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Book Review: Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

Image via Goodreads | Published by Viking Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Romance
Rating: 5/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

Book Summary (via Goodreads):
As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen’s thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.

Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself.

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My Review:
This is the first book I’ve read by Sarah Dessen and I loved it. Once and for All is a beautiful story of love, second chances at love, and if happily-ever-afters exist.

This novel really pulls at the heart-strings, especially with what incites the conflict and every obstacle that follows. What made me pick up this book was that it involved wedding planning and the premise seemed really interesting. Those two things combined surely would make a great story, right? It did. Also, let’s not forget that the cover is simple but gorgeous.

Every character I loved and had something wonderfully special about them.

I’ve read stories with cynical main characters before but Louna – which, by the way, I love her name – has to be my favorite. There’s just something really likable about her that I can’t quite fully describe. She’s a cynic – and understandably so as you get further into the book – but her character is just so…on point and dynamic that her notions about love don’t deter a hopeless romantic like myself.

Ambrose I have a love-not-so-love feelings toward. I did not care for Ambrose for a majority of the story – probably because of his personality and overly cocky presence. But he’s not all bad. He has his moments. His character in the story is one thing that makes this story so good. In the early chapters of the book, I couldn’t see what effect he’d have on Louna by the end but his influence worked its way in well. Where their relationship ends up by the story’s conclusion I was 90-95% satisfied with.

Natalie Barrett (Louna’s mom) and William (Natalie’s partner at the company) are just darling. I loved them both and their back-stories. I found myself rooting for them as much as Louna. They are three lovable cynics. Louna’s best friend, Jilly, is great – the kind of friend everyone needs – and I love what the author chose as her family background.

I liked that the wedding planning business aspect was present throughout the entire story. I have no experience in that area but the weddings depicted in Once and for All I have no doubt have actually happened in real life. It was like watching an episode of Say Yes to the Dress. The story also flips back and forth between past and present a few times. I really enjoyed (contrary to the feels felt) those chapters that took place in the past and how Dessen placed them within the storyline so perfectly and with great affect.

As stated previously, this is my first time reading a book by Sarah Dessen. I’ve known about her books since (I think) This Lullaby was published and know her and her books are really popular. I never read any of her books way back then was because I was very much enthralled in fantasy worlds and knights and magic and shifters for a very long time (still am).

But I saw Once and for All on NetGalley. The cover looked so pretty so I was curious to see what it was about since I also recognized the author. I was very intrigued by the premise and wanted to read more. I’m glad I did. I have been missing out. Sarah Dessen is truly a talented writer and has a beautiful way of telling a story and crafting characters. Once and for All was a fantastic read and one of my favorite books of 2017 (so far). I highly recommend reading this book. I’m definitely going to check out her other novels.


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Poem: “Red Roses” by Christina @ The Bookshelf Corner [After Shane McCrae]

“Red Roses” by Christina @ The Bookshelf Corner [After Shane McCrae]

Author’s Note: So this was a poem I wrote in school as a part of a class exercise where we had to write poetry in the style of the poets we were reading. This poem I came up with after Shane McCrae’s style I really liked how it turned out. We were reading/studying McCrae’s book of poetry entitled Mule: Poems. He has a perplexing, unique writing style that really fascinated me, which made this exercise fun to do. So today, I thought I’d share with you this little blast from the past.

Royalty Free Image from Pixabay.com

“Red Roses”
After Shane McCrae

 

she thanks him for the roses

bleeding roses          too tight

you’ll snap his heart in two

and all the things he loves          he loves you

about you          will fall / in a slow          waltz

with the wind

drifting down to earth

where all things crumble          / fall

shrivel          a plummet to nowhere

one by one          the things he loves about you

fall          / a mix of ash and red /          fall

stains the ground with longing and sorrow

you can’t give them back          go back

restore them to a cheery cherry color

by the dozen          keep them and him whole

water will sustain them before they          / fall

hushed and red pricked hands

she thanks him for the roses


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Additional Skills for Writers

As a writer we need to know how to write professionally, creatively, analytically, and persuasively. We likely seek to earn degrees in English, Creative Writing, Journalism, or any other related fields. But I feel there are additional areas of study that can provide additional beneficial skills to writers of all levels. Of course, you don’t have be an expert in these areas to be a successful writer, nor do you have to learn them. But it never hurts to acquire new skills.

