Hogwarts Yule Ball Couture

Even though the next Tri-Wizard Tournament is not scheduled till 2019, word has it that the Hogwarts students have since insisted that the Yule Ball be an annual event. And who can blame them, since most days they have to wear robes and there’s nowhere really to take a date besides Hogsmeade?

Here’s what’s trending this year in the wizarding world.

In Ravenclaw Tower, the catchphrase is “Make Bronze Great Again.” Let’s be honest, the movies perpetuated a false idea that Ravenclaw’s colors were blue and silver, when every student at Hogwarts knows they are really blue and bronze. The trendiest witches this year are doing all they can to reclaim their roots.

Ravenclaw 2017

Marcella earrings, $180 (here)

Gryffindor has long been known for its daring and nerve, which is why this year’s Yule Ball fashions are saying “All eyes on me!” But the lion pride of witches wants everyone to know they have a softer side too, so watch for frilly details like bows and ruffles this season. The ROAR a la Lily Evans Potter plus the AWW a la Lily Luna Potter equals a hearty Gryffindor RAWR.

Gryffindor 2017

Lion ring, $30 (here) | Valentino bow pumps, retail $825, on sale (here) for $199 | Toriska clutch (here)

Those patient little badgers have been waiting all year to say, “Look, this sweet skirt may represent fair play, but this lacy crop top is not playing fair!” Some say this attitude was inspired by last year’s Head Boy Teddy Lupin, but regardless, Hufflepuff’s coming out so you’d better get this party started, Hogwarts.

Hufflepuff 2017

Amelia Full yellow maxi skirt, $75 (here) | Linda Flora bracelet, $29 (here) | Betsy Johnson flats, $99 (here)

The latest trend in Slytherin House is the vampy pantsuit, noting that it suits them, as Albus Dumbledore once said, to have “a certain disregard for the rules.” But if some unwritten rule said not wearing a dress to the Yule Ball was wrong, we don’t want to be right! These serpents are turning the rules on their heads … and turning all heads on their new rules.

Slytherin 2017

Jumpsuit #1, $67 (here) | Jumpsuit #3, $33 (here) | Jumpsuit #4, retail $240, on sale (here) for $97 | Snake on vine necklace, $75 (here) | Antique snake necklace (here)

Your turn to weigh in: Which was your favorite look? Is it from the Hogwarts House you’re in? Would you wear any of these outfits in the muggle world?

Review: All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

crooked saintsI’ll admit that when I first read the description of Maggie Stiefvater’s latest book, it didn’t sound like something that would be up my alley. Then again, I thought the same thing about Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races, and that one immediately become one of my top ten favorite books (review here).

Of course I purchased it. Of course I read it. It’s Maggie Stiefvater.

And it was great. But in a different way from her other books, which I’ll try to explain in a minute.

First, what’s it about? All the Crooked Saints is about three cousins in Bicho Raro, Colorado, in the 60’s: Beatriz, “the girl without feelings”; Daniel, the Saint (who performs miracles for pilgrims who travel to their ranch); and Joaquin, who DJs a pirated radio station from a truck in the desert. There is a wide cast of characters between the residents of Bicho Raro and the pilgrims who must remain there until their darkness is vanquished.

You see, Daniel performs the first miracle for the pilgrims, which makes their darkness manifest itself in some way, but the pilgrims must perform their second miracle, which makes the darkness go away. Until then, they remain at the ranch, where the resident Soria family is not able to help them.

This is magical realism, which I suppose one could argue is what all of Maggie’s books are, though I would probably be more likely to file them under “fantasy.” This book reads more like a fairy tale– and even as I write that, I’m not sure that captures it. Think Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Weight of Feathers (review) vs. Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn (here). More The Last Unicorn (here), less Finnikin of the Rock (here). Just south of Bone Gap (here). (What? “Just south of Bone Gap” is not a clear description of a book? Pshhh!)

(And, to be clear, I love all the books I just mentioned … but for different reasons.)

The reasons I loved All the Crooked Saints:

  • the imagery
  • the magic
  • the miracles
  • the stories
  • the way everything fits into place.

As I put it on Instagram …

crooked insta

Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green [spoiler-free post, but I’d avoid the comments!]

It was John Green’s book The Fault in Our Stars that inspired me, back in January 2012, to put down the manuscript I was working on and try my hand at writing YA literature, the result of which was my debut novel Truest. (Please see: 3 Novels That Changed My Life.)

It’s been over five years since TFIOS came out, so of course, everyone has been excited for Green’s next book, me included. I was less excited to discover the coincidental similarities it had to one of my works-in-progress: Turtles is about a girl named Aza with OCD; Yes Novel is about a boy named Asa with OCD. Yes Novel, meet backburner.

But what a cool intersection of my passions– YA lit, John Green, OCD!

