Tag Archives: Book Review

Every Detail in Science Fiction and Fantasy Doesn’t Need to Make Sense

4 Apr

This is probably an unpopular opinion–and perhaps a less-than-stellar writing tip–but every detail in science fiction and fantasy doesn’t need to make sense. I’m talking about characters, world building, traditions, landscapes, magic systems, etc. Granted, of course most of your story needs to. Like 95% of it and certainly the most essential parts. But every little detail doesn’t require an origin story or explanation. 

I’ve been writing science fiction and fantasy (SFF) for over a decade now and reading it for much longer. Over the years, I’ve noticed a trend in word counts escalating, and while I love large books as much as the next SFF reader, it’s often unnecessary. 

You can have a fantastic, vibrant magical world without dedicating 700 pages to it. 

The way I write SFF might be a little different than others, but I tend to focus on my point of view (POV) character and plot before I flesh out my world. I mean, of course I know the basics of my magic system, but I don’t get into the nitty gritty until I know exactly what’s needed for the actual story to take place. In fact, I tend to write my first draft without much of my world figured out, not only to see what literally happens but also to get to know my POV character. It’s important to understand what your POV character would truly know. Yes, even about their own culture or circumstances. 

Look at your own world. 

Do you know why daylight savings started off the top of your head? Where wedding traditions stemmed from? How the border of your state or country was decided? What about why your neighbor is rude one day and sweet the next? 

No one knows everything, even if they love random fact-checking. 

Your science fiction or fantasy novel needs to make sense just enough for the story to suspend disbelief. Yes, some readers’ standards are going to be higher than others. But you’re not writing to satisfy every reader out there. You are writing the best story that you can. Sometimes that means cutting back and focusing on the elements that are most important. In fact, I’d love to see more SFF that is as quick and light as a cozy mystery. I want to flip through a SFF book in one afternoon and be blown away. And I know it’s possible. 

Look at The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells or Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor (both published by TOR.) 

We need shorter, quicker SFF. Not only for fun, but for accessibility, too. Not everyone can undertake a 700-page novel. Not everyone wants to. 

Allowing space for shorter, quicker SFF stories may also allow publishers to take more risks on genre mash-ups. Bigger books are more costly to print and shelve. With shorter books, we could experiment and see if readers would love that quiet fantasy that takes place in a fairy’s coffee shop. That coming-of-age story about a tech geek that invents a pet robot and then loses it. A fun rom-com in space. Graphic novels are already doing this. Check out Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and The Tea Dragon Society by Kay O’Neill. I desperately want more novels like these. 

Science fiction and fantasy doesn’t have to be dark. (Perhaps another post for another day.) It doesn’t have to be 700 pages either. Readers deserve variety in tone, length, and more. In order to achieve this, we need to remove the pressure of explaining every little detail in our stories. Readers and authors alike need to be open-minded to exploring novels with lighter structures. If we do that, I think we’ll see new genres emerge. 

The possibilities are truly endless. 

~SAT 

My Favorite Books of 2021

6 Dec

Every year I blog about my favorite reads, though I admit that this year was hard! I went really out of my comfort zone and read a lot of age categories and genres, but particularly adult romance, including the famous Ice Planet Barbarians series. This was also just a busy year in general for me. My (now) husband and I bought our first home, renovated said home, planned a wedding, got married, and went on a trip. I went back into the office for the first time since March 2020, and we’re still in a pandemic, so naturally, my focus was a little all over the place. I started so many amazing novels that I never ended up finishing, not because they weren’t amazing, but because I had to return them to the library before I got through it, and instead of checking it back out, more holds continued to roll in. That said, I finished reading 87 books this year. You can see the full list on my Goodreads.  To add a little clarity, these are books that I read in 2021, not necessarily books that released in 2021. My favorites are below! I hope you find something to read. I’d also love to hear what you loved this year. 

Verse novels

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall and Me (Moth) by Amber McBride are fantastic, heart-felt reads about difficult topics. I greatly admired both stories, and I cannot wait to read more from these diverse authors. These are young adult novels written in verse, but if you’re not used to poetry, I think you’d still be able to easily follow them and enjoy the content. Definitely recommended for kids going through hard times!

Graphic novels

All three of these graphic novel—The Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag, A Man and His Cat by Umi Sakurai, and The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen—took my hand and held it as we trapezed through fantastic art, adorable storylines, and heartache. I highly recommend all three of them. A Man and His Cat is a four-book series. Each book is a gem. And they’ll make you want to hug your cats even harder. 

Young Adult Novels

Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare: I’m a huge Cassandra Clare fan. I’ve been reading her Shadowhunter books since I was 15, and the current trilogy is one of my favorites. Chain of Iron hits you in the feels so many times, it is cruel. I literally cannot wait for the last book. 

Graceling by Kristin Cashore: This book has been on TBR for years. Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I only just read it. It’s intense, exciting, and fun. I loved Poe so much, and I know it’ll stay with me for a long time.   

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong: I listened to the audio book while painting my house and could not have been more enthralled. I actually stopped painting at times just to listen! And honestly, listening to this story was really neat because there are lots of languages, and that narrator speaks them. For me, it added atmosphere. If you haven’t checked out this Romeo and Juliet retelling, do so! The sequel is now out, too. 

Adult novels

Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren: This is a pretty well-known adult romance book. It’s heavy on the sex, and yet still has a substantial plot interwoven throughout. I can see why it’s popular. I finished it in a day or so. It definitely comes with alpha male energy, so if that’s not your thing, you may not like this one. But it’s an entertaining read! 

From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L Armentrout: This book had very delicious fantasy trope that you want in a great fantasy series. Despite all the tropes, Armentrout found amazing ways to twist them to give this story a fresh, exciting feel. I immediately put book 2 on hold, and I’m currently waiting on book 3. It’s also a rather large read, but you’ll love every minute if you adore paranormal romance or romance fantasy.  

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang: This book is epic, both in word count and in content. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. It’s a very, very gruesome read, but I absolutely loved it. Every scene kept me on the tip of my toes, and I was looking for any excuse to get back to reading. I listened to the audiobook as I read along, so that helped! All three books are now out as well, so you don’t have to wait for the sequel to drop. 

