Sunday, July 29, 2018

First Book You've Ever Read Challenge

I was unofficially tagged by S. M. Metzler on her blog Tea with Tumnus. At first, I wasn’t sure where I would fit it into my schedule, but then I realized July has five Sundays this year. One extra blog post coming right up!

I’ve read so many books, I’m sure Goodreads doesn’t have them all listed. According to the site, since I first started tracking the books back in 2011, I’ve read 471 books. The first book I kept track of the dates from start to finish was A Study in Scarlet, but it’s far from the first book I’ve never read.

Let me think.


What is this madness?

Challenge rules:
  • Challenge at least one person.
  • Share the first book you’ve ever read.
  • Why did you read it in the first place?
  • How did it inspire you to become a writer?

From reading The Stinky Cheese Man and The Roly Poly Spider to Amelia Bedelia and listening to White Fang and The Chronicles of Narnia, I remember reading many children’s books. But if we’re talking about the first novel I ever read, well, I’d probably have to say Methuselah’s Gift.

Anthropomorphic animals. Forest fires and traps. “Uprights” aka humans. A story of redemption. What’s not to like? (Maybe the traps and fire?)

My third-grade teacher had the class read this particular treasure. I remember being read to in class, but I also remember reading this one silently. I went on to read the sequel, Methuselah’s Heart. Then my teacher took our class to go meet the author, and she talked to us about stories and the racoon under her porch who inspired her to write the novel and how to craft a plot.

That’s when I knew I wanted to become a writer.

I had taken interest in writing stories before, the first ever story I remember writing being a paragraph about an octopus with shoes. Don’t judge. Writing prompts for children are weird.

When I met my first ever author, my teacher encouraged me to write. Even when I wrote a story for class about a guy biking into outer space to meet space penguins (wait a second…), she encouraged me. Even though I went on to write many more awkward stories and to try reading above my grade level, I was determined to become a published author.

Come to think of it, it’s been a while since I’ve read Methuselah’s Gift. Time for a reread!
As for the tagging, I challenge the following bloggers:

Faith René Boggus (A Boggus Life)
Melissa Gravitis (Quill Pen Writer)
And you! (Mwuahaha! Thought I’d cover you all.)

Let’s chat! If you don’t have a blog and/or don’t want to write a post, what’s the first novel you’ve read? Have you read Methuselah’s Gift before? If so, what did you think of it?


Literary references: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, John Scieszka and Lane Smith’s The Stinky Cheese Man, Jill Sardenga’s The Roly Poly Spider, Peggy Parish’s Amelia Bedelia, Jack London’s White Fang, C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, and Mary Elizabeth Edgren’s Methuselah’s Gift and Methuselah’s Heart.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Book Review: A Conspiracy of Stars

This book is one of my new favorite sci-fi novels! Just saying. It’s amazing.

I devoured the book in one sitting and not just because I was stuck on an airplane. If I wanted to read or do something else, I would have. Nine-hour flights tend to provide movies and music, but I couldn’t get enough of A Conspiracy of Stars. I was actually sad when it ended.

Book: A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia A. Cole
Genre: Sci-fi, Fantasy, Young Adult
My rating: 4/5 stars
Awards: None (yet!)
One-word description: science!

“But home isn’t just a memory, I’ve decided: it’s knowledge, knowing where you belong and where you fit in. [...] This is home.”

Wow, so I haven’t related to a fictional character in a while. (Pfft! I totally did three books ago.) Perhaps what I mean to say is that the exploration of the concept of home was refreshing. When most people ask me where I’m from, what they really mean is “Where is home?” But having moved around my whole life, for me it’s not always that simple. Home for me is where my suitcase is. In that sense, I relate with Octavia, the narrator. This, too, is my home.

The plot was a little more slow-paced than some books, but I actually like it that way. Slower books can be pretty enjoyable, especially when they focus on excellent character development like this one. Perhaps one of my favorite themes no matter the book was also featured in this one: empathy is a gift, not a weakness.

And the world-building was amazing! At first, the author, Cole, seems to throw terms at me, and I felt like I got tossed into a hailstorm with no context. Then the characters took me by the hand and guided me along, explaining things like the well-informed scientists they were. For the most part, the characters were well-developed. There’s bound to be at least one mad scientist, right? *sigh* Oh, well. I did like how smart the Octavia and her friends were.

When the title finally made sense, I was immensely pleased.

My main complaint was the book’s predictability. I was hoping for at least one twist at the end that I didn’t see coming. But when I was right, I silently cheered, then the book ended and how dare it! I. Need. More.

