book review

Book Review: Something About You by Julie James

I’ve been in a book slump for so long I almost forgot what it was like to absolutely love a book. Thanks to Julie James, I remember that feeling. Again and again.

This past week I have read two of her books…ones that fell under the whole enemies to lovers trope that I adore. And thanks to a search on Goodreads, I was able to discover these two of her books.

The one that I just finished today, gets a solid ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐.

Something About You is the first book in James’s FBI/US Attorney series.

First of all, there are three different covers for this book, so I figured I would share them all here…

say-cover-new
Ebook Cover?
something about you paperback cover
Paperback Cover?
something-about-you-audiobook
Audiobook Cover?

This is the slow burn murder mystery and eventually romance story of assistant U.S. Attorney Cameron Lynde and Special Agent Jack Pallas. 

If Rhysand, High Lord of the Night Court didn’t already have my heart, I might be willing to give it to Jack.

This is a story of a bunch of my favorite tropes, done in such an incredible and non-cheesy way, that this story has reminded me of why I love these tropes so much in the first place.

Tropes Included:

  • Enemies to lovers
  • Second Chance Romance
  • Soul Mates and Fate
  • Redemption Arc
  • Revenge Plot
  • Murder Mystery Needs to Be Solved
  • Fake Relationship

In addition, there are some of my other favorite elements included in this story, like:

  • Over-protective best friends
  • Motorcycle riding
  • Wedding drama
  • Sharing a hotel room
  • Mentions of things from pop-culture, like the Bachelorette
  • SLOW BURN
  • Feminist men and women
  • And incredibly funny scenes

Generally speaking, I think that James is one of the best romance authors I have ever read. She is right up there with Jane Austen. She has such an incredible way of drawing out the romance thanks to such minute interactions between the characters, that they gradually, over time, fall in love naturally. The drama isn’t so extreme or angsty. The characters are incredibly mature (in regards to the fallout the second time around) and slowly seek forgiveness and retribution for their past mistakes.

This book, in particular, features characters who have a misunderstanding because both characters are missing some vital information to explain why situations have ended as badly as they have.

What I love about James’s books is that the characters aren’t stagnant. They learn from their past and are willing to forgive and even fall in love with those who have been responsible for some of the worst moments in their lives, or so they think.

If that isn’t the ideal for all of us, then I don’t know what is.

 

Now, here comes the spoiler portion of my post….

…this is the only warning that there will be major spoilers.

 

Characters

Jack: arrogant, holds a grudge against Cameron for almost ruining his career, holds a grudge against Cameron for making him lose his calm composure 3 years ago…in front of a reporter…who made sure his outburst made it onto national television for years to come, is incredibly sensitive of people’s changing facial expressions and what that means for their thought processes, has perfected the glowering look, takes his job and protective custody seriously for the woman that he even considers his enemy. 

Cameron: Assistant U.S. Attorney who isn’t the same “I don’t want to make waves with my boss” employee that she was 3 years ago, has a strong sense of right and wrong, wants to protect people, has the worst luck in the world picking a hotel room next to people who kept her up all night and then was the scene of a murder hours later, incredibly selfless woman who takes protective custody without fuss or complaint.

So basically, our main characters are two quirky, realistic, and down to earth characters who I 100% can get behind. Even the “mistakes” that each of them have made in their past are things that I, and other readers, understand why they both did what they did. Cameron in supporting her boss’s decision not to try the case, and Jack in losing his cool.

And this comment, “But before he realized what he was doing, Jack fired back a reply to the reporter’s question.

‘I think the assistant U.S. attorney has her head up her ass, that’s what I think. They should’ve assigned the case to somebody with some fucking balls.’”

When I first read this scene I was cringing, and not even sure if I would continue to read the rest of the book, if he was as much of an asshole as he was in this scene of his backstory. And now after getting the rest of it, I think it is hilarious. Especially that years later, the video has resurfaced after the couple got together and the whole issue was rehashed, which “usually brought on another glowering session on his part, Cameron personally found it amusing to watch.” 

And then the best part…

“She’d even slipped once––while he was trying to wrestle the remote control out of her hands to turn off the ten o’clock news, she’d teasingly said they should share the footage with their kids someday as evidence of their love at first sight.”

What I really loved about their relationship, though was that they both had feelings for one another from years ago, but neither of them ever brought it up until years later, as if the time and distance has been too much. 

And I can’t forget about the “I took a bullet for you” scene that was quite a tense moment, but luckily Cameron’s bullet wound only ended up being a .2 on Jack’s 1-10 scale, so she lived. And I cracked up.

Some of the aspects of this book that I also love are the minor characters. Jack, after returning from Nebraska is partnered with the rookie agent, Sam Wilkins, who I absolutely adore, if only for knowing what a meet cute is in a romance novel, and sharing that with the other officers. But there is more. He is an expert “good cop,” so much so that he even helps to turn down Jack’s “bad cop” levels a few notches. Aside from him being such a sweetheart, he is smart, too, and just as protective over his witness as Jack is, when it comes to her safety at the bachelorette party she is hosting. And the date that she got stood up at. 

And thank god for Sam, being the only connection to pop culture that Jack has. He has to educate his partner on everything from what that new club that opened is like, to themes in chick flicks, to Carrie Bradshaw’s role in Sex and the City, and the sacrosanctity of going into a woman’s purse, and even to knowing the name and face of their famous local sports writer, when Jack doesn’t have a clue about any of these things.

One of my favorite Sam scenes is when he convinces Jack to pop into the bachelorette party:

“You thought going into a purse was sacrosanct? Infiltrating a bachelorette party is way beyond that.”

Wilkins rubbed his hands together eagerly. “ know. And I’ll never have an excuse like this again”

“You’re an FBI agent, Sam,” Jack reminded him.

