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1. News Year Resolutions for Readers

New Year Resolutions for Readers 

So the beginning of the new year has come and gone quickly, and the first month of 2015 is coming to a close! Most people have one new year resolution that they either accomplish or forget about, as the tradition goes. But what about some year-round resolutions for readers? If your'e an avid reader you know that your fiction doesn't stop for anything! So here are a few "all-year" resolutions for readers, ones that you can accomplish for each month: 


January: Read a New Genre


This is a good one! For the first month of 2015, try reading a new genre that you wouldn't normally pick up. Rather that be Sci-Fi, romance, fantasy, what have you, nothing is off limits! You might find that pushing your genre boundaries will be very rewarding.

(This is The Host by Stephanie Meyer- it's an amazing scifi novel!) 

February: Try a New Author

Never heard of this author before? Have no fear! Sometimes branching out and reading a name you've never heard of before can be a great, exhilarating thing. Before you know it you're praising your new find to all of your reading circles and ordering their other series.

March: Read Three Novellas


So it's the third month of the new year and I think some novellas are in store. There's nothing better than something short, sweet, and innovative- and novellas are just that! Whether it's a parallel story to your favorite series, or a few chapters from the POV of a side character, this is your month to explore!
 (A great novella by Tahereh Mafi! Spoken by the male characters' POVs).


April: Order a Random Book


Now this one would be hard for anyone- order a random book? Are you crazy? Of course, I'm not suggesting you play literary Russian Roulette on Amazon. Oh no. But look up a genre you like and read a synopsis, then order it! Take a chance! You may just like what shows up on your door. 


May: Try a Recommendation 


Corner your BBF (Best Book Friend) and ask that what their latest favorite read is. Then borrow it! They're your BBF for a reason, and I promise you that you'll probably love whatever they just finished. 


June: Buy Ten Cheap Paperbacks




Do it! Find one of those cheap paperback stores and grab a basket. Then, buy the first ten books that interest you, and read them throughout the month. It'll be the cheapest book excursion you'll ever make!


So there are some "all-year" book resolutions through June! Keep reading for the next 6 resolutions, and if you have any of your own please leave them below!

Best and happy reading! 

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2. Cool Nature Reads

Cool Nature Reads 

So in honor of Grace's adventures, today I'm going to share with you a few nature/thriller YA novels that are amazing! These reads are fantastic and if you like Grace's story, you're sure to love these! 



1. Nature Catchers- by Cheyenne Lynnae


This YA nature thriller is full of elemental powers, shape shifters, and quite possibly everything you could ever want out of a novel! Not only that, but it delves into the realm of humans vs. nature, and ultimately what it means to be a part of nature yourself.




2. Maximum Ride- by James Patterson 


A classic. Maximum Ride is about a"flock" of teenagers who were born in a lab. They have both human and avian DNA, and spend their days running from their elusive creators. In addition, they help save the world from ecological disaster on a daily basis. Score. 



3. Origin- by Jessica Khoury 


This is a great new YA novel, set smack in the center of the Amazon Rain Forest. Pia, the first of a new race of human beings who are supposed to bring a stop to death, finds a way out of her forest prison. It's truly gripping begs to ask the question: "What is humanity?" 


So there they are, a few wonderful Young Adult nature reads that you'll love! Check them out on Amazon/goodreads, and let me know if you like them! 

Best and happy reading! 



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3. YA Review- Gilded Ashes

Gilded Ashes (1.5)
by Rosamund Hodge

Perhaps many of you don't know this, but there is actually a second installment in the world of Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge. It's called "Gilded Ashes" and it's a take on Cinderella in Nyx's world of demons and Greek mythology- so, essentially, it's ridiculously good. It's available on Amazon for Kindle and ebook download, and it's such a great read! 


Basically, Maia is a servant in the home of her stepmother and two stepsisters, in the same world Nyx and Ignifex exist. Only heads up- the ghost of her dead mother haunts the house and protects her only daughter dearly (and sometimes fatally). 



It's an awesome retelling in a compelling world! Maia and Anax are wonderfully written characters, and I loved watching them develop. Not only that, but Hodge takes the evil stepsisters and makes them not only more likable, but more human as well. It truly is a creative turn from the classic tale- and the prince was a good looking dork with glasses. Um, yes. 


This retelling will leave any fairytale lover wishing for more!
Best and happy reading! 

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4. Book Shelf Friday!

Book Shelf Friday!


So in honor of it being Friday, I decided it might be entertaining to have a little fun with bookshelves! In this post you'll find pictures of ridiculously cool, (and downright unfair), book shelves- from the colorful to the tall, the zany to the straight up weird! So scroll down for some awesome shelf ideas and nerd fun: 

1. Buzzfeed: 20 Insanely Creative Bookshelves






2. Pinterest: Awesome Bookshelves Board




3. IncredibleThings.com: 20 Brilliant Bookcase Designs 






4. Audra's Ally: Bookshelf Envy 





5. LifeHack: 30 Awesome Bookshelves Every Book Lover Needs To Have





Hope you enjoyed these and happy reading! 

                                 

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5. Why YA? - with Ashley

Why YA? 