 

MARKETING
Knowing and understanding marketing techniques is key to building a brand, gaining readership, and putting your writing out there. You’ll want to stay up to date on current trends and be actively present on social media to effectively engage/network with others and promote yourself.

WEB DESIGN
Having a website where people can learn about you, your writing, and upcoming works is a good things to have. You don’t need to be a pro to create the perfect website. And knowing the basics of HTML and CSS is good for sprucing up your website and posts. There are plenty of websites – WordPress, Blogger, Weebly, Squarespace, for example – that have great user interfaces and options to building the perfect website/blog for your needs. Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, you can create a website from scratch.

GRAPHIC DESIGN
Making your own graphics can be fun (as long as what you create is of your own creation and doesn’t violate copyright laws). Creating promotional materials/graphics can help “sell” your work. You can create more engaging graphics for social media or your website. You can look up examples of graphic design in use online or search through your local library or bookstore. You can also try sites/programs like Canva, Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator/InDesign, or Microsoft Publisher.

PHOTOGRAPHY/PHOTO EDITING
Whether for bookstagram or your website or for an article, learning the basics of photography and photo editing can come in handy. To edit photos or graphics you’ve made, you can use software like Autodesk Pixlr Editor (a web application) or Adobe Photoshop.

LAW
Not a skill but something to know and understand: copyright laws (a must), the language of contracts (rule of thumb: never sign something without reading what it says first), and tax information (this can be a tricky area but a must) for wherever you call home.

 

Of course there are probably other skills that could be useful to writers but these, in my opinion, seemed liked the most important. I advise doing your own research into the sites/programs I mentioned above; I’ve used them all except for Blogger and Squarespace (but they seem like good sites to make websites/blogs). I hope this was helpful, even if just a little bit, to you and that it made sense. I’m a big believer in having a variety of skills because you never know when they could come in handy.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed today’s post. What other skills do you think would be useful for writers to learn? What more should people know about the skills I mentioned above? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

As always, happy writing!


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Picture Book: “Big Ange and the Violin” by Christina @ The Bookshelf Corner (Text Only)

“Big Ange and the Violin” by Christina @ The Bookshelf Corner © January 30, 2017

Royalty Free Image via Pixabay.com

Big Ange loved to play the violin. She would play in the spring, in the summer, in the fall, and in the winter. She would play it if she was happy or sad or lonely or bored. She would play all the time. The sound released as the redwood bow slide up and down across the strings was so enchanting and beautiful. They were the prettiest sounds she had ever heard.

Her family loved to listen to her play the violin. They clapped wildly after each piece and cheered vigorously, “Play on, Big Ange, play on!” And she did. A little of Bach’s “Minuet” here or “Gavotte in G minor” there.

The only place Big Ange would not play her violin was at school.

Everyone at school had a talent. Carly could sing and knew every song on the radio. Terrence could climb to the top of the monkey bars without getting scared. Joanne could do a cartwheel over and over again. Matthew could draw nifty pictures of almost anything. All the kids teased Big Ange because she did not have a cool or special talent. Without some sort of talent she felt like she could not fit in, although she tried her best.

“Is this a talent?” Big Ange asked as she tied her shoes with her eyes closed.

“No way,” said Terrence. “Anyone can do that.”

Then she walked around gingerly on the tips of her toes. “Is this a talent?” Big Ange inquired.

“Not at all,” said Joanne. “That just seems strange.”

Feeling discouraged, Big Ange sulked the rest of the day. At home, she sat in her bedroom and continued to mope while playing John Barry’s “Somewhere In Time” nonstop. Sometimes the composition she chose to play reflected her mood.

Her mother poked her head into the room. “Angie, would you come downstairs, please,” her mother said. “Pop Pop surprised us with a visit. He says he’d like to hear to you play something.”

“Okay, Mom,” Big Ange replied, still feeling a little upset. But when she began to play for Pop Pop and the rest of her family, her mood began to lift.