Most Surprising

She Wouldn’t Change a Thing by Sarah Adlakha

I picked up this book knowing that it was about a woman who had to face a parallel version of her life and decide between her old life and her new one. I definitely wasn’t expecting such a dark, thought-provoking read. I emphasize the darkness of this piece, because the description didn’t get into the types of trauma this book covers, and it gets into a lot of really serious topics, so be warned if you have any potential triggers. That said, I could not put this book down. Even in the slowest parts, I just had to keep reading to know what would ultimately happen. The entire book is uncomfortable in the best ways. I had to keep stopping to go debat a new question with my husband every chapter. It’s definitely a great book club read. I still think about it from time to time. 

Honorable Mention

Ferryman by Claire McFall

This is a new category this year, because – to be 100% honest – I had already written this entire blog post before I picked up Ferryman by Claire McFall. (That’s the risk of writing one of these posts with one month in the year to go.) If I had read it earlier this year, it probably would’ve been placed in my favorite YA slots. I absolutely loved Ferryman by Claire McFall. It’s about a girl who dies and then must cross the wastelands of the afterlife with her ferryman…who she falls in love with. Problem is, once she crosses, she’ll lose him forever. I mean, the stakes alone were enough to get me to pick up this read. It’s apparently a re-release. This book originally came out in Scotland in 2013, but released in the US this year. There are two more books in the trilogy, and it’s being made into a movie. I can totally see why! I could not put it down. (And I really struggled to connect with books this year.) This one is a must-read.

Ultimate Favorite

The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene

Never did I ever think an adult nonfiction title would top my list. I mean, I am a fantasy/science fiction sort of a gal. But I was utterly engrossed by this book. It tackles the subject of war by looking at different strategies of battle. What I loved most is that it’s organized by strategy, so the book jumps around time, rather than being written in a historically chronological format. This keeps the stories feeling fresh and exciting, and you can start to see the parallels through time more. I loved that Greene gave credit to women and people of color, particularly Alexander the Great’s mother as an influence when she is so rarely referenced in other narratives. I found myself taking pages and pages of notes for a book idea I’ve been working on for a long time, only to realize I was practically writing everything down. It’s worth picking up, and the audiobook is incredible. The narrator has a way of setting atmosphere while never letting it overtake or exaggerate the facts. A must-read if you’re interested in warfare and history. 

These were my favorite reads of 2021! What were yours?

~SAT

My Favorite Books of 2020

5 Dec

At the end of every year I like to blog about my favorite reads—the books I couldn’t put down, the books that shocked me, the books that will stay with me forever—and this year is no different. I’m going to be talking about my 2020 favs. If you’re interested in my previous years, here’s 2019, 2018, 2017. To add a little clarity, these are books that I read in 2020, not necessarily books that released in 2020. You can see the full list of books that I’ve read this year on Goodreads.

This year, I read a total of 96 books (though I admit I’m still adding to it)! It’s kind of funny actually. Last year, I remarked that it was the year of the audiobook, because I listened to a lot of them while driving for my day job. Well, that came to a screeching halt this year. I’ve been working from home since March, so I haven’t listened to many audiobooks this year. Instead, I spent a lot of time reading Webtoons and re-reading old favorites. I guess you could say it was the year of nostalgia for me. But there was still plenty of new reads, too! Out of all the new reads I came across, these were my favorites. 

Favorite series:

The Folk of the Air trilogy by Holly Black

I was way behind on this trend and picked up this trilogy for the first time this year. It’s also my audiobook exception. I listened to all three during my commute to work before the pandemic sent me home, and I gotta say that I devoured these. I started taking the long route just to listen to more (or sitting in my driveway after getting home from work just to listen to the next scene). The audiobooks are fantastic. I, like many YA readers, loved this trilogy from beginning to end. I don’t want to say too much, because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I found Jude so easy to cheer on. Cardan had to grow on me (but that’s the point!), and the magic was super fun. The second book was probably my favorite. But in the end, I am convinced that Holly Black is the queen of fae. 

Favorite Science Fiction & Fantasy

Sci-Fi: Skyhunter by Marie Lu: I’m a huge fun of Marie Lu, so I’m always looking forward to her latest. This book is wild, and I especially loved the first half. It was really imaginative, from hints of our world as a lost-past, to vampire-zombie-like beasts that are attacking everyone, my heart was pounding. I knew I’d love it from the opening pages alone.  

Dystopian: All These Monsters by Amy Tintera. I picked this up on a whim when I saw it while scanning the library catalog. If you loved 2009 dystopian books, this is the perfect read. It has all those elements that you used to love, plus some. Clara, the main character, is really easy to root for, and I think the second book will be even more explosive! 

Fantasy: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab: If you want to sink into prose like it’s a warm, rose-petal bath after a long, terrible day, then this book is for you. I definitely think it’s among Schwab’s strongest work. It’s slow, but in a delicious way. So if you need constant action, it might not be for you. But if you want an emotional discovery of what happens when a woman wishes for independency from a god of the night, then pick this up immediately. You will not be disappointed. 

Favorite Contemporaries

Favorite Thriller: They Never Learn by Layne Fargo. I’m starting this off with a trigger warning: TW: sexual assault, especially to do with college campuses. This book was hard to read, but oh so worth it. It deals heavily with themes of sexual assault, especially in regard to what is happening on college campuses. That said, it’s about a professor who is taking matters into her own hands and killing men who have done horrible things but weren’t punished. It’s a brutal, raw book, and I couldn’t put it down. But the trigger warning should not be taken lightly. Take care of yourself while reading, and be careful when recommending it to others please!

Contemporary: Unpregnant by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan. (It’s also a movie now!) I read this at the very, very beginning of 2020, but it has stayed with me! It starts off in Missouri, which is where I currently live. At the time of publication, a minor could only get an abortion with a parent’s consent form. Since then, Missouri has shut down all abortion clinics. So this book was really timely. It follows the story of a girl who wants an abortion in Missouri, but can’t get one, until an old friend offers to help drive her to New Mexico. An insane road trip happens, and you have a really great story about friendship and family, while tackling some important issues. 

