The Diviners | NovelTea Book Club Recommendation Link Up

NovelTea Book Club Link Up

The Blog Tour

Book clubs can get pretty involved. Which is why, obviously, I host one.

As far as book clubs go, however, the NovelTea Book Club is pretty low key. While it may be impossible to read every book on every member’s list, the least we could do was kick off a new year of reading by declaring January’s selection a “free space” — your choice of book, to help you work towards your reading goals and spark a genuine and motivating desire to read what you love.

The bonus in all of this is that members get a myriad of book reviews and recommendations from a smattering of genres! We’d be remiss to not share our thoughts on the books we each picked this month, and what better way to do that than a mini-blog tour.

Peruse the list below this post to see what other NovelTea members read this month and add to your (surely growing!) list of books to read in 2016.

My Recommendation: The Diviners

libba bray diviners

I fell in love with Libba Bray when I read the Gemma Doyle Trilogy years ago.  For some reason, I hadn’t picked up a Bray book since then, but knew I had to give The Diviners (affiliate link) a read when I saw the cover alone. This is one time that eye candy did not disappoint.

Bored with YA lately, The Diviners provided a much needed break from rushed-feeling young adult clichés and brought together the paranormal, mystery, history, and compelling characters. It’s a daunting 500-odd pages, but with my little tolerance lately, it’s safe to say this didn’t disappoint.

Evie O’Neill’s mysterious gifts are called upon when a serial killer starts making his rounds in New York City. Her story is just the tip of the iceberg, as more stories linked with the occult emerge. Against the backdrop of the 1920s, there’s just as much spirit to be found as trouble, and Evie is a master of both.

I’m not going to spend too much time on my review today. All you need to know is this: The Diviners is awesome.

It’s the questions, rather, that I think are the best part about the NovelTea Book Club. Here’s a sampling of what we discussed this month, and my thoughts on how The Diviners plays a role in all of this.

  1. How does this book fit in with your book goals for the new year? I upped my overall book count, actually, though I’m not ready to make the brave jump to 100 books quite yet. The Diviners is one that’s been sitting on my shelf for quite a while. I finally started it around the holidays but a combination of being spooky enough to not want to read at bedtime and the craziness of the holidays made me not get through this novel as quickly as I had hoped to. I finished it first this year, making it a point to cross off this book that had been eating up (in a good way!) so much of my time.
  2. Is this book out of your comfort zone? Not particularly. When I read young adult literature, it’s usually of the fantasy genre. I’ve been feeling disenchanted with YA books lately, though, so this was a nice breather from the clichés of the genre, as well as a return back to an author that I consistently love.
  3. What character speaks to you the most? What do you look for in a “good” character? The Diviners has so many great characters whose stories all intertwine; it’s hard to pick a favorite! Evie’s character I think really epitomizes the 1920s and the conflict of old and new that happens around the time of any ideological/physical change. It would be easy to focus on Evie though, as she’s the “protagonist”. The supporting characters may not have as central a storyline, but they’re fleshed out with enough emotion and personality that their interactions with one another feel entirely real.

The Link Up

Don’t stop here! There are plenty of other books reviewed on this tour. And make sure to add your link to the list below! Our members flock to books like cats to boxes!

Create a Reading Ritual

“I want to read more this year.”

How many times have we made that a goal, but watched instead as it got swallowed up by holidays, work, and the busyness of day-to-day life?
Create a Reading Ritual

Not everyone inherently loves reading and even those that do sometimes struggle to find the time. If you keep looking for the time, however, you won’t find it; unless you make the time to read, a book won’t magically appear in your hands, your eyes soaking up the ink printed on each page.

I’m no psychologist, but changing your attitude towards reading and carving out the time to sit down with a book is something that can be done. Just like you can create habits of healthy eating and exercise, you can also create a habit of reading. A reading ritual, if you will. Because let’s face it: if you don’t enjoy doing something, you’re not going to want to do it at all.

Here are my tips for creating a reading ritual that makes you want to pick up a book and read!

