Sunday, April 26, 2020

Mini Book Reviews: The Light at the Bottom of the World to The Art of Feeling

You know those moments when you read all the good books and just want to rant about all of them? They may not come very often, but I’d read some pretty good books lately and thought I’d share all of them with you.

Also, I’ve had lots of time to read. LOTS. At the moment, my workplace isn’t supposed to reopen until the end of June, so I get to read even more. These library books are mine now, thank you very much. I’ve even started reading books I own again. What is this odd sensation?

Today’s post features sci-fi and contemporary novels I’ve been reading lately!

The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah

Genre: Young Adult, Sci-fi
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars, rounding up to 5
Mini description: Underwater sci-fi that takes actual science into consideration

Have I ranted enough about how good this book is? No, no I have not.

Sci-fi is fun. Underwater stories are awesome. Underwater sci-fi is epic! Part travel narrative, part mystery, this book features an underwater London, submersibles, and an underwater species that’s not quite human. The story also explores themes of hope and a healthy questioning of stereotypes. I liked it so much I bought a copy.

100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Mini description: Heartfelt story about perseverance

I know I’ve mentioned this one before too, but it’s just so good! Tessa is an incredibly relatable character, except for the fact that she can’t type without her sight (Not that I’m one to talk. I often mix my letters up because one hand sometimes gets ahead of the other, but I know where the letters are by feel.) That aside, I really enjoyed the development of friendship between Tessa and Weston. And both of them have such heartbreaking backstories, but Weston is determined to live an inspiring life.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Genre: Sci-fi
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Mini description: An AI who just wants to enjoy their shows and maybe find out who they are

Though not long enough to be considered a novel, this little novella is the perfect length for both plot and character development. Murderbot may not have the best track record with they’re job, but they’re determined to keep their humans alive this time around. If they would just stop asking about their feelings long enough for them to enjoy their favorite shows, the universe might be a little better. Who knew an AI could be so relatable?

The Art of Feeling by Laura Tims

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Mini description: Girl who struggles with depression meets boy who can’t physically feel

Reread. To say the characters in this book are a little messed up would be an understatement, but I like them anyway. The main ones that is. There are a few I’m still mentally giving the death glare. That being said, there are funny moments and heartbreaking moments, and I just love the themes of friendship and family and growth. Just a heads up, there is a lot of swearing. Not quite The Hate U Give-level swearing but still more than your average YA novel. My main complaint though—that dog on the cover is too cute to be Tito, at least the one in my imagination.

Interested in any of these books? You might also enjoy The Boy Who Steals Houses by C. G. Drews (contemporary), The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan (contemporary, magical realism; see book review), Skyward by Brandon Sanderson (sci-fi; see book review), and A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia A. Cole (sci-fi, fantasy; see book review).


Let’s chat! Have you read any of the listed books? Which did you enjoy? Which are you most excited about reading? Which contemporary and/or sci-fi novels have you been reading lately?

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Reading Habits: Work vs. University

It’s really interesting how one’s reading habits can change over time. As a kid, I enjoyed unusual fairy tales and animal novels, and as a teenager, I read books with all the dragons. Then I discovered the joy of the library in college, and my TBR list has exploded ever since. But as time goes on, I notice the ways that my reading habits have changed from my days of stressing over finals and day-to-day assignments versus a commute to and from work.

For example, back when I was studying for my M.A. in English Lit, I read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in 10 days at 100 pages a day. Now you ask me to read a 1,000-page book in a week or so, and I’ll just laugh because that’s not going to happen, even though I have more free time.

Here are just a few of the ways my reading habits have changed since I’ve graduated, complete with whether I practice said habits during work or university or both!

Reading as a Distraction: Work or University?


Whether I’ve had a bad day at work or whether I was tired of doing some assignment, a good story could always serve as a way to escape. It’s especially nice when I find a book that doesn’t feel like a book—one that’s just another story that engulfs you, leaving you wondering what world you’re in when you turn the last page. Stories like Salt to the Sea, Eliza and Her Monsters, and Kids Like Us.

Reading as a Reward: Work or University?


Yes, reading still has its rewards, sure. But I don’t read for the same purpose. When I was particularly struggling to get through one assignment or another, I would study for 45 minutes, then read a chapter. Just one. Then I’d repeat the process until I’d finished my assignments and then my book. That’s how I first read The Alliance series during midterms and later how I got through Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell so quickly.

Reading as a Time Filler: Work or University?


During my studies, I didn’t really have any time to kill. It was just me and homework and more homework and balancing my jobs and writing for fun and maybe somehow fitting a meal somewhere in there.

I was texting one of my friends the other day, and she was telling me about all the shows she’s catching up on, and I realized I’d seen zero of them. If I think about it too hard, the idea of all of the shows I don’t watch can make me anxious. (I’m in the middle of Ninjago, Legend of Kora, and NCIS. I don’t need recommendations.) I’m just not a big movie/show person, okay? But mention novels, and I’m ready to pile all the books onto my TBR list. They’re also nice because I can take them to work with me and read them while I’m on break.

Reading as Research: Work or University?


Though I’m still doing research, I don’t always approach it in the same ways. At university, I would check out stacks of books in addition to my source material, gathering all my research before I started writing. Now when I’m doing research for a story, I’ll do some preliminary research, then write my rough draft, then delve into the deeper research before draft two.