Verse: The Truth Project by Dante Medema: This book is written in verse and follows a girl who takes a genealogy test only to learn that she is the result of an affair—one her father and siblings don’t know about. It’s a powerful story and such a quick read. Definitely recommended. 

Favorite Fun Categories

Favorite debut: Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen: Ever is sent away on what is supposed to be an educational Taiwan trip over the summer, but it turns out to be a place where usually strict parents look the other way. For the first time in her life, Ever has lots of room for rebellion, parties, and boys. I won’t lie, I am Team Xavier, and I really hope we get to see more of him in the sequel. This book is so much fun. 

Favorite What-is-happening-right-now: Horrid by Katrina Leno: This was my favorite horror read. I picked it up over Halloween and read it in one sitting. It’s such a quick read, and it slowly immerses you in the uncomfortable until you are stuck flipping pages, gapping. It’s so good, and the ending—CHILLS.

That book I should’ve read forever ago, but finally got to it: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson: This book is also that book. You know, the one I should’ve read forever ago, but somehow just read this year and totally loved. It sat on my TBR pile forever, and now I have no idea why. Goes to show you that sometimes you can find those favorite reads in those unread books piling up on your nightstand. If you love magical prose and books that are magic, then this book is for you. It’s one of my favs. 

Biggest surprise: 

Creatures by Chrissy Van Meter: I think I heard about this book through Shelf Awareness, a library newsletter, but don’t quote me on that. I just remember seeing the cover, stopping, and reading the description, then needing to read it. Friendly warning, you will feel like you are drowning while reading this book—which is the whole point. Talk about atmosphere. It is done with terrifying perfection in this novel, and that alone makes me recommend it to everyone I know. The content is really focused on family sins and how generational trauma is passed on from one person to another, but you will feel like you’ve lived in a coastal lobster village after putting it down. SO. GOOD.

Webtoons

I needed to make an entire section dedicated to Webtoons this year, because I read so many of them and loved them even more. If you haven’t yet checked them out, I highly recommend doing so. In case you missed it, I also wrote a small article: What Novelists Can Learn From Webtoons. That said, my top three are:

Thriller/Mystery: The Purple Hyacinth, which follows a cop who teams up with a serial killer’s henchman to catch the ultimate crime boss, a person who caused an act of terror ten years prior. Did I mention the cop can tell when someone is lying? Also, this Webtoon has the best soundtrack ever. 

Fantasy: Siren’s Lament: A young adult fantasy romance that really focuses on grief, loss, family, and friendship after Lyra, who’s broken hearted falls into the sea and is kissed by a merman. The exchange is supposed to turn him back into a human and her into a mermaid, but instead they both get stuck in-between. Now the mystery must be solved before Lyra turns into a full mermaid and loses her memories—and her chance at love.  

Sci-Fi: In the bleak midwinter: A sci-fi for all terminator fans. Really, though, I’m not even the biggest fan of the terminator, but I LOVE this webtoon. It starts in the present day, but quickly devolves into the future, where Anya finds herself immortalized against her will, and the world as she knows it is gone, robots hunting down humans. Did I mention that she has a soulmate timer? (A timer that goes off when you meet your soulmate??? AND it goes off when she meets one of the killer robots.) Dun. Dun. Dun.   

Ultimate favorite:

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: I read this front to back without stopping, which was a big deal in 2020. I had a really hard time getting into books this year, I won’t lie. Not because I don’t love reading, but because this year was so damn hard. THIS book made me forget everything, and that is why it gets my favorite slot. It follows Avery, who inherits a lot of money from a total stranger, but there’s one rule: She must live in the mansion for one year, and the mansion includes the billionaire’s four grandsons—not to mention dozens of head-twisting puzzles that Avery must solve in order to understand why she inherited his wealth. It’s full of mystery, family secrets, a true tragedy, and a little bit of falling in love. I cannot wait for book two. 

I hope you found some books you might check out! I would also love to hear about your favorites. I’m always looking for recs. 

Who knows? Maybe one of your recs will be on my favorites list next year. 😉 

Happy reading!

~SAT

Black Authors I Love + Resources

6 Jun

Today I wanted to share Black authors I love and some that I’m looking forward to reading this year! Why? It’s important that we all take the time right now to read and listen to Black stories, reflect, and help in any way that we can. Sign petitions. Educate yourself. Spread the word. I also wanted to share some resources, so that you can help support Black voices.

Books I Absolutely Loved:

Honestly, there are so many books I love, I could go on forever, so I’m talking about my top three, and placing more in the photo below. I hope you check them all out!

  1. The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton: Dhonielle Clayton is one of my favorite authors. I first started following her after I read Tiny Pretty Things, which was a duology co-written with Sona Charaipotra. Everything she writes is amazing. So much drama! So much luscious description. So much fun!
  2. Pride by Ibi Zoboi: I recently reread this novel, and I loved it as much as I did the first time. The characters are really realistic, and I loved watching them grow. I really enjoyed the cultural aspects of this novel, too. Family is so important in this book, and it was really refreshing and lovely. This is a Pride and Prejudice retelling.
  3. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo: The emotions in this book leap off the page. I read it in one sitting, and I’m always recommending it at the library. It’s worth reading over and over again.

More Books To Check Out:

What books by Black voices have you read that you loved? What books are on your TBR? I’m always looking to expand my list! Also, every Monday, Sandra Proudman and I run #Giveaways4Writers on Twitter, where we give away query critiques, pitch feedback, and more. On Monday 6/8, we’ll be giving away query critiques to two writers who give a shoutout to their favorite book by a Black author. Announcement goes live at 8 AM (PST) on Sandra’s page, so give her a follow.

How Can You Help?

Here is a link to a National Resource List curated by Dr. Joan Morgan. It includes nationwide charities, free legal help, mutual aid funds, protest tips, and more. I love this document because it breaks everything down by topic, as well as highlights how those who don’t have the ability to donate or protest can help. It’s a fantastic resource, and I encourage everyone to check it out.