In Turtles All the Way Down, Aza Holmes is fighting against her intrusive thoughts, all while she and her best friend Daisy attempt to locate a runaway millionaire, the son of whom was Aza’s childhood friend Davis. I loved how Green showed the way that Aza’s OCD impacted not only her but all of her relationships.

Did the book get OCD right?

Yes. I was pretty pleased. Green did a really good job of showing both Aza’s obsessions and the resulting compulsions, and I think readers will be able to see the *faulty* logic that presses sufferers to perform compulsions. And although some readers might think things were a bit exaggerated for the sake of the story, in my opinion, Green actually toned down OCD for the book. (My own editor told me of Yes Novel that I had to find a way to lighten it up, make it less depressing, as readers could only handle so much.) There are definitely degrees of OCD (see: YBOCS), but for it to be considered OCD, it has to noticeably disrupt one’s life. I took the YBOCS as Aza Holmes and scored 26 out of a possible 40, which is the severe category. Just because I was curious. 🙂

The book was good, very well written, a much quieter book than The Fault in Our Stars, and I think it needed to be. Though others might argue that it didn’t pack the same emotional punch as TFIOS, I think it was exactly the book Green needed to write after the phenomenal, almost debilitating success of the former.

In September 2016, John Green made the following video. It’s wild to watch it now (especially if you’ve finished Turtles) and see that just 13 months later, that book would be published. It’s because of this video that I say that I think Turtles is exactly the one he needed to write. I’m curious to hear what you think of it. (Probably best to avoid the comments section BECAUSE SPOILERS.)

Reviews (Plus: What Should I Read Next?)

flame in the mistFlame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh | As the self-proclaimed biggest fan of Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn series, I was so, so, SO excited to read her next series. Flame in the Mist is a re-telling (of sorts) of Mulan: although this book is set in feudal Japan, not in China. Mariko is on her way to be married to one of the princes when her caravan is attacked. She ends up cutting her hair, dressing as a boy, and joining a group of outlaws, a la Robin Hood style.

This book was super interesting and very romantic. One of the things I liked best about it was that it was not immediately apparent to me who Mariko’s love interest would be. Indeed, she and that person had such a unique relationship that was so not stereotypically romantic that it made it all the more hot when they fell for each other. Very excited to see how this story ends. It’s a duology and the second book doesn’t even have a publication date listed yet. (Patience is not my strong suit.)

5 to 15 to 1 by Holly Bodger | This book was so unique! I purchased it after I was on a writers panel with the author, and when I finally had the chance to read it, I tore through it so fast! Set in the future in India, it takes India’s current issues with gender selection and female infanticide and reverses them: now that there are 5 boys to every 1 girl, society is run by women and men must compete to be worthy of marriage. The book is told in alternating chapters: poetry for the young bride watching the “Tests” and prose for Contestant 5, who is competing– but who does not want to win.

I enjoyed the story very much, and it definitely made me think!

art of writingThe Art of Writing and the Gifts of Writers by C.S. Lewis | This was an audiobook collection of Lewis’s shorter essays and talks on writing, and it was super enjoyable! Ralph Cosham/Geoffrey Howard, the narrator, is the familiar voice from the audio versions of Lewis’s Space Trilogy, and so it’s easy to feel like you’re listening to Lewis himself. This was an intriguing and useful set of essays, advice, and criticism on various aspects of writing, including fairie stories, writing for children, and thoughts on his friend J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. If you’re a fan of Lewis (or any of the Inklings), this will be a fun and fast read for you!

the names they gave usThe Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord | In this book, Lucy– at her mother’s request– agrees to spend the summer as a camp counselor for kids from at-risk backgrounds. This is a deviation from her usual: the Bible camp just across the lake, where her mom and dad will be. What makes it even harder is that Lucy’s mom’s cancer has just come back, which has shattered Lucy’s faith and has her living in fear.

There were so many things that felt SO familiar to me, who was a volunteer camp counselor (at a Bible camp, no less!). I really liked the ending, when ends (that I didn’t even know were loose!) started getting tied up. The ending is also abrupt, but in the best way.

shrillShrill by Lindy West | This book. This. Book. I loved it. So much. It spoke to me on so many levels– as a woman, as a curvy girl, as a feminist, as a writer. I laughed aloud. I cried real tears. I felt empowered.

I went to my therapist on Thursday, and– no joke– spent about 90% of the time talking about this book and how it impacted me, all the things I am learning.

Please. Read this. Then let’s get coffee to discuss.

 

***OMGOSHJIMMYHAILER***

I have exciting news for you, friends.

Firstly, if you’ve hung around this blog for any time at all, you know that Australian author Melina Marchetta is my QUEEN. (See here, here, here.)

