Sunday, June 28, 2020

Destination: USA, 5 Novels for a Virtual Vacation

A lot of people probably won’t be traveling this summer. I recently went to visit my grandparents because my grandma has terminal cancer, and we drove twelve-and-a-half hours in one day to minimize contact with strangers. I don’t necessarily recommend it, but you do what you have to do. The visit was rather uneventful.

For those who can’t travel, I’ve put together a bookish vacation instead. For my international readers, here is just a glimpse of a few of the states. You don’t have to read them in the order listed. You don’t even have to read them all! But if you want to give it a try, you’re welcome to!



Hawaii—Summer Blue Bird

To start out our mini bookish vacation, we’ll fly to the Aloha State—sunny Hawaii—where rainbows are a daily occurrence and the air smells like saltwater. The only thing is, life for Rumi isn’t all sunshine. Between her and her sister Lea, Rumi is the cranky one. But when Lea dies in a car accident and Rumi is sent to Hawaii for the summer to live with her aunt, Rumi is less than pleased. An exploration of grief and self, Summer Blue Bird (a YA contemporary) is perhaps the best book set in Hawaii that I’ve read yet.


Alaska—The Smell of Other People’s Houses

From Hawaii, we’ll take a flight back to the mainland, but not the mainland the majority live in. Nope. We’re going to Alaska! Though I’ve never actually been there, I feel like I’ve gotten a glimpse through books. The Smell of Other People’s Houses (a YA historical fiction) surprised me. At first, I didn’t think I would like it, but in the end, I liked the way the book tied in the four narratives, and the cultural exploration was equally worthwhile.


California to Virginia—The Someday Birds

Next up: road trip! The Someday Birds (an MG contemporary) starts out in California, then heads across Nevada up to Wyoming, then across Montana all the way to Illinois, and finally on to Virginia. Like any good road trip, there’s a spattering of setting, but more importantly, there’s excellent character development. Charlie is trying to reconcile where he really belongs when it comes to relationships all while he goes on a hunt for the birds he wanted to see with his Dad. The story is also an excellent representation of autism and OCD.

I also really like the tagline for this one: “Only 2,500 miles of fresh air, family, and chaos to go.” If that doesn’t sum up road trips, I don’t know what does!


Indiana—All the Bright Places

Time to backtrack a little. I know we already drove through Indiana, but it’s not like we’re going to interrupt one book with another. (I’m looking at you, The Horse and His Boy!) All the Bright Places (a YA contemporary) explores Indiana, another state I don’t think I’ve ever been to in person. Don’t let the cover deceive you though. Theodore and Violet are here not just for a school project to explore the state. They’re here to rip your heart out.

Apparently, there’s even a movie out on Netflix. That means another reread for me, and I’ll have to brace myself.


New York—York: The Shadow Cipher

Now that we’ve explored a glimpse of the States, we’ll end our trip in the Big Apple, New York City, but not like the one that exists in our world. York: The Shadow Cipher (an MG contemporary sci-fi) explores a New York that isn’t quite like our own, or is it? Tess, Theo, and Jaime explore their city in an attempt to solve the cipher that has stumped treasure-hunters for centuries in an attempt to save their home.

Unlike the other books, which are stand-alone’s, this one is actually a trilogy. Book three just came out, and I’m super excited!


Thus concludes our mini trip. I hope you enjoyed the recommendations!




Let’s chat! Have you read any of the books listed? Did any of them make it to your TBR? What’s one state you want to read a novel about? Have there been any books that really captured where you live?


Similar posts: Mini Book Reviews: From The Light at the Bottom of the World to The Art of Feeling, 7 Books with One Main Setting, and Book Review: Almost American Girl

Sunday, June 21, 2020

My Process for Writing Poetry

I’ve been talking a lot about poetry lately, but I haven’t ever really posted how I write poetry. I hope to remedy that with this post, which isn’t exactly how to guide as much as a how I write explanation. I tend to write more free verse than form poetry, so I’m not really going to talk about meter or rhyme.

And for those of you who are interested, if you haven’t already heard, I plan on releasing a poetry collection later this year, so keep an eye out for Dandelion Symphony.


1)   Finding a Setting

I used to think that I couldn’t write poetry unless I was inspired. Until I came to realize that the main way that I write poetry is based on a particular setting that I’ve been to. Sure, some of the poems take on a life of their own and ultimately may not be based on anywhere real, but I like to keep the setting in my mind while I write. It gives me a good basis.

I discovered this tidbit after a writing prompt sprint with a friend. We each picked a picture for the other, then wrote based on the photo. Each picture, I found, reminded me of someplace I’d been and the memories I had there, making it that much easier to write.