“I’m also a single man, Jack. And inside that house are twenty gorgeous women who are drinking and showing off their panties. It’s a no-brainer.” He pushed off the car and headed toward the house.

“Easy for you to say, good cop. I’m the one who’s going to catch hell for this,” Jack grumbled as he followed.

Wilkins grinned. “I know. That’s what makes it so perfect.”

I was dying. And even worse was that I couldn’t wait for them to show up to the house and be mistaken for strippers. That scene wasn’t as dramatic as I thought it was going to be, nothing like on Jane the Virgin, but it was still pretty hilarious, too.

Then my other favorite secondary character is Colin. I love how he gives Jack shit.

“Sorry I didn’t recognize the name. I’ve been out of touch for a while.”

“Oh? The Sun-Times doesn’t deliver to Nebraska?” Collin quipped without thinking.

Like burn.

But he also notices Jack checking Cameron out and then subtly pushes them together by just casually bringing up that he is gay. Even though Jack doesn’t know if he believes him and is still jealous. And he notices Cameron blushing over talk of Jack. 

“Collin was intrigued. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d seen Cameron blush because of a guy. 

The plot thickened.”

Just amazing.

Us writers are always using book lingo in everyday life. If I didn’t already use the whole “the plot thickened line in everyday life, I would start now.

There was one thing that was missing, that I am really hoping might pop up in future books…Jack spending time with his nephew, who he was so excited to move back to Chicago for. But of course being around when Cameron was under protective custody because there was a murderer on the loose would not have been the best place for a toddler, so I will let that one slide.

All in all, this book is definitely going on my favorites shelf, which I have very high standards for. It was an amazing book, with amazing characters. No angst or love triangles. No unnecessary drama. Just a great crime fighting story where fate brings these two characters together after years and drama had divided them.

I highly recommend.

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book review, writing

BookCon 2019 Was a Success!

The biggest events of the year for the book publishing world took place during the week of May 29th-June 2nd, right here in NYC. Aka BookExpo and BookCon.

To anyone unfamiliar, BookExpo is a trade event for those in the industry, to learn about upcoming authors, technologies, trends, and even network. While meeting people on line at BookCon, I even learned that you are required to have these sorts of literary credentials to be allowed into the BookExpo. It really is only for people in the field. 

BookCon is very similar to Comic Con in that this is the place for all of the fans to converge and meet with their favorite authors and publishers and win books & tote bags and even shop for all things bookish. There are so many things to do at BookCon from author meet and greets, book signings, photo ops, attending all different sorts of book talks and panels and even shopping.

This year I was thrilled to finally attend BookCon with my sister! And as first-timers, we had no idea what to expect….our anxiousness was balanced by our anxiety. And then all of it was calmed down by our complete exhaustion.

I will first start with a re-cap of our day which will begin with some complaining…so just bare with me until I get to the good stuff.

It all started at about 4am, which is the time we had to get up to catch the earliest train into Manhattan. For those not familiar with the Long Island Rail Road systems, they suck.

Our train line, the one right next to my house, the one that runs all day and night, once every hour, was undergoing construction. And this is not completely a new thing, because it tends to work out that every time I am heading into the city there is some rail work happening where I will need to take a bus about halfway and then hop on a train…which can be inconvenient because it adds about an extra 40 minutes to the trip.

However, this weekend’s work was not the normal type of thing. This one would have added about 2 additional hours to the commute. This would require us to take the train partway. Then transfer to a bus which would drive us back East to a different train station on a different train line, and then we would have to take another train in, and maybe even transfer a second time to make it. To get to BookCon for the opening, we would have had to take a train at 3am.

Our other option was to take a different train line. Which didn’t begin running until 6am and required a train transfer, so the whole trip would have only gotten us in at the earliest by 8am. And I was hoping to be there by 7.

My sister and I decided that this was our best option, because we could get a little bit more sleep and deal with less transfers. So by 5:30 we set out for our day, forgoing coffee and breakfast in favor of sleep, and with a few peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwiches and many books already packed in our bags. And a plan to grab our coffees from Penn for our walk to the Javits Center.

But then again our makeshift plan B got even worse because while we were sitting on the train, trying to make charts and plan out the rest of our day, my sister noticed that it was going really abnormally slow and then it stopped. And the conductor made an announcement that we were going to be delayed because there was a train in front of us that had to stop because of an unauthorized person near the train tracks. Which was a frustrating 20 minute delay, especially to myself (who knows nothing about trains or how they operate or what goes into keeping the train riders safe) felt that they could have just told the guy to move and we could all be on our way.

But alas, we were delayed, then missed our transfer, then were late getting into the city.

And thanks for following me up until this point, because now I am going to get to the good stuff. 🙂

The rest of the day really started working in our favor. We then got our Starbucks drinks, and my Caramel latte made me feel 10xs better.

Then the walk towards Javits Center helped to build our excitement, especially as we saw so many other people heading in the same direction as us in all sorts of bookish and writer and fandom tee shirts.

We even started up a conversation with these women heading in for their friend’s booth Jacquelyn Longobardo, author of Because of you.

This was one of my favorite of our BookCon day…meeting and chatting with all sorts of people from all over. Everyone was so easy to talk to.

Things began working in our favor when we finally walked into the glass castle and saw that there were absolutely zero lines for the will call tickets. We arrived just after the morning rush and people had already cleared out of the lobby.

Score 1 for Rach and Sam.

We got our BookBub lanyards to hang our tickets on and even took lots of pictures with the Crescent City poster hanging in the lobby with no rush. So thank you to all of the employees who were so helpful and friendly directing us and letting us walk around in awe.

