Dream Big: My Thoughts on Meeting Cat Winters

Somewhere in the depths of my drafts folder is my original review of The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters. It’s nothing like the review I wrote that was printed in the local newspaper, which detailed many of the reasons why I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but did not discuss the plethora of personal reasons behind those feelings. My original review delved into the severe depression I’d been stuck in for some time and how I’d lost sight of myself and my passions, including reading. It was deeply personal, raw, and in the end, too uncomfortable for me to share with the world. I talked about why I found hope in Olivia Mead’s strength and resilience, her desire to be herself despite the backlash from others. I took in every word of The Cure for Dreaming slowly, carefully, as if it could help piece me back together, and in a way, I believe it did. Reading The Cure for Dreaming was the first time in a long while that I felt like a little piece of myself was restored, and I was able to block out all of the chaos happening in my life at that time and just enjoy reading. It spoke to me, told me not to let the monsters overpower my sense of self worth, and for that reason, it will always remain one of my favorite books. It took some time to put myself back together, but I treasure The Cure for Dreaming as one of the catalysts to that recovery.

The Cure for Dreaming wasn’t my first book read from Cat Winters. I discovered her thanks to her debut young adult novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds. I fell in love with her haunting and mysterious takes on historical fiction. Her work was inspiring, a style so fresh and unique that my most common remark was that I wished more than anything that I could write like her.

Every two years, my library hosts the Ohio River Festival of Books. When they started planning the 2016 festival, my boss asked for suggestions of authors we might want to try to contact about speaking at the festival. I don’t think she even got to finish her sentence before I was throwing out Cat Winters’s name. In all honesty, I never thought it would happen. I knew Cat lived all the way in Portland, and I didn’t think she’d want to make the trip all the way to little ol’ Huntington, West Virginia, but I thought it was worth a shot. Dreams can come true sometimes, right?

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It happened. It really, REALLY happened. October 1st, I had the pleasure of meeting Cat Winters at the Ohio River Festival of Books. I had already sort of built up in my head what she would be like just from our brief interactions on Twitter and such, but I can tell you this – She is everything I thought she would be, and so much more!

Cat talked at length about how she’d spent her entire life writing, and the struggles she faced in her journey towards publication. She’d fortunately always had the support of her family, and to further illustrate that, she introduced the audience to her parents. They had driven several hours from northern Ohio to be able to see her speak at our book festival. Her mom and dad were just as sweet and kind as their daughter, even asking for a photo of Cat and me together. Her mother was especially beaming with pride as she watched the presentation and when she later spoke with the local news about the festival. Seeing them all together made me very thankful that my family has never discouraged my interest in writing…now, if only I could stop discouraging myself!

Cat read from each of her books, discussed the history behind them, and even bribed some audience members (myself included) with chocolate from Oregon to act out two parallel scenes from Hamlet and The Steep and Thorny Way.

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Photo credit goes to my lovely cousin, Traci, who was in attendance to make sure I didn’t pass out from fangirling too hard.

After her presentation, Cat did a signing. I consider myself a pretty lucky girl because my boyfriend had taken the reviews I wrote for the local paper for The Cure for Dreaming and The Steep and Thorny Way and had them matted and framed. I love that I was able to have Cat sign this, as well as my copy of The Cure for Dreaming, where she wrote, “Dream big”. That phrase has been in my mind since meeting her, which was a big dream of mine in the first place, but now I’m consumed by other big dreams. Mostly, I dream of actually publishing a book of my own, to finally have my name on the cover of something I have created, to have a space on the bookshelf where anyone can find it. These are big dreams, and to make them come true, first I will actually have to finish a project. I know that my life is beyond hectic this year (see the note at the end of this post), but it will also be my fifth year as a NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison for my local region. I love National Novel Writing Month and the motivation and urge to create it sparks. While I know the likelihood of me actually busting out 50,000 words in probably my busiest month so far this year isn’t very high, I currently have two young adult projects that I’ve been going back and forth between. Hopefully, with the extra motivation from all of my local Wrimos, I’ll be able to make a considerable dent in working towards my dream.

