Writing

What Makes Good Non-Fiction?

Are you a writer this month? Maybe participating in #NationalNovelWritingMonth? Or maybe you’re more of a reader, and you’re joining in on the Non-Fiction fun for #NonFictionNovember? Or hey! Maybe you’re both! And if that’s the case, then this article was written for you.

I love Non-Fiction. A good Non-Fiction book moves just as quickly and action-packed as a good Fiction novel, and a bad one can make you regret ever sitting down to read it. Or at least lead to a good nap. But there are some great things about good Non-Fiction that make it stand out from the rest.

Good Non-Fiction doesn’t need all of these things, per se, but every Non-Fiction book I’ve read and loved has been or had at least a handful of these attributes and they are part of what makes them unique and so, so readable.

Let’s do this.


Good Non-Fiction is accessible.

This one’s pretty straight-forward. Unless you’re writing for a specific audience of super geniuses, or just experts in a specific field you are also an expert in, Non-Fiction should be accessible to anyone who decides to pick it up. Put simply, make sure you think about your audience’s pre-existing level of knowledge about the subject you’re writing about and don’t over-complicate the way you speak about it. Most people respond most positively to a style that’s somewhere in between “instruction” and “casual conversation with a friend.” If your audience can’t make sense of what you’re saying, you’ve lost them before you can even teach them anything.

Good Non-Fiction finds the human element.

Regardless whether you’re writing a memoir or a history of the country or a scientific examination of the smallpox eradication, when you write, make sure that you are focusing first on the relatable, human experiences within your subjects. We learn and grow best when we feel and care about something, it motivates us and compels us to learn more: use this! Turn your numbers into people, homes, sister’s who still speak to you, but don’t just write about the numbers. We don’t feel empathy for numbers. Add warmth to your prose by focusing on your project’s “characters.” What are they thinking and feeling? What do you want your reader to think and feel about them? Make your reader feel something and they will absorb the ideas you’re also trying to get across.

Good Non-Fiction tells a story.

Like finding the human element, telling a story is an essential piece of reaching the reader that you want to inform. For the same reason we remember a song better than a random string of numbers (867-5309, ring any bells?) we remember things that happen in related sequences, ie. stories, better than we remember random information that is given to us. It’s biology! Telling a story through the information you’re trying to convey in your NF book also brings a myriad of other benefits to your writing: heart, empathy, greater understanding of the subject. Those who can master the use of storytelling in their technical, non-fiction writing will find it is to their enormous advantage. Plus, stories are just easier and more fun to read!

Good Non-Fiction is experienced.

You don’t have to be the world’s top expert with every certification to write good non-fiction, but you do need to hold some authority in order to garner trust with your reader. If you’ve sold millions of albums, people are going to want to read about your life in the music industry. If you’ve been working in a field your whole life, people will want to read about what that was like and what insider tricks you may know. Even if you’re just writing about yourself or something inspiring that happened to you, you are an expert on you and those experiences have given you a unique point of view that can be valuable to your reader. Whatever you’re writing about, make yourself an expert. Put in the work. Do the research. Make sure your research is correct and double-checked. And remember that authority doesn’t need to fit the traditional mold: if your life or work or experiences have given you knowledge that not everyone might have, remember that that can be enough. But keep your reader in mind. You want them to trust that you know what you’re talking about and that they can take that information out into the world with confidence.

Good Non-Fiction is inclusive.

None of us is an island and none of us can speak for every human experience on the planet; writing with these facts in mind can truly expand the relevancy of your non-fiction book. It can be easy, especially when you’re an expert in the topic you’re writing, to fall into a solely-instructive mode. Good non-fiction not only communicates what the author knows, but also what the author doesn’t know. One of my favorite non-fiction books takes a whole chapter to talk about emerging research in the field, unsubstantiated but possible theories, and differences in opinion within the field. Reading this chapter made me think of the author as someone who thought about every single facet of this topic and made a thoroughly informed, educated thesis from it. That is so impressive to me, and more importantly to most readers. Especially if you’re writing something social, but even in the sciences, taking other points of view or theories into account can impress upon your reader that you want them to be informed: not just persuaded to agree with you. Good research and good non-fiction doesn’t live in a vacuum. It is nuanced, multi-faced, and inclusive of all groups that are affected by a given topic.

Good Non-Fiction keeps it simple.

You should never dumb things down for your reader, but you should focus, clarify, and simplify every idea you want to communicate. Good Non-Fiction almost always does this to some degree. Even something as simple as using metaphors or examples can make a complicated topic seem much more manageable. This “keeping it simple” trick can even make its way into the structure of your book: clarifying what each chapter is about, making sure that each chapter is focused on its purpose, make sure that they go in the order that makes the most sense to teach your topic- and so much more. You don’t have to go out of your way, but really examining how a lay person would approach your book and making adjustments accordingly can make a world of difference to your readers.

Good Non-Fiction is is free of judgement.

Have you ever read smug Non-Fiction before? Where it feels like the author is condescending to you? Yeah, me too, and it is so annoying. If you want to communicate with someone, especially something technical or complex, you can’t judge your reader for not knowing what you’re trying to teach them– before you teach it to them. That’s why they’re supposed to buy your book, right? Share knowledge with joy, with excitement that someone else gets to learn it for the first time, and that excitement will infect your reader too. They’re here to learn and you have the privilege of getting to share something really cool: enjoy it, make the most of it, appreciate it. Readers can tell.

