The Written Form: A Road Map to Communication

I had a certain Professor in college that struck fear in the hearts of English majors at my university.  If a bright-eyed student wanted a degree in English, they had to take a certain Professor_Monsterfeared Professor’s class.  His demeanor was jovial if a student encountered him outside of class.  He was even sarcastic and particularly talented at holding a fun, time-accelerating conversation.  However, he was brutal when teaching, and worse when critiquing.  Inside the boundaries of class, he harbored no mental editing giving the cold, hard truth of his thoughts concerning a student’s written word.  I witnessed at least three young men on football scholarships cry in the face of his brutality, and he definitely made me cry on four separate occasions.

The real story behind this abuser of students’ attempt at coherent scribbles has nothing to do with the physicality of the last paragraph.  The real story has everything to do with the meaning behind the physical words.  (To be blunt: I made no mention of the true meaning of the story, but the real meaning should be the one question a reader needs to ask).  The method of the Professor’s traumatizing teaching abilities is not the moral of the story, the real moral of the story – the question a reader should ask – is:  What were the effects of the Professor’s teachings?

Before the Professor managed to throw his demeaning metaphors my way, I was a passable writer.  Afterwards, my writing had noticeably improved. The Professor said many things to me during my time with him.  All of those tidbits of sarcastic knowledge stayed with me through my career delivering academic papers in college, and my – currently – brief stint as a published author.  I wish to pass these tidbits to other passable writers in need of improvement.

While I would love to hate my Professor for the hell he put me through, I find I spout the same vitriol – in my head – as I edit other people’s work.  I, at least, do a better job of keeping my thoughts from verbal spillage – most of the time.

An important thought writers need to keep in mind as they write is to pretend to write for an audience of sixth graders.  Admittedly, sixth graders do not know much, which means explaining everything in excruciating detail.

Street mapA writer needs to think of their work as a detailed road map of their thought process. The first paragraph contains an attention grabber, a thesis, and a list of street signs.  A street sign in writing is a reiterated version of the first sentence of each body paragraph.

Place a street sign as the first sentence of the body paragraph to signal the reader of where they are in the written work.  The rest of the paragraph should be the details of the sign’s meaning.  In street terms, a writer is giving landmark details of what is around each street sign.  This is where the excruciating detail for sixth graders should reside.

The last paragraph is a summation of the paper.  This paragraph includes everything that was implied in each body paragraph and not bluntly stated.  Think of these implications as lessons the reader intuits during their travel.  Maybe throw in one final lesson depending on the purpose of the writing.

Most passable writers make some of the following mistakes:  improper comma usage, neglecting the Oxford comma, wordiness, and passive voice.  Comma usage is proper grammar no matter the formalness of the writing.  The rest has little to do with grammar and lends more to style and flow.

Many people neglect using the comma entirely, which is not passable writing.  Neglect of the comma is simply bad writing.  Commas are stop signs in the writer’s work (assuming periods are like stop lights).  If there is no stop sign at a particular intersection, the lack Commaof such a sign could cause many accidents.  Similarly, if there is no comma where there should be a comma, the lack could cause many strange and insulting miscommunications.

However, there is one particular comma I implore writers to use.  The Oxford (or serial) comma is the final comma in a list of things (example below).  I have come across many journalist articles that argues against using the Oxford comma.  One distinct article – which I will not link because of the writer’s shear idiocy – argued that not using the Oxford comma saves time for journalists and use of the Oxford comma should not be enforced.  In my opinion, if not pressing a button while typing saves a journalist’s time, they should take typing lessons to either learn how to type, or practice typing faster.  Admittedly, I only read one article, but I can not imagine any argument that would turn me from using the Oxford comma.  The Oxford comma helps with style, flow, and most important, understanding.

Example of missing Oxford comma:
Hannah forgot to empty the recycling, fill the copier and take out the trash.

Example of Oxford comma:
Hannah forgot to empty the recycling, fill the copier, and take out the trash.

