So May started out as a very diverse month of reading and ended with my complete consumption of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. Which I have so many thoughts and feels on I will probably give it its own post sometime soon. Honestly, I don’t know how I am going to tackle my June TBR as I have yet to recover from the series. But aside from that, I did read some other awesome offerings that I would love to share to with you!
The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson: I don’t know that this is a book I would have just picked up, but I heard Morgan speak during the LA Times Festival of Books and she seemed so fun and cool, I went out and literally bought all of her books. This one started a little slow for me, but I really got into it about halfway through. Her characters are so real and I loved their flaws and dimension. I also appreciated that the ending didn’t just slap a pretty bow on everything. Her style is very true to life and I enjoyed her writing. Definitely looking forward to reading the rest of her books.
The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green: So I rambled on about this one quite a bit on my Instagram. A couple of weeks ago, Jane commented on one of my pictures of one of her books and offered to send me an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of her newest book. I about peed my pants. I have been reading Jane Green novels for years and throughout college, I reread them constantly (mostly because I was too poor to buy new books). Her writing has had a big impact on my own writing, and I was so thrilled to get a sneak peek at this new book. I loved The Sunshine Sisters so so much. It’s the perfect summer read, and will especially hit home for anyone with siblings and imperfect parents. Highly, highly recommend checking it out!
Stray by Elissa Sussman: This is another one with a personal connection for me because I will be coordinating Elissa’s wedding next year! When we met for our consultation, she told me she wrote YA novels that were about “fairy tales, feminism, and food”. I was like girl, you are speaking all my languages. This was a fun read with a unique twist on some classic fairy tale characters. I especially loved all the fairy tale imagery. I can’t wait to read the next one in the series, and I am seriously looking forward to working with Elissa on her wedding!
Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller: This was a fun read, though definitely not as strong as I was expecting. It was entertaining, great for summer, and perfect if you love pirates. But I thought everything–story, plot, characters–was pretty surface level. I wanted a more in depth story and more complex characters, especially considering the subject matter. I think a lot was left unexplored. With that said, I could definitely see myself reading the sequel to see what happens next.
The ACOTAR Series by Sarah J. Maas: So. Many. Feels. My original plan was to read ACOTAR this month and then finish the rest of the series over the summer. Yeah, that did not happen. I almost immediately jumped into ACOMAF (AMAZING!!!) and then immediately into ACOWAR. And then after ACOWAR I gave myself a day to recover. And then last night I started to reread ACOMAF. Other than Harry Potter, I can’t tell you the last time I reread a book. Seriously, so much love. I will go into more details on all three books once I finish my reread. Suffice to say, I’m in love.
Assuming I can put down ACOTAR for a while, I have a long TBR for June. What are you reading this month?
Well bookworm friends, it’s time for another Owl Crate reveal! The theme for the May box was Comic Explosion, which I knew meant it wasn’t going to be my favorite box. Comics are cool and all, and I can get down with a good Marvel movie, but they just aren’t my fave. But nevertheless, there were still some cute items in this box and I am much more intrigued by this month’s book than I thought I would be. On to the goods!
Owl Crate provided the comic book zipper pull and button.Owl Crate includes a themed button in every box, and not going to lie, I usually throw them away, but this one is actually cute. This pen from Ooly is fun and kind of makes me wish I still had a classroom because it would be perfect for a teaching pen.These coffee flavored candies from Kafe are pretty tasty, and if you know me at all, you know how much I love my coffee, so I was all about these.
I was super psyched to see that I got the Wonder Woman Funko Pop figure. I am not a huge collector of Funkos, but I think they’re kind of adorable and I was happy to see I got the kick ass female version. And it is perfectly paired with this Dio Candle Company Wonder Woman candle that smells like an island vacation (apparently Wonder Woman hails from a tropical island?).
As I said, I am super intrigued by this month’s book, Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. I don’t think I would have picked it up on my own, but I think I will be able to relate to the introverted, creative main character. Now I just have to find some time to read it! There was also a sneak peek at a new comic Afar, which TBH, I’m not gonna read. But sneak peeks are always fun :o)
So not my favorite Owl Crate ever, but some cute items and a (hopefully) good book. The theme for June’s Owl Crate box is Make It Out Alive, which I’m hoping means dystopia mania. Fingers crossed for some rebels and anarchy! If you are interested in becoming an Owl Crate subscriber, please use my link right here and help me earn some free boxes! Happy reading!