Good Non-Fiction asks more from the reader.

Lastly, good Non-Fiction asks the reader to do some of the work. As hard as you work to simplify your ideas and communicate clearly and with heart and enthusiasm, if your reader doesn’t have to participate in some part of the process it won’t stick with them the same way. So ask something of your reader. Raise the bar on what you expect from them. The best way I’ve found to do this is to literally ask questions. Make your reader think about the context of what you’re teaching them in their own lives, in the real world. Tell a story about something in your own life or the life of one of your characters that will reach out and grab the reader, something they can relate to. At the very least, good Non-Fiction asks its readers to decide what they think and feel, and any time you can give your reader such valuable introspection on a subject- you’ve succeeded. Bonus: they win too!


To check out some of my personal favorite Non-Fiction books, check out my list here!

Happy reading, friends! x

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WWW

It’s “What are you reading?” Wednesday!

I’ve seen a lot of bookish memes and list ideas here on the book-blogging circuit, and I wish I could do all of them! One of my favorites has been a trend of bloggers posting their current reads on Wednesdays.

This week I’ll be taking inspiration from Taking On a World of Words, and trying out their “WWW Wednesday!”

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What I’m currently reading:

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

I just started this, but I am eager! I really liked McMahon’s newest book, The Invited, and I’ve been really feeling thrillers and scary stories lately. This one was recommended to me many times by multiple people in my bookclub who know my tastes so I have high expectations. I’m not in far enough to judge yet, but so far I am really enjoying myself!

Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren

YESSSSS. Honestly, I would probably be done with this already except for two things: I’ve been crazy busy lately and I’ve been trying to savor it. I’ve just been really excited for this new Christina Lauren book. So far the story is sweet and sexy and has the classic CL style of tugging on my heartstrings while also writing something that feels fresh and familiar all at the same time. Will definitely be writing a full review for this one.

Still reading: The Hunger by Alma Katsu & Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

I have been so busy this week that I am still in the middle of so many books! These two in particular. I’m really enjoying Katsu’s The Hunger, but am still in the early stages. It’s a retelling of what “could have happeneded to the Donner party” and honestly I’m just eager as hell to find out what this theory includes. And I’m also loving Imaginary Friend! Damn, this book is loooong though. 720 pages. Usually that wouldn’t phase me in a week, but I haven’t been able to really sit down and devote my entire attention to this yet. I’m hoping this weekend will do the trick! Look for reviews or updates on these soon.

What I’ve recently finished:

The Return by Rachel Harrison

Omg guys this was so good and insane hahaha. No seriously, it was weird and then it picked up fast and then all of a sudden it was over. I had so much fun reading this one, sooo much fun. I loved that, at 80% way through the book, I still didn’t know what was going on but had a hundred theories and none of them were exactly right. Absolute success for me. This one doesn’t come out until 2020, so keep an eye out! I’ll be writing a full review of this closer to its publication date, so keep an eye out for that too!

No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg

I bought this on a whim after a shift at work (I work in a bookstore, it only feeds my habit) but I’m so glad that I did. This book is a collection of all of her speeches, from rallies to the UN, and a small amount of writing she’s done for this book. Greta is someone that really inspires me in the world right now. Reading her words makes me anxious, because I believe everything that she is saying and am so frustrated with the responses we’ve had, but also so hopeful: if half of the next generation is anything like her, we’ll all figure it out.

Almost Home by Madisen Kuhn

I really enjoyed this. In fairness, I knew that I would. Kuhn’s previous collection of work, Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better, is one of my favorite books of modern poetry. I don’t know what it is about her writing, if it’s the simplicity or empathy or perspective in her work, but something about her words has always connected deeply and often with me. I relate to her work and I was so excited to see a second book from her. This was even better than her first and I relate so much to the authenticity in her writing. Definitely recommend to poetry fans.

What I think I’ll read next:

Honestly, I’m still reading so many things that I don’t know exactly what I’ll pick up next and I’m focusing more on the books I’m still reading. I’ve also got a pile of ARCs to read before deadlines, so who knows. However, there is one book I’m kind of eager to pick up:

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

This just looks so interestiiiiing! I work in a bookstore and everyone has been buying this/talking about this/asking if we have this, not to mention that it was one of Book of the Month‘s picks this month too. It’s also a thriller and I have been in such a thriller mood lately, so. Yeah, it’s likely that I end up reading this one soon. Can’t wait!


Happy reading, friends! See you tomorrow! x

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ARC Reviews, Book Tour, Reviews

Refraction ( + Giveaway!)

After an attack on earth, all reflective surfaces become weapons to release monsters, causing a planet-wide ban on mirrors. Despite the danger, the demand rises, and 17-year-old Marty Callahan becomes a distributor in an illegal mirror trade―until he’s caught by the mayor’s son, whose slate is far from clean. Both of them are exiled for their crimes to one of the many abandoned cities overrun by fog. But they soon realize their thoughts influence their surroundings and their deepest fears begin to manifest.