For me, wordiness is a dirty word.  In terms of the road map metaphor, wordiness means taking the unfavorable scenic route and unnecessarily passing the biggest ball of twine.  (If someone is enthused by the biggest ball of twine, I apologize for neglecting the beauty of collected string).  In my opinion, a wasted trip when a reader just wants the writer to expediently get to the point.  Whereas adjectives in a sentence gives the reader a favorable scenic route stimulating the imagination.  Hence, I do not consider adjectives wordiness.

For example:
Greg has had a lot of grief in his life.

Technically, the above example is grammatically correct.  The sentence is wordy because it contains a useless word that impedes flow.  The example lumps has had together.  The writer can take out either has or had to reduce wordiness.  Critically speaking, having both has and had together makes me think the writer has difficulty making up their mind, and is unintentionally taking the reader along for the ride.

Corrected example:
Greg had a lot of grief in his life.

A few other things to reduce wordiness is the word so at the beginning of a sentence, excessive use of that, and repetitive adjectives.  The word so at the beginning of a sentence is not a good transition word.  If a writer is in need of a transition, there are many others to choose from (i.e., thus, therefore, hence, etc.).  In my experience, if I feel the need to use so as a transition word, the sentence likely does not need a transition in the beginning, which is why I consider so wordy.

Excessive use of the word that is detrimental to the health of a written piece.  Always remember the English language is expansive and a writer has many ways to express thought.  I encourage a writer to find – and practice – creative ways to make sentences work other than using that more than once or twice.  Otherwise, excessive use of that drastically obstructs sentence flow and the word will be stuck in a reader’s head all day driving them insane.  (I had one reader make the same complaint regarding my overuse of the word yet).  I will, also, add obviously to the list since I had a Professor who thought it superfluous.

Another way to eliminate wordiness is to check basic sentence structures.  If a writer’s sentences seem confusingly complex, there is no shame in going back to basic sentences.  Sometimes having a simple sentence to break up complex sentences helps the reader remain in the writer’s thought process, and maybe, take a breath.

Last on my list to help passable writers become better writers is passive voice.  Most writers and readers are unaware of the existence that is passive voice, which is grammatically correct, though I highly discourage excessive use.

Example:
The unfortunately poorly written sentence was written by Greg.

Passive voice produces a sentence in which the subject receives an action.  When read aloud, passive voice generally feels bulky on the tongue circling back to wordiness’s biggest ball of twine.  Also, passive voice can instigate miscommunication and – more deadly – confusion.

Corrected example:
Greg wrote the unfortunately poorly written sentence.

The writer switches from passive voice to active voice, keeping the favorably scenic adjectives, and the sentence seems more direct for the reader.  Active voice means the subject performs the action denoted by the verb.

I can come up with a few more tips and tricks to help passable writers, which I will possibly use in later posts. If a future writer sets off my inner editing demon (lovingly named after the Professor from hell), future helpful writing posts are assured.

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The benefits of releasing your inner child.

img_0001At the beginning of the year, I found a passion in adult coloring. I admit there are people who laugh at me when they see me coloring or when I tell them I color. Those people simply can’t fathom a childish hobby having any adult health benefits. I color to reduce stress, which actually works. Coloring also has some other side benefits I never imagined.

Some people think that coloring would actually be stressful. You have to make sure to color inside the lines, pick the correct color, and the picture is finished perfectly.

If I was making a sign to show in public or attempting to impress Picasso, those things would cause me considerable stress. When I’m coloring in my personal coloring book, I have no deadline. I don’t want to impress anyone and I don’t have to adhere to specific coloring guidelines. In this activity, I’m the boss. Who cares if I make a mistake or use an unconventional color?

Sure, there are few people in the world wired like me. My brain goes 100 MPH thinking of at least three different things at the same time (six at most)and I have a penchant for reading a good book while watching TV simultaneously.

I can read your mind, dear reader. You’re thinking that such things are impossible. One person’s impossible is another woman’s daily life.

As you can imagine, meditation is impossible. I’ve tried it and all I showed for it was frustration. In a surprising twist, the act of coloring can cause a meditative state. It helps clear the mind. Being an active person, I should have known my type of meditation would require me being involved in an activity.

Coloring can also help people who suffer from anxiety.

