Camp NaNoWriMo April 2022 – Retrospective

April is over and with it this year’s Camp NaNo. How did everyone do? Did you win? Did you finish an entire book? I’ll be honest, I didn’t do any of those things. I didn’t hit the word count, I didn’t win the challenge, and I certainly didn’t finish my book.

But what I did do, I think was almost more important. For thirty days, I wrote every single day. Sometimes I wrote 2,000 words, sometimes I wrote 50 words at 11:30, but that was still 50 words I didn’t have before. I made progress. I crossed off finished chapters. I found plot holes and fixed them, I found subplots I didn’t know I had and expanded upon them. For so long, I had felt stuck in my book. I felt as if I was never going to finish it, and that there was no point in even trying. And then, I reached the point where I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. This was a book that I could finish. And if I kept up my earlier pace, if I continued to write every day, I could finish it soon.

I had never felt that way before about a project of original fiction. I had always assumed that I would never be able to finish anything, but with the help of this session of Camp NaNo, I feel better about my skills and abilities than I have in years. And I hope that this session has done the same for you.

So, did you win the challenge? Did you finish your book? Or did you win something even greater? Because I sure did.

Camp NaNo 2022 is here!

Camp NaNo is starting today, who’s ready! By the time this is posted, us writers will be halfway through the day, writing our fingers off. How exciting! How nerve-wracking! But that’s part of the fun!

I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo since before the regular and Camp sites merged, it feels like I’ve always been doing it. And I’ve never really finished it (it haunts me, really). But this year, I’m determined. Last year during NaNo, I started a mystery novel that I’m so far really proud of. I’ve got around 23K words already written, I’m practically halfway there! This session, I’m determined to finish, I’ve got the entire thing outlined, and I know how I want it to go, I just need to get it written. This is my year!

My novel, tentatively titled “Uncover the Truth”, tells the story of a younger sister gone missing, and an older sister who takes the search into her own hands. It’s the story of sisterly love, and the lengths family will go to to find them again. The characters have become so near and dear to my heart, and I can’t wait to tell their story to the world.

Are you going to participate in Camp NaNo? What’s your story about? Whatever it is, good luck to you! You can do it!

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – Review

When I started to read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into. I knew it was going to be funny, and I considered it a “classic”, so I decided to bite the bullet and just read it. What follows is a spoiler-free, rather short review. For the people who have read it, they will understand what I’m talking about, and for people who haven’t read it, it serves as a recommendation to a book I really enjoyed.

And I really enjoyed it. There were multiple times when I actually laughed out loud. It was wacky and absurd and didn’t take itself too seriously. The sci-fi elements didn’t really try to explain themselves, make the science “work”, they just said whatever they wanted and expected you to go along for the ride. And I was glad, too.

The characters were fun and interesting, you can tell that they’re not all they appear to be. At first, that was going to be a negative. I wanted to know more about them, to see where they were going to go in the future. And when I was still under the impression that this was a standalone novel, I was upset that I wasn’t going to be able to continue their journey with them. But when I realized there were many more books in the series, it quickly became a positive!

This book is perfect for those who want an easy read, a fun book they can laugh at and not have to take too seriously. It’s a book that many people have read, a classic of the genre. And for people who want to finally start reading classics, this is a great starting point. The language is simple, the plot isn’t too complex, and the characters are charming.

If you would like to see my immediate thoughts post-reading, you can find them on my Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4394688291

The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman – Review

Non-Spoiler Review

                “The Ivory Key” is described as “a traditional YA tale of vanishing magic and the princess who must bring it back” (Akshaya Raman). One of my favorite tropes in fiction is that of “found family”, but there’s something so charming, special, and meaningful about stories where families come back together and find the love for each other that they had lost. “The Ivory Key” is the story of four siblings, all on their own paths in life, wanting different things, and willing to hurt the others to get it. In this book, there is magic, secret societies, dangerous secrets, puzzles and riddles, and political intrigue.

