Archive for the ‘Fiction Friday’ Category
Let’s talk about writing. Actually, let’s talk about the writing process. It’s not just writing. Anyone can write. And most people can pull off something good. A majority of people can pull off something great. And quite a few people can pull off something extraordinary. At least some of the time. That’s where the rest of the process comes in. Prewriting increases the chances that awesome is going to also be coherent. Editing and revision pull the awesome out of the muck and highlight it, adding to it in order to increase awesomeness. And publishing. . . well, publishing is a whole different beast, but it’s the culmination of the process that takes the awesome and gives it to the world.
But how many of us get to experience the entire process? As a novelist, I sure haven’t. Prewriting, yes. In fact, I’ve gotten really good at prewriting (hence my 30 Days of Prewriting book). Over the years, I’ve used just about every method of prewriting there is. Writing, yes. I’ve written until my hands were sore. I’ve typed until my eyes were blurry and my brain had long since stopped functioning. Editing. . . well, not so much. Not that I’ve never edited. I have. But I wouldn’t say that I’ve finished editing anything. I write rough drafts and then I get started on the editing and revision and it just starts to feel so overwhelming. And then my projects die. Which is where Let’s Write a Short Story by Joe Bunting~ has changed my way of thinking.
Not only does this book go through the information you’ll need to write better short stories (and just plain write better in general), it also explains why you should bother with short stories in the first place. And the biggest reason that stuck out for me? You get to experience the entire writing process and practice your craft from start to finish. That appealed to me. And it also got my brain going. Honestly, I could have finished this book much sooner if it didn’t give me so much to ponder. And there are action steps in the book as well. Places where Bunting basically says “Now put the book down and go do.” This is definitely not some book about theory. It’s a book about practice. And it will get your mind going in new directions. It certainly did so for mine.
After reading the book, be sure to join the online community designed to continue where the book left off. If Bunting can cram so much stimulation into a fairly short book, I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can provide in a community.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Links in this post are affiliate links.
I accidentally did it again. I snagged a book that wasn’t the first in a series. Again, I ended up in a trilogy, this time in the second book, rather than the third. You’ll see from my review, however, that I’ve been having much better luck with sequels lately.
Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley
Where angels walk the ground and the future is told in song, does a man of low rank have a chance at love with a princess?
In Camrithia, a land of shadows and mystical secrets, Trevin lives to serve King Laetham. But his heart belongs to the princess, Melaia. When the King sends Trevin on on a dangerous quest to find the missing comains—captains in the king’s army—he must leave Melaia to the advances of a swaggering Dregmoorian prince.
Challenged to prove his worth, Trevin throws himself into his quest. Striving to prove his love, Trevin undertakes a second mission—find the harps Melaia seeks in order to restore the stairway to heaven. Through fire caves, rogue winds, and murderous threats, Trevin remains steadfastly dedicated to his quest—even when he is falsely accused of a heinous crime. As Trevin’s time runs out, he realizes he must face the shame and horror of his own past and the nightmare that has come to life. Will he have the courage to finish what he has started?
The book starts out with our would-be hero losing a fight and ending up down a contaminated well, about to be boiled alive. Which doesn’t really seem like fun, but was probably better than some of the other things that happen to poor Trevin later on in the book. I really felt for this hero, without even having read the first book. He was humble and had an unsavory past. But he was loyal, determined, and honest. When someone that he’s come to care about dies, he weeps. There are a lot of male main characters these days that are “too tough” to cry, even when someone dies.
There were parts of the book that I had difficulty reading quickly. Not because it was boring, but because it took a little extra time to process all the tidbits of backstory that were being provided. By the end of this second book, though, I could pretty much tell you what happened in the first book (and before). So while the first half took me a little longer, it was still enjoyable. And I felt like details were provided in exactly the right way. I could definitely read this book, never read the first one, and feel like I could continue on with the series. However, I enjoyed this book so much, I plan to buy the first one, then loan both of them to my friend who has done tons of research on Nephilim and therefore would get a kick out of the series, so that she can read them too. And hopefully, the third book isn’t too far away. Because my first thought when I finished this book was “Oh crud. Now I have to wait for the third one.”