Hello, Ashley here! Today I'm going to focus on YA fiction and why we love it. There are a number of reasons why readers love the Young Adult scene- it's action packed, full of captivating plots, and, of course, the love triangles. Oh the love triangles. No matter what your ship or team, there is always room for more on the YA fan-wagon. So, in honor of this magnificent, fiction-filled world, I want to share with you a few of my reasons for loving Yound Adult fiction: 


1. Dystopian Societies to the Max




It's no secret that us YA fans love our dystopian societies- I mean, come on, futurist worlds ravaged by sections and kids with super powers? Freaking. Awesome. So of course one of my main reasons for loving YA is the fact that you can be transported to literally any world you like, and your imagination can run free in it.


2. The Love Triangles. So Much Yes. 




Every love triangle you could ever want, ever. That's what you get when you hop on the YA fan-wagon. Whether it be Katniss, Gale, and Peeta or Juliette, Adam, and Warner...let's face it, that dangerous triangle is anything but equilateral. And it's the most exciting thing ever.


3. The Covers




Okay, so maybe this is a little superficial (not really), but I absolutely adore YA book covers. They're shiny and brand new and sometimes holographic (oh my gosh the holograms). The best part is when you buy a hardcover copy of a new release and the words are raised from the cover like beautiful little cursive mountains. Essentially, if your bookshelf is a rainbow you're doing YA right. 

4. And, Lastly, the Community



The YA community is absolutely fantastic. Whether you're talking about fellow fans or authors, everyone on the scene is full of creative life and kindness. It's basically like this big cloud of awesome, where everyone is always writing and retweeting your EpicReads book nerd posts. Score.

This link says it all:


So there it is, a few of the reasons I absolutely adore YA fiction and the YA community. Below I've posted a few of my favorite reads for you, so you can see what I fan so hard over!

Best and happy reading,

-Ashley 


Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge


Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge


Uninvited by Sophie Jordan 


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6. Shatter Me Review

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi 




Recently I picked up Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, and all I can say is wow. Well done. This book is breathtaking in every way, throughout every chapter. The prose is captivating and reads like poetry in places, and the love triangle is dangerously addictive. So, in honor of this amazing trilogy, here are five things I loved about this debut dystopian novel: 


1. Juliette is so Human 



The main character, Juliette Ferarrs, has the gift of touch. That is, her touch is lethal. As would be expected of anyone who could kill without meaning to, she is terrified of her own power and other people touching her. Wow. The plot in and of itself is fascinating, but to be thrown into the POV of a character who can't be touched? It's heart breaking and intriguing all at the same time, and shows the reader just how human Juliette is (or wants to be). 


2. The Narration is Unique

Image courtesy of: http://www.mysteryscape.com/shatter-me-tahereh-mafi

It really is, because the whole story is narrated by Juliette and she likes to cross out words. In fact, she is obsessed with words, and has a hard time not telling us everything she is thinking, (even if she crosses out her true thought and replaces it, Mafi leaves it with the line through it for us to see). This is so cool, because the reader gets glimpses into Juliette's brain that Juliette doesn't want anyone to see. Or does she? 


3. The Love Triangle. Oh my. 



I love this triangle for many reasons. Warner and Adam are both devastatingly handsome (of course), and equally intriguing. What's best is that Warner is the kind of bad boy Adam looks like, and even though Juliette "hates" him, I have to say he's extremely persuasive. It's hard to know which guy to root for when they're both so equally fantastic...


4. The Prose


The way that Shatter Me is written is truly genius. Mafi's style is truly unique, a blend of poetry and modern prose, that leaves the reader absolutely breathless. She likes to write as if she is in Juliette's mind completely, oftentimes leaving out commas in lists and running her thoughts together. This makes everything so much more believable and urgent, and keeps you wanting to read more. 


5. And, Finally, the Pace

The pace at which the novel reads is wonderful. Every instant I feel as if something dire is about to happen, and Juliette's thoughts and feelings perfectly mirror this anxiety. There is always a sudden twist around every page, and many characters surprise you. It's definitely a roller coaster read!


So there it is! A short review of the book, and a few reasons why you should go grab it up now. It was an amazing read, and I can't wait to pick up Unravel Me and Ignite Me (the sequel and final installment of the trilogy). 




Best and Happy Reading!

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7. Hot New Reads with Ashley!

Hot New Reads with Ashley 

This Week- Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge




Hello all! My name is Ashley- college kid, author's assistant, and professional stunt reader. This week I got a particularly amazing YA read in- Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge! It's a fantastic rendition of Beauty and the Beast that I am absolutely head-over-heels obsessed with. Not only does it take the reader into a whole new realm, it introduces you to a witty, dazzling, and just plain sexy demon lord. Um, yes please. So in short, here are five reasons why I love this book!



1. The Plot is Fascinating


It promises a love story with a killer twist and it delivers! Nyx is a powerful character with a goal that you can get on board with, not to mention her troubled past. The plot is so well done that it works to completely immerse you in the world that Hodge has created, Greek Gods and demons included!

2. The History is 100% Accurate


Hodge has a vast store of mythological knowledge and uses it! From Zeus to Kronos, Pandora to Leda, the book has hundreds of intricate Greek references that are completely correct. It's fascinating to delve into the world of Arcadia, and you even learn a little about the mythology as well. 

