5 Romantic Reads I Fell in Love With

Some feel good reads!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’ve never been huge on celebrating this holiday, even now that I’m married (we exchange gifts but don’t really do anything too crazy…we’re usually at a convention, though obviously not this year).

Anyway, I know romance isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Honestly, it’s not really mine either. That said, I do enjoy a fluffy romance now and then (of the sweet variety, NOT steamy). So today, especially since we haven’t chatted in a few weeks, I figured it was time to share some of my favorites.

So let’s chat!

1. A Chance for Sunny Skies by Eryn Scott

(Image: The cover for A Chance for Sunny Skies, featuring a girl in a red dress holding up an umbrella on a blue background)

I think the reason I liked this book so much was that it wasn’t heavily focused on the romance, like a lot of romances. A lot of it was self-discovery and growing up and finding your dreams. Also, the main character wants to be a weather forecaster on the local news station! Which I thought was kind of cool. I’ve liked everything I read by this author, though these days she seems to be more in the cozy mystery writing than she used to be, which I don’t really care for.

But I do love the books in this series and plan to finish them.

2. I Temporarily Do by Ellie Cahill

(Image: The cover for I Temporarily Do, featuring a woman in a wedding dress holding crossed fingers behind her back.)

This seems to be a trope I enjoy: fake relationships. A whole mess of circumstances leads the main character to marry a guy so she’s not homeless – a guy who, conveniently, was just dumped by his own fiance days before their wedding. It was a fun, funny story that I thoroughly enjoyed, and it’s one that I’d love to read again!

Speaking of which, perhaps it’s time to thing about that re-read…

3. Settling Up by Eryn Scott

(Image: The cover for Settling Up, featuring a woman with glasses wearing yellow on a yellow background)

This is another by Eryn Scott that I really enjoyed. A statistics professor seeking a relationship! As an academic woman myself, the main character’s profession really pulled me in, and it was definitely an exciting ride to watch her search for true love. Like the other books, this was a fun, light read.

4. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

(Image: Cover for Saint Anything, featuring a photo of a lit carousel against a dark blue background)

This one is young adult, but it was so well-written and emotional! It follows a main character grappling with some pretty heavy family stuff – a brother who accidentally killed someone while driving intoxicated and is now in jail. It follows her making new friends in a new place, struggling with guilt over her brother, and finding new love. Truly a deep, thought-provoking story that I absolutely loved!

5. Spice Bringer by H. L. Burke

(Image: Cover for Spice Bringer, with two hands holding a plant and a fire salamander)

I previously featured this author’s book Ashen, which also has fantastic romance, but today I want to talk about Spice Bringer. This is a fantasy with a main character who has a debilitating, possibly deadly condition and a traveling stranger. They are thrown together and must traverse a dangerous land, so, naturally, some feelings develop. And man, does this book give you feelings! Also, if you need a good cry… yeah, this is the one.

Final Thoughts

Whatever your feelings on Valentine’s day, I hope these books all give you good feelings. Do you have any go-tos for this time of year? Any you can’t stop thinking about? Any that make you really FEEL something?

Share them with me below!

And until next time, let’s keep loving those books! ❤

Gifts for Your Bookish Friends (or Yourself)

Hello, bookish friends! Sorry for such a long break last month, but I guess I needed a little vacation from posting! But not to worry, I am back with something fun for the holiday season. 🙂

I don’t know about you, but I have been absolutely DEVOURING all the gift lists lately, and I figured it would be a good time to share some of my own wish list (or already owned) bookish favorites! Because if there’s one thing all those lists are missing, its the bibliophile factor.

Just so you know, as an Amazon Associate, I earn on 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! If any of the links below are not affiliate links, I will let you know!

For Reading

Book Page Holder

Now, this is a little device I’ve seen all over the last few years. I have to admit I’ve never used one myself, but it looks like the cutest little gift for any book lover. This version is a gorgeous handmade wood piece, and it comes in various shapes and sizes based on your reader friend’s (or your) preferences.

Personal Library Kit

I’ve seen various versions of this floating around, but this version is a super cute set with cards, a stamp, and bookplates. There have definitely been times I wished I had one for my personal lending, as I tend to forget when and what I lend to people. Also, let’s be real… what book lover doesn’t want to have their own library lending system for their personal libraries???

The Book Lover’s Journal

This is the book journal I use when I’m reviewing, and I absolutely love it! It has space to write the general info about the book, a scale for rating elements like writing style, ease of reading, and many others, stars to fill in for your personal rating, space for notes, and a reminder for yourself if you want to read more by the author. Not to mention pages at the beginning and end to create TBRs based on the books you rate! It’s a really nice way to track reading, particularly if you plan to leave a detailed review.

Read Harder Reading Log

This is an alternative to the book lover’s journal, created by Book Riot. It has many of the same elements, but it helps the reader focus their next reads with challenges for topics. One day, I plan on getting this one as well, just for fun and to broaden my reading horizons! (PS, Book Riot is a great place to get bookish news, particularly if you’re into YA like I am!)

For Traveling

A Bookish Tote Bag

I have my own version from the Uppercase Book Box subscription I used to have (which I still love, though I had to cancel because I fell behind in the reading!). But a bookish tote bag is a lot of fun for a trip to the bookstore or a relative’s for the day. This particular version is Kate Spade and has some adorable folksy art of books, which I personally love!