As a fantasy lover, I really enjoyed this book. So if you’re into swords and magical creatures (or in this case, Heavenly creatures), this book would be great. My general recommendation is to read series in order, but really, you don’t have to with this one.
You can get the first book here. Or this book here.
Disclosure: In exchange for an honest review, I received a copy of this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah as part of their Blogging for Books program. The free product did not influence my opinion. Also, links in this post are affiliate links.
Life, In Spite of Me by Kristen Jane Anderson
She wanted to die. God had other plans.
Overwhelmed by wave after wave of emotional trauma, Kristen Anderson no longer wanted to live. One January night, determined to end her pain once and for all, the seventeen-year-old lay across train tracks not far from her home and waited to die.
Instead of peace, she found herself immersed in a whole new nightmare.
Before the engineer could bring the train to a stop, thirty-three freight cars passed over her at fifty-five miles per hour. After the train stopped and Kristen realized she was still alive, she looked around—and saw her legs ten feet away.
Surviving her suicide attempt but losing her legs launched Kristen into an even deeper battle with depression and suicidal thoughts, as well as unrelenting physical pain—all from the seat of a wheelchair. But in the midst of her darkest days, Kristen discovered the way to real life and a purpose for living.
For anyone struggling to find the strength to go on, the message of this heart-wrenching yet hope-building book is a clear and extraordinary reminder that even when we give up on life, God doesn’t give up on us.
Includes notes of encouragement from Kristen and resources for suicide prevention.
This book must be read with tissues nearby. I was nearly crying by the second page. And even when there were wonderful, joyous moments in the book, they made me want to cry. It is such a beautiful book, I’m not even sure I can describe it accurately. If I were a youth leader (and God willing, I will be in the future), I would make this required reading for every single student in my youth group. Boys and girls both. She does such a wonderful job of describing the isolation of depression, and I think that’s what most kids get sucked in by. They feel alone. They don’t think that other people will believe them, or they don’t think other people will find their problems legitimate. And I’ll admit, there are times that I listen to younger people talking about things and I just think “None of that crap matters in life.” But Kristen Anderson was raped. That is legitimate. And no matter what, when someone comes to you with an issue like that, you take it seriously. Whether they were drinking, or whether they were okay with parts of what was going on but didn’t want to go all the way. It’s a Big Deal. But she didn’t feel that she could tell anyone.
And that’s just one thing. There’s more. And there were certainly members of the mental health profession that failed her miserably when her parents were trying to get her help. But despite all that, it’s very clear that God was there with her, even when she was trying to take her life. And God saved her from death. There are several points in the book where it becomes clear that she should not be alive now. But she is. Because God has work for her to do. And believe me, this book is helping her do it. It is really just such a good book. And like I said, it should be required reading for teenagers. She not only talks about her depression and how she got to that point. She also talks about her recovery, the lessons she learned from it all, and how she managed to recover and turn her life into something amazing, all with the help of God (and a bunch of His servants here on Earth). Her story is sad. But also full of hope. And grace. And strength. And God’s power.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah through their Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review. All opinions, tears, and tissue that wiped them away are mine. All links are affiliate links.
After an earthquake traps her for months in a remote section of Africa, Emma Tupper finally returns home to discover that everyone in her life thought she was dead. Can Emma pick up where she left off? And should she?
Emma Tupper is a dedicated lawyer with a bright future. But when she takes a month-long leave of absence for the African dream vacation her mother never could, she ends up facing unexpected consequences. After she falls ill and spends six months trapped in a remote village thanks to a devastating earthquake, Emma returns home to discover that her friends, boyfriend, and colleagues thought she was dead and her life has moved on without her.
