Book Guilt and More of My TBR

Hello readers! If you’re anything like me, then you have a substantial number of books on your shelf that you have been meaning to read for years. I have probably about 20 or so of these books in the bookcase in my bedroom, and who knows how many that I have moved to other shelves in the house to make room. There are some books that were given to me as gifts, and so I feel a sense of responsibility, like I have to at least pretend that I’m going to read them someday, even if I am not at all interested in them. Other books I think I would really enjoy, but for whatever reason have never gotten around to them. These books get shuffled around every time a new stack of books comes in, but they always manage to resurface and remind me that I do actually want to read them. At the end of last year, I finally got around to reading one such book, The Secret Garden. I had purchased my copy with a gift card back when the Borders down the street from me was still in existence – I think I was probably 10 or 11 years old. The book then sat on my shelf for over a decade until I finally decided to pick it up and read it because it had just been too long. I would love to be able to read some of the other books that have been sitting on my shelf for years, so in an effort to hold myself accountable, here are 5 books that I really seriously have to read, for real.

Tuck Everlasting

I have wanted to read Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit ever since I saw the movie when I was a kid. I had heard that the book and the movie had substantial differences and was very curious. Several years later, my dad bought a copy for my sister to read (I’m not sure if she ever did). Several years after that, I discovered the copy on a bookshelf in our attic and swiped it for myself. That was 3 years ago. It’s such a short book, I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet, but I really want to.

Bel Canto

This one is somewhat embarrassing because I actually have started reading it. I started reading Bel Canto by Ann Patchett shortly after devouring State of Wonder during a vacation to the beach. I quite like it and have been reading it on and off for 3 years. I will finish this book and stop getting distracted by other newer books that I stumble upon. It will happen.

The Princess Bride

Okay, the fact that I haven’t read The Princess Bride by William Goldman is also rather embarrassing, and for more than one reason. First of all, it’s one of my favorite movies and I have wanted to read it for a very long time. Second, like with Bel Canto, I actually started to read it. Unlike with Bel Canto, I lost my place and wouldn’t be able to tell you what has happened so far in the story. I recently made the decision to remove this book from my “Currently Reading” shelf on Goodreads, and just start over sometime. Maybe sometime will be sometime soon.

Death Comes to Pemberly

Pride and Prejudice is my favorite Jane Austen. Granted, I haven’t read every Jane Austen, but I’m fairly confident P&P would still win out. I’m also a sucker for just about any adaptation, retelling, or “sequel” of my favorite Austen (with the exception of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, because zombies are effing terrifying). I was so excited about Death Comes to Pemberly by P. D. James when I first heard about it. I bought a copy the first time I found it in a bookstore. I then proceeded to get very busy with school, hit a months-long reading slump, get distracted by various dystopian fiction trilogies, and lose, then find, then lose again my copy of the novel in the moves back and forth from college. I finally found it again last summer and have been keeping a careful eye on it. Assuming it doesn’t get up and walk away, I plan to read it this year.

The Bermudez Triangle

Maureen Johnson is probably one of my favorite authors. I have no real excuse for not reading this book. It has been on my shelf since my sophomore year of high school. I can remember at least 3 different times that I tried to start reading it, but then it accidentally ended up under my bed or tucked between couch cushions, and by the time I found it again, I couldn’t remember what I had already read. After several such attempts, I think I just kind of gave up. But now I am giving up on giving up because I do really want to read this book, and I’ve gotten a lot better at not losing things in the middle of reading them.
So there you have it, 5 books that I am determined to read. Check back in for updates on my progress and feel free to nag me about reading these.

Wordbound Week 3

Hello readers! I’m not gonna lie, this week’s Wordbound prompt had me a bit stumped.

