Sunday, June 12, 2016

How I (Accidentally) Read The Winner's Trilogy Out of Order and Loved It

It was a three minutes after six o'clock in the morning on a Tuesday. I had my earbuds in, the elliptical was set to hill climb, and my Kindle sat before me. I needed something new to read, having just finished Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, I was ready to get back to my one true love: fantasy.

So I pulled up a book from a trilogy that had long been on my list, and started reading.

Let me go back even further. Last fall, The Winner's Crime was a $2.99 Kindle deal. I, of course, bought it and proceeded to commend myself for being such a savvy book shopper. I didn't know much about the series, just that everyone who I knew who had read it, loved it.

Actual order of books, not actual order of reading

Fast forward to that fateful day in March when I figured I'd start the trilogy. When I figured past Liz surely had been smart enough to purchase the first book in the series. When, for the first time in my life, I read the second book in a trilogy first.

Here's the thing: I loved The Winner's Crime. Sure, it seemed like a weird place to start a love story, what with the love story having already happened and our characters are now reuniting as SPOILERY THINGS HERE. But I really liked it.

It wasn't until I made it 73% of the way through that I realized I started on the wrong book, and only because people were talking about the series as the third was about to come out. So, as any good reader would do, I finished it. I LOVED it.

Then I proceeded to read the first in the series.

Here's the beautiful thing about entering into a love story where you already know what's going to happen: You fall in love with the characters even more, because you know the outcome and aren't so caught up in the stakes. And man did I fall hard for Kestrel and Arin. This love story guys.

When I finally made it to the third in the trilogy, I discovered something quite beautiful. Marie Rutkoski drew some very strong parallels between The Winner's Curse (book 1) and The Winner's Kiss (book 3), particularly with a story Kestrel's nurse told her as a child and Arin's connection to Death (his god).

I'm a fast reader, and had I read the first book first, I might have missed this connection. Instead, I got to see the story come full circle in such a powerful way. So thank you, Marie, for writing a series that can be started in the middle, and enjoyed just as much—if not more—than if it had been started at the beginning.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Currently...

Loving
So those of you who don't know, I play video games. My main jam is Heroes of the Storm (I used to play League of Legends, but I can't stand the community). This past weekend, all heroes were free, so I spent too much time figuring out Abathur. And I love him. To those of you who aren't following this at all: this particular character forces you to be aware of more than just yourself, which I think is a good life lesson in general.

Reading
I'm still working on The Winner's Curse. Work has been crazy, so reading has been slow.

Watching
My husband's been rewatching Game of Thrones in preparation for the season premier, so I've been rewatching Game of Thrones. Last night we watched the episode in which Sansa tells Lady Olenna what she thinks about Joffrey. I forgot how much I love Lady Olenna.

Listening To
This song has found its way into my writing playlist, because it perfectly describes one of the characters in this story I've been working on.


Thinking About
Social media. I'm a social media manager for a quickly growing start-up, and I've been reading some best practices books at the recommendation of our new CMO (hence the slow reading I mentioned earlier). I'm pretty excited to be able to finally have the time to take our social media to the next level and really use my creativity here.

Anticipating
The end of my WIP! I'm making good progress on revisions and think I may be a week to a week and a half out from having the manuscript ready for my CP's. This is a record for me. I started this book a little over a year ago, and the limited outlining I did made it go so much faster.

Wishing
That, of course, leads me to my wish. I want to be a good outliner, the best outliner, the kind of outliner who nails the book in an outline so writing is a breeze. I have no idea if it will work, but that's what wishes are for, right? And thanks to Tracey Neithercott, I have all sorts of resources at my finger tips.

Making Me Happy
Our new Fiat. That's right, we bought a new car! We've been a single car family for three or four years now, but work stuff is making that no longer an option for us. This was actually a first for us--buying a car together. After almost seven years of marriage, we don't have a lot of firsts left, so that was exciting.

Oh yeah, I'm a brunette again.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Currently

Loving
Spring. I like when it's cool in the morning but pleasant in the sun by midday. I like the smell of soil and the feel of it beneath my hands when I'm dropping seeds into the earth. I'm a gardener, and I definitely get affected by the wintertime blues. Spring is when I come alive again.