With fast pacing and riveting characters, this is a book that you’ll finish in one sitting.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N


Refraction by Naomi Hughes was an intense, compelling, ultimately fun read that I kept itching to pick back up. During work or driving home, I’d be thinking about where I left off and what theories or guesses I had about the story. Ultimately, I enjoyed this a lot. Another win for YA Horror in 2019.

First and foremost, the characters felt real and so did their connection. They felt like people: engaging, likable and flawed. I still rooted for them. I wanted them to survive. Marty’s drive to get to his brother and Eliot’s need for approval were so relatable, honest, and human that my empathy survived through every fumble, twist, and turn. 

I also loved that there wasn’t a romance in this book. I don’t mind romance, usually I enjoy it, but because it seems to be in absolutely every story lately, this was— a refreshing change of pace. It was nice to not be distracted for once, especially in a story where it would have felt forced. It wasn’t needed. The story kicked ass on its own.

The plot was wild, dark, and frequently terrifying. I’ve always been particularly creeped out by scary stories involving mirrors and this one took that trope and ran with it. The author does a fantastic job of keeping the reader guessing and the reveal(s) took me off guard more than once.

Not everyone likes an open ending, but I do. This one left just enough room for the imagination, while providing enough of a foundation to still be satisfying. I’d love to read a sequel, if that’s in the cards. Who knows?

Ultimately, I enjoyed Refraction a whole lot. I have high hopes whenever I dive into a YA scary story, and this mix of horror and sci-fi was the perfect tone to set my spine tingling. I loved the focus and detail the story was written with, and it was just unbelievable enough that I was swept up along for the ride. If this genre is your jam, don’t miss Refraction this year.


Hey! I’m Naomi Hughes, writer of quirky young adult fiction (usually involving physics and/or unicorns). I live in the Midwest US, a region I love even though it tries to murder me with tornadoes every spring. When not writing, my hobbies include reading (of course), traveling, and geeking out over Marvel superheroes and certain time-traveling Doctors. My debut YA sci-fi standalone novel, Afterimage, is available now from Page Street Publishing. My next novel, Refraction (also a standalone YA sci-fi), comes out in Nov 2019. I also offer freelance critique services at naomiedits.com.

Goodreads | Website | Instagram | Twitter


Enter to win a copy of Refraction by Naomi Hughes!

Giveaway is open to US residents and ends 11/19/2019.

Enter through this Rafflecopter form and may the odds be ever in your favor!


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ARC Reviews, Reviews

The Furies

In 1998, a sixteen-year-old girl is found dead.

She’s posed on a swing on her boarding school’s property, dressed all in white, with no known cause of death. Whispers and rumors swirl, with no answers. But there are a few who know what happened; there is one girl who will never forget.

One year earlier: a new student, Violet, steps on the campus of Elm Hollow Academy, an all-girl’s boarding school on the outskirts of a sleepy coastal town. This is her fresh start, her chance to begin again in the wake of tragedy, leave her demons behind. Bright but a little strange, uncertain and desperate to fit in, she soon finds herself invited to an advanced study group, led by her alluring and mysterious art teacher, Annabel.

There, with three other girls–Alex, Grace, and Robin–the five of them delve into the school’s long-buried grim history: of Greek and Celtic legends; of the school founder’s “academic” interest in the occult; of gruesome 17th century witch trials. Annabel does her best to convince the girls that her classes aren’t related to ancient rites and rituals, and that they are just history and mythology. But the more she tries to warn the girls off the topic, the more they drawn to it, and the possibility that they can harness magic for themselves.

Violet quickly finds herself wrapped up in this heady new world of lawless power–except she is needled by the disappearance of a former member of the group, one with whom Violet shares an uncanny resemblance. As her friends’ actions take a turn for the darker and spiral out of control, she begins to wonder who she can trust, all the while becoming more deeply entangled. How far will these young girls go to protect one another…or to destroy one another?


I am loving the “female rage novel” trend, aren’t you??

The Furies by Katie Lowe is another compelling addition to this developing genre. Following the new girl at the notorious Elm Hollow Academy, the Furies reads like The Craft, Mean Girls, and The Secret History all had a meeting and wrote a book together. It’s dark, explores the intense sides of humanity and female friendship, throws in a dash of witchcraft, and all for an enthusiastic Young Adult crowd.

I am always fascinated when a book explores female relationships as a primary plot point and this book definitely does that in spades. The girls in this book are sometimes brutal, mean, or downright wild but they are all one thing at their core: human. I loved the way the author played with mortality and fear and the ways we compete with each other whether we’re in competition or not.

Lowe’s writing style sets the perfect tone for this kind of story. Her descriptions are detailed and full, the plot is tight and interesting all the way through, but what I liked most was the way she wrote characters. Lowe’s eye to humans and their relationships is nuanced and examined and thoughtful, which gives the whole book an eerie speculative feel. The Furies does an excellent job of making the reader wonder what is going to happen next and if we really know the characters as well as we think we do.

Overall, The Furies was a great debut and an excellent contribution to the recent growth of “rage-lit.” It was fun, brutal, twisted, and consistently kept my attention on every page. I enjoyed feeling, raging, and going wild with the girls in The Furies, and I very much hope you will too.


