5 Ways You Can Have a Cozy Bookish Fall

Wondering how to max out your cozy factor with reading this fall? I got you.

So. I have this thing about being cozy. The first thing I did whenever I moved into a new place was hang things on the walls and pile blankets and pillows all over the place. And then light a nice, warm-smelling candle. It was all about the cozy.

In fact, that was one thing my now-husband loved about my apartment when we met: I had made it a place to be comfortable and at peace. And, of course, I applied my own personal rules of cozy to his house!

So now that fall is in full swing and spooky season is upon us, why not discuss five things you can do right now to have a cozy bookish fall?

(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through the purchase links on this page. However, the things I have chosen to share either I have tried and enjoyed myself or it’s something I would buy for myself!)

1. Choose a cozy book.

I mean, this is the first requirement of a bookish fall, right? You have to find yourself the right book! Ideally, this book should evoke all the warm fuzzies you could imagine and take you on an adventure of your choice.

Not sure where to start? No problem. I can get you started with 3 recommendations.

Pumpkin Everything by Beth Labonte

I’m currently reading this on my ereader, and it is so full of everything autumn! The fall foliage, the chill in the air, and, of course, everything pumpkin. This is great if you’re looking for a sweet adult romance, and even better, it’s the first book in a series set in Autumnboro, the self-proclaimed capital of the New England fall season!

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

This is one of my all-time favorite books! It’s young adult, but college-age, and it follows the story of Cath as she navigates her first year of college, new separation from her twin sister, the finale of her super-popular fanfic, and her first real relationship. This book has such a rollercoaster of emotion, and it always leaves me with warm, happy feelings when I finish it! (yes, I’ve read it 3+ times) Also, it’s coming out in manga form! (for those of you who don’t like sex or swearing in your fiction, maybe pass on this one)

Pumpkinheads by rainbow rowell

And even though I haven’t read this one, it’s been on my list for ages! Same author as Fangirl, but it’s a graphic novel format and of course is set during the fall! It follows two teen seasonal workers in their last year… the year they say goodbye. I love Rainbow Rowell, and I’m so excited to read this one!

2. Set the mood.

Once I got my own apartment and didn’t have dorm restrictions anymore, I developed a love for candles and wax/oil burners. Scent is so deeply tied to memory (neuroscientist here) that it can be easy to set a mood with smells, relive old memories of fall, or create new associations.

This year, my husband bought me a candle I love so much that I’ve been savoring it. It’s especially great if you don’t have a fireplace, like us, because it’s campfire scented and has a wood wick, so crackles. I also love the shiny, charcoal-like appearance of the wax. Seriously, I love this candle, and wood smoke is one of the scents I always link to fall! You can check it out here.

But if candles aren’t your thing, I also recently came across a few different autumn oil blends. In particular, this maple one! Like, how cool is that? I haven’t gotten to try this one, but it sounds fantastic.

Whatever you decide to use, just make sure it is a scent you find warm and welcoming!

3. Get a drink!

I love picking out special things to drink while I’m reading or relaxing at home. There are a few good choices, depending on your tastes. For example, I switch between coffee, tea, and super sweet Duplin wines, like their Toil and Trouble mulled wine for fall…which they sadly don’t have this year 😥 . But especially when it gets colder, warm drinks are a must to cozy up!

Last winter I had gotten the Victor Allen mix of winter coffee K-cups, and this fall I found their autumn version! There are so many warm, autumn flavors that I’m super excited about. Or, if tea is more your thing, how about a cinnamon, orange, and clove black tea? It sounds spicy and warm, all good flavors for the season!

And since we have a wood fire going with the candle already, how about a camp-style mug to drink out of? I’m so happy these are on trend right now. When I was in undergrad, I won a camp-style mug from the school, and I got another when I went to grad school to stick with the theme. They just remind me of the camping trips I went on with my family when I was a kid. Simpler times… and one of those trips especially was super cold!

4. Find some snacks.

I don’t know about you, but I am a snacker. It may be a bit of a problem. But this is a great season for snacks! I particularly like sweet snacks, like little cakes, or savory like special cheeses or simple chips and popcorn.

One good option is the Pepperidge Farm pumpkin cheesecake cookies. I’ve had these, and they’re such a sweet twist on autumn cookies! I love the cheesecake bites in them and the spiciness of the season.

Another favorite of mine is Cake Bites, though I’ve had them in the Italian Rainbow cake flavor (husband comes from an Italian family and introduced me to them). But now they have their own pumpkin spice version! These cakes are sweet, moist, and delicious! Great for whenever you have a sweet tooth but don’t have a whole cake.

Whatever snack you go with, I highly recommend preparing it together with your drink before you move on to the next step…

5. Snuggle up!

Yesss, my favorite part! First, you have to find the perfect place to nest. For me, I prefer to snuggle into my spot on the couch. I have enough surfaces around it to hold my drink and snacks, and there’s our fluffy Costco blankets and the heated blanket (another luxury my husband introduced to me). The Sunbeam washable versions are the kind we have, and they have 3 settings for you to adjust your level of toast. And if your feet also get cold, I like to wear my thick socks. I can’t find the ones I have, but I love the pattern of these wool socks!