Reading
So this is embarrassing. I finally started reading the Winner's Trilogy (been on my Kindle TBR list for a while, but never got to it). At 73% of the way through, I realized I had started on book 2. So now I'm reading The Winner's Curse.

Watching
As soon as Dare Devil season two came out, we binge watched it. I love everything about the Netflix Marvel shows. Some day I want to write a YA that feels the way these feel.

Listening To
It's been an Of Monsters and Men kinda of few weeks. They make up a lot of my writing playlist for my current WIP, so I've got them on repeat even when I'm not writing to keep at least some part of my brain in that space.

Thinking About
Stickers. Tracey Neithercott talked me into giving the sticker method a try, and guys: it's working. I wrote 9,500 words in 10 days because of this. I finished a draft of my manuscript because of this. Of course, my calendar looks like someone is tripping acid thanks to all the Lisa Frank covering its squares, but I'll take it.



Anticipating
Camp NaNoWriMo! I'm in an awesome cabin with some lovely writer friends. My goal is to finish this Southern Gothic that I started a little over a year ago and get it into CP hands so I can have it to my agent by May. I also want to make some progress on my next project...whatever that is!

Wishing
That I could get a better knack for growing tiny trees. My husband bought me a Dawn Redwood Bonsai forest kit for my birthday last year, and it went horribly. I contacted the company and they sent me new seed, so I'm going to be trying again.

Making Me Happy
Puppies! My best friend has adopted the sweetest little lab pup, and we took Frankie (my chiweenie) over last night. It's fun to watch my dog (who's almost 5) play with, tolerate, and then dominate a puppy that will soon be much larger than him.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Bad Ass Books: Winter

Sorry for the lack of book reviews lately--it hasn't been for lack of reading. But now that it's getting nice out again, I've been getting back into gardening, and my blogging has been the one suffering because of it. So I've got a backlog of reviews to write, and I'll do my best to get them up here!

I'll be leaving out Winter's summary, that way if you haven't read the others in the series I'm not the one to spoil them for you. Here are my previous reviews for this series: Cinder, Scarlet. Apparently I never reviewed Cress. Sorry! I guess I'm even more behind on my book reviews than I thought. Out of order book review to come...eventually.


Why I read it: I started this series when it first came out--I'm a sucker for fairy tail retellings. I'm a sucker for fantasy. I'm a sucker for anything having to do with the moon (obviously). This was the last book in the Lunar Chronicles, so of course I read it.

ZOMG Yes! I was so deeply satisfied with the end of this series. We had so many new characters introduced throughout each book, and in book four, Marissa Meyer added Winter to the mix (after a brief cameo in Cress). While Scarlet (introduced in, you guessed it, Scarlet) is by far my favorite, Winter became a close second.

I think her madness, the reasons behind her madness, and the way she still maneuvered through Luna's political intrigue made her one of the strongest fairy tale characters I've read in a while. And of course, I kind of loved that Marissa Meyer's Snow White was black.

As you might've guessed, Winter derives much of its plot from Snow White, and while I should've seen certain things coming (because, like most people, I've read and seen many forms of this fairy tale), I was actually surprised when it happened and how it happened. I shouldn't have been, but I was. So that tells you how easy it is to get caught up in this story.

Hmmm Interesting: So I didn't read last year's novella, because I didn't actually want the backstory on Levana (the villain and evil queen of the moon) until I finished this series. Well Marissa Meyer must've guessed this would happen, because she gave us some good insight into her villain, and hot damn. I'll leave it at that so as not to spoil it for you lovelies.

Kthxbai: Overall, this was an excellent wrap up to a beautiful, beautiful series. We have four main love stories (one for each of our "princesses"), and well I really enjoyed watching these unfold, I found myself rooting for each young woman because of her own character not her role in those love stories and fairy tales from which she was inspired (even though I'll be shipping Scarlet + Wolf forever and ever!). I guess that's kind of the point, right?


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Currently...

Loving
My new hair. One of the perks of short hair, is you can dye it all sorts of colors pretty frequently without worrying about damaging it. Because, you know, you cut it all off. So for February, I went gray with a hint of lilac. Because why the hell not?

Reading
Since last we spoke I finished Winter by Marissa Meyer, and the final book in the series did not disappoint. I'm hoping to get a review up this week, but in short: Five Big Ass Stars. Last week I started The Love that Split the World. I'm only a little ways in, but I'm already in love, intrigued, and making all sorts of crazy guesses as to what's happening.