In all, I gave A Conspiracy of Stars 4/5 stars for excellent world building, themes, and character but some predictable elements. I’d recommend it to sci-fi fans, especially those who liked Ender’s Saga and the Divergent trilogy. I know I said this already, but I can’t wait for the next one!

Interested in A Conspiracy of Stars? Have you read it yet? You might also enjoy these books: The Shifter by Chris T. Acadian, I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, and Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

Let’s chat! Has A Conspiracy of Stars made it to your to-be-read list yet? Anybody out there read it? Have any sci-fi book recommendations?


Similar book reviews: Season of Wonder, The Shifter, and A World Without You

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Happy 4th Blogiversary! (Featuring a Giveaway)

Around four years ago, I sat down and decided I wanted to start another blog. A blog where I could write about my thoughts on books, inspired by discussions I had on literature while I was attending university. The word blog is a weird in and of itself. Then we have the word blogiversary. What has the English language come to?

I decided to ask the internet, yes, the internet, if anybody had any questions about my writing or blogging process. Here are the questions and my answers. Stick around because I’m running a giveaway at the end!

Why did you start Word Storm? And why a blog and not any other social media?

I started Word Storm because bookish discussions make me excited. When I was in college, I wanted to continue to talk about books outside of classes. Now that I’ve graduated with my degrees in English and English Literature, I’m glad I started my blog when I did.

I picked a blog because I’m not very outgoing when it comes to other forms of social media. I have a Twitter and an Instagram account, but I’m chattier in the blogisphere. Also, I prefer writing over talking, so you probably won’t hear/see me on YouTube anytime soon.

Read more about Why Word Storm? on my About page.

What inspired you to write blog posts?

It all depends on the blog post. When I started blogging, college classroom discussions inspired me. Now, I draw inspiration from the books I read, trends I see, you name it. My last blog post, A Guide to Getting Lost in Your Local Library, was inspired by my constant visits to my library where I like to volunteer and bring home one too many books.

Actually, I’d say fewer of my blog posts come from inspiration than hard work. Inspiration is a term that’s way overused. Maybe 1% of writing is inspiration and 99% is actual writing. And that inspiration? Its name is coffee.

Did your family play a role in your interest in writing?

Yes and no. Both my parents gave me a passion for stories and reading. My mom especially used to tell me many outlandish stories when I was a kid, so like Hiccup, at least I know where I get my dramatic flair from. But most of my interest in writing came from other writers like C. S. Lewis, who wrote fantastical tales, and Mary Elizabeth Edgren, whom I got to meet as a kid, and teachers who encouraged me to craft stories of my own.

What role does God play in your blogging?

Whatever I write, I do it for the glory of God. As such, I try to write without being overly preachy. Growing up as a chaplain’s kid, I know what a sermon sounds like. Still, I aim to prompt thought and discussion from readers, regardless of their background.

As a Christian, I like to talk about wholesome stories that uplift and encourage. I try to keep my blog PG, even if some of the books I read are not. All the same, I try not to shy away from topics that may be controversial. In fact, I wrote a whole series of posts entitled “Controversy in Fiction,” addressing topics like Racial Diversity, Feminism and Female Characters, Magic, and Christian Fiction.

Are you ever going to write more about the Memory Keepers?

Maaaaaaybe. I have some ideas. While I haven’t settled on a particular story line, if I were to write more in the Memory Keepers’ world, the story would most likely involve trains, explosions, and journalism vs. academic writing.

First I’d need more reviews for Last of the Memory Keepers. If you’ve read any of the stories, please consider writing a review and posting it on Amazon and/or Goodreads. It doesn’t have to be long, and I welcome honest feedback. Did you know more reviews means more exposure? So, if you like a book, leave a review!

When you start plotting a story, where do you prefer starting? Characters, settings, storyline, something else?

Ideas can come from anywhere. Sometimes they come in the form of characters, sometimes in the form of witty quotes. But my plotting is a little more structured. Before I start, I’ll give it a rough name, which can be anything from Story Idea 11 to Just Breathe (original title for Origami Swan). Then or simultaneously, I’ll pick a genre and a target audience. Both are vital for understanding how long the story will be and how much research I’ll need to do.

When I write my basic outline (inciting incident, turning point, climax), I’ll typically start with the characters. I need to know my main players. Who they are. What they want. How they influence the plot. I’ll write this bit in a notebook so it’s portable and so I can add details wherever I go.