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Then when we casually made our way towards the general admission line, we got to talking with the girls sitting surrounding us who were sort of letting us know what to expect and how to deal with the chaos. Because looking around at our peers, I was feeling unprepared with nothing like all of the charts, maps, and schedules that everyone else seemed to have. And then being told that I would regret not bringing a wheeled suitcase, like the rest of them.

Which, for the record, we managed fine without. Even though my shoulders are still hurting from my backpack straps.

And really, to quote my sister, it was a wild ride. We saw people going all out with their cosplay, many of whom were there as Sarah J. Maas characters (my favorite series which you probably already know if you follow my blog) and we saw someone dressed as a character from my sister’s favorite series, All For The Game. Then there were those who were totally prepared with the right gadgets like a camelbak hydration pack to sip from all day. There are definitely some smart moves that we saw and can learn from for next year.  

Once they opened the gates, some people were literally running through the center to hop on line at their favorite booth because many of them were doing giveaways and ARC drops first thing in the morning. The masses of people were stressing my sister and I out who didn’t know where to go or what to look at first. We couldn’t figure out the numbering of the booths, nor could we figure out what any of the lines were actually for, so our strategy quickly became hop on the shorter lines we found. And then we ended up at our first game of the day at LitJoy Crate, where my sister won a pin and I won a Clark Kent luggage tag!

And this was more or less how our day went. Trying to figure out what everyone else was doing. Trying to cross check the schedule of ARC drops, games, signings, and panels with the current time of the day. Blowing it all off and just seeing what we stumbled upon.

Our day was so much fun! We played a whole bunch of spin the wheels and see which prize you win type-of-games and actually won a lot of cool things. I think my sister and I walked away with four tote bags each, bookmarks, a pillow case, pens, and then in my favorite game of the day, Pin the tail on Cardan, I even won an ARC from Fae Crate. (The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate which I am so excited to read and review on my blog!) And then the people at Fae Crate kept recognizing us because we were back so many times that day! (They were clearly our favorite booth, that we returned to every two hours.) One of those return trips was to meet the amazing and talented artist, Gabriella Bujdoso, who signed one of her prints for us. (That I promptly hung beside my desk when we returned home!)

We did make it to one ARC drop line, though. As we were walking by, they had just opened the line for a fantasy book drop, so we hopped right on. Little did we know that we would get to meet the authors and they were going to sign our books. We had the funniest conversation with Amanda Foody (author of Ace of Shades) and Nancy Richardson Fischer (author of The Speed of Falling Objects, on sale October 1st) about the jumping spiders at our house. Then my sister went on to meet with Maggie Stiefvater and discussed someone from high school that she hated. I don’t know what either of us were thinking, but those are the only things we talked about. They will probably never forget us.

The highlight of my day, though, was finding the Wick and Fable booth that had a book beau of Feysand. And while I was waiting on line to purchase it, I saw a Rhysand candle and swiped that one, too. And boy, does he smell amazing. I was thrilled to come home and put them immediately on my Sarah J. Maas bookshelf, knowing that I will never burn that candle.

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And then our wild day ended up at a rooftop bar, where we laughed that we were at a bar, drinking margaritas, with a total of 14 books in our backpacks. And we spent way too much money on food and drinks. So much money that Rachel actually left without her credit card. Like we said, it was a wild day. LMAO.

Did anyone else get to attend BookCon this year? Or previously and know what I am going on about? Did you have similar experiences? Is anyone planning on going next year?

writing

Camp NaNo Leads to World & Character Building

So, Camp Nano is officially, a few months, over, and though I did not reach my page count, I did have some success in developing my story. I will count it as a win.

(And if anyone wants to read my pre-Camp NaNo blog, I just learned how to provide a link, here!)

The NaNo organization provides so many useful resources, tools and blog posts for all of us amateur writers, that I have been making a lot of use of this year. They cover topics from providing writing prompts and recovering from writer’s block, to how to get your novel published when it is finished. Their blog runs alongside forums where you can discuss these topics with others in the same boat and offer and receive advice on anything you can imagine.

That being said, I thought that some of you would be interested in seeing what this process has been like for me.

It all started with this shared link through the NaNo site: 

A questionnaire about general world building facts for your story, which I made some use out of for Heroic Night and hope to return to this article for creating the world for future characters and stories.

Some of the things that I came up with, and hope to develop further, are related to mythology, climate, and commercialism, as these are some of the subjects central to the plot of Heroic Night.

How did your world originate? Do the people who inhabit your world have a creation myth, or a scientific explanation for how it came to be?

    • Creation myth.

What are some important historic events in your world? How did they contribute to the geographic or social structures that exist in your world’s present day?

    • The war. The last great war has changed the dynamic and social structures making the people who once lived separately in ignorance, and very rarely together in harmony, hyper-aware of people’s races, and fearful of them.

What resources are in your world? What are the imports/exports? Which resources are rare and valuable, and which are necessary or common?

    • Not a major import, but the kingdom puts a very high value on jewels the more sparkly and vibrant ones are incredibly rare and coveted by ladies of high social standing.
    • Books are common in general, however there are many banned books and banned topics that imply anarchy or magic or true love, anything that tends to go against the current social standings of the wealthy. Approved books generally tend to be the non-fiction type. Those of history. Or genealogy.
    • Banned books are not necessarily expensive or on the black market, those who have or enjoy banned books know to pass them around and hide them from those who would disapprove, or risk breaking the chain that they have established for themselves.

What is the structure of your world’s government?

    • Think kings, queens, lords, ladies, peasants. Very medieval social structures with fear of witchcraft from the poor crones.

What is the geography and climate of your world?