2)   Determining the Format

Once I have an idea what I want to write based on the where, I have to determine the how. Typically, I’ll write in free verse, discovering the poem as I go, but on occasion, I’ll start off with a particular form in mind. Iambic pentameter is perhaps my favorite. There’s something easy to fall into when it comes to ten syllables while still allowing me the freedom to start and end where I need to.

Even when I write free verse, though, I usually have some kind of structure. Sometimes, I decide to write a form poem. Or maybe I’ll pick a topic sentence that shares some themes throughout the stanzas as they evolve. Sometimes the stanzas take on a similar length. Sometimes they don’t. It all depends on the poem.

The first snow is fleeting,
fluttering one moment and
melted the next—

—excerpt from “The First Snow”

3)   Playing with Metaphor

This part is probably my favorite. In my creative writing class, I remember my professor talking about metaphor and the best way to talk about emotion without mentioning the emotion itself. For example, if I’m going to write a poem about neglect, I might write about a sunny day where my garden plants didn’t get enough water and are looking a little droopy. Or maybe if I want to write about excitement, I’ll write about the smell of coffee or the thundering or horse hoofs while horseback riding.

One of the best ways to play with metaphor is to find something that hasn’t been said that way before. If I can’t think of something completely original in all history of writing, I’ll try to think of something I’ve never written before. For example, anger is often likened to a burning fire. But what if anger was instead a river that slowly eroded its banks? Or what if fire was instead a way to transform, like how matter is converted into energy?

4)   Abandoning Clarity

One of the things I love about poetry is that it doesn’t have to make sense. Not like prose does anyway. I’ve often gotten feedback that my prose doesn’t always make sense, but I rarely get feedback that my poems are too confusing. That’s probably because the different forms have different purposes. Prose is typically for telling a story or facts, and verse is for exploring emotion and imagery. Rarely do emotions make sense, though verse can be a way to try to understand them.


5)   Keeping it Honest

No matter what I’m writing about, whether it be a fond memory or a made-up moment, I like to keep it as honest as possible. No place is perfect, and no memory is completely horrid. Keeping each poem honest helps keep me from being over sentimental.

Take my poem, "Romantic", for example. When visiting Venice, I noticed how all the advertisements and film would post all the beauty but leave out the trash or the alleyways. In part it makes sense. Most photographers focus on the perfect angles, but they don’t always capture the experience of being in a place. So when it comes to writing poetry, I like juxtaposing the good with the bad, the unpleasant with the pleasant.

I relish watching the glassblower
tug at the liquid fire and mold it
and pull until he sets a little red horse, solid,
on the table.

But try finding a place to park
outside the city inside a garage
where your car is no longer a car
but a sardine packed among sardines.

—excerpt from “Romantic”

Let’s chat! Any fellow poets out there? What’s your process for writing poetry? Do you prefer form or free verse?




Similar posts: Poetry Collection Announcement: Dandelion Symphony, 3 Types of Writers You Should Know, and The Importance of Poetry

Sunday, June 14, 2020

7 of my Go-To Authors

For a while, I didn’t used to understand what it was like to have a go-to author. I didn’t understand why people would see a new book pop up by a certain author, and they’d immediately add it to their To-Be-Read list or maybe they’d even buy it without having read it first. What madness was this?

After I read more extensively, though, I noticed certain authors starting to pop up again and again in my stack. And when I found myself in a reading slump, I’d go to the library and grab something by one of those authors even if I hadn’t even read the description. I’ve even bought books I’ve never read before and actually liked them. I broke my own rules because the books were by certain go-to authors.

This post is by no means an extensive list. I have more go-to authors. The number seven just looks good on the blog.

The following authors are organized alphabetically by last name.



1)     Akemi Dawn Bowman

Her debut novel, Starfish, was so, so good! A contemporary YA novel about Kiko who likes creating art but struggles with social anxiety. I found the story to be super relatable. The characters were well-developed, and while I didn’t want to believe narcissistic people like Kiko’s mother could exist, I have a family member like her.

Two years ago, Bowman released an equally well-written book, Summer Blue Bird that ripped my heart out. And it was set in Hawai’i! It was probably the first book I’ve read that captured the setting and culture perfectly!

I have yet to read her latest novel, Harley in the Sky, but I’m super excited! Though I haven’t actually bought any of her books yet, they’re on my list.

2)     Orson Scott Card

Like many sci-fi fans, I discovered his work through Ender’s Game. I actually saw the movie first, then read the book. I thought it was okay. Until I read the rest of Ender’s Saga where there are multiple alien species and an AI and more moral dilemmas, and I just fell in love with the series as a whole.

