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Friday Book Review: Uprooted

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Published in 2015 by Del Rey

High fantasy

Standalone

Goodreads Summary 

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

General gushing 

Wow. This book blew me away. I absolutely loved it and I’m so excited to read more of Naomi Novik’s work. She is a masterful storyteller and creates three dimensional flawed characters that you root for, feel sad for, and fall in love with:)

As a writer, I always delight in finding books that inspire me to become a better writer. Naomi is descriptive and really draws the reader into her character’s world. Her main heroine, Agniezska, is plucky and fun and loves nature. I totally related to her (though she has magic and I don’t so :/ haha) and her passion for exploring and noticing the natural world.

Favorite character moments

I loved when Agniezska would stand up to the Dragon or hold her ground on something she believed in. I admired her bravery and honesty. When her and her friend Kasia were reflecting on some of the things they resented each other for, I was so grateful that Naomi put that part in. I loved this realistic insight into friendship. It’s not always roses and sunshine. Like with any relationship, there are things we like and dislike about a person. However, Naomi showed how the two friends were able to look past their differences and jealousies.

Nature and magic 

I love Agniezka’s approach to magic. It felt intuitive and so normal that you easily forgot some of the fantastical things she was doing. It was in contrast with the Dragon’s approach to magic which was organized and strict, somehow. The two together are a powerhouse:)

I am a nature lover so this book appealed to me on many levels. I love the gorgeous imagery of the woods and the flowers and the animals. I won’t say much more about the plot because I don’t want to spoil it, but if you love nature, romance, magic, and fairy tales with realistic characters, I’m sure you will love Uprooted :).

Upcoming book – Spinning Silver 

So, after I finished Uprooted, I scrambled to my computer to find out if it was a standalone or part of a series. It is indeed a standalone but there is a new book coming out in July by Naomi which I cannot wait to pick up!

Happy reading, friends!

What have you been reading lately? Any recommendations? I think I am going to start uploading book reviews every Friday. My next read is Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor ❤

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Until next time,

Loie xo

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All That We See or Seem by Kristina Mahr Blog Tour

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All That We See or Seem by Kristina Mahr

YA Fantasy

Releases May 15th, 2018 by Uncommon Universes Press

Every night, seventeen-year-old Reeve Lennox finds herself under a noose.

By day she is a lady of Acarsaid’s royal house, daydreaming of adventure and love. But every night in sleep she wanders through a nightmarish city, an invisible witness to the screeches of monsters and the screams of their victims. Her only consolation is Bran, a battle-torn young man with a selfless heart and eyes that reflect the stars. 

Yet while Reeve falls deeper into her dreams, in truth she is engaged to Arden, a mercurial nobleman who has long been cured of his belief in love and breathes fire and flattery like other people breathe air.

Torn between two lives, Reeve struggles to remember what’s real. Until night and day collide, with a revelation that threatens all of Acarsaid.

