Tag Archives: jim butcher

Eclectic Reader Challenge Update

In December, my friend Stephanie at Misprinted Pages shared Book’d Out’s Eclectic Reader Challenge with me and I got on the train. I’m really enjoying the progress so far this January as I use it to work towards reaching my goal of reading 100 books this year.

So, let’s talk about what I’ve read so far and what I thought!

Guilty Pleasures

Links: Author PageGoodreads.comAmazonBarnes & Noble

My friend, Sabrina, loves Laurell K Hamilton and her work so I decided to give Guilty Pleasures a look before getting into my ERC reading list and then I realized HEY! This fits the ERC!.32

Despite all the smutty covers made for this book, it’s actually quite devoid of sex, which stunned me. It started,out similar enough to other books I’ve read in this genre at a CLUB. YEP. A CLUB. WHO WOULD’VE THUNK IT? NOT ME. NAW. Okay, this time it was an all-male, vampire revue which means that it should have a nice, Magic Mike-inspired scene should it be made into a movie. I don’t know why, but this club thing is grating on me. It’s numero uno on what not to have in my urban fantasy piece.

Hamilton did a great job with first person narration. It wasn’t too “I” heavy. A few things bugged me, which were, I assume, funny to most but  repetitive or stilting to me (such as the use of “Naw”). She over uses some of the same jokes that I thought, “once was enough, twice was pushing it, thrice–too far.” Other than that, the prose was good. The bad guy was pretty obvious making me wonder why Anita Blake missed it until he revealed himself. Why did I piece together the mystery before her?

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

A Clockwork Orange was just too frustrating to finish. I didn’t get very far before giving up on the language. It was like reading a novel of Jabberwocky. I’ve seen the movie so I knew the language and understood what was going on which to me made reading the book pointless. If I’m only following along thinking “Oh, I remember that part of the movie,” that means I’m not enjoying the book. I’m just trudging along because lots of people like it. I’m not one of those people and that’s okay.

The Road

The Road

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

McCarthy’s story is told with no chapters, no breaks. Just prose. I loved it. It wrapped me in this blanket and carried me along until the end of the story. A man and his child travel across the country and I’m not sure if it’s the apocalypse or McCarthy’s style, but if I could have, I might have held my breath the whole way. I was scared, worried, anxious about reading to the next page, the next paragraph because of what might happen if I continued. It was as if by not reading it, it would not happen. I don’t get this feeling very often when reading so that is a glowing recommendation.

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)

Storm Front

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

For me, Storm Front became an abandoned book about 20% in. In December, I blogged about another series by Jim Butcher, Codex Alera. When reading Codex, I was able to get past the poorly developed characters, the tropes, and the amateurish writing. In Storm Front, I couldn’t. The world, plot, and races of Codex Alera saved the series and made it worth reading but in Storm Front, it’s just not there. I just felt annoyed by the narrator, sick of the writing style, and not at all interested in any mystery. It was PI mystery mixed with all the crap I hate about urban fantasy. I know lots of people love this series, but I don’t.

No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller

No Crystal Stair

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

No Crystal Stair is the first book I read that wasn’t for the ERC. A literary agent told one of my clients to read this to help her shape her novel so I too needed to read it. No Crystal Stair is a short, fictional, documentary (which is typically non-fiction?) book about the life of a Black Rights activist, Lewis Micheaux. The entire story is told from multiple view points all focused on Lewis. About 15% of the book is sources, acknowledgements, etc so this is a very, very short read. It’s labeled YA but I don’t buy that. There is nothing YA about this book; it might be helpful for kids to read with a history unit or to encourage self-research. The writing, in my opinion, was weak. The entire text was filled with generalized statements and showed a disconnect between writer and character probably because there were so many she attempted to write through. It was interesting and I enjoyed learning about someone but the delivery made me feeling unrewarded because of that big old word “fictional” up there. There were strange disconnects leaving plot holes over the course of the man’s life that made it frustrating in some parts. That said, it’s won awards and stuff so maybe it’s just me.