3. Nyx isn't Perfect



The lead protagonist, Nyx, is filled with negative thoughts and emotions- and this makes her oh so real! I loved that she was able to feel hate towards others and still make me love her, it felt true and raw, like something you'd encounter in everyday life. In the end, though, Nyx always tries her best to let love into her heart, and that struggle is a relatable one. 

4. Ignifex is... Just so Yummy



It's true. The moment he stepped onto the scene I loved him; the cocky demeanor, witty comebacks, and delightful tension that he brings to the book are all absolutely hilarious. He has a way of putting Nyx in her place and then loving it when she fights back, and it's ridiculously entertaining. 

5. The Little Details


Hodge has a way of weaving little details into the book that work so perfectly together. Everything is explained and comes around full circle, making the reader feel like she was taken on a journey. It's an experience that I'd love to take again and again.

And there it is! A few reasons why Cruel Beauty was one of my favorite reads this week. I highly suggest picking up a copy, especially if you are a fan of plot twists and sarcastic demon lords!

Best and happy reading,

-Ashley 



Check out Ashley on social media! 



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8. First Page Down Approach

"First Page Down" 

All right everyone, I'm about to share with you a process I like to call the "First Page Down" approach (FPDA). This is where I know from the first page (give or take) of a book if I will be obsessed with it or not- and by obsessed, I mean obsessed. It usually works, and after a few paragraphs in the main character's POV I'm hooked. Here are a few ways the approach works: 

1. No Sleep 



After I read that first page, I know I'm doomed. No sleep for me tonight, I'm going to spend at least eight more hours blowing through the rest of this novel so that I can sleep peacefully knowing that I've exhausted all efforts. Not only that, but I'll spend at least thirty minutes laying awake in bed dreaming up different scenarios for the sequel. Yeah. First Page Down for sure. 

2. I Feel Like I Know the Character



After that first page, I already feel like the main character is a good friend of mine. I'm already in his or her head, and after I've read a page of their innermost thoughts and feelings I get some sort of separation anxiety. It's like I have a Fictional Abandonment Complex, (FAC- more about this coming), and I can't possibly stop reading now. Yep...that's the power of the First Page. 

3. And Finally, the Feels



If the first page of a book makes me laugh, cry, and wonder, all in a few paragraphs, it's got me. All of the feels. There's nothing better than the inner turmoil of a flawed main character with a snippy attitude and a mysterious past. Not to mention if there's any hint of supernatural powers/Greek Mythological secrets/dystopian societies...well, that's a darn good first page. 

Now, granted, getting all of those bullet points on the first page is not exactly easy. I usually extend the FPDA to the first 3-6 pages, give or take. Needless to say, we all know when those first few pages of a good book get us, and the end result is usually the same: little sleep, little food, and numerous fangirl episodes at the end of each chapter. 




Best and happy reading!


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9. Books That I'm Reading This Week

Books That I'm Reading This Week

With Ashley Dawson  (aka: YAshley)


So in case anybody is interested, (and I hope that you are! And if you aren't that's okay, no judgement here), I wanted to go ahead and share a few new books with you that I bought on a whim and decided to read this week. I haven't started any of them (yet), but I can assure you that the YA obsession remains strong within my nerd soul. So without further ado, here is my list of my recent book buys!

1. Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins





This one hooked me the minute I read the words "southern belle" and "lethal fighting instincts" on the same book jacket. Convinced that I'd be reading the story of a homecoming queen gone ninja, I just had to order the hardcover off Amazon. Worth it? Absolutely. I'll keep you guys updated on the ninja fight scenes. 


2. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi




Now this one, this one had my YA senses tingling. A girl whose touch kills instantly? Um, yes please. Not only that, but the debut novel promises "superheroes" and unrequited love. I was drawn in automatically and can't wait to read it. 


3. A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Grey 




Of course, this one is on the top of every YA 2014 list. I've heard so much about this book that I can't wait to dive into Marguerite Cain's search for Paul Markov. The moment I read the synopsis I was intrigued by the mystery and alternate dimension-hopping action. 


4. Reboot by Amy Tintera 




And this one was one of my YA stocking stuffers. It was a random find, one of those books you happen upon in the store, pick up, and just have to have. I'm thrilled to read it, and am already in love with Wren Connolly, the newly awoken "Reboot" who has to figure out who she really is after death. 


I highly recommend all of these YA books, simply based on their amazing plots and reviews! As I read I'll let you know how they are, although I'm sure all of them will be simply YAmazing! 

Best and happy reading,

-Ashley 

Check out Ashley on social media!



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10. My Top Five Retellings

My Top Five Retellings

Needless to say, fairy-tale retellings are all the rage right now in the YA world. We're talking modern versions of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Peter Pan, and various other classics. Personally, I'm a huge fan of this new trend, and love reading twenty-first century versions of my favorite stories, especially when the princess is turned into a cyborg, high school student, or hard-core martial artist. So, without further ado, here are my top ten fairy-tale retellings and why: 

1. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Based on: Beauty and the Beast





2. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Based on: Cinderella

3. Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Based on: Little Red Riding Hood 


4. Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

Based on: Hansel and Gretel 


5. Splintered by A.G. Howard

Based on: Alice in Wonderland 



So there you have it folks! These five retellings are some of my favorites, and are all thoroughly entertaining and genius. They have fantastic plots, witty dialogue, and thrilling modern twists on some classic tales. If contemporary fairy-tales are your cup of tea, check a few of these out! 