Happy reading, friends! x

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Recommendations

15 Non-Fiction Books That Won’t Put You to Sleep (+ 1 That Might But is Still Worth Your Time)

It’s National Non-Fiction Day today! To celebrate, I thought I’d share with you all some of my favorite Non-Fiction stories, on a variety of subjects.

I love Fiction, but there has always been a special place in my heart for learning too. A good Non-Fiction book doesn’t just educate though, it also entertains and gives us a new insight into the world around us. The books below are some of my favorites because they all accomplish that in one way or another, though I tried to grab from a variety of topics. I hope you find something new to learn!

The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon

This is one of those books that I wish everyone in the world would read. The Noonday Demon is, almost literally, the “Bible” of anything and everything to do with Depression. And it’s constantly being updated. The book is long (almost a third of it is the index too, whew!) but the chapters are broken up into relevant topics so that the reader can skip around to find what they need. The chapters cover causes, treatment, social stigma, diversity, even the politics that effect the treatment, diagnosis, and social policies regarding Depression in our world. I’ve struggled with mental health my whole life, so I thought I knew everything before I picked up this book: I was so wrong. I learned an innumerable number of things about Depression, as well other disorders that can go along with it, that I never would have learned had I not picked up this book. If you’ve struggled with similar issues as well, you’ll likely find yourself reading through this book and thinking “woah, me too!” to yourself over and over. If you love someone with Depression, there is no better book out there to educate you on what they might be going through and what you might be able to do to help. I wish every person, and especially every single doctor, would read this book. I think we would start to see a dramatic change in our world.

(Topics: Mental Health, Medicine, Politics, Social Justice)

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

Starting with one of the most fun Non-Fiction books on this list, The Disappearing Spoon is a fascinating read. This book tells stories of history, science, heartbreak, failure, bizarre discoveries, all told through the lens of an element on the periodic table. It sounds boring, but I promise it isn’t. Each of these stories is immensely readable, written with heart, and I always learn something ridiculous or wild. This book really makes science and the history of scientific discoveries fun and funny and interesting and I love this book for the unique perspective it brings to all that. Definitely recommend. This is one of my favorites.

(Topics: Science, Scientific Discovery, Scientific Failures, History)

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Full disclosure, Jenny Lawson is one of my favorite authors. Even choosing between her two books was difficult for me, her first book Let’s Pretend this Never Happened was also great. But there’s something about Furiously Happy that just makes me…furiously happy. This book is about mental health, Lawson’s life, raccoon taxidermy, and giant chickens. It is dark and sad and profound sometimes, never afraid to reach into the deepest parts of our souls. Other times it tells some of the funniest stories I’ve ever read in a memoir. Furiously Happy was there for me during a very hard time in my life and I will always treasure and recommend it so highly. If you are struggling and want to feel that someone else knows what you’re going through, this is that book. And if you’re struggling and you want someone to tell you a weird story so you can laugh and not think about it? Also here. I hope you guys enjoy this one as much as I do.

(Topics: Mental Health, Humor, Life Stories)

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston

If you’re squeamish at all, look away from this book now. The Hot Zone follows Richard Preston, a former employee with the CDC and US Military, as he tries to fight the Ebola virus. This book takes us from outbreak, to how they research the disease, to close calls we’ve had in the US, as well as his own personal trials happening behind all of the insane situations he found himself in. The Hot Zone is a tense book and full of graphic, clear descriptions of a lot of awful things. But it is also immensely educational, full of heart from a perspective that carries so much knowledge and empathy, and a seriously intense thrill if you’re as weirdly fascinated by these deadly viruses as I am. (If you’re a fan of scientific NF, Preston’s second book, The Demon in the Freezer, talks about his work with smallpox and its eradication. I also enjoyed it.)

(Topics: Virology, Medicine, Science, History)

Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Vargas

Dear America is one of the most well-written, powerful NF books I’ve read in a long time. I read (listened to) it in one sitting, driving home from visiting family, and hearing Vargas’ life experience from his own words was awakening and a call to action. If you want to learn more about the immigration process in the US and how it works, this is the book for you. If you want to understand what life is like for thousands of ‘undocumented citizens,’ as Vargas declares himself, this is the book. The policies and actual processes in our country could not be farther apart from each other and this book is a wake up call to change, but also an eye-opening and relatable story of someone’s life told by an author who feels like a friend. Vargas shines in this memoir.

(Topics: The US, Immigration, Social Justice, Life Stories)

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van der Kold, MD

Another book I wish more people would read, I stumbled upon The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van der Kold, MD a couple of years ago and I am so glad that I did. This book talks about a lot, but mainly it talks about how trauma, of any kind, really does affect our bodies and minds much more than we think it does. And also in ways that we could never imagine. From aches and pains to chemical imbalances to the way we eat, this book talks about how our bodies hold onto trauma and how we can guide ourselves into healing. Not just in the physical sense, but with a holistic mindset that makes this book unique. The Body Keeps the Score has been well received by scientists and doctors all over the world and I hope to see its principles show up in our world even more as the years go on.