Elemental

Elemental

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

In short, Elemental blew me away. For his dystopia, John used a place that most east coasters know–the Outer Banks. I vacationed at Hatteras Island one weekend and it was probably the best beach trip I’ve ever had so that paradise was set on end by John’s action/adventure story, making it even more powerful. He works to develop elemental magic though his world building is minimal, wasting no time on long info dumps, instead helps us to discover the way things work with the characters. His characters, I love. Especially Alice (what a spit-fire) and Griffin. I’m really excited for the next two books in this series.

Elemental is relatively short and is a quick, action packed read. I highly recommend this book. It’s my favorite this month.

A Series of Series – 2013 Book Round-Up

Welcome to the first installment of my 2013 Book Round-Up!

Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

Links: Author Page, Amazon, Goodreads.com, Barnes & Noble

My dear friend, Sabrina, fell in love with Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy years ago and because of her intense love, I decided to check the books out.

After the 693,428 word epic I felt ready for some shorter books. The world of Vin, Elend, and the rest of the Mistborn cast is amazing by all counts–no, it’s not amazing, it’s flawless. The magic is amazing, beautiful. The characters are amazing. Sanderson is a master. The only complaint I have is the word count. I know all of his scenes had value, but at a certain points I just thought, “Alright, let’s get this story moving along.” It’s long. Very long. Very, very, very long. Rewarding. But long.

Also, there were a few maladroit word choices–like the overuse of maladroit for example. First book blues. I’m going to keep reading his work.

Codex Alera by Jim Butcher

Links: Author Page, Amazon, Goodreads.com, Barnes & Noble

I have no clue WHY I tried Codex Alera, but I did. I read the first book, Furies of Calderon and fell in love with the world and the plot (the characters, not so much). Butcher’s idea supposedly came from someone daring/betting/challenging him to combine Pokemon and Roman legions. I love Pokemon, I play Pokemon, the furies in Calderon are not Pokemon. The legions ARE legions.

I feel like Codex Alera was more than a Pokemon/Roman Legion challenge but also a challenge to see how many times Butcher could write “frown.” I swear, I SWEAR if you popped these books into Wordle, FROWN would be so big, it’d take over the world.

Anyway, loved the world of Codex Alera. Butcher created at least three races, the Marat, Canim, Icemen, and Vord were amazingly created races whose beauty I envy.

If Butcher had put more effort into his characters and his writing, this series would’ve been perfect.

Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger

Links: Author Page, Amazon, Goodreads.com, Barnes & Noble

I picked up Soulless because I wanted something steampunk to give me an excuse to get back into working on my novel (and by excuse to get back into I mean a distraction). I ended up devouring these books rather quickly, one after another, until I was left, parasol-less and empty inside. Or full.

I have nothing but praise for Carriger’s hilarious and ingenious work with the Parasol Protectorate. Her vampires and werewolves were amazing; I fell in love with all of the men and women in this series and cannot say enough how much I think YOU should read it.

The Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire

Links: Author Page, Amazon, Goodreads.com, Barnes & Noble

I decided to read Wicked because I had seen it around. Sometimes I like to wait until the bandwagon on something has just completely passed by and then I run after it saying, “Wait, this is actually okay!” I read through Wicked and Son of a Witch and got stuck on A Lion Among Men because it was a little slow and boring. But, Wicked is definitely a great novel to check out and I really, strongly recommend it. I love rehashes of old stories, as long as they’re good, and Wicked most definitely is. It’s a long book, so don’t expect to rush through it like you might be able to with the Wizard of Oz.

I’m still hoping to see Wicked live soon.

Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris

Links: Author Page, Amazon, Goodreads.com, Barnes & Noble

Let me be 100% unashamed as to why I read these books and my thoughts on them. I love, love, love Trueblood. I’m a sucker for Eric Northman (please see Trueblood poster below for any of you that aren’t familiar). I’m also in love with, in a friendly way, Lafayette. He’s a great character, he’s amazing. Sookie, Bill, meh. So, I fell in love with Trueblood and decided to check out the inspiration.