Just like meditation, coloring also allows us to switch off our brains from other thoughts and focus only on the moment, helping to alleviate free-floating anxiety. It can be particularly effective for people who aren’t comfortable with more creatively expressive forms of art, says Berberian, “My experience has been that those participants who are more guarded find a lot of tranquility in coloring an image. It feels safer and it creates containment around their process,” she adds.

It can also be a solace for people grieving a loved one.

For Ledger and others, coloring books offer a real elixir, a way of getting past hurdles — mental, physical or both — that can’t be replicated by more-traditional approaches.

Joanne Schwandes, a 67-year-old Silver Spring resident, says that coloring books have boosted her confidence in fine motor skills weakened by a tremor in her arm. A Virginia mother says that coloring has helped her stay calm in the face of her son’s violent behavior. On one Facebook coloring group, members share their creations along with their stories of healing — using coloring as a tool against self-harming or as a way to manage the effects of physical illness or fend off depression and other difficulties.

img_0002Adult coloring books are considered a fad just like the many different diets that come and go. People roll their eyes and say it’ll never work when they’re really secretly trying it out in the privacy of their home.

Fads, or bandwagons, generally have negative connotations, an implication that a person should be ashamed to try the fad. When it comes to adult coloring books, the first reaction I get from most people is Coloring is for kids.  Young Adult books are considered for teenagers, but I see a number of adults unabashedly reading them (including me). What’s their point other than their rigid need to label activities and limit their imaginations?

So coloring books are not for everyone. Good thing there are other childish pastimes that are mentally beneficial for adults. Happy playing!

Book Review: Witch’s Pyre (The Worldwalker Trilogy Book #3) by Josephine Angelini

51mq7tagogl-_sx331_bo1204203200_I have been waiting forever for this last installment of The Worldwalker Trilogy. As my readers know, I usually read a book in twenty-four hours. I decided to take this all in and experience the journey at a leisurely pace.

(It did not help that I also had work last week and could not stay up twenty-four hours with the hope of functioning the next day).

The writer did something that I absolutely abhor with her second book, she ended on a cliffhanger.

Lily Proctor and her coven were dropped off somewhere on the West Coast by the creepy bee Woven. They should have been dead, it was what the characters expected, it was what the readers expected (not that I wanted them to die, but it was looking dire).  Yet, that is not what happened. This forced the readers to suffer moths before we discovered why they were spared.

The coven is ushered into a seemingly prosperous city where not everything is as it appears to be. After all, it was run by the bee Woven, which readers know people and Woven of any kind do not mix.  The Governor of this prosperous city, Grace, is highly suspicious since she is the only one who has an “understanding” with them.

I like how Angelini explained the mystery of the Woven, and exactly why they are a problem.

Lily did not disappoint throughout her journey. She stayed strong and did not cross that all important line that would cause the decimation of the human race through the use of nuclear bombs.

If there is anything to learn in this trilogy, it is to not keep secrets – no matter how they might shatter the other person. Although, Lillian keeping a secret from Rowan is why we have a trilogy.

Rowan disappointed me a little from the second book into the third. He does make up for it and at least he realizes his mistakes.  However, Lily’s Tristan does not learn from his mistakes, which is the very reason he ends up dead.  At least his alternative self makes up for his shortcomings, and I was a little sorry that Lily’s Tristen died (even though it was his stupid fault).

The book did not have an “ending” per say. It was more like keeping it open for a spinoff? If this is true, I look forward to whatever the author creates next for the Worldwalker environment.

Banned Books Week

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Welcome to Banned Books Week, which officially started yesterday! It is a week where people celebrate the 1st Amendment by reading books that are on the Banned Books List. Here are a few classic titles currently on the list. Some readers might recognize them from high school:

1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
9. 1984, by George Orwell

Usually, some people in the US request to ban books because they do not like the language or there is too much sexual content. As Time Magazine’s Sarah Begley reports, banning also “seems to be linked to demographic changes in the country—and the political fear-mongering that can accompany those changes…”

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If any of my readers happens to be against banning books, I urge them to read at least one book that either is or was on the Banned Books List. Exorcise the 1st Amendment right to Freedom of Speech.