And if you need an even more extensive list, I'll leave you with a few links! 





Best and happy reading,

-Ashley Dawson  

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11. Writing Time is Sacred

Writing Time is Sacred

As any writer knows, it's difficult to come by a stretch of time dedicated only to writing. Most writers need hours of time a day to sit down and draw up their characters, create layered dialogue, and fabricate intriguing settings- not to mention the act of rereading and revisions. But the stresses of every day life don't exactly allot for grand expanses of writing time, let alone days of it. So how can we as writers preserve our sacred time to write? Here are a few ways: 

1. Set a Schedule


Just like with any job or duty, set aside a daily schedule for your writing. A personal journal will help you get organized and motivated, and seeing your writing hours spaced out on paper will help you stick to your goals! And if you miss a day here and there, don't worry- just make up for it in your next schedule. 

2. Create a Safe Space



Creating a cozy space to write in is as important as scheduling itself. If you have a designated time and place to write, one that you feel comfortable in, you will be far more productive than sitting down and working randomly. So, section off a room in your house to use as your "writing space," and make sure it remains an uninterrupted safe zone.

3. Relax


Sit back, relax, and breathe. One of the main reasons why finding time to write is so hard is stress. If you take a little time away from every day stressors, you can utilize what time you have to get some good writing done. You just have to time out and step back, and try not to overwhelm yourself. 

4. Plan Ahead


Of course, everyone has responsibilities. As a writer, the hardest thing to do is manage all of your daily tasks in addition to developing your plots, characters, and various ideas. So, try to get a majority of your daily work done before you write, and block out writing time in between! If you have to work Monday afternoon, write Monday evening. If you have shopping to do or phone calls to make, write in the time you have between those things. Planning is a useful tool that can create time you didn't even know you had!


So, try not to freak out. Finding time to write can be stressful and frustrating, but once you get your schedule down you'll find it easier and easier to set aside an hour here and there for your characters. And what's more, you'll be much happier once you do! 

I'll leave you with a few links that may help in the ever-present writing time quest: 




Happy writing, and leave a comment below if you have any further tips for creating writing time! 

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12. Fiction Boosts Brainpower!

Why Fiction Boosts Brainpower

Listen closely fiction fans, this one's for you! If you're that person who spends an entire day binge-reading your favorite series, then goes to bed feeling wonderfully accomplished, you have more than a few great reasons to be. Studies have shown that reading fiction can boost brainpower and empathy that readers have for other people, not to mention expand your imagination. So here are a few reasons why I think reading is brain therapy!

1. Fiction is Entertaining!



Okay, so this is the one that gets the most grief. But hey, there's something to be said about a genre that can entertain as well as fiction can. There are moments in our lives where all we need is a little relaxation and entertainment, and fiction is the best way to do just that. And it lets you interpret the story yourself, leaving room for all sorts of discussion and imaginative talk after! 

2. Reading Stories Builds Character



No pun intended. The more POVs you read from the more you ask questions about yourself: who am I? What would I have done in this situation? Who do I relate to in this novel? And while no one should base their view of themselves off of fictional characters, it does help you to explore who you are by seeing through the eyes of another for a few hundred pages. 

3. Reading Helps you Write Better



This one is by far my favorite. Studies show that learning to read early and keeping a steady reading list as you grow will help you become a better writer. And it's true! Every time I'm stuck on a scene I'm writing, taking a break and picking up a good book usually leaves my mind wide open to ideas. 

4. Reading Boosts Imagination



Let's face it, a good sense of imagination is a key to every world you could ever want. And where does it all begin? Books. Especially fiction books. By reading a little fiction every day we can open our brains to realms we didn't even know existed, and find out just how strong our imaginations can be. How cool is that? 


I hope those few reasons were an incentive to go pick up a good fiction book with no remorse. Let your imagination run free for a few hours, you deserve it!

Happy reading! 

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13. Music and Writing- A Good Idea?

Music and Writing 


Perhaps you are one of the many that listen to music while you write, be it anything from pop to jazz, rap to country. Well, I'm here to tell you why that may be a good thing, and how it can assist your writing in a major way! Writing can be stressful sometimes, (even though we love it), and the right music can calm us down and stimulate our brains. So here a few reasons why, if music works for you, you can absolutely benefit from it! 

1. The Right Music Can Calm you Down



Sometimes we as writers get a bit worked up over our latest dialogue/character scene. How should we transition into the enacting incident? What about this guy- what does this guy even do? Yeah, we've all been there. But if you have some smooth music in the background, you can tai a minute to chill out and just let your brain have a break. Then, when you get back to writing, you're refreshed!

2. Music is Stimulating


It really is! Studies have shown that certain types of music can light up neurons paths in your brain and stimulate various lobes. Isn't that cool? So if your'e stuck on a certain word or sentence, having a little music in the background may actually help to fill in those gaps. 

3. Music is Fun!


I mean come on, everyone loves music. There are so many varieties and artists out there it's hard not to find one you love! And when you do you're likely to dance around like a crazy person. Now, when you're dance session is over and you sit down at your computer screen, your day's work will feel much more enjoyable. 


There you have it guys! As a writer I know certain type of music definitely benefit me from time to time. Some days I prefer the quiet, though, and that's okay too. So to close out, I'll leave you with a couple of articles on the power music has on the brain (and writing). 