    • Current residence just outside of a forest (almost like a mystical forest…like the Black forest) most of the scenes will alternate between taking place in the wild forest or in the rigid class structure of the towns…duality will represent the couple spending time in each other’s worlds. Climate = temperate

What are the seasons of your world?

    • All 4 seasons but need different names

As you can probably tell, this reads just like it was written at 4am by a procrastinator…because I think it definitely was….especially my answer about the seasons. Lol!

My next assignment for myself is to weed through the large stack of books I have picked out for myself from the library about fae, fairy, and fantasy mythologies to be able to narrow down what aspects of them I want to include in my own world, as opposed to using anything Sarah J. Maas as my primary text on the topic.

While world building is incredibly important to the fantasy aspects of Heroic Night, I have had an easier and better time actually working on my character development, thanks to these helpful questions. 

The character development is an important part to any story, but especially in romances. I spent a good portion of the month filling out questionnaires to better understand individual characters, starting with who is supposed to be the love interest.

And I began coming up with answers for my character Coby. There were ones that I didn’t know for sure in my head and many of them I left blank until the answers came to me. I didn’t want to simply make up my answers and many of the questions helped me to better. Understanding my characters is more important and then I would be able to figure out the other answers after.

In case you would like to learn more about Coby, I thought that I would share these answers, too.

What does your character do when they think no one’s looking?

  • When no one is looking, Coby is probably looking across the landscape or the stars in awe. He will never let anyone catch him doing it, though.

What’s the one thing your character would save in a fire (beyond the necessities)?

  • If it wasn’t a rescue attempt for someone else, and solely his things on fire, he would save his first ever sword, even though he could literally just wait out the fire and get it later because the metal sword could withstand anything. It was gifted to him by one of the older men in their tribe and he would always cherish the memory and the actual memento.

Who’s on speed dial?

  • One of his best friends, a fellow warrior.

Your character gets turned down for their dream job. What’s their second choice?

  • There is no second choice for his dream job, because he doesn’t even have a dream job. He just wants to make sure he makes the world a better place before he is inevitably killed in battle.

What would they tell their ten-year-old self?

  • He would tell his 10yo self not to give up. Things will get better and he will become stronger than those who used to torment him when he was younger.

Where would they want to go on a first date?

  • Not that he has been planning his ideal first date, but during his travels, he stayed in a small fishing village and always imagined it to be the perfect spot for a first date and to start a family. He ate at a restaurant along the water and though the weather wasn’t so great, he imagined on a sunny day you could see miles across to the continent beyond. And then, him and his date could stroll along the water’s edge and get fresh pastries from the bakery and watch the sunset wrapped in each other’s arms.

What’s the best advice they’ve ever received?

  • Best advice they have ever received is to stay alive. Simple. Practical. And something he has been following since the day he was born.

What’s the worst advice they’ve ever received?

  • Worst advice they have ever received is, “Be careful.” He would do what he wanted to anyway if the fates didn’t decide for him.

When was the last time they were held? By who?

  • The last time he was truly held was probably after his first kill, when he had come home distraught and his mom held him through his sobs.

Their wallet gets stolen. What do they do?

  • Feels bad for the robber because they obviously don’t know who they just messed with

Prioritize: Love, money, power, knowledge?

  • Power, love, knowledge, money

What (creature, object, substance) are they most disgusted by?

  • Those who harm children

In the end, your character fails to save the day. Assuming they survive, what do they do?

  • Drink/ travel far away

And now the next step for me is to continue these questionnaires for the rest of my characters in preparation for the next Camp NaNo in July, where I will slowly make more progress. But progress is progress so I will be happy with whatever  I come up with.

If any of my fellow writer friends have any other advice or tips or tricks that they use, I would love for you to share!

writing

Back At It With Camp NaNo

I’m baaaaaaacck.

And trying to develop my writing routine for a regular basis. Though my past two weeks have been crazy, which is as-per-usual in my life.

The most recent forms of chaos have been from my new position at work (you are reading this blog from the newest page at the library), attempting to plan my next few travels, and even the return of my shows: Jane the Virgin and (eventually) Game of Thrones! I am really excited about all that my future has to offer, once again, which is a very nice feeling.

camp 2019

In addition to all of these changes, I am primarily writing this blog post to share about Camp NaNoWriMo and my writing progress.

The first day of April is not only known for April Fools, but also the first day of Camp NaNo, “An idyllic writers retreat, smack-dab in the middle of your crazy life,” as their slogan says.

Camp Nano is different than the actual NaNo as this event is run, inspired by the flexibility and lightheartedness of an actual summer camp, but still contains all of the writing inspiration and companionship of NaNo. Unlike NaNo, however, Camp does not have a rigid structure of needing to write 1,667 words per day in order to finish on time and declare yourself a winner. Instead you select your own writing goals, tracked in whatever format you choose from words, hours, minutes, lines, and pages, on whatever sort of project you wish…meaning it does not have to be only a novel to count.

My camp project this year is a revision of my last NaNo novel from 2018, Heroic Night. I set a goal to write 30 pages within the month…thinking that one page per day would be an achievable goal and one that would help me to write the missing scenes from my story without adding too much stress that could cause writer’s block.

The title is still a work in progress…as well as the entire plot, characters, and even the point of view. And especially the whole middle of my story. As of bedtime of April 3rd, I have ONE almost Full Page typed out.

Along with following many of the prompts and advice in Camp nano emails and messages, and sharing with my cabin mates (aka the chatroom of fellow writers I was sorted into), I have come up with a theory to resolve my stress from the enormity of the editing project I have set out for myself. Which is to start with a blank page and write the missing scenes for my story and then figure out where they fit into the huge manuscript later.

gold kettle pouring hot water on cup of tea
Photo by NIKOLAY OSMACHKO on Pexels.com

Once a procrastinator, always a procrastinator.

