Well, Hello There!

Hi Blogland,

Huh. It feels kind of weird to be back. I’m still not promising anything, or even pretending I’m back in any sort of routine. I’m not. I still play Mass Effect just about every day, and I’m reading (and writing) way more fanfiction than I ought to.

But, I thought about From the Quorum for the first time in a month the other day. I call that progress. I also felt a pang of guilt/longing for The Steel Armada. We’re getting there.

The whole point of this was to keep me from falling into the spiral of guilt that I normally feel when I hyper-focus on something. When I start feeling guilty for doing things that I enjoy, I tend to further procrastinate the tasks I’ve sacrificed in order to hyper-focus in the first place.

Right now, I tell myself that writing fanfiction is better than not writing at all. And since I’ve put over 6k words into this one fic just in April, I’d say that’s damn good.

Also, The Audient Void #3 is out! Get you one! Available at the Book Bin in downtown Salem, or online at their Facebook page.

My reading has seriously slowed, but a steady stream of fanfiction keeps me going. I fully intend to pick things back up sometime in May. I promise. Pinky swear. All that good stuff.

Also, I wanted to mention that I’ve applied for another full time position with the library. I know better than to assume anything at this point, but I’ve learned a lot in the last 9ish months since my last interview with the city, and I have a lot more confidence in myself than I did even four months ago. Keep your fingers crossed for me just the same, huh?

Thanks for sticking with me through this gaming fog. The fact that I’ve come up for air is promising. I look forward to talking at you all on a regular basis again soon.

 

BZ

Goals Summary wk 3

Hi all!

I worked later than expected today, and just finished dinner with the hubby. It was a good day, but a silent one as far as writing goes.

So, how did last week stack up?

  • Write chapter 12 of From the Quorum
    • Didn’t quite make it. But, I wrote 1,510 words, and it’s off to a good start.
  • Finish reading Jackaby
    • Checkity-check. Book review is running behind, but it’ll be out no later than Thursday.
  • Publish two blog posts
    • Also, check. Monday’s Goals Post, and the Dark Run book review
  • Total word count for the week was 1,510. This does not include blog posts or world building, of which there was both this week. So, not a bad week, just not stellar. I’ll take mediocre over abominable every damn time.

So, what’s the aim for this week?

  • Finish chapter 12 of From the Quorum
  • Finish reading Sorcerer of the Wildeeps
  • Publish two blog posts

Also, I just got my February work schedule, and it looks like I’ll be doing a lot more writing next month. My hours were chipped down a bit, which is not ideal, but you guys know me; I’ll make the best of it.

So, next week I’ll do a monthly goals segment, wrapping up January and setting goals for February. It’s a new thing I want to do, a monthly recap. What do you guys think?

Also, if you’re keeping track of this sort of thing, the reading page has been updated. I’m at least still trucking along in this department. Although, I’m starting to feel a little over-encumbered. There are more books waiting for me on the hold shelