This week’s learning point, readers, was to stick to my high standards. Just in case you were wondering, I’ve never had a problem with putting books down if I’m not enjoying them. I’m actually amazed that there are people who will persist with a book they actively dislike on the basis that if they start they have to finish. Life’s too short for that, imo.
So, I’ve started a lot of books recently and then trailed off because they didn’t grip me. They weren’t actively awful which would have enabled me to make the definite decision to stop reading, they were just a bit ‘meh’. I had a couple of hours to spend reading in the week and I spent ten minutes bouncing across four books feeling that I didn’t want to spend my reading time on any of them. Disconsolately, I scanned through my kindle to see if there was anything better. I didn’t have high hopes.
Well, I should have kept the faith. I found Witch’s Reign by Shannon Mayer, which had been lurking on my kindle for several weeks. I couldn’t quite remember why I’d picked it up (she’s a new author to me), but it seemed reasonably my thing – fantasy with a kickass female protagonist.
I opened it in the hopes that it would be better than the four stories I’d already discarded – and I was gripped from the very first sentence. I want to write first lines like that: world, and stakes and character and sass all in a dozen words, brilliant stuff. The rest of the book kept up the high standard of the opening scene and I swooped through it in a day.
Now, I need to find something equally good – but at least now I have faith that if I keep looking I’m going to find it!
Well, this week was another gorgeous reading week. I went straight from Sea and Sand to another new release, The Reprisal, by Kelly St Clare. This is the finale in her The After trilogy, and I’ve been waiting impatiently since I inhaled The Return the day it came out. It’s an utter delight. The relationships between Romy and her knot moved forward in fabulous ways, there was lots of humour, and the uncertain fate of those on earth and the space soldiers was resolved highly satisfactorily. Loved it.
And then I found a new series. I’d seen mention of Sarah K Wilson’s Dragon School on social media and thought it looked good. The premise is that a disabled teenager is determined to take on the highly physical role of a dragon rider – will she manage? It’s also fantasy with (you may have guessed) dragons, so there’s lots to love for fantasy readers.
The books themselves are being presented slightly differently. Instead of novels, they’re novellas, but as a result of their shortness they’re being released more closely together. I’m finding myself growing more and more fond of novellas as I grow older. I daresay it’s just a perception, but it makes me feel as though I’m getting more new worlds in my life. Another positive is that most of them are available in KU, so I feel like I’m working my subscription hard by reading three books where I might only have managed one before!
The first three stories in the Dragon School series are available now (First Flight, Initiate and The Dark Prince), and I loved them. They’re very episodic, so you could think of TV just as easily as books. Amel is a great character (as is Raolcan the dragon), there’s stacks going on in the background so they rattle along at a terrific pace, and the writing is actually very visual so I found it easy to “see” what was going on. I want to read the rest, and I’m delighted to report I don’t have months to wait for the next episode, since it’ll be out at the start of February.
And then just last night (when I’d run out of Dragon School stories) I discovered that there is a book 4 in CN Crawford’s Fae FBI series. I kind of thought there must be another one coming, because book 3 left so many threads unresolved, but last time I looked on Amazon there was no sign. But it’s out now, so that’s what I’ll be jumping into once I’ve written this blog post. Can’t wait!
This week I have got firmly back into my groove of reading (I always think I’ll have loads of time to write at holiday time, but somehow, it’s much easier when I’m back in a routine of work/school).
I was helped by already being mid-way through Megan Crewe’s brilliant Fallen World series. As mentioned last week, I moved straight on to book two, The Lives We Lost, and because that was so entirely excellent I had to put all my other waiting-for-review books on hold so I could gobble up the finale, The Worlds We Make. Oh my giddy aunt, I feel like I barely breathed while I was reading that. It was so tense I was constantly on edge in case Kaelyn and her friends didn’t make it. The resolution was utterly stupendous. I recommend you read this series even more now I’ve reached the end.
Because I’m eschewing my Kindle for late-night reading-in-bed, alongside Fallen Worlds, I also read Nicholas Bowling’s Witchborn. That was fabulous (catch my review).
And then yesterday I got back into my review reading and caught up with Nile, Dominic and Prince Tamiath in Alex Lidell’s Tides series. Sea and Sand is the third in the series and it’s out – wowzers, today or tomorrow, I think. It’s another glorious fantasy and while I didn’t warm completely to new-girl Kyra, I am now YET AGAIN waiting impatiently for the next instalment. If you haven’t read these books, you should check them out IMMEDIATELY.
Phew, back to normal has never felt so good!
Check back next week to see what I’ve been reading – and please do let me know if you try out any of these books. I’d love to know what you think.
Another first for me this week, as I finished “reading” my very first audiobook. It has been a fascinating experiment and insight into my psyche!
I wouldn’t ordinarily pick to consume a book via audio, but this was offered to me and I thought I’d give it a try. People who listen to audiobooks rave about them, and it’s the growing way to get your books, apparently, so maybe I was missing something.
