2018 Resolutions For My Business and Creative Life

Look, I’m not a big fan of resolutions.

Every year, I make a few, and every year I either a) forget about them or b) try for a while and then give up. And I know it’s not just me, but that doesn’t make me feel like any less of a failure for not being able to achieve my resolutions.

But since I’m either insane or extremely optimistic (Then again, aren’t those the same thing?) I’m going to make a few resolutions this year. I want to focus on setting goals that have to do with my creative life, since at this moment that’s what I feel like needs the most work.

My 2018 New Year’s Resolutions

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On Goodreads Goals and Bad Reading Years

It’s almost the end of 2017 and that means everyone is reflecting on the year behind us and looking forward to the year ahead. Resolutions will be made and most will be forgotten. And if you use the popular book review site Goodreads, one of those resolutions may include a reading goal for the year.

For the past few years, I have set a reading goal using Goodreads. In 2016, my goal was 35 books, which I just barely made, and the year before that was 50, which I didn’t even come close to. Both years, I felt no small amount of stress over reaching these goals. This might sound silly to some of you, but if my Twitter timeline is any indication, there are plenty of other people who see their Goodreads goal more as a source of stress rather than a source of fun.

So instead of setting myself up for stress-fueled reading this past year, I had decided I wanted to focus less on reaching a particular goal, and instead just wanted to use Goodreads to track which books I read. I set a small goal that I was sure I would quickly reach: five books.

But despite thinking that this was a goal I would easily reach, once again I barely made it. Currently, I’ve read seven books this year. I’m not saying that reading seven books in a year is nothing. I know that for many people this would be an accomplishment. But for me, someone who has always prided herself on being a voracious reader, my lack of completed books is disappointing.

I think what’s more disappointing than the number, though, is what it represents. This whole year, I have struggled to get and stay interested in a book. There have been books that came out this year that I was really looking forward to, and yet still haven’t gotten around to reading. There have been books that I was enjoying and then suddenly found myself unable to finish. For whatever reason, this year has been one in which reading does not hold the same interest for me that it usually does.

In 2018, I want to get back into reading. I want to get wrapped up in a book and not be able to put it down. I want to look forward to reading again, instead of viewing it as a chore.

But I also don’t want to set unreasonable goals. The last two years, when my reading goals were significantly higher, I found myself worrying too much about the number I was plugging in to a website that, realistically, no one but me even cared about.

On the other hand, if I don’t set a goal for myself, I might have another bad reading year. I find I’m most motivated to do things, even things I want to do, when I have some sort of external motivating factor. While nobody else but me is monitoring my Goodreads goal progress, the fact that it’s there at all puts more pressure on me to actually get reading done.

In 2018, I’m going to set a bigger goal for myself than this past year, but one that still feels achievable. I saw someone on Twitter suggest setting 18 books for 2018 as a goal, as it comes out to about a book and a half a month. So I might go with that, or even go a little lower to 15.

Either way, I’m going to try and focus on getting back into reading for fun this year. Goodreads is just one of the tools I plan on using to help me in that goal, but I’m going to try and not let it become a source of stress. Ultimately, a Goodreads reading goal is what you make of it, and if you feel like it’s going to do more harm than good to your reading habit, don’t use it.

Are you setting a Goodreads goal this year? Or any reading goal? Why or why not?

Christmas 2016 Book Gift Guide

Happy December, y’all. Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas tree is up, and it’s officially my favorite time of year.

Like many bookworms, I love getting books for Christmas. I also love giving books to others as gifts. But sometimes it can be hard to know what to get someone, especially if you aren’t a big reader yourself. So like the helpful person I am, I’ve made a list of some recommendations if you are looking to get someone in your life a book (or two or three) for Christmas, or any other holiday you may be celebrating.

I’ve made my recommendations based on type (poetry, fantasy, etc.) Some of these books are new releases, while others are old favorites.

Christmas gift recommendations for…

The Poetry Reader

No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay

Sarah Kay is a spoken-word poet, and No Matter the Wreckage is her first (and so far, only) full-length poetry book. I’ve been a fan of Kay’s videos on YouTube for a while, and I just finally read this book a few months ago. The poems in this collection are full of emotion and many of them are incredibly relatable. Kay has a way of drawing you into the story of each poem, even the short ones. Many of these poems have stuck with me long after closing the book.

A YA High-Fantasy Fan

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

While this book has been marketed as a young adult book, it’s more appropriate for older teens (In my opinion, probably 16 and up), and adults, as there is some pretty explicit sexual content in it, as well as in the sequel, A Court of Mist and Fury. That being said, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, set in a world with faeries. The protagonist, Feyre, is an incredibly strong female character. The second book in this series, A Court of Mist and Fury, is, in my opinion, even better than the first. The third and final book in the series, A Court of Wings and Ruin comes out next year, so now is the perfect time to get started on this series.