                Vira is the maharani, the Queen of Ashoka whose kingdom is running out of magic and on the brink of war. Ronak is her twin brother who shirks his responsibilities and sells priceless artifacts to shady people to try and escape Ashoka. Kaleb is their older half-brother, imprisoned for the death of their mother by Vira, even though he continues to proclaim his innocence, and there was never any real evidence against them. Riya is the youngest sibling, who ran away before their mother died and joined a rebel group called the Ravens, desperate to prove herself as one of them. The relationships between them are fraught. Vira and Ronak are distant at best, hostile at worst. Vira literally imprisoned Kaleb and Riya was pronounced dead when she left. The only semi-good relationship is between Ronak and Kaleb. Ronak is trying to break Kaleb out and escape with him and is the only person who actually visits Kaleb in his cell. But even that relationship is slightly sour, as Kaleb has no hope to escape, and the thought of it makes him snappy and depressed. Watching how their relationship progressed throughout the entire story, despite the political and adventure elements, was definitely the driving force of this book.

                One thing I especially loved about this book was the worldbuilding. The world is very clearly inspired by India, which was a new location for me to read about, as many of the books I read aren’t based in India. The culture of the kingdom was so vivid, every passage is chock full of culture, from the language to the clothing, to the food. While it might not have stood out to a majority of readers, since the book isn’t focused on romantic relationships, I did really enjoy how queer characters are treated. As early as page fourteen there is mention of a female character flirting with girls, and it’s so offhand that it shows that queer relationships are completely normalized in this universe. If it had been just that one time, it could be written off as an accepting friend group, but it happens again where a male character is told he could “settle down with a nice boy” (paraphrasing, of course). And it keeps happening, the queer characters just living their lives in the background of the story, it’s not the main focus, it doesn’t have anything to do with the plot, they are just people living their lives, and they happen to be queer.

                I would recommend this book to anyone who likes stories about found family, fantasy adventure, and reconciliation. Despite the fact that these characters are actually related, it feels like found family. This book is good for anyone that wants to read a new take on the classic YA fantasy.

                To read my immediate reaction to the book, check out my good read review here. I rated this a four out of five stars.

Spoiler Review

                I’ll be completely honest I did not see the betrayal coming. But to be fair, I don’t think any of us did. And isn’t that the true essence of a betrayal? As soon as I read it, I audibly gasped. This was the man that had told Vira that he could trust her, that he would always be there to protect her? It felt like a punch to the gut. The saving grace was that Riya had managed to make a copy of the Ivory Key, and they hadn’t lost everything in the betrayal. Despite what he did, I can’t help but think that maybe Amrit hasn’t actually betrayed him. I want to think that he is still on their side, that he actually loved Vira. That he’s just pretending to betray them, and he has a secret plan to continue helping them. But as of right now, the betrayal hurts.

                Something I enjoyed about the worldbuilding that we learn later on in the story, is more about how the magic works. Something that not even the characters in the book knew about. I think it’s so interesting that for so long in the book, magic is a tangible substance that you work with, and mold into different items. This is so different from how so many books use magic. But then near the end, we learn that magic had initially been something that people could do, a part of the people that they could control at will. Learning the (admittedly little) history about it was fascinating. While I don’t really understand how it works, I don’t really need to, it’s just interesting in general.

                Kaleb deciding to stay and become a sort of secret agent at the end is such an interesting thought. I had expected the siblings to stay together, but this gives Kaleb as a character some agency that I felt he didn’t really have before. It felt like everyone was making choices, except for him. Sure, he chose to help Vira figure out the riddle, but was that really a choice for him? He practically had to. By choosing to stay behind, he is finally taking control of his destiny in a way he hadn’t been able to before.

OwlCrate January 2022 Box – Review

It’s here, it’s finally here! The other day, my OwlCrate box for January finally came! For a while, I had canceled my OwlCrate subscription because I wasn’t actually reading the books, and I felt as if I was wasting money. But, with the start of this blog, the subscription is back, and I’m so happy about it!