Cosmetic Bag (also good for pencils, chargers, bookmarks…)

I love organizing my items with all sorts of cosmetic bags, and your book-loving friend may enjoy one with a book print! It’s definitely helpful for keeping small items separated for easy access while traveling, or even for simply storing things at home.

For Wearing

Bookish Circle Scarf

I’ve grown quite fond of my own circle scarves, and this one is printed with books of every color neatly arranged on a shelf. This is scarf season, after all!

Book Nerd Earrings

I don’t know about you, but I love a good pair of earrings! I have a few different bookish earrings myself, but how about a cute pair of book nerd earrings?

For Relaxing

Novel-teas

This is a set of twenty-five tea bags with literary quotes perfect for pairing with your favorite read! If tea is your… well, cup of tea, then this is the cutest gift for relaxing!

Book Page Art

I have my own version in my library/office, one of a singing bird that a friend gifted me ages ago (the same friend who owns the Compendium Boutique, which is full of lovely things you can purchase online). I love mine, and I can’t imagine any bibliophile who wouldn’t love their own book page art!

Bookish Candles

My sister-in-law and my husband have both gotten me book-scented candles. There are plenty out there, and lots I’d still love to try, but this one is a “leather” scent like the one from my husband. But feel free to look around and see what other scents may appeal to your bibliophile!

For Writing

Galen Leather Writer’s Medic Bag (not an affiliate link, I just love this!)

This is one of those items that I REALLY wish I had. It’s a gorgeous bag, finely crafted, and made to carry the notebooks and writing implements any writer would need on the go! And it’s darn gorgeous. Like, seriously. I first saw this over on K.M. Weiland’s blog, and I haven’t quite been able to stop thinking about it! It is a bit higher priced, though, which is why I don’t own it.

Writer’s Gift Set (also not an affiliate link, but super cool!)

This one is something your writer friend will love, for sure! Sold on Etsy, it contains fun items like a literary-inspired candle, writerly pencils, a wood bookmark, and a bunch of other fun goodies depending on the size of box you select. I know I would love to get this as a present, and your writer friend will, too!

Writer’s Emergency Pack Card Deck

So this is a deck of cards with prompts and games to help any writer out of a corner or past a block! My sister got them for me a couple years back, and they’re so fun! They live on my desk, and sometimes I carry them when I go on trips. Definitely a fun thing to play with!

The Writer’s Toolbox

Here’s another fun one. I don’t have this myself, but it looks like a fun way to deal with writer’s block or help plan out a new story. It’s got everything from prompt cards to spinners and even a timer to get some focused writing done!

Final Thoughts

Phew! That was fun. There are so many things on this list that either I have or made their way onto my own wish list! I hope this has given you some ideas for the book lovers in your life (or even for your own wish lists!).

If you have any other suggestions, drop them in the comments! I love building up my bookish life outside of the pages. 🙂

Until next time, happy shopping!

The Alchemyst’s Mirror Blog Tour… And a Recipe!

Looking for a steampunk read? How about one that comes with its own recipe???

Hey folks! I have an extra special treat for you this week. I’m a smidge late on this one, but I am helping out to spread the word for a brand new steampunk release, The Alchemyst’s Mirror by Liz Delton! And even extra special, this post comes with a recipe from the book so you can have some delicious bites to eat as you read!

And there’s also a Facebook launch party coming up on November 10, so head on over for some fun and festivities!

First, let’s hear a little about the book itself.

Petra and Maisie Everturn just want to run their family’s tea shop, but when their explorer brother Jiordan goes missing while looking for an alchemycal artifact, none of them are safe.

The sisters must enlist the help of another explorer in order to find Jiordan or the artifact—before the mysterious alchemyst society finds them first.

However, when one of the sisters stumbles into the clutches of the most dangerous alchemyst in the city, the race to unravel the clues becomes desperate. And when they discover the truth about the artifact, their quest to infiltrate the alchemyst’s secret society becomes a matter of life and death.

I love the idea of a tea shop in this story, and secret societies? Definitely sounds like a ride!

But I did promise you a recipe. And what better than some sandwiches fit for a tea shop themselves? I could picture settling in with this book, a whole plate of these delicate treats, and a nice big mug of Irish Breakfast (my favorite tea, currently).

And that recipe card is so cute! Feel free to print yourself a copy for your own recipe box. 🙂

The author herself also sent over a couple of delectable pictures so you can envision it for yourself. Check them out!

I hope I’ve inspired you to try out a new book, and maybe some tea sandwiches! The blog tour may be over now, but the book is just waiting for its next reader. 🙂

You can get your copy here!

About the Author

Liz Delton writes and lives in New England, with her husband and son. She studied Theater Management at the University of the Arts in Philly, always having enjoyed the backstage life of storytelling.

She reads and writes fantasy, especially the kind with alternate worlds. Liz is the author of the dystopian Arcera Trilogy, and the fantasy Realm of Camellia series, and the new steampunk novel, The Alchemyst’s Mirror. World-building is her favorite part of writing, and she is always dreaming up new fantastic places.

She loves drinking tea and traveling. When she’s not writing you can find her hands full with one of her many craft projects.

Visit her website at lizdelton.com or find her online on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Amazon.

And don’t forget to grab your copy of The Alchemyst’s Mirror, available now, and head over to the Facebook party on November 10th!

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…

~~~

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!

~~~

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! 😀