Tag Archives: Books

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.

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To keep on keeping on

I’m more than halfway through the month, and my resolve to write every day is being sorely tested. There have been days that I’m tired and don’t want to do even the littlest bit more work. There have been days that feel like cop outs, where I’ve done the tiniest bit I can. But I’ve stuck with it so far. And I can see where my project is going.

After realizing last week how much additional stuff I could work in, and after writing a couple scenes, I realized the whole second half of my book was going to need some rearranging. So, I took one day (ok, I took a 15-minute break at work) and I plotted out barebones how the second half of the story needs to look. And in so doing, learned some new details about a problem character (turns out he’s a lawyer. It’s good, I didn’t really know what he was before, but it makes sense now). And learning these details allowed me to, perhaps, finally solve the most problematic thread in my story, while at the same time possibly rendering that it completely moot anyway.

I’m not working on this project every day. And sometimes it feels like I’ve barely made progress, despite the brainstorming. But I’m letting the details mingle in my mind, getting a feel for this new timeline. And in my time off next week, I’m really going to sit down and make some solid progress, instead of keeping my nose stuck in a book (I’ve got book reviews written through the month of October, I think I can take a couple days off…)

In the mean time, I’ll count any step forward as a victory.

Seeking: Critics who won’t be too mean or too nice

It’s exciting to see all the pieces fall into place when you’re working on a project.

At long last, this week I finished another read through of my story. I know, I know, I’m really bad at this consistency thing. But I’ve done it now, and I can see how much better is is now, and how many problematic pieces have been fixed by discovering new ideas hidden within what I already had.

So now it’s time, truly time, to step into the next phase of editing, where I pass it on to someone for critique. I know it’s time because I read through it and didn’t find any new things to highlight with a note that says, “this is awful.” When you stop finding things to correct in your work, it’s time to get another set of eyes on it.

It’s both exciting and a little scary to be at this phase. The hardest part for me has always been letting other people read my work. I’m afraid they’ll fall into one of two camps–either starry eyed fans like my dear husband, who thinks it’s all golden (I like to believe he’s seeing the potential within the trash), of they’ll read it and give me a list of things to change not because they are wrong or bad, but because that person would have written it a different way.

Having spent a reasonable amount of time editing people’s work myself, the one rule I always kept for myself was not to change something in order to change the author’s voice or style. If I thought there was a better way to phrase something, I might tell them, but leave the choice up to them. The fact that I would say “comprises” instead of “is made up of” is not a valid editorial decision, unless we’re trimming words.

All that to say, it’s scary to trust your writing to someone else, because it’s a part of you. You’ve put your heart and soul into it. And it doesn’t take a lot of work for someone to crush that creative spirit. Sure, most of us will probably rebound, but it’s hard to drag yourself up and dust yourself off and try again, same as with anything. But when it’s something you’ve created, sometimes it feels a little different. And it takes a special kind of brave to keep doing it, in the face of discouragement.

So, here’s to a special kind of bravery, and hoping I’ve got enough of it when someone tells me my story is trash.

High Infatuation

Since our trip to Bishop in February/March, my friend Jen has been encouraging me to read some of Steph Davis’ books on climbing and mountaineering. So when an unexpected Amazon package showed up around my birthday and Steph Davis’ book High Infatuation was inside, I knew exactly who it was from.

High Infatuation is a different kind of book. In some ways, it feels almost like a collection of poems, except it’s not really poetry. It’s a collection of her thoughts on life, mixed in with some detailed accounts of defining trips and ascents in her career as a climber, a mixture of basic biography and personal diary. But it makes for great reading.

Davis is a professional climber who got a late start at it, never having climbed before her freshman year in college. But once she tried it, she was hooked. Davis has largely taken a fearless approach to climbing. If she has a knowledgeable partner she trusts, she’ll try just about anything, learning as she goes along.

Her snapshot glimpses into the adventurous dirtbag life certainly ignite if not wanderlust, an intense desire to get out and climb. Davis talks about working part-time jobs to afford to keep climbing, and to take trips to places including Patagonia, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Baffin Island, although after a few cursory mentions of waitressing to earn money for her bills, she doesn’t really mention it again, which makes me wonder how she could afford to climb year-round later on. I guess maybe sponsorship money, although she doesn’t talk about sponsors at all.

High Infatuation feels like a very personal read. As I went through it, several times I got the feeling that, as Davis was writing, she must have also been using it as a way to make sense of things and reflect on herself and her life, where she is and where she’s come from. Getting to read that makes her story very real, even if the book does leave you needing to do a little more research on her professional career (assuming you haven’t already followed it).

I love reading these kinds of books, but every time I do, it makes me want to push my computer away (and push the book away too) and get out there and live it for myself. Instead of reading or writing about other people’s adventures, I want to be out there myself. And with Yosemite not that far away from me… maybe I need to develop some new friendships…

The Return

When I saw that Buzz Aldrin had written (or co-written, at least John Barnes authored the book also) a sci-fi book, I couldn’t pass it up.

The Return was written and set in the 2000s. It follows the lives of four people who are inextricably linked. Kids together, Scott, Nick, Thalia and Eddie called themselves the Mars Four and dreamed of going there after growing up in the ’60s. In their adult lives, each one has been individually working toward commercial space travel.

When a routine mission goes fatally wrong, it’s just the beginning of a chain of events that make it seem like someone wants to keep the everyday folks out of space. A bomb set off in the upper atmosphere, putting the crew of the International Space Station in deadly danger, and now only the Mars Four and their individual expertise can save the crew.