I originally thought that I could use a scene from my story that I’ve been re-writing this week, only to realized that all of the doors in the scene were either open or opening. Now, an opening door must start closed, but I felt like I could do better than that, so I wrote a new scene.
This is from the same story as last week, but I think I should provide some context. My story takes place in the past and in the present. I’ve been playing with verb tense to reflect time in each scene, which has been a challenge for my brain. A fun challenge though. In the past, my protagonist, Amelia, is crushing super hard on this guy who is kind of a manipulative, arrogant  buttface. In the present, Amelia has recently ended the relationship with manipulative buttface and is trying to figure out if she can trust herself to love again. This excerpt belongs to the past storyline. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!
On Thursday, I asked Cassie to go find him for me. I had driven myself crazy with worry and longing. I was barely eating, sleeping fitfully, skipping classes. I couldn’t take another day of it. I knew what I had to do. The only way to fix things would be if I caved first. I had to be the bigger person and swallow my pride. That’s what people in adult relationships did. They fixed things. So I sent Cassie to tell him I wanted to talk.
That had been nearly ten minutes ago, and now I was sitting on my bed, watching the closed door. I held my breath at every sound, waiting to hear his footsteps coming down the hall.
Fifteen minutes.
Maybe he wouldn’t come. He probably wouldn’t come. And I wouldn’t blame him after all that I said. He looked so sad. But couldn’t he see it from my perspective? No. Stop. That was how I got myself into this mess in the first place. This was my fault. I had to fix this.
Twenty minutes.
The shifting light under the door and the giggles and shouts outside meant that the frisbee team was back. They must have gone to Caroline’s room to hang out after practice.
Twenty-five minutes.
A knock on the door. The knob turning. The door opening. I jumped to my feet. He was here.
“I’m so sorry!” I sat back down and put my head in my hands, trying not to cry. “I am so so sorry. I really screwed up, I know. But I can’t take not talking to you! I just miss you so much!” Oh no, there were the tears. “I’m just so sorry.”
A change in pressure on the bed. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. Really. So sorry”
A hand on my shoulder. “It’s okay, Amelia. We’ll figure this out. I’m just really glad you apologized.”
Relief flooded through me. We were talking again, and we would figure this out. I did the right thing this time.

Favorite Fairytale Retellings

Hello readers! I love a good fairytale retelling. There’s something fun about knowing exactly what the plot should be and seeing how the author changes it. I love how different authors come of with so many ways of re-interpreting classic stories and characters. Whether the fairytale is brought into modern times, or transported to a completely different world, I’m always keen to explore a familiar story with unfamiliar twists. Here are five of my favorite fairytale retellings.

1. East by Edith Pattou

East of the Sun and West of the Moon is one of my favorite fairytales of all time, so it’s not surprising that a version of it is one of my favorite fairytale retellings. East is magical and wonderful. It incorporates other traditional Norse stories and mythology into the original tale. It was hard to put down, and I still think about it years later.

2. Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Not many people know the Brothers Grimm fairytale “The Goose Girl.” Like many old fairytales that haven’t been altered by Disney, it’s somewhat morbid, involving talking blood spots, and a horse’s head. Shannon Hale manages to take the creepy tale and weave a beautiful story about a Princess sent to marry a stranger in order to preserve peace in the kingdom, the obstacles she has to overcome, and the friends she makes along the way. Not only is it a great retelling, but it is also the first book in a really good series – The Books of Bayern.

3. Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

Well, I already told you that I love East of the Sun and West of the Moon, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that I have yet another version of it on this list. I love Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow. It has the same general story as East – girl leaves her family to live with a magical polar bear, falls in love, rescues him from trolls. Yet, somehow it is completely different, and just as wonderful. I would go through and talk about my favorite parts, and dissect the differences between the two books, but I wouldn’t want to spoil anything, so you should probably just go read it.

4. Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George

Okay, Jessica Day George knows how to retell a fairy tale, so she made the list twice. If it wasn’t obvious, Princess of Glass is a retelling of Cinderella. There are lots of versions of Cinderella out there, everything from the children’s classic Ella Enchanted to the science fiction Cinder. What I love so much about this version though, is that the Cinderella character is not the protagonist. In fact, at some points in the story she even seems like she might be the villain (but I’ll leave it to you to find out how that works out). George is so creative with this story and the characters, and manages to tie this retelling in perfectly with the first book in the series Princess of the Midnight Ball.

5. Entwined by Heather Dixon

The last one on my list for today is Entwined, which is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I honestly never really understood this particular fairy tale. It is never revealed why the princesses are dancing every night, and it doesn’t seem like the soldier and princess are a good match. Entwined addresses all of these issues though. The princesses are lured into dancing every night and then have no way of escaping. The story explores how easy it can be to trust someone who means you harm, and the relationships among the characters are well developed throughout the story. It was kind of creepy, but also magical. I couldn’t put it down and read it in a matter of hours.
Well, those are five of my favorite fairytale retellings, but I have many more, so maybe I will do this again sometime. Let me know if there are other favorites you would like to see.