There are many Americans running around with the pocket edition of the Constitution shouting about their rights being trampled – when they’re actually bigoted idiots (I’m sure my readers know what I mean). Now, it’s time to get back at all the people who would like nothing more than to go into the local library, snatch all the books they disapprove of, and burn them. To my most outspoken readers, I challenge them to take the most outrageous, controversial book they can find and read it in a public place. Let illiterate bigots, zealots, and general idiots know they cannot stifle a person’s right to read a good book of their choosing.

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Happiness is…

img_0317At the school where I am a sub, I remember spending a year working in the library.  I had never pegged myself as a librarian when I was a teenager.  Still did not think of it when I was in college trying to envision a future career path.  Now, I am a little disappointed that I did not go out for Library Science.

Not that I am disappointed in my Masters in Literature.  Quite the opposite since I never imagined having a Masters in the first place.

Yet, that year I spent working the school library was both tiring and awesome.  The kids in my school are voracious readers and they constantly need new books.  In fact, it is encouraged that the kids tell the librarians what books they would like to see and those librarians put the titles on a Wish List.

Several boxes of new books would come in on a bi-weekly basis.  Sometimes, I would help unpack the boxes and double check the shipping lists.  I cannot tell you how sublime it was to have the new book smell waft up from a newly opened box nor the euphoria I felt running my hand over the smooth book covers.

When particular book covers caught my eye, I would pause to read the summaries of those books making my own list for future book check out, or to buy my own copy for my home library.  I may not work in the library as much these days, but I use Good Reads to keep up on the new books coming out and making my own wish list.

They have many different lists of books to choose from.  I prefer the new YA fantasy books scheduled to come out for either a new year or the rest of the year.  Each book that catches my attention is put on my Amazon wish list and I Pre Order them a week before their release date.

I may not get boxes of books like the school library.  Yet, even receiving one new book is enough to get me excited.  If only I were rich and never had to work a day in my life.  I would likely spend my days doing nothing but reading my new books and writing.  (Also, traveling through England, Ireland, Scotland, Greece, Romania, …).

If my readers are wondering, I am going to read Witch’s Pyre first.  The previous book in the trilogy ended on a cliffhanger and my readers know how much that bugs me.  Now I get to find out how the trilogy ends!

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Want to see what I’m currently reading or curious about past book reviews?  

Go to my Reading Common Sense page.

 

Suggested Reading

It has been months since I updated.  Aside from super bad summer allergies along with my summertime vampirism, I have been working and August was not my best month.

Scratch that.

August was a comedy of errors Shakespeare would have loved to write a play about.  Frankly, I would love to see how he could stick a few weddings and a funeral into that comedy, but I am sure he would have found a way.  He did have legendary imagination that we are still reading his plays roughly 500 years later.

Speaking of reading and authors, I have still been reading books like they were the air that I breath (do not roll your eyes at me.  It was the best I could do on short notice).

From this moment forward, I am not going to keep a list of books to review.  I think I will review when the mood strikes.  It is simply too much pressure to keep up with it, work, and write an appropriately witty review.

I do not intend to leave my readers with nothing.  Some were likely expecting my opinion and I will give my abbreviated version for each book on my review list.  BTW I embedded the Amazon link to each book in case anyone is interested in reading  these books.

Insanity (Mad in Wonderland) by Cameron Jace (eBook box set on sale for $.99)

Pros:  Wonderfully imaginative.  I love how the author wove facts into their fantasy world. Jace was detailed in his research and it definitely shows.  A reader can tell when the author puts their heart into their written work.

Cons:  It used to be available through iBooks, but now it is only available through Amazon. If a reader has a Kindle, this is actually good news for them.  Not very good news for the rest of us.  Sure I can read Kindle books on the iPad, I just hate having eBooks stashed in several apps and getting used to several different reading formats sucks.  If it ever comes out in hardback, I would spend my hard earned cash on it, which makes this book (and likely the rest of the series) a must read.

The Glittering Court by Rachelle Mead

No pros for this.  I read it, I gave it away, it was not even good enough for me to remember months later.