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Hi everyone!
 I would like to welcome author Kristina Mahr to the blog. Her YA fantasy, All That We See or Seem releases tomorrow. I had the privilege of getting to read an ARC of her wonderful and fantastical book that I highly recommend. Isn’t that cover beautiful?! She has graciously answered a few questions I asked her 🙂
Interview Q&A 
1) If you had a recurring dream for years, what would you hope to dream about?
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That’s so tricky! I love the randomness and unpredictability of dreams. If I was stuck with just one… well, it’d better be a happy one. With puppies. And love. And summertime. Oh, and flying! All of the best dreams involve flying.
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2) What was the inspiration behind the world and characters of All That We See or Seem?
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The biggest inspiration was a dream my sister had four years ago, about a girl who falls in love with a boy she meets in her dreams. That’s definitely the nucleus of the story. The first scene that popped into my mind was of a girl, running through dark streets in her nightgown. Everything was kind of built around that. I started asking all of the obvious questions: why a nightgown? (Set in the 1800s.) Why is she running? (Monsters.) What does this boy think the first time he sees her? (Insane asylum escapee.) All of the pieces piled into place until it became this story.
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3) Do you have an tips for aspiring writers who hope to be published?
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It’s probably the most common advice, but it’s the most true: keep writing. It doesn’t have to be every day. It doesn’t have to be in novel form. But play with words, in some way, as often as you can. Turn off the radio sometimes while you’re driving and turn your story over in your mind. Write short stories. Write poetry. Read. Read some more. Surround yourself with fellow writers to bounce ideas off of and lift you up when your story is fighting you tooth and nail. Don’t give up. Even if the middle gets messy. It’s what middles do. Power through. Writers are lucky to have this dream, because so much of it is within our own hands. We can write the best story we know how to write. Getting published is a lot of luck and timing, but if you write the best book you can… at least you can feel content in having done everything you could do.
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4) What has been your favorite part of your writing journey thus far?
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I think the best moment so far has been the cover reveal. It’s so beautiful and so representative of the story. I feel very lucky to have it as the face of my words. And then the fact that that’s my name on it, and the title I always wanted for this book… it really drove home the fact that this is a real thing that’s happening.
*
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Kristina Mahr devotes her days to numbers and her nights to words. She works full-time as an accountant in the suburbs of Chicago, where she lives with her two dogs and two cats, but her true passion is writing. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, and waking up at the crack of dawn every weekend to watch the Premier League.

Here are the links if you are interested in buying her book! Thank you for your time Kristina and thank you Uncommon Universes Press for the advanced reader copy.

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Apple

Goodreads

I would love to hear what you think in the comments below 🙂

Until next time,

Loie xo

writing

Writing is re-writing

May 2nd, 2018

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Good afternoon all!

Some of you may have heard this phrase before: writing is re-writing. A lot of the time, we look at the finished book in our hands and don’t realize the amount of drafts it took to get to the final copy. As a reader, I certainly didn’t know much about the process of writing a book.

When I first began writing more seriously in 2012, I was a newbie and didn’t know much about drafting and revising. I finished my first complete novel during NanoWrimo that fall and then in January took a look at the manuscript. It was awful. There were plot holes and two dimensional characters and hardly any description. The bits I did like I saved and then decided a re-write was in order. That was when I began researching how to re-write and revise.

Marissa Meyer has a great series about how she brings her story idea to a complete novel. She outlines what she does in each stage from brainstorming, research, first, second, third drafts, etc. I found that to be quite helpful when tackling my own first re-write.

Presently: the continual learning curve 

I received feedback on my current fantasy WIP, THE LOST SAGES (formally titled EVREN) and am working on it now. There was so much helpful feedback that I’ve created a TO DO list and am tackling each one separately. Even though it feels like I have to climb a mountain, I know in my heart of hearts that I will be so proud of this book when I’m done.

The thing I am realizing too is, this book is one of the first projects I’ve taken on and I am learning SO much. I am receiving insight into myself as a writer and where my strengths and weaknesses lie. I am learning a lot about grammar and proper punctuation and the age old, show don’t tell rule as well as the infamous info dumping in fantasy novels 🙂 It is all good and encouraging. I know this is the path I need to take to grow as a writer. I want to feel confident in my ability to pen a story and have the proper tools in my toolbox, as Stephen King explains craft.

I am at the point in my writing career where I can sense a few things coming down the road. I want to write stories I am proud of and that have heart in them. I want people to to resonate with them and perhaps see themselves in the characters. I also want to write the best story possible. I don’t want to settle.

This week I have been thinking a lot about creativity and projects we take on. Sometimes if we take on too much, our writing suffers because of it. I’ve noticed that I haven’t been able to focus as much and find it hard to return and work on THE LOST SAGES. I sat down and wrote in my journal, trying to discern what was keeping me distracted. Too many projects on the go. I needed to narrow my focus and so I have. Now, I set myself a reachable goal for each week and hope to have this latest draft done by June.