I also bought myself a super cozy, bulky, sweater cardigan for around the house. It was so handy when I was working from home and quarantined back in May, and I’m so happy I have it now. It’s so comfortable and warm! I got it in antique violet because I’m a fiend for all things purple, but it comes in a bunch of different colors.

Final Thoughts

With the weather getting colder up here in Pennsylvania, I’m so excited for cozy season! Today I shared some of my favorite ways to have a cozy, bookish fall. Once you’ve performed all five steps, you’ll find yourself snuggled and ready for a super cozy, warm, and peaceful reading session! Whatever choices you make for your own bookish fall, just make sure they’re right for you! And I’d love to hear your suggestions, too. 🙂

What do you do to snuggle up? What are your favorite cozy reads?

Also, you may notice that the format of this post is a little different. That’s because I’m trying a new thing. Instead of just throwing a list of books at your likely already monstrous TBR, I wanted to help you curate an experience. Feel free to let me know your thoughts on this as well!

Talk to you in the comments, and until next time, stay cozy!

5 Fantastic Books to Welcome Fall

Need some fall reading? I got you covered.

Hello, readers! This weekend has felt more like fall than any other day yet! And I am so happy about it. ❤ In fact, hubs and I have been burning fall candles (Pumpkin Apple Chai and Smoked Pumpkin Apple) nonstop all weekend, and I pulled out the leggings, maple leaf earrings, and fall leaves t-shirt, too. AND I decorated the main floor of the house and am sipping a pumpkin spice coffee.

So yeah. I love fall.

I also love to read things that put me in a fall mood. So today I’m going to share a few of those books! And don’t worry; I’m not going to be overlapping with last year’s books for Halloween post… though there may be an update on that next month!

And now: 5 Fantastic Books to Welcome Fall.

(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through the links on this page. However, I have selected these books because I personally read and enjoyed them or am looking forward to reading them. Please note that NO associate links are ever linked to my own books.)

Ghosted by H.L. Burke

I beta read this little story just last week, and it was delightful! Imagine a world where ghosts must haunt to have energy to exist. Now imagine that you’re a ghost assigned to someone un-scare-able! And you have Ghosted. 🙂

Ghost Academy by E.C. Farrell

I read this one over the summer, but there’s a couple reasons it’s a good fall book: 1) it’s an academy story, and 2) all ghosts! Not bad to start welcoming spooky seasons with some ghosts! The story was fun and engaging and there’s a fox shifter ghost… I have such a weakness for foxes!

Bones of the Witch by A.L. Knorr

This is part of the Earth Magic Rises trilogy, an extended series related to A.L. Knorr’s Elementals book, and follows Georjie, our Earth Wise. She has some really cool powers linked to plants, healing, and, of course, earth, and in this series she accidentally awakens an evil witch bent on consuming the power of all Wises. I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but if you want something atmospheric (set in Scotland with all the cozy fires and cold weather of fall) and spooky, this is a great read!

The Raven Cycle Series by Maggie Stiefvater

Ok, I cheated here. This is 4 books. And they fit in a lot of seasons. But we’ve got some fascinating magic realism here and four academy boys who become friends with the daughter of a clairvoyant. And they’re searching for a lost Welsh king who, according to legend, is buried somewhere nearby and full of magic. I would also describe this as atmospheric, and the whimsy and exploration of nature and bits of school sprinkled in here feel like fall to me!

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

And speaking of spooky, how about a dark carnival story? The main character of this story has magic of illusions and is part of a traveling dark carnival. There’s so much more to it than that, including mystery, danger, and maybe romance, but I can’t give away too much. You’ll have to read it yourself!

Bonus unread story!

Pumpkin Everything by Beth Labonte

So, I came across this one just this week in one of the free book newsletters I get. It’s set in New Hampshire, the main character is a horror novelist, there’s a failed fall wedding… yeah, I’m all over this one. I can’t wait to get to it after finishing the ebook I’m currently reading and wanted to pass this romance along to you as well!

Bonus: Seasons of Magic!

(This section DOES NOT contain affiliate links)

Pumpkin Spice Pie-Jinks by Selina J. Eckert

How could I talk about welcoming fall without talking about Pie-Jinks??? There’s a baking contest at a harvest festival, the Autumn Court of Fae, some sweet, cute romance, and mischievous sprites! And of course, all things pumpkin spice.

Here’s a special hint from me to you: I may or may not be working on a full urban fantasy series to start coming out next fall…

The Patch by Selina J. Eckert

And guess what else is on its way??? The next Seasons of Magic is coming in October! For now, be sure to add it to your Goodreads, but if you sign up for the newsletter, I’ll be able to send you the cover reveal and announce when it comes out (I also just shared a brand new short story prequel for the This Curse series… free to my subscribers! You can still get it for signing up!).