The One Who Loves the Paranormal and Magic

The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater

This is the first book in the Raven Cycle series, one of my favorite series of all time. It follows Blue, a non-psychic teen in a family of female psychics, and the four boys she becomes friends with: Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah. Together the five of them search for the dead Welsh king Glendower. This series has magic, friendship, and romance, and it’s one of those series that is so layered it gets even better the more times you reread it. The final book in the series, The Raven King, just came out earlier this year, so after your friend reads The Raven Boys, they will be able to binge the whole series without waiting for any new books to come out (trust me, they’re going to want to).

The Writer

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

This non-fiction, part-memoir, part writing-guide, is a great book to give to someone who wants to be a writer. Anne Lamott talks about her journey as a writer, and offers tips to those who are trying to become writers themselves. She also writes about how writing is its own reward, and how writers can find fulfillment in their work even if they don’t get published, which is an encouraging message for those who may be struggling to get their work noticed.

 

The Jane Austen Lover

If you have someone in your life that loves Jane Austen and you are willing to splurge on them, then I would highly recommend the complete Jane Austen Heirloom Collection set. My dad got me this for Christmas a couple years ago (I’m pretty sure it was on sale at the time), and they are gorgeous. Each one is hard-bound and beautifully illustrated. They will look beautiful on any book collector’s shelf.

The Romance Reader

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

In my opinion, Attachments might be Rainbow Rowell’s most underrated books. Set at the end of 1999 and the beginning of 2000, this romance is told in large part through a series of e-mails. While this is a feel-good, happily-ever-after romance, it’s not without substance. Get this for your friend who loves romance, or for someone who has enjoyed other books by Rowell but hasn’t given Attachments a try yet.

 

Okay, I’m going to stop there, because this post could get really long if I let it. I’ll leave you with a list of a few more recs below. Let me know what you think of these books, or any others that you would recommend as gifts, in the comments, or on Twitter.

Happy reading! (And gifting)

BONUS RECOMMENDATIONS!

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr – The first in a six-book YA series. Faeries, paranormal, and romance.

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson – Standalone post-apocalypse/dystopian/sci-fi with some romance. For older teens (16+).

Write About an Empty Bird Cage by Elena Ellis – Poetry

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas – High fantasy YA. The first in a series, with the final book due out next year. Magic and romance and also lots of emotional suffering.

Bluets by Maggie Nelson – Prose poetry/non-fiction. Meditations on the color blue. Honestly this book is kinda weird and hard to categorize, but it’s great. Maybe get it for that friends that’s kind of weird and hard to categorize.

Strange Angels by Lilith Saintcrow – First book in a five-book YA paranormal series. Kickass female protagonist that hunts ghosts, zombies, wulfen, and all manner of other dark creatures. Some romance as well.

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Script Book Edition)

When I first heard that a play would be hitting the stage in London telling the “8th story” of Harry Potter, I was both excited about the prospect and sad that I wouldn’t be able to see it. When I heard that the script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child would be published as a book, I may or may not have almost cried with happiness.

I’ve kept this review spoiler-free, so if you haven’t read/seen the play yet, no worries!

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5 Things We Need to See More of in Young Adult Literature

I love young adult literature.

Yes, I’m 24, and no, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that! YA lit is an incredibly broad genre and there are so many different types of stories that fall underneath this category, whether you want romance, fantasy, sci-fi, or anything in between. I think there’s a certain amount of freedom that YA authors get to have when writing about and for teens that authors of more “adult” fiction just don’t get to-or won’t-take. Why that is, exactly, is a post for another day.

Despite the variety of of topics covered in Young adult literature, there is still a whole lot of room within the genre to grow. I’ve listed just a few of the places where I think there is particular room for improvement, especially within the books put out by the big publishing houses. Click below to read my list of 5 things we need to see more of in young adult literature.

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Mini-Review: Confess by Colleen Hoover

Colleen Hoover’s Confess is told in the alternating viewpoints of Auburn and Owen, two people who meet when Auburn enters Owen’s Dallas-based art studio in search of a job. The two find themselves immediately attracted to each other, but they soon learn that Owen is guarding secrets that could keep them apart.

I’ve read other books by Colleen Hoover before (see my review of Maybe Someday), and by now I pretty much know what to expect from her. I’ve enjoyed the previous books by her that I have read; the way she plays up emotion and pulls you into the complicated lives of her characters make for satisfying reads. With Confess, Hoover once again attempts to create a relationship that will pull you in and have you compulsively turning the pages. But, ultimately, the story falls flat.

Hoover usually has a knack for writing male leads that you fall in love with right along with their female counterparts, but Owen is simply very hard to like. I didn’t really start to feel for him until probably halfway through the book, and even then I found him annoying. Owen is a talented artist who apparently cares a lot for Auburn, but his point of view, especially in the beginning, comes off as kind of creepy. I found myself wondering why Auburn liked him so much, aside from the physical attraction. I liked Auburn as a character a lot more, and I felt more for her and her problems in the novel than I did for Owen.

Confess is a quick read. It definitely feels too rushed at times, which I think ads to that feeling of “why do these two characters like each other.” Still, the plot that Hoover sets up is interesting and kept me engaged enough to want to finish it. The book improves a lot toward the end as more layers of complexity are revealed. The ending is way too tidy in some ways, and not wrapped up enough in others, which makes me think there will be a sequel, though I haven’t been able to find anything online to confirm this. If there is, I will probably read it. Just maybe not on release day.