As she struggles to recreate her old life, throwing herself into solving a big case for a client, and trying to reclaim her beloved apartment from the handsome photographer who’s taken over her lease, everyone around her thinks she should take the opportunity to change. But is she willing to sacrifice the job, relationships and everything else she worked so hard to build?
After reading the blurb for this book, I knew it was one that I had to review. Isn’t discovering identity exactly what I’m writing about here? And while I’m discovering my identity through God, my role as a homemaker, and my writing instead of through both old and new friends, and a struggle for a new place at my old job, it still relates. It’s not a Christian book, so there were a lot of times that I wanted to tell the main character to try praying once in a while. But other than that, I really enjoyed it. Even though I had pretty much nothing in common with the main character.
Through the struggles that she has in her current situation, you pretty much learn that maybe the main character wasn’t all that likeable before her trip. Or, at least, she wasn’t much interested in things that “mattered.” She was a ruthless lawyer and she did what it took to get ahead in her job. She was a workaholic, who managed to blow off all of her friends until she only had one left. And while she was in a long-term relationship, it wasn’t one that she was in for love. She was with him because he was the logical person for her to be with. Like a cheerleader dating the quarterback.
When she comes back from her trip (which took way longer than originally scheduled because of the earthquake), she finds out that she was declared dead by the government. So her apartment has been leased to someone else (who was moving in when she showed up), her job has been given away, her boyfriend has moved on, and her bank accounts are frozen. Sounds like quite the nightmare situation, but she manages to get through it all and work on who she really is and what’s really important in her life.
It was an excellent book and I would definitely recommend it. If we’re talking stars (and when I review it elsewhere, they’ll make me talk in terms of stars), I’d give it 5. I read it in just a couple days, which means it snagged my attention early.
Unlike other books I’ve reviewed on here, this one isn’t out yet. It’s set to release in October 2012, but you can preorder it on Amazon now.
For more information about the author, this book, or her two previous books, you can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and her personal websitehere.
Disclosure: I received a free ebook from William Morrow Paperbacks, through Edelweiss, in exchange for my review. It was a book that I had to request to review, so it was clearly something I would have picked up anyway. And my opinions were not changed by the fact that it was free. Some links within the post are affiliate links.
Last year, for the adult summer reading program at the library, I read 3 books. Not a bad showing since I probably only read 5 or 6 books for the whole year. Then, in December, I quit working. Then, in February or March, I got a Kindle. And this year, for the summer reading program, I read 9 books. And technically, I’ve already read a 10th that I haven’t logged. So yeah. Triple the reading this year. And I’ve been devouring books like this almost since I got my Kindle. Which means I’m way behind on writing reviews. If I manage to get the required ones caught up (i.e. the ones I got free books for), then I’ll write some reviews for the books that I just got when they were free on Amazon. If not, I may just have to write the required reviews and keep my other reading to myself. Otherwise, I might be tempted to turn this whole blog into a book review blog and really, I like talking about other stuff too. So, with no further ado, my review of Crazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavan.
“You probably want to hear about Jennifer and the demons and how I played chicken with a freight train and—oh yeah—the weird murder . . . you’re definitely going to want to hear about that.”
Sam Hopkins is a good kid who has fallen in with a bad crowd. Hanging around with car thieves and thugs, Sam knows it’s only a matter of time before he makes one bad decision too many and gets into real trouble.
But one day, Sam sees them harassing an eccentric schoolmate of his named Jennifer. When Sam finds the courage to face the bullies down, he loses a bad set of friends and acquires a very strange new one.
Because Jennifer is not just eccentric. To Sam, she seems downright crazy. She has terrifying hallucinations involving demons and the devil and death. And here’s the really crazy part: Sam is beginning to suspect that these visions may actually be prophecies—prophecies of something terrible that’s going to happen very soon. Unless he can stop it.
With no one to believe him, with no one to help him, Sam is now all alone in a race against time. Finding the truth before disaster strikes is going to be both crazy and very, very dangerous.
