.
Apparently it’s called the Library of Congress for a reason. Only members of Congress and their aides can read the books. And even they aren’t allowed to browse the shelves themselves – they decide which book they want and an automated retrieval system brings it to them.
The only room in the building where you can actually touch books is in the far corner of the basement: the young readers center. I took my 11-year-old sister there and discovered they have a YA room.
It was like seeing my TBR list on shelves. They even had ARCs! Leaving that room without a book or twenty was one of the worst parts of the trip.
Even though it was not exactly what I expected, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the Library of Congress. I wish I could have explored the other buildings, too. I definitely recommend it to anyone who loves books – as long as you don’t expect 20-foot bookshelves.
(Apologies for the bad lighting in some of the pics – camera flashes weren’t allowed in the building.)