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14. How to Survive NaNoWriMo

How to Survive NaNoWriMo


So anyone who is participating in NaNoWriMo is probably sleepless and angst-ridden right now. It's the end of the 50,000 word stretch, and I'm sure most of you are itching at the palms to rest your fingers. Fear not, fellow writers! Here I will share with you a few ways to survive NaNoWriMo with your writer's brain in one piece: 

1. Lots of Sleep 


Yes, writing takes up most of your time and carries on far into the night, (because come on, our characters never take a break, do they?). But getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night can help you to focus when you're writing, and better you're dialogue. 

2. Eat Regularly 


Of course, when you're writing you don't want to stop. But brain food is writing food! If you eat regularly while you're writing, instead of forgetting, you may find you have more energy to finish that last chapter. 

3. Read


Read as much as you can in your down time. Reading in between writing spurts can help inspire you and spark your imagination, not to mention help the words flow freely from your brain to your screen. 

4. Channel Your Character


Sometimes all you need to create that perfect character is to spend a few moments channeling them. Take a breath and ask yourself, "how would he/she react to this" without thinking too hard about it. Whatever pops into your head may be the truth. 


5. Set your Space

Set your writing space up every time you sit down at your computer. Whether that means good-smelling candles, pretty curtains, or calming music, everything around you helps to relax you and further your writing. 


And there it is! A few quick (hopefully helpful) tips to surviving this last week of NaNoWriMo! So kick back, relax, and let the words flow.

Best and happy writing,

-Ashley Dawson 

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15. The Five Stages of Fan-Girling

The Five Stages of Fan-Girling 
by Ashley Dawson



So if you're anything like me, I freak out pretty hard when I finish a great book and hear that the next installment in the series is coming out soon. Now, this isn't your every day, run of the mill freak out. Oh no. We're talking a full on fictional fan-girl episode, complete with little girl screams when cover reveals are announced  So, in order to highlight the greatness that is YA fiction, here are the Five Stages of YA Fan-girling: 


1. Finish the Book, Cry a Little


It never fails. I finish that last line, and immediately turn to my pillow for comfort. Why did it have to end with a cliffhanger? Can the next book come out faster? Is my life going to be the same after this? All good questions, no good answers. And because of this, I cry. Sooner rather than later someone finds me with an open cup of Jell-O pudding and a frown, and they know I've finished the book I've been reading for the last fourteen hours straight. 


2. Googled it- Comes out Next Month


Okay. So I've consulted my friendly Google search engine, and Amazon tells me my favorite author is relieving me of my troubles and releasing the sequel in exactly one month. One. Month. I bite my nails for a full thirty-one days, each day a deliberate step toward that fateful day when the months change and my book love is home in my arms. Or, I just click the pre-order button. Let's go with that. 


3. Cover Reveal


Oh. My. Gosh. That's the most beautiful thing I've ever laid my eyes on. Sure enough, it's staring up at me from the front page of my favorite YA blog, and I can't look away. Love at first sight. I'll spend countless hours thinking I see that cover on a local bookshelf, only to realize that it hasn't been released yet. Yet. 




4. Check my Mailbox Religiously 


My mailbox becomes my best friend. Seriously. None of my actual friends exist for the 3-4 day shipping period, and they are all very used to this. They bring me food while I wait and I eat like I'm fueling for a half marathon. Because I totally am. Sort of. 


5. It's Here


I scream, bee-line for my bed, and rip the packaging off. There it is. The perfect thing. I flip to a random page and smell the freshly printed pages for just a moment, before diving in. 

Then, fourteen hours later, I'm finished. 

And book three doesn't come out for a year. 

Repeat from step one. 


Best wishes and happy fan-girling,

-Ashley Dawson 





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16. Nature of Grace GIFs

Greetings Grace-Fanatics! 


I just wanted to share with you a few awesome GIF images in the style of Grace! Here are a few of them, complete with Grace, Mo, and other quotes from the series. 

Enjoy! 





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17. Why I Read

Why I Read 




Lately I've been pulling books from the shelf like a madwoman, flying through about five a week and going back for more. Most of them are YA fiction, usually dystopian or futuristic societies with a rebellious main character. I love it. Now, I get a lot of looks from people, and a lot of questions; how do I read that fast? Why do I always have my nose in a book? Now, the answer is simple, and I'll tell you five reasons why I read so much: 

1. First and Foremost, Reading Helps You Write

There's no doubt about it. If you're having trouble putting words on paper, reading a good book can help. Not because I didn't have the time or the energy, but because I had a simple case of writer's block. And do you know what the fastest way to cure writer's block is? You got it, reading. Letting your imagination roam across the words of other author's can open your own voice up. 

2. Reading is Relaxing

Not only is it entertaining, but reading helps you to relax. Perhaps it's being out of you own head for a while, or maybe it's just the physical act of sitting down and having your brain preoccupied, but a good book always does the trick. 

3. Books are Entertaining

As simple as that sounds, it's true! The stories we read in books allow us to create rather than watch. We envision the characters, the setting, the feelings - everything, with the author's words to guide us. It's an amazing process that is both entertaining and creative. 

4. There are No Limits

Seriously, none! When you're in a fantastical story, anything is possible, and the sky is the limit. The characters can do anything, and by default, so can you. That's the wonderful thing about reading; you can be a dozen people in one day, and do amazing things. 