She is a master of characters, and my favorite crew of hers first appears in Saving Francesca: Frankie, Will, Siobhan, Justine, Tara, Tom, and Jimmy. After Saving Francesca, the crew reunites in The Piper’s Son, which is Tom’s story, set five years later. Everyone has been begging for years for Jimmy’s story.

Back in April 2013, in a Goodreads-sponsored discussion, Melina made my heart go BOOM when she teased:

Jimmy’s not going anywhere, but it’s just not his time yet. All I know about him is that he is the first of Frankie gang to start breeding (accidently).

In the four years since, she has posted on her blog about Jim from time to time. Earlier this month, she posted there was a forthcoming short story:

My short story is called When Rosie met Jim. It’s about a young woman who finds herself stranded in a Queensland town during a flood, where she meets a guy named Jim. (the title is quite literal, and yes, it’s him for those who know my previous work).

A couple days ago, she added this:

It will be a novel primarily about one house, four characters, five lives, and told through three points of view.

Jimmy is 23 years old in When Rosie met Jim.  In the novel, he’ll be about 25 because it takes place in Sydney about two years after the events of the short story. It’s not  YA, but regardless, I’m predictable. It’s a generational story and it’s character driven, relationship driven and pretty much about community, solace and the ties that bind. (and netball).

OH. AND THIS ALSO HAPPENED:

mm jim 2

Peeps, I read it last night, and it was everything I wanted it to be. More.

First, you don’t have to have read her other books in order to read this story. It’s brilliant even on its own, and of course, it has added meaning for fans who miss the Sydney crew.

Next, it works as a short story– yes, it is an excerpt (or something like it) from what will eventually be a full-length novel (PRAISE GOD), but it works on its own too as a short story. What I mean is that it’s got its own narrative arc; you won’t feel dissatisfied at the end (though you will feel so desperate for more).

Lastly, I don’t know how on earth she does it, but there is not one word extra in this, nor one word missing. It’s perfect and has the right amount of action and vulnerability to enamor you in so few pages. (Frankly, I re-read Marchetta’s books over and over, hoping that I will somehow take on her writing capabilities– and yet, every time, I’m reminded she is the master.) There is foreshadowing and the ideal amount of backstory to offer both grounding and intrigue. The characters are multi-dimensional, and … OMGOSH, I don’t know how to wait for the entire book. I guess if I survived the wait for Quintana, I will survive this too, right? Right?? (P.S. I bought the Australian edition of Quintana, since it came out 6 months before the American version. I am not excellent at patience.)

This issue of Review of Australian Fiction comes out tomorrow (er, um, maybe today actually, since Australia is ahead of the USA) and is available for only $2.99 at this link:

http://reviewofaustralianfiction.com/product/raf-152-volume-22-issue-6.

Go. Buy. Be delighted (readers) and envious (writers). While you’re at it, buy all her books. I promise you they are the best.

Love,
Jackie

Quick whatever-this-is: I want you to know this is not sponsored. I don’t get anything when you purchase this … except for the satisfaction of knowing I’ve introduced you to your new favorite author. Enjoy!

Book Heroines I Adore

unsplash90Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling | Related
“The smartest witch of her age” and fiercely loyal, never gives up. Never.

Shazi from The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh | Review (and sequel)
“So you would have me throw Shazi to the wolves?”
“Shazi?” Jalal’s grin widened. “Honestly, I pity the wolves.”

Citra from Scythe by Neal Shusterman | Review
Whip-smart, deeply philosophical … but can also kick your ass.

Joana from Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys | Review 
“She must have been a nurse. She looked a few years older than me. Pretty. Naturally pretty, the type that’s still attractive, even more so, when she’s filthy.”
So strong in the face of a thousand hardships

Roza and Petey from Bone Gap by Laura Ruby | Review
Each of these girls is so strong in her own way; I adored every character in this book.

Liesel Meminger of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak | Related
She can hold her own against any boy, she knows the power of words, and perseveres through tremendous loss.

Isaboe of The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta | Related
Fearsome. Unwavering. Isaboe’s resolution and leadership are a thing to behold. She is her own boss. She loves with ferocity.

Quintana of The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta | Review 
“‘Do you know who tells me my worth, Phaedra of Alonso?’
The princess pointed a hard finger at her own chest.
‘Me. I determine my own worth. If I had to rely on others I’d have lain down and died waiting.’”
‘Nuff said.

 

 

 

Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Even though I really loved Neal Shusterman’s Unwind Dystology (spoiler-free review), his new series wasn’t really on my radar. Then the first book– Scythe— kept getting rave reviews from my favorite book bloggers, so I knew I needed to read it.

scytheIT. WAS. SO. GOOD.

Here’s the set-up: it’s the distant future, and the internet “cloud” has accumulated all knowledge and become the nearly sentient Thunderhead. Because the Thunderhead now prevents things like disease, war, and even death, the only issue left is population control. There is a worldwide network of scythes who are given the power to glean life and to grant immunity. They are highly respected and rarely challenged. Citra and Rowen are two sixteen-year-olds chosen to become scythe apprentices. Then things get crazy.