The theme of the January 2022 box is Thrill of the Hunt. It’s a theme that gets me excited and makes me think of daring adventures, chases, criminals, and monsters. It’s an exciting concept that could encompass so many different things. The box came with so many different goodies that match the theme.

The first item was a limited edition ceramic bowl, styled after the Lord of the Rings, more specifically Erebor, the Dwarven kingdom. This is the first of a collection that will continue through the book boxes, each featuring a different location in Lord of the Rings. It’s a small-medium size, and looks like it would sit perfectly on my desk with candies and snacks in it.

One of my favorite items has to be the wooden bookmark, with a quote from The Gilded Wolves, which I haven’t read yet, but I do love the quote: “Make yourself a myth and live within it, so that you belong to no one but yourself.” It’s a nice, sturdy bookmark, and I can’t wait to use it.

I also love the Six of Crows canvas pouch. I am obsessed with office supplies, and as such, I’m someone who believes that you can never have too many pencil pouches, so this canvas pouch is an absolute delight. It’s big and looks sturdy, and the design on the pouch is beautiful.

I love the compass pin banner. I like it so much more than the last pin banner I had, which was just plain black with some white thorn/barbed-wire detailing. This one really seems to fit in with the theme of the monthly enamel pins

The theme of the 2022 collection of enamel pins is “Literary Luggage”, each shaped like a suitcase with little decorations on it. It’s adorable and if the others fit the theme as well, it will look really nice when pinned to the compass banner hanging on my wall.

There was also a Dinar coin from We Hunt the Flame. Now, I haven’t read the book this comes from yet, but I thought it was a neat little trinket. It makes me excited to read the book. It’s intricate and heavy, and I’m sure for people who have read the book, they really love it.

The Ivory Key, is the first book in an Indian-inspired fantasy duology, and it looks so good. It is an epic YA fantasy siblings novel which is so exciting. The cover is also gorgeous. I’ll be honest, I read some of it already in a parking lot waiting for my dermatologist appointment, and in just the fifty-seven pages I have read so far, it’s good. It’s got adventure and magic, and shocking twists that I wasn’t expecting. I’m really excited to read it and get a review out to you by either the end of January or the beginning of February.

Here There Be Gerblins by Clint McElroy – Review

NON-SPOILER REVIEW

“The Adventure Zone” started as a sort of throwaway episode of the podcast, “My Brother, My Brother, and Me”, a comedic advice podcast by three brothers, Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy. In the episode, they’re joined by their father, Clint, and they play their first session of DnD, for what boils down to essentially the first time ever, for all four of them. Griffin takes the reigns as DM (Dungeon Master), and the other three, Clint, Justin, and Travis, are the only players. They just wanted to see if anyone would like it. People liked it so much it became its own podcast, now nearly eight years running at the time of writing (beginning in 2014).

                Then, Clint McElroy, in collaboration with Carey Pietsch, adapted the campaign into a graphic novel. And it is fantastic. I’ll start by giving praise to Carey Pietsch, whose illustrations are both fun and beautiful. Art style can so often be overlooked in reviews such as these (especially when the reviewer doesn’t actually know anything about art, like me), buried by the need to talk about plot and character, but art style can be a dealbreaker for some people. I’m guilty of this as well, I couldn’t get through the first episode of the anime “Eyeshield 21” because of the art style (sorry!). But Pietsch’s art is so great. It’s clean, legible, stylistic, and overall, just aesthetically pleasing. Also, shout out to the fan art section in the back of the book, how fun is that!

                The book itself is fun. I already knew the plot going in, as I had listened to the podcast, but it’s definitely not a necessity. The story makes just as much sense if you had listened to the podcast than if you hadn’t. It’s truly an exceptional adaptation in that regard. Sure, there was a twenty-minute fight scene that had been condensed into a single panel. However, this does nothing to change the story, it’s one of the most inconsequential fights in the podcast and does nothing to change the plot. In adaptation, changes are necessary, and the changes made to this adaptation both make sense and helps make the story even better than its original form.