Maybe I still am, but audiobooks really aren’t for me. Air and Ash is a fabulous book, Kaitlyn Bellamy narrates beautifully and it’s very easy to listen to. But it took so long! I can’t remember when I started Chapter 1, but it’s probably not an exaggeration to say it’s taken 3 months to listen to it start to finish.
For comparison, when I read it on Kindle, I zipped through it in under 24 hours (it’s excellent – did I mention?).
I was fascinated by my response to it, because I can always find time to read and I get through a book usually in around 48 hours. Finding time to listen seemed to be a whole other matter. It seems that if I have a book/kindle in my hand, then I’m reading, but if “all” I’m doing is listening to something I should be doing something else as well (washing up, knitting, etc). Since I’ve usually got either the TV or radio on for those activities, it felt like a big logistic effort to get the audiobook running instead (it’s not; Audible is a doddle to use).
Several friends listen to audiobooks on their commute and rave about that to pass the time in traffic. I wondered if that might make a difference – but since my commute is 6 minutes in a car share with a colleague I couldn’t test that idea. However, if I ever return to my corporate life I’ll bear it in mind.
In summary, I’ve now “read” an audiobook, but I still don’t quite know what the fuss is about. Audiobook fans, please weigh in – how do audiobooks fit into your life?
Another tricky week, this week, readers. The Shattered Worlds Read Along finishes today with Miranda Hardy’s Death Knocks, except that I’d already read that, having got myself a bit out of order (it’s fabulous, btw). So there wasn’t a book from the collection that I felt as though I needed to read.
So, I haven’t read a Shattered Worlds book this week. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped reading. I hope that will only happen when I’m no longer breathing! But this has been a week where I’ve focused entirely on myself.
As well as busily writing my nano words (I’ve hit 42k – OMG, crack out the choccie brazils, I have never written this consistently fast before in my life!) I was also on deadline to get my final clockwork war book to my editor ready for her to start work on Monday. So that’s what was on my Kindle, having a final read through to make sure that any plot holes big enough for me to see were filled in before it was sent off for a professional assessment. There will, sadly, be other plot holes that hid while I was reading, but that’s why I use an editor.
Being at 42,000 words when I’m aiming for a 50,000 word first draft means I’m actually on the home straight. I want to finish by next weekend, so I can actually slow down a lot and still hit my target. I hope that’s going to give me time to read, because I really want to lose myself in someone else’s worlds.
First off is the new release by one of my favourite writers – Kelly St Clare. Blood Oath (co-written with Raye Wagner) came out this week and I’ve only made it into chapter two so far (it’s great; Kelly’s books always are). With a bit less time writing and more reading going on in my life, I hope that will also be finished by next weekend.
Check back next week to see if I’ve met either or both of my new deadlines!
My blog is late this week, because I only finished Curse Breaker last night (not a slow reader, I’ve been taken up with lots of non-fiction reading this week, all about marketing, social media and advertising, yawn). Curse Breaker is just as lovely as I hoped it might be: a beautifully-realised fantasy world with some fabulous characters, a kickass heroine, heartbreaking prince and page-turning abilities that reminded me of Michelle Madow.
And do you know what, I’m more than halfway through my Shattered Worlds challenge, and I am so impressed by what a fabulous group of writers I’ve joined with. I only knew a couple of my fellow contributors before getting involved in Shattered Worlds (and them only through Facebook), but everything I’ve read so far is creative and powerful and well worth reading. When people are still blowing the tune that indie-published books are in all ways sub-standard I’m proud to be a part of a group blowing that myth out of the water.
Check back next week, I’m jumping into Elizabetta Holcomb’s time slip next.
I’m on a roll, readers. This week I read and reviewed Slayer by JA Armitage and JA Culican with time to spare. When a trainee dragon-slayer and a dragon shifter come face to face there are bound to be sparks. I loved this Romeo-and-Juliet story about Julianna and Ash discovering the truth about their villages’ enmity. And thankfully, while there’s plenty of lies, betrayal and fighting, no one gets poisoned in Slayer.
And since I can’t bear to be without a book, I also grabbed Joanne Macgregor’s The Law of Tall Girls, a new release by one of my favourite authors. I don’t read many contemporary books because speculative fiction is my first love. But, oh my, when they are this good it’s a pleasure to switch genres! Curiously enough, Romeo and Juliet also featured here, with a high school play of the ill-fated lovers’ story. The Law of Tall Girls is beautifully written with real emotional punch. I loved it.
Check back next week to see what I pick next from the Shattered Worlds collection – or elsewhere!
I have reached the end of my Alphabet Challenge! Whoop whoop, crack out the champagne!
I’d love to be able to gush over my final, Z book, but that’s unfortunately not possible. There were very slim pickings for the final letter of the alphabet. It took about three searches to find something suitable on Amazon, and having plumped for Z (The Abilities Series) by Lizzy Gomez (I mean: look at all those Zs!) I was determined to get to the end of it. Maybe I shouldn’t have bothered, but as a writer it’s sometimes useful to articulate what exactly is the matter with books I don’t like.
