Goodreads Book Awards Winners (and my challenge)

In case you haven’t noticed, the delightful website of bookish glory has announced their winners to the 2013 Book Awards. I’ve read a few of them, which is always lovely, but not the vast majority of them.

So here is the plan. My challenge (to myself) for 2014 is to read (re-read) the books that the good users of Goodreads chose as their top books of 2013. And to also read various other books that won awards this year (Costa, Waterstones, Man Booker, National etc. If you think of another one let me know and I’ll tackle the winner!)

I’ll have to come up with a list and post it here to keep myself honest.

But! Here are the winners of this year’s Goodreads book awards:

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Surprise! A Bookstore!


I’ve spent a decent amount of my life traveling as Sara will tell you. And over my travels I’ve found that inevitably I’ll find a bookstore. I was going through my photos and found this!!

While on spring break during my semester abroad spring 2007 two friends and I went to Amsterdam and got horrendously lost every time we tried to go so where. To the point that we have taken to calling it the trip of ‘Let’s go that way’. I loved it because I’m weird and really enjoy getting lost in new places. My friends, not so much.

So when we happened across this American Book Center, my friends were all for exploring the store. And it was HUGE!! Like seriously massive and I just adored it. My friends were less excited when they realized how long I could spend in the store. They ultimately tempted me out with coffee and the fact that we had a canal tour booked.

Hilariously, I don’t actually seek out bookstores when I travel. I generally have books with me and don’t really feel the need to find local bookstores. So the fact that I found one, by accident and it was an English language store was kind of awesome. I know some people go out searching for bookstores when they travel, but there is something so much more fun about coming across them organically. There is a sense of wonder when you find a bookstore out of the blue. You can walk in and take a breath and just know you’re home, which can help especially when you’re in a foreign country, or even a different city in your own country.

Bookstores are magical places, why not let them find you while you get lost in a foreign place?

Mostly I wanted to share a photo of a bookstore in Amsterdam called The American Book Center, which I thought was fun.

❤ Alissa

A Tale of Two NaNoWriMo Experiences

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HAS FAILED. Seriously. I’ve failed. I did try, I got to nearly 6k and then the world went to shit with elections, work and weddings. I’m now so far behind it’s not even funny. And for whatever reason, my ability to jump back into the story has died.

I’m not sure where it went or how it went away, but it’s just gone. And honestly, I’m feeling pretty shitty about it. I write for a living, I’m a journalist, so you’d think that writing almost 2k a day is cake for me. And generally it is. I write over 2k every day I work, but you put me down in front of my computer and tell me to write fiction or a book type thing, and every single writing instinct I have disappears.

And yet, for some reason I put myself through the trials and tribulations that is NaNo every year. I really do try! Last year I made it up to 20k! Which is impressive for me. But perhaps it’s time for me to admit to myself that I’m not meant to be a writer of that nature. I like the idea of writing a novel and one day I hope to do it, but it doesn’t seem to be in the cards today. This month. Or maybe ever.

But where I lack faith in my own fiction abilities, I know I can write thousands of words on other topics. So maybe thats where I should focus for next year. Can one do a non-fiction project for NaNo? Is that allowed? I haven’t even ever checked.

Here’s hoping. I’ve relegated myself to cheerleading from the sidelines for everyone who is pushing forward and persevering!

You go guys!!

25,000 words. That’s where I have to be by the end of today and I’m pretty sure I’m going to get there. I can honestly say I didn’t think I’d make it past 2,000 words, let alone continue past the first week. Now, we’re halfway through and, for some reason, my story is still going strong in my head and I’m still pounding away on the keyboard almost every night.
I have this issue when I write stories where, as soon as I get the slightest bit discouraged, I give up. The whole reason I decided to try NaNoWriMo this year is to see if I can push past that and continue a story. By day five of the month, I had lost all my drive to write. I started hating my characters and everything about my story so far. That’s the point where I usually put my laptop down and put the file in some random folder on my desktop, never to be opened again. (You should see that folder too. It’s like a story graveyard with little Word icons as the gravestones. Here lies GhostStory.doc. I don’t remember what you were about, but I’m sorry I killed you off so early.)
But I pushed through and kept writing. By day seven, I was in love with my characters again and even had a new one pop up out of nowhere (and he’s my favorite character now).
I know that this is not the next great American novel. It’s crap right now. It needs more plot and action. It needs more character development.  It needs… quite a few things. But it’s a good backbone to build the rest of my story on.
So far, NaNoWriMo has been a pretty good experience for me. It’s shown me that I actually can work past the stuff that’s bothering me about a story and keep going with it. It’s shown me that I should keep writing, even when I feel like I should stop.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since third grade, when I wrote a story about shark “invested” waters for a state test. (Yes, I know sharks don’t invest in water. I’ve got that now, thanks. My parents still bring that story up occasionally. The point is, I loved writing that story, even if my spelling mistake made it a running gag in my family.) I’ve known for years that I always feel less stressed after writing, but with the way things have been going, I haven’t been able to write as much as I want to or the ideas don’t flow when I need them to. For the past two weeks, I should have been ridiculously stressed out, but I’m not feeling it because I’ve been writing so often.
I’m really hoping I can reach the 50,000-word goal by the end of the month. If I can do that, then I’m making a promise to myself to finish the story and then go back, fix the story up and possibly get it published someday.
We’ll see.