I was disappointed. Harris’s novels are lacking in the plot department. The screenwriters REALLY ran with her original idea and made it beautiful, so beautiful I for once applaud Hollywood. Kudos, guys. They created the tension, the passion, the intrigue–basically everything that makes Trueblood great.

I know a ton of people love these novels but I am not impressed.

https://i1.wp.com/needcoffee.cachefly.net/needcoffee/uploads/2011/12/enders-game-cover.jpg

Ender’s Saga by Orson Scott Card

Links: Author Page, Amazon, Goodreads.com, Barnes & Noble

It took me far too long to actually read Ender’s Game. First, it was published before I was born. Second, I put it off. It wasn’t that I didn’t think it would be good, I just rebel against reading books other people think I should read. I know, I am very strange. I think it’s part of being in graduate school and being FORCED to read certain books. Anyway, it took too long. Don’t let the same thing happen to you!

I loved both Ender’s Game and Speaker of the Dead. So much so that I’m currently reading Xenocide, the third book in the series. Card’s world is great and Ender is an amazing protagonist to travel with. Though Ender’s Game is YA, the rest of the series is not. The stories travel along a different path than that of a YA with a lot more thought. Not saying a young adult wouldn’t enjoy them but they’re not in the genre. They’re on the philosophical side of science fiction and throughout, Card channels Robert Heinlein but that doesn’t make him a copy-cat. His stories hold their own, in my opinion.

Reblog Wednesday: The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam

I was browsing through the fantasy thread and found this great post that made me think. How often do we find blogs that make you think? So I decided to share it!

Azra Winters’s blog is a writer’s blog and he writes in multiple genres. The post I want to share is the Fantasy Novelist’s Exam. I love it, it’s great.

I decided to give you my thoughts about my WIP for the first 5 questions.

1. Does nothing happen in the first fifty pages?
2. Is your main character a young farmhand with mysterious parentage?
3. Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn’t know it?
4. Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy?
5. Is your story about a quest for a magical artifact that will save the world?

via The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam.

1. Does nothing happen in the first 50 pages? Well, what’s the first 50 pages. Is it the first 50 manuscript pages? That’s about 150 words a page so the first 7500 words. Or is it the first 50 paperback pages? That’s 250 words a page so 12500 words. Which is it? Either way, 7500 words in SOMETHING should happen. But what is something? What is nothing? Well, I assume this means: Are your first 50 pages explication/world-building?  I like to tie explication and world-building in with my story. So, something happens in my opinion. But I know for speculative fiction, world-building and explication can take up a lot of space. So watch out!

2. Is your main character a young farmhand with a mysterious parentage? The first two farmhands I think of are Luke Skywalker and Codex Alera‘s Tavi and both, dun dun dun, have mysterious parentage. So do my main characters fit into this? None are farmhands, but Alice does have mysterious parentage. What can you do? I say don’t worry about fitting one but make sure you don’t fit both!

3. Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn’t know it? I know we’ve all encountered this trope but does MY WIP do this? Not exactly. So that’s good… right? But what happens if your characters DO fall into that? I don’t know. You must have epic fantasy on your hands, ha. You can’t win them all, right? Although, Codex Alera‘s Tavi does fit this one too… (Ruh roh, Butcher).

4. Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy? It IS fantasy, come on.  I don’t have a great power, but the other two I kind of do follow but it is pretty hard to escape this trope.

5. Is your story about a quest for a magical artifact that will save the world? Nope. Uh uh. I’m safe, but are you?

At the end of this list, you’re going to encounter a story that does at least one thing. But the big question is so what? Codex Alera‘s fit a lot of these tropes, does that make it bad? No, it’s an epic fantasy series. These are kind of the typical epic fantasy cues. That doesn’t make them bad. It makes them fit a genre. It’s HOW it’s done that makes it great.