“Play on, Big Ange, play on!” Pop Pop said.

“Play on, Big Ange, play on!” her little brother, Lenny, repeated.

At recess the next day, Big Ange tried again to find a talent. She did a tuck and roll and came up standing, arms raised proudly in the air. “Is this a talent?” Big Ange wanted to know.

“I’m afraid not,” Carly said. “There’s nothing unique about that at all.”

Then Big Ange chewed some bubble gum and blew a really big bubble. “Is this a talent?” she asked.

“Hardly,” Matthew said, shaking his head. “Getting all messy is not something to be proud of.”

Well Big Ange was certainly at a loss. She had tried everything but nothing seemed to work. Who knew it would be so hard to find a talent?

When they came back inside, Mrs. Cardigan made an announcement. “This Friday we will be having a class talent show,” she said as she passed out flyers. “Everyone will get a chance to perform. Your families and guardians are invited as well!” The room buzzed with excitement while Big Ange sat dejected. She slowly raised her hand. “Yes, Ange?” Mrs. Cardigan asked.

“Um…what if you don’t have a talent?” Her classmates giggled under their breaths.

Mrs. Cardigan gave them a stern look before answering, “Everyone has something they are good at. Something they enjoy doing above all else.” Big Ange was not so sure.

Later that night, she was playing her violin when her mom came to check on her. “How is my Angie doing?” she asked.

Big Ange put her instrument down. She quickly hid the flyer that was on her bedside table under her pillow. “I’m alright,” she responded, quietly. She did not want her mother to know just how troubled and confused she was. But mother’s always know.

Her mom walked over and took the flyer out from under her pillow. “A talent show? And family are invited? How wonderful! Why would you hide this?” her mother questioned.

“Because I don’t have a talent!” Big Ange cried. “Everyone else at school does but I don’t.”

Her mom sat down beside her child and hugged her. “Of course you have a talent, Angie,” she cooed, pointing to the instrument.

“Playing the violin is a talent?” The violin always brought her such joy. But for it to be a talent? Big Ange had never considered that.

“It is,” her mother said. “It’s something you’re good at and something you love to do. You make everyone happy when you play. I think your classmates would be happy to hear you play, too.”

The day of the talent show, Big Ange was very nervous. Even though she practiced her song all week, she worried she would look silly in front of everyone, including her family who were in attendance.

A hush fell over the room as she made her way to the front. She had done this many times before in front of her family but this was different. Well, it was now or never. Big Ange took up position and let her violin sing. The smooth cadence of Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” resonated loud and true. And as the vibrato of the final note played the room erupted into applause. Big Ange could not believe how happy her classmates looked.

“What a talent!” a girl said.

“How cool!” said a boy.

It was such a surreal moment that Big Ange thought she was dreaming.

Then her dad shouted, “Play on, Big Ange, play on!” and the kids chorused, “Play on, Big Ange, play on!” So she played again, this time Shinichi Suzuki’s uplifting “Allegro.”

And that was how Big Ange discovered her talent.

THE END

 

Authors Note: I don’t remember where this idea came from but it seemed like a fun story for a picture book. It was inspired in part by one of my closest friends and my love for the violin. I hope you enjoyed this story even without the pictures. Let me know what you think. Any feedback is welcomed.


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Book Review: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes
Favorite Passage: “Words matter, in fact. They’re not pointless, as you’ve suggested. If they were pointless, then they couldn’t start revolutions and they wouldn’t change history. If they were just words, we wouldn’t write songs or listen to them. We wouldn’t beg to be read to as kids. If they were just words, then stories wouldn’t have been around since before we could write. We wouldn’t have learned to write. If they were just words, people wouldn’t fall in love because of them, feel bad because of them, ache because of them, and stop aching because of them.”

 

My Summary:
Rachel moves back to Gracetown where she grew up to live with her aunt after failing Year 12 due to her brother’s death just months before. Getting away should drastic her from the pain of losing her brother. She hasn’t been able to feel but she’s all too aware of the feelings she left behind in a love letter tucked between the pages of a favorite book belonging to her long-time best friend Henry. He never responded. She’d rather avoid him but, unfortunately, she’ll be working with him at his family’s bookstore. Henry’s not fairing so well either. His girlfriend’s dumped him, the bookstore’s in financial trouble, and his family seems to be falling apart at the seams. But love and life and words between the pages of books may offer a kind of solution for Rachel and Henry.