Overall, Confess is a book that had a lot more potential than it ultimately delivered. The interesting plot and the inclusion of real art and confessions aren’t quite enough to make up for the rushed and oftentimes weak writing. If you are already a fan of Colleen Hoover, then you will probably still enjoy it. But, if you are new to her work, Confess isn’t the best choice to start with. Try Maybe Someday or Slammed if you want to get a real taste for what she is capable of.

Top 5 Things I Wish I’d Known as a First-Generation College Student

I was a first generation college student. My mom never finished high school, and my dad got his GED. I had no older siblings, and no close relatives who had completed college, either. So when it came to picking a college, applying, getting financial aid, and generally navigating the “college experience,” I was basically flying blind. Still, I was lucky; my parents were extremely supportive, giving me the time and space and emotional support to do what I needed to do. While they couldn’t give me much advice on the technicalities of getting through college, they were always willing to help out however they could. Not everyone has as much support as I did.

But there are many, many things I wished that I had known before I started college and as I made my way through those four years. While I could probably write an entire book on the Things I Wished I Knew, I have decided to narrow some more important points down for this post.

So, whether you are a first-generation student like I was or just someone who is looking for a little bit of advice on navigating the murky college waters, I present to you my Top 5 Things I Wished I’d Known as a First Generation College Student.

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Book Review: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

The Summer Prince is Alaya Dawn Johnson’s first young adult novel. Set hundreds of years in the future in the imagined city of Palmares Tres in Brazil, the novel follows seventeen-year-old June Costa, a girl who calls herself “the best artist in Palmares Tres.” When June meets Enki, the newly elected Summer King and a fellow artist, they work together to create works of art the likes of which no one in their city has ever seen. Meanwhile, tension grows as more and more people push back against the government’s severe restrictions on new technology.

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Book Review: The Museum of Intangible Things

The Museum of Intangible Things is the second young adult novel by author Wendy Wunder. The novel follows best friends Hannah and Zoe, two teens living in a small New Jersey town divided neatly between the seemingly perfect haves and the desperate have nots. Both Hannah and Zoe are on the wrong end of this divide, and their desperation is palpable. Finding herself in need of an escape, Zoe convinces Hannah that they should go on a road trip together, and most of the story takes place on the road.

When first looking at this novel, it seems to promise a fun, lighthearted tale of two friends taking a road trip and finding themselves. Everything from the brightly-colored cover to the summary on the inside flap supports this idea. But the book does not deliver on this promise. It is unquestionably dark at times, and while Hannah and Zoe do take a road trip of self-discovery, it’s more erratic and dangerous than spontaneous and fun.

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Mini-Review: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

 

Bad Feminist is a collection of essays by Roxane Gay that covers an array of topics, including her personal thoughts on the feminist movement and why she calls herself a feminist, what it is like growing up as a woman of color, the way sexual violence is viewed in today’s society, and issues of race and politics. This book covers a lot, but Roxane Gay handles the topics with skill and intelligence.

I hadn’t read much by Roxane Gay before I picked this book up, but I had heard about her and the book sounded interesting, so after reading the free preview available on my nook, I downloaded and read the rest. I’m glad I did, because not only did Gay open my eyes to things that I hadn’t given much thought to, she articulately expressed opinions and ideas that I have had in the past, but have never been able to put into words the way she does. I especially appreciated her chapters in the beginning where she explains her idea of feminism and why she chooses to identify as a “bad feminist.” Gay writes,

I openly embrace the label of bad feminist. I do so because I am human. I am not terribly well versed in feminist history. I am not as well read in key feminist texts as I would like to be. I have certain…personality traits and opinions that may not fall in line with mainstream feminism, but I am still a feminist.”

Gay understands why some women may shy away from the term feminist, and that, like anything else, feminism has its flaws. Still, she points out that, “In truth, feminism is flawed because it is a movement powered by people and people are inherently flawed.” She reminds us that feminism is often “[held] to an unreasonable standard,” because when it does not live up to people’s expectations, they decide that “the problem is with feminism rather than with the flawed people who act in the name of the movement.” This is something that I think we could all be reminded of. I certainly needed to be.

Gay also writes deftly on the topics of gender and sexuality, and part of me feels like every essay in her “Gender and Sexuality” section should be required reading in high schools everywhere. Her essays, “The Careless Language of Sexual Violence,” “Blurred Lines, Indeed,” and “Some Jokes Are Funnier Than Others,” stand out in my mind as particularly smart looks at the ways we treat sexual violence as a society, and the detriment this has.

Of course, like any book dealing with the topics that Bad Feminist does, not everyone is going to agree with it. Nor should they, necessarily. As Gay herself writes in the first section, “I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I’m just trying—trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world.” While Bad Feminist is by no means the final word on any other the topics it covers, it is a smart, accessible addition to the conversation. I look forward to reading more from Roxane Gay in the future.