Though I haven’t enjoyed the The Shadow Series books half as much as the Ender’s Saga because they lean more toward political than fantastical, I still like how it explores Bean’s perspective. Ender’s Shadow in particular helped me come to terms with the fact that one doesn’t have to be the most intelligent person to make a difference and that it’s okay to accept one’s limitations. I’ll probably end up reading the rest of The Shadow Series eventually.


3)     C. S. Lewis

I grew up reading The Chronicles of Narnia, but it wasn’t until college that I was introduced to his other works of fiction and nonfiction. His sci-fi trilogy is okay. Not great as far as sci-fi goes but interesting as far as a religious study. The others that I’ve really enjoyed have been The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce.

In his collection of essays, God in the Dock, I really enjoyed his logical arguments. They made me think about questions I’d never asked and helped me come to terms with others I’d struggled with for a while.

The books of his that I really want to read/reread include The Problem of Pain, Miracles, and Reflections on the Psalms.

After my undergraduate degree, I went on a C. S. Lewis trip to Oxford and got to see where he lived, worked, and talked with his fellow writer friends. His life is an inspiration.


4)     L. Nicodemus Lyons

In college, my mom introduced me to the author and her books. I got signed copies of her first series Alliance, and read them all during midterms week and fall break. The themes and characters are great, and the amount of research that goes into each book is fantastic!

She recently finished her second series, Allegiance, and I’m super excited to read the conclusion! I feel a little bad because I’ve been struggling with e-books lately, but all the books are out in paperback now. I just have yet to but them.


5)     Brandon Sanderson

I was culling my TBR one day when I came across The Final Empire on Goodreads. After rereading the blurb, I thought I’d give it a try and soon found myself reading anything and everything by Sanderson. So far, I’ve stuck to stories set in the Cosmere (the Mistborn books and The Stormlight Archive) and the Skyward series. I think I’ve figured out who is the character who shows up in all of the Cosmere books, but I may have to go back and reread some of them to double check…

I’m not branching out with the rest of his books just yet because I’m waiting for the release of the untitled Skyward book 3, The Lost Metal (Mistborn, book 7), and Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archives, book 4). Seriously, Sanderson writes so many books, and some of them are doorstops. I wouldn’t be surprised if he one day wrote a book longer than Les Miserables at 655,478 words.

6)     Elizabeth Wein

Wein first introduced me to one of my favorite character tropes—female pilots. Code Name Verity has such details about flying that you just know Wein knows what she’s talking about. She’s even a pilot herself. Though Code Name Verity is by far my favorite, her other historical fiction novels Rose Under Fire and The Pearl Thief are worth reading.

Doing research for this post, I just discovered her latest historical fiction novel, The Enigma Game, comes out in November! Or it’s already out for those of you in the UK. *puppy eyes* Maybe I can get it on Book Depository now… Apparently it’s another novel featuring one of the characters from Code Name Verity, and I’m ecstatic!


7)     Francesca Zappia

Her debut novel Made You Up hooked me when I first picked it up. A contemporary story about a girl named Alex who struggles with schizophrenia with great themes and plot twists. Last summer, I was equally enamored with Eliza and Her Monsters, another contemporary featuring Eliza who struggles with social anxiety.

Though I wasn’t a huge fan of her latest novel, Now Entering Adamsville, as I’m not really a fan of ghost stories, I’m eager to see what she writes next!




Let’s chat! Who are some of your go-to authors? Have you read any books by the authors I listed? Which is your favorite? Any books join your TBR list?


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Sunday, June 7, 2020

Poem: Sandcastles

I probably over explain my poetry. So today, I’m going to let this one speak for itself. Enjoy!




I carve a castle in this sand,
the wet clumps damp and soft
between my fingertips
until the water drains
and lets my walls stand solid
and proud.

As the waves lap at the shore,
I dig a trench out for the water
to fill and drain,
using the excess sand to stack
trickles of towers
atop this architecture.

Yet even with my best effort,
the water comes again
and again
and again,
finally streaking away my reinforcements
and eroding the outer walls
now crumbling.

I had a dream of arches
and pinnacles and grandeur—
I had a plan,
but now, the final wave
washes away my last wall,
now little more than a lump
on the sand,
barely a reminder
of what was.

I know I can build again,
but my arms are sore,
and I’m just
so tired
of fighting
this tide.




Let’s chat! What did you think of the poem? What are some things you are tired of doing that your progress seems to be eroded too quickly? Have you read about my up-and-coming poetry collection yet? Be sure to check it out!


Similar poems: Fog; Fireflies; and Concrete Forest, Paper Meadows