Once that’s done, and sometimes even before then, I’ll put some meat on the bones by writing a complete synopsis. That’s when I figure out how the plot influences the characters. I write this part on my computer so I can rearrange, change, or add details if necessary. And that’s about it. I used to write chapter-by-chapter, but later found it was too tedious.

Slight side-note: I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo this year, camp or otherwise.

Why, you might ask? Well, it’s a great tool to establish discipline and to actually finish writing a book. But that’s the thing. I’ve written… eight? Nine? I don’t know. I lost count. Guys, I’m obsessed with writing. So much so that I have to be dragged away from my computer screaming, “You can’t turn it on and off like a tap!”

So… I’m taking July to do #31DaysofBunnies instead! That’s right. I’ve been trying to take up drawing for a while now, and I haven’t really sat down long enough to draw, unless you count during class once a month. As my next novel may include bunnies, I’m thinking of doing some of my own illustrations. That and they’re just fun to draw.

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Giveaway time!

Please keep in mind that because of shipping expenses, I will only be giving away a print copy to a person with a US address. If you happen to live outside the States, you may still enter for the chance to win a Kindle/Nook edition of the first three novelettes.

Let’s chat! Any other questions you might have about Word Storm or my stories? What’s been your top book(s) of 2018 so far?


Sunday, July 8, 2018

A Guide to Getting Lost in Your Local Library

Sometimes I feel like a bad bookworm. I wasn’t one of those children who came home from the library with twelve books tucked under my arm and finished them all in a week. (Though I did order books and frequent the bookstore a lot.)

In fact, my first recommendation from a librarian turned out to be a negative experience. Thirteen-year-old me ended up with a bunch of books I didn’t enjoy and other than the occasional check out, I didn’t speak to another librarian for—oh—seven years or so. That was before I learned that everybody has different opinions, and readers should consider who the recommendation is coming from as much as the recommendation. Now that I volunteer at my local library on a weekly basis, I go out of my way to check out at the desk so I can say hello to the librarians working there. (That and the self-checkout machine is evil.)

Since I spend a lot of time at my local library, I thought I’d give a quick overview of what it’s like. You can relax, I may mention the Dewey Decimal System, but I’m not about to break it down for you. Feel free to Google it if you so wish.

Help! I can’t find my book!

Sometimes it’s hard to find books, even when you’ve looked up the section and number. Books get misplaced in the oddest places. I’ve found nonfiction in the young adult section and children’s books in the middle grade section. It’s confusing as all get out. Then some books simply get moved over a shelf, or an author’s series is split up, so readers may think they’ve checked the whole shelf when they haven’t. Then there’s the time books get shoved behind other books and then hidden by the army in front of them. This last one usually happens with particularly popular shelves.

And librarians and library volunteers are there to help you. They know the shelves and the places books may disappear to. For the most part, anyway.

Worried about interrupting a librarian or volunteer to ask for help? Don’t be! As a volunteer, I can tell you, shelving can get pretty monotonous. Sometimes, I need a break. And helping a patron is the perfect opportunity. When I first started to volunteer back when I was living in Italy, the volunteer coordinator told me to imagine the patron I wanted to help while I was alphabetizing (aka sight reading) books.

In other words, whom do I volunteer for?

In my imagination, I volunteer for those college students who are looking for some light YA during their vacation time but don’t want to spend the entire day stuck in the library since they do enough of that at school. I volunteer for the middle schoolers who want a good, quick read but may not be familiar with the Dewey Decimal System. I volunteer for the parents who bring their young children in, who sit their kids in their laps and read them picture books, who listen to their kid tell them, “I love you, Mommy/Daddy.” And yeah, I guess I volunteer for the loud high schoolers as well.

Who in their right mind decided to split up the trilogy between the middle grade (MG) and young adult (YA) sections?

Did you know that young adult and middle grade aren’t actually genres? They’re just categories designed to help out readers. (Then there’s New Adult, but that’s so ambiguous, some librarians don’t even know it exists.) But… sometimes books get mixed up anyway.

When I was reading the Inkworld trilogy, back before I bought my own copy of the books, I found Inkheart (book 1) and Inkspell (book 2) in the MG section but Inkdeath (book 3) in the YA section. When I asked the reasoning behind it, the librarian informed me that sometimes, parents may request a certain book be moved up a level because of the content. Though it can still be a bit odd, considering Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is still in the MG section even though it reads like a YA book.