Julie Kagawa tweeted last month saying, “Tell a writer whose book you loved that you loved it. A kind word means the world to us. #EncourageAwriter”. There was an outpouring of author-love all over Twitter, and I took this time to tell a few of my favorites what an inspiration they’ve been to me. Cat Winters was one author who I felt truly needed recognized. Open any of her books and you’ll find a wealth of research, genuine talent, and truly immersive stories. I really encourage anyone and everyone to read her books. It just might change your life. 🙂

You can find out more about Cat Winters by visiting her website: www.catwinters.com

One last thing…

You may have noticed that there’s been a pretty long stretch of time between me getting to meet Cat Winters and finally posting this (not to mention, a long time between this and my last blog post). I promise, there’s a real reason behind it, and it’s not that I’ve just been lazy.
I am incredibly thrilled to say that I’ve accepted a new job as a branch manager for one of the libraries in our system! It’s very exciting and, at the same time, very bittersweet, since I’ll be leaving behind my incredible work family in Youth Services. BUT this is definitely something I’ve dreamed of since beginning my career in libraries, and I will still be working with all of the same wonderful people, just in a different capacity! I’ve been pretty busy transitioning between the two locations and also balancing my life at home, in grad school, and my writing time, so I promise I’ll be getting back to posting regularly. I’ve been granted early access to some popular upcoming YA titles, and I can’t wait to tell you all about them! Until then, dream big!

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Off the Shelf: A Review of We Know it was You by Maggie Thrash

I picked up a copy of BookPage this week at the library, and in it, someone had reviewed We Know it was You. You could tell from the review that the author wasn’t such a fan but was trying to spin the review on a positive note. The part that stuck out to me most was that, when reading We Know it was You, you may find that “the satire may not resonate with all readers”. I’m not sure if that was meant to be an understatement, but I can tell you one thing, nothing about this book actually resonated with me, and that’s including the satire.

I received an ARC of We Know it was You from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I emphasize “honest” here because as much as I WANTED to like this book, I just didn’t, and I think it’s important to discuss why.

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Release Date: October 4, 2016

Summary (via Goodreads)
It’s better to know the truth. At least sometimes.

Halfway through Friday night’s football game, beautiful cheerleader Brittany Montague—dressed as the giant Winship Wildcat mascot—hurls herself off a bridge into Atlanta’s surging Chattahoochee River.

Just like that, she’s gone.

Eight days later, Benny Flax and Virginia Leeds will be the only ones who know why.

Things I Liked:
It’s a fast read. Something moderately lighthearted that you can read quickly in a matter of hours. I had a night where I couldn’t get to sleep, so I picked this one up and had it finished well before my alarm for work went off. As much as I didn’t enjoy it, I can say that you will want to follow through to the end, just to solve the mystery.

Things I Didn’t Like:
First off, I didn’t like ANY of the characters. They are so offensively stereotypical that it was just painful to read about them. You’ve got your gossip, your socially awkward Jew, your jocks, your cheerleaders, your strange foreigners, etc. And guess what? None of their actions make any sense whatsoever. Was there a real motivation for any of them? If there was, I couldn’t find it. Perhaps it was buried somewhere under all of the irritatingly pointless plot lines. I really thought at first that I was just irked because they sounded like annoying high schoolers. I thought, well, I sounded pretty annoying when I was in high school. But NO. It’s just that the author is forcing so many cliched tropes down your throat that the whole story is hard to digest.

Second, and this is the part we really need to talk about – I am so grossly offended by the way the topic of rape is treated in this story. If you’re looking for a book that spreads an unhealthy message about rape and sexual assault, well, you’ve found it. I won’t spoil all of the details, but I was actually intrigued that a book finally tackled the subject of a female rapist. That intrigue didn’t last long. Whenever it’s discovered that a character is essentially being raped, it’s like everyone just brushes it off as no big deal. No, we shouldn’t report that to authorities. No, the abuser shouldn’t be punished – she’s so pretty and rich! Let’s just keep her victim in the dark and do nothing about it. I’m sure that will work out just fine. ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?! No. Just no.

Speaking of problematic sexual scenes, I think I almost lost my cool over one scene in particular. *SPOILER WARNING*
At one point, a secondary character…someone who really doesn’t do much in the story overall…sits in his car with a bayonet in one hand and is masturbating with his other hand. Yes, it’s graphic from start to ‘finish’. No, it did not add ANYTHING to the story. I’m still clueless as to why it was included. What purpose did it serve to the story? I don’t think it had one. I feel like the author included it solely for the shock value, thinking that sexually frustrated teenagers are going to think this story is automatically ‘cool’ because it included some detailed masturbation. Trust me though, the descriptions are cringe-worthy at best.

