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Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Nix | Nathan Hill

“The flip side of being a person who never fails at anything is that you never do anything you could fail at. You never do anything risky. There’s a certain essential lack of courage among people who seem to be good at everything.” 

Genre: Literary/Historical Fiction.
Number of Pages: 628.
Perspective: Alternating Third.
Location: Rural Pennsylvania. 

This book is about a writer who sees his mother on the news for stoning a politician. Since he hasn’t seen her since he was a child and needs a book concept, he decides to write a tell-all and uncover all the secrets of his mother’s past. For a complete summary, you can go here.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It utilized the true definition of character development. Some of the backstories I loved and others felt unnecessary. I  didn't think the video gamer he befriended was necessary to the book. But as a short story, it would have been really interesting and it did provide a great perspective. I kept waiting and waiting for it all to tie together. I wasn't super thrilled with how it all lined up, but it was at least a somewhat satisfying ending. I think some of the backstories and characters could have been cut out to make the book shorter. It was entertaining, but so long. I kept getting distracted by faster reads.

Obviously, the story is called the Nix, which refers to a mythical spirit. I personally didn't like the folklore aspect. I think it took away from the realism of the rest of the story. I do think this book is worth the read, especially if you are a writer and need help learning the proper way to achieve character development. But this is not a book for occasional readers. This is a full-time commitment type of book. You need to read until the end to really see the full picture. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in our own story that we don’t see how we’re supporting characters in someone else’s”

4/5 Stars  

Friday, September 29, 2017

Wintersong | S. Jae-Jones

“‘A candle unused is nothing but wax and wick,’ I said.’I would rather light the flame, knowing it will go out than sit forever in darkness.’

Genre: New Adult Fantasy.
Number of Pages: 436.
Perspective: First.
Location: 18th Century Bavaria.

This book is about Liesl, a girl whose sister gets kidnapped by the goblin king. She must use what she knows from her grandmother’s old folklore stories to figure out how to get her sister back, even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice. For a complete summary, you can go here.

I read this book for my book club, but I may have picked it up on my own because of the beautiful cover and the fantasy element. However, I want to start off by saying that I couldn’t fully appreciate all this book has to offer. By that, I mean that at least half of this book is musical prose that might as well have been a foreign language to me. If you understand classical music, then I would assume that you would have an appreciation for the 50%+ of the book that I skipped over (I was also recovering from major back surgery and on a lot of pain meds while reading this book, so I fell asleep a lot while reading it). The part I did understand was interesting, but familiar. I have no problem with people writing fan fiction or taking an old idea and expanding on it, but this felt like The Labyrinth meets Beauty and the Beast. And any sort of romance between captor—who, not to mention, isn’t even human—and captive gives me the heebie-jeebies. However, There’s no denying that this book has beautiful writing and was difficult to predict (which are two positive factors in any book). 

I haven’t personally read a lot of goblin books, but I do love faerie stories, and this feels similar. So I liked that fantasy aspect. But even a fantasy story should be somewhat realistic. I’m sorry, but if you love someone, why steal their sister instead of stating your true intentions? Just seems like an unnecessary step to the whole story. And the back and forth and abrupt ends to romantic scenes felt really bizarre. 

If you are a fan of fantasy and have a great knowledge of music, then I think you would absolutely love this story and get the full experience. If you are music illiterate like me and still love fantasy novels with a romance element, I’d like to recommend The Scorpio Races or Shiver instead. If you are still interested in buying Wintersong, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“What’s the use of running, if we are on the wrong road.”

2/5 Stars

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Woman in Cabin 10 | Ruth Ware

“There’s a reason why we keep thoughts inside our heads for the most part—they’re not safe to be let out in public. ” 

Genre: Mystery/Thriller.
Number of Pages: 340.
Perspective: First.
Location: Yacht in the ocean off of Europe. 

This book is about a travel journalist that gets the opportunity to experience the life of luxury on a fancy yacht to see the Northern Lights. However, the first night she hears a scream and a splash from the outside of the cabin next to hers. No one believes her story since the room was empty, but she is determined to find out the truth. For a complete summary, you can go here.

I’ll shamefully admit that I thought this book was going to take place in the woods. I was thinking of a log cabin, not a cabin in a boat. Water didn't seem as creepy to me as the woods, but now I am realizing how boats are the perfect places for crimes. You are trapped and there is a grey area for arrests in unclaimed water territory. Makes me not want to go on a cruise anytime soon…

This was actually the first book I was able to read after my major back surgery without falling asleep (pain meds = fatigue). This book caught my interest from the beginning and kept me intrigued until the last 50 pages or so. I’ll admit that it started to get boring and dry, so I speed-read through the last bit to just see how it ended. If it wasn’t for the last bit, I would have given it 5 stars. It also felt familiar to me. The unreliable narrator is starting to become somewhat cliche. 