5. You Can Travel

A book is the best way to see a dozen lands before bed, all from the comfort of your own brain. It certainly does feel like traveling, rushing from world to world as each chapter progresses. It's a fantastic feeling, being able to travel while sitting completely still. 

And there it is! Five reasons why I read so much and love it. The more books you pick up the farther you travel and the bigger your imagination gets, so might as well read as much as you can.


What's the best book you've read lately? Comment below! 


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18. How to Write off Writer's Block

How to Write off Writer's Block 


So of course we all have an idea of what writer's block means to us- whether that be long, caffeine filled nights or lots of junk food and hair pulling, there's no doubt it's infuriating. However, every writer has their own way of beating back the book blues, so here are a few of mine that may hopefully help! 

1. Read. A Lot. 


Whenever you're unable to get past that one chapter, pull out a book for fun. Believe it or not, reading avidly for a few hours, (or days, or weeks), actually helps to boost your creativity and take the pressure off; this means, your ideas are free to fly whenever you like. Just make sure you're ready for the imaginative outpour.

2. Take a Break


Sometimes we write a little too much for a little too long, and our main characters start to drain us. Not that we don't love them, but sometimes we need a little time alone to think. After days of writing, a break for yourself can help you think over what you've already written, and brainstorm for what you want to write. 


3. Naps


A nap is always the best way to finish that last bit of dialogue you just can't seem to nail. Try thinking of your story before you drift off to sleep, letting your characters talk it out and the plot write itself. Maybe you'll even dream of your story, and get some ideas. 

4. Ask Others


A lot of times we are our worst critics and can't quite seem to understand that. Every time we finish a chapter we think, "Wow. This is awful. Rewrite." But what if it isn't all that horrible, and maybe just needs a few tweaks? Sometimes an outside point of view can help us be easier on ourselves and get some good insight in the process. 


5. Take a walk


Relax. No good book is written in a night, that's for sure. So take an hour or so and get outdoors, take a walk in the park or up the street. Nature can be freeing and let your ideas work themselves out, while at the same time letting you relax in a stress free environment. 


Regardless of the way you treat writer's block, there's always someway to get your creativity back on track. So maybe try one of the ideas above- and remember to relax, breathe, and love what you do.

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19.

Extraterrestrial Extras- Why Aliens Rock My World 


So recently I picked up The Paper Doll series by Stacey Kade, and all I can say is wow. These books are fast paced, thrilling, and seriously addicting. As far as science fiction YA goes, it's an out of this world win. 


Now, while reading, the series got me thinking- how fantastic is an alien/human hybrid for a main character? YA has seen it all: vampires, werewolves, sirens, robots (all equally captivating, by the way); but this is one of the first books I've picked up where an alien has felt so real, so downright human. Ariane Tucker is not only a powerful extraterrestrial being with mind powers and a thirst for freedom, but a human teenager with a passion for relationships and emotion.
            This being said, it's interesting to dive into the wonderful realm of other worldly YA protagonists. I think there's something very intriguing about a nonhuman functioning as a human character, interacting with other teens, and surpassing the spectrum of emotions that human beings can feel. At the same time that Ariane can tap into her human side, she has various conflicting thoughts and feelings emanating from her alien DNA as well, and this makes her not only a very believable character, but oh so relatable. How many of us struggle with differences within ourselves everyday? We may not be alien hybrids, but we sure do feel like that sometimes.
         Perhaps this is what makes a half alien half human main character so appealing- she's both alienated and connected to society in so many different ways. We can look at Ariane as a young girl to be respected for her strength, power, and determination, but also as a compassionate and confused teen growing up in a crumbling world. Everything and everyone she knows around her is unstable because of who she is and what she can do, and yet she still has time to fall in love and undergo the stress of human friendships and relationships. This is what makes an alien character so fantastically real: we are all aliens in some way or form to one another, and yet we're all human, making and breaking bonds in our everyday lives. 
          So, needless to say, this book rocked my socks off. The sequel is no less exhilarating, delving deeper into Ariane's quest for freedom and humanity, as well as sweeping the reader along a thrilling journey into the realm of a fictional government and evil multi corporation. 


As far as YA fiction goes, Kade has delivered an action packed, other worldly win, and I'm so lucky to have picked the series up on a whim. It was a change in pace when it comes to not entirely human protagonists, and I loved the integration of both alien and human DNA into Ariane's character- it made her a source of strength from a completely unique POV. 




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20. BIC Writing Method can work...right?

Butt in Chair- Get it Done With Minimal Hair-Pulling

http://acronymsandslang.com/definition/336655/BIC-meaning.htmlSo, as every avid writer knows, there are various "full proof" methods for beating procrastination and writer's block, and getting down to the nitty-gritty of story telling. Despite this helpful array, I tend to gravitate toward the old fashioned "Butt-in-chair" method, that is to say, sitting on my rear end long enough to lose feeling in my legs and run out of coffee money. Laughable? Yes. Silly? Maybe. But keeping my bottom in a chair and my hands on the keys for hours guarantees that I'll have at least something to show for my numb posterior at the end. 