For now, The Patch is a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk and involves a haunted pumpkin patch and a ghost cat…

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I hope you guys find some new favorites in today’s list of books, and if you have any other suggestions for books for me to read, let me know in the comments! Until next time, happy reading! ❤

5 Great Beach Reads (and 5 Honorable Mentions)

Dreaming of the sand and waves? Take a step closer with some beach reads!

This has surely been a summer like no other, but somehow I still managed to make it to the beach (socially distanced, of course). But for anyone who’s dreaming of the beach and can’t get there, whether you’re landlocked or don’t want to take the risk heading out, I figured now would be a good time to share some books that will give you that beach feel!

So without further ado, let’s dive into some beachy reads.

(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through these links. However, I have chosen these books because I read and enjoyed them by purchasing them myself or borrowing through the local library.)

Top Picks

The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble

If you like a bit more literary fantasy, this is perfect! In this story, you follow Clara on her epic quest to save her mermaid sister’s life. It’s full of adventure, magic, peril, and found family. Lots of fun and very lyrical!

Meet the Sky by McCall Hoyle

This is a YA contemporary that takes place in the Outer Banks, NC (if you saw my survival recommendations post, this book was on it). The main characters, Sophie and Finn, are stranded on the islands and must survive a hurricane and reunite with their families. A great tale of missed connections, survival, and the beach!

The Siren by Kiera Cass

This is absolutely one of my favorite mermaid books! Follow Kahlen and her siren sisters as they struggle with their call to kill humans. I’ve never read a book with a better ocean character – and yes, the ocean itself is a character – and such a deep moral struggle. Fantastic writing and such a strong set of characters.

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

This is basically a river pirate book (and there is a second book out now; it’s a duology!). Caro sets off to rescue her father, who has a booming river trade and is favored by the god of the river, and finds herself embroiled in political intrigue and deep questions of her own destiny and desires. Also, the hardcover of this book has a really pretty cover: it’s soft and has streaks of GLITTER!!!

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

This is what I’d call a science fantasy (and it is a long, scientific one!). If you like science and sirens, like I do, this is the perfect read for you! Imagine that a ship goes to the middle of the Mariana Trench and all hands disappear. Then imagine you’re part of the expedition that sets out to find out what happened. Just be ready for some mermaid horror.

Honorable Mentions

Say It’s the Sea by Kristina Mahr

This one is an awesome poetry collection by a very prolific poet. I put this one in honorable mentions because while it does include some oceanic vibes, those poems don’t make up the entire collection. But there are some real gems in here!

Tears of the Sea by Savannah Jezowski

This is yet another mermaid story (I’m sensing a theme), honorable mention because of the length. It’s only a short story, but the writing is so clear and beautiful, and it evokes such strong emotion as we watch LeRae yearn for humanity from her place in the water.

Lake Silence by Anne Bishop

This one isn’t the ocean, but it is a resort on the edge of a lake…in a world run by terrifying supernatural creatures. It’s book 6 in The Others series, but it absolutely stands on its own. I fell in love with these characters so much, and it was such an amazing read, just like all the other books in this series.

A Chance for Sunny Skies by Eryn Scott

This one is honorable mention because it also doesn’t actually have ocean. What it DOES have is an adorable romance, lots of weather talk, and such a lovable, feels-filled story! I love the What’s in a Name series by this author – it’s full of adorableness, humor, and feels!

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey

This is the only nonfiction selection on this particular list, but it’s a good one. If you’re interested in surfers looking for the wave of a lifetime or learning how waves (and rogue waves) work, this is a fantastic read! There’s lots of science and human interest in this, and it was a super fun read.

Closing Thoughts

There are plenty more books I could put on this list (like more mermaid stories because mermaids), but I think this list covers it pretty well! I hope I’ve provided a good variety of reading material, with nonfiction, poetry, contemporary, and, of course, fantasy.

There’s also that book actually titled Beach Read…def on my list, but I have not yet acquired it. Has anyone read it yet?

Do you have other suggested beach reads? What stories make you think of the ocean? Share them in the comments, I’d love to build my list and help you build yours as well!

Until next time, happy reading! ❤

Survival Part 3: 5 Survival Story Recs

It’s time for some book recommendations.

Hey there, word nerds! I know I missed last week, but I’m back now with those promised book recommendations.

Last month, I shared reasons why I love a good survival story as well as what makes for good survival story writing. We discussed the perseverance of the human spirit, ingenuity, and hope as successful elements of the story, as well as the need for tension and layers of conflict. All the stories I’m sharing with you today have bits and pieces of those things, and they range across genres…including a nonfiction selection that’s light on the tension but high on the page-turning!

Let’s dig in. 🙂

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

I just recently read this, as it only just came out this year. It was a bit shorter than I expected, but that just meant I could consume it in a sitting…and honestly, I wasn’t able to put it down once I started. It’s got the self-discovery, the high stakes, and the ingenuity. Seriously, I couldn’t believe some of the things this girl thought to do in order to survive! And it ended on such an interesting note, including some crushed dreams while rerouting to new ones. It was a story with real consequences and had me questioning the whole time if she’d make it or not.

