20 Questions Book Tag

Another one from the indomitable Writer Michelle Payne.  I think I can answer 20 book questions 🙂

1. How many books is too many books in a series?

Hm, that’s one of those “it depends” questions.  If the series remains fresh and relevant, keep going, but if the plot lines are going stale and the characters are stalling, I think it’s time to retire it.  I’d say 20+ books is too much with the same characters and setting.

2. How do you feel about cliffhangers?

They’re evil and I love them. Re: Strange the Dreamer.

Strange the Dreamer cover

3. Hard copy or paperback?

I prefer paperback.  They’re easier to carry around and to read.  Hardback usually has an annoying cover that, while aesthetically pleasing, tends to flap around and get in the way.

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Top 20 Books of 2017

I set my Goodreads challenge to complete 15 books, and I read 73.  There’s something to be said for underestimation.  I low-balled it because last year, I put 20 on my challenge, but only finished 19; however, I discovered that by putting books on my schedule/to-do list, I could complete them like a fiend.  At some points I was reading eight at a time, but I mostly stuck with my favorite number: seven.  That…was too much though, and while I love to read, I also want to have enough time to do other things.  So I cut down to four, which might still sound like a lot, but one is a Kindle that I read on my lunch break; one is a fiction/fantasy; one varies between a classic or a non-fiction/reference (before I was reading one of each); and the last is a graphic novel/manga, which are easy to breeze through.  Compare this to two Kindles, one fiction/fantasy, one classic, one non-fiction/reference, one graphic novel/manga, and one library book. I’m currently borrowing Death Note from the library for my manga, and I’ll borrow fictions/fantasies from there, too.


Total Books Read: 73

  1. Tuf Voyaging by George R. R. Martin
  2. In the House of the Wyrm by George R. R. Martin
  3. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  4. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  5. Rest in Piece by B. W. Ginsburg
  6. The Missing Orchid by Fia Black
  7. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
  8. The Quantum Door by Jonathan Ballagh
  9. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
  10. The Illustrated A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  11. Descendants by Rae Else
  12. The Mabinogion Tetralogy by Evangeline Walton
  13. Riddled With Senses by Petra Jacob
  14. The Quantum Ghost by Jonathan Ballagh
  15. Radiance by Grace Draven
  16. Saga: Volume 1 by Brian K, Vaughn
  17. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
  18. Eidolon by Grace Draven
  19. A Father’s Protection by K. J. Hawkins
  20. Saga: Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughn
  21. The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia (edited) by Patrick Thorpe
  22. Saga: Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughn
  23. Silent Child by Sarah K. Denzil
  24.  A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
  25. Saga: Volume 4 by Brian K, Vaughn
  26. Saga: Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughn
  27. Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
  28. Saga: Volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughn
  29. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  30. Talon by Julie Kagawa
  31. Saga: Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughn
  32. Stone & Iris by Jonathan Ballagh
  33. Gaslight Hades by Grace Draven
  34. A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
  35. Locke & Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft
  36. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Volume 1 by Katie Cook
  37. Poetic Edda: The Stories of the Norse Gods and Heroes by Anonymous
  38. Never Never: Part One by Colleen Hoover
  39. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
  40. Never Never: Part Two by Colleen Hoover
  41. Never Never: Part Three by Colleen Hoover
  42. The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess by Akira Himekawa
  43. Goldie Vance Volume 1 by Hope Larson
  44. Shadows on Snow by Starla Huchton
  45. Red as Blood and White as Bone by Theodora Goss
  46. Monstress #1: Awakening
  47. An Unattractive Vampire by Jim McDoniel
  48. A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
  49. Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman
  50. The Archived by Victoria Schwab
  51. Dweller by Jeff Strand
  52. Abstract Clarity by B. W. Ginsburg
  53. Chobits, Vol. 1 by CLAMP
  54. The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
  55. The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
  56. Death Note, Vol. 1: Boredom by Tsugumi Ohba
  57. Master of Crows by Grace Draven
  58. Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
  59. The Diamond Tree by Michael Matson
  60. Promethea, Vol. 1 by Alan Moore
  61. Blink Once by Cylin Busby
  62. Death Note, Vol. 2: Confluence by Tsugumi Ohba
  63. The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
  64. The Daemoniac by Kat Ross
  65. The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan
  66. Death Note, Vol. 3: Hard Run by Tsugumi Ohba
  67. Death Note, Vol 4: Love by Tsugumi Ohba
  68. Gyo by Junji Ito
  69. The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka
  70. Parallel by Anthony Vicino
  71. Death Note, Vol. 5: Whiteout
  72. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  73. Death Note, Vol 7: Give-and-Take by Tsugumi Ohba
Total Fiction/Sci-Fi/Fantasy: 46 (63%)
Total Classic: 3 (4%)
Total Non-Fiction/Reference: 4 (5%)
Total Graphic Novels/Manga: 20 (27%)

I was going to do this whole shebang with “Most Read Author,” “Favorite New Author,” “Favorite Series,” and all this other stuff, but I decided on just doing a Top 20 with that number as an increase from the original 10.  I marked around 14 books as potential Tops and figured I could find six more.

20. Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman

The cover of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David EaglemanOne of the best parts of reading this book was the perfect timing when I read it: in the midst of watching a Let’s Play of SOMA, which I’ve spoken of at great length (even though the review/essay is still to come).  Incognito explores the intricacies of conscious, subconscious, and unconscious processes and how the latter two form the foundation of the first.  It’s written in such a way that psychological novices can still follow with relatable analogies and examples, but the volume is not without some major issues, which I started noticing around Chapter 4 with Eagleman’s views on beauty/attractiveness that spiraled unfortunately towards racism (yes…really).  He also didn’t fully explore the reasons behind why we have unconscious biases, which never just come out of a vacuum.  While the author has a flair for piquing interest in subjects that could easily come off as tedious, his essentialism and (seemingly) unwillingness to take environmental influences into account raises my brows (and hackles) a bit (e.g. his insistence that having a Y chromosome essentially makes one more violent without considering this propensity could be due to how those perceived as having a Y chromosome are treated from [often before] birth is only one of many).  While I enjoyed the book for what information it imparted, especially for those unfamiliar with psychology, the fore mentioned (and other) issues prompt me to insist it be read with a discerning eye and copious grains of salt.

19. Dweller by Jeff Strand

The cover of Dweller by Jeff StrandThis novel was like a more fucked up version of Harry and the Hendersons, if the Hendersons were a once brutally bullied loner and Harry was a man eating abomination.  I really wanted to know where the monster came from.  Was he some government experiment gone wrong?  A throwback from an early time?  A creature from an alien dimension?  Everything about him just breeds more questions, but his relationship with Toby is both poignant and disturbing.  A lot of fucked up things happen in this book.  I was initially unsure about Strand’s writing style, but it grew on me as did Toby’s character.  It made sense why the author wrote it in this way: it perfectly reflected the MC’s mental state.  This is one of those books that has the perfect ending, as in there’s no other way it could’ve ended for these characters that would’ve been as satisfactory.

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Gaslight Hades by Grace Draven (The Bonekeeper Chronicles #1)

The Bonekeeper Chronicles

Gaslight Viduus (TBK #2)–>

Title: Gaslight Hades
Series Title: The Bonekeeper Chronicles
Author: Grace Draven
Date Added: June 11, 2017
Date Started: July 2, 2017
Date Finished: July 12, 2017
Reading Duration: 10 days
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Supernatural, Steampunk, Gothic

Pages: 117
Publication Date: March 10, 2017
Publisher: Self
Media: eBook/Kindle

Shares Paradigms With: Final Fantasy VII, SOMA, Lovecraft, Frankenstein (Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley), Wraith Kings, Dracula/Castlevania, The Raven (Edgar Allen Poe)


Nathaniel Gordon walks two worlds—that of the living and the dead. Barely human, he’s earned the reputation of a Bonekeeper, the scourge of grave robbers. He believes his old life over, until one dreary burial he meets the woman he once loved and almost married.

Lenore Kenward stands at her father’s grave, begging the protection of the mysterious guardian, not knowing he is her lost love. Resolved to keep his distance, Nathaniel is forced to abandon his plan and accompany Lenore on a journey into the mouth of Hell where sea meets sky, and the abominations that exist beyond its barrier wait to destroy them.


*****Some minor spoilers for the narrative in discussion.*******

Grace Draven shows off her ability to subvert established narratives and tropes in this Victorian steampunkish tale of stolen bodies, a Lovecraftian portal, lost loves, and the resurrected dead.  The author also draws from her prior series Wraith Kings (linked in the Shares Paradigms With section above) in ways that though numerous are neither tedious nor redundant.

In Nathaniel Gordon’s case, he was denied even the chance at love with Lenore Kenward before perishing in an airship accident, nor was he allowed to lay unmolested, instead he was forced to inhabit the form so graciously revealed on the book’s cover.  A transfer of  consciousness from broken body into a new, binding all together with gehenna, which proves its meaning of “a place of fiery torment for the dead” in what our hero suffers upon revival.  By the time he’s past the agony, Dr. Harvel, the depraved scientist who made him, is dead, slain by Gideon, his original creation, and Nathaniel is in the first Guardian’s care, slowing recovering from death’s transition to a semblance of life.

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Half a King by Joe Abercrombie (Shattered Sea #1)

Title: Half a King
Series Title: Shattered Sea
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Date Added: July 14, 2015
Date Started: May 27, 2017
Date Finished: June 18, 2017
Reading Duration: 22 days
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Grimdark

Pages: 385
Publication Date: July 3, 2014
Publisher: Del Rey
Media: eBook/Kindle

Shares Paradigms With: Hamlet, The Lion King, ASOIAF, Radiance (Wraith Kings), An Ember in the Ashes


“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”
 
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.
 
The deceived will become the deceiver.
 
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.
 
The betrayed will become the betrayer.
 
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.
 
Will the usurped become the usurper?
 
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.


If life has taught me one thing, it’s that there are no villains. Only people, doing their best.

Prince Yarvi lives in a society very similar to the Ironborn of George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire: harsh, cruel, and unforgiving of weakness.  They follow Mother War, eschew Father Peace and present a juxtaposition within the two ideals, as the mother or feminine side is usually associated with tranquility whereas war and battle are typically portrayed as masculine.

Seriously…you don’t get much more “masculine” than this, and he’s literally the God of War.

As the second and youngest son of King Uthrik, Yarvi had neither hopes nor ambitions for the throne.  He was meant for the ministry, studying under Mother Gundring, where having only one good hand would make no difference.  Yarvi’s bitterness bleeds on the page, because he cannot live up to his culture’s expectations, and neither of his parents let him forget this.

A man swings the scythe and the ax, his father had said. A man pulls the oar and makes fast the knot. Most of all a man holds the shield. A man holds the line. A man stands by his shoulder-man. What kind of man can do none of these things?

I didn’t ask for half a hand, Yarvi had said, trapped where he so often found himself, on the barren ground between shame and fury.

I didn’t ask for half a son.

His mother isn’t much better in the beginning.  She has nothing but scorn for her disabled child, but considering their culture, his parents’ behavior makes perfect sense.  It doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but rather is a product of the harsh climate and culture they live in, which could be overlooked through the lens of presentism. This is not to say that Yarvi deserves his plight.  He doesn’t.  No one does whether from ancient history or far flung future; however, his misery fits into that zeitgeist, and his reaction to the emotional abuse and gaslighting is timeless.

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Eidolon by Grace Draven (Wraith Kings #2)

Wraith Kings

<–Radiance (WK #1)

************Spoilers for Radiance below.  Even the blurb for Eidolon spoils the first story so if you haven’t read that, proceed at your own risk.*************

Title: Eidolon
Series Title: Wraith Kings
Author: Grace Draven
Date Added: May 23, 2017
Date Started: May 24, 2017
Date Finished: May 25, 2017
Reading Duration: 1 day
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance

Pages: 240
Publication Date: April 18, 2016
Publisher: Smashwords Edition
Media: eBook/Kindle

Shares Paradigms With: Final Fantasy VII, Beauty and the Beast, ASOIAF, Lord of the Rings, Norse Mythology

In a bid for more power, the Shadow Queen of Haradis has unleashed a malignant force into the world. Her son Brishen, younger prince of the Kai royal house, suddenly finds himself ruler of a kingdom blighted by a diseased darkness and on the brink of war. His human wife Ildiko must decide if she will give up the man she loves in order to secure his throne.

Three enemy kingdoms must unite to save each other, and a one-eyed, reluctant king must raise an army of the dead to defeat an army of the damned.

A tale of alliance and sacrifice.


It is honestly refreshing to read a story about people who are true leaders, who understand what it entails, who want none of the glory and are willing to except all of the responsibility and potential sacrifice that comes along with it.  Yet and still, they remain “human.”  Quotes since many of the characters are Kai, but their humanity and concern for whom and what they strive to protect are second to none.  It’s refreshing to both read about it in fiction/fantasy, added with bittersweet in consideration of real world events.

Brishen and Ildiko are thrust into a position neither of them would choose.  Due to his mother’s lust for power (and other things, but we’ll get to that), the Shadow Queen succeeds in nearly destroying her entire kingdom by opening a hole in a void of darkness to unleash demons onto the world.  These fiends or galla as the Kai call them care not whom they devour, and if left unchecked will eventually feast upon the world, but it’s even more corrupt than that.  Anyone they consume, they can mimic in order to lure their loved ones in.

When Secmis, the Shadow Queen, does this, she’s consumed and then it spreads from there, cleaning out the castle so that only the Crown Prince’s newborn daughter, her nursemaid, and two guards survive.  Their only goal is to make it to Saggara, the seat of the now infant queen’s uncle Brishen.