My biggest problem with this book though? Nothing gets resolved. The killer rides off into the sunset, never to be punished. Another victim will never see justice for being raped. Law enforcement is never informed – actually, no, worse than that. Law enforcement is INTENTIONALLY not informed. Not even when one of the main characters sits in a cop’s car just shortly after uncovering a child pornography ring. Does she tell the police about it? Nope! That might somehow impede the work of her teen detective club. I’m sorry, but that was just ridiculous.

Overall Rating:
According to Goodreads, this is going to be a series. I somehow doubt it though, because although nothing was resolved at the end, it had a certain sense of finality to it.  Either way, if there is a sequel, I don’t think I’ll be picking it up.
Some books can make you uncomfortable and challenge you in an exceptionally good way. This is not one of those books. It just leaves you uncomfortable, and that’s it. I’m giving it a 1.5 on the sole fact that I actually wanted to finish it and see how it all turned out. Disappointing as it was, it was a quick (although not painless) distraction.
I’m still not sure if it was really meant to be satire, or if that’s just what people are going to say to defend it. Me? I love satire. I did not love this.

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Off the Shelf: A Review of Fear the Drowning Deep by Sarah Glenn Marsh

One of my favorite things to do after finishing a book is to find out more about the author. I like knowing a little more about the person behind the pen. To me, it makes them feel more like an everyday person. Someone I might know. It also makes me think about how I’d want to describe myself to readers in the future (if I ever get on the ball and make my book happen). Reading Sarah Glenn Marsh’s bio on Goodreads, I feel like we would get along swimmingly:
Sarah Glenn Marsh writes young adult fantasy novels full of danger, mythology, and kissing. Sometimes she writes children’s picture books, too.
She lives, writes, and paints things in Virginia, supported by her husband and four senior greyhounds.
If she could, she’d adopt ALL THE ANIMALS.

See? We’d totally be friends, bonding over our favorite picture books while exchanging photos of all of our rescue animals. Speaking of adopting all the animals, guess whose fur family just got bigger? That’s right. We’ve added an abandoned husky to our pack, one who thinks she’s the same size as the pug and has just as much desire to be in your lap… which of course can be mighty distracting while trying to type, so let’s get this review going so I can get back to husky cuddles!

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Summary (via Goodreads)
Witch’s apprentice Bridey Corkill has hated the ocean ever since she watched her granddad dive in and drown with a smile on his face. So when a dead girl rolls in with the tide in the summer of 1913, sixteen-year-old Bridey suspects that whatever compelled her granddad to leap into the sea has made its return to the Isle of Man.

Soon, villagers are vanishing in the night, but no one shares Bridey’s suspicions about the sea. No one but the island’s witch, who isn’t as frightening as she first appears, and the handsome dark-haired lad Bridey rescues from a grim and watery fate. The cause of the deep gashes in Fynn’s stomach and his lost memories are, like the recent disappearances, a mystery well-guarded by the sea. In exchange for saving his life, Fynn teaches Bridey to master her fear of the water — stealing her heart in the process.

Now, Bridey must work with the Isle’s eccentric witch and the boy she isn’t sure she can trust — because if she can’t uncover the truth about the ancient evil in the water, everyone she loves will walk into the sea, never to return.

Publication Date: October 4, 2016
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Things I Liked:

I’m picky when I request ARCs. My free time that I can spend reading at my leisure is limited, so I request only a few ARCs at a time, and only the ones that truly stand out to me as something different. For me, Fear the Drowning Deep hooked me not only with its mysterious description of the plot, but also with that absolutely GORGEOUS, haunting cover.

Once I got past that beautiful cover, I discovered that Sarah Glenn Marsh has a fantastic way with words. She paints such a beautiful, eerie setting and crafts her story rich with culture and mythology. I felt like a part of Bridey’s family. You get to know the ins and outs of their daily lives, their struggles, their customs, as well as their relationships with the other town folk.This book really delivered when it comes to immersing the reader in the location’s history. Bridey is a strong character, plagued with a fear of the sea that stole her grandfather, and her suspicions have plenty of merit. I loved that the monsters in this book weren’t the typical, overdone sea monsters, and instead had depth in mythology.

Fynn, the stranger who washes up on the beach without a single memory of his life before, was definitely a highlight for me. His voice and mannerisms were a delight, and he’s one of those characters plenty of readers will soon have a major “book crush” on. I was hooked on his interactions with Bridey and how he challenged her to overcome her fears. If Sarah Glenn Marsh ever plans to revisit this world in a sequel, I hope it’s one that is told in Fynn’s point of view.