Really not ready for a full read-through any time soon.

But, as I proceed with caution for this month’s brainstorming and writing and adding important details, I struggle to make this story something that is exciting to read and something that I look forward to reading and writing.

And while I get back to writing and finding the balance, I thought that I would share my latest addition to Heroic Night

NaNo Book Cover
This is around what my cover would look like… with the beautiful cover art found at Pulse Gallery and the text added by me.

[Days after sneaking into a ball that she was certainly not supposed to attend, Vivian discovers a present left for her inside her bedroom, with the fake name that she gave as her own…]

Worrying about any possible evidence was not the thing that stopped Vivian in her tracks while she was getting ready for bed later that evening.

What did stop her was the package left on the table in her room with a note wrapped in the ribbon. Before she opened the package, or before she even panicked, she tried to decipher the sloppy scrawl of who the note was addressed to.

And to her horror, her best guess at the writing was that it was addressed to the name “Grace”.

Exciting and kind of suspenseful, right?

 

For me too, especially since I am not even sure what is supposed to come next. Stay tuned and feel free to ask about more of what you want to know!

AND I would love to hear your thoughts or if anyone else is participating in Camp, too!?!?

 

Until next time…

travel

Second Time’s the Charm in Edinburgh

Hello! I am finally back to sharing more about my trip!

My second major stop on my tour this summer was the beautiful Edinburgh. I was thrilled to make Scotland the first place I traveled for the start of my solo tour because, as many of you probably know, Scotland holds a special place in my heart. I studied abroad at the University of Glasgow, and so Scotland feels like a second home to me. And it is also the country where I, one day, plan to live.

And I sort of needed to start in a place I was comfortable with because I needed that confidence booster to stop letting everyone’s comments from back home get to me. And this really ended up being the perfect way to handle things.

Edinburgh (pronounced Eden-bra) is such a handsome, historical, and hilly city. And unlike many other parts of Scotland, you will actually be able to understand the English spoken here!

Similar to Ireland, this area of Scotland is a great place for new travelers, because culturally, things are not so different from those back in America, and as a very tourist geared city, you will always be able to find many comforts from home.

Top tourist attractions include hiking up to Arthur’s seat, visiting Scotland’s crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny both in the castle, the monuments on Calton Hill, the famous Greyfriars Kirkyard, and more! There are such diverse attractions in this city to appeal to athletes, historians, the royal family fans, foodies, and those who love to shop––all within walking distance of one another!

Navigation around the city is a breeze with the city compact enough that I was able to walk everywhere I wanted to go, even to the hiking trails, but the hills and stairs can be quite exhausting. (Learn from my mistakes: pack plenty of food and water in your day pack before trying to conquer Arthur’s seat.) Public transportation is available to and from the airport and runs 24/7 with tickets available to purchase at the bus terminal at the airport. It was super convenient purchasing my ticket ahead of time, so I could just board the bus when I was ready to leave.

As a part of the UK, Scotland’s currency is the Pound sterling (£) which is generally, consistently, stronger than the USD. So the prices in the store are not the prices that it would actually cost to an American, when every £1 would cost about $1.31. (And it is not always fun doing that math on the fly. I managed with help from a conversion app.)

And this is sort of the basics of what travelers should know and what they will learn during their time here.

Sightseeing over the summer was an incredible experience, and one that I cannot wait to repeat in the future.

My last visit to Edinburgh was during all of the excitement of the Christmas markets during the height of the holiday shopping season (and the low point on the thermometer). But I was also exploring with my flatmates after living with them for a whole semester.

So my visit in June was very different. Still pretty cold, even relative to Ireland, but much quieter and at much more of a relaxed pace, thanks to not needing to rush to catch a train at the end of the day. I very much enjoyed getting to explore another city in Scotland at my own pace with an itinerary that I did not have to compromise with anyone. I got to wake up early and take a full day to tour the Edinburgh Castle spending hours wandering the halls, walk all the way down the royal mile to see the Queen’s Gallery and stop in for a cup of tea, wherever I pleased.

The most rewarding part of my trip was getting to finally explore the Edinburgh Castle, something that I put off for most of my study abroad, until I returned to America without ever seeing it, so this was something that was at the very top of my list of things I needed to do before returning home.

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The Entrance to the Edinburgh Castle on a gloomy Scottish day

And after doing much research, I made my way up to the castle early in the morning to make sure I could get a ticket, and I had my student ID handy, like I did for most of my trip, to make sure that I could get all of the student discounts on all of my museum visits. Especially since, at this point, I did not know how far I would need to make my money stretch. And solo visits to the museums, I feel, are so much more rewarding than going with someone, or with a group of people. I was able to take it all in, and at my own pace. Things like waiting on a line to see the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny (used at the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1953), would probably not be something that I would subject others to doing, but it was something that I felt was worth the wait. And what a breathtaking site (even if photos were not allowed).

And if anyone is interested in a brief history of these Honours of Scotland, the Visit Scotland website is a perfect help. 

Some other highlights from the castle were taste-testing Scottish Whiskey right on the grounds, which was incredible, btw, and even visiting St. Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, that remains from the 12th Century. It is such a small building with small windows (a late add on) which is probably the reason for lasting so long.

And a stay in Scotland in never complete without visiting a historical site while there is a wedding going on. I will never forget the feeling of awe (and jealousy) in seeing couples get married in the most beautiful places, which are during this trip to the Edinburgh Castle, to later on in my trip where I almost accidentally interrupted a wedding procession in Cinque Terre, to all of the weddings we passed in Glasgow at my university or at Oran Mor––the church/bar on the way to my university. They were the most incredible, and accidental events I have stumbled on and ones that inspire my own future wedding plans––hope my future husband is on board.

