Book List of 2014

This is a list of books I read during 2014, I’ve been making an effort to finish more books. I’m getting to that place in my life where I have trouble finding time to read, I remember when I was younger wondering how that was even possible, but I’m starting to understand. A lot of times it isn’t even that I don’t have enough time, it’s simply that I don’t have enough energy or focus. After a long day it’s so much easier to veg out in front of the Tv, instead of reading. The problem is I’m a reader, I love to read, and when I don’t read I feel like I’m failing myself in someway. So I’m working on regaining an attention span that’s been stolen by hours of tv and the internet. At the end of 2015 I hope to post a longer list.

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Supervillian Hunters: International

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Dreams and Shadows

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Supervillains of London

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Regan O’Reilly: Private Investigator

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Writing your Novel from the Middle

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Fortunately the Milk

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Steelheart

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Chasing the Star Garden

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Emperor’s Soul

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S.H.R.A.I.D: Shadow Play

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The Alchemist

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Superhero of the Day

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Shadow and Bone

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Lady of Devices

download (6)The Girl and the Clockwork Cat

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The Night Circus

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The Book of Kindly Deaths

download (9)Ocean at the End of the Lane (reread)

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In Silence Waiting

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Alice and Wonderland

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Coraline

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Slow Regard of Silent Things

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Dragons of Dorcastle

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Stormdancer

Stormdancer

pressStormdancerUSI recently read a book called Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff. It caught my attention because it’s Japanese steampunk and what could be more glorious than Japanese steampunk?—I mean seriously!

After reading it I have to give it 3 out of 5 stars. I liked it a lot, but there were elements that stopped me from liking it as much as I hoped.

Setting: The setting was fantastic! There’s rich, colorful world building, it’s something you can really sink your teeth into. The story is set in the Shima Isles, which would likely translate to Feudal Japan in the real world. But Shima has airships, Iron Samurai, and chainsaw katana. All of which is fueled by lotus flower, a plant which poisons the land and has turned the skies red. It’s a fascinating setting and one which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Story: The main character is 16 year old Yukiko. Her father is Masaru, the Black Fox, the Shogun’s Master Hunter. They are sent on a mission to capture a Griffin—a creature of legend, a Thunder Tiger, that is said to be extinct—for the Shogun. Failure means death.

     To everyone’s surprise they find a griffin in the heart of a storm and manage to capture it. Masaru clips its wings to control the beast, but soon after the airship is torn apart by the storm. The crew abandons ship, but Yukiko can’t allow the Thunder Tiger to die like this. They end up stranded in the wilderness. Yukiko has an ability called the Kenning, which allows her to touch the mind’s of animals. She discovers that the Thunder Tiger has a very unique mind. Yukiko and the Thunder Tiger are forced to form an unlikely alliance in order to survive.

This is only the tip of the iceberg in a story full of corruption and intrigue.

Characters: I liked the characters. Yukiko’s character is forced to be the responsible one in her family, her father is a lotus fiend and makes a habit of smoking and drinking himself into stupor. Her relationship with her father is complex and interesting. She’s relatable and has strong potential. Yet I wasn’t entirely satisfied with her character arc. I didn’t feel like she did enough on her own, it seemed like she was always getting help from someone else and I wanted to see her stand on her own more.

There’s a cast of fascinating characters, many I became quite fond of, sadly most of them didn’t get as much page time as I would have liked.

Style: The author likes to paint a picture for the reader, sometimes this is a far more vivid picture than is necessary. The descriptions are often weighed down by elaborate metaphors and similes. While many of these helped add to the atmosphere of the setting, it bogged down the writing in places. The author also did a fair amount of character hopping. This doesn’t bother me as long as the changes are clearly marked, but there were times when I wasn’t sure who’s mind I was reading from. My final peeve with the writing was that during intense action sequences the author switched from third person past tense, to present tense, which was obviously an attempt to make the action more immediate, but I found it jarring and annoying.

Conclusion: I loved the setting and enjoyed the book, but not as much as I hoped. I have started reading the sequel and so far I’m enjoying it more than the first and I’m hopeful that it will rectify some of my complaints. Because I truly love the idea of the books and there’s so much potential there. So despite it’s imperfections I still encourage anyone who likes dark fantasy, steampunk, or Japanese culture, to give these books a shot.

We’re All Mad Here

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I have completed a 2nd draft of my novel, ‘Train to Everywhere,’ that I am relatively happy with and very nearly lost what little sanity I had left in the process. In the last week or two I’ve gone from 3 to 4 hour writing sessions to 5-6 hour sessions, I’ve been writing/editing on all my days off and much of my free time. I’ve never become so engrosses in a writing project, at the end I would say I was probably obsessed. Not that this is the end, it is merely the 2nd draft, but I intend on taking a little break and try not to panic while my beta readers go over my story. I really do need a break too. Over the last few days I’ve been talking to myself far more than usual, to the point of having argument with myself. I’ve been drinking too much coffee and I’m pretty sure my language has been going down hill, something that only happens when I’m really really worked up. The other day I had so much energy and so many voices running through my head I had to sprint up and down the hall and stairs to get myself under control. Despite the intensity of the last few days, I’ve never been so excited or terrified of a project I’m working on, all of which I take as good signs. This is the first 2nd draft of a novel I’ve produced and the first time I’ve really gotten into editing. I now realize that the first draft is only a warm up, I truly got into my story and my characters when I went back and revisited them, questioned them, asked them about their motivation, rethought my settings and added more detail. I think my reservations about editing are falling away, it’s a rather wondrous process.

I must say I’m scared stiff to let others read this story and once again I take this as a good sign, I usually don’t worry about things being perfect, I’m normally quite happy to let others read my stories even in their raw forms. But this story has been different, I’ve been more secretive about it and didn’t let anyone read draft one. I believe this means that I delved deeper into this story, taken a few more risks and put more heart and soul into it.

This has been a very eye opening experience. I now intend to rest, visit a few friends I’ve been neglecting and catch up on my reading. Because once the feedback is in it will be time for round 3!

~~Lady of the Pen~~

Editing

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I use a purple pen.

Editing has never been my strong suit. I used to just celebrate if I managed to finish something and basically felt that I was done and eagerly moved on to the next project. As I’ve gotten older, more experienced as a writer, and more serious about getting published the realization that I actually have to edit what I write has weighed heavily on me.

I hated the idea of editing. “I should be done.” “I don’t want to change things,” “I barely want to proofread,” “I just wanted to work on my next great idea.”

The problem is I was constantly chasing after my newest greatest idea and leaving a trail of decrepit stories in my wake that could be made whole with a lot of love and attention.

Over time I’ve slowly learned me lesson. I managed to get to a point where I didn’t hate editing, then almost enjoying it. This year I’ve made it my focus to edit my novel from last November instead of moving on to something else and I’m actually starting to enjoy editing. It seems so overwhelming when I first start and I can’t imagine how I’ll do it. But then I start reading and I start making little notes, which turn into longer notes and suddenly I’m cutting out scenes and putting in new ones and I’m getting excited. Excited that I’m making the story better, that I’m learning to understand my characters and their motivation and what the stories really about.

So I seem to finally be getting the editing thing, which is good, considering I’m hoping to publish this story.

I hope you guys have had a less rocky path to understanding the importance of editing. What are techniques and strategies you use in your editing? (I hope that didn’t sound too much like the teacher at the end of a children’s Bible story.)

~~Lady of the Pen~~