Watching
I've picked up this new procrastination technique that I like to call Watching Pretty Little Liars. I've made it to season two, and I've gotten thoroughly confused by the recasting of Alison's brother. Like, it took me four episodes to figure out who he was and what happened to the other guy. 

Listening to
So a friend of mine is a musician, and she put out this song and music video that just feels so YA. I love it. I hope you will to:



Thinking About
You guys, Beyonce's Formation? I'm so not over it. It has me thinking. A lot. Which I guess is part of the point. SNL did a pretty funny sketch about white people realizing she's black. And it was awesome--because it was so true.

Anticipating
I've finally gotten to the point in this story I'm working on that I'm writing new words--a completely different ending than where I thought I was going to be. And by ending I mean probably 30,000 words give or take. So that's fun. (really, it is. mostly.)

Wishing
I sort of wish time would slow down. There's so much that I want to do--with my time, to my house, in life in general--but I just keep getting older. I mean, I'm not about to hit some big milestone or something (maybe it's because I dyed my hair gray?), but I just didn't think things would go so fast.

Making Me Happy
Dead Pool. Have you seen it? We went for Valentine's Day, and I haven't laughed that hard in a long, long time.

What's currently making you happy?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Badass Books: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

I really should have written this post last week before I read a completely different book after finishing Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, but here we are.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.



Why I read it: This book has actually been on my list for a while now. But I have a really long list. At the start of the year, several books on that list went on sale, so I bought it. Good choice, past Liz. Good choice.

ZOMG Yes! I really enjoyed the narrative style of this book. As mentioned in the summary, Simon has a secret email pen pal, and Becky includes many of those emails right in the story. Normally I gloss over things like subject lines, but it was fun to see how she used those to show both Simon and Blue's personalities. And of course their growing romance was so much fun to be a part of. So, so adorable.

Another part of this story I really enjoyed was Simon's family. I mean, they watch the Batchelor together. What's not to love? But really, the dynamics felt very true to form. Interesting, for a family living in Georgia (I don't live in Georgia, but I do live in the Bible belt). But enjoyable.

The friendships in this story were also well executed. They didn't all revolve around Simon and whether or not he was going to come out. They existed apart from his sexual orientation, as friendships do, so that was nice.

kxthbai I strongly recommend this book! I was afraid I might be getting into more of a lesson-learning book than a story with the title, but that's not what this is at all. Definitely a must-read.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Currently...

Loving
I'm basically the new DIY, shelf-hanging, room-painting, only-screwing-up-while-drilling-two-holes queen. And I'm loving my new writing space because of it. I've got some of my favorite books and characters above me to inspire me, and yellow is supposed help with creativity. Either it's working or I'm easily susceptible to the placebo effect (which I am, but work with me here).

Reading
I bought a bunch of e-books on sale at the end of the year (because who doesn't need a million more unread books added to their digital library of unread books?). Currently I'm reading Simon Vs. The Homosapien Agenda (Becky Albertalli).

Watching
I really think this goes without saying, but Agent Carter is back. So obviously that's what I'm watching. (And if you don't know what I'm talking about, just go. Go. Okay, you can stay, but then watch Agent Carter.)


Listening To
This song has been on repeat for me. The mood of it just fits my current work in progress (even though there aren't any wild horses).


Thinking About
I saw this article about St. Teresa of Avila floating around on Twitter a few weeks ago, and it's just been giving me all sorts of historical fiction ideas. 

Anticipating
My and some of my girlfriends started a book club, and we're reading Bone Gap. I'm so, so excited to talk about it with them!

Wishing
That I could shake this cough. It started two weeks ago, then I spent my snow days wondering if I had consumption, and now it's still hanging on.

Making Me Happy
Even though I couldn't enjoy the snow when it came through, Frankie (my chiweenie) LOVED it.

A video posted by lizparkerwrites (@lizparkerwrites) on

What's currently making you happy?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Badass Books: Emmy & Oliver

I'm trying to get better at this whole blogging-about-the-books-I-read thing. If I were a New Years resolution making kind of girl, I'd have made one about modeling my blogging abilities after this lady. Instead, I'm justing going to try to post book reviews within a week of reading a book. Sounds like a fair compromise, right?