  1. Make time for reading. Reading time will never magically present itself to you; you have to seek it out. You don’t need to set aside an astronomically large portion of time to read, especially right off the bat, but choose a time and place to read and stick with it. Set aside 10 minutes before bed or with your morning coffee to shut everything else off and spend some quality time with a book.
  2. Associate it with something you enjoy. If you’re not someone who naturally enjoys reading, link it to something that you do love. Give yourself a small square of chocolate when you sit down to read a book. Light a candle with a particularly pleasant smell. Make that thing The Reading Thing. No book, no nice-smelling candle. No extra chocolate piece. Personally, I love hot beverages, so sitting down with a cup of hot tea or coffee and a book is something I look forward to. (I’d argue that making reading enjoyable and making reading special are two different things. Think about elementary school reading time: the kids all know where to go, what to do. There’s an air of magic that’s exciting, that gets them eager to read. The lights are out. Some lanterns or candles are lit. They get to sit on the floor!)
  3. Pick a book you like. It doesn’t do you any good if you’re dreading the book you’re reading. Don’t be afraid to swap out a book you’re not feeling for a different one. Maybe the put-down is temporary (I’m all for reading what I’m in the mood for that particular day!) or maybe it’s permanent. Whatever it is, if it’s not a book you want to read, you won’t want to read. Pretty simple, no?

How do you keep yourself accountable to your books and make reading a little more enjoyable?

*Again, I’m no psychologist or the like. I’m fairly confident, however, that opening up a book in a comfortable chair won’t cause you any negative ailments.

Getting Started on Youtube

If you had asked me back in January of 2015 if I ever thought I’d be on YouTube, I probably would’ve laughed in your face. No offense meant, but I’ve never considered myself comfortable on camera or even with the physical act of recording and editing video. Yet somehow, here I am a year later with a YouTube channel of my own. Armed with a love of books and an inexplicable surge of courage, I dove in headfirst, not having the slightest idea of what I was in for.

Vlogging and YouTube channels are certainly taking off in every corner of the blogging world these days, but knowing how to start can send any new vlogger’s head spinning. Do you have to memorize everything and record it in one go? Are you going to need fancy sound and lighting equipment? And don’t even get started on cameras…

Luckily, getting started with YouTube is ridiculously easy. In fact, you could record your own video of surprisingly good quality right after reading this article, I kid you not.

Getting Started on Youtube

Camera // There’s a surprisingly low barrier to entry into the world of Youtube. These days, a decent camera is something that most of us already own. Look no further than — your phone.

I can only personally speak to the iPhone, but the quality of recording on the device is crisp enough to film good quality audio and video with no other equipment necessary. You could certainly invest in a more high-tech camera, but if you’re just getting started and don’t want a costly commitment, an iPhone works just fine.

The only piece of equipment I would recommend buying is a tripod or stand for your camera or phone. For filming with a cell phone, I recommend the GripTight GorillaPod* stand. It’s portable (making filming on the fly easy as can be) and can easily stashed in your bag when going from place to place.

Backdrop & Lighting // While you and your content should be front and center, blank white walls aren’t the most interesting subjects when it comes to backdrops. Find a designated space to film and set up your space with relevant and/or interesting decor. It doesn’t have to be extravagant (it shouldn’t be cluttered; simple is fine!), but adding background decor can instantly elevate your video, making it more inviting than a sterile while wall.

Some Youtubers who have killer backdrops?

As far as lighting goes, there are plenty of professional lighting kits out there, but all you really need is a place that is well lit with natural sunlight. Photography tips transfer nicely to the realm of video recording, so make sure you’re not filming in the dark. Natural light is best, though it can be understandably capricious depending on what the weather is doing.

Stay on topic // It’s easy to get flustered or go off on tangents. Make sure that you choose a topic for your video, however, and stick to it. Just like with a written blog post, you wouldn’t just put fingers to a keyboard and unload a massive, rambling brain dump on your readers. Same with a vlog: have an idea of what you want to cover ahead of time. It’ll make your video easier to follow as well as make your video feel less like a teenager’s video diary and more of a polished piece of content.

Make a script // No, you don’t have to memorize what you want to say, nor do you need to record your entire video flawlessly in one take.