(Topics: Trauma, Mental Health, Physical Health, Medicine)

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Of all the books on race in America right now, this is the one I chose. There are many, many more that deserve to be on this list, but Ta-Nehisi Coates brilliant, succinct little gem in Between the World and Me has become one of the most talked about, purchased, and (hopefully) read. I love the way Coates talks and speaks his truth in his writing. Race is a heavy subject to talk about, especially from a first-person, experience-based POV, which this novel takes, but he handles each turn and piece of truth with grace. Reading this book is an opportunity for us to also take in this information with grace and ideally lead ourselves to deeper introspection about how the world functions around us when it comes to marginalized groups. Between the World and Me is personal, deep, inspiring, and well-deserving of its spot on this list. Check it out, if you haven’t already.

(Topics: Race, Social Justice, Life Stories, The US)

Rising Strong by Brené Brown

I love Brené Brown. Everything she’s written has inspired me and changed the way I think about my own emotions and boundaries, but this book is my favorite from her catalog. Rising Strong is about a moment we all face in our lives: getting back up when you’ve been knocked down. The book focuses on how we can choose to be vulnerable and learn from these moments, lean into these moments even, instead of pushing them away and losing valuable information about ourselves along the way. Paired with personal stories from her own life, Rising Strong is an incredibly readable, very well-researched piece of Non-Fiction and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to do some self-reflection.

(Topics: Vulnerability, Shame, Self-growth, Mental Health)

Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higgenbotham

If you were as captivated by the HBO mini-series Chernobyl as I was, then here you go! This is the book that series was based off of and it has a reputation for being descriptive, readable, and incredibly well-researched. While some of the passages can be number heavy, the majority of this book reads like an immersive, highly detailed story from minute to minute. It’s crazy to me that we are only just now getting “clarity” on a lot of what happened that day in Privyet, Russia. Higginbotham does a great job of not only giving an immersive experience, but also educating the reader on Chernobyl’s lasting effects and legacy. A fascinating read.

(Topics: Science, Man-made Disaster, History, International Relations)

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

One of the creepiest, most moving, best-written pieces of True Crime that I’ve read in a while, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark follows the late journalist Michelle McNamara’s driven journey to find the Golden State Killer. I could barely put this book down. Told in alternating timelines, since the book was published posthumously, about McNamara’s search for the killer and parallels in her own life, all building up to one of the most insane endings to a criminal case that I’ve read in a long time. I wish McNamara had been around to see it, she deserves every accolade for this book, for her work, and for her tireless dedication. If you’re a True Crime fan (or even if you’re not), don’t miss this one!

(Topics: True Crime, History, Life Stories)

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A personal favorite of mine, We Should All Be Feminists is another one of those books that I would force everyone to read if I ruled the world. *cough* I MEAN, that I wish everyone would choose to read of their own volition, of course. But I digress. This book is just so close to my heart. Inside these pages is Adichie’s signature style of writing that makes her principles all the more powerful, simple and so clear all at the same time. She excels at taking complex and emotionally-charged topics and bringing them back down to earth, grounding them in practical reality and in the women you know and love. We should all be feminists, and this little gem is one of our most powerful calls to action. If you haven’t read this one, don’t miss out.

(Topics: Feminism, Women’s Issues, Social Justice)

Hunger by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay has a handful of books that all could’ve ended up on this list, but Hunger is the book that has stuck with me the most since I read it. Hunger is about just that- our bodies, our relationship to our bodies, and our relationship with the food we put into our bodies. As someone who has struggled with many aspects of this multi-faceted problem in our culture, Hunger is a much needed, eye-opening, experience-validating story in our modern world. It’s an intense read, especially if you struggle with these issues, but reading through it and sitting with the thoughts it brings up can be transformative if you let it. Gay writes with such heart, personal vulnerability, and love and I would recommend this book, and almost any of her other work, to anyone.

(Topics: Body Image, Mental Health, Self-growth, Life Stories)

Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski

This is one of my favorite little Non-Fiction books that I don’t see talked about enough. But then again, its topic: women’s sexual health, isn’t talked about enough either. Come As You Are is essentially a love letter to your lady parts, as weird as that sounds. It is a book about how diverse our bodies can be, how our bodies work, and what we can do to better understand our bodies, desires, and inner workings, and what that understanding can do to enhance our sex lives and…well, just our lives in general. There is so much information in this book and so much validation if you are a woman who has ever wondered, “Am I normal?” The only drawback in this book for me is that it is primarily aimed at and researched for cis-gender women. The author does address this and the reasons why, but I do look forward to it being updated with new information as it becomes available for trans women and non-binary folks. Sexuality is complex and though this book only touches on so many of the important issues of our time, this book also taught me how much we still have left to learn.

(Topics: Sex, Sexuality, Social Taboos, Science, Women’s Issues)

Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller

So many of us need to read this book and don’t even know it. In the age of online dating and hook-up culture and generational shift between styles of dating and marriage, Attached takes a psychological approach to some of the reasons our relationships may not be as fulfilling as we want them to be. When I studied psychology in school, we learned about Attachment Styles, which are essentially the style in which we are taught to look at and behave toward relationships with each other. Trust or distrust? Secure or insecure? Attached takes us through each style, what can cause a person to fall into one set of habits or style, what can help us break out of them, and what patterns lead to the deep, healthy, connection we’re all searching for. I know, I know, it sounds like a self-help book about “why you’re still single,” but its not. It’s a scientifically-studied, psychology-based explanation of how our style of connecting to people forms over the course of our lives, and how it can impact those relationships. I learned a lot. I reflected a lot. This book was a fascinating read and also a very practical tool for anyone wondering about these issues for themselves.