                Even if you don’t know much about Dungeons and Dragons or even tabletop role player games, this is such an enjoyable read. It’s a fantasy adventure with funny commentary and fourth wall breaks with the inclusion of appearances from Griffin McElroy as the DM, a charming nod back to the source material, and a great storytelling tool to drive the plot and keep the characters moving, just like how an actual DM does when running a campaign. It gives it a meta feel to the entire book which is fun as a reader.

                But the most important thing is what the story is actually about. “Here There Be Gerblins” follows the story of Merle Highchurch, a dwarven cleric, Magnus Burnsides, a human fighter, and Taako, an elven wizard, as they go on an adventure. (Warning! From here on out there will be spoilers for this book!) in the beginning, their quest seems simple, help Merle’s cousin and his friend Barry Bluejeans escort a cart of supplies to a neighboring town. And then they’re attacked by gerblins, and Merle’s cousin and Barry Bluejeans are nowhere to be found. Then the quest becomes a lot more interesting and dangerous.

                What follows is a quest to save their kidnapped compatriots, fight a giant spider in a large mine, find a mystical relic, attempt to save a town, and discover a hidden organization tasked with saving the world. The story takes so many twists and turns that once you’ve started, it’s impossible to put the book down.  

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! Is it cliche to say “new year new me”? Sure! But the new year is a great time to start something new. Try a new craft, learn a new skill, start a journal, a journey. Start a new habit, even. Or, don’t worry about it and live the way you’ve been living, either is fine. The new year and its resolutions can have people thinking they need to change, but there’s no need to force the sort of change people usually try to make at this time of year. Sometimes making it through the year is hard enough, without doing anything extra. Why stress yourself out at the beginning of the year? So make a change, keep going strong along the path you have walked all along. Either way you decide to start the year, I hope that your 2022 is happy, healthy, and safe.

Happy New Year!

Welcome to my site!

It’s so nice to see you! I’m Lauren, and this is all very new to me. I’m a recent college graduate, so recent in fact that my graduation was just my name flashing by on a live Youtube stream, as I watched from my living room (go class of 2020!).

Originally, all I had wanted to do was make a blog where I could write little reviews about books I read, as college and life had taken reading away from me, something I used to love doing and did all the time when I was younger. Despite being an English major (my focus being Creative Writing), I hadn’t actually read for fun in what felt like forever. I realized just how bad it had gotten when I had the same professor for two semesters in a row for a creative writing class, and he asked us what was the most recent book we had read. And I had to say the same book both semesters. And I had listened to it as an audiobook. I hadn’t even read it.

It was humiliating in a way that was only noticeable to me. He didn’t remember what I had said the last semester, neither did the other people who had taken both classes with me. But as I raked my memory for another book I had read, I drew a blank. I used to be able to read a 500 page book over the course of a school day. But now as a college student, I hadn’t read a single other book over an entire semester. It was devastating. And I had the nerve to call myself a “reader”. So I decided I was going to start a book blog where I would be forced to read, to finally get through the books piled high on my bookshelves, and write some reviews on them. Even if nobody would read them, I would have them.

Then I graduated and the real world began. I’m now currently working as a freelance editor. So this new book blog is going to serve many purposes.

The first purpose, the one I’m most excited about, is as a book blog. I’m going to read more books, and maybe once a month, I’m going to post a review. The second is to hopefully use this as a sort of business blog, to put my name out there so people know that I am ready and willing to help edit their work. The third is to do reviews of other things, shows, movies, maybe the occasional podcast. I haven’t decided, but it sounds pretty fun! And the fourth reason is to talk about my writing. The books I’m working on, my struggles, my triumphs, the funny things I learn along the way, and maybe after a while with some luck, where you can find my finished, published book.

That’s the goal at least. For now, it’s a pretty bare-bones site, but I think it’s cute, and looking at it brings me a small joy. Look, I have a website! And maybe it’s a small first step, but it’s one I’ve finally taken. If you’d like to follow along with me, or check back in every once in a while to see how I’m doing, I’d really appreciate it!