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

This is by far one of the best trilogies I’ve ever read (and if you’ve been around a while, you’ve definitely heard me talking about it!). Set just after the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, it follows the journey of a kid named Alex, separated from his family just before the eruption and trying to survive and find them again in a world devastated by volcanic winter. There are intense highs and lows in this trilogy, following the best and the worst that humanity has to offer, and it has one of the best, most hopeful and inspiring endings I’ve ever read in a trilogy.

The Martian by Andy Weir

This book, if you haven’t heard about it or seen the movie yet, is a near-future sci fi adventure following astronaut Mark Watney after an unfortunate series of events leaves him stranded on Mars, alone. Much like Be Not Far From Me, it showcases both ingenuity and the perseverance of the human spirit, but in a new setting on another planet. The voice is entertaining and full of gallows humor, and ultimately, this book left me with such a warm fuzzy at the end that makes me fall in love with it every time I think about it.

Meet the Sky by McCall Hoyle

This one is probably a lesser-known book, but it is a young adult novel following Sophie and Finn, a couple of teens reconnecting after years in different schools and thrust together after Sophie is separated from her family and stranded during an evacuation. Together, they must survive a hurricane in the Outer Banks and get Sophie back to her mom.

If there’s one thing that can make me love a survival story even more, it’s throwing in a nice, big storm. 🙂

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

And for the nonfiction pick, though I could pick a few (see the lightning round!), nothing quite compares to Bill Bryson’s tale of his attempt at the Appalachian Trail. It’s got his own experiences on the trail, good and bad, as well as a bunch of the history and science of the trail and everything along the way. I also enjoyed that one of his stops was Palmerton, PA…just a stone’s throw away from my own hometown! I won’t give away any spoilers, but I also appreciated the thoughtful ending with unexpected events.

Lightning Round!

Finally, I’ll give you a few more bonus picks that I personally enjoyed, but with less info (I will give you the genre, though).

Antarctic Tears by Aaron Linsdau (nonfiction)

Wild by Cheryl Strayed (nonfiction)

Stormsurge by Shawna Lynn Brooks (Romance novella)

No Safe Haven by Kyla Stone (Post-apocalyptic)

Labyrinth of Shadows by Kyla Stone (fantasy Minotaur retelling)

Final Thoughts

Thanks so much for coming with me on my survival story kick! If you love or hate these kinds of stories, I’d love to know why. And if you have any more recommendations for me, please let me know! I’m hungry for them.

Let’s chat in the comments or over on Twitter!

PS: I have a new reader group just for you guys! Head on over to Facebook if you’re interested in talking about all things fantasy or my books specifically. Also, this is where I’ll be sharing links to eARCs, so if you’d like a chance to read one of my books for free, you’ll need to be part of this community!

Let’s chat in Readers of the Realms!

Survival part 2: How to Write Survival Stories

Last week, we discussed why I personally love survival stories. We talked about how they can showcase the ingenuity of humanity, the way they can make us as readers think and problem solve, and how they reveal the strength of the human spirit.

Today, I’m going to speak a bit closer to the writers in the room. What is it about a survival story that makes it strong, that pulls on a reader’s heartstrings? How do we create a powerful survival story? Let’s look at four key points of a good survival story.

There needs to be high stakes conflict

Survival is high stakes, so the circumstances in which the character finds themselves needs to be high stakes as well. There have to be heart-pounding moments of terror, moments when it’s really uncertain if the character will survive. Mild circumstances or when there is any doubt in the reader’s mind about the possibility of the character not surviving will kill the tension of the story before it even begins. So no long, slow, tedious walks in the forest – at least not without encountering something more immediate. But we’ll get to that in point 3. 😉

Don’t be afraid to cut your character off and make them suffer. I know that sounds horrible, but without it, the story falls flat.

Conflict needs to be both internal and external

It’s really easy in a survival story to focus on the conflict of person vs. nature, since that’s the main focus of most survival stories. But that is a superficial story structure, and without something more, the reader won’t connect or care about the outcome of the story.

Just like in any story, we need something to make us care, and often that’s the internal conflict. We learn about the bits and pieces of the main character’s life, the things they’re struggling with, and how it relates to the life-or-death circumstances in which they find themselves.

We get to know the character, and then we can care about what happens to them.

There needs to be urgency

It’s so easy to write a slow survival story. I know. I’ve done it.

But that’s boring.

I know, it might be plausible to see a person slowly starving or something similar, but it doesn’t exactly drive the story forward. (refer back to point #1)

But, if you give the character a deadline of some sort – a life-threatening injury, danger to someone they love that is imminent – it adds a layer of tension to the story that will keep the reader of the edge of their seat, begging to know what happens next, begging to know if they’ll make it or fail/die.