April was a pretty solid month for reading. I finished one awesome series and started another one and read some other great novels in between. And I managed to exceed my goal of five books per month. So go me! Here’s what I read in April:
Ten Thousand Skies Above You and A Million Worlds with You by Claudia Gray: I read the first book in this series last month and really enjoyed it. It’s definitely more sci-fi based than I usually read, but Gray created such a cool world, and such relatable characters that I really got into it. I read all three books within the span of about two weeks and I wanted more! I will be seeking out more books by Gray (who has also written some Star Wars tie-in novels) because I loved her writing style. I even learned some stuff about physics!
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty: So I have read a couple of Moriarty’s books in recent months and absolutely loved them. I had high expectations for Truly Madly Guilty, and I don’t know that they were met. It took me a long time to get into this book, I didn’t have the immediate connection to the characters that I’ve had in her other books. Also, the whole toddler incident hit a little too close to home for me, and some moments were hard for me to read. But even without that personal aspect, I don’t feel like this one was as good as The Husband’s Secret or Big Little Lies. Still a good read, just not as good as I have come to expect from Moriarty.
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab: So this book was in an Owl Crate box a long time ago and I’ve just never got around to reading it. I liked it, though it took me a while to really get into it. The concept was intriguing and I was a fan of the whole Romeo and Juliet kind of spin on the relationship between Kate and August. I don’t know that I’ll run right out for the next book, but I could definitely see myself picking it up at some point. It was a little more gruesome than I like, but I liked the two main characters so much that it kind of made up for the gore.
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge: I was kind of eh about this one. I love the idea of a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but I didn’t love this one. I think my main issue was that I didn’t like either of the main characters. Both were kind of annoying, along with being not super nice people, so it made it hard for me to care about what happened to them. I liked the concept, but found the execution lacking.
Legend by Marie Lu: I really enjoyed this first book in the Legend series. I was recommended Legend by a friend of mine who is a librarian since it is loosely based on Les Mis, which I love, and also because I am working on a retelling of my own. If I hadn’t know it going in, I’m not sure I would have picked up on the Les Mis notes in this, but I think I would have enjoyed it all the same. I love the world that Lu has created, and again, the two main characters are relatable and likeable. I already ordered the second book in the series, so that should tell you something about how much I enjoyed the first one. I also got to here Marie Lu speak at YallWest this past weekend and it was really cool listening to her thoughts on dystopian YA lit.
All in all, April was a great month of reading. I have a seriously long TBR for the next couple of months and I don’t know how I am going to make the time to finish all the books I want to read. But I’m sure I will find a way! What are you currently reading?
Well book friends, it’s hard to believe, but May is already here. How the eff did that happen? That means it’s time to take a look at this past month’s Owl Crate box. I was super excited about the Head Over Heels theme, and though this box didn’t turn out to be as girly as I had expected, it still turned out to be a super cute box. Here’s what I got this month:
This Pride and Prejudice headband from Storiarts is adorable. I don’t think I’m nearly cool enough to pull it off, and since my Disney bestie Brianna is a big Austen fan, I’ll be passing it along to her. My Levi and Cath (from Fangirl) candle from Novelly Yours smells so freakin good! Coffee and chocolate are two of my favorite things ever, and pumpkin is such a great scent for candles, this was probably my favorite item from this month’s box. This keychain from Bookworm Boutique is cute, but I actually haven’t read Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, so I need to get on that before I tote around the keychain.
I am supes excited about this month’s book, The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. I legit had it in my hands at the bookstore a week or so ago, but I was good and put it down (my TBR is out. of. control.) and then a couple days later, found it inside my Owl Crate! It was obviously meant to be.
I’m planning on starting A Court of Thorns and Roses in May, and this beautiful print from Evie Bookish has me stoked for it. And I can’t wait to drink this chocolate (!!!) tea from The Tea Spot. Yes please.
Overall, a very cute box this month! The theme for the May box is Comic Explosion. I’m not a huge comic fan, but I have embraced Marvel thanks to Disney so hopefully I’ll find some cool stuff in the box that I can connect with. If you are interested in checking out Owl Crate for yourself (and if you haven’t picked up on the fact that it’s awesome yet, please go back and read all of my OC posts!) please use my referral link and help me earn some free boxes! Thanks friends!
On Sunday, I had the pleasure and privilege of volunteering at the annual LA Times Festival of Books. I am ashamed to say that I had never even been to the festival before, but I don’t think I will be missing it ever again because it was so awesome. When I arrived for my volunteer check-in, I was assigned to book signings, and since I was there early, I got to choose which area I wanted to work in. I obviously chose the Young Adult signings booth, which was luckily right next to the YA Stage. During my four hour shift, I got to listen to three different panel discussions with some of the top YA authors, including Melissa de la Cruz, Morgan Matson, and Shannon Hale.