Reading Classics: Work or University?


Truth be told, I read far more classics during school than did when I graduated. If anything, as soon as I finished my Master’s dissertation, I devoured YA and graphic novels for the next year. Now, I make reading classics part of my yearly goal because if I didn’t, I’m afraid I won’t read them. And I want to. It’s just that working up the motivation to do something I voluntarily forced myself to do for so long may have burnt me out on the idea of reading certain books. That and there’s this weird assumption that reading classics is somehow only suitable for stuffy settings and intellectual mindsets, which it’s not.

Listening to Audiobooks: Work or University?


I had friends who listened to audiobooks instead of reading assigned books for class, but I just couldn’t get into it. When it comes to retaining stories, I’ll remember them more if I can see the words on the page. But once I started working, when I was forced to drive to work instead of bike, I found listening to audiobooks made the drive enjoyable. (I did not listen to audiobooks while biking because that’s not safe.) Now, I have a 30-minute commute, not as long as biking 45 minutes one way, but I like listening to podcasts or novels on the way.

Particular audiobooks I’ve enjoyed so far: Stardust by Neil Gaiman, narrated by the author; Fawkes by Nadine Brandes, narrated by Oliver J. Hembrough; and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, narrated by Ari Fliakos.

The one podcast I got hooked on: Wolf 359 by Kinda Evil Genius Productions. I’m open to more recommendations.

Yearly Goals: Work or University?


My junior year of my undergrad, I managed to read 38 out of my goal of 30 books. My senior year/start of my Master’s degree, I read 52. The year after I finished my Master’s I read 109 out of 100. The next year, I stopped setting number goals and moved to types of books instead. It took a year of trial and error for me to set realistic goals and meet them again, but I figured it out.

Let’s chat! How have your reading habits changed over time, if at all? Have your motivations for reading changed? Goals for reading? Anybody have any epic sci-fi/fantasy podcast recommendations? Bonus points if it’s funny.


Literary references: Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell; Ruta Sepetys’ Salt to the Sea; Francesca Zappia’s Eliza and Her Monsters; Hilary Reyl’s Kids Like Us; L. Nicodemus Lyons’ The Alliance series; Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, narrated by the author; Nadine Brandes’ Fawkes, narrated by Oliver J. Hembrough; and Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, narrated by Ari Fliakos

Show references: Ninjago, Legend of Kora, and NCIS

Podcast references: Kinda Evil Genius Productions’ Wolf 359

Monday, April 13, 2020

Flash Fiction Moving to Wattpad

Happy Monday! Usually I post on Sundays, but out of respect for the Easter weekend, I postponed this one.

The other day, I was double-checking the links on my blog and remembered that the magazine where I first published some of my flash fiction pieces no longer exists. *tear* Yes, you can still purchase the old editions of Splickety, but for now, I have decided to move the ones that were up on their blog over to Wattpad. I may move the ones featured in the magazines as well, but for now, I’ve moved my freebies so you can read them again.

I usually write long-winded stories—the rough draft for my last novel was 88,000 words—but each story posted is a piece of flash fiction, less than a thousand words. I could write subsequent stories for each one, but I like them as stand alones. Enjoy!

As the daughter of the chief, Mayra has always had to live up to everybody’s expectations. But when a horde of pterosaurs attack on wash day, she takes her stand. Originally published on Splickety’s Lightning Blog. Read for free on Wattpad.

Victoria wants a blue ribbon and her father's promise not to sell her horse. Can a little boy with autism change her mind? Originally published on Splickety's Lightning BlogRead for free on Wattpad.

I’m also thinking of posting some more flash fiction pieces that have never been published, so keep an eye out for a dystopian piece! You can follow me on Twitter or Facebook for further updates.

Let’s chat! Have you read my flash fiction yet? Which story did you like better? Any fellow flash fiction writers out there?


Sunday, April 5, 2020

Poem: Fog

We’ve had some particularly sunny days lately. Sure, we’ve had our fair share of rain—a thunderstorm even hit. We got tornado warnings, and the river flooded. But overall, the weather has been nice. Still, I was inspired to write this poem by two things: one foggy afternoon where I found myself transplanting my pansies as soon as I could and all the craziness in the world right now.

I don’t think I mentioned it here, but the COVID-19 has shut down my workplace for at least a month. I’m fortunate enough to be financially stable and have family at home, but I have plenty of friends who are struggling financially or socially. I think we’re all struggling mentally. I’m going stir crazy. I read. I write. I try to get out of the house and work in the garden, but some days, it just isn’t enough.

The world is an uncertain place these days, even more so than usual. So, as writers do, I wrote about it.


It’s hard to think
that yesterday
I stepped out in a world
bathed in sunshine
and today
the white expanse
bares all my work
like words sketched
in a thought bubble.

remember how I
uncovered the dead wood
and exposed the black salamander,
how the rain washed
away the topsoil
I carefully laid
to prevent floods
that came anyway.

I hang the ferns
and walk from the porch
to the mailbox,
unable to see one
from the other,
my hand near translucent
in front of my face,
yet I take another step
and wonder
what I’ll find
around the hundred trees.

I stare into the white abyss
and listen
for the birdsong
but none comes.
maybe tomorrow—
but not today.


Let’s chat! What did you think of the poem? What are some activities you do to cope with being cooped up at home?

Similar poems: Waking Up, Lost as a Leaf, and Silent Words