First To-Read List for 2015!

Realistic Fiction (oxymoronic as it sounds):

1. Saint Anything, by Sarah Dessen

I would read ANYTHING by Sarah Dessen. Ever since I first picked up Keeping the Moon when I was 14, I was sold.

Saint Anything didn’t come by smoothly for the writer. Sarah struggled with a story that was going nowhere, and was miserable when she wrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it again. It’s hard to churn out a novel a year, and after writing more than ten books in the same genre, I guess she got a little burnt out. But I’m so glad she took a break, because Saint Anything looks SO GOOD, slightly different and darker than her usual books.

2. Made You Up, by Francesca Zappia

Ever since E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars wrecked me emotionally, I’ve been looking for more stories told by unreliable narrators. Plus, Made You Up also involves mental illness, another theme I gravitate towards. And the cover art! How pretty!

3. All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven

This book is touted as The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park, a “love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die”. Even though I found E&P a little over-dramatic at times, I’m holding out on the hope that this won’t be as overplayed.

4. The Howling Boy, by Cath Crowley

This book is a mystery. No cover art yet, or confirmed publishing date. But after reading – and rereading, and re-rereading – the magical, bittersweet, poignant, inspiring Graffiti Moon, this book CANNOT come soon enough.


1. Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo

More stories from the Grishaverse (that’s Grisha universe, by the way). YES, PLEASE! I’m still savouring the final installment of the Grisha trilogy, Ruin and Rising, so it won’t end so soon. So more Grisha tales are definitely welcome.

2. The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black

Faeries, monster-slaying children, fairy-tale retelling. What’s not to love? And knowing Holly Black, it would be dark and sinister and all kinds of delicious.

3. Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard

OMG OMG OMG. I have never been this psyched for a book to be released before –

Okay, well that’s not true. But this is definitely one of the books I’m properly excited about. I mean, just read the blurb. COME ON. Does it not want to make you read it already?! I can only hope it won’t disappoint, because I am all ready to sink my teeth into this juicy novel.

4. Beastkeeper, by Cat Hellisen

I love how fairytale-ish the premise is, yet how real and current the protagonist’s conflict is, with an age-old curse and an absentee mother. “The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast … unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever.” Okay, I’m on board.

What’s on YOUR To-Read list for 2015?

By the way, I am HOOKED on Aussie YA, thanks to incredible writers like Cath Crowley, Lucy Christopher, Melina Marchetta, Karen Foxlee, and Vikki Wakefield. There must be something in those Australian waters that lets them churn out such dreamy prose and create such relatable characters. If anyone has any recommendations, please share the good stuff! :0)

More Laini goodness!

In case it’s not obvious enough, I’ve been reading Laini Taylor’s old blog and catching up on all her old posts (on both her old and new blogs). In one of them, she recommended this book called A FLIGHT OF ANGELS and hooolyshizzle it looks SO FREAKING GOOD I NEED IT NOW WHERE CAN I GET MY HANDS ON IT?! Here’s the blurb:

“A mysterious angel plummets to Earth and lands deep in a dark forest, where his dying body is found by the mystical denizens of this strange place. As the gathered fauns, fairies, hags and hobgoblins debate what to do with him, each tells a different story of who they imagine this celestial creature to be — a hero, a lover, a protector or a killer. Once all the stories have been told, a final verdict is rendered and the outcome will leave you breathless.”

Published in 2011, FLIGHT is a graphic novel written by Holly Black (author of the original and spunky fantasy thriller series, THE CURSEWORKERS) and a few other authors. You know it has to be good if Holly Black is on board. She and Laini Taylor are two of the few authors I would gladly follow to the ends of the earth and back, strung starry-eyed along by their prose and all-around genius. So even though I’m not a fan of graphic novels, I NEED this book now. 

Also, please let April 2013 come quickly. I am thisclose to wetting myself with excitement for the final installment to Laini’s epic trilogy, DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS.

Speaking of her books (can I ever shut up about her?), I’ve finally FINALLY gotten down to reading LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES, a collection of short stories with illustrations done by her husband (talk about an artistic duo!). Stories of demons and dancing and kisses and curses. Every word of every sentence of every story in this book is so delicious I’m totally relishing it by taking my time to read them, spinning them around in my mouth and tasting the rhythm of the words, asking myself why she decided to use this particular word or phrase or expression and what its effect is and what I would’ve written (mine always pales in comparison). 

It is IMPOSSIBLE not to get enticed by her prose. I am addicted.

So when she dishes out advice on revising your first draft, I am ALL EARS: 

I’m not just copy-editing myself here, marking typos and such. I’m still casting my mind out for bigger, better, cooler ideas and solutions, more elegant ways to fit the plot together, new things the characters might say and do. I’m writing whole new scenes; I’m rearranging a lot. I’m cutting whatever I possibly can. I’m hyper alert for any boring parts and I am trying desperately not to deceive myself on that score.

Revising is a huge part of the craft aspect of writing, and it can be a time of luscious possibility. Don’t dread it. Embrace it! Do what needs to be done.

Never has advice been this relevant. BLOOD PROMISE may not be in its first-draft stage, but I treat it as such, because there are so many things to change and shift around, so many things to tweak and ramp up and make into something much more exciting than before – how have I not seen all these possibilities and flaws before?!

I’m at page 156 of BLOOD PROMISE now, and I aim to be done with this rewrite by the end of this month. To all my writer friends either mired in their works-in-progress this NaNoWriMo or rewriting their first drafts like I am:

It may not look like it now, but we will get there.

“You write your first draft with your heart, and you rewrite with your head.”  ~ James Ellison

Neil Gaiman is such an inspiration. He always seems so genuine and passionate about books and writing – no pretensions or self-indulgence – and he got where he is now through sheer determination and hard work. Talent too, of course, but more hard work and true grit. If you haven’t read this heartfelt, honest and pertinent essay he wrote a while back, go read it – seriously. There, he argues for the relevance of books – FICTION, in particular. In a world that prizes tangible rewards above anything else, where bankers and scientists are deemed superior to those who pursue the arts, things that we aren’t able to quantify – such as the emotions that a well-told story is able to evoke – often get ignored, or worse devalued. Gaiman completely hit the nail on the head with this essay.

“We writers – and especially writers for children, but all writers – have an obligation to our readers: it’s the obligation to write true things, especially important when we are creating tales of people who do not exist in places that never were – to understand that truth is not in what happens but what it tells us about who we are. Fiction is the lie that tells the truth, after all. We have an obligation not to bore our readers, but to make them need to turn the pages.”

 Here’s to writing the truest things we know that won’t bore our readers.