You should probably not, however, wing it. Have an idea of what you want to say ahead of time to make sure that you cover it all without rambling. I tend to make a list of points I want to make and keep my list off camera. The great thing about video is that you can stop and start, or edit out the bits where you pop over to check your list. No one will ever know.

tripod for youtube GorillaPod

Learn video editing basics // Until I started filming for Youtube, I had never opened iMovie. It was a beast of a thing that I just assumed would pulverize me with fancy video editing terminology the minute I opened the software. Breaking news: it did not. I am still alive and well, and iMovie is surprisingly easy to use.

There are surely more sophisticated editing programs out there, but for my purposes, iMovie got the job done as a new YouTuber. You can cut out the bits where you stumbled over your words or rushed over to check your notes, making it easy to edit down your video into something slightly more seamless. Aside from removing unwanted bits of video, learn your way around your editing program so you can become more familiar with all of the features it has to offer (editing video doesn’t have to be scary!)

Once you’re feeling comfortable, play around with adding a catchy theme song to your videos (YouTube has jingles you can use for free) or logo to the opening.

This list doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what you can do with Youtube, but hopefully it gives you a place to start. Delving into a new medium can be terrifying, but it’s easier to get started with vlogging than it looks. Sure, it takes a while to get comfortable on camera and there’s plenty to learn along the way, but the first steps are all it takes.

Thinking of starting a YouTube channel? I’d love to see what you’re vlogging about (leave a comment with your channel!)

*affiliate link

End of the Year Book Survey | 2015

neil gaiman books

Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner has been recapping her reading each year with this book survey, which got me thinking about my own reading habits. While I did reach my own personal book goal (52 books this year; I somehow surpassed that!), it felt appropriate to reflect on my larger habits and patterns than just the number itself.

I did make some changes to Jamie’s original survey. For instance, I don’t really distinguish between debut and non-debut authors, nor do I usually track rereads. Otherwise, read on!

What did my 2015 in books look like?

Stats

Number of books read: 84
Number of pages read: 23,976
Genre you read the most from: YA Fantasy (or so I guesstimate)

Best Of…

Best book you read in 2015? Oh god, this is so hard. It’s a tie between Andy Weir’s The Martian and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. They’re two completely different books but equally stunning in their own right.
Book you were excited about and though you were going to love but didn’t? Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. I had such high expectations but didn’t like this at all. I’ve been told the next few books are better, so I’m going to give it a second chance.
Most surprising (good or bad) book you read in 2015? Station Eleven. It came out of nowhere and went from a book I didn’t know anything about to one of my all-time favorites.
Book you “pushed” the most people to read (and they did) in 2015? Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Best series you started? Sequel? Series ender? The Winner’s Curse/The Winner’s Crime. This series is still in the works, and I didn’t really read any other series this year, let alone end one. I’m excited to read the next installment, but not so much for the change in covers…
Favorite new author you discovered in 2015? Patrick Ness (new-to-me, at least)
Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/out of your comfort zone? I don’t usually do contemporary, and this topic wasn’t my normal pick, but I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios was great.
Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year? The Martian by Andy Weir
Favorite book cover of 2015? A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Most memorable character of 2015? Baz Pitch (Carry On)
Most beautifully written book? Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Most-thought provoking/life-changing book? Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – I have fond memories discussing this book with my AP kids. Some of the most thought-provoking and mature intellectual conversation I’ve ever had.
Book you can’t believe you waited until 2015 to finally read? Cinder by Marissa Meyer (so good!)
Favorite passage/quote from a book read? I don’t really keep track of quotes, but anything from The Martian is lol-worthy (proof)
Shortest book read? Longest? Wytches by Scott Snyder (30 pages); All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (530 pages)
OTP of the year? Baz & Simon
Favorite non-romantic relationship of the year? The ladies from Lumberjanes! Okay, so it’s really part of my weekly comic haul but still…
Favorite book read in 2015 from an author you’ve read previously? Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
Newest fictional crush? From this year? Cricket from Lola and the Boy Next Door was adorable. I don’t usually like contemporary YA, but Perkins writes some adorable stories.
Best 2015 debut? Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Best worldbuilding/Most vivid setting? A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. She’s consistently hard to beat in this category.
Book that put a smile on your face/was the most fun to read? The Martian by Andy Weir. Hilarious.
Book that made you cry/nearly cry? Station Eleven. Just beautiful.
Hidden gem of the year? Meant to Be by Lauren Morill. I feel like this is an underrated contemporary YA that just won me over with its adorableness, realism, and charm.
Book that crushed your soul? Station Eleven steals this one, too. My heart was so heavy after reading this.
Most unique book read in 2015? The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness – a total inversion of the popular and ever-present dystopian tropes in YA.
Book that made you the most mad? Armada by Ernest Cline. See the review below:

