Tag Archives: Books

Tempests and Slaughter

When I was a teen, Tamora Pierce was my favorite. I remember reading everything she had, waiting anxiously for the library to have what I get wanted next. So when she finally decided to write the back story of Numair, a well-known figure in the Tortall realm, I was excited. And when we got the advanced reader in at work, I and as even more so.

Tempests and Slaughter starts when Numair is a child, still going by his given name, Arram Draper, only 11 years old, and follows four years of his schooling with his best friends, a smart girl called Varice, and one of the royal heirs, Ozorne.

Arram faces trials and finds that mages sometimes must do things they don’t want to do for the sake of learning, and for helping others. Arram realizes that the future he’s planned with his friends may not be possible, if he can’t reconcile himself to certain social injustices the Carthak society praises.

This book is very much a character building platform. It’s all about setting up the character, identifying certain character traits, and preparing for more action to come in following books. That said, I honestly felt that it lacked drive. The story meandered on, and I think it would have benefitted from being shortened. Even the moments of tension just fizzled out without anything really coming from it.

Additionally, at least in the very beginning, the writing style felt very childish, and that made it difficult to press on.

While I’m not writing off the series just yet, this first book was a little disappointing to me. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve grown out of Tortall, or if it truly isn’t quite the same as before. But, I’m hopeful that the next book in the series will take off and reestablish Pierce as one of my childhood favorites.

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A fresh beginning

So, obviously December didn’t really go as planned, as far as writing was concerned.

Work got in the way, and I was tired and desperate to watch as many Christmas movies as I could. January has been off to a slow start too. I hardly feel like I know what I’ve done with the last week, and get it’s gone, just the same.

But a slow start is better than nothing, and I will be intentional about returning to my editing, wrapping up the project I’ve been working on most of 2017 and choosing one of my other projects to return to.

While I’ve enjoyed a break to carelessly watch tv and soak in reading, I’m excited, too, to return to the creative process.

In the book review department, I’m hoping to meet at least the goal I met in 2017. My goal was to read 52 book, one per week. I think I had review blogs posted every week, but after counting, I know I read at least 55 books, because that’s how many I reviewed. Not bad, I’d say. (Some of the reviews won’t be posted on my blog until later in January, though.)

So, here’s to a new year full of creative opportunities. Join me in creating this year, and tell me what your project is going to be.

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.

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.

Into the Wild

If you’ve ever done NaNo before, you know it’s wild. If you haven’t, I’m sorry.

We’re getting close to a week in to NaNo, and so far I’m caught up. I got off to a slow start with some long days that didn’t leave much time for writing. I steal as many moments as I can, but I really am most successful when I can sit down for an hour alone and just write.

But my story is progressing smoothly. I plucked names out of thin air, so I haven’t had to use fillers yet, which is pretty great. And even in these early stages, some of the upcoming unknowns are starting to hint at resolution.

I have not done any additional planning for the later portions of my story, which I’ll need to start doing fairly soon. Because although I’ve got something like 13 chapters plotted, those chapters will go by very fast. I never seem to be able to milk them for as many words as I want to. Oh well.

So to anyone else writing, we can do this. And to those supporting us, thank you. And the rest of the world, we’ll see you in December.

Endurance

Seriously, sometimes I think I majored in the wrong thing. From a young age, I remember always thinking it would be cool to be an astronaut. For now, though, I’ll just live vicariously through their biographies.

I was excited to see an advanced copy of Scott Kelly’s biography, Endurance A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery. It took me only a couple days to read through it.

Like many astronauts, Kelly got his start as a military test pilot, though the road to test pilot was anything but easy. Kelly had a rough time focusing in school, which meant his grades were anything but stellar. Kelly reflects on how Tom Wolfe’s book, The Right Stuff, was crucial in inspiring him to put his mind to the task of doing well in school so he could reach his ultimate goal of becoming an astronaut.

Once part of NASA, Kelly’s main desire was to fly shuttle missions as the pilot or the commander. Once he’d had a taste of long duration space missions, however, he realized they weren’t so bad either. Kelly’s career culmination was a year-long mission on the International Space Station during 2015-2016. The mission’s main objective was to see how the human body reacts to such a long time in space. Kelly was also able to contribute uniquely to the study because his identical twin brother, also an astronaut, stayed behind on Earth, which meant NASA could compare and contrast data.

The story is told alternately between chapters talking about Kelly’s past–everything from childhood to college to early days at NASA–and chapters talking about Kelly’s year-long mission on the ISS. While it’s a little different technique, instead of starting at the beginning and working to the end, I think it works in Kelly’s case because many people reading his biography will remember the mission, and be anxious to get those behind the scenes glimpses. I think the mixture will inspire people who might otherwise skip to the end to read the whole book.

Kelly is able to write about real danger and emergencies, and write about real tragedies, in a way that captures, I think, the attitude behind so many astronauts, that despite the dangers, the payoff is worth it.

All in all, it was an excellent read. Not too technical and not over-dramatized, Endurance reads like a sit down chat where Kelly tells you his life story, and you’re anxious to catch every word. When this book hits stores in mid-October, whether you love biographies, science, space, or just real-life adventure, this is one book you should make sure not to miss.

A Conjuring of Light

The final piece of V.E. Schwab’s series, A Conjuring of Light was almost everything I wanted it to be.

In this final book, White London is awakening, but not as innocently as it seems. Kell, taken captive in the end of the second book, is quickly rescued by Lila, but they are catapulted into chaos as Osaron, the sentient, rogue magic from Black London, attempts to take over Red London.

Kell and Lila find themselves paired with unlikely allies as they set off to find the once thing that they hope can contain Osaron and save all the Londons.

This book has a lot more deaths, and meaningful, painful ones at that. But, it also has the long-awaited romance too. I’m not sure if I love or hate books and authors who leave two characters locked in romantic tension until the end. I think it must be both, because there’s something fun about crying in exasperation, “just kiss already!”

This action-packed finale wrapped up all the loose ends, except one. Kell decides he doesn’t want to know his past, even though he has a spell to find out– and is told that the memory-repressing mark on his arm is held in place largely by his unconscious desire not to know. It’s great and all, but some of us are curious and want to know, even if he doesn’t.

The series, as a whole, was excellent. The characters had depth and grew throughout the story. They felt like real people, and wrestled with real emotions, even in the midst of everything else. The writing moved the story along, and I didn’t feel like it got bogged down by fluff or filler. Even when Schwab was using the second book to develop characters and set the stage for the finale, it moved at a good pace and the development was interesting to see.

It’s a fantasy series readers will want to return to again and again. I know I will.