Things I Didn’t Like:
I knew going into this book that Morag, the local “witch”, would be one of my favorite characters. Throw a witch into any story, and she’s probably going to be my favorite. It seemed to me from the summary though, that she would play a much larger role than what she actually did in the story. Bridey is supposed to be her apprentice, so I expected their encounters to be mysterious, creepy, and mystical. What they actually were was almost nonexistent. A lot of the time either Morag was avoiding Bridey, or Bridey had something else to do that made her avoid Morag. It was a little bit of a let down in that regard, but that’s what I get for coming into this book with preconceived notions from the summary.

The ending was unfortunately where this book hit a low point with me. The story had such a good build up that it was a shame that the final scenes weren’t treated with as much care and delicacy. It was a hodgepodge of loose ends and plot holes. To illustrate my point, I will try to describe one moment that bothered me profusely without getting too *spoiler-y*….While battling a deadly sea creature, Bridey drops the one item that could clinch her victory (an item that kept being stressed in the story for its importance) into the water. She also happens to be wearing a charmed necklace which will absolutely prevent her from drowning. This is where I would fully expect her to rise to the occasion, put her newfound bravery to the test, and dive in after the object. Does she? Nope. It’s never mentioned again once it drops into the water. The ending felt rushed and not as well written as the rest of the book.  I guess endings can’t be everything we expect them to be or it would just get predictable, but I was really hoping for more here.

Overall Rating:
Somewhere between a 3.5 and a 4, so let’s just go ahead and round up in regards to stars. I really enjoyed the story most of the way through, and would have definitely given it at least a solid four or more… but the ending just lost me. The book is a standalone novel, yet I still feel incomplete. It makes me wish for a sequel so that the loose ends may be tied up. Maybe we can all beg and plead for the author to revisit this world? It’s definitely worth a read though, so don’t skip over it just because I had some concerns about the ending. Not everyone is going to like every ending. Fear the Drowning Deep has enchanting characters, intriguing mystery, and shows that we are all capable of putting terror and uneasiness behind us when the things we hold dear are at stake. You shouldn’t miss out on this unique and exciting story, so be sure to check it out when it’s released! For that matter, be sure to keep Sarah Glenn Marsh on your radar as well. I’m greatly looking forward to future books from her!

“And with the melody came the unmistakable sound of water slapping against the rocks far below us, slowly eroding the foundation of Port Coire and everything I loved.”
  – Sarah Glenn Marsh, Fear the Drowning Deep

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Luna would like to know if I’m done typing yet.

 

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Off the Shelf: A Review of The Cresswell Plot by Eliza Wass

“It’s funny, isn’t it?” he said, chest contracting as he caught his breath. “How beautiful the world becomes when you think you might have to leave it?”

I remember when I first became familiar with the very creepy concept of family annihilators – those that will kill their families to “save” them.  My exposure was all thanks to an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Binge watching Law & Order is a guilty pleasure of mine, and the episode “Family Values” had the detectives tracking down a father who went on a killing spree of his daughter’s drama teacher, his former boss, and most importantly – his entire family – before kidnapping his daughter so they could leave this world together. Why? Because he was disturbed that his daughter wore a low cut costume in a school play and would soon be performing in another play written by a homosexual. He wanted to make sure his family got to heaven, so he killed them to save their souls. It was incredibly disturbing, and at the end I kept thinking, “There can’t really be people in this world that believe that way, can there?” Unfortunately, there are.

You’ve got to hand it to Eliza Wass. She picked one heck of a topic to tackle for this novel, and she delivers a well written narrative with insight into a disturbing family dynamic.

I received an advance read copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The Cresswell Plot by Eliza Wass will be available on June 7, 2016.

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Waiting on Wednesday #4

The plots that tend to get stuck in my head usually are of the thriller genre. My on-again-off-again work in progress is tentatively titled Captive, and is about a young girl who has spent the majority of her life imprisoned by her abductor and who must make some very difficult choices in order to save herself. While I was sitting at lunch the other day, an idea struck me for a different story about two friends, self-destruction, a disappearance, and guilt. Won’t reveal too much about that one just yet… BUT I can say that once I saw the synopsis for After the Woods, I knew I would have to read it for the inspiration to tell the story I want to tell. That’s why it earns this week’s Waiting on Wednesday.

After the Woods
By Kim Savage
Publication Date: February 23, 2016

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Synopsis (via Goodreads)

“Would you risk your life to save your best friend?