More Resources:

Open Yale courses: African American History: From Emancipation to Present

13 Podcasts to Listen to This Black History Month (And Every Month): I’m a huge fan of podcasts. Code Switch is a great one, too.

How to Financially Help BLM with NO Money/Leaving Your House: This is a YouTube video that you can play to help collect funds for the movement. Do not skip the ads.

If you have more resources, please drop them in the comments below!

~SAT

P.S. I was SCBWI KS/MO’s featured author of the month for June! Check out my interview here for writing tips, publishing insight, and a shout-out to my hero, A.K.A. my dad. 

My Favorite Books of 2019

7 Dec

According to Goodreads, I’ve read 98 books this year, and it was the year of the audiobook! My new job requires a lot of driving around to various library locations. I’m often spending 2 hours on the road, an hour there, an hour back. I’ve really embraced my time in the car by listening to audiobooks, mostly nonfiction (because I have the hardest time listening to fiction? Is that just me? I love reading fiction, but it doesn’t seem to stick when I listen to it. Anyway…)

Just like last year, I wanted to share my ultimate favorites in each category. These books didn’t necessarily release this year. I just read them this year. If you want a complete list of books I read, check out my 2019 Goodreads challenge. Also, follow me on Twitter! Every day in December I’m sharing a book I read this year and why I loved it.

I hope you find something to read!

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Favorite Picture Book

Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s The Favorite by Stacy McAnulty

What can I say? I’m a sucker for cat books, especially black cat books. But really, this is an adorable book. The artwork is clean, crisp, and fun. Plus, there’s all sorts of pets in this book, so if you have a little one who love animals, this is a great one.

Favorite Middle Grade

Tunnels of Bones by Victoria Schwab

This is book #2 in the Cassidy Blake series, so definitely check out book #1, City of Bones. It’s about a girl who can cross the veil between the living and the dead, with a plot twist. Her best friend is a ghost! And she travels with her ghost-hunting parents to various famous locations for spiritual activity. It’s spooky and fun. I cannot wait for book #3.

Favorite Book Told in Verse

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

This beautifully written book is told from the perspective of a young girl who must leave Syria. While she’s in America, she must cope with her family left behind, the new family members she lives with, and culturally differences. It’s really powerful, and I encourage everyone to read it.

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Favorite Graphic Novel

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei

This is such a powerful (and important) graphic novel. It’s technically a nonfiction graphic novel, too, which is a genre on the rise, and I really enjoyed reading this. It’s a real-life account of George Takei’s childhood spent in a Japanese internment camp in the United States. What I found especially powerful about this graphic novel is how Takei decided to stay in his child’s mindset, showing how he perceived his reality and what was happening to his family. It’s very touching and absolutely disturbing at the same time. I also enjoyed the artwork and the few notes Takei included to explain what was actually going on. Both of his parents were amazing people, but I really remember his mother from the graphic novel. She was a saint.

Favorite Adult Fiction

Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett

I’m a huge fan of TOR, and this is one of their recent releases. It’s very, very short, so if you want a quick read, I recommend this one. It’s a future America, where everyone is pressured to carry firearms with them. (Your life is your responsibility.) To remind citizens of this, America hosts a gameshow where they randomly orchestrate mass shootings. That’s all I’m going to say. The book is absolutely politically charged and very heavy, despite its short length, and I found myself thinking about this book for months after reading it. To be 100% honest, I wouldn’t say it was one of my favorites while I was reading, but at the end of the year, when I was reflecting on everything I read, I didn’t forget this one, and I wanted to desperately to talk about it again. If that’s not a win, I don’t know what is. That’s why I recommend this one.

Favorite Adult Nonfiction

In Praise of Poison Ivy by Anita Sanchez

This category was arguably the hardest one for me to pick a winner. 2019 truly was the year of adult nonfiction. I read so much of it, and I’m only starting to read more. There are a bazillion books I wanted to put here, but in the end, In Praise of Poison Ivy stayed with me the longest. Why would I read about poison ivy, you ask? I mostly picked it up because I was rewriting my botany-focused books and wanted to expand my knowledge. And I couldn’t put it down. The history of poison ivy – how it was discovered, why it was spread world-wide, which famous figures in history wrote about it – is fascinating. I honestly couldn’t believe everything I learned in this book. Plus, now I have tons of home remedies for poison ivy.

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FAVORITE YOUNG ADULT CONTEMPORARY

Doomsday by Katie Henry

This book is about a girl who believes the world will end one day, and she is ready for disaster. She doesn’t like to call herself a prepper, so I won’t either. In the end, though, I really loved this book. Honestly, it was a book I could’ve used as a teen. It has some great conversations about anxiety and mental health, and I really appreciated it. There’s also aspects of religion (particularly Mormonism) that you don’t typically see in young adult novels, as well as conversations on homelessness and generational trauma. It’s a bit long (over 400 pages), but I thought it was well worth the read.

FAVORITE YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION

Contagion by Erin Bowman

Technically, I wanted to nominate both Contagion and its sequel Immunity for this category, but the second one would’ve forced me to talk spoilers, so I thought I’d focus on book 1. This book is amazing. It takes place in space, but isn’t too bogged down by science, and it’s full of action, plot twists, and terror. I was legit scared while reading parts of this book, and that never happens. I loved everything about this book, but I don’t want to say too much, because I think it would spoil some of the experience. Just know that you’ll be terrified and thrilled while reading if you love science fiction and are okay with being scared in space.

FAVORITE YOUNG ADULT DEBUT

Frankly in Love by David Yoon

This book is incredibly sweet, also very honest. It follows Frank Li, a Korean-American teenager, as he navigates dating with his parents pressuring him to date a Korean girl rather than his American girlfriend. But he is navigating so much more than that. I highly recommend this book. There are so many layers, I can’t even get into all the characters. I picked it up thinking I was reading a love story, when I ended up crying over his family’s relationships. It’s a very touching book, about family, friends, loss, and culture.