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My Review:
Words in Deep Blue was okay. I wasn’t blown away by it but it has good qualities.

I first discovered this book on NetGalley but by that time it was not available for requests anymore. Luckily, my local library was ordering a copy and I was happily the first cardholder who got to read it. What made me interested in reading this book was the cover – blue is my favorite color and the book jacket is so pretty and has a unique design. I also liked the premise and, as a self-proclaimed book nerd and hopeless romantic, it spoke to me.

But the book ended up being okay, sadly. The story concept I liked – it’s YA love presented from a fresh angle. Henry’s family bookstore has a section called the Letter Library where you can write or mark the book how you wish or leave notes inside but you can’t take/buy any of the books. I love that idea for a bookstore – it’s got a communal and romantic feel. And throughout the book you get to read some of the letters in between the chapters told in Rachel and Henry’s POVs. I’m not familiar with most of the books being referenced (which is fine) but it did distance me a little (which is not the author’s fault). I was never one for literary novels but I recognize some titles from school. I felt more like a spectator as I was reading. I didn’t feel connected to the story or characters, but I was invested enough to read it in full.

I love YA but the teenage aspect in this book was annoying to me (especially with one character) – this I say as an adult whose teenage years can still be recalled. The characters are (I’m guess here) between 17 and 19 years old (excluding the grown-up characters featured).

Cath Crowley writes wonderfully and I love how she chose to frame the story – a mixture of past and present. I will say that there was too much repeating of what was said in a previous chapter at the beginning of the next chapter going on. Sometimes it was unnecessary or could have been framed better. But the writing is solid. There were many great lines/passages. You get a clear picture of who each character is. They’re likable, each with his or her distinctive challenges being face. They are all effected by something and/or someone in the story.

I think in its own right, Words in Deep Blue is a good book. I just didn’t particularly enjoy as much as I thought I was going to.


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Book Review: The Hunters by John Flanagan

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Series: Brotherband Chronicles, book 3
Rating: 4/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

My Summary:
Hal and his crew had finally caught up to Zavac – the pirate who stole the Andomel, Skandia’s most precious treasure – but he managed to slip away last minute. But the members of the Heron haven’t given up the hunt. They’ll need to regroup and try more cunning tactics if they want to finally catch Zavac and reclaim their pride and lost honor.

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My Review:
The epic adventure of the Heron brotherband continues in book 3 with nearly non-stop action and danger.

Sometimes it was challenging to guess how Hal and his friends would overcome the obstacles in their way – but that’s the fun part of reading any story to challenge the reader and keep them guessing. And, indeed, this was a fun book to read.

Some of the dialogue exchanges between our protagonists were a little cringy and exasperating. As one character points out, “If we’re finished playing All Friends Together, can we get on with it?” Amen, I thought. Hal felt compelled to say something leader-like to his friends since he is the skirl of Heron but, thankfully and quite comically, words failed him. These kinds of moments in stories, for me, tend to feel awkward and cringy for some reason.

I love seeing Hal’s continued growth as a leader and skirl – he’s a natural at both. He knows and will acknowledge his strengths and weakness and will utilize the strengths of his friends to the group’s best advantage. He is a team player of admirable character.

I like the note the story ended on but am sort of wary about what was foreshadowed to come as the series continues. I can’t say what it is without spoiling but I just hope it’s handled a lot better than this type of things was in the Ranger’s Apprentice series.

The epic-ness of the Brotherband Chronicles seems like it’s going to raise in the next book, Slaves of Socorro, so I’m looking forward to reading it really soon.

 

Past Reviews – Brotherband Chronicles
The Outcasts by John Flanagan (book 1)
The Invaders by John Flanagan (book 2)

Past Reviews – Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years
 The Tournament at Gorlan by John Flanagan (book 1)
The Battle of Hackham Heath by John Flanagan (book 2)