Let me take you through the five reasons why this method can work: (though it may be a pain in the butt literally as well as knock out back, legs and sanity but only if you are over the age of 40 :)

1. It Minimizes Distractions 

Now, note that I said minimizes and not "eliminates" or "destroys." This is so because, despite the fact that we have made the pact to stay in this chair for hours, we as writers tend to get distracted by any and every idea in our heads that may lead to, oh I don't know, a trip to Walmart for an embroidered notebook that may "further organize our ideas". Right. Try again. However, imagine how much more difficult it is to be distracted if you're sitting in an empty room, placed firmly in a chair with a blank screen in front of you. No people, just sitting and writing. Much better. 

2. It's Easier to Snack

Let's face it, any good book is written with a plethora of dried figs and yogurt raisins. Well, the snacks vary (more like MMs and candy corn), but you get the gist. I like this method because it allows me to pack all of my favorite snacks into a giant bag and camp out in front of my computer. Healthy? Maybe not. Good incentive? You bet. I promised myself I'd sit in this chair until I accomplished something, and if I have easy access to food, all the better. 

3. It's Hard to Nap

Okay we've all been there. It's 6pm and you're in your bed with your computer, when suddenly bam- lights out. No warning required, your body sees words on a screen and just goes into hyper sleep drive (HSD for short, there will be a blog on the treatments for Hyper Sleep Drive in the future, rest assured). However, with your rear end in a very cold and uncomfortable chair, you may just have a chance at staying awake long enough to clean up that last chapter. 

4. Coffee/Tea

Any excuse I get to buy a latte, I take it. But here we have the perfect formula for caffeine consumption: a goal, a chair, and a possible all-nighter. As a writer I love my coffee, but when I'm sitting down for hours at a time and need to stay focused, there's nothing better than a hot mug and a dream. 

5. My Kids Won't Bother Me

I don't know about you, but I have kids that love to walk up and ask me how I'm doing. This will immediately cause me to lose my train of thought and throw me deep into the dark abyss of writing purgatory, where ideas wave goodbye to me over the vast expanse of a never ending ocean of book sadness. Not good. But when I turn off my phone and seclude myself in my office with a chair, immediately this interruption is no longer a threat. I can be the caffeine hogging, idea pumping writer that I so need to be. (This one is not proven yet though :)  Because my kids can open doors!

Well there you have it folks- all the reasons why sitting yourself down and forcing yourself to write will make all the difference in the world. Simply finding a chair and making the time is the hardest part, what with all the distractions of life, (and doughnuts), but it's what being a writer is all about. 



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21. Sort of Social- A Writer's Life

Sort of Social- A Writer's Life 



So lately I've been hitting my book hard, editing like a wild woman and throwing literary caution to the wind. In short, I've been sitting in a lot of coffee shops and ordering a lot of mochas. Needless to say, in this blast of creative power I've noticed a sort of shift in my social life (or what I like to call my social life): It's mostly comprised of fictional characters, (and a few chatty baristas). So here's a list of the top 5 things I love about my social life as a writer, mochas and all. 

1. People Don't Ask What I'm Doing

Whenever I'm writing furiously at my laptop, people don't even try to interrupt. It's like some wonderful veil has been drawn over my Macbook, and if the outside world were to intervene, what I'm working on might implode and destroy everything in the tristate area. It's great. Life lesson: look like you're doing something important, and no one shall question it. 

2. All of the Baristas Know your Order

Seriously. All of them. Anywhere you go. It's like some magic wizard arrived ten seconds before you and whispered the words "Skinny Peppermint Mocha" into your barista's ear. Not only that, but they know your name, where you work, and ask if you finally finished that difficult chapter that was giving you grief? Why yes, yes I did. And I'd like an extra shot with that.

3. Your Fictional Characters Never Run Out of Compliments

And they all love you. No matter what they always have a copious amount of good things to say to make you laugh, smile, and cheer- and you can write them into any situation and conversation that you want. Talk about interactive companionship.

4. Your Friend Circle is a Glorified Book Club

Most of your friends are avid readers, too, and you all share your latest finds. It's not only great to discover new reads, but cheaper than driving to the nearest book store and opening your wallet everyday to get your literary fix. Also, it helps that you have exquisite taste in books. Just saying.

5. Your Friends Understand the Importance of Alone Time

While you love them to death, every writer needs a large amount of time dedicated to her work in order to survive. Luckily, your friends all know this and leave you to your manuscript when needed. Not only that, but most of them pop by with hugs and junk food to help keep you sane. Best friends ever. 

And there you have it folks- the 5 things I love about my literary social life. So count your many blessings my fictional friends, and have at that manuscript! 

Best wishes and happy reading,

-Ashley Dawson


Check Ashley out on social media!

https://www.facebook.com/ashley.dawson.1690

http://www.wattpad.com/home

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22. Uninvited is Unbelievable

Uninvited is Unbelievable 



So recently I picked up the YA fiction novel Uninvited by Sophie Jordan. Let's just say, the book was permanently glued to my hands until I finished. It was that good. Filled from cover to cover with an intriguing story, thrilling action, and witty dialogue, the book takes the reader on a wonderful ride and never lets go. So, without further ado, here are the top five things I loved about Uninvited.

1. The Plot is Scary Good

It's so unique I can't take it. Told from the POV of an "HTS" carrier (Homicidal Tendency Syndrome; aka: The Kill Gene), the plot twists and turns through the multitude of possibilities in a world where violence can be traced to someone's DNA. It's truly original and completely engrossing. 

