reading list April 2016

This is about a week late, but I’m going to try to make this a monthly column, where I give a brief review of everything I’ve read that month – so here’s April!

Series Fiction

257762101There are only a handful of series that I’m really into.  The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs is one of them (her Alpha & Omega series is another!), and the 9th entry, Fire Touched, could not truly satiate my hunger, but it mostly filled me up… for now!    This is truly one of my very favorite werewolf series.  Mercy is a great character, and the other characters also quickly worm their way into my heart.

51-5ix9w9gl-_sx330_bo1204203200_I only just finished Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard in March, but I figured the 2-story prequel collection of Cruel Crown wouldn’t take too long to read.  I liked Red Queen more than I thought I would, but I was a bit divided on the stories here.  The first, Queen Song, I really loved.  It felt like a complete story to me, that was not dependent on information from Red Queen.  The second story, Steel Scars, actually skipped what I figured would be the climactic event because it occurred in Red Queen.  Still, now that I’m reading Glass Sword, I’m grateful for the extra background of both stories.  For those of you who haven’t read this series, it blends fantasy with a lot of the dystopian elements seen in YA literature over the past few years – the Red blood vs. Silver blood reminded me of Divergent, while the Queenstrial and the various fights to the death reminded me of Hunger Games – and also has a Cinderella-esque feel to it.

16000044Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes was a book I read for my teen book club over a year ago.  I had really enjoyed it, but waffled about getting the subsequent books, because series take time, and I have so many books to read!  I was stuck without an audiobook for my commute, so I went online and downloaded Rebel Spring (Falling Kingdoms #2) and I was surprised at just how easily I was transported back into this fantasy world and the cast of characters.  Normally I only listen to audiobooks in my car, because I have them on CD, but the downloadable audio gave me the opportunity to listen while I did household chores like cooking dinner or preparing my lunch for work, or folding laundry (although part of this was because the due date was rapidly approaching!).  As soon as I’m done Glass Sword I’ll be checking out Gathering Darkness!  I’ve been slogging through the 3rd book in A Song of Fire and Ice for about a year now, and I’ll just say that this has a lot of similarities to Game of Thrones but reads very quickly and easily.  The world-building isn’t overly complex or intimidating, and each character has such a strong agenda that I can’t help but root for each in turn, even the not-so-good ones (ahem, Magnus!).

Standalone Fiction

51v6koptydl-_sx331_bo1204203200_My enthusiasm for the standalone fiction I read this month pales a bit in comparison.  Two of these I finished reading while I was on a trip to Iceland.  Valhalla by Ari Bach was one I had downloaded and was super excited to read, based on some strong marketing.  I did not, however, enjoy it as much as I wanted to.  The main character, Violet, seems to have antisocial personality disorder of the serial killer type, which makes her difficult to relate to.  The world-building seemed to take up a lot of the story.  Considering that the characters undergo modifications that make them able to come back to life and not feel pain, I didn’t feel that there was much at stake throughout.  This is the first in a series, but I won’t be reading the rest, hence why it’s in my “standalone” section.

18166941Boy on the Edge by Fridrik Erlings was on my to-read list, possibly because it sounded like the story of a troubled, possibly suicidal boy stuck in a foster care system.  Then I quickly discovered that it was originally written in Icelandic and takes place in Iceland – what a coincidence!  While being in the country while the author is describing the lava fields and landscapes was pretty awesome, the story felt old-fashioned, probably because it was being told by an older man about his childhood.  The book was alright, but I doubt its appeal to modern teens.

The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood is a classic short story/novella that in my mind I associated with werewolves.  Intellectually I knew that the wendigo as it is known to Native Americans is not the same as what wendigo has come to mean to popular culture, but still, I was under the impression that this was going to be a horror story.  Basically, this is the story of a group of explorers and traders of different nationalities (British, American, French Canadian, and one lone Native America who is described in the racist fashion of the times) who encounter a wendigo.  One of them is spirited off, and returns much changed.  Or, not really changed at all, other than raving about his burning feet, because apparently wendigos are just really big creatures with burning hooves that run around and don’t eat humans. Not exactly what I was expecting – or hoping for.

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Nonfiction

Nonfiction is a category I don’t often read, and it’s hard to really decide if I’ve “enjoyed” it, so it’s more along whether or not I found it “interesting” or learned something from it.

41ouqvxzgfl-_sy344_bo1204203200_As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been writing some fanfiction.  Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World by Anne Jamison is one of the few books out there about the culture of fanfiction (although it didn’t really get as deep into the “why fanfiction is taking over the world” as I would have liked).  This compiled a bit of the history of fandoms and fanfiction as it evolved over the centuries, which sometimes got a bit boring when it delved into fandoms I’m not a part of nor interested in (such as Star Trek, or even Sherlock Holmes).  This focused a bit heavily on the Twilight fandom, as that fandom has produced a number of published authors in recent years and fueled the debate over what is transformative fiction and what is copyright infringement. There were a few philosophical essays and bits that were really tedious and boring, but there were a number of great essays as well.

life-changing-magic-not-giving-a-fuckNow, I haven’t read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but I still wanted to read The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight.  The subtitle, A Practical Parody, really sums up this book.  It’s funny, but you can also use the advice contained within.  I found it really amusing that so many reviewers on Goodreads marked this book down for containing too many instances of the f-bomb – I mean, it’s in the title, what did you expect?  I, however, really enjoyed it.