I still thoroughly recommend this book for mystery lovers. It isn’t as dark as Gillian Flynn, so it can still be considered a warmer weather/beach read. I can’t wait to read Ware’s other big hit, In a Dark, Dark Wood (now if that book isn’t in the woods, then my radar is way off). If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“[W]e all have demons inside us, voices that whisper we’re no good, that if we don’t make this promotion or ace that exam we’ll reveal to the world exactly what kind of worthless sacks of skin and sinew we really are.”

4/5 Stars  
*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

It's A Writer Thing -- On Productivity and Finishing What You Started

This is a guest post by Jessica Bayliss.

Happy September, Wonderful Writers! 

Before I get started, a HUGE thanks to Amber Gregg for hosting my series on her lovely site.

It’s been a whirlwind this summer, what with my first time as a Pitch Wars mentor and all the work I’ve been doing on my own books. I finished my second manuscript for the year in August, which was my 11th book in total. Holy moly! But, finishing my latest MS got me thinking about productivity.

I acknowledge that I’m a fast writer, but I owe my productivity to something more important: I practice finishing books.

There are a lot of skills to learn to become a professional writer. First off: writing. Like, the actual craft. Then there are query letters and synopses and log lines. What genre is what (and that YA is NOT a genre—grr.). Another thing we have to learn is how to finish books. We need to build stamina, the stick-to-it-ness, essential to a professional writer operating out there in the big old world.

We’re notoriously good at starting books. Shiny new ideas are the best things ever! So hard to resist, flirting with us from across the coffee house. Keeping us up at night. So how can we be blamed for jumping ship on the current work in progress? I get it. I love all my new ideas, and boy do I have a to-be-written-list burning a hole in my brain. But let’s not forget what comes after the tough middles: the alluring endings! They deserve to be written. We owe it to them not to lose steam halfway through.

But if we let new ideas seduce us, we’ll never learn our process for finishing. I will repeat that and turn it into a statement: All writers need to learn THEIR OWN process for finishing books. Here’s why.


What do marathon runners do to train? First off, they learn to run. Just the basics: body posture, how to breathe, what to do with their arms. Then they develop stamina, tacking on more miles as they go. They learn to predict their bodies’ rhythms: when the race will get hard, and how hard hard will feel. How do they get through that? They practice different strategies for budgeting their energy, training their breathing, when to take in liquids (and how much). They even eat those little squeezy pouches of sugary electrolytes (which, I sort of want to try). Then they do it again and again. And again.

Pushing through the long slog is just as important as training-up their muscles—more important, perhaps. And it must be practiced. The preparation is part physical but it’s also hugely mental. As a result of this mental Cross Fit, something very important happens: They learn what to expect. 

Why is that important? When they get back out there next time, and when it gets tough, they have figured out what to look out for in their bodies, how to harness their bodies’ power, and how to focus their brains. 

They have a Not-Quitting Process. A Finishing Process. They can say to themselves: This is just like last time, and last time I got it done. I can do that again. 

Writers need that too. 

We need to practice starting, middling (Is middling a verb? Well it is now!), and finishing. And we need to do it with more than one book. Inevitably, the current WIP will start to feel boring. The shine will be off. Maybe we’ll write ourself into a corner or a whole maze of corners. And, lo and behold, there’s Shiny New Idea winking at us all sultry and pretty. But, like a marathon runner who can predict his rhythms during a race, we need to predict ours when it comes to the marathon of writing a book. 

And, just like the marathon process, it’s hugely mental. We get so down on ourselves when we get stuck. We beat ourselves up, tell ourselves that we’re not cut out for this. Those thoughts lead to terrible emotions, emotions that lead to the worst thing ever: giving up. And we can’t give up!

Hopefully this sounds super-logical. I mean, if your friend told you they were running a marathon today and they’d never trained a day in their life, you’d be like whaaa…? And if they couldn’t do it, you’d be like: “Uh, buddy, you’ve never done this before. Go easy on yourself.” So, why beat yourself up for not finishing a manuscript when that’s a skill that takes learning, too? Don’t beat yourself up; practice.

The learning process, the stamina-building is normal, natural, and necessary. 

Therefore, my biggest motto is: Finish what you start. Everything you start. Then, one day when you’re all successful professional authors and you have deadlines or an editor waiting for an option book, your game will be in place. You’ll be able to say, Yes, I can get that to you INSERT DATE HERE. I’ve got a process. I’ve done this before. Deep breath. Here goes.

And, as always, remember: You can do it! You can write!

Jessica Bayliss is an author of commercial fiction who loves nothing better than getting lost in a good story, whether in print or on film. When not busy with her latest fiction project, she can be found loving her friends and family—especially her husband, Eric—playing with one pesky Havanese, or trying to appease an ornery cockatiel, typically with a cup of coffee near at hand.