Julia did. When a paroled predator attacked Liv in the woods, Julia fought back and got caught. Liv ran, leaving Julia in the woods for a terrifying 48 hours that she remembers only in flashbacks. One year later, Liv seems bent on self-destruction, starving herself, doing drugs, and hooking up with a violent new boyfriend. A dead girl turns up in those same woods, and Julia’s memories resurface alongside clues unearthed by an ambitious reporter that link the girl to Julia’s abductor. As the devastating truth becomes clear, Julia realizes that after the woods was just the beginning.”

Why I’m Waiting

Well, if you read the opening of this post, then you know I’m looking for inspiration for my own story. This book sounds right up the alley of what I like to write. I want mystery. I want suspense. I want to see the power of friendship facing the evils of the world.
From the reviews I’ve read (which seemed to consistently be 5 star reviews), it’s looking like Julia will shape up to be a fantastic heroine, strong and self-sacrificing. I’m looking forward to all of the twists, turns, and complications she will encounter.
This is the author’s debut novel, and if it’s as good as I think it will be, then I think Kim Savage will definitely be one to watch in the future. Her next thriller (title TBD) will be available in 2017, so we will have a bit of a wait to see what’s next from her.

Add After the Woods to your To Be Read Shelf on Goodreads
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Waiting on Wednesday #3

February is such a good month! Know why? Well, yes, it is the month of my birthday, but know why else February is so great? The day after my birthday is the release of Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan! There was no debate here, this book definitely tops my Waiting on Wednesday list.

Reign of Shadows

By Sophie Jordan

Publication Date: February 9th

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Synopsis (via Goodreads)

“Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

With lush writing and a star–crossed romance, Reign of Shadows is Sophie Jordan at her best.”

Why I’m Waiting

Do you SEE that cover? I have no shame in judging a book by its cover – and this one is going to be good!
Also, by now you know my undying love for dark retellings of classic fairytales. This one here is playing off of Rapunzel, which you don’t see very often. There are all sorts of Cinderella or Alice in Wonderland retellings, but Rapunzel, not so much. I’m excited to dig in and see what fairytale elements have been included.
Another reason I’m waiting for this release is that, if you’ve read any of my recent reviews, you’ll know that most of the books I’ve read lately haven’t had a romantic plot. I’m getting in the mood for a book that will pull at my heartstrings.
I’ve already pre-ordered this one for the library’s collection, so I’ll be anxiously awaiting its arrival. If you happen to get ahold of it first, leave me a comment to let me know what you think of it!

Add Reign of Shadows to your To Be Read Shelf on Goodreads
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Waiting on Wednesday #1

As I am starting to look forward to blogging more and doing more reviews of what I’ve been reading, I’ve decided to also add a weekly Waiting on Wednesday post to highlight upcoming YA releases that I’m excited about.

And as with most things, I’m immediately breaking the rules…

By the time you read this post, the book that I’m desperately looking forward to getting my hands on will no longer be in pre-publication status. It will, in fact, have been published the day before. -BUT- I work for the public library, which means, it may be a little bit before this lovely book falls into my hands, so I’m saying it still qualifies.

The book I’m awarding the very first Waiting on Wednesday post just so happens to be…

The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch
By Daniel Kraus
Publication Date: October 27, 2015

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Synopsis (via Goodreads)
May 7, 1896. Dusk. A swaggering seventeen-year-old gangster named Zebulon Finch is gunned down on the shores of Lake Michigan. But after mere minutes in the void, he is mysteriously resurrected.
His second life will be nothing like his first.

Zebulon’s new existence begins as a sideshow attraction in a traveling medicine show. From there, he will be poked and prodded by a scientist obsessed with mastering the secrets of death. He will fight in the trenches of World War I. He will run from his nightmares—and from poverty—in Depression-era New York City. And he will become the companion of the most beautiful woman in Hollywood.
Love, hate, hope, and horror—Zebulon finds them. But will he ever find redemption?

Ambitious and heartbreaking, The Death & Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume 1: At the Edge of Empire is the epic saga of what it means to be human in a world so often lacking in humanity.

Why I’m Waiting

When I first read this description, I was reminded of one of the most intriguing writing prompts I’ve ever found – “You’ve been dead for 67 days. You awake to the entire world watching the first human revival. Your revival.”
Playing with the concept of revival will always be interesting to me, as I was fascinated by stories like Frankenstein from an early age. The idea of a gangster receiving a second life and experiencing notable events throughout history has me ready to grab this book as soon as it hits the shelves.
If you happen to get to read it before I do, I hope you’ll post your opinions. I have high hopes for Zebulon Finch, and I can’t wait to see if they are met.

Add The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch on Goodreads

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What are you waiting on this week?