Author Archives: Alisa O'Donnell

About Alisa O'Donnell

I am an alumna of Western Washington University, born and raised on the Puget Sound. I live in Modesto, California with my husband and my cat, reading books and writing anything.

The Unnaturalists

When we moved, all my books got boxed up (again). 😦 But recently I’ve dug out some of my more recent snags and remade my reading list.

First up was The Unnaturalists, by Tiffany Trent. I first thought this book was going to be really steam punk, based on the cover. But it wasn’t really that, more dystopian fantasy.

Vespa Nyx has enjoyed her life thus far cataloguing magical creatures (Unnaturals) in the museum overseen by her father. But when she is pressured to start thinking of a future with a husband and family, she finds herself catapulted into more danger and intrigue than she ever expected.

It falls to Vespa to save New London, its people, and the Unnaturals. To do so, she has to understand and embrace who she is, a secret that’s been kept from her for her whole life.

The Unnaturalists was a quick, fun read. A nice break from the thrillers that I love. While not really filled with unforeseeable twists and turns, the story had lots of various subplots that kept the action moving and kept the story engaging.

The story has a little bit of everything–magic, adventure, romance, and heartbreak. It’s definitely a fun read for anyone wanting something that feels reminiscent of fairy tales.

Advertisements

November: A Recap

I completely forgot to write a blog post last week. I think I remembered when I was going to bed on Monday night, and I just never got to it.

November is over (duh), and I’m proud to say I’ve got yet another first draft of a story done. The Thanksgiving week was tough but I pushed through and stayed on target. The hardest part, I think, was the last 5,000 words or so. And that always seems to be a struggle. My stories seem to fall into one of two camps: either I put off writing the end because I don’t think it’s time yet, or I have to drag it out because I didn’t plan quite enough to get my word count where I needed it to be. But that’s ok. This year, I finished. And I wrote just about every day (I missed November 30, I was done with my project and I needed a break.).

My story this year turned out to be very different than what I’d intended. While on the surface it stayed mostly the same, my characters surprised me. I didn’t mean to when I set out, but I wrote several misunderstood characters. But that made the process that much more fun, because I got to enjoy the journey of discovery as I went.

For December, I plan to try to revisit the nameless project I’ve been refining all year. Then perhaps in January I’ll be ready to dig into the hot mess that is my NaNo 2017 novel. But even if all I do this month are some writing exercises from my Writer’s Notebook, that’s ok too. I think I have earned a little break. I’ve worked hard this year.

The Obsession

The last time I picked up a romance book, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was mostly a thriller with a sub-theme of romance. When I picked up Nora Roberts’ The Obsession, I thought I was getting into something similar.

As a young girl, Naomi Bowes followed her father into the woods one night and discovered his dark secret–kidnapping and murdering young women. For the rest of her life, Naomi’s been trying to outrun her past and its horrors.

She settles into a small town, living under the name Naomi Carson, and begins to build a home, the one thing she never thought possible. She finds friendly people who want to know her, and she finds herself getting pulled deeper into a life she believes isn’t possible for her. But her sense of security is shattered with a string of crimes reminiscent of her past. Everything seems about to fall into a million pieces, but Naomi is tired of running and she’s ready to hold on to what she’s got.

I had high hopes for this book, and while it was good, and well written, it wasn’t quite everything I’d been hoping for. It was definitely more 50/50 thriller and romance, which wouldn’t be bad, except that I was not keen, at all, on the love interest. Though he turned out to be OK in the end, I have a hard time liking a character who, when a woman says she won’t sleep with him, responds with “yet.” Eww. It felt a little bit like a hook-up turned love story, which is not what I’m looking for on those occasions when I do want romance a little more front and center.

Having read this book, though, I can understand why people like Nora Roberts (plus, it’s valuable to read lots of different things so I can recommend them to others). Perhaps I would like her mystery books as J.D. Robb a little bit better. And I’m sure all her love interests aren’t the same, so perhaps some of her other books would be a little easier for me to stomach. All in all, not bad if you’re looking for something in between what your grandmother reads and 50 Shades.

Final Appeal

Continuing in the mystery vein, I decided to try out Lisa Scottoline, a well known mystery author I’ve been anxious to read before.

I thought Final Appeal would be a little more of a courtroom drama mystery. When Grace Rossi takes a part-time job with a federal appeals court. But she finds herself in the middle of a death penalty appeal, an affair with her boss, and unexpectedly in the middle of a murder investigation, one she’s heading up herself.

When Grace starts digging and uncovers some suspicious evidence, she starts sketching a picture in her mind, and it’s not pretty. But the hard evidence is hard to come by, and time seems to be running out and things are getting dangerous for Grace.

I almost didn’t keep reading this book, as within the first two chapters it seemed the whole book was going to be focused on the romance. I was pleased that that was a short lived focus. However, it wasn’t quite the rapid-fire courtroom drama I was expecting. Instead, Grace investigated on her own, sneaking into offices and apartments to look for anything that might give answers. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

All that to say, I did enjoy Final Appeal. It was an interesting read with some unexpected twists and turns. I’ll admit, I didn’t actually expect the end result, and it was actually a little more realistic, focusing on human ambition instead of something elaborate.