This book was amazing. I’ve been thinking about it since I finished it and really, it’s just so deep. On the surface, you have a typical race against time story. “If I don’t _____ by __ am, people are going to die.” But also, on the surface, it’s a story of a preacher’s kid coming to terms with who he is. But also, on the surface, it’s a story of a schizophrenic girl and the nightmare she lives in. And that fact that there are three stories on the surface tells you that there’s a lot more to this novel already. There’s also a very deep lesson about how God uses even our bad decisions for His Glory. There’s also a lesson about how we shouldn’t fear anything, as long as we’re doing the right thing. Even if other people don’t know that it’s right.
Sam could have gone to jail about four times in this book. And technically, they had cause for that. But in the end, he was always doing the right thing. There’s a mysterious little statue that he finds near the beginning of the book and after he translates the Latin phrase on it, that becomes his mantra throughout the book.
Do Right. Fear Nothing.
It was definitely something that hit me. I looked at my life and had to take stock. Was there right that I wasn’t doing because I was afraid? How would my life be different if I took each decision and went back to that mantra? As I said, this book got me thinking. And while I figured out a few things way before Sam did, he’s a high school who doesn’t know he’s a character in a book. So I cut him some slack. I’m sure if I was in his shoes, I wouldn’t automatically jump to the same conclusions. There is a certain predictability in a book that doesn’t apply to life. But maybe that’s just me.
Either way, adult or teen, this book is a must-read. It was so powerful on so many levels. And my husband also gave me dirty looks when I was reading in bed and kept laughing at Sam’s narration. He’s a funny kid.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson publishers through their BookSneeze program in exchange for my review. The enjoyment was all mine. Any links are affiliate links.
PS. Blogging For Books has a review ranking system. I forgot to include the info when I first posted my review of Not This Time. If you’d be willing to rank my review for me, please just hop back to last week’s review and the ranking box is now included.
#1 – We have a giveaway winner! I’ve already sent an email to the winner.
#2 – We had two things happen this week. A) We officially started Kindergarten (which means I had a cute little Teach Me Tuesday planned). B) Everyone in the house got sick. The kids didn’t seem much affected. Runny noses and crankiness and that’s about it. But my husband and I both have the same thing happen when we’re just getting started being sick. We get super tired. Ridiculously tired. How the heck are my eyes open right now tired. Which means that neither of us was really able to handle the kids alone for a full day. And that meant that neither one of us could really get the sleep our bodies were asking for and thus we are both much harder hit by the sickness. Basically, I didn’t get much done this week (though we did get Kindergarten accomplished, for the most part).
#3 – While looking up a first line that I loved greatly in order to enter it for a first line contest, I rediscovered my failed 2006 NaNovel. Now, this novel was only a failure in that I didn’t make it to 50,000 words. I have very little clue now as to why that was, since I had no kids and no job, so I could have written the whole darn 50k in the first week if I’d really applied myself. But I was spoiled, thus lazy, and I was lured away by the distraction of online roleplaying (I’ve learned to budget my roleplaying time much better these days). However, in rediscovering, I have a new desire to finish it. It won’t be 50,000 when it’s done, most likely. One of my demotivating factors was that the plot was progressing far too fast to reach such a large (ha!) number. But I’ll finish it. And when I do, I’m thinking I’ll figure out how to put it up on Facebook as a freebie for my Likers. At this point, I have no idea how to do that, but I know it’s do-able, and I’ve learned most things in my life on an as-needed basis. So I’m not worried about that part. First comes the finishing. But, for those who weren’t around in 2006, some stuff to entice you.
I can’t find the sweet little animated graphic that I used as a signature on the NaNoWriMo site back then. But the text was “5 Days, 4 Marks, 3 Million Dollars, 2 Assassins, 1 Love.” It was apparently cool enough that the ML was excited to meet me when I finally made it to the group gatherings the next year. I wish I knew where to find it (I’m sure it’s on the internet somewhere). However, I do still have pictures of my two main characters.
