Saturday, January 25, 2014

Book Reviews List

Here is a list, updated periodically, of all the book reviews posted here on my blog.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Ashen Winter, by Mike Mullin
Ashfall, by Mike Mullin
Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver
Burn Baby, Burn Baby, by Kevin Craig
Burning Emerald, by Jaime Reed
Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
Cress, by Marissa Meyer
Darla's Story, by Mike Mullin
Divergent, by Veronica Roth
Drowning Instinct, by Ilsa J. Bick
Faking Normal, by Courtney C. Stevens
Fault Line, by Christa Desir
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, by Matthew Quick
The Future of Us, by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
The Gospel of Winter, by Brendan Kiely
Hunted, by Cheryl Rainfield
Ignite Me, by Tahereh Mafi
I Hunt Killers, by Barry Lyga
The Impossible Knife of Memory, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Insurgent, by Veronica Roth
Into the Fire (Birth of the Phoenix) by Ashelyn Drake
The Last Stormdancer, by Jay Kristoff
Living Violet, by Jaime Reed
Mismatched, by Lydia Sharp
OCD Love Story, by Corey Ann Haydu
Parallel Visions, by Cheryl Rainfield
Perfect, by Natasha Friend
The Reasons, by Kevin Craig
Scarlet, by Marissa Meyer
Scars, by Cheryl Rainfield
Sebastian's Poet, by Kevin Craig
Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo
Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi
Siege and Storm, by Leigh Bardugo
Slide, by Jill Hathaway
Something Like Normal, by Trish Doller
Stained, by Cheryl Rainfield
The Statistically Probability of Love at First Sight, by Jennifer E. Smith
Stormdancer, by Jay Kristoff
Summer on Fire, by Kevin Craig
Sunrise, by Mike Mullin
A Temptation of Angels, by Michelle Zink
This Song Will Save Your Life, by Leila Sales
Through the Ever Night, by Veronica Rossi
Touching the Surface, by Kimberly Sabatini
Twin Sense, by Lydia Sharp
Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi
Unravel Me, by Tahereh Mafi

Book Review: DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth

Divergent (Divergent, #1)
Also see my review of Insurgent

Divergent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was such an amazing and powerfully written debut by Veronica Roth. I am thrilled to know this is a trilogy, because I don't want to let go of these characters anytime soon. I may have to reread this just to satisfy my cravings for Tris and Four.

Roth did an amazing job of pulling back the curtain as the reader progresses through this book. With a full cast of characters, the five factions, and an eerily conceived, futuristic Chicago, this story is immediately captivating and a crazy roller coaster ride from the first jump off the top of a building (I'm NOT kidding!) to the heart-thumping leaps from MOVING trains! In DIVERGENT, you get a closer look at Abnegation and Dauntless, two of the five factions present in this futuristic dystopia struggling to appear as the Utopia it means to be.

I love this book, and can't wait for the next installment, INSURGENT.

View all my reviews

Friday, January 24, 2014

Book Review: SIEGE AND STORM by Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)
Also see my review for Shadow and Bone

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

That was the definition of epic. Wow. I can't even. Words are useless. This was unfathomable and gut wrenching and the deft twist of a heart shard. Leigh Bardugo has raised the bar for a second book in a series and has earned every bit that makes both books NYT bestsellers.

I am rent by the light and the darkness. The beauty and the horror. The sibling rivalry. The love that is palpable and yet so far from discovery. My eyes gleam with the small science, the magic of the words laid across each page and chapter and line after line.

This was a magical read, a rare and raw and special feat.

Alina and Mal are back but now they're in a new land, hiding from the Darkling and his search to find and control her once again. This time, the Darkling has a new power, and it's toothsome and painful and grips Alina with a new terror as she realizes that she may be the Sun Summoner, but she may not be a match for all the power the Darkling has, or isn't afraid to unleash into the world.

Alina is conflicted between protecting those she loves and cares about, and in desiring the allure and power she could know if she were to add an amplifier to her current one. In fact, she learns there are potentially two more such artifacts to those who seek the small sciences.

Added to the playing field, Sturmhond, a privateer as notorious as he sails the seas. There is some playful flirtation between Alina and Sturmhond, and it appears at times to cross beyond the scope of casual or friendly interest.

Given Alina is being touted and even worshiped as a saint, her celebrity status does begin to encroach upon her ability to maintain her sanity and make sense of where her alliances lie.

This was a magical read, gripping all the way through, and right up to the very end, which only leaves you wanting more, just as Alina seeks more power, and feels the pull of the Darkling and the dark arts. Will she be able to maintain her sainthood in RUIN AND RISING? Or will she realize she was a sinner all along? Will she embrace the light and find happiness with Mal, or will she succumb to the darkness, the Darkling, and all that power? Only time will tell.

I love this series! Cannot wait to read the conclusion. Fantastic read.

View all my reviews

Saturday, January 11, 2014

#J2BA: One Writer's Journey to Become an Author

Three years ago, I began the journey to write my very first novel and join the ranks of published authors I've admired for years. I began in April of 2011, and two and a half months later, I completed the first draft of my first novel at 76,000 words, 3 sections/acts, 45 chapters, and 12 poems.