News quickly spreads to the Kai prince/duke and the duchess Ildiko, and the Kai’s highest religious leader, the Elsod, informs Brishen that not only is he king, but the only way to save his people is to become a Wraith King, eponymous to the series.  “The king must die” indeed and become a general of the dead as Aragorn did in Lord of the Rings.  Complicating this further is a truth that has guided and often plagued every monarch before and every one to come: a king must have an heir.  For Brishen and Ildiko, this is a huge problem.

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Radiance by Grace Draven (Wraith Kings #1)

Wraith Kings

Eidolon (WK #2)–>

Title: Radiance
Series Title: Wraith Kings
Author: Grace Draven
Date Added: May 12, 2016
Date Started: May 21, 2017
Date Finished: May 24, 2017
Reading Duration: 3 days
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance

Radiance

Pages: 297
Publication Date: February 2014
Publisher: Self-Published
Media: eBook/Kindle

Shares Paradigms With: Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy X, Beauty and the Beast, Norse Mythology (near the end), Welsh Mythology (during the Epilogue), ASOIAF

THE PRINCE OF NO VALUE

Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over. A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty. Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined.

THE NOBLEWOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE

Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage. Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn’t just a foreign aristocrat but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human. Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she’s known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light.

Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.


It’s been a long time since any book instantly engaged me and refused to let go.  Even with books I instantly buy based on sample, I find something to stumble over, some aspect to balk me, or some piece that just doesn’t sit well.  Not only did I fly through this novel, but the I instantly bought the second installment and read that in an even shorter time.  I almost utterly ignored the final book in The Raven Cycle in my frenzy to absorb every word of this narrative, and I will now have to revise my prior declaration that Ms. Stiefvater’s books would be favorite series of the year.  Oh, there’s no doubt I still hold them in high acclaim, but this quiet, self-published, paranormal romance with political intrigue has risen like cream to the top.

The story opens with Ildiko, a Gauri noblewoman and human (that detail is important) preparing for her wedding ceremony with no joy.  She is the daughter of the king’s deceased sister and therefore the by law niece of the monarch and critical queen.  She is, as the blurb states, “a noblewoman of no importance,” at least in terms of agency.  She’s too highborn to be married to a commoner, but not royal enough to warrant a regal engagement.  The young woman has known this her entire life, and it’s given her a keen, practical viewpoint without the trappings of pretension or frivolity.  This is not to say she’s humorless.  On the contrary, her wry, acerbic wit more than like grew from knowing and accepting her position.  Ildiko was always aware she’d be married off in order to secure some political alliance and had no delusions that she was anything more than a clever pawn, but the young woman never suspected her bridegroom wouldn’t even be human…

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The State of the Writer: 5/28/17

<–The State of the Writer: 5/21/17          The State of the Writer: 6/4/17–>

A weekly post updated every Sunday discussing my current writing projects and where I stand with them.  This will include any and all work(s) in progress (WIP) be they creative writing, essays/analyses, or reviews of any type.

Project: Story
Title:
The Broken Rose
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Type: Fanfiction (FFVII) Novel
Current Word Count: 267,039
Prior Word Count: 268,194
Word Difference: -1155
Status: Editing
Progress: 1st edit of Chapter 10

What should be purely editing and figuring out where additional text fits has of course turned into something else.  I want to expand on a latter occurence, create a catalyst, if you will.  I still haven’t figured out where or if I can break this chapter up.  There’s not really any viable part for it, but I may not have to since I am cutting things out.  The main issue comes later when Aeris has yet another nightmare, and I use the * chapter break indicator, but it’s not really so much a chapter break as an introduction to a dream sequence.  Also, the catalyst I’m adding has to do with her terror.

I’ll tell you a secret.  When I get into idea mode where I cant stop taking things down, often the same thing just said in a different way, I write it all.  Even the most outlandish and inappropriate ideas I put in my notes.  Because while I’m not going to utilize the more risque, I can still takes pieces of it or remove the more over the top sections for use.  If you ever find yourself in this mode where ideas just flood, write it all down.  It doesn’t matter if it’s weird, gross, unconventional, or off the wall, you never know where you might be able to use it even if it has to be modified first.  No one should see your notes unless you want them to.  This is why we edit.

Quote: The wheels are in motion.  The task has been set.  Judgment is calling their names.” 


Project: Book Reviews
Title: Various
Status: Planning

I’ve been finishing books like a fiend, which means I have quite a backlog of reviews to complete.  These are the four I have left in order from top left to bottom right (I do reviews in the order I finish the books), and I can’t wait to review Radiance and its sequel Eidolon more than any of them.  A Father’s Protection will be easy since it’s so short, but I’ll have to think about what to say about The Raven Boys.


What are you currently working on?  Is it a creative writing project, essay, review, or something else?  Have you just started something new or are you wrapping up a long term project?

<–The State of the Writer: 5/21/17          The State of the Writer: 6/4/17–>

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