I’ve been pretty busy lately. I’m working on my current work in progress, which is a departure from ‘The Mage Sister’, just for a little while, so I can come back to the sequel with a fresh head. I’ve been immersed in Kynllaria for so long, I just need a breather. I also beta’d (is that a word?) a book for a writer friend – great book, really excited about the final – which is fun but pretty intensive. You have to read carefully and make lots of notes.
I had a few false starts on my reading list this month – don’t you hate that? I see a book, it’s a great premise and looks like a fun read, but then it appears that they stopped editing after the first two chapters, or worse, didn’t edit at all. What can I say, I’m a picky reader - a VERY picky reader - and I did promise that I wouldn't misbehave and would only discuss books that I like.
I did, however, find a delightful book that I really enjoyed – Soulless, by Gail Carriger. This is not a new book – in fact, I believe the ‘Parasol Protectorate’ series has been wrapped up with five books in all – but then we’ve already established that I’m not exactly cutting edge with my reading list. I like that, though. Instead of reading what everyone else is reading because everyone else is reading it, I get to take my time and I don't tend to get super-saturated with certain subjects like vampires, or zombies, or what have you. It helps to evaluate a book based on the merits of the writing, not on how it fits into the trend of the day.
Soulless, by Gail Carriger - Overview
Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.
Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire -- and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.
With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?
Published in 2009, this is the first time I’ve run across this book, and I really enjoyed it. Since I often have to multi-task, I listened to it, rather than read it (thank you Kindle Fire for offering AWESOME Audible deals), but I will probably actually read the rest of the series. Described as a cross between, fantasy, romance and steam punk, I really enjoyed the alternate world that Ms. Carriger built within the structure of Victorian England, and how these two structures not only existed side by side, but often overlapped.
It was funny and original and I thoroughly enjoyed it, actually laughing out loud in places. I like books that force a laugh out of me. I’m generally a smiler – it’s funny, I smile, maybe chuckle quietly. But when something makes me actually laugh, we’re automatically best friends.
The only thing I didn’t like about Soulless was the sex. I’m sure in comparison to some popular books (50 Shades of Yikes, perhaps?) it’s pretty tame but, nevertheless, I thought it was unnecessary and distracting. There were precisely three intimate scenes (well, three and a half if you count the first kiss), and the book could have been just fine with only the first two and a half. The carriage scene in the epilogue was too much, unnecessary and weird placement. In the epilogue? That’s for wrap-up, not for sex.
Well, this is my opinion, and you don’t have to agree. Romance is not my favorite material – for reading or writing, even though there is an element of romance in most stories, and I do understand that quite a lot of people like it… A LOT. There is an element of romance in 'The Mage Sister', in fact, but folks in Kynllaria do not openly discuss their intimate conquests and would not appreciate it if I discussed it for them. I just don’t enjoy it as a main theme and bearing witness to someone else’s intimacy is, well, icky. I know, how extremely, boringly straight-laced of me, but there it is. I’m simply wired that way. And I firmly believe that it’s more fun to be a little naughty and let your imagination take it away from there.
Even so, there was a lot to enjoy about the book. I absolutely loved Lord Akeldama (He was simply too divine, my darling petunia petal!). And I do plan to read the next books, and possibly even check out her 'Finishing School' series – I’ll just skip over the icky bits.
It took me some time to get around to reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, the first installment in Ransom Riggs' series about a whole world of people with peculiar abilities. However, I liked it so much that when second book in the series, Hollow City, was released, I was so excited I snapped up a copy the very same day.
Hollow City begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and friends set out for London in a desperate attempt to save Miss Peregrine, who has been trapped in her bird form. They are pursued all the way to London with ever increasing aggression by wights and hollows, and Jacob begins to gain an understanding of his peculiarity and what it does. They also meet many new peculiars, including a peculiar menagerie, and begin to discover the truth about the wights’ diabolical plans for ‘peculiardom’.
Once again, Ransom Riggs delivers a well told, action packed adventure illustrated with new and even creepier vintage photographs. It kept me turning pages WAY past my bedtime every night until I finished the book. As I mentioned in my review of ‘Miss Peregrine’s…’ first-person, teenage boy is not my favorite perspective unless it’s exceptionally well done. This is one of those stories.
At the beginning of the first book, Jacob is an angry, unhappy teenager who doesn't fit in and has difficulty getting along with parents who, frankly, don’t seem too interested in trying to see things from their son’s perspective. The only person in his world that he is able to relate to at all is his grandfather, and he’s considered to be senile. When his grandfather is killed by a hollow, Jacob’s world becomes even more confusing and troubled and he sets out to unravel a cryptic note, his grandfather’s final message. In so doing, he travels to Wales and discovers the world of the peculiars.
At the beginning of Hollow City, it is clear that Jacob has grown as a person. The angry tone of a sullen teenager is gone, and Jacob’s focus is now on keeping his friends safe, accomplishing what they set out to do, and a blossoming romance with Emma, the girl who creates fire in her hands. Throughout their journey, Jacob continues to discover more about his gift and how to use it, and begins to worry about how his parents are dealing with his disappearance. He is torn between staying with his peculiar friends who need and understand him, and going back to his own world where his parents want him, but don’t understand him. Then, too, there is Emma, who Jacob is falling hard for, but they both know the only way they can be together requires that Jacob give up his world and Emma is reluctant to let him.
Near the end, Jacob has decided to return home, however a cruel twist (which I’m not going to tell you because it will spoil the book, you’ll just have to read it for yourself) decides the matter.