Biggest Surprise

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The Kingdom by Jess Rothenburg

I love young adult fantasy and science fiction. It’s sort of my thing. So it might come as a surprise to many of you that MY biggest surprise was a YA SFF crossover, but I’ll explain. THE KINGDOM was heavily marketed as HBO’s West World for young adult readers. And I admit, I am not a fan of West World. (What?! I know. But I digress.) I LOVED this book. It takes place in a Disney-type theme park, where patrons are invited into a princess-filled world to fulfill all their dreams. Except there’s been a murder. And we’re reading the book from the potential murder’s perspective. Also one of the robot princesses. There are so many awesome plot twists in this book, subtle nuances, and conversations on AI, freedom, and dreams. I loved everything about it. I felt so immersed in the creativity, and the time shifts from after the murder to the times leading up to the murder kept me captivated until the end. So good!

MY ULTIMATE FAVORITE

American Royals by Katharine McGee

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If you’ve been following me for a while, this might not be a huge surprise for you. I’m a HUGE fan of Katharine McGee. The Thousandth Floor trilogy has a place in my heart as one of my favorite light sci-fi series. This is her newest series. It follows multiple characters just like her last series, but this time, it takes place in an alternate America, where America has a royal family. The drama is there, the tension is unbreakable, and the plot twists keep coming. I love how McGee always makes the worst possible thing happen to her characters right when you think they might get a chance at happiness. It’s such a guilty pleasure, and I didn’t put this book down once. I cannot wait for the sequel. I am DYING for the sequel. I need it now.

I hope you enjoy the reads!

What were your favorite books this year?

~SAT

YA Scavenger Hunt Fall 2018!

2 Oct

Welcome to the YA Scavenger Hunt! 

Hello! I’m Shannon A. Thompson—young adult author, blogger, and poet. I’m also a youth librarian, so I obviously love to talk about books.

(Fun fact: I recently cut off 8 inches of my hair, so this is the shortest my hair has ever been. I’m still not used to it.)

About Me!

  • During the day, I work as a Youth Librarian, but at night, I write stories about monsters and mayhem. I just finished my first historical, though.
  • I’m addicted to coffee, KDramas, and Sailor Moon.
  • I have three cats that I call my little gremlins: Boo Boo, Bogart, and Kiki. Boo Boo beat cancer this year!
  • Winter is my favorite season: I am so ready for snow, big sweaters, and hot cocoa.
  • According to Goodreads, I’ve read over 100 books this year. Always feel free to reach out if you’re looking for a rec.
  • I will be signing books at the 2018 Story Center Local Author Fair in Kansas City, Missouri on November 17 at 3 PM! My books will also be paired with a custom-made pastry, so it’ll be super fun (and sweet).

I’m on TEAM PURPLE this year.

Searching for my exclusive bonus content? You’ll have to keep searching.

Somewhere on this blog hop, you can watch a behind-the-scenes video of the Minutes Before Sunset audiobook. You can also enter to win a signed copy of any of my books below. Before you go looking for it, check out the amazing author I’m hosting.

But maybe you need the rules first.

Scavenger Hunt Prize Rules

Directions: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve hidden my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the PURPLE TEAM, and then add them up. (Don’t worry, you can use a calculator!)

Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by October 7 at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

Now that we all know the rules, please welcome…

I am super excited to be hosting…

Kristy Centeno!

About the Author

Kristy Centeno is the author of the Secrets of the Moon saga and Keeper Witches series.

She has always had a passion for books and after years of being an avid reader, she decided to transform her desire to write into a reality and thus, her first novel was born. When she’s not busy taking care of her five children or holding down the fort, she finds time to sit and do what she loves the most: writing.

Website I Facebook I Twitter

About Dissension

In an age where humans dominate the world…

And supernatural creatures exist in the cover of darkness…

He must find a place among his rivals or risk losing it all.

Hayden has had his hands tied coping with life outside of the Institutes. He’s come far despite all the bumps along the way. He’s allowed himself to believe he could live a normal life…until a new threat makes its presence known.

In an instant, his entire life is flipped upside down once more. Those he cares for are not safe with or without him. There’s no escaping his past. Or permanent solution to his problems. One way or another he’ll become the target for all those looking to destroy the hybrid who endangers their way of life and challenges everything they’ve ever known.

Now he must decide between kill or be killed, and risk becoming the very monster he’s fought so hard to prove he’s not. Freedom has come with a price, but is he willing to pay the cost?

Bonus Material:

Unedited scene from Defiance (Book 3 in the Deliverance series)

Chapter One

Kristina

The loud clanking of a mechanical door somewhere in the background drags me out of a semi-conscious state and zaps me into the petrifying reality that awaits me. Everything comes flooding back the second I’m fully aware. The memories of what lead to this moment still very much fresh as if minutes had passed when in fact, I’ve been traveling in this SUV for hours, medicated yet, semi-conscious the entire time, listening, taking mental notes.

I pop my eyes open to look out the window. We have entered an underground parking lot. The sound I heard was that of the enormous steel door closing behind us. We have arrived at our destination. Thus, marking the end of my freedom.

My heart hammers inside my chest. Panic starts to kick in. How screwed am I?

I frantically scan the carpark for any familiar faces. Aside from several automobiles varying in sizes and color, there’s not much else to see. I inhale softly via my nostrils, a vain attempt to calm my growing terror. A Legion member betrayed Grandma Rose and handed me over to the Radcliffe Institute. I’m still not quite sure why. I remember vague details of the conversation just before a man held me down and plunged a syringe into my arm.

Unconsciously, I rub the area where the needle pierced my skin. It stings. The bastard imbedded it into my flesh more forcefully than necessary. Not that it matters now. The treatment I’m going to receive inside those walls will be far worse. I haven’t the slightest of idea what I’m in for, but if it’s anything like what Hayden endured, I might not make it out of here alive. Or see daylight ever again. At least not from the outside.