(Topics: Relationships, Psychology, Self-growth, Practical)

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford

This was just…a fun read. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World covers just about what it sounds like it covers– Genghis Khan’s life and the impact it had on the forming world around him. However, it’s very likely that you don’t realize just how much of an impact there truly was from his actions, family, and choices. I learned a crazy amount about the forming cultures surrounding Khan, and even how some of his actions affect the way we do things today in the Western world. This book was fascinating, I knew almost none of this before I jumped into it and Weatherford does an incredible job of writing something that is both educational and readable. This is History intensive, but it’s great reading too.

(Topics: History, Science, Comprehensive)

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A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

This. Book. Is. Huge. And dense. But it is 100% worth your time and effort. If you’re a big history buff and you read a lot of that kind of thing, this will probably be a breeze for you. For me and everyone else though, it does take some dedication. It’s long and it is so chock full of fascinating facts and information. This book is the history class that all of us should have gotten growing up in the United States but didn’t. When this book was written, its purpose was to be an account of the history of the United States in as un-biased and universally-focused a way as they could manage. I think they accomplish it pretty well. Anyone who wants to be informed about the beginnings of and contributions to our country’s history should pick this book up. And anyone who’s got a friend or a relative that could use a little history lesson about how the world is a big, wonderful, diverse place, that was built by all of us together, well…Christmas is coming soon, and this might make a great gift! 🙂

(Topics: History, Politics, Race, Economics, Religion, Social Justice, and pretty much a little bit of everything else too, tbh)


Haha and on that note, I’m going to leave you. I have learned so much through books, both Fiction and Non-Fiction. I hope you find something you love in this list! x

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WWW

It’s “What are you reading?” Wednesday!

I’ve seen a lot of bookish memes and list ideas here on the book-blogging circuit, and I wish I could do all of them! One of my favorites has been a trend of bloggers posting their current reads on Wednesdays.

This week I’ll be taking inspiration from Taking On a World of Words, and trying out their “WWW Wednesday!”

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What I’m currently reading:

Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

I somehow ended up reading a ton of horror this week…huh. I wonder why? *coughHalloweencoughcough* Halloween isn’t over till I say its over, so…it’s not over till I finish these next couple of books. This is the book everyone has been talking about and I have finally gotten my hands on a full copy instead of just a handful of chapters. I plan to be sucked into this huge beast of a novel every second I can be this week.

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

My second scary story of the week! This is a somewhat-retelling of what could have happened to the Donner Party that was lost on their journey west all those decades ago. I’ve always been morbidly fascinated with this story, just because of the wild mystery of it all, so I’m eagerly looking forward to see what crazy explanation this author brings to the table. Plus I’ve heard this book recommended to me so many times that it’s about time I finally read it. Started it last night and am loving it so far!

The Return by Rachel Harrison

Haha I was reading this last week too and I thought I would finish it in a day. Honestly, I would have, it’s riveting! Except I have things that interrupt my reading like work and dinner and feeding the cat, and generally just adulting in general. So far this is still a great read though! Creepy and eerily confusing, I am having fun trying to work out the puzzle. Look for my review a little later, and this release date in March of 2020.

What I’ve recently finished:

Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan

I don’t want to say much here. This book was so so so highly anticipated by me after its predecessor, Wicked Saints, and I’m currently writing a full review for it. For now, needless to say, it was a wild, crazy, magical ride. I can’t wait to tell you more about it. (Am I being enough of a tease here?)

The Necromancer’s Prison by Alec Whitesell

I am so excited to have finally finished this wonderful little gem of a book. Its author, Alec Whitesell, reached out to me a while ago to take a look at this and I am only just now getting around to it because of life’s crazy whims (sorry, Alec!). I really enjoyed this though, it was fresh, original, kept me engaged and reading all the way till the end, and I can’t wait to share more of my thoughts in my full review within the week!

What I think I’ll read next:

Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren

I have been waiting for this book for so looooooong!! Or at least it feels like forever, but really it wasn’t all that long ago that I became a ride-or-die CL fan. I love their writing and their ability to make romance feel as sweet, layered, complex, simple, interesting, and sometimes tragic as it is. Reading a CL book means something light, something that’s going to make me feel happier all through the day, something that I can’t drag my nose out of. My copy arrives in the mail tomorrow. It’s going downnnnn, fam.

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Mayhem in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe

It is Non-Fiction November, after all, so I am going to try and knock out some of the NF books I’ve been dying to get to! This is at the top of my list. If you don’t know this about me already, I’ve always had a bit of a passion for the conflict between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and its history. I’m a redhead of Irish and Scottish descent, but more than that it was just a period of time that’s fascinated me ever since I can remember. When I was in college, I studied abroad in Belfast, Northern Ireland for a year, on a program designed to teach us first-hand about the history there and it was an incredible learning experience. I’ve read a lot on this subject, but this book has been lauded so highly this year and I am dying to dig into it. I’ll report back when I finish!