What are you all working on? How many drafts do you write? I would love to hear below.

Until next time,

Loie xo

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Spring showers and fairy tales

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April 26th, 2018 – 12:35 pm

Hi dear friends!

Today has been an overcast day with a steady stream of rain. My porch plants are getting their fair share of a drink. Hopefully not too much 😉

Fairy Tales 

Popping in with a quick little post. This week has been full of lovely surprises. I received word that a fairy tale flash fiction I submitted for publication has been accepted by Enchanted Conversation Magazine for June’s issue. I will post the link when it goes live. This will be my first creative writing publication and I am super thrilled. I also sent out a proposal for an article about the importance of the library in our digital world and it was accepted. *inhales deeply* This writing gig is working out and I am grateful.

#RevPit 

There is a contest going on right now called #RevPit. A couple of days ago, the window opened to submit one’s manuscript’s first five pages and query letter to two potential editors. If you get chosen, one editor will work with you over the next five weeks to go through your book and strengthen it for querying. It has been a lot of fun stalking *coughs* I mean, watching the twitter feed to see if the editors I submitted to have posted any snippets or hints at what submission they are currently reading.

Writing Plans 

I received an editor’s feedback (different from #RevPit) on EVREN a week ago. I’ve been mulling over some of the suggestions or questions that came up while she read the manuscript. She sent me twenty pages of detailed notes, for which I am so grateful for. Currently creating detailed index cards for every scene in my book and deciding which to keep, edit, re-write, or trash. I believe this will bring EVREN to a stronger place than ever. Also, she suggested changing the title 😀 I agree with her suggestion and will be now calling my YA sea-faring fantasy THE LOST SAGES.

How are you all making out? What are you currently working on? Please let me know in the comments ❤

Until next time,

Loie xo

writing

Staying motivated

April 18th, 2018

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Hi all *waves* How are you all making out? We are well over the halfway mark of April 😀 Today I am working on an edit letter for my critique partner and then plan to add some words to my Camp NaNoWriMo project later. After, household errands: clean the fridge, give Maggie May a bath, bake blueberry-banana muffins, and buy groceries.

Motivation and finishing projects 

Today, I thought I would talk about motivation. I have been thinking a lot about this lately. The never-ending energy I seemed to crackle with in November during National Novel Writing Month seems to have disappeared as of late.

I do notice a cycle with my creativity where in the fall, I find I can write thousands of words and my mind is simmering with new ideas. For some reason, the spring brings a new wave. I focus on edits and blog posts and research.

But I know that perhaps someday – if I am on a publishing schedule – I will need to switch the writing and editing hats effortlessly. So, how does one stay motivated? How does one focus on a project? Even if it may be the last thing you want to do?

1. Go for a walk 

Fresh air and pretty nature scenery tends to clear my mind and allow me to refocus. I can then usually come home and get to work.

2. Do something creative and different other than writing 

I like to bake or sew or make candles. My Mum is teaching me how to sew and it is a lot of fun to flex new creative muscles.

3. Magical cookies (from Susan Dennard) 

Write a list of the magical things or what Susan Dennard calls ‘magical cookies’ about your book, to try and generate that excitement again about WHY you wanted to write this particular story in the first place. Check out this link for more info about magical cookies.

4. Music

Listen to music that inspires you. Just breathe and be present with your project. Turn off Twitter, Facebook, and your phone. In this day and age, it is SO easy to get distracted. Try to have some quiet time with yourself and your story. Have a notebook nearby or your laptop so you can jot down any ideas that pop into your head!

5. Reward yourself

By making plans or marking events on my cute doggy calendar, I have a visual reminder of what is happening during the week. For instance, today I will be meeting a friend for lunch. That is something I am excited about so I will work extra hard this morning.

