My 2015 Goodreads Challenge Recap

I finished my Goodreads challenge 5.5 months early because I have a severe lack of confidence in my reading volume abilities! 25 out of 25, baby.

I talk about the best- and worst-of, and answer these questions which I made up and which have no real significance:

  • What was the first book you read this year?
  • The last book?
  • What was the longest book you read this year?
  • What was the shortest book you read this year?
  • Which book was the most difficult to get through?
  • Which was the quickest?
  • What was the book that most surprised you?
  • Which was you least favorite book?
  • Which was your favorite book?

Also I’m super curious–do you guys do the Goodreads challenge? What do you usually set your number at? Also if you want to link to your challenges I’d love to check out what you’re all reading!


New Reading Like a Writer Series!

Here’s a quick update on the new reading series I’m starting, “This is Why You Love [Insert Your Fav Here]” It’s book reviews, plot untangling, character analysis, and reading like a writer all in one.

One of the things I miss about college is discussing books in-depth in my English classes. Spending thirty minutes on running motifs or themes in a novel certainly looks trivial at some distance, but I do think you can tease out a lot of learnings from your reading, as well as your understanding of the world, from zooming into a book at that level. Besides my 5 Short Stories to Make You a Better Writer post from AGES ago, I haven’t done much of this in any formal way.

Let me know if you have suggestions for books I should feature–preferably ones that have a lot going on in them plot or structure-wise, or that are well written. Right now the plan is to pull from my personal library as well as what I read for college English classes.

4 Best Harry Potter Fan Theories

No spoiler alerts here. If these books are still in your TBR pile then there’s nothing even I can do to help you.

To those who might be wondering: yes, I am still working on my novel.  Yes, it is still going slowly.  Yes, it is entirely because of my lack of dedication. You know how there’s this little graphic that talks about the difficulty of balancing sleep, grades, and social life in college?


Well, for me in my post-college life, it looks more like good work performance, exercise regularly, write regularly.  And guess which one I’ve been sacrificing more often than not as of late?

Making YouTube videos doesn’t help, but I feel like because it’s a creative project, it kind of counts.

Ever since this little theory about how the Dursleys are so terrible because Harry is a horcrux surfaced across the internet, I’ve been looking for more of these fan theories. Partly because speculating about the series was such an integral part of my enjoyment of the world, and partly because there are some, shall we say, creative headcanon floating around out there.

From Voldemort’s serenade to Azkaban movie nights, these are some of the most amusing I found. Click through to the video watch page for links to all the theory sources!

5 Short Stories That Will Make You a Better Writer

5 Short Stories That Will Make You a Better WriterI selected the five short stories below for their diversity in style and subject matter, but also because each one is a well-crafted story in its own right.

If you own any modern short story collections, some of these works are probably in there. Or, other works by these same authors will be.

Which, by the way, if you are a young writer and you don’t own any story collections yet, I highly recommend picking up one from your local bookstore, or finding a used copy online. Even if you’re a novelist, short stories provide great quick studies into the how to craft an effective story.

1. “Incarnations of Burned Children” by David Foster Wallace

What it’s about: There’s an accident, and a child gets hurt.

Why it’s awesome: It’s short and punchy. No, really, it will feel like someone punched you in the stomach.

What you should pay attention to:

  • What Wallace does and doesn’t tell us as readers, and the effect that has
  • The structure and style. There are only about seven sentences total in this story.
  • How the one short sentence used has a ton of impact

Where you can find it: On Esquire (for free!).

2. “How” by Lorrie Moore

What it’s about: A relationship, from beginning to end

Why it’s awesome: It’s a great example of second person POV done really, really well, and the details of the story make it feel true.

What you should pay attention to:

  • The way Moore balances dark humor and the serious subject matter
  • The devices used to show the passage of time and the progression of the relationship in the story
  • The way Moore plays with language

Where you can find it: Moore’s first short story collection, Self-Help.

3. “The Sun, The Moon, the Stars” by Junot Díaz

What it’s about: A break-up, beginning to end
Why it’s awesome: Díaz captures his narrator’s voice immediately, and although Yunior is a pretty awful person, we understand why he does what he does.
What you should pay attention to:

  • What effect does it have when Junior tells us up front, on the very first page, about his cheating?
  • How the Junior’s version of the break-up story reveals Junior’s character
  • Who or what are we, as readers, rooting for?

Where you can find it: Díaz’s story collection This is How You Lose Her

4. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates

What it’s about: A teenage girl attracts the attention of a less-than-savory man
Why it’s awesome: If you want a guide to writing a story that boils with suspense all the way through to the end, you want this one.
What you should pay attention to:

  • How the initial characterization of the main character, Connie, affects our reading of the rest of the story
  • How Oates goes about building tension

Where you can find it: Right here online (free PDF).

5. “Once in a Lifetime” by Jhumpa Lahiri

What it’s about: The narrator recalls a time in her childhood when her family hosted another family in their home; the close proximity makes tensions run high and brings secrets to light.
Why it’s awesome: Lahiri’s writing is beautiful and gripping, yet quite simple.
What you should pay attention to:

  • The language. Look at those beautiful sentences.
  • How this 2nd-person point of view differs from the point of view in Lorrie Moore’s story
  • The way Hema’s discovery at the end of the story shapes our own understanding of the piece

Where you can find it: Lahiri’s second short story collection, Unaccustomed Earth

Let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any important stories. I’d love some recommendations!