The SUV makes its way across the parking almost with a purpose. It stops with its front bumper no more than teen feet from a concrete staircase. A set of white doors open almost immediately to reveal five men clad in the all too familiar gear and fatigues the guards at the Institutes wear: black pants, long-sleeved tops with bulletproof vests, steel toed boots, and protectors around their wrists, forearms, and shins. They all sport rifles. A pair of small automatic handguns are strapped to their outer thighs. None have them drawn. I guess they’re not expecting much of a fight from me.

A man and a woman wearing white lab coats with badges above their left breasts push past the guards to the front. They descend five concrete stairs and wait by the landing, observing the SUV from their vantage point, staring with neutral expressions. I can’t tell if they can see me through the heavily tinted windows, but I have the hunch they’re expecting me and not someone else. This elevates my fear up another notch.

I swallow hard. There is no way out. No place to run. No one to help me. Hayden is probably unaware of where I’ve been taken. If he’s still alive, that is. Last I saw him; he was being torn into by a group of bloodthirsty vampires.

“Don’t look so scared, Kristina. You’re in good hands,” the man sitting to my left says. His tone is casual, uninterested, but to me he sounds more like he’s mocking the entire situation as if it’s nothing. In all fairness, he probably doesn’t care either way.

I look at him and glare, but I can’t find the courage to counter with something clever or badass. Fear does funny things to people and it’s sapped all the wit right out of me.

He tosses a sympathetic look in my direction. “Like I mentioned before, we have an offer for you that you simply can’t refuse.” Now he’s just being an ass. That sarcastic smirk plastered on his face confirms it.

The driver opens the front door and exits the SUV, interrupting the retort working its way out of my mouth.

“Have you got the package?” the lady asks, squinting to see through the windshield.

“Yes. She’s fully awake in the back seat.”

I blink. It doesn’t take a genius to realize she’s referring to me. I’m the only female in the SUV. Hence, I’m the package. I’m no longer a person, but a thing. That’s how the Institute works. Once you are in their possession you lose any illusion of self-worth you had.

Thank you for coming on, Kristy!

Her opening chapter was so exciting! The last time I was that blown away was 23 days ago. I suggest taking that information and entering the YASH contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me and many more. Just check out all these awesome titles on the PURPLE TEAM.

To enter, you need to write down my fav number, and find all the other numbers on the PURPLE TEAM, add them up, and you’ll have the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

Exclusive Giveaway!

Thank you so much for stopping by! While you’re here, don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter bonus contest I am hosting exclusively during the YA Scavenger Hunt. One lucky reader will win a signed copy of ANY of my books. They will also win signed swag from both of my series. Good luck!

Enter this Rafflecopter for your chance to win.

Ready to move on to the next link in the hunt? Then head on over to visit author MELINDA R. CORDELL’s page.

LINK TO NEXT BLOG

 

YA Scavenger Hunt Spring 2018!

3 Apr

Welcome to the YA Scavenger Hunt! 

Hello! I’m Shannon A. Thompson—young adult author, blogger, and poet. Every Saturday, I share writing and publishing tips right here. I also love to talk about books.

Fun fact: I recently found out I’ve been nearsighted my WHOLE life, so this is my first year seeing everything!

About Me!

  • I’m addicted to coffee, KDramas, and Sailor Moon.
  • During the day, I work as a Youth Librarian, but at night, I write stories about monsters and mayhem.
  • I have three cats that I call my little gremlins.
  • I became an aunt this year!
  • On May 12, I will be signing books, talking on panels, and teaching poetry at the LitUp Festival in Independence, Missouri for the Mid-Continent Public Library! Check it out.

I’m on TEAM BLUE this year.

Searching for my exclusive bonus content? You’ll have to keep searching.

Somewhere on this blog hop, you can read a never-before-seen preview of Bad Bloods: October Bone (#5). That’s right. You will get to see a piece of Skeleton and Ameline’s story…and I must warn you, the title has a huge hint as to how dreary their duology will be. You can also enter to win a signed copy of any of my books below. Before you go looking for it, check out the amazing author I’m hosting. (JUST WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE HER NOVEL’S COVER.)

But maybe you need the rules first.

Scavenger Hunt Prize Rules

Directions: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve hidden my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the BLUE TEAM, and then add them up. (Don’t worry, you can use a calculator!)

Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by April 8, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

Now that we all know the rules, please welcome…

I am super excited to be hosting…

LM Preston!

About LM Preston: Preston was born in Washington, DC. She loved to create poetry and short-stories as a young girl. She has an obsessive desire to write and create stories of young people who overcome unbelievable odds.

About Insatiable Darkness:

EmVee didn’t know what to think about this new town her father’s passion for boxing lured them. It was an unlikely location for her to pursue her dream of going semi-pro. Just when she started getting used to the school with gorgeous jocks and strange cheerleaders, the depth of the danger her father’s choices dangled them in front of became clear. EmVee hoped Silas and Kayson will be able to help her uncover the mystery identity of the person who is threatening her family. The question is, will she survive to expose the mystery. [Pre-quel, Vigilant Series, Caged Fire Book 1: Coming Fall 2018] Check it out on Amazon!

Exclusive Character Interview:

Q. Welcome to my blog, EmVee! That’s a strange, but catchy name. What does it mean?

A. (Laughs) I guess it is, but my middle name is Emily and my first name is Vida. My mom always calls me Emily since she picked that name for me. I never liked it, so I combined it.

Q. You are rather tall, how old are you?

A. I’m Seventeen, turning 18 this year since I’m a senior in High School.

Q. Do you have a boyfriend?

A. Well, I don’t usually have time to be in a relationship, but this year, I’m falling for a guy. He’s a singer and a football player, did I tell you he is way taller than me?

Q. Did you just move here to Rhode Island?

A. Yes, my father moved us here to open up his first full service MMA gym. My mother is his partner and one of the best trainers in the world. She is training some of the star athletes here.

Q. Have you met any new friends?

A. A few. A girl named Rachel and I are besties. There is this other girl named Megan, I guess I’d call her a frenemy. Seriously though, she’s okay, just strange.