Wordbound Week 2

Hello readers! For this week’s Wordbound, I’ve got an excerpt from a story I’ve been writing. Enjoy!

Glaciology was the most boring class ever. Or maybe Professor Dunne was the most boring professor ever. It was hard to tell the difference. I remembered being excited for this class when I registered for it. I liked glaciers, I liked learning about the environment and climate change, the course description really did sound fascinating. But Dunne had a way of sucking the fun out of just about everything. He droned on at the head of the class, occasionally turning around to write something on the board about the structure of water. It was 3 weeks into the semester, why on earth were we still talking about the structure of water? I had given up on paying attention about ten minutes previously and was making intricate doodles in my notebook. I used my pen to draw the silhouette of a tree, then birds in the tree, a squirrel, another bird. I added more branches to the tree while the professor drew arrows coming off a water molecule on the blackboard. Every once in awhile he would say a word that I thought might be important, so I scrawled it along one of the tree branches. If I ever needed to study these notes, I would be screwed.
I was drawing a cluster of leaves on my tree when I felt him slide into the seat next to me and every muscle in my body tensed. Andrew. Why was he sitting here? He never had before. I turned my head towards him and he was staring at me with a dopey grin on his face. “Hey,” he mouthed and then leaned over and wrote something in the corner of my notebook. What have I missed?
I gestured to the open page in my notebook to show him my doodles. He leaned over again and wrote So you didn’t take notes for me? Oh well, no point in paying attention now. That made me smile and roll my eyes. Then he leaned over, but instead of writing anything, he slid my notebook away from me and flipped to a new page. He wrote Our Secret Language at the top and the letters of the alphabet down the side. I gave him a quizzical look and he responded by holding up a finger in the gesture for me to wait and see. I watched as he drew a different symbol next to each letter and then turned the page and drew a string of the symbols at the top. He then passed the book back to me and waited expectantly.
I translated the symbols one at a time. I’ve decided we are going to be best friends. I started to write What made you decide that? underneath his message, but he shook his head and pointed at the first page with the symbols. I was much slower than him as I found each symbol I needed, so I stuck with a simple word. Why?

He replied with the same three symbols as me plus three more. Why not?


Hello readers! Last week Kristina Horner announced a new project called Wordbound. I love this idea and I think it fits in well with what I want to do on this blog. I like writing for the creative and emotional outlet it provides, but I definitely don’t write as much as I could. I also someday hope to be a scientific researcher and/or professor at a university, which are both jobs that require writing skills. Writing doesn’t usually come easy to me, but I find it incredibly rewarding. Despite all of these things, I just don’t make the time for myself to write. Well, no more!
I want to use this blog to hold myself accountable for my reading challenges, so why not use it to create some accountability for my writing too?
I will be posting Wordbound posts as often as I can (hopefully every week, but no promises).
For the first prompt, my writing goals for 2017:

  • Write in my journal at least once a week. I’ve had the same journal since 2009 and this is going to be the year I finally finish it. I love journaling, but I haven’t been keeping up with it over the past couple of years. It’s great practice for writing, and it also gives me a record of stuff I do, people I see, and things that are important to me.
  • Keep up with posting on this blog for the rest of the year. I’ve had a lot of unfinished attempts at blogging or video blogging, but this is going to be the one that sticks!
  • Complete a creative writing project. There are a handful of story beginnings floating around on my computer. At least one of them is going to get a middle and an ending.
I think 3 is a reasonable number of goals to set, so part 2 – what does #wordbound mean to me?
I love the thought that we are bound to our words, but I’m going to add a new meaning. For me, #wordbound also means that I am bound to need my words. At some point in the future, I am going to need to write a lot more than I do now, and I will likely be mentoring younger writers. Granted, it will be scientific writing, but writing is writing and the more you do anything, the better you get.
So here’s to getting better!