What motivates you and helps you stay on track? I would love to hear below in the comments 🙂

Until next time,

Loie xo

 

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Spring cleaning and making space to create

April 12th, 2018 6:54 am

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Good morning, lovely people! How is your week going? I always find myself surprised when it is the middle of the month. I can’t seem to grasp where the first two weeks have gone and then begin realizing how much I need to get done before the end of the month. Alas, deep breathes. We will get there 🙂

Today I am embarking on a spring cleaning AKA decluttering of my little apartment. I have an attack plan: clean each room one by one and set aside items to donate and items to give to friends or family. Last night, my boyfriend and I gave the car a much needed cleaning and all of this got me thinking about cleaning and decluttering and the effects it has on creating.

For me, as a creative type, I find that when the space around me is chaotic, it is harder to write. I find my eyes wandering and thinking that I should put that item or away or wow, I have too many shoes that I don’t wear or look at all the dust on those book spines.

Whereas, when the space smells fresh like lavender or balsam fir, everything is put away in its proper space, and I have a cup of coffee nearby, then I find it easier to focus and write. This month is Camp National Novel Writing Month, so I have been attempting to write roughly 2500 words a day for my goal: 70,000 by the end of the month.

If there is something I have discovered this month, it is this: I would love to get in the flow of regular decluttering and keeping my space clear and minimal. I now know this goes hand in hand with my ability to create. I feel calmer and less anxious and find myself able to sync into the flow of writing more easily. Interesting, the different things we might need to help us create.

Do you have any thoughts on this? What do you need in your environment to help you create or focus on your work? Love to hear in the comments below.

Wish me luck 😉

Until next time,

Loie xo

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Trust the process

April 7th, 2018 7:09 pm

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Hey guys!

I decided to participate in Camp National Novel Writing Month. If you can tell from the title, yes, you attempt to write a novel in ONE month 🙂 I decided to take a break from EVREN and KING BLUEBEARD, while they are with beta readers and editors, and instead write a new story about dragons and a young woman who has been imprisoned in a tower for the majority of her life. So far, I have about 10,000 words, and am enjoying this process. I am completely pantsing the project, meaning, I have no outline or previous brainstorming for it. I am literally opening the document and writing what comes in my head at the time.

I thought today I would talk a little bit about trusting the process. Trusting the process of drafting a new novel, brainstorming a new novel, or editing said novel, whatever spot you are at in this journey.

Trust 

Before I began pantsing this project, I’ll be honest, I was nervous. What if I couldn’t come up with characters that readers would follow for a novel? What if I just stared and nothing came together? What if the plot did a face plant?

I am happy to report that as I’ve begun drafting, the characters and world have revealed themselves to me. There have been parts where they have surprised me and made me laugh. This for me, is part of the joy of writing, when you are surprised by your own characters. It feels so magical.

However, if there is a part where you get stuck, there are some things you can do to unstick yourself 😉

-With a notepad and pen just scribble scene ideas down and circle some of your favorites to pen later

-Go for a walk or hike in nature and try to give your brain a chance to float and be quiet. Sometimes my best ideas pop up during these times.

-Research! Research often sparks plenty of ideas for me that gets me rolling again

Writing freely

Many better writers before me have spoken about this but they really recommend that the first draft of anything, to try and write freely without having that inner editor speaking too loudly in the background. The first draft tends to help you get a feel for your characters, world, and plot, but it does not have to be perfect! Try and silence that inner editor and write this draft for fun. That’s what I have been doing and its a liberating experience. I know oftentimes in rewriting and revising, that the magic occurs. That is where I can fix sentences and deepen character motivations, fix the plot and subplots if there are any gaping holes.

So, enjoy writing! Trust yourself that you can finish this draft. Give yourself permission to write a messy first draft, but have fun while doing so! Another note, everyone’s process is different. This is what works for me. 🙂 What may work for me, might not for you. I just hope you feel encouraged and excited with whatever you are working on.

What are you working on at the moment?

Until next time,

Loie xo