It needs to be plausible

Finally, your survival story needs to be plausible. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve seen that are grounded on faulty premises…one that comes to mind is a post-apocalyptic EMP story in which the EMP killed most of the life on Earth. Right there, that is not realistic, as EMPs only affect electronic devices. Not the health of a creature.

So whatever circumstances your character finds themselves in, it needs to be something truthful, believable, and scientifically plausible, or you’ll lose your reader.

Final Thoughts

So now that you’ve heard what I consider to be the key elements to a good survival story, I’m interested to see what you think makes it. Are there other components you can think of? Other conflicts you like to see in these stories? Let me know in the comments or send me a tweet!

Happy writing, and see you next week for some of my favorite survival story recommendations!

Survival Part 1: Why I Love Survival Stories

Let’s talk books!

This week I’m going to start a 3-part series on survival stories. Why? Well, I’ll get into that this week. But the background is three-fold: I am a longtime lover of the survival story, the novel I’m querying right now is a fantasy survival story, and I just finished reading a new one (which I loved!).

Now, I don’t know about you guys, but right now is not the time I’d necessarily expect I’d want to read survival stories. We’re in the middle of weird times (yes, I am also getting tired of people calling it “unprecedented times”) that feel a little too post-apocalyptic. Personally, I’ve noticed a split between those who want to read ALL the post-apoc and those who want nothing but fluffy. At first, I did want those post-apoc books. Then I wanted fluffy. And now, as things are starting to stabilize again, I’m good with reading slightly more survivally stories.

There are several things that really appeal to me about this kind of story.

First, these stories showcase ingenuity in a way nothing else does. There’s something to be said for dropping a person in a seemingly impossible situation only to see them come up with solutions like MacGyver with nothing more than a shoelace or their own hair. Yes, that really did happen in the book I just finished. As someone who’s never had to fight for my life in a life-or-death struggle, I never would have come up with that. Amazing to see the things a person can come up with when the situation arises.

Next, these stories make us think, but in good ways. They remind us that we really don’t have it that bad, but beyond that, they make us think what we would do if thrown into a situation like that. They are books for critical thinking wrapped up in a pretty package of drama and edge-of-your-seat excitement. They show the raw sides of humanity and let us consider both the good and the bad.

Finally, there is nothing like a triumphant survival story to showcase the human spirit. It can show us the lengths we can go to in order to make it through a difficult situation. And they show us the pure determination and grit, the hope. They show us how people come together in impossible situations to take care of each other, like in The Martian (we’ll go through some specific recommendations in a couple weeks). They show us how people can rise above the terrible things that could happen.

And honestly, that’s the biggest draw of the survival story: the triumph of the human spirit.

Next week we’ll discuss five important elements to writing a survival story, and the week after that I have some good recommendations, but for now, tell me what you think. Do you enjoy this kind of story? Why or why not? What is it about them that make you feel that way? Let’s chat in the comments, or tweet me @selinajeckert!

Fae Bargains and New Beginnings

Spring stories! Yay!

I don’t know about you, but I kind of feel like we all missed spring this year.

Today, I went out to the grocery store after being on full quarantine for two weeks. It was sunny…and very, very hot. And all the trees are in full summer leaves.

I missed all the gentle spring air and flowers.

But in a way, today felt like a fresh start after weeks of working from home and a completely destroyed sleep schedule. I got sunshine, ate some vegetables, and have renewed energy for my writing, no matter the other things going on in my life and the world around me. It’s a great feeling.

And another new thing happened yesterday: All That Glimmers released! AND I now have a BookBub!

This novella is the first spring installment of Seasons of Magic, and though it deals with the heavier topics of grief and guilt, it’s also a contemporary fantasy set in the same world as Pumpkin Spice Pie-Jinks. So if you liked Fae in that story, this is the next one for you. 🙂

Three things you’ll find inside:

  1. A deer Fae, complete with antlers.
  2. Friendship.
  3. New beginnings.

Here’s a little more about it (and keep reading for a sneak peek!):

Hallie just made the stupidest mistake of her life. Twice.

After the loss of her longtime friend, college student Hallie just needed a win. Too bad she got rejected from the only graduate program she applied to. But when a mysterious Fae appears offering to change that rejection to an acceptance, her choice seems clear. And all she has to give him is her first discovery—her academic firstborn.

But when the time comes to pay up, Hallie can’t go through with it. She never counted on a discovery that could bring her friend back to life. So she offers a new bargain: she keeps the knowledge, but she must figure out who this mysterious Fae is…or stay in the Spring Court forever. Now she must race the clock to investigate the Court, solve this mystery, and find out how to bring her friend back. Otherwise, she can forget about fixing her mistakes and say goodbye to her human life for good.

This retelling of Rumplestiltskin is a powerful story of loss, acceptance, and new beginnings. How far would you go to fix your worst mistakes?

You can get it on Amazon here or anywhere else here!

And now…a sneak peek!

Hallie crumpled the paper between her fists as the first tear hit her desk.