Q. What do you like to do for fun?

A. I go to the gym to train. I was on the path to becoming a semi-pro boxer like my mother. When I’m not there, I like running.

Q. So are you an only child?

A. No, I have a brother just under me in age, and twin brother and sisters that are freshmen.

Q. Well what do you have to say about your new hometown?

A. It’s strange, but has the most beautiful people I’ve seen in my life that wasn’t on TV. I just want to fit in and enjoy my Senior year. Peace out!

Thank you for coming on, LM Preston!

Doesn’t EmVee sound great? I like running, too. The last time I ran was 23 days ago! I suggest running with that information and entering the YASH contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me and many more! Just check out all these awesome titles on the BLUE TEAM!

Need a suggestion to start? Check out Body Parts by Jessica Knapp or Submerge by Tobie Easton! I loved them.

To enter, you need to write down my fav number, and find all the other numbers on the BLUE TEAM, add them up, and you’ll have the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

Exclusive Giveaway!

Thank you so much for stopping by! While you’re here, don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter bonus contest I am hosting exclusively during the YA Scavenger Hunt. One lucky reader will win a signed copy of ANY of my books. They will also win signed swag from both of my series. Good luck!

Enter this Rafflecopter for your chance to win.

Ready to move on to the next link in the hunt? Then head on over to visit author Melanie Hooyenga’s page.

LINK TO NEXT BLOG

Is Spoiler-Free Pressure Ruining In-Depth Discussions About Books?

17 Feb

There is a lot of pressure to be spoiler free. And I get it. I do. People shouldn’t share spoilers on Twitter while they’re watching a TV show live or write up a post on Facebook without a fair warning. But sometimes I wonder if we’ve gone a little overboard with the pressure to be spoiler free. Sometimes I want a little substance.

Protecting yourself from spoilers is hard too! Don’t get me wrong. People should always post warnings. Recently, Google itself ruined ANTM for me. I had it recorded, but checked my news stories of the day, and one of those stories was who lost (in the headline) less than an hour after the show aired. So disappointing!

Sometimes I want to read spoilers, and I’m not sure there is anywhere to go.

So why do I want spoilers sometimes?  

Because the same review is everywhere.

I mainly see “these characters are great, and that one scene totally shattered me.” Or “Characters = great, plot = awesome, conclusion = get it.”

And those types of reviews are awesome, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I want to know what tropes to expect, what dynamics to look forward to, if a book is character-driven or plot-driven, especially when I am on a fence. And sometimes, well…

Sometimes spoilers can be a good thing.

Example? Spoilers ahead for The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. If you don’t want to read it, feel free to skip to the next bolded line.

When I first when City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, I REFUSED to read the next books, not because I didn’t enjoy the first book but because the whole “the main characters who are in love are siblings” totally grossed me out. When my friend spoiled the fact that it turned out to be false, I read the sequel, and now it’s one of my favorite series written by one of my favorite authors.

Basically, without spoilers, I probably would’ve quit a series that I now love.

Now, I am NOT saying to go tweet out every spoiler in the latest Blockbuster hit when you saw the first screening. Hell no. There still needs to be etiquette to discussing spoilers, but by the fandom gods, I want to talk about these things. I want to debate and consider others’ opinions. I want to read more fan theories without having to scour the deep dark web (okay, so Tumblr) for them.

I have found it super easy to find in-depth discussions about film, but not about novels, and I wish we had a forum to do so.

I would love to discuss scenes and characters and spoilers in-depth with others. As a writer, this helps me analyze a work and see how someone else’s viewpoint can differ from mine, which I think is an important aspect of understanding literature. And it’s fun. I mean, isn’t it the best to call a close friend and chat about the latest episode of your favorite show? I want to do that with books, more often and with more people.

Granted, I know there is this lovely little place called Goodreads, but (and I mean no offense to them) I tend to only see spoilers written by those who hated the book (as if they are purposely trying to ruin the book for others) and no spoilers from those who enjoyed the book, which is why I don’t think GR is the right platform. At least not today.

I want a positive place where readers can discuss books in depth. A place where we might not all agree on interpretations, but a place where thoughts can be shared broadly and discussed nevertheless.

Recently, I checked out a new podcast called Parallel Magic Podcast by authors Jonas Lee and Kate M. Colby, and in my opinion, they have the perfect setup. The first part is a spoiler-free rundown on what the book is about and whether or not they would suggest the book (and to who they think would like the book), and then there is a very clear warning about an upcoming in-depth discussion (so that those who haven’t read can clock out), before they discuss the book in-depth, spoilers and all.

I LOVED IT. So if you’re looking for in-depth discussions, check them out.

Personally, I want more places for those who have read a novel to discuss in-depth where they won’t get in trouble for discussing spoilers.

What about you? What do you think about spoilers? What do you think about discussing them in public forums?

~SAT

Shaming the Ship

20 Jan

If you’ve ever attended a movie premiere or book signing, you’ve probably heard someone squeal, “I totally ship them!”

I admit, the first time I heard this was at Cassandra Clare’s book signing in Kansas City over a year ago…and I was super confused. “Ship?” I thought. “Like a boat?” So here I am, picturing Dido singing, “I’ll go down with this ship.” Which, in retrospect, kind of works with today’s lingo. But at the time, a cosplaying Shadowhunter kindly explained to me what she meant, and I still dig her for it.

For those of you who don’t know, “ship” is short for “relationship.” Saying you “ship” a couple means you love those two characters being together. Yes, even when they’re sailing on boats. (Excuse me for my poor humor.) Fans can ship a couple that is actually together in the story or characters you wish were together. The term largely started in fandoms and fan fiction.

Is there a better photo for this article? I think not.

I’m totally for shipping whoever you want. I think it’s so much fun, even when I see people point out ships that are purely imagined. In fact, I’ve come across some ships that I had never even considered, but thought were awesome. (*cough, cough, Elsa and Jack Frost, cough cough*) It’s fan fiction heaven. That being said, there is always a negative side.

Recently, I’ve started to see people say things like, “If you ship those who aren’t together in the story, you’re a bad fan,” or “If you ship X and X, you promote abuse,” or blah blah blah.