Enders Game, A Review

If I could figure out how to do star ratings, I’d be giving Enders Game 4 out of 5 of them. I truly adored this book.

I read this book over the summer, and wrote a review on Goodreads, But I figured since the movie is out I have leave to post something about it again.

What I adored about this book is hard to explain, because its more of the mythos of the book than anything in Enders Game coverparticular. The story line was crisp, there was a clear progression of events and yet the end was wholly unexpected. The end result of the book I knew was coming, but how it came about was shocking to me.

For those of you who have yet to read Enders Game, and I suggest you do, it is about a young boy named Ender who is drafted into military school at roughly the age of six along with a multitude of others and graduates in an extremely short period of time after beasting in the schools ‘lazer tag’ war games in a zero-g room. He then goes and essentially takes private lessons from one of the greatest war heros of their age and ultimately defeats the enemy.

What the military, Enders siblings, his parents do to him is essentially child abuse of all kinds – emotional, physical, mental. That child is broken and rebuilt several times over the course of the book but to the society that Orson Scott Card has written, this sort of situation is normal and expected.

It’s a fascinating world to be sure, and I haven’t even touched on Enders siblings and their take over of Earth society via news and opinion pieces on the net. Peter is a sadistic  little shit who wants to take over the world essentially and he drags his sister Valentine into the plot, while Ender is in space learning how to be a soldier and ultimately destroyer of  an entire species.

Now, as to OSC and his own weird little bubble of reality, I tend to ignore the author when I’m reading a book. I don’t enjoy or agree with OSC’s politics or theological point of view, but I cannot deny that in Enders Game, he wrote a beautiful story and thrilling epic. If I could take just Enders Game and remove OSC from the equation I’d be a happier person, but I can’t, so I ignore the author. Which honestly, seems the safest bet.

As to the movie, I haven’t seen it yet. But my brother did. And he said he’d probably give the movie a 4 out of 5, because the cinematography and acting were great, but they cut out a lot of the Peter and Valentine take over the world bits. Bits I really liked! But this is Hollywood after all, and they can’t make a book into a movie with out ruining some small part of it.

That said, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to see the movie, I’m hoping I’ll get to see it soon, so until then I remain a true lover of Enders Game. Not so much of the books that followed (they’re a bit preachy for me) but I hold Enders Game in a spot of honor in my heart.

❤ Alissa

Goodreads Is Doing It Again!

The delightful Goodreads is holding their very own “Best Book of 2013” vote-athon!! This I love. I really REALLY do. Because, while I have great respect for book awards, very often they are not always the books that everyone reads over the year.

Goodreads Candidates

They’re generally books we all pick up after it wins or is put on the short list, but I don’t know that we all generally

go out and pick up some of these books before they make it on to  that list.

So, to have Goodreads hold an annual “Best of” for it’s members to vote in makes me all ten kinds of happy. Voting is going to last all month, with three rounds of voting:

  • Opening Round – Nov. 4-9
  • Semifinals- Nov. 11-16
  • Finals- Nov. 18-25

Now, the initial 15 books in each category were chosen by Goodreads, but after that, we the readers! Get to pick the winners in each of the 20 categories, which is just all ten kinds of cool!

If you are a Goodreads member you should definitely go vote for your favorite. You only get to vote once in each round, but it’s so worth it to be able to be apart of choosing a book award.

Happy Voting!

❤ Alissa

Romance Novels, A Study

Now, this isn’t so much a book review as it is a thought on a book genre. So, most of what I’ve read this year has been young adult novels, which are generally fantastic and I love them. But over the course of the  year I’ve found that I have sporadic bursts of romance novels. Where in I read anywhere between three and six romance novels in a row. And clearly I’m having one of the bursts now, I’m on book 3.

This isn’t a bad thing per say, but it does put me in a rather awkward position of desperately wanting someone to share my life with in a relationship-y kind of way. So, it doesn’t help when Army-Dude shows up and is moderately fantastic in the knee weakening kind of way.