Another major highlight of my trip, was the day I spend hiking up to Arthur’s seat, an ancient volcano visible even from the city center. (Which actually just went up in a blaze two days ago, so I hope that everything will be okay there!) The hike lead to extraordinary views of the city, especially because I just happened to go on a clear day, and I was able to meet some of my fellow hikers at the top of the hills who helped me take some of my favorite pictures from my trip.

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Standing before the Great Arthur’s Seat

The very same day, before or after my hike (I forget the order), I also was able to visit and sit in on some Parliament discussions, as I just happened to be passing by while it was in session.

And another highlight, that I won’t go into too much detail about because I have written much about it in the past, was my visit to Greyfriars Kirkyard, most recently known to house the inspiration to JK Rowling’s character names, but it is also well known for Greyfriars Bobby, the Skye Terrier who guarded the grave of his owner for 14 years in the kirkyard, and who now can be seen in the statue in front of the entrance.

Aside from all of my sightseeing, perhaps the most memorable part of my visit to Edinburgh is all of the incredible friends that I made there.

I met up with an Australian lady from Girls Love Travel Facebook group at a cafe in town, and learned all about her life, and how she is on her year abroad, looking for work and to travel. Then in my hostel, I made so many friends from Canada, Columbia, and Germany who would all meet down at the hostel pub to share travel stories from like-minded travelers and drink together. And discuss Harry Potter, too! And my very last night in Scotland (for this trip) we all went on a pub crawl together and had a blast before I made my way to the airport, headed for Italy.

My next stop: Bologna.

book review

Throwback: Laguna Cove Review

I am trying to get into the groove of writing book reviews, and as I figure it out for my recent reads, I have been looking back at my old writing. (Aided by my current room decluttering.)

So I thought that today’s post would be a perfect time to share some of my old book reviews. So we can laugh together.

AKA The “Independent Reading Summer Worksheet”

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So today’s book reflection will be on Alyson Noel’s Laguna Cove,  which is in part thanks to my ‘summer reads’ phase when I was obsessed with all of the beachy romances and would get stacks of books by the same authors out from my library at a time.

Since then, my writing tastes have evolved towards messier and less contemporary stuff. And now I can’t get enough of fantasy books. (Although I still struggle with any time travel books.)

And boy this is also a reflection of myself, too. Thank god my writing has improved.

Anyway, let me share a brief (and current) summary of this book.

Laguna Cove, published in 2006, takes place in Laguna Beach, California, where a bunch of teenagers spend all of their free time on the beach hanging out and surfing, and just soaking up the sun. Anne is the new girl who moves cross country to live with her dad after her parents split up, and she is forced to deal with all of these changes at once, while learning the dynamic of a new school and new peers. Something really upsetting is that Anne had to give up being the captain of the diving team back home with the new move.

The real drama, though, is between Anne and Ellie over popularity and the cutest guy in school…Chris. Ellie is jealous and worried about Anne taking over her friends and her life that she lashes out at Anne. Anne learns to surf and dates Chris. Things get ugly. Everyone picks sides.

And like my original review says, the ending is left open ended…nothing is really concluded. From a quick search of other reviews, many readers feel the same way. That the ending sort of jipped us.

So with that, I would like to share some of my old review of this book. Here are some of the more notable questions and answers.

First:

Identify the AUTHOR. Provide jacket information (if it’s available.) What genre does the author usually adhere to? Have you read anything else by the author? How big an undertaking was the book? (How many pages? How accessible or dense was the author’s language?)

And my 2010 response:

Alyson Noel is the author who writes fictional books about teenage girls lives. I have not read her other books, but I plan to in the future. The book was 216 pages and became a little confusing at times because the phrases the characters use are from California and I am not familiar with it.

My 2019 thoughts are much different. I am trying to prevent myself from editing all of my old writing, but I am laughing. “I am not familiar” with the California phrases is my absolute favorite part, because really? This is coming from the same person who went on to live in Glasgow. Where people are much harder to understand than California. I think that I must have mentioned this to answer how accessible the book was, but present day Samantha would have a very different interpretation of this question, and a very different answer, too. I also think that it is so funny that the school bolded author, as if us 9th graders could not read and understand the whole question and we just needed a snippet.

Another of my favorite questions and answers is this one:

Is there anything special or noteworthy about the author’s handling of CHARACTERIZATION?

And my short response:

The characterization was good, but nothing special.

Bahaha.

How did I go from this to becoming an English major, I have no idea.

Like, okay, maybe I simply wasn’t understanding the deeper interpretations of the author question, but this is really funny. Like, zero effort.

I didn’t even explain, just a no. Maybe I was rushing to finish this? Maybe I was writing it the period before it was due. Maybe I meant to get back and finish this question? I guess we will never know if this came out of laziness, procrastination, or what.

And for the epic conclusion:

COMPARE or CONTRAST the book with a book that you’re read before, or a movie you’ve seen, or a short story, or a dramatic production. Or was the book a completely original experience?

And my 9th grade answer:

This book for me was a completely original experience. The way the characters interacted and the problems they faced was all new to me. The way the whole town spends their time at the beach and that surfing is the center of their lives is very strange to me.

Okay, so I want to try and defend this answer here. But first, I purposely kept in the spelling and grammar errors in the question and answer. Just so you know, current me recognizes those errors.

Now, in my defense, maybe this was the first book in this genre that I have actually read. And this is also from a time where I wasn’t exposed to the internet much. I don’t even think I had my own computer or anything more than a flip phone. And I didn’t watch any of those surfing movies?

Still, I could have compared it to Twilight, for crying out loud. For being completely opposite books, for dealing with problems from the sunny summer versus the school year in rainy Forks, Washington.