 

 

website fixed!

I’m going to chalk up my website issues to an outdated theme.  Previously I was using WordPress Twenty Ten, and switched to Colinear (mostly because it had a similar style – I’ll be working out some of the differences, but I didn’t have to change my header or my menus).  And voila, all my pages are back from wherever they had been lost to.  Yay!

page not found

Well, my website is broken and I have no idea how to fix it.  I’ve posted in the WordPress forums (twice) but no response.

The problem is that none of my static pages are working, other than my “About Me” page. Every other page gets a “Page not found” error.   I can edit the pages, but even when I click on “preview” I get the “Page not found” error.

This MAJORLY sucks.

If anyone who reads this blog has any clues as to how to fix it… please help???

update

It’s been a long time since my last post… Amazingly, I’ve been writing more than ever.  The caveat?  It’s been 98% fanfiction.  *sigh*

During Nanowrimo I attempted to get a start on a 4th book in the Wolf Point series – WIP Title: Fighters, from Misty’s POV – but the call to fanfic was too great, and I ended up working on several different fics and applying those word counts.  In other words, I’m a cheater.

I am hoping to get out an omnibus edition of the first 3 Wolf Point books, and possibly redesign the covers, but lately time has been a precious commodity… for writing fanfiction.  I don’t know what’s happened to me.  Hopefully I will return to writing original fiction soon – the fanfiction thing is just too much fun for me at the moment!

goodreads stars & how i use them

I see a lot of things about reviewers on Goodreads who give reviews that are either 1 star or 5 stars, with little in-between, and whenever I read about reviewers like that, I always feel a little confused.

This is the exact opposite of how I rate books.

I like a nice bell curve.  Most of my reviews are 3 stars, because that’s an “average” rating.  Three stars means I liked the book… because, surprise!  I like to read, and I like books.  I like most things I read.  That’s normal right?  If I hated 50% of the things I read, I probably wouldn’t like to read so much.

It’s very rare that I absolutely HATE a book, and usually I can’t even say that I hated it.  Most of my 1-star reviews are for books that I couldn’t finish.  And sometimes even a favorite author will make that list (Stephen King, for Dreamcatcher).

Two stars, that means I could finish the book but didn’t particularly enjoy it.  A lot of school reading falls into this category.  Or sometimes I didn’t enjoy it, but can see the literary value.  Or sometimes it’s the rating version of “Meh.” (The official Goodreads description of a 2-star rating is “it was ok.”  Meh.)

When I give a book four stars on Goodreads, that’s a recommendation from me.  Usually I will rate a book 4 stars if I can imagine myself recommending the book to someone (as a librarian, I do this a lot!).  These are books that I think are well-written, that captured my attention, and especially series books that I am likely to continue reading.

Now, when I rate a book FIVE stars, that’s something rare.  (Almost as rare as 1 star!  Because I like my bell curve!).  Sometimes a book transports me into another world, where I think about the characters outside of the story, or maybe I imagine myself IN the story.  I’m emotionally invested, fully.  These things might also describe a 4-star book as well.  But I’d also re-read a 5-star book.  I hardly ever re-read anything.

Some of the books that I’ve given 5 stars to:

  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  • The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
  • The Changeling by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • The Twilight & Hunger Games series
  • The Vampire Armand by Anne Rice
  • A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt

Now, when I write reviews on Amazon (which I do very rarely), the rating scale slides a little bit.  Some of my 3-star reviews become 4-star reviews, because on Amazon, 3-star is “it was ok.”  Which I guess makes sense.  But I like my Goodreads bell curve:)

Scavengers is out! And Camp Nanowrimo win!

scavengers ebook cover 6 copy

Finally, it’s done!

I managed to publish the Kindle edition on the actual date I had planned for the release (April 30), and it should be available over at Smashwords (and then at Barnes & Noble, iBooks, etc.) shortly!

If anyone is interested in a free digital copy of Scavengers to review, please contact me via email (spoffk(at)hotmail.com) or send me a message on Goodreads.

Here are a few fun things I found while editing:

  • Originally I had named the character Will as “Lucas.”
  • I had forgotten that Zeke killed his father, not Ben (aka the black wolf).
  • Geo’s eyes are coal black (something I’ll need to deal with when I revise The Madman, currently it’s a major plot point that Geo has blue eyes with a bit of orange in them)
  • Originally Zeke called his father “Pa” throughout the entire book… then I re-read Hitchhikers and discovered that Zeke calls his father “Dad.”

Also, this:

Camp-Winner-2015-Square-Button

Yeah!  I made it to my goal of 20K!  I’m very close to finishing The Madman.  I’m hoping to get that out before the next round of camp in July.

a week of writing and revising

As April winds to an end, I find myself in the midst of two things: finishing up my story for Camp Nanowrimo, and preparing Scavengers for release later this week!

Currently I’m at around 18,500 words in “The Madman,” which will be a second Wolf Point prequel novella.  I only need to write about 500 words a day to get to my goal of 20K by the April 30th deadline.  Along the way some interesting things have happened.  I had planned for this installment to be all about Fallon Loupe going mad.  I wasn’t sure what part Geo would have in it… and it’s been a much bigger part than I expected!

I took this week off so I can edit and prepare Scavengers.  After finishing the first draft last month I needed to take some time away from it before really editing.  Now I have the whole week… here we go!