I’m hooked. Just like the Unwind books, this series is so thought-provoking. I was especially captured by the question If men become immortal, what will inspire them to create? There is a scene where Citra and Rowen are taken to museum. These days, art has all been perfected via the Thunderhead, but they find that they actually like the “Mortal Age” art better … it is imperfect, but there is passion to it that is rare in their time. I have maybe 70 or 80 years on earth. In what ways does that drive my art?

That’s just one of the questions raised by this incredible book. It’s full of twists and the stakes are high. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

2017 Creative Goals

goals17titleFor this upcoming year, I’m keeping things (relatively) simple:

  1. Finish Salt Novel.
  2. Find the soul of Yes Novel.
  3. Read a book a week.
  4. Blog once a week.
  5. Learn something new every day.

We’ll see how this goes. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to keep up with #3 and #4, but I won’t beat myself up if I can’t do it. It’s a standard to shoot for, that’s all.

quick-and-curiousSalt Novel is well underway. Yes Novel has a first draft. I have a mountain of books I want to read. The blog needs some TLC. And I bought this super-cute, extremely relevant journal to keep track of my daily curiosities.

I have a lot of other goals for 2017, but I’ve decided (for now) just to share my creative ones. I will be writing soon about my one word I want to focus on this year.

Five little (ha!) goals. Salt. Yes. Read. Blog. Learn.

How about you? Do you set goals, creative or otherwise, for the new year? I wanna hear!

goals17

 

 

 

 

A Handful of Book Reviews

I’ve been traveling for work, and that means plenty of time for audiobooks, hooray! Here’s what I’ve recently read:


Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo | This is the sequel to Six of Crows, which I thoroughly adored. It was great to be back with Kaz, Inej, and the gang as they sought revenge and justice after the events of the first book. The characters are just so layered and complicated, something I admire and appreciate. This novel was a little harder for me to get into than its predecessor, probably because the heist didn’t seem apparent to me at first. Another difficult thing was having so many narrators to the audiobook. There were at least six, and while I LOVED some of them, there was one I couldn’t stand. And they all pronounced things differently, which, in a fantasy novel with unique names of people and locations, was especially confusing. All told, I did love it though and think Bardugo is brilliant. I am plot’s antihero, and I so admire writers who master it


Kids of Appetite by David Arnold | I absolutely adored Arnold’s debut novel Mosquitoland. I’d honestly never encountered a character voice as unique as Mim’s. Then I was on a panel with the author and he is just a lovely, hilarious, amazing person, which permanently made me a fan. Kids of Appetite was great, somehow both tremendously ambitious but also simple and straightforward. How Arnold managed the paradox, I’m not quite sure, but he did it well. This is the story of a boy named Vic who falls into step with a group of misfits and together they set out to accomplish Vic’s late father’s final wishes. There is mystery, romance, and GREAT imagery. The novel covers just one week, but it’s not unrealistic to see just how much Vic’s life changes in that short time. Very well done


Tell the Truth Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta | My favorite author, all time, hands down, as regular blog readers know. This is her first book in four years, so I was pretty much salivating for it. Although Marchetta most often writes YA, this novel was an adult crime novel. Let’s be honest: adult crime novels are not really in my wheelhouse. But Marchetta is, so there was no doubt I’d read it. It. Was. Masterful. Of course it was, she is the queen! At its core, this was still a novel about family, her trademark. And it was perfectly executed and I love the characters and it made my head spin and inspired me and intimidated me. And OH how relevant it is for right now. The story is about a British inspector named Bish (Bashir), whose teen daughter was on a bus when it was bombed in France. His daughter is shaken but unhurt, and all fingers immediately point to a girl on the bus whose grandfather was accused of terrorism. Bish gets pulled into that family’s life as he attempts to figure out who was really behind the bombing. The characters, you guys. I’m so in love. I would honestly read this woman’s grocery lists.

Shattering Stigma as Book Advocates [Guest Post at It Starts at Midnight]

Today, I’m honored to be over on my lovely friend Shannon’s blog, talking about the power of book advocates to break the stigma of mental illness.

ShatteringStigmas-2-e1472245713311It begins:

My young adult novel Truest, which came out last year with HarperCollins, features a teenager with a depersonalization disorder that makes her question whether real life is actually real—or if she is just dreaming it all. To me, it’s a compelling concept, sparking thoughts around philosophy, reality, and the nature of existence, not to mention mental illness and depression. Although I’m not a doctor or psychologist, I still felt qualified to write this story. Why? Because I dealt with solipsism syndrome myself.

To read the rest, click here! Thanks for taking the extra time to hop over and read my thoughts.