The Return is all adventure and action, with a dash of nostalgia. And as it’s written by someone who’s been there, it actually does not read like sci-fi, but more like a fiction book. This isn’t Star Trek or Star Wars, this book reads like something that could happen today, with no magic high-tech gadgets required.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and not just because I love just about anything associated with space. It was fun, the characters felt real and relatable. It had action and intrigue. It was about everything you’d want in a book. Plus, when they did talk about science, it was explained clearly, no fancy jargon and complicated terms, just plain English.

The Return is, however, one of those books that just might turn you into a believer again. Surely the technology is out there, both for commercial space travel and, eventually, for Mars. Some people already firmly believe in that future and are working toward it. After reading this book, you might find a bit of that passion has rubbed off on you too. And even if you’re not signing up for a Mars mission, you might find that you hope we have enough people around who will.

The Lake House

After finally reading The Girl on the Train and enjoying it’s narrative twists and unreliable narrative, as one reviewer called it, I decided I’d keep with the thriller theme and read Kate Morton’s The Lake House.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know a lot about the book going in, my mother-in-law had given me her copy after she read it, and while I’m familiar with Kate Morton, I wasn’t really familiar with her work going in (I work at a bookstore, I’m familiar with a /lot/ of authors without knowing anything about them or their books).

It was everything I could have possibly dreamed of, having read the synopsis. Detective Constable Sadie Sparrow is on a leave of absence from her job after getting too emotionally involved in a case of a mother abandoning her child. She takes her “holiday” in Cornwall, visiting the grandfather who raised her. While there, Sadie stumbles onto an old, abandoned house and quickly gets knee deep in the mystery surrounding it.

In 1933 the Edevane family was hosting their annual midsummer party when their young son goes missing, without a trace. Police search the area, but find nothing, and no note is ever discovered. Both surviving sisters carry the wright of guilt, convinced they are the reason their brother was taken. And while they both have moved on and accepted that there are no answers to be had, when Sadie comes along, Alice Edevane, a famous mystery writer, doesn’t take much convincing to unofficially reopen the investigation, and the trail leads them toward conclusions no one expected.

A theme in both The Girl on the Train and in The Lake House is how easily conclusions can be drawn based on partial information, and how easy they are to believe. This technique, the unreliable narrative, is really effective in keeping readers guessing, because as you see things from the view of different characters, you realize each theory makes some sense, and you forget to compare them and look for holes. After all, you’re just reading to enjoy it (although, I like trying to figure out the ending before it’s made completely obvious). In this story, I didn’t guess the ending. I allowed myself to just ride along with the how, though I did notice some inconsistencies in character’s ideas that made me certain their theories were wrong. I’ll proudly admit though, I did guess the ultimate who, so the ending wasn’t completely surprising to me.

Morton also uses various characters to give the background of the story, and to show the events. Sometimes, in stories like these, using various viewpoints can be confusing and, frankly, boring. But Morton doesn’t give the same scene multiple times, instead using different characters to show different moments relevant to them.

Overall, it was a well written book with several storylines woven together to make a complete picture and giving characters depth. It was a fun, fast read, and one I’d recommend to fans of thrillers. While it’s a little more upbeat than is usually my cup of tea, it’s a nice change from everyone dying in the end, or morally ambiguous endings.

Kate Morton is definitely going on the list of authors I’d like to read more of.

Planning to edit versus editing proper

I lost some steam the last week or two, and I didn’t even touch my computer for editing. But this week (OK, so like three days), I’ve pushed myself to get back to it. This story isn’t going to edit itself.

My story, when I left it, was filled with notes on what to do in certain spots and things to fix, and how to fix them, and just all sorts of would-be scribbles, if I were doing this by hand on paper. What I’ve noticed as I’ve started reading through the story yet again, is how many of those notes took as much effort to write as it would have required to just make the change and move on. I have to confess, I’ve allowed myself to get caught up in planning the edits and, consequently, allowed myself to neglect the actual editing process.

But the actual process can be hard. When you write something, or at least when I do, I get attached to it. And when it’s something that I’m revising, or an idea I’m moving somewhere else, I’m not convinced I won’t need that first attempt anymore. It’s hard to erase, to delete words that you spent time on. There’s the sneaking suspicion that once you delete them, you’re suddenly going to need them again, but you won’t be able to remember them. So then the challenge becomes allowing myself the freedom to recreate things. If I erase something that is bad, then can’t remember the idea I was going to use, did the idea belong there in the first place?

This whole process right now is for me to learn how to edit my own work. I have no deadlines, no demands for when it needs to be done. I have the luxury of taking all the time in the world to work my way through. And if I have to stop a time or two to think hard about where my story should go, that’s OK. Better now than when I’ve published or self-published it and there’s no going back, right?

So I’ve got some big pieces to edit, the ones I mentioned in my last post, the new plot ideas to weave in. The goal I’m setting for myself is to hurry up and wrap up the little things, and choose one big piece to work on. Because then I’ll have something good to write about next week, instead of something boring like how I changed a passive sentence into an active one. It’s important, but most of you don’t really care.

So as I’m wrapping up this week, I’m prepping my editing for next week. As I go through, I’m making notes of places where I need to work in something about the student’s civil disobediences, or key places to start implanting the people who claim to be his family, and the questions surrounding his mental health. That way, when I get to strapping in for the big editing, I’ve made it a little easier for myself. Maybe then I’ll make a dent in the proper editing.