What are YOU reading this week?? Drop me a line in the comments letting me know! x

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Book Tour, Reviews

Sisters of Shadow and Light (+ Giveaway!)

From the acclaimed author of DEFY, Sara B. Larson, SISTERS OF SHADOW AND LIGHT is a timeless and fantastical tale of sisterly love and powerful magic.

“The night my sister was born, the stars died and were reborn in her eyes…”.

Zuhra and Inara have grown up in the Citadel of the Paladins, an abandoned fortress where legendary, magical warriors once lived before disappearing from the world―including their Paladin father the night Inara was born.

On that same night, a massive, magical hedge grew and imprisoned them within the citadel. Inara inherited their father’s Paladin power; her eyes glow blue and she is able to make plants grow at unbelievable rates, but she has been trapped in her own mind because of a “roar” that drowns everything else out―leaving Zuhra virtually alone with their emotionally broken human mother.

For fifteen years they have lived, trapped in the citadel, with little contact from the outside world…until the day a stranger passes through the hedge, and everything changes.

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This book was wholeheartedly fun to read.

Sisters of Shadow and Light is not a simple story, but it’s a wildly intriguing one. It was readable, relatable, fantastical, and most of all it felt original. The story moved in ways that I didn’t expect at all, which is saying something considering that I’d pegged the story for an ending early on in the book. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Following two sisters with vastly different talents and experiences in the world, this book is told from alternating perspectives for the most part and the effect this creates is masterful. Zuhra, the sister we hear from first and most often, has had her life formed around caring for her sister and keeping their family’s secrets. Inara, on the other hand, is struggling with powers that make her so sensitive that she can’t even communicate for part of the book’s story. Her moments of lucidity are cherished and then used as a device to further the story, it really is well done.

I enjoyed the characters as much as the book in this one. These girls aren’t perfect, but they are strong. Both whole and interesting characters in their own right, both sisters are ambitious and headstrong, committed and focused, and they do not give up. Their bond was my favorite part of this whole story. Yes, I know, I’m a bit biased in that I love a good sisterly bond in a book, but adding the fantasy and the dynamic between them, this felt new and fun.

I hesitate to say too much else about the magic system or plot lines because I truly enjoyed being confused and confounded throughout the course of this story. I truly enjoyed Sisters of Shadow and Light and (gah! with that ending??) I cannot wait for the sequel that hopefully comes.


Sara B. Larson is the best-selling and critically acclaimed author of the YA fantasy DEFY trilogy (DEFY, IGNITE, and ENDURE) and the DARK BREAKS THE DAWN duology. Her next YA fantasy, SISTERS OF SHADOW AND LIGHT, comes out November 5th from Tor Teen. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t write books—although she now uses a computer instead of a Little Mermaid notebook. Sara lives in Utah with her husband, their four children, and their Maltese, Loki. She writes in brief snippets throughout the day and the quiet hours when most people are sleeping. Her husband claims she should have a degree in “the art of multitasking.” When she’s not mothering or writing, you can often find her at the gym repenting for her sugar addiction.

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Enter to win 1 of 10 copies of Sisters of Shadow and Light by Sara B. Larson!

Giveaway is open to US residents and ends 11/13/2019.

Enter through this Rafflecopter form and may the odds be ever in your favor!


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Happy reading, friends! See you tomorrow! x

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Book Tour, Reviews

The How and the Why ( + Giveaway!)

A poignant exploration of family and the ties that bind, perfect for fans of Far From the Tree, from New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand.

Today Melly had us writing letters to our babies…

Cassandra McMurtrey has the best parents a girl could ask for. They’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs—except maybe the one thing she wants. Like, to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions her adoptive parents can’t answer, no matter how much they love her.

But eighteen years ago, someone wrote Cass a series of letters. And they may just hold the answers Cass has been searching for.

Alternating between Cass’s search for answers and letters from the pregnant teen who gave her up for adoption, this voice-driven narrative is the perfect read for fans of Nina LaCour and Jandy Nelson.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Google Books


I don’t pick up YA contemporary as often as I pick up other genre’s— this year I’ve read a lot of it though, and The How and the Why has been one of the high points throughout that journey.

The How and the Why by Cynthia hand is, at its heart, a story about love, family, and hope. I loved so many things about this book.

First and foremost, this is an emotional book in the best of ways. I am an emotional reader, I tend to read with my heart first and this book took that and tugged me along by the heartstrings again and again. The way Hand writes emotion is also notable too, she does such a good job of writing about the way something feels. Unlike many others who fall into familiar metaphor, I felt the characters emotions because the description was subtle but so accurate and insightful. I felt for these characters, I felt with these characters.

This book also uses alternating storylines that are set in different times, which I thought was a masterful decision for this book. One timeline follows our main character, Cass, as she struggles through her Senior Year in High School, and the other follows Cass’ birth mother while she was pregnant, writing a series of letters to her daughter. The effect was compelling, kept me reading long into the night, and brought on laughs and tears alike.