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses Book #2) by Sarah J. Maas

Pros:  In the review post I did for A Court of Thorns and Roses, I thought Thorns and Roses was a stand alone book.  I am incredibly happy that I was wrong!  In the second book, we watch Feyre adjust to her new powers and watch her be incredibly heroic under ridiculously gross circumstances.  Who said being a heroine was clean work?  Sure I liked Tamlin as a love interest in the last book.  I should have known better.  All I can say is reread the first book very carefully.  There are clues I missed the first time around that are explained in Mist and Fury.  BTW I am on team Rhys.

Cons:  It ends on a freaking cliffhanger and we have to wait till MAY for the last book.  It is enough to make a grown woman cry – even more than I do during sad book passages.

Ruined by Amy Tintera

Did not get passed the first five pages.

The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles Book #3) by Mary E. Pearson

Pros:  This was not a bad Post Apocalyptic series since it managed to keep my interest until the very end.  Strong female character.

Cons:  I was disappointed in Rafe.  Would have loved to see the main character end up with the assassin.  It would have made the ending more satisfying.

Elemental Trilogy by Sherry Thomas

I liked it, it was imaginative, but it was too much like Harry Potter for me to morally keep it around.

Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell

It was okay.  I hated the best friend and it felt like it lacked that special spark that makes me feel like I am falling in love.  Either get the eBook or borrow it from the library.

Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

I must admit, I had reservations about this book.  I am happy that I ignored them because this book was great!  It was imaginative, well written, and well thought out.  Even though it reads as a stand alone book, it is actually the first book in the series.  I eagerly await the second book.

The Sin Eater’s Daughter and The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

Pros:  Wonderfully written and highly imaginative.  It reminds me of Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan and Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge.  The author creates a mythology for the world in the book and turns it upside down as the series continues.

Cons:  Yet another cliffhanger only this time, I cannot get a release date for the third book, The Scarecrow Queen.

Book Review: The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine

Review News

Yes. I know I voided out my promise a few months ago. I was distracted again. Better late with blog posts than never!

For those of you who are new to my blog, I’ll give you a rundown concerning my review methods. The rest of you can skip this part and get onto the review.

  1. I always look for strong female characters. In the 21st century, we should present fictional female characters who aren’t afraid to escape, fight, protect, save, and lead on their own. Relying on a man is impractical and realistically dangerous. It’s also unfair to the guys. Sure they should help in saving anyone of any gender. Helping people should be a moral obligation for any man or woman no matter how they get the job done. While this is fiction, novels have often reflected or spurred change.
  2. Strong women doesn’t mean weak male counterparts. I look for a male counterpart that can be an equal to the heroine and is not afraid to let the heroine’s character shine. If the woman saves or offers them help of any kind, the guys should be thankful and fine with it. Through Centuries and too many countries, that’s the attitude women had to take. It’s the men’s turn. They should not think having a strong woman at their side is emasculating in anyway (because that’s seriously stupid). Even if their thoughts automatically turn to that stupid patriarchal bull, they should realize their being idiots (either immediately or anytime during the story – I’m not completely strict) and correct their thinking accordingly.
  3. The story line should be reasonably palatable and the flow of the story should be sufficiently smooth. If the story line is crazy awful, I don’t care if the characters are great. Reading the book would be like listening to a song off key. Although, chances are if the story line sucks, so do the characters.
  4. There are a few miscellaneous things I’ll notice. Last post, I noticed little discrepancies regarding the sixth sense of a character. Sometimes I’ll relate situations happening in the book to things that are happening in the real world or things that happened in history. (Basically, I’m being the scholar for which I was educated. I hope you’ll indulge me).

The Shadow Queen

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51lWd-Ffq9L._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_Usually, I do this part last, but I can’t help myself. I loved this book. It was an unexpected treasure for me and if I can convince anyone to read it, I hope they love it too.

The book is based off the Snow White fairytale. Before you moan and groan (like I did), it’s not another version of Tear You Apart. I never finished Tear You Apart, but I couldn’t help writing a scathing review about it.

Nor is the book another version of the Snow White character in the TV show Once Upon a Time. Mary Margaret is an okay Snow White. Yet, The Shadow Queen is so much more.

