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Monday, January 23, 2017

i'm excited for small people with big worlds // 2017 middle grade releases

(images from Goodreads)
There's something about amazing fiction that makes my heart happy. Amazing middle grade fiction makes my heart even happier. On one hand it's all homey and sweet and family-filled, but it also has this weird ability to tackle big issues in an innocent caring way.

When I was younger (in the middle grade target audience) I didn't read a lot of it beyond Ann M. Martin, Nancy Rue, and Jennifer L. Holm, so I kinda feel like I'm making up for lost time here. Authors like Rebecca Stead, Cecily Anne Paterson, and Karen Foxlee, I wish I had discovered earlier or had published books back then. But, you know, at least I get to read them now. Unashamedly, in fact.

Once I started looking around, I discovered a bunch of interesting-sounding middle grade novels being released this year. I AM SO EXCITED! And I hope I can read as many of these as possible.

Here's a (somewhat long) list with Goodreads links and release months and my excitement where necessary, divided into genre (of course):

X Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson (January) // This sounds a bit like To Kill a Mockingbird with the whole trial thing, but I'm keen to hear it from an African-American viewpoint.

Monday, January 16, 2017

note to self // on process

Dear me:

You know what's equal parts confusing and exciting? Beyond communicating a good (and by good I mean whatever it is you imagine it should be) story, there are, like, no concrete rules for writing. You know what's sad? When the confusing part takes over. When you make up a bunch of rules for no reason. When you convince yourself you have to have a process like everyone else. You end up closing yourself in.

The thing is that when you write, you have to be the most vulnerable, authentic, individual version of yourself. People (other writers, your parents, etc) can teach you the tools, set an example, give bucketfuls of advice, inspire you with their overflowing minds, but the very essence of writing and how it works for you, you kind of have to figure out alone. It's a bit like stumbling around in the dark, to be honest. You might try lots of different things or just think a lot. When you find the light it'll be about what works for you to tell the best story you possibly can. (That's the definition of process we're sticking with for now.)

You know what else? Process changes. Try to shush the part of you that likes things unmessy and is currently sighing, so you can focus on the beauty of all this. You cannot be inflexible if you want to be growing. Because you're exploring and stretching out your fingers to touch something strange, you can't sit still for too long.

Please do not be afraid of change or of taking the time to figure out something new. Find what works best for you; then write like you're running out of time. Remember why you're writing in the first place.


Friday, January 06, 2017

friendship groups + polaroids // a little friendly advice by siobhan vivian #bookreview

I never want to be stuck in the limbo of non-decision again. It's like torturing yourself on purpose. - A Little Friendly Advice by Siobhan Vivian
A Little Friendly Advice by Siobhan Vivian was basically the only thing in my mind for three hours past bedtime. I felt pretty cool about finishing it in one sitting despite the fact that it's a fairly short novel (around 250 pages) and set during a short timespan (a couple of weeks). From the blurb, which introduced us to emotionally damaged sixteen-year-old Ruby, her friendship group of four very different girls, and the cracks appearing at the corners of Ruby's already fragile world, I thought it was bound to be great. (I have a soft spot for friendship stories, especially those that promise flawed characters.) And yes, there were polaroids and buttons and a cute romantic subplot, so it was okay. It deals with issues most, if not all, teenage girls face, so brownie points for that. Not my favourite of all time, but still a sweet, short read.
In no particular order here's what I like best about A Little Friendly Advice: 1) Ruby, Ruby, Ruby! - the dear girl. She's had a messy childhood with her parent's divorce and then her dad shows up on her sixteenth birthday and her friends (one in particular) turn out not the be the nicest, so I felt pretty bad for her. And yes, she is kinda the cliché quiet, op-shop jeans and t-shirt, awkward, average girl, but I love that she comes out of all the difficulties stronger and faces up to her past and makes decisions without changing who she is; 2) the friendship rocks! There're four girls - Ruby, Beth (her best friend since forever who's loyal and protective of Ruby), Maria (who's the edgy, world-wise, frequently-changing-boyfriends one), and Katherine (who Beth adopted into the group and the one who they don't know so much about). Their differences and also their willingness to help each other out are emphasised. They have good hearts, even if they do make mistakes sometimes *cough* Beth. *cough*; 3) how the polaroids link parts of the story together. Siobhan Vivian really used them to their full potential. I love how well they're described and, in the end when it all comes together, I smiled at the continuity; 4) how the flashbacks worked out. I took a bit to figure out if I liked it or not, but in the end they worked well. They helped me understand Ruby's personality and the backstories of other characters. Because they were triggered by events in the storyline, they felt natural, too; 5) I'm not the world's greatest romance fan, but I have to admit Ruby and Charlie's relationship was pretty cute. Apart from kissing, they acted like normal friends, and there was a plot twist adding dimension to the relationship. I felt sorry for Charlie, though; he, like Ruby, deserved a better home life.
And, now, unfortunately, a couple of things that made me twitch (or squint, or something like that): 1) Ruby's parents. They just had so many issues and were dishonest and stuff. I disliked them so much. (Maybe I was meant to?) But they were also portrayed as people Ruby should trust and who loved her so I don't know what to feel?! 2) the conflicts. They wrapped up too quickly for my liking. Like, the whole lying and cheating and stuff was hardly talked about?! (Especially the whole situation with that one friend of Ruby's.) If the novel had been longer, they would've been opportunity for better conclusions all around, I feel. Open endings done well are amazing, but this one didn't do it for me. Even so, while reading the actual last scene, I found myself smiling like Ruby was.
My rating of A Little Friendly Advice by Siobhan Vivian is 3.5 out of 5 stars. I recommend it if you want a short read or are a fan of friendships, Polaroids, buttons, and emotionally scarred characters. If, in the rest of her books, Siobhan Vivian's characters are interestingly flawed and plots are sweetly quirky, I wouldn't mind reading them.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

what i read // 2016 favourites

via Pinterest

I really hope the whole season/summer has been a great time for you. I also hope you've got lots of books to keep you company or you were given some for Christmas. My perfect Boxing Day will always involve books, to be honest. : )

I didn't quite reach my Goodreads 2016 reading challenge. I was, like, five books short of it, which is sad, but this post isn't really about that. It's about celebrating all the awesome books I did read in 2016, and, you know what? I read some pretty great books. I ventured outside of my historical and middle-grade fiction comfort zone of which I'm super proud, haha.

Because lists are the best and help me make sense of everything, I've made one of my favourite books read in 2016. Yes, it's in somewhat of an order, and, yes, there are Goodreads links. But there won't be, like, proper reviews or anything, only a brief premise/blurb, some comparative titles and why I loved it or you might like to read it.