Summary (from Goodreads):

Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?

Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.

She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.

Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart.

He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?

Why I read it: Tracey Neithercott told me to. At least, I think I remember her telling me to, so I'm going to give her credit. I actually didn't even read the summary before buying it when it was on super sale as an e-book. Tracey's taste is just that good.

ZOMG Yes! This book hits you right in the feels. As someone who came from a broken childhood (not kidnapped by my parent like Oliver, thank god, but broken nonetheless), this brought up lots of emotions, which tells you it's well done.

The characters in this book feel fresh and raw. I really enjoyed the relationships that Emmy has with her two best friends. None of it felt forced to me--which can some times happen in contemporary romances. The family dynamics with both Emmy's family and Oliver's were very spot-on, too.

Beyond that, the development of Emmy and Oliver's relationship with each other felt natural and made a lot of sense.

kthxbai If you like contemporary YA that makes you feel things, then definitely pick this book up!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Currently: January 21, 2016

Katy Upperman has started the trend of doing weekly "Currently" posts--which is a great way to not only keep my blog alive and fresh but also to keep a record of my reading/writing/life journey. So even if no one else reads it, I'll appreciate it later (I think). Without further ado, my attempt to get back into blogging regularly.

Loving
My lovely friend and fellow writer Sara Biren sent me a five year Q&A journal this Christmas, and it's been wonderful having a quick, easy way to document my life. It has simple questions like, list three things you ate today, to more complicated questions like, can people change. I'll be curious to see this time next year how my answers have changed!

Reading
I just finished Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, and I LOVED it. (Here's my review) I haven't yet decided what to read next because I'm not ready to put these characters aside!

Watching
Unless you're living under a rock, then you know that they (the powers that be) are bringing back the X-Files. We never finished watching all of them, so we're on the final season on Netflix!

Listening To
Awesome Mix, Volume 1. I found the list of songs from Peter Quill's mix tape in Guardians of the Galaxy, and I made a playlist on iTunes that I've been jamming pretty hard to for about a week now.

Thinking About
I spent the weekend in San Francisco, and being on the west coast made me miss my family, so I've been thinking about them a lot. I have some phone calls to make!

Anticipating
I'm almost through the revisionary part of my revision/rewrite, in which I make my original ending my 2/3 mark--which means I need to write a new ending. I'm pretty excited and nervous about it.

Wishing
I really wish all of my books would put themselves back on the shelves. We repainted our office and hung some shelves, but that meant moving everything out. Now my house looks like I'm a hoarder of books (which I guess I kind of am).

Making Me Happy
My husband and I have spent the past several nights in bed watching the X-Files and writing/playing games. It's been awesome :)

What's currently making you happy?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Badass Books: Truthwitch

If you regularly follow my reviews, then you know I'm a big fan of Susan Dennard. You can check out reviews of her previous series, Something Strange and Deadly here: Book 1, Book 2, Book 3. Truthwitch is her latest novel, and you really need to just skip my review and go buy it now. It's that good.

Summary (from Goodreads):

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch. 


Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Why I read it: I really love Susan Dennard's work, and I love everything I see of her personality online. She's a wonderful friend to writers everywhere. In fact, she's one of the reasons I started writing historical fiction. That being said, I've followed her on Twitter for years and subscribed to her newsletter. She teased bits and pieces of this book, and I knew I had to read it.

ZOMG Yes! My favorite element of this story, by far, is the strong female friendship. Our main characters are so strong together (while standing on their own as well), but their relationship is the sort of women-supporting-women friendship that's lacking in a lot of literature. (Also I couldn't help imaging Safi as Sarah Maas and Iz as Susan Dennard for the whole story).

Secondly, the magic system in this story really drew me in. While it definitely uses elemental magic, it's a new take on the concept. And it's described really well, so you feel immersed in the story without having to put the pieces together. The world building is the same. A lot of fantasy can feel pretty strong on the info-dump in the first few chapters. Not Truthwitch. Susan really pulls you in so you just get it without having to put forth any effort.

Also--there's a romance and it's awesome. 

kthxbai I really felt satisfied with the ending of this story, but found myself wanting the second book right away (obviously). If you love fantasy, pick this series up now!

All the Chiweenies to Susan Dennard!