This book follows Lorelai (the Snow White character) as she and her brother rob from rich nobles allied with their evil stepmother and gives their spoils to the poor. (It sounds like a Snow White/Robin Hood hybrid. Now that I put more thought into it, there are several shades of Robin Hood throughout the book.) Lorelai’s father, the King, married Evil Queen Irena when Lorelai was a young girl. While the mother/daughter relationship between Lorelai and the Queen began happily, it soured when Lorelai discovered the Queen’s evil intentions: To kill the King and take over the kingdom. Killing Lorelai and the young prince were part of Irena’s diabolical plan, Lorelai managed to thwart the Queen using her special powers.

Lorelai always intended to go back to the castle to overthrow the Queen, but she planned it later in life after she had mastered her powers. Yet, the kingdom couldn’t wait. Queen Irena’s dark powers were draining the life out of the land and the people were starving. Lorelai would have to overthrow the Queen at the tender age of seventeen.

The Land of Ravenspire isn’t the only one in peril. The neighboring kingdom of Eldr has a magical troll problem. With the King, Queen, and crown Prince recently murdered, the crown falls to the young Prince Kol to lead the kingdom. He is desperate to save his people and decides to request help from Queen Irena in exchange for food for her starving kingdom.

Kol soon discovers the Queen cares nothing for her people and everything for destroying a certain thief. He enters into a blood pact with the Queen where he promises to kill the thief in exchange for the power to imprison the magical trolls.

Kol learns the truth behind the thief and switches sides despite the intense pain from the Queen’s blood pact.

First, I would like to say there is rape imagery in this book. Rape is not an act done out of uncontrollable desire. It really doesn’t matter what the victim wears or how they act. Rape is an act of power. The perpetrator is exerting their control over their victim.

After the violent act, most victims suffer from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One of the possible symptoms (the symptoms differ and a person can experience one or multiple symptoms) involves reliving the event. This trauma is a way the perpetrators continue to control their victims.

When Kol attempts to defy Queen Irena and the blood pact, she takes his human heart causing him to lose control over his killer dragon instincts and takes away his ability to change into a dragon. She essentially took away his power when she took his heart and has control over him through the thorn necklace signifying their original pact.

The necklace allows Irena to control him, taunting his beast so he goes into sporadic fits of rage that could ultimately kill Lorelai.

Second, Queen Irena is a drug dealer. The book doesn’t blatantly say she’s a drug dealer. Although, it’s fairly obvious. Through the book, a reader finds out about Irena’s black apples (like the one that’s on the cover) and describes compliant subjects walking around with vacant looks and black goo around their mouths.

The way Queen Irena makes the black apples is a metaphor for drug bosses and how they use their employees. I’m not going to describe it here. The scene is rather disturbing.

At this point, you’re likely wondering why I like this book. Trust me. The heroine, Lorelai, is awesome and a very strong main character. Kol has his faults, but makes up for it through the book. He’s a very worthy love interest.

There is one bad thing I can say about this book. A book can’t be completely perfect. Not even authors think their work is perfect. I loved Lorelai’s brother and the author saw fit to kill him. Talk about devastation. I can see why the author did it. The brother’s death makes the reader even more emotionally invested in the book. I’m just an unapologetic happily ever after person.

Either way, I highly recommend this book and it has a place of honor on my bookshelf

Future Book Reviews

***Will not be reviewed in this order.Books-2-icon

  • Insanity (Mad in Wonderland) by Cameron Jace
  • The Glittering Court by Rachelle Mead (April 5th)
  • A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses Book #2) by Sarah J. Maas (May 3rd)
  • Ruined by Amy Tintera (May 3rd)
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I & II by J. K. Rowling (July 31st)
  • The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles Book #3) by Mary E. Pearson (August 2nd)
  • Witch’s Pyre (The Worldwalker Trilogy Book #3) by Josephine Angelini
  • Elemental Trilogy by Sherry Thomas
    • The Burning Sky
    • The Perilous Sea
    • The Immortal Heights
  • Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell
  • Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan
  • The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
    • Ruin and Rising

Want to see what I’m currently reading or curious about past book reviews?  

Go to my Reading Common Sense page.