BUT, this is not for my own personal feelings.

Over the summer, I posted a list of 10 things I’d learned about romance novels after a 5-book binge. I originally posted them on my tumblr, but here they are for easy reads:

1. They are decidedly unfair.
2. They give you unrealistic expectations in life.
3. Men are never how they are in the books.
4. They are extraordinarily addicting.
5. You fall in love every time.
6. There is always a moment of heartbreak, but they always manage to fix it.
7. A meddling family member/friend is always on hand to help them realize their love.
8. Happily ever afters are the norm.
9. That moment when you realize ‘love at first glance’ isn’t a thing in real life and your heart breaks a little.
10. You read, safe in the knowledge that the pairing you want will always happen no matter what and that restores, at least somewhat, your faith in love.

The thing about romance is you really get sucked into them and, well, the romance of the situation. And I for one, find it difficult to come out of it, which is why I probably spend a week binging on regency romances or cowboy heros.

Honestly, the list pretty much says everything I need to about romance novels, but I feel the need to defend them as well.

The tendency to dismiss the Harlequin novels as drivel and ridiculousness is moderately insulting, because regardless of what you think of them, someone put the time into writing them and coming up with a plot, no matter how… lacking they might seem. I imagine it’s similar to how I feel about “50 Shades of Grey” – which yes, I’ve read under my own volition.

To me, romance novels are an escape when I feel like I’m alone. Reading in general is always an escape, but when it comes to romance novels I can find love and feel in love and I just love that.

It’s a weak argument for sure, but there it is. I love feeling loved and romance novels make it happen for me as I continue my adventures in single-hood.

So, there you are. My study into romance novels. Any more thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

❤ Alissa

Publisher’s Weekly Best Books of 2013

Publisher’s Weekly Best Books of 2013

Some of these are fairly interesting picks. I like looking at Publisher’s Weekly every so often to see what they’re thinking. I don’t always agree with them, but I like reading them.

Have you read any of these so far this year? Anything you really enjoyed thats not on the list?

❤ Alissa

Well, it’s that time again.

It is time for NaNoWriMo. And both Sara and Alissa will be participating in it, both with official NaNo accounts – so you should find them and nag at us to make sure we’re keeping up with our writing numbers!

But it’s a difficult month for people who are participating in NaNo. Mostly because there are a good two days that NO ONE is Imagedoing anything during – Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Thats around 4k of words that most people don’t get done. Or at least, that Alissa doesn’t get done. 

Regardless, this is an excellent time for writers around the world to participate in something that is just for us. We don’t actually have to share it with anyone, which is all ten kinds of lovely and fun. 

So, here is our wish to all of you participating in NaNoWriMo – GOOD LUCK. 

Everyone deserves a cheer squad behind them as they write their book, so just think of us as your cheer squad even as we write our own. 

Lots of love and support sent your way this NaNoWriMo

Alissa and Sara

An Open Letter to Rainbow Rowell

Dear Ms Rowell,

Was it your goal to rip my heart out and make me pain when writing ‘Eleanor and Park’? Did you intend to make me want to read a series that could never possibly hope to exist except in ‘Fangirl’?

I hope you realize Ms Rowell that you have successfully scared me with your written emotions and feels. I’m fangirl_eleanor and parkbattered and bruised from the reading of your stories and I hope you can handle knowing that. And yet, I find that my life would have been very much not the same had I not endeavored to read your books.

Because regardless of the pain and suffering that occurred while reading ‘Eleanor and Park’, I was able remember what it felt like to be in high school love. I felt awful for Park and even worse for Eleanor and desperately wanted there to be an epilogue to tell me that they’d found each other again somewhere. Because mostly, Eleanor deserved it.

Park deserved it too, since he put as much of his emotion into the relationship as she did, but OMG does Eleanor need to be loved better than she was. I want to know what happens to her evil Stepfather and her siblings and mother.

Beyond that, my heart ached with every page and I loved it. Beyond words

As for ‘Fangirl’. WHY CAN’T I READ SIMON SNOW IN REAL LIFE? I’d have devoured his world like I did this book. I read this book in minutes practically. I loved it beyond words.

You, Ms. Rowell, are clearly one of us. You captured our fangirl-ness to a T and I found it hilarious to relive my own freshman year through Cath.

I mean, I didn’t have an older man wanting me or a twin sister or a father clearly in the throws of depression, but I lived that life of freshman not knowing how to live in college and make new friends.

So thank you, Ms Rowell, for reminding me of my high school love and helping me to remember what it was like being on the outside of a group and unsure how or even if I wanted to be a part of it.

Yours, emotionally scarred and loving it,

Alissa ❤