Three years later, I have finished more than 20 cover to cover revisions, with thousands of minor tweaks and edits woven in. I've been rejected, and rejected, and rejected. I don't really keep a count of rejections, but each one has spurred me on to revise, revise, revise. I am grateful for EVERY SINGLE ONE. And I have, believe me, revised. Just ask my wife and my critique partners. They've sharpened their pitchforks more than once if I dare bring them one more revision to read and provide feedback. In regards to submissions, I've received 5 partial requests, 4 full requests, and one offer to publish directly with a small press (which I turned down). I am not counting those submissions where a partial is part of the submission package. If so, I could count a dozen partials, or more.

After receiving feedback from a professional editor friend (who wouldn't have read and offered notes if it wasn't worth his time), I have decided to set the manuscript aside, and begin again from scratch. This was not easy for me. I have published critique partners who think I should still submit TPH and work with an editor. Still, I set that aside and took the plunge. That's right, I opened a blank document and started over. I am doing this for several reasons:

1. In its current form, my MS is not the book I want it to be.
2. I have likely over-edited my book.
3. Divorcing myself from all of the problems and failures of this manuscript is virtually impossible, even with expert help.
4. Beginning again allows me to make global changes before I begin, and breathe new life into a project currently on revision life-support.
5. Writing isn't easy. If it were, everyone would be published.
6. Writing a book is one thing, writing to the level required to receive an offer of representation from a legitimate literary agent, and have that agent find a publisher who wants to offer a contract to publish that manuscript is something else entirely.

I could go on and on from this point, but you get the idea. By starting fresh, I can begin with the third act in mind, drop the majority of acts 1 and 2, and get to the heart of the story. Plus, instead of having one MC, I'll have two. That's right, I'm going to use alternating first person POV with my two main characters, Joel and Amber, and fill in all of Amber's untold story to tell a better story.

I have come thisclose to trunking this book and giving up completely. Fortunately, I have very supportive writer friends who have talked me off that ledge more than once. They know I have a story to tell, and I am determined more than ever to find a way to tell it.

This is the story of one writer, and his experience along the path toward traditional publication. It's not the get-rich-quick story you've heard hyped about online. That's just a terrible, terrible rumor. It's also categorically untrue. Don't fall for it.

If you're an "aspiring author" like me, I hope you'll join me on this journey and maybe together we can endure what it takes to find ourselves an agent, and a manuscript worthy of publication. I can't promise you this journey will end with success, but I can promise you the truth of what it actually takes to write and publish a book in 2014, and beyond.

Does that mean the last three years have been for nothing? Absolutely not!

I have learned much of the craft of writing and have improved from the words I used to count on Twitter hashtags. Some of my favorites are: #amwriting #amrevising #amediting #wordmongering #editmongering, and others.

By using Twitter hashtags, I wrote my first book. Writing can easily isolate, and without accountability, it's easy to give up. I posted my word counts, cheered for others, and made friends among fellow writers all striving to do the same.

I have had crit partners come and go. Some have been helpful, others not so much. I have received an incredible amount of feedback from fellow writers, some who have gone on to find agents, receive offers of representation, and get published.

I am okay with the waiting process. I see it as an investment in my future. Sure, I could have self-published, or gone with that small press, but would I have published the book I envision with this project? Doubtful. And, I'm not scrapping self-publishing for all, or even for myself. Given the right project, I could see that happening down the line.

Just not now, and not for this project.

Let's talk about my approach. I've drilled the same MS, draft after draft, and revision after revision for the right mix of story, character, tension, and dialogue. I could have trunked it after a few rounds, and just started another project, and I have dabbled with a pile of projects I've got files started on, but I keep returning to this one. For me, I feel the process of learning how to write works best by applying new skills to the MS I know better than any other. For you, it might be better to write something new, and return to this MS when you are better at your craft.

So, why am I laying this all out there?

I've seen writers over these past few years come and go, and some give up because they think that writing is supposed to be easy, and when it doesn't happen according to some magical plan or timeline, they give up or self-publish. I want writers to know that this is a slow and arduous process. It's not supposed to be easy. But, if you commit yourself to the pursuit of writing and show up every day and write and read and revise, eventually, you will get published. Most estimates I've seen suggest a 10 year commitment to this process. Am I willing to put in the time? Sure. Yes. Because my writing continues to get better. I'd rather not cringe at what I've written and wish I'd waited.

If you'd like to see where this leads, join me. Follow along with the process and share your own writing journey in the comments below. You might be surprised that you're not as alone as you think. Writing can feel like an island at times. It's easy to get isolated from others when you can't share what you're doing for fear of losing your ideas to someone else.

If writing is your dream, then stick with it. Don't give up. Believe in yourself.

Happy writing!

I will be taking down my excerpt from THE PACKING HOUSE, the prelude, and the query letter at the above tabs, since the book is going through a complete rewrite. It already has a new title, and I will share a sample once it's been written and revised. Thank you to those who have read and commented. Your support is immeasurable.