I did Nanowritmo in April and with grad-school final projects due, I didn’t get a chance to read as much as I like to the last few months, but here’s what I’ve been reading!

If you have any recommendations, please leave a comment to let me know what it is!

Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising by Leigh Burdugo

Genre: YA Fantasy

As I said when I read the first book in the trilogy, I love these books. The perfect fantasy.  It’s hard to write with no spoilers, but I will say I wasn’t sure about the ending, but I decided to love it. I read some reviews online, and I was surprised by the venom that people had toward the ending. All I can think is they wanted Alina to end up with the Darkling, a Loki-esque, hot anti-hero antagonist, but she doesn’t.

So amazing and definitely worth a ride!

The Protectors by Trey Dowell

Genre: Contemporary Superhero

“You only get everything you want right before it gets taken away.”

Super-heroes, but with a twist.

Scott McAlister is a pretty average guy. He drinks beer, lives in a cabin, and since it doesn’t mention him doing 500 push-ups every morning before breakfast, I assume he looks pretty average looking also, except for one tiny thing: he’s one of only four super heroes on the earth. The CIA forces him out of forced retirement to track down and stop the girl he may or may not love, who has been using her super powers to recklessly try and save the world.

Dowell takes many super-hero tropes and refreshingly turns them on their sides. His voice in writing Scott McAlister is amazing, with just the right amount of pithy sarcasm and introspection. The high-action, fast moving plot keeps the reader turning the pages. Highly recommend!

I hate recommending books for a specific gender, and although I think anyone can enjoy this book, I think it would be an awesome option for a reluctant teen-boy reader.

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Genre: YA Contemporary Time-Travel Fantasy

Obviously I’ve been spoiled by how many amazing books I’ve been reading lately. Gwyneth Sheperd has a time-traveling gene in her family, and her whole life her beautiful and sophisticated cousin has been treated like royalty because it was foretold she would carry the gene. Imagine Gwyneth surprise when she travels back in time instead. This book was amazing in so many ways, but my favorite was Gwyneth Shepard’s voice. So perfect and believable as a teen girl. I can’t wait to read the other two!

The Writing Workshop Note Book: Notes on Creating and Workshopping by Alan Ziegler

Genre: Craft Book

Interesting book on how to get more out of writing workshops. My favorite quote: “Would you really want to invest time, money, and soul into a workshop and leave with what you brought in?” That is basically how I feel about all experiences.

When Lightning Strikes by Brenda Novak

Genre: Contemporary Romance

When PR publicist Gail DeMarco dissolves her contract with A-list hotty Simon O’Neal, it sets off a whirl-wind of events where Gail and Simon decide the best option is a marriage of convenience, even though they can’t stand each other. But Gail learns there is more to Simon’s self-destructive behavior then she originally thought. Very fun and sexy romance!

Rental Houses for the Successful Small Investor by Suzanne P. Thomas

Genre: How To, Investment Real Estate

I trade options on the stock market for my regular income, and was looking to diversify my portfolio by looking into investment real-estate.

I loved Thomas’s philosophy on real-estate investing: have achievable goals and use investing as a way to build income so you can spend time doing the things you really love to do. She is not selling a get rich quick theology. She also gives practical advice on tenants and how to be landlord.  That being said, the book is dated, and Thomas has very limited experience in different geographic locations. She also gives advice not as useful in the current market, like recommending adjustable rate mortgages. I am on the fence about recommending. So many other books say, “Make a million dollars in fifteen minutes with real-estate!” But Thomas’s book is much more practical. I would say read it if you are interested in investment real-estate, but then read about fifteen other books as well.

Rise of the Earth Dragon and Saving the Sun Dragon by Tracey West

Genre: Beginning Chapter Books- Fantasy

I am working on a writing project with my seven-year-old son, and this is research. Since it is hard to judge books for readers this young, I will say my son LOVED these books. It does my heart good that I have to keep prodding him to eat his breakfast because he wants to read these instead. He did like the second book, Saving the Sun Dragon  better than the first. I think because the first book had to spend a lot of time setting up the story line. Overall, perfect for kids who are just starting to read on their own.

Storm Watcher by Maria V. Snyder

Genre: Contemporary Middle Grade

Maria Snyder is all around a fantastic author. Storm Watcher deviates from her usual fantasy or sci-fi worlds to follow a boy named Luke Riley.

Luke recently lost his mother, and feels responsible for her death. He finds solace in a dog breeder’s kennel where he can take his mind off his recent loss and he overwhelming fear of violent weather. Snyder shows us the world through a little boy whose feelings and desires and loss are just as acute as any adult’s in a strong and powerful way. Loved it!

Okay, so I teared up just writing this review.

Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books For Faster, Better Writing by Libbie Hawker

Genre: How-to Craft Book

I read this as my craft book for grad school, and below is part of the review I submitted for that.

The author starts with an introduction, toting her amazing writing abilities. Her attitude simultaneously intrigues and annoys me. But then she pulls out the big guns, stating she wrote an entire 92,000 word book in just three weeks. Yes, you have my attention! Ms. Hawker claims that the steps she takes to outline a book make it so she can not only write that fast, but the writing is better because she knows exactly what her goals are.

Let me just start by saying I love craft books like this, the kind that lay out guidelines on how to make a tight plot and how to follow a step by step guidelines to make everything “perfect.” But I am also leery of writers that claim, “If you just do this, everything will be perfect and easy, and you will float about on the back of a unicorn and eat cherries!” So I would have to say that my leery-ness almost always cancels out the amount that I love them, which I don’t think is a bad thing.

When comes to plotting, I am a pantser, meaning I don’t outline everything in detail. I know exactly where the story is going, I know the ending, but I don’t necessarily know how the characters are going to end up there. That being said, I do recognize that outlining enables writers to write faster and maybe even better.

Overall, I think this was a worthwhile read. It was to the point with no fluff-n-stuff, and exactly what I want in a craft book. Do I agree with everything? No. But for a pantser like me, it is very valuable to lay the plot out.