So when reading through this list and answering it for yourself, make sure you ask: is it worth it? Is it worth it to fit tropes? Is it interesting? This list points out challenges that you’ll face in your genre, not a strict list that says, “Change your WIP!” Keep that in mind every time you read ANYTHING about writing and when getting feedback from anyone.

I’d like to leave you with some eye candy. Here’s another inspiration for my WIP:

Even the tallest tower started from the ground.

I finally wrote another scene. I have been putting it off, unsure mostly, of how to do the scene. I’ve already written the core of it twice. Each time, I’ve created a new setting, trying to develop the scene properly. I had to rework it this time because I changed the scenes before it (switching from 1 pov to 3 and changing scenes to be a little believable). It is another scene of dialogue (which I feel is overpopulating my novel thus far) to develop my girl-hero character. I really like the dialogue this time, it works.

What I did differently was take my time. Sometimes I try to rush it to get the things into the scene that need said instead of thinking of the way the conversation would actually progress or how people might respond to each other. Truthfully, I think the scene needs some more flesh, it’s mostly dialogue so I’d like to add more of the setting in, some non-verbal communication, etc.

Another thing that I did is to incorporate some Mandarin words into the conversation. I hope that it’s not overly much BUT one of my characters is Chinese so I think it adds to her character to bring in certain nouns that her native culture would use. Luckily, one of my husband’s friend is being trained by the Air Force to speak Mandarin so I might bug him when I’m done with the novel to make sure the usages are correct. I can only do the typical, “Help me Google” kind of translation, so I hope I’m not butchering the language.

And last, I tried to emulate/incorporate some Chinese wisdom into the discussion. This does something really fun for these two characters–it establishes a repertoire that they use only with each other which means they know each other really well and works with the idea that you are different based on who you are around.

One thing I’m still thinking about is developing a system for swearing. I don’t want to be inappropriate and I’d like to avoid use of the f-bomb, but I want the characters to have something to say when stuff goes wrong.

 

And then my writing lesson/advice/opinion of the day is: don’t lose your momentum. I didn’t write for a day and then two and then it was over a week before I got anything out of me. It doesn’t help to do that because you loose the flow in your work. For me, once the flow is gone, I have a hard time getting it back because whatever I write just feels wrong until you sit down and get the crap out.

 

PS I blame my new television. If you haven’t watched Lord of the Rings in 1080p, you haven’t watched Lord of the Rings. The same goes for 300.

Oh man, I have another thing. Consider the above PS a timeout. I’ve been thinking lately of a way to help develop my story or characters and it starts with assessing it as a reader, not a writer. So, I haven’t thought it out too much, but here’s my idea with the series I’m reading now:

Codex Alera (Furies of Calderon, Academ’s Fury, Cursor’s Fury, Captain’s Fury, Princep’s Fury, First Lord’s Fury) by Jim Butcher

Likes:
The world is really well developed.
The use of magic is interesting.
The different races are really unique and well developed.
The plot line has really taken advantage of the above likes.

Dislikes:
The characters started out as really boring and only repeated exposure has formed a bond with them.
The author is really bad at writing romantic pairings.
The characters don’t grow.
The author uses the same phrases TOO MUCH. TOO MUCH. WAY TOO MUCH.

Now, it’s a high/epic fantasy so the plot line IS slightly predictable but… you know what, you tell me the last time you read something and you didn’t guess what was going to happen? I mean, the bottom line is there are two plots: someone new comes to town, someone leaves town on an adventure.

ANYWHO this list is very general for the sake of brevity but that gives me eight things right off the bat to work on–do the likes, avoid the dislikes.

I think it’s a really interesting way to use your favorite work to inspire you and help you. Or, if you end up reading something completely crappy, write down what made it crappy so you can avoid it. The nice part is that at least half the things of my list has cross-genre capabilities.

The bottom line is what we read influences us everyday. What are you reading now and how is it influencing you?

Scene Word Count: 1116 | Total Word Count: 6796