The Unfinished Series Project and My 2017 TBR

Hello readers! I want to tell you about one of my reading projects. A little while back I found myself somewhat annoyed that I had not ever finished certain series that I started reading as a kid. I would reflect on these series and wonder what happened to the characters, how the stories ended, and why I lost interest in them. For some, like the Sammy Keyes series by Wendelin van Draanen, I felt like I had grown out of it before the final books were released. For others, like The Giver series by Lois Lowry, I never managed to obtain a copy of the last couple of books. And some I just forgot about after reading one or two books. So I decided that I would go back and finish the series that I never got around to finishing before.
I started with Sammy Keyes, which I adored as a kid. Sammy was everything I wasn’t. I was a goody-two-shoes, rule following, piano playing, introvert. Sammy was a sleuthing, rule bending, skateboarding, cool kid with a habit of finding herself in sticky situations. I thought she was so amazing, and van Draanen influenced my own writing style early on. So one summer evening, after a long day of data collection for my research project at the time, I purchased the ebook version of the next book in the series from where I had left off. Sammy Keyes was just as enchanting as ever, and I barely came up for air until I was done with the last novel.
Exhilarated from my first success, I dug out my copy of The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket and kept going. A few days later I had finally discovered the outcome of the Baudelaire orphans’ trials, which was immensely satisfying. Since that summer, I have finished The Chronicles of Narnia, The Giver, The Books of Bayern, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Of course, given the occurrence of crossover in Rick Riordan’s novels, it was hardly enough to stop there. I zoomed through The Heroes of Olympus, and now I’m two thirds of the way through the Kane chronicles, soon to read Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, and eagerly anticipating the second book of The Trials of Apollo. I am also two thirds through the Princess Academy trilogy by Shannon Hale.
And that brings me to the next thing I wanted to talk about. In addition to the goal of reading 60 books this year, I also want to continue my Unfinished Series project, so here’s a little peak at my 2017 to-be-read list, or TBR. I plan on finishing the Kane Chronicles, catching up on Magnus Chase, hopefully before the new book is published, and finishing the third book of the Princess Academy series. I also recently found out that there are two books in the Emily Windsnap series that I never even knew about. I don’t remember most of what happened in the books I have read, but I know I was obsessed with them when I was younger, so I want to re-read those and then read the two new ones.
I also LOVE Ally Carter, so I am incredibly excited to read the new book in the Embassy Row series.
In addition to series that I read when I was a kid, there are plenty of series that I have started more recently and plan on finishing. This year so far, I have already read the first two books of the Starbound series and I plan on reading the third as soon as I recover from the emotional turmoil that has occurred as a result of the second book. I also want to read the second book in The Conspiracy of Us, the sequel to Juliet Immortal, and the rest of the books by Gail Carson Levine that take place in the same world as Ella Enchanted (well, and if we’re being honest, possible everything else she’s ever written).
You may be thinking, “but Emma, you said you wanted to read 60 books this year and you’ve only listed about 20 or so!” Well, don’t you worry, because I have plenty of other books on my TBR. I’ve currently got a long list of books I’m on the waitlist for at my local library (maybe I’ll make a post about that sometime), as well as an even longer list of books that are either stand alone novels or part of a series I haven’t even started yet. I don’t think I’ll have any problem finding enough to read this year, but definitely let me know if you have any recommendations. I love me a good fairytale retelling or sleuthing protagonist. I’d also be interested to know if there are any series that you loved as a kid and think I should read.

Hello Readers!

    Welcome to the first ever post on my brand new blog! I’m excited about this project, so let me tell you a bit about what I’m going to be doing here.
    Last year I decided to take on the 50 book challenge, and I actually completed it! It’s one of the only long-term goals I’ve ever seen through to the end and I feel so proud of myself. This year I am upping the challenge to 60 books. I wanted some way to hold myself accountable and keep track of the books that I’m reading. I love watching booktubers on YouTube, and I briefly toyed with the idea of starting a booktube channel. Then I remembered that I stopped making videos a long time ago because I didn’t really like it anymore, so I scratched that idea. I’ve decided on a blog instead.
     So here I am. I’m planning on posting about the books that I’m reading, but also doing some of the challenges that booktubers and other book bloggers do, like readathons. I also might start posting some of my writing, because another one of my goals is to write more. We’ll see.
    So let me tell you a bit about me. I do science because science is great and I love it. However, my science career path doesn’t always give me the creative and imaginative outlet that I often crave, so when I’m not sciencing, I love to read, write, cook, bake, hike, take pictures, and craft. If any of you reading this (if there even is anyone) want to know more about those things, let me know, and maybe I’ll make some posts about it. For now, I’m keeping this blog very open ended. It will start out mostly about books, but we’ll see where it goes. The last time I had a proper blog was about a decade ago, so bear with me through the awkward beginning stages while I figure this thing out.