Of course she didn’t get in. Sabine University’s folklore program was only the most competitive in the country. And of course she didn’t apply anywhere else. And of course she had already told her parents—who already told everyone they knew—that she was a shoo-in.

And of course Kat had tried to tell her.

Stupid. She should have listened to Wyn. To Kat. But Kat was gone now, and it seemed she’d taken every good thing along with her.

Hallie rubbed at the fresh red scar across her collarbone. Even if she wanted to forget it all, she couldn’t.

After the accident, she had nearly failed her last literature class, missing the deadline for the biggest paper of the semester. Luckily, the professor had been understanding and let her turn it in late. Even a C was better than a 0.

And she got nothing done the entire week of the funeral.

And now this. Hallie sincerely hoped it was true that bad things came in threes. Maybe this meant the bad was finally past, like the spring shower pelting her windowpane.

How was she ever going to explain to her parents?

She tossed the crumpled paper onto her crowded desk where it was lost amidst her notes and books for finals. None of it seemed to matter now. She might as well skip her last final tomorrow and start packing up her dorm room. She stretched her arms over her head and leaned back in the chair, taking a shaky breath.

“You could always ask for help,” came a voice from behind her.

A male voice.

Hallie’s chair hit the cement floor with a thunk, and she spun to face the intruder without standing. A boy about her age stood in the door, his hair shaggy and storm-tossed from the wind outside. His black frames almost hid his eyes behind the glint of the fluorescent light, and behind him, her dorm’s door was definitely still closed. And locked.

“How did you get in here?” She swiped at the tears on her cheeks.

“The more important point is that I’m here,” he responded with a toothy smile. “After all, this is what you wanted, isn’t it? Don’t you want to know how I can help you?”

The air seemed to shimmer around the young man. There was more to him than what she could see, she knew that. Yet, in this moment, it didn’t seem important that she remember why she should care. Why she might worry. Wyn, as a Fae, had taught her something, but Hallie’s brain was fuzzy, like this boy radiated something to make her forget.

Her locked door was concerning. But she had summoned a Fae, any Fae, in the hopes that she could still fix at least one thing in her life. She just never thought one would actually appear.

And then she was speaking before she even realized it. “How can you help me?”

His grin grew even wider, were that possible. He took another few steps into the room. The crumpled rejection letter rolled from the pile of notes and smoothed itself in front of her. She snatched it up and held it to her chest as if she could hide the painful words from him.

“I can make that rejection…” He thought for a moment, looking up into a distant corner. A sharp tooth glinted in the artificial light of the dorm. “Transform.”

“Transform?”

“You want to get in, right? To be a student at Sabine? Well, I can make that happen.”

Hallie’s breath caught in her throat. He could get her in? How?

“I have ways,” he said, as if reading her thoughts. “But it won’t be for free.”

Her heart dropped. Of course. No magic was ever free.

“What do you want?” she forced from her wooden lips.

He smiled again. “Not much. I just want your first discovery. Your academic firstborn, if you will.”

“What?”

“I get the credit for your first discovery, my dear. That’s all.”

That was it? Her first paper would belong to him, whoever he was? That didn’t seem so bad. Her mind scrambled furiously, trying to see a downside to the offer, but nothing came to mind.

She should stop here. Think on it. Sleep on it. Wasn’t that what Wyn had always told her? Don’t trust the Fae too easily?

But why? She could change her fate. And all it would cost was a single piece of research. Didn’t she have a whole lifetime ahead of her, anyway? Her entire life to learn folklore, to find out where story and truth intersected?

She nodded slowly. “Okay.”

“Wonderful!” he said.

The boy stepped forward, extending a hand. She rose from her desk chair and took it. Vines of golden-green magic wrapped around both their arms, and the air hummed with energy. She could feel it sinking into her skin, a warmth like the first breath of spring air.

He released her hand and gestured at the letter, still clutched against her chest. “Look.”

She pulled it away, her eyes scanning the page quickly.

Congratulations, it said in place of We are sorry to inform you

Hallie caught her breath. So easily? Could it really be that simple? She looked back up at the boy.

“It is done,” the boy said. And then he was gone.

ONe more time…here are those links: YOU CAN GET IT ON AMAZON HERE OR ANYWHERE ELSE HERE!

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News!

As I mentioned briefly above, if you’re on BookBub, I’m there now! You can find me and my recommended reads here. See you there! 😀

8 Books to Celebrate Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month. How about a list of reads all about it?

Hello again from quarantine! If you didn’t know, May is mental health month, and honestly I think we could all use a little help there, especially right now. Mental health is something I’ve been passionate about for a while, both as a neurobiologist and as a person who has struggled with mental health issues. And one great way to see through someone else’s eyes, especially if you’ve never experienced any mental health issues, is to read other people’s stories.

So, to celebrate and spread the word about some of my favorites, here are ten books with strong mental health themes that I enjoyed. Disclaimer: just because I enjoyed them doesn’t mean everyone will. If you loved or hated them, let me know in the comments! And if you want even more recommendations, here is a list of 40 great YA books that deal with mental health.

1. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

This is a book I read within the last few months, and I was absolutely blown away by the beautiful, fantastical storytelling. This book tells the story of Leigh, a teenage girl who recently lost her mother to suicide after a long battle with depression. Unlike many mental health stories out there, this one focuses on the people left behind after suicide and depression and is a deep look into one girl’s grief.

2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

If you’ve followed me for a while, you may know that Fangirl is one of my all-time favorite books. It’s emotionally intense and ends on a warm, fuzzy note. But for this list, I’d like to highlight what this book brings to the table: it tells the story of two sisters moving into college and growing apart, a father with mental health issues, and a main character who deals with severe anxiety.

3. Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Okay, so this one is really similar to Fangirl…a shy, anxious girl in love with a world she built, and no one knows she’s the author. But this one focuses on what happens when her anonymity is broken and suddenly everyone finds out who she is. So, so good, and if you like Fangirl, you’ll like this one, too!

4. Something Real by Heather Demetrios

This one is a little different, as it deals with the aftermath of growing up in the spotlight. The main character was a child on a reality show that went off the air – something she was all too happy to leave behind. But after she’s finally learning how to cope with life as a normal teen, her family suddenly wants to bring the show back. A very interesting and unique take on child stardom.

5. The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

This is definitely a bit more difficult to read, particularly if you’re dealing with depression, but if you’re able, it’s so good. This story starts after the main character attempts suicide and follows her journey through recovery. And it doesn’t lie about how hard it is to get through something like that, which is one reason I love it. This book also happens to have one of my all-time favorite covers.

6. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

My last three picks are all by the same author, but she writes many well-done mental health books. This one in particular grabbed me for its dive into what it can be like to be family to an ex-soldier suffering from PTSD. Like The Astonishing Color of After, it’s nice to see a book where the main character is family to someone who is struggling, a good reminder that family of a struggling person need just as much support.

7. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

I will admit that not everyone likes this book as much as I do, but this is an interesting intersection of issues: eating disorders, hallucinations, and grief. I think it does a really great job at showing how multiple issues can be interconnected, and like The Memory of Light, it offers a realistic view of therapy while still ending on a hopeful note. I really appreciate that in my mental health fiction.

8. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I can’t end without mentioning this classic, award-winning book. Speak is the story of a high school girl in the aftermath of sexual assault and the way she must cope with what happened and with her classmates and the adults around her. As I said, this is definitely a classic, and it’s won its awards for a reason.

BONUS: All That Glimmers by Selina J. Eckert

This novella, releasing on May 15, is an exploration of grief and moving on, set in the fantasy world of contemporary Fae. Hallie is two years out from her best friend’s death, but she is determined to bring her back…especially when she finds a Fae secret that could mean putting her world back together again.

You can get it on Amazon or any other retailer.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’ve struggled with mental health before or not, I hope this list gives you a strong set of reads for the month of May. If you’ve read any of these, please feel free to let me know what you thought of them in the comments. And if you have any other recommendations, let’s chat about them!

See you in the comments. ❤

Awesome Books for Writers

Looking for some great books for writers? Look no further!

If you’re anything like me, you’re always on the lookout for a good craft or business book to grow your knowledge. This week I took a look over all the writing and art books I’ve consumed since I started seriously writing, and I figured why not share my up-to-date favorites list with all of you?

So without further ado, let’s dive in!

Writing Craft, Business, and Life

The first category is my favorite books on writing craft, books that teach elements of writing itself or what’s involved in the writing life and business. And boy do I have some excellent (and classic) favorites!

On Writing by Stephen King

This one is, of course, one of the biggest classics! King tells it like it is, in a relateable, down-to-earth voice. In fact, I might be due for a reread!

Bird by Bird by Anne lamott

This is an encouraging and entertaining look at how to write a book. Definitely one of my favorites, and it’s so quotable!

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

This is another classic, a collection of essays by classic writer Ray Bradbury. Definitely some interesting food for thought here!

Wired for STory by Lisa Cron

As a neuroscientist and a writer, I’ve loved this particular book. It delves into the neuroscience and psychology behind elements of a story and why certain things work so well…and how to improve your own writing with those ideas in mind!

THe Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman

This is an excellent overview and must-read for any author looking to make a career from their writing. Friedman goes through things like how publishing works, your publishing and career options, platforms, and more resources for delving deeper.

For Christian Writers

This section is specific to Christian writers, but the books are packed with so much to think about regarding spirituality, mental health, and art and creativity.

Walking on Water by Madeline L’Engle

This is another collection of essays by a classic author. It discusses what it means to be a Christian artist and how faith and art are related.

Unlocking the Heart of the Artist by Matt Tommey

This is an incredible look at how to deal with your issues to become the artist God created and to help you create as best you can. It also does some work to dispel the myth of the starving artist. It’s such a powerful read!