After each discussion, the authors came over for book signings, and I was literally standing right behind them the entire time. Listening to the conversations the authors got to have with their fans was so inspiring. I teared up several times throughout the day (seriously, I don’t know how the authors kept it together) hearing these teens talk about how much books mean to them. I don’t know if I can actually put into words the effect the whole experience had on me as an aspiring YA author.
After my shift ended, I headed over to one of the lecture halls on USC’s campus for a panel discussion with four of the top YA authors: Jennifer Niven, Nicola Yoon, Angie Thomas, and Nina LaCour. I reviewed Niven’s first YA book, All the Bright Places, here on the blog, and I also absolutely loved Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star. I have books from the other authors on my TBR list. It was incredible to hear four amazing female authors talk about everything from their writing process to their inspiration and research to the craziest thing they did as teenagers. The panel was absolutely awe-inspiring and I am so glad that I was able to attend.
I of course focused on the YA booths and event happening at the festival, but every genre of book was well-represented. There was a great kids section, along with horror, romance, mystery, basically everything you could ever want from a book festival. If you are in the LA area, I would highly recommend attending the LA Times Festival of Books if you can because it was an amazing and inspiring day!
Since so much of my life has been consumed with books these days–reading, writing, reviewing, Instagramming–it’s only fitting that I become obsessed with bookmarks. When I was younger and had a significantly better memory, I never used bookmarks because I could just remember what chapter or page I left off on (seriously, how was that a thing I could do?). But now I am old. And I have one or two billion other things on my mind. And I refuse to fold down the pages of my books. So bookmarks it is! I’ve started quite a collection, and while some of my favorites are the free ones from bookstores, I have also been buying some cute ones on Etsy. Which of course, led me to the idea to make some for myself. And I found out how easy it is to make some super cute bookmarks with just a few supplies. I love how they turned out and I can’t wait to make more!
First, I printed out some designs on white cardstock. When I do this project again, I will use paper that is thicker than standard cardstock so the bookmarks have a little more weight. These were super easy to design in Word, I just made a text box the size I wanted and then typed in some fun book-themed phrases. I suck at cutting a straight line so I used my paper cutter, but you could just cut out the rectangles with scissors if you are cool like that.
I let the printer ink dry for a little while to make sure it didn’t smear. In the meantime I set up my watercolors. I used a simple Crayola set that had all the colors I wanted. I had some extra brushes ready but I really only used the one that came with the set. I also had some mini cups of water ready and paper towels on hand for clean up and brush wiping.
I waited about an hour after printing the bookmarks from my computer before I started the painting, which was plenty of time. I chose to do a couple of different color combos and kept two of the bookmarks one color. I have to say that the rainbow one is probably my favorite.
I let the bookmarks dry overnight and then I took a black Sharpie and went over some of the lettering that had faded from the paint. I also put them under some hardback books for a few hours so they flattened out a little since the paint made the edges curl up a bit. This is the final product…
I love how these came out and I will definitely be making some more in the future. What book quotes or phrases do you like? Give me some idea so I have some for my next round! And make sure you follow my bookstagram account, @coffeebookswinerepeat!
So last week I published my very first book. It honestly feels weird to even write that sentence. But I did it, I can check an item off my bucket list. Something I wrote is out there in the world (and not just on a blog). And I wasn’t going to tell y’all about it for numerous reasons that I am going to bore you with in this post. You know, before I tell you to go buy my book and leave me five star reviews. But first, some history…
I wrote my first “novel” when I was eleven. It was handwritten in one of those 350 page multi-subject spiral notebooks. It was a junior high love story with a heroine who bore an extremely close resemblance to me and a love interest who may or may not have been solely based off of Jonathan Taylor Thomas. I think it goes without saying that it was not good. But I mean, I filled a 350 page notebook at the age of eleven, so there’s that.
I wrote on and off throughout my junior high and high school years. In high school I wrote for the school newspaper, and my favorite English teacher was my creative writing teacher, Mr. O’Brien. He kind of ruined me for creative writing teachers in the future because he understood my point of view and my voice without me having to explain it. See, even though my writing style has (hopefully) matured over the years, my subject matter really hasn’t. I still love to write about love. My ebook can only be described as contemporary women’s fiction. And while the genre is quite popular and can be extremely lucrative, it is one that (in my opinion) is looked down upon by those who consider themselves to be “serious” writers.