I was, frankly, amazed when I reached the acknowledgements to read that Z had been professionally edited. I can’t imagine what it must have been like before that. The best I can say is that it read like a book I was reading for a friend prior to revisions and editing. It was a complete story with a beginning, middle and end, and on a sentence level it was okay (so I’m guessing the editor was hired for a copy edit, not the content edit it so dearly needed). It was so flawed I would highly recommend a competent, professional content/structural edit and a re-issue.
For example (and I’ll cut this down or I’ll be here forever):
This was pitched as a fantasy. It started in the contemporary world and took far too long to introduce any fantasy elements.
Toby was lovely, but he was also a complete cliché. Many of the characters were flimsy, only there because the plot required it, and lacked any real depth or motivations.
When we finally got there, the fantasy world was completely unrealistic. If you say it approximates the 14th century, you’re going to have to make it somewhat like the 14th century. Just having long dresses and knights won’t cut it if people speak in 21st century slang, drink tea, eat sandwiches and feed sugar lumps to their horses.
While we’re on the subject of slang – the heroine spoke entirely in modern slang and swearing, neither of which made her an appealing character. There was an f-bomb probably once every two pages.
There were far too many exclamation marks!!!! All the way through!!!!
The heroine knew everything and could do everything and everyone else was wrong/stupid/both.
And much of the novel was just plain weird. (Spoiler alert): someone tries to kill our heroine (frankly, I’d have been relieved if they’d managed it and the story had ended there, but still…), she fights him off by using her magical powers to fix some unspecified “darkness” she finds when she pokes around inside his head? soul? not sure. After this he’s immediately cured of his murderous tendencies, and the heroine knows she’s safe with him and everyone who doubts the fact is an idiot – and to round off the scene, the would-be killer’s sister doesn’t ask any questions about what’s just happened, but simply says: hey, thanks.
Pah. Get a content/structural editor, writers. You are giving independent authors a bad name by not doing so – and more to the point, you are doing a disservice to your STORY. This could have been a good story, but its potential was entirely wasted. I think the author probably doesn’t care as she’s merrily gone on to write a sequel, and that would be fine if she were writing for herself/her mom/her children. But to expect other people to pay money for this? That’s an entirely different matter. I expect professionalism as an absolute basic, and I didn’t find it in the pages of Z.
And that crabby snipe ends my Alphabet Reading Challenge. It’s been a fun 26 weeks. Check back next week to see what has risen to the top of my TBR pile now that I don’t have a thing to read!
I always knew filling the X slot in my alphabet reading challenge might be difficult, so when I spotted a book titled Xoe early in the year I grabbed it. Due to my lack of choice I wasn’t especially hopeful.
Fie on me for a cynical doubter! Actually, Xoe was mostly a fun read. The relationships between the female characters was great fun and well-depicted. The paranormal elements were good and intriguing (we had the introduction of demons to bring a different slant to the customary paranormal vampires and werewolves fare). What I enjoyed less was the romantic element which felt slightly forced and clichéd, as though the author had been told to make the romance more obvious. And there were an awful lot of fashion reports. Maybe this stuck with me because I rarely describe my characters, and never in detail (I’m often told off by editors for this). But what do you need to fix a character in your mind? I don’t think very much – maybe hair and eye colour, and then if something’s remarkable about them mention that: they might be very tall, or always wear a hat. But in Xoe we seemed to constantly get a run down of what each character was wearing when we met them, which I found unnecessary.
But maybe I’m the one out of step, reader – do you like a full and detailed description of characters, or just a broad stroke of description that you can fill in for yourself?
And it’s hard to believe I’m nearly at the end of my alphabet reading challenge! Check back next week to see what I’ve found starting with Y.
There was a bit of a wobble this week, reader, I’ll confess. I had a “T” book that was recommended by a friend whose books I love. Sadly, the book wasn’t half as good as her own and simply wasn’t for me. Referring back to my “speed of reading” measurement, when I’d been reading for 3 days and barely reached a quarter of the way through I knew we weren’t a good match.
So I shelved that and tried to find something (I was only mildly panic-stricken; no biggie). Taking what I’ve learned about searching on Amazon I picked a likely word, “Truth” and went in. Anita Oh’s The Truth Spell caught my eye. Oh, my goodness, it was a delight! It’s a first-person narrative and Lucy was so lively and spiky and fabulous the novel was a joy to read.
I zoomed through it in two evenings’ reading, it was that good!
And a first for me – this was the first book I’ve read entirely on my phone. I often have short stories on my phone in case I’ve got five minutes to fill, but I’ve never tried to read an entire novel on my phone thinking it would be annoying to be continually swiping, but not at all. Clearly, if the narrative is gripping enough it doesn’t matter how I’m reading.
The Truth Spell is highly recommended if you like a fresh and modern paranormal tale. I’m now going in to find myself a “U” book, with the keyword “Under” – check back next week to see how that goes.