And yet, here we are. I could not think of anything to compare or contrast. And now that is my favorite thing to do. Talk about #transformationtuesday .

It is also important to note that I read a lot of books from this subsection of YA contemporary beach romance books, there must have been something drawing me into them. And yet I still only gave it two stars. I was a really tough critic, and for a book that I selected on my own, and for an independent summer reading assignment, no less.

And this is the part of me that I still identify with.  

writing

New Writing Space

Hi all,

I know that it has been a while since I have posted about my trip, and I am really sorry, I have a bunch of half written blog posts waiting for me. But this is honestly how I live my life, leaving a bunch of projects half done, as emphasized by the half finished Harry Potter puzzle that I moved off of my desk chair to give me space to sit down and share about my newest project (that I may never finish either). But I am very excited and optimistic that I will set out and do what I mean to this time.

Drumroll please.

Creating my very own writing space.

 

Yay.

I wish I actually got some pictures of the chaos from the very beginning…with my tearing up my brother’s room for the start to emptying out his dresser, to dragging it across the house (all by myself) to then getting stuck right before the stairs into my room.

My mom came home for that part, and she was furious.

But eventually, with help from my cousin and sister and then later my mom, too, we successfully switched dressers, so I could fit my clothes under my bed and have my desk next to the window…where I will feel less claustrophobic and therefore more inspired to write at my desk in my room.

Day 1: I am writing at my desk.

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We had a couple of casualties during this move. My brother’s casualties actually.

-His ceramic dragon that was hanging on his wall.

-His lego star wars AT-ST walker lost a few pieces in it’s fall from the shelf (I am a star wars fan but not going to lie…I had to look up that name)

-And, in a recent discovery, his door knob.

We are still not sure how we are going to break the news to him yet. Luckily for us, I am pretty sure he doesn’t read my blog.

Update: I messaged him on Snapchat. He has not reacted yet.

Update 2: He responded with the laughing/crying face. So all is good.

And like the rest of my life’s projects, this one has yet to be completed. Not pictured in the photo above is the pile of sweaters that I knocked off of my desk chair, nor the pile of clothes that I cannot fit into my new dresser. Turns out, my brother’s is smaller than mine was, and now I do not know what to do.

I have been watching some of the Marie Kondo show on Netflix, and was able to eliminate some things from my room, by exactly what she says, keep what “sparks joy” but it isn’t enough yet. Maybe I need to do another round? I wish I had the confidence of the woman who was clearing out her deceased husband’s clothes.

Baby steps, though.

The good news is that the big furniture is in place.

And that I actually completed a blog post.

The next thing on my To Do list is to read Outlander. And that way I can then go to the Outlander book club at my local library. (Which I really want to do.)

Stay tuned to see if I remain this motivated to hit my goal of one post per week.

And how do you all hit your goals? What motivates you? A gingerbread scented candle? A fresh cup of tea or coffee? A new desk location?

writing

NaNo Update

My NaNo is off to a good start!

I figured I would give people the opportunity to follow along with me if you would like.?.?

So here is a way to keep track of my total word count with a handy bar graph showing how many words I have out of 50,000.

 

And it is even possible to keep up with my daily writing goals as well. Aka don’t invite me to hang out when I am having a red or orange or yellow day.

So follow along with me if you would like to see where this goes. (I know I would sure like to.)

 

And finally, an excerpt of my latest scene (subject to change, of course, during my edits):

So she ran straight ahead, willing her body to not give away her thoughts and she pumped her arms and ran faster and faster towards the figure with the sword raised, ready to attack, and then at the last moment, she hooked her arm around a tree and flung her body in a new direction, willing her feet to stay planted beneath her and sprinted onwards, farther from her meeting place then she would like to be, but if she survived, then she could circle back and remain alive.

Her proud moment did not last too long, however, because she heard no commotion that she would have left behind. All she heard was, well, nothing.

No sword fight.

No heavy breathing.

No shouts.

No bodies fall to the floor.

Nothing.

And that left her mind racing in a hundred different directions.

She was thinking too much that she missed the figure standing ahead of her.

Are you wondering what is going to happen next? Me too. Join the club.

Being a pantser is loads of fun.

Back to writing.

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writing

It is Almost Time for NaNoWriMo

So November is coming, which means the start of another NaNoWriMo! And I am so excited and motivated this year to finally write an entire first draft of my novel.

If any of you have no clue what I am talking about, and think I just hit the keyboard with that weird string of letters…let me break it down for you.

Na: National

No: Novel

Wri: Writing

Mo: Month

NaNo is an organization that encourages people to write their entire first draft of their novel (50,000-60,000 words) within the month of November. And it is an organization that has been near and dear to my heart for the past five years, because it has lead me to a community of like-minded people at a time when I was really lost at the beginning of my studies. As silly and dramatic as it sounds, getting involved in a writing community has helped me discover and chase my writing dreams, no matter how impossible they will be.

You can check out NaNo’s website if you want to learn all about it, participate in it, or just have a clue about what the heck I am doing with my time!

Or if you would rather hear about NaNo in my own words, I even wrote an article describing the process for my college’s paper that you can check out here. 

But the reason I am writing this in a blog is because this year I am a serious participant. Before now, I was only writing for fun. I would join in on word sprints with some of my favorite authors on Twitter, frequently update my word count in between classes or my work schedule. I was never really concerned about doing more than just getting words on paper in my free time.

And now, things are different. My workload is light (aka still job hunting). I have no more classes (at the moment) that I need to focus on and write papers for. I have had a summer of adventures, meeting all new people from all different sorts of backgrounds in new environments, and unforgettable experiences that I would like to translate into some stories. And I want to continue my momentum from the summer to chase my dreams. So becoming a published author won’t happen if I don’t first put in the time and write the first draft.