Suffice to say, books are shelved where they are for various different reasons. 1) Fiction vs. nonfiction, which should be obvious until you delve into poetry and plays and nonfiction books on fictional worlds. 2) Target audience. Some books are marketed for certain audiences, and even if they’re targeted wrong, that’s how they’re shelved. 3) Content. If a later book in a series is more mature, it may be moved to a section for an older target audience. 4) Other. Take a wild guess. I once found the first book in a series in the YA section, and the second in the MG. Maybe the librarian didn’t know it was a series?

As a volunteer, it’s my job to put the books back in their proper place so readers can find them easily. But I am considering a degree in library science so I might better understand libraries and one day work at one.

All things considered, the Dewey Decimal System may be confusing at first, but it’s not bad. If anything, it’s much more convenient than organizing an entire library by book color. While fun for personal shelves, I can only imagine the chaos that would ensue from that in a public venue!

What on earth is nonfiction?

Poetry is shelved under nonfiction. Unless it’s a novel in verse, then it’s under fiction. Unless it’s a novel in verse based on someone’s life. Then it’s under biography, a subsection of nonfiction. Because poetry.

To truly understand nonfiction, you must first become a dragon and then decipher the human psyche. (Then tell me how it goes because I’d like to hear what it’s like to fly!)

All joking aside, you could probably just ask a librarian. And to decipher this question, I tried asking several librarians, but they have been unable to answer my question about the logic behind the nonfiction section. (I lean more towards the fiction spectrum. Sadly enough, you don’t find many books on dragons in the nonfiction section, except perhaps books on dragonology.)

The way I see it, the nonfiction section follows more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.

Looking for like-minded individuals?

Libraries are more than just a way to find new books. They’re also a great way to connect with people. *gasp* Before you introverts duck behind your bookshelves, let me assure you that you only have to interact with other people if you want to. My local library happens to have an adult writing group, a young adult writing group, a LEGO group, a young reader group, a WWI fiction group, you name it!

So if you’re a writer looking for somebody to talk to about stories or looking for a critique partner, check out your local library. If you’re a reader tired of reading books and sharing your thoughts with nobody… You guessed it! Visit your local library.

And if your library doesn’t have a particular group, why not ask a librarian about starting one? If you even take the initiative and offer to coordinate the meetings for librarians who are particularly swamped, the librarian will likely be more than willing to help connect you with like-minded bookish friends!

Read Books

To truly get lost, as my sister would say, “Open a book and never leave.” Ever.

Let’s chat! What are some of your tips for traversing a library? Where’s the strangest place you ever found a book? Are you a part of any groups at your local library?

My 4th blogiversary is coming up this week.* Squeee! As a result, next Sunday I’ll be answering any questions you might have, whether they’re about Word Storm, books, or my stories. Ask away!

That and I’ll be hosting another giveaway. So be on the lookout!

*Today I’m celebrating 150 blog posts!


Literary references: Cornelia Funke’s Inkworld trilogy and J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Poem: The To-Be-Read List

Reading and gardening are two of my favorite things. I like the way that books make me feel emotions, but I also enjoy the texture of dirt beneath my bare hands, the smell of recently watered tomato plants, the feel of the noonday sun on my face.

But I don’t get to garden very often because my family moves so much. It’s hard to plant something knowing you’re going to be leaving in a couple months, and the next tenants might just kill it. Or maybe I lived in an apartment, and I was limited to house plants. Either way, I try to make the most of my garden while I have it. I enjoy quiet afternoons where I can sit on the porch and just read a good book surrounded by my potted plants.

Should it be any surprise that when I wrote a poem about reading, plants sprung up in between the lines? Probably not.

The To-Be-Read List

Picking up my next book
is more random than I would
have planned.

Flowers bloom in their own time—
daffodils at the start of spring,
tulips near the middle,
and chrysanthemums signal the end
of the final growing season.

Yet the leaves of a book
spring up
of their own accord—
a snow-filled novel pops up in spring,
collections of summer poems warm me in winter,
and autumn stories mimic the trees outside.

When I plan to read a novel—
hooked by the blurb
or drawn by the cover—
I can never tell if or when it will happen
upon me
whether in the library or at the bookstore or online.
Maybe I cannot find it.
Maybe I cannot stop finding it,
and I forget I wanted it at all.

But when they come,
the flighting books—the annuals—
are here,
then gone.
And the perennials last like dandelions—
no matter how many times
somebody tries to dig them up,
they always come back.


Let’s chat! What did you think of the poem? Is your To-Be-Read List random or planned? What is something you might compare your reading habit to?