In college, I was an English major. In my junior year, I had to pick a specialty. I knew at that point I was likely going to end up teaching, but I chose to major in Creative Writing instead of English for Educators. The main thing you do in creative writing classes is workshop your writing. So you bring in twenty copies of your short story, the whole class reads and critiques it, then you revise it and turn it in for notes from the professor. My work was consistently disregarded (on the nice end of the spectrum) and ridiculed as brainless fluff (on the harsh end). It wasn’t until my senior seminar (aka the last class I had to take as a creative writing major) that I had a professor get it. This is what he wrote on my main story I submitted to him: “This is great for what it is.” Did I write some ground-breaking, award-winning, super deep and intellectual, thought-provoking piece? Nope. I wrote something fun and light, think classic summer beach read. And for the first time in college, someone was able to see it for what it was, and not think about it in light of everything it was not. The fact that it took that long for someone to get it, and the fact that I had ONE professor in four (okay, six) years of college willing to see my writing for what it was, put a huge damper on my desire to write. For most of my “career” as a writer, I felt like I was not good enough, maybe even not a real writer, because I was writing commercial stories instead of artistic stories (and yes, there are those writers out there that are commercial and artistic. I’m not one of them. At least not yet.).
A couple of months ago, I started writing again. Probably because I felt a resurgence in my desire to create after separating myself from the brain suck that was my job last year. I set out to finish a novel. Not because I plan to make money, not because I plan to make this a career. More to prove to myself that I could do it. I mean, I’ve had the dream since I was eleven. And I read a lot of contemporary women’s fiction, and while a lot of it is great, some of it I read and think I could do better. So I figured why not throw my hat in the ring. And let me just be clear here, I love this genre, I love the story I wrote, and I had FUN writing this book. And if no one reads it, or if everyone who reads it hates it, I’m okay with that. Because I did it. And I’m proud of myself for that.
So why would I not share it with all of you fine folks? Well, about halfway through writing this novel (titled Casting Call, btw) I came up with an idea for a young adult series. And once I fleshed out the idea, I realized that I NEED to write this series. It is a concept that I completely love, and it is a story that I have to tell. And it is the type of series that could potentially land me an agent and possibly even a real publisher (making me a “serious” writer). But I also couldn’t just set aside Casting Call and jump into a new project. Part of the reason I wanted to write Casting Call in the first place was to show myself I could finish it. So it needed to be finished. For a while I started writing the series while still working on Casting Call, but then I decided to put the series on hold and finish what I started.
I finished the writing of Casting Call a couple of weeks ago, and spent the following weeks editing and formatting. I didn’t hire an editor because this was not a project I intended to invest money in (#selfemployed). Luckily, I have done a lot of editing and proofreading in my time so I felt comfortable doing it on my own (and yeah, I’m sure there are typos and mistakes, please feel free to point them out ;o)). And while I do plan on looking for an agent to represent my YA series, for Casting Call, and any subsequent novels I write in this genre, I decided to self publish only as an ebook on Amazon. While I wouldn’t call the process easy by any means (formatting is a bitch), it was way easier than going the “traditional” route. And it allowed me to publish a book I love on my own terms.
Work on my series is going to continue soon (I sent out a rough rough rough rough draft to some of my amazing librarian friends (shout out to Becky and Kristen!) for some notes). It is so different from anything I have ever written before that I am finding it is taking a lot more time and effort than what I am used to when writing. But it is also an extremely gratifying piece to work on and I hope that I can do the concept justice.
I think this is the point where I introduce you to Casting Call, and ask you to throw a few dollars my way ;o) Casting Call is a fun and light-hearted novel about a young actress named Emily who is making her professional theater debut. Things get dicey when she finds herself falling for her leading man–a guy who is off limits for multiple reasons. She has to decide what’s more important, her career or love. I loved being able to travel back to my theater roots as I wrote this novel, and I really ended up falling in love with both of my main characters. I would love to turn this novel into a series as well, assuming I can find the time to balance it with my YA series.
If you have made it this far, thank you for reading this totally rambly and personal post. I really debated whether or not I should even share this on the blog (because anything on my blog automatically gets thrown out into the social media world), but this experience of writing and publishing has meant a lot to me, and it wouldn’t have felt right to not share it at all (God forbid we have any emotions these days that don’t get shared!). If you are a fan of contemporary women’s fiction, or you want something fun and light to read, please check out Casting Call. And if you love it, please leave me a review. If you don’t love it, you can leave a review too, but just be nice about it :oP And if this is totally not your kind of read, please don’t feel like you have to read it! Reading books that aren’t your thing is rarely fun, and reading should always be fun.
Also, you might have noticed that I used a pen name for this novel. Since I am planning on writing another series in a totally different genre, I wanted to separate the two. So this book has my pen name for romance, Michele Matthews (which if you know me, you can figure out where that comes from), and my other series will have my real name (assuming it makes it to publication of course!).
I would love to hear your thoughts on writing, whether they are about my experiences or your own. I would also love to build a writing tribe sometime soon, so please reach out if that is something you might be interested in! Thanks friends, for reading this and for allowing me to always express whatever it is that is on my mind. You’re the best!