For Encouragement

There are also a couple short reads that do such an uplifting job of encouraging writers to keep going and dream about how what they do affects readers. If you need a lift, pick one (or both) of these up! It won’t take long, and you’ll end up feeling validated, appreciated, and, hopefully, excited to keep writing!

Dear Author: Letters from a Bookish Fangirl by Laura A. Grace

This book is a collection of letters from a hypothetical fan to you, the author. It covers a range of scenarios and is so heartwarming!

For the love of a word Ed. by Annie Louise Twitchell

Disclaimer: I have a couple pieces in this anthology. But it’s such an encouraging and motivating collection of essays, poetry, and art. Definitely give this one a read if you need a bit of a pick-me-up.

My Upcoming Reads

Finally, I can’t complete this list without addressing a bunch of books on my list that I’m either currently reading or excited to dive into next. I won’t have too much info here, but feel free to follow the links to learn more!

Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction

Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making

Romance Your Brand: Building a Marketable Genre Fiction Series

Become a Successful Indie Author: Work Toward Your Writing Dream

Writing the Other

The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults

The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write with Emotional Power, Develop Achingly Real Characters, Move Your Readers, and Create Riveting Moral Stakes

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel

Closing Thoughts

There are so many good resources out there for craft, business, and life of a writer! I’m always on the hunt for new, good titles to consume. If you know of some not on my list, feel free to drop them in the comments.

Or, if you’ve read any of these, what are your own thoughts? Did you find them helpful? Let’s chat about it!

See you in the comments. 🙂

The Best Books I Read This Winter (2020)

Read any good books lately? I have!

I don’t know about you, but my e-reader is filled to overflowing from the generosity of so many authors out there! And so far this year, I’ve managed to complete 29 books ranging from contemporary to nonfiction to fantasy. So I figured why not have a recap of which books I’ve really enjoyed so far?

And by the way, I am offering my Rapunzel novella, “Of the Clouds,” free to newsletter subscribers, along with a contemporary fantasy short story titled “Queen of Mist and Fog.” You can pick those up here, and don’t worry…you can unsubscribe at any time.

Now on to the books! (And you can see EVERYTHING I finished this year here!)

Fantasy

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

This is a young adult contemporary magic realism that takes place largely in Taiwan and follows the aftermath of the main character’s mother committing suicide. It’s a beautiful exploration of depression, suicide, and the people left behind . One of the most beautiful books I read this year for sure. You can learn more here.

Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

This is another young adult fantasy, and it is also beautifully written. It’s a debut for a duology that’s finishing in October 2020, and it’s a unique world where two sisters are torn apart by the customs of their people: one who is desperate to redeem her healer father’s reputation, and one who was chosen to die with their leader and accompany him into the afterlife. It’s amazing lore, great intrigue, and fascinating worldbuilding…and the author is also pretty nice and will chat with you on social media. 🙂 You can pick up a copy here (and take note of the AMAZING cover).

The Earth Magic Rises Trilogy by A.L. Knorr

I finished this trilogy this year, though I read book one last year. It’s a fantastic expansion of the Elementals world starring Georgie and the beautiful Scottish landscape, and it’s a nail-biting adventure of magic and discovery. Scary, atmospheric, and intense…I loved every minute!

Contemporary Young Adult

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

This was such an amazing book of friendship and PIZZA. Sydney is learning who she wants to be after her golden-boy brother is incarcerated for hitting someone when driving drunk one night. Now her parents’ attention is all on her as she copes with the guilt over what her brother did. A beautiful coming-of-age story. You can check out more here.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

This was a really well-done story…and might I just add that it’s worth listening to the audiobook? This book bounces back and forth between Sadie searching for her missing sister and tracking down the man she KNOWS is responsible for her disappearance and the podcast exploring the disappearance. And the audiobook really does this justice. You can learn more here.

Manga

Hakumei & Mikochi by Takuto Kashiki

This year, hubs bought me a new manga to try for my birthday. And he picked so well! Hakumei & Mikochi is an adorable story of two forest-dwelling spirits. It has everything I love: cute things, food, and all things tiny! You can learn more here.

Children’s

Floral Frolic by Cari Corene and Amanda Coronado

I don’t read too many children’s books, but I’m on the lookout for good ones now that I have a nephew and hubs and I are thinking about starting our family. This is a gorgeous book with watercolor art and foxes (two of my favorite things) and tells a really cute story involving flowers. Definitely a pretty, pleasant read for the young ones AND you. You can learn more here.

Nonfiction

Dear Author by Laura A. Grace (Illustrated by Hannah S.J. Williams)

I read a few different nonfiction already this year, but this one is definitely the best! It’s an encouraging and inspiring collection of letters written to their favorite author in a way that any writer can relate to. I found it to be so motivational, heartwarming, and inspiring for my own writing. Every author needs a copy of this book! You can find out more here.

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So what about you? How are you doing on your reading goals? Do you have any standout favorites for the year yet? Share below! 😀