Reviews & Events

Best bookish moment/event of 2015? Meeting Rainbow Rowell!
Favorite review that you wrote/filmed in 2015? Uggggh, this is so tough. I don’t know. All of them?
Most popular post/video this year? #PotterWeek: Ravenclaw

Post you wished got a little more love? Real Life Geeks Who Inspired Me


Best bookish discovery (store/sites/etc.)? I got an OwlCrate subscription? Does that count? It was pretty awesome.
Complete any reading challenges/goals? 52 book reading challenge

Looking Ahead…

One book you didn’t get to this year, but will probably be first priority in 2016? I’ve been so excited to read Libba Bray’s The Diviners, but kept getting sidetracked. It also didn’t help that it was a really thick book. I’m working on it, but am making a point to crank it out in January.
Book you are most anticipating in 2016 (non-debut)? This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab
Series-ending/sequel you are most anticipating? The Winner’s Kiss (except the cover)
One thing you hope to accomplish in reading/blogging life in 2016? Take more bookish photos for Instagram. Goal: 1 per week.
A 2016 release you’ve already read and recommend to everyone? Surprisingly, I haven’t read any upcoming releases yet! I’m drowning in a pile of accumulated current TBRs…

How was your 2015? Did you reach your reading goals?

The Force Awakens (After 16 Years of Waiting For a Good Star Wars Movie)

*Spoiler free

I sat there, clutching the armrests of the chair with a deathgrip that could pull the most stubborn stuffed animal from the depths of the claw machine. The skin on my arms was pimpled, hairs standing at attention, and the butterflies in my stomach zooming around at an intensity that rivaled the jitters from drinking a fourth cup of coffee. By the time the gold font scrolled up the screen and the John Williams score kicked in, I was 100% invested.

I’m sure some people will judge me for showing more excitement at the premier of Star Wars Episode VII than at, well, pretty much anything (I’m fairly confident that I won’t be as excitedly nervous and breath-taken at my own wedding.)

star wars han leia chewbacca

Even though I don’t tend to write about pop culture or movies, I would be remiss to not share my feelings on The Force Awakens. Not just because it’s on par with my love for Harry Potter (fun fact: while Harry Potter wins my personal award for favorite books/series, Star Wars wins favorite movies by far) but because Star Wars has been a part of my life since I made a habit of watching A New Hope, taped from the local cable station, every other weekend growing up. Literally. Twice a month, over, say, about 8 years, meant I had seen A New Hope approximately 192 times by the time I hit middle school.

Without giving anything away, The Force Awakens brought back the spirit that the original movies did, without a doubt.

The story itself is adventuresome, it’s fun; and the characters are charming and endearing in their own ways. While there’s humor to be found in the original trilogy (see here), The Force Awakens is laden with moments of honest laughter as opposed to the dry, political drama of the prequels. I have so many questions — so many thrilling, I-can’t-wait-to-see-where-this-is-headed questions — and I haven’t been this excited for a movie in years.

It wasn’t perfect: there were some moments I felt were lagging as a story, or ones that felt inauthentic or just could’ve been fleshed out better. In appreciation of keeping these parts spoiler free for those who still need to see it, I’m not going to discuss that now (feel free to email me if you’d like to discuss, however!), but it’s worth mentioning that even with it’s faults, The Force Awakens is a much more fitting addition to the universe than the early 00s prequels.

Are the Star Wars movies my go to example when teaching archetypes or relaying the cycle of the hero’s journey as it pertains to Joseph Campbell’s monomyth? Certainly. Do the originals hold a spot in the accolades of classic cinema? You bet. Do I really just have fond memories watching The Empire Strikes Back with my Dad growing up?

Absolutely.