I’m definitely interested in reading more of Lisa Scottoline. Along with about a zillion other authors and books.

Keeping the momentum going

November this year feels like it falls weird, in terms of weeks. I’m not even sure if I’m in the third week of writing, or where I am. It’s throwing me off, mostly just for knowing what week to reference in these blogs.

Whatever week I’m wrapping up and starting, I’m still, surprisingly, on track. Last week was challenging, my schedule changed a little and I got really behind. I managed to still write each day, which is more than I’ve managed in years past. And over the weekend, I managed to write about 10,000 words, so, that bolstered my confidence.

I got some additional planning done too, mapped out a few extra chapters, though the end is still ambiguous.

This week will be possibly the hardest to keep on track. With Thanksgiving, and the kick off of the busy season at work, I know I’ll be tired and busy with family. But, if I use the time I have and I’m intentional about it, I know I can stay on track.

And at some point, I’ll have to cast my mind out and decide on the ending.

This story has already changed so much from what I first expected it would be, I’m excited to see where it ends. And then January will be time for editing and revising. But, we’re not there yet. It’s still November, and still time to write with abandon.

And the good thing about Thanksgiving being early this year is that, after the weekend, I’ve still got several days left for binge writing. I’m confident that not only will I hit the goal of 50,000, but I’ll be able to write the ending too.

So, here’s to soldiering on, even through food comas and all the rest.

Fragments of the Lost

I’ve been meaning to read a Megan Miranda book for a while, as I’ve heard she’s a good thriller writer, so, naturally, an advanced copy of her newest book became available, I snatched it up right away.

Fragments of the Lost is geared toward young adults, and is the story of Jessa Whitworth and her ex-boyfriend Caleb. After they broke up, Caleb’s car washed off the side of the bridge in a flash flood. Everyone’s decided Jessa’s to blame, since it was her track meet he had left on the night of his accident. Caleb’s mother demands Jessa pack up Caleb’s room, and as she boxes everything up, Jessa struggles with her guilt and with the growing realization that their relationship seemed to be built on a foundation of lies. Jessa dives into her own investigation, trying to find out why Caleb was on the road, where he was going, and what she truly knew about Caleb. But she’s quickly finding out that she may not like the answers she uncovers.

Within the first few sentences of this book, I was hooked. It’s chock full of drama and mystery and flows at a fast pace. The story is told in first person, a mixture of present moment and flash backs from when Jessa and Caleb were still together. This makes it easy to get into Jessa’s head and see everything from her perspective, follow her thoughts to the same conclusions she reaches. But the book has several twists and turns to keep readers on edge, and the short chapters make it really easy to promise yourself “just one more.”

Being geared toward young adults, of course there is romance throughout the whole book (not the least of which is obviously the flashbacks from Jessa and Caleb’s relationship). But I was glad to see there was much more to the story than that. If the rest of her books are anywhere near as good as Fragments of the Lost, I’m really going to enjoy catching up on Megan Miranda’s books.

Nano Week Two

As week two is wrapping up of this magical writing adventure, things are going well for me.

I’ve been writing every day, which is a big success for me. And I’m on track to finish on time, so even though I haven’t been getting ahead like I’ve wanted to, I’m still where I need to be.

I’m thinking this week I’ll have to focus a little bit more on planning, as I’m quickly coming up on the end of everything I’ve planned out thus far. But, the good news is that in the last couple days, as I’ve been writing and thinking about where this all may lead, I’ve got some ideas, and some that I think will be surprising to anyone who reads my book at some distant point in the future.

For me, this is the exciting part about writing and always has been, that moment when the story starts to tell itself as you go along, and you start to uncover layers and twists that you’d never even dreamed of when you started. It’s when the hazy ending you thought you were headed for starts to clear up, and you see you were totally wrong. Some people might find that maddening, but for me, it’s exciting.

In just a couple days, I’ll reach that halfway point in the month, and in my writing (for the basic goal of 50,000 words, my goal in the last few years has been to finish my project, which is usually a little bit more than 50,000). As always, I’m hoping to store up a little cushion in the week to come so that I don’t have to worry if I don’t get so much written during Thanksgiving weekend (I’m having a hard time believing that’s already next week!).

All in all, the month is progressing well, and I’m struck once again at how much smoother things seem to flow when I’ve done even a rough outline of planning. I still get stuck at certain points, trying to figure out what else to add to a chapter to make it more than a page long, but I don’t find myself getting so far behind because I’m stuck and don’t know how to move forward. If I don’t know where to go, I move on to the next chapter. There’s the rest of forever for editing and revising, and now I know that’s something I’m capable of doing as well. It’s easier this year for me to tell that little voice inside my head to shut up and let me write. We’ll deal with the mess later. For now, there’s a story bursting to be told, if even just to myself.