Hollow City is as full of twists and turns as ‘Miss Peregrine’s’ was, and the ending left me cussing. Well, I was tired, having been up past my bedtime for a week, reading as much as I could get in before ‘I really do have to turn the light out now or I’ll be drooling on my desk tomorrow’.
I mean it in a good way, though. The ending is most certainly a cliffhanger, but really, he does address the main element of the story, while leaving at a place where there is clearly more to come. And that’s all I can say about it without divulging spoilers.
Except that you better be writing the next one right now, bub! Don’t even sleep – just write!
At this point, I firmly believe that Ransom Riggs is a diabolical mega-villain! He is entrancing the world with his stories, fed to us a tasty crumble at a time, leading us to certain doom, but WE MUST GO THERE. And now, I have to wait. Again. Not only that, his suggestion in the 'About the Author' section that he may or may not be hiding under my bed gave me nightmares. I didn’t look, as suggested. He’s probably sitting at his desk right now, shouting ‘Made you look!” at everyone who did and giggling like the mad man he so clearly is.
Well played, sir. Well played. I salute you.
A Happy Saturday afternoon to all of you! Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday time and are looking forward to a great New Year. I certainly am.
I will own up that last year was not my friend. Packed with drama and train wrecks, including a busted furnace, fried out oven, broken down washing machine, and my first ever major surgery among other 'delightful' experiences, 2013 just left me feeling considerably discouraged.
Of course, there were a few nice things that happened, too, including a full request of 'The Mage Sister' from one of the agents I queried in August, and feeling considerably better after that first ever surgery. And now we have before us a brand new year, and anything can happen. Let's hope it's a great one.
So... where are we now:
- The manuscript, ever on its journey in searching for a home, is sitting in slush piles on both an agent's and a publisher's desk. The agent was a nice surprise, I have to say, and I was extremely pleased to get that full request from her. We'll just have to see if either of them wants to bite.
- I'm working on a new book in a new series for now. Mage Sister II is not yet done, but sometimes it's good to work on something new and get a fresh perspective on things.
This whole project has been such an education for me. Publishing is NOT easy. Even if you decide to self-publish, it's a very big task to take on. Blogging is NOT easy, especially if you decide to do it every day. Unless you are blogging about something that is constantly giving you new things to talk about, it's hard to come up with something interesting to say every day. I'll be honest, I can't do it. There's just not that much to say about publishing and writing, as I've said before.
Another thing I learned this year came unexpectedly from my Nook. My Nook was a Christmas present from the doctors with whom I work. I was new to ebooks and it didn't take long to discover that I like them a lot, especially their ready availability - a big plus since the closest bookstore to my home is a good 50 miles away. I also learned what a lot of books there are out there that really were not ready for market, but were readily available and cheap for the getting.
Now if I wanted to rant about bad books, I could easily do that every day, but that isn't what I want to do. First of all, ranting makes me grouchy, and nobody likes me when I'm grouchy. Also, Mom always said if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. Jonathan Maberry said the same thing during his presentation to the Nebraska Writer's Guild at the last Spring Conference. Trashing other writers just makes you look unprofessional.
More than that, nothing delights me more than finding a wonderful, fresh read, especially among the self-pubs and indies. I want to help build my fellow authors up, not tear them down. Thus, in addition to reporting any news on 'The Mage Sister', my focus this year will be talking about any wonderful new books I come across, be they traditionally, indie or self-pubbed. The goal is to do one a week, but sometimes reading time is a bit spare. I do try to get in as much as possible, because it is a strictly necessary tool in writing, but sometimes life has other ideas. And some weeks, I may do more than one, if I have another I'm excited about. Also, since I will only discuss books I loved, it will also depend on me finding such books.
Obviously, the merits of the books will be based strictly on my opinion, on which we may not agree. I am an exceptionally picky reader - a real grammar tyrant. I can overlook a few typos, maybe an odd grammatical oopsy - because, really, I am certainly not perfect and I'm a perfectly awful proofreader - but mistakes on every page, poor grammar and sentence structure, poor premise, poor plot, lack of development in the plot, environment and characters, and crass prose or narrative - I just can't get into it.
So enough jibber-jabber! To start off the New Year with something fun, I present to you 'Clean Sweep' by Ilona Andrews. I absolutely loved this book. 'Clean Sweep' is a 60,000 word novella, available in print and ebook, by writing team, Ilona and Gordon Andrews. According to their website, www.ilona-andrews.com, this began as a sort of serial on their blog. Never having run across these New York Times Best-sellers prior to reading this book, it came to my attention as a B&N recommendation based on my reading habits.
On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is...different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, "normal" is a bit of a stretch for Dina.
And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night....Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with the annoyingly attractive, ex-military, new neighbor, Sean Evans—an alpha-strain werewolf—and the equally arresting cosmic vampire soldier, Arland, while trying to keep her inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she’s facing is unlike anything she’s ever encountered before. It’s smart, vicious, and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything.
The book was well-written, well-plotted and kept me turning pages. More importantly, it was fun! I was hooked when the heroine, Dina, brings in morning tea for her only permanent guest, a previously genocidal, alien aristocrat, and announces "Your Funyuns and Mello Yello, Your Grace."
'Clean Sweep' is available at Amazon (Kindle and paperback) and Barnes & Noble (Nook), and you can read an excerpt on the author's website. According to the website, there will be a sequel in 2014, which I am really looking forward to and plan to plunk down my hard won dinero on sight - and that's saying a lot.
Check it out! I highly recommend it for a nice, entertaining time-out. Till next time, kids - and I promise, I won't always make you wade through a ton of jibber-jabber before I get to the good stuff.
Mostly loony, generally harmless. Writer & professional smarty pants. Owned by an exasperated spaniel.