And to prove how serious I am this year, I am going to share some of my story details on my blog…and that way all of my followers can hold me accountable and push me when I start running out of steam halfway through the month. Or even only a couple of days in.

This year I am working on a fantasy novel (and remember this is just a very rough draft that is all subject to change because I will probably hate it).

And my title is…

Drumroll please.

Heroic Night.

Totally lame, I know. I had some help from a fantasy title generator. And hopefully it will evolve when I have more written.  But I need a place to start.

Once I actually begin my writing (that will count towards my word count goals) November 1st, this story will be about adventure, romance, action, and drama––all of my favorite topics. And I am hear to write the book that I would want to read, so let’s see how this goes.

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So far, I have some basic characteristics for my characters:

Heroine is a doer, headstrong, solo traveler, independent, and questions everything around her.

Hero is fearless and reckless, lives without consequences.

A setting:

Medieval Fantasy World

Maybe the rest will come to me once I finally begin writing. Like their names maybe? Fingers crossed.

What I have so far may sound familiar to some of you, who have listened to me ramble on about my favorite series, because that author, Sarah J. Maas and Jane Austen (who are my two favorite authors) are my inspiration for my own writing. And at the moment, my genre probably comes from the TOG reread I have been participating in, in preparation for the final book release in a few days.

If you are interested in keeping up with my progress, and in holding me accountable, you can view my daily word count stats here. 

In addition, I could use some more writing buddies! So please share if you are participating, too, and we can push each other!

I’ll leave you with a small excerpt:

“And just before I curl up on my couch with my latest book, is there a firm and quiet knock on my door.

Not unusual for this time of day, just before everyone has made it home for dinner, the sun only just beginning it’s descent. But it was the actual knock that made her suspicious. Her friends yell through the door or barge in. Her neighbors are more hesitant to knock at all, and usually pair it with a chirped hello before barging in.”

Ok, now I am going back to my writing cave to start plotting. Wish me luck and no writer’s block! 

book review

What a Perfect Time for a TOG Reread

Hey all!

Since I got home from my trip, my life has been turned upside down with job hunting, dating dramas, and a whole bunch of other changes in my social life that now has me reevaluating things and I am sort of stuck in this creative rut. So bear with me while I slowly make my way out of it and back into the real world. And continue on with my travel posts.

On the other hand, though, the final book by my favorite author (Sarah J. Maas) is coming out in October (maybe you noticed the KOA countdown on the side here) so I am joining in with the publishers and all of the other fans in a massive reread of all of the books in the series. And of course now I need to catch up since they started in July––meaning I am already 4 books behind schedule!!! Yikes!

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Currently working on reading Throne of Glass. And my goal of reading the whole thing in one sitting has already expanded to a few days. Hopefully not much longer than this.

So just a general note about this series is that it is so good and everyone should seriously give it a read. And I don’t want to spoil things (even though I hate people who say stuff like this and don’t share any of the juicy details) but the whole series is set up like a mystery where you literally do not know anything that is going on if you hear people talking about characters from later books when you are still in the beginning. And this is a hilarious fandom joke. So I am going to be very vague in my descriptions. It will be a lot of fun.

Favorite cover: Queen of Shadows. Without a doubt or hesitation. I love the colors. I love the armor. I love that she looks so badass and ready to take on the world. Which is good because that is actually what she has to do in this book.

Favorite title: The Assassin’s Blade

Favorite character: Sam or Aedion or Aelin with Fenrys as a close second (it literally depends on what scene I am reading at the moment)

Character I am most like: Aelin Ashyver Galathynius. Seriously just ask my sisters. They are the ones who told me this!

Most important chant: Aedion deserves his blood oath 2k18!

Favorite scene: In Rolf’s office when there are two of Aelin and they are complimenting each other and she is flirting with Rowan pretending she doesn’t know him and Rolf has no idea what is going on and everyone knows her by a different name/ personality/ identity and they are just all watching each other’s reactions. I promise you once you know all of the drama and characters it is so funny.

Favorite quote released from Kingdom of Ash:

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This is really a life changing series and I am so happy each time I get someone else to start reading it.

The main character has been through the ringer and back since she was young and we still don’t know if she will get her happily ever after in the end after she saves the rest of the world. Each book adds more to our beloved heroine while expanding the world of Erilea and the impending end of the world.

Add in all of the enemies that our girl makes and how she still gets them to ally with her and how some of her old enemies become her greatest and most trusted friends and that everyone always seems to come together in the biggest/ most epic battle scenes and you can’t even come close to all this series has to offer.

There are foreshadowing clues everywhere, minor characters from book 1 taking on major roles later in the series. Easter eggs galore. Even drama with the gods messing with fate and creating this giant mess in the first place––and making it worse by helping characters come to the beginning of the end.

I have never felt as excited and dreadful of an end of the series book as I do this one. Maas’s other series ACOTAR is such a lighthearted read in comparison to TOG––the main characters that die don’t actually stay dead in ACOTAR whereas everyone is fair game except Fleetfoot. The dog.

Everyone’s theories have me freaking out. And I am reading with a notebook beside me, taking notes so I can try my hand at my own detective work and guess about what is going to happen in the end.

My current reading intentions are that I just absorb all of the names and details that I can so that I will be completely prepared for anything that comes our way in Kingdom of Ash. Which means a lot of me writing down names of characters, gods, their swords, dates, rhymes, quotes and lots and lots of page numbers. I don’t want to have to go back through all 3,840 other pages to remind myself of a fuzzy detail. I will be totally prepared for the final 992 pages of this epic series.

Fantasy, romance, drama, arrogance, swagger, thrones, kingdoms, sacrifice, and a save-the-world plot…what more could you ever need in a good book?

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