India is a freelance assassin with the ability to erase herself from the memory of those around her. She can also erase all physical traces of herself from a crime scene, and wipe out any trace of herself in technology (like security tapes). The government knows her as Forget Me Not, though, really, they can’t even prove she exists.
Arthur is a government science project. With enhanced strength and speed, he can pretty much take on a train and come out on top. Which makes him quite the force to be reckoned with. The government has dubbed him Slice, on account of his love of using knives.
And, for those who haven’t read any portion of it before, a teaser.
WARNING: While I generally do my best not to swear in my normal life, many of my characters do not have that same attitude. Keep in mind, this is a novel about people who kill for a living. I’m pretty sure they don’t do any major swearing, but it’s in there. And since it’s in this short sample, I figured I should warn everyone.
It really puts a damper on a relationship when your boyfriend starts trying to kill people in the living room. Especially when he does it all wrong.
“Shit! India, I shot him! Shit!”
India rolled her eyes.
“Michael, you missed all his vital organs, where exactly were you aiming?” She tossed her clothes into a duffelbag. She knew everything would fit. It had all fit several times before.
“I wasn’t aiming. I panicked.” Michael paced the room, grabbing his hair in frustration. “What am I going to do, India?” She turned to him and smiled.
“You’re going to forget me.” Her face began to glow and she laughed at the look of pure fright on his face.
“What the hell is going on? Why is your face glowing like that? India?” His voice neared panic until her mind gripped his. She searched it quickly, finding it just as malleable as it had always been. She surveyed the situation and swore.
“Michael, I’m afraid I have to kill you now.” Mechanically, she directed him into the living room to retrieve his gun. It was nice. She wished she could keep it. But it was tainted now. She continued to pack as Michael turned the gun on himself. She didn’t even flinch as the sound resounded through the small apartment. She finished her packing and headed for the door, giving the place a good mental wipedown. She had never existed here.
Since the last couple review books I got from BookSneeze didn’t start out so great, I didn’t think I’d have much trouble starting this one at bedtime. I figured I’d read a chapter, just to be started, and then I’d go to sleep. It was not to be. I started reading, got hooked in the first chapter and suddenly it was two hours later and I was only putting the book down because my children are fairly merciless about when we wake up in the morning. There is no sleeping in, no matter what I was doing until midnight the night before.
Fix by Force by Jason Warne is the story of Spencer Shane. Despite his best efforts at being “normal,” he seems to be repeating the life he was destined to lead: his father’s. Before his death, Spencer’s father managed to make a name for himself as the town drunk. And he just so happened to kill a woman as his final act. Spencer is, understandably, not too happy with the thought of following in those footsteps. But despite his best efforts, he keeps “messing up,” and eventually ends up expelled for having drugs at school. His uncle gets him into a school for expelled kids and then things get really interesting.
Not only do I think that this book would be a fast read, even for teens that don’t read, I think it has a lot to say. It deals with bullying, drugs, and the choices we make. Spencer spends most of the book feeling like choices are made for him. He doesn’t feel like he has any say in his life and that informs his behavior. Overall, I think it was spectacularly done. And my favorite part (though it threw me off at first), is the ending. For me, it was at the bottom of a page, so I tried to turn to the next page and then realized that was it. But based on things just a little bit earlier in the book, that was the perfect way to end it.
I found the whole book to be very raw, but beautiful. I learned way more than I ever wanted to know about steroids, but the thoughts of the character were the most important part of the whole thing. And they were so real and honest. I think this book will really speak to some kids and I would honestly recommend it to any kid with a drug, alcohol, eating disorder, or other self-image problem. Or to any kid who’s expelled for really any reason.
Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links. I don’t know if the BookSneeze link is an affiliate link or not. I received an ebook of Fix by Force in exchange for my honest review. All opinions about the book are mine, and not influenced by the free product.