Listen, I think it’s great to debate aspects of fiction, like how abuse is displayed. But “debate” is the keyword here. Just because one person feels a certain way about a character does not mean everyone should feel that way. One of the best parts of fiction is how malleable it is. A dynamic character could be seen differently by millions of people. Not to mention that fiction itself is fiction. Just because something criminal happens in a show does not mean it was criminal in the context of the show. Example? Take post-apocalyptic fiction. If it’s the end of world, and you see someone stealing from a store (or even killing another person), you automatically sympathize because survival, right? But if that character was doing that in our world, they’d be a bad person. In the context of a post-apocalyptic situation, the moral paradigm has shifted. Does that make anyone bad or good? That’s up for debate. *wink*

Sometimes, fiction is just fiction. Sometimes, a ship is something we sail on. It doesn’t have to have double meaning or be scrutinized beyond the fact that it’s purely entertaining. Just because a fan ships a couple on a show doesn’t mean they would ship them in a real-life situation. As an example, I thought I’d discuss a movie (hopefully) everyone has seen by now. If you haven’t, don’t worry. Just go to the next bolded line.

Spoilers for The Last Jedi beyond this point:

So, as many of you know by now, there was quite the shift in Kylo Ren and Rey in the last movie. Though nothing traditionally romantic happened (i.e. kissing), many felt their relationship was romantic in nature. Where it goes, no one knows, but that doesn’t stop the fandom from drawing photos, posting theories, and just plain ol’ fan girling.

Do I ship them? Yes and no. To me, I find their dynamic fascinating, which—as someone who is here to be entertained—is all I want in a story. So, yes, I love what happened between them in The Last Jedi, because I never saw it coming, yet it was believable, twisted, and exciting. But no, I wouldn’t encourage that sort of dynamic in real life.

Basically, if my best friend came to me and said, “This masked guy chased me through the woods as I shot at him, and then he knocked me unconscious and tried to read my mind. Later, I scarred him, and he killed his dad, but now we have a universe connection.” I would definitely not ship it. I would call the police. But Star Wars isn’t my best friend. Star Wars is a space opera. It’s not functioning on our moral constructs. In the setup of the fictional universe, you’re literally talking about a dark side and light side colliding in a space war. Of course unhealthy moments are going to happen. Does that mean you can’t enjoy the story? Maybe. Maybe not. If that ruins the story for you, that’s fine. If you want to debate it, go for it! But I draw the line at fans telling other fans what they can/should/want to enjoy.

Spoilers End

If you dislike a ship (or a story), by all means, we’re all allowed to our opinions, but I will always draw a line on those who shame others for enjoying (or disliking) a piece of fiction.

We’re here to be entertained and to have fun, and yes, there are times for debate. Yes, those debates are super important. I’m not telling you to stop debating. In fact, one of my favorite all-time quotes is, “The history books will tell what happened, but the art will tell them how we felt about it.” (Jermaine Rogers.) Debating art is society trying to encapsulate how they feel about current and past issues. Debating fiction is a natural response. All I ask is that we respect one another while we debate. No name-calling. No ship-shaming. Just a couple of fans having a reasonable discussion about how we feel about certain stories. Then, at the end of the day, we can enjoy our fandoms and sail off into the sunset on our preferred ships without trying to sink others.

Who are some of your favorite ships? (Actual boats allowed.)

~SAT

Burning Out on Your Fav Genre

28 Oct

Before every YA fantasy writer in the world loses their mind, I want to start out by saying that I, myself, am a YA fantasy writer and reader. Again, try not to lose your minds. This isn’t a personal attack. There’s some AMAZING YA SFF coming out right now. My most recent fav was Warcross by Marie Lu. But lately, I have been so burnt out on YA fantasy.

Being burnt out on YA SFF makes me sad, too.

Honestly, this is really difficult for me to admit. I LOVE YA fantasy. I’ve always read it, I mainly write it, and I’m constantly on the lookout for more of it. But recently, I have picked up book after book after book—and I’ve barely been able to connect. Worse? At first I thought it must’ve been the authors or the stories. Then, after a self-criticizing conversation with myself, I realized it was my fault.

You see, all I’ve been reading and writing is YA SFF—and that’s the problem. While writers are constantly told that they need to be reading what they are writing, we aren’t told as often to read outside of what we’re writing, and reading outside of your genre is just as important. Why? Because it teaches different approaches, different voices, different everything. And it helps you from burning out.

So what do you do when you burn out on your favorite genre?

 1. Try a different sub-genre

One genre has a million sub-categories, so try one you don’t usually pick up. For instance, fantasy is a HUGE umbrella term. Maybe you’re reading too much epic fantasy or urban fantasy. Try historical fantasy instead. Or reach into the fringes and grab that alien-vampire-cowboy mash-up you’ve been secretly eyeing.

2. Try a new age category

Don’t forget that there’s a fantasy section in the children’s, YA, and adult sections. Heck, grab a graphic novel. Each age category tends to have a unique approach, and it might help freshen your understanding of your genre. If you’re super unsure, see if any of your favorite writers write in different age categories. Ex. Victoria Schwab writes YA and adult fantasy.

3. Try a new genre completely

Yes, you’re supposed to write what you read, but seriously, reading other genres is just as important. Pick up a contemporary book. Browse some poetry. Reach into the great unknown. Honestly, this option is the one that helps me the most.

I’ve recently been reading more—*gasp*—contemporary, like Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde and Tiny Pretty Things by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra. (Both highly recommended by the way). And, honestly, I wish I started reading them earlier this year. I wasn’t paying attention to how burnt out I was getting—how much reading and writing only fantasy was drowning my creativity and enjoyment—but these books quickly pulled me out of a slump once I started them. I’ve even been able to read fantasy again—and sure enough, after a little break, I started loving each story.

Basically, the point of this post is to remind writers that, yes, while you should always be reading what you write, you should also make time to read genres and age categories that you don’t write. Why? Because it expands your pallet. It resets your writing gears. It resets everything.

And it’s fun.

~SAT

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