2. The Characters are so Real 

Not only does the main character, Davy Hamilton, drag you in with her unique voice, but every character she meets does as well. They all have distinct, wonderfully written personalities, and the dialogue is to die for. 

3. The Romance is Gripping

So, we've got the whole homicidal thing going on- super cool. But then you add romance to the picture? It all just fits together beautifully. Amidst a crumbling world full of violence and a power-hungry agency fixed on her demise, Davy manages to fall in love in the last place she thought possible. Hopeless romantics beware. 

4. The Action is Awesome

This book is packed full of thrilling action scenes, and boy are they awesome. From fist fights to armed guards, every page is a surprise, and not one that you'd want to miss. 

5. It's Scientifically Spooky

The way Jordan weaves the tale is genius in that it all seems so real. Before each chapter is a short blip about HTS, and the way its described seems so plausible you can't help but shudder. It's truly a work of art, and utterly addicting. 

And there you have it! Five reasons why my latest read was so fantastic. Pick up a copy of Uninvited by Sophie Jordan, and I promise you that you'll be hooked. 

Best and happy reading,

-Ashley Dawson 

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23. Matched- Made in Heaven

Matched- Made in Heaven

        Recently I picked up the book Matched  by Ally Condie, and let's just say that dystopian romance has outdone itself. It's a heavenly page-turner, and it certainly kept me up late into the night reading. So, here are a few reasons why I love the Matched series so much:

1. The World


The Society that Cassia Reyes lives in is so well built. Condie went to great lengths to make sure that the reader has a firm idea of the world she lives in, and the creativity it must have taken to lay the foundation for the setting is incredible. You feel like you are really in Cassia's city, staring the Officials in the face.

2. So Many Secrets


It seems like everyone in this book has a secret, and I love it. Each character is unique and mysterious, and you have no idea who's hiding what- until you flip the page. This means that midnight will come and go and you'll still be hungrily turning chapters, anticipating the next plot twist.

3. It Reads Like Poetry


Condie's book really does read like a poem. It's interspersed with various poems that Cassia finds, yes, but not only that- the character's dialogue sounds like true verse at times. Especially inside the main protagonist's mind, you feel like you are floating on her words.

4. There are No Holes


Everything in the book comes full circle, and everything in the Society is explained. It's incredibly precise, leaving no question as to what the Society is or how it works, save for how to overthrow it. The lovely thing about this kind of accuracy is that it allows the reader to enter the world wholly, and without question.

5. Simply, it Grips You


The style of writing that Condie has is absolutely gripping. I never doubt the characters or the world, and when matched (pun intended) with the beautiful dialogue and love triangle, the book becomes something like a work of art. Truly, a wonderful read.

And there it is- five reasons I loved this book! Seriously, talk about a stellar dystopian thriller/romance, I couldn't put it down. So if you want to go to bed at 3am tonight, pick up a copy ;)

Best,

-Ashley Dawson

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24. 10 Books I Loved This Week

10 Books I Loved This Week 


So, as an avid reader, I go through about 5 books a week and love it. Maybe it's an obsession, or maybe it's a passion, but whatever it is it's working. Needless to say, I have quite an extensive list of books to share, most of which are YA. So here they are, 10 books I loved this week and highly recommend! 

1. Atlantia, by Ally Condie 



2. The Selection, by Kiera Cass 



3. Uninvited, by Sophie Jordan 



4. The Matched Trilogy, by Ally Condie 




5. The Rules, by Stacey Kade 



6. Cinder, by Marissa Meyer 



7. Made for You, by Melissa Marr



8. Wither, by Lauren Destefano 



9. Panic, by Lauren Oliver 


10. Black Ice, by Becca Fitzpatrick 




And there you have it folks! 10 YA books that I loved this week and you should go read right now. Seriously, you won't get anything done all week, they're that fantastically gripping. 

Best wishes and happy reading,

-Ashley Dawson 

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25. Reign Day - Facebook Event

Reign’s Countdown Release Event All Day today!


I'll be stopping by to give away books and visiting from 4-4:30 EST to help celebrate!


REIGN - An Unfortunate Fairy Tale 
Reign_iBooksEPub
Releases NOV 3rd. 2014
Going to the Fae plane against Jared's orders has cost Mina dearly. Her decision
haunts her as a new danger surfaces back on the human plane. The Grimms are
fading from existence. 


To save her family's future, Mina Grime will
have to travel to the past with the help of her Fae Godmother and a pair of
magic shoes. 



She must go to the Story's very beginning, to
the days before the dark prince's reign. But can she finish her quest before
her time runs out, or will she be trapped in the past forever? 
Everyone who pre orders and buys their ebook copy before Nov 10th will receive Jared’s Quest: An unfortunate Fairy Tale Short Story as bonus material in the ebook.
FB Promo
Chanda 3 headshot
Chanda is a bestselling and award winning author of the UnEnchanted: An Unfortunate Fairy Tale series and the Iron Butterfly series. She’s been a bestseller in five countries and was named one of Amazon’s top 100 customer favorite author. She uses her experience as a children’s pastor, children’s librarian and bookseller to write compelling and popular fiction for teens. She was born in Seattle, WA, grew up in Nebraska and currently resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband and their twin children.

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