Lastly, I really liked the characters in this book. They felt real and whole, lived in and alive, and so relatable. Cass herself is a theatre kid at her High School, which I loved. I was also a theatre kid, and all the funny and relatable experiences she goes through, as both a student and theatre nerd, brought me back to all those years of being a theatre nerd myself.

The How and the Why was beautiful, relatable, endlessly readable, and heartbreaking in the best of ways. If you read with your heart and love to love the characters on the page, do yourself a favor and don’t miss this wholehearted, authentic little gem of a debut.


Cynthia Hand is the New York Times bestselling author of several books for teens, including the UNEARTHLY trilogy, THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE, MY LADY JANE and MY PLAIN JANE (with fellow authors Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows), THE AFTERLIFE OF HOLLY CHASE, and the upcoming novels THE HOW AND THE WHY and MY CALAMITY JANE (also with Ashton and Meadows). Before turning to writing for young adults, she studied literary fiction and earned both an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. in fiction writing. She currently resides in Boise, Idaho, with her husband, two cats, one crazy dog, two kids, and mountain of books.

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Enter to win 1 of 2 copies of The How and the Why by Cynthia Hand!

Giveaway is open to US residents and ends 11/13/2019.

Enter through this Rafflecopter form and may the odds be ever in your favor!

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Thanks so much for stopping by! See you tomorrow! x

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Writing

My Favorite Writing Advice, from Authors You Know

Some of you may not know that today is, in fact, a very important day: It’s the start of National Novel Writing Month! Or NaNoWriMo to all of us “Wrimos” out here. I haven’t participated in years, but I used to religiously and this year I am going to take a crack at it again.

I have always loved to write. Ever since I was a kid, that was the dream job, the dream activity, the dream thing to be doing during class when I was supposed to be learning something else…you get it. Writing, as an art form, has always captured me, and this year I’d like to focus a little more on that magic again.

For any of you other writers out there, “Wrimos” or not, these tips are for you. x


Read, Before You Write

“Read, read, read. Read everything: trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentic and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.” ― William Faulkner, author of The Sound and the Fury.

“If you want to be a writer you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” ― Stephen King, author of The Shining.

Listen to the Stories People Care About

“Whenever I’m asked what advice I have for young writers, I always say that the first thing is to read, and to read a lot. The second thing is to write. And the third thing, which I think is absolutely vital, is to tell stories and listen closely to the stories you’re being told.” ― John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars.

Take a Map With You

“I don’t outline, because I don’t want to have to follow a plan. But I do need SOME sense of direction, so I use what I call my skeleton. It’s my first scene, climactic scene, last scene and first line. I don’t start until I have them in place. Often they will change over the course of a first draft, but it gets me there.” ― Sarah Dessen, author of The Truth About Forever.

Make Time for Your Writing

“Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.” ― Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth.

Just Write, No Tricks

“Let go of the idea that you can somehow outsmart a first draft. Because I have never met anybody who can.” ― Leigh Bardugo, author of Six of Crows.

“You can fix anything but a blank page.” ― Nora Roberts, author of more than 200 bestselling novels. (also, omfg wow.)

“Write fast, edit slow. Get your first draft out quickly. Don’t look back, don’t correct anything, just keep going. Even if it’s a terrible mess in the end, it’s done! And that’s the hardest part. You then have all the time in the world to make it better.” ― Lauren Gibaldi, author of The Night We Said Yes.

Write What’s True to You

“You know that old piece of advice: ‘Write what you know’? It doesn’t mean write about a young person who likes to write. It doesn’t mean write about your school, or your neighborhood, or your community. It means: write what you know is emotionally true. You can write about Mars. You can write about werewolves. You can write about medieval knights. You just have to understand the emotional truths of your story.” ― E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars.

Don’t Write “Alone”

“I’m always pretending that I’m sitting across from somebody. I’m telling them a story, and I don’t want them to get up until it’s finished.” ― James Patterson, author of Along Came a Spider.

“Once my characters start talking, then I know that I really know who they are. My favorite way to see if dialogue is authentic is to read it out loud and act out the characters. Luckily I’m alone at my desk (most of the time). If I’m writing in a café, I have to be very subtle and sort of mutter to myself.” ― Carolyn Mackler, author of Infinite in Between.

Enjoy the Process

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” ― Maya Angelou, author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Take Advice, but Trust Yourself

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” ― Neil Gaiman, co-author of Good Omens.

Learn to Let go

“It’s a great lesson about not being too precious about your writing. You have to try your hardest to be at the top of your game and improve every joke you can until the last possible second, and then you have to let it go. You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it…You have to let people see what you wrote.” ― Tina Fey, author of Bossypants.

Ignore All of These Tips

“Be skeptical of writing tips. There is no one right way to write a book. No one has ever had your voice before or had your story to tell, so find what works for you. Put one word after another, one scene after another; meet your word count or ignore a word count all together. Let your characters spark off each other or make them ignite (perhaps by following an outline or just adding dragons?). Give yourself permission to suck, but keep writing. The worst book you ever write will be better than the best book you never write. There really is no other magic than this: write the book you want to exist, the book that burns you up inside and that no one but you can write. Write one word at a time until you get the end. Then revise the hell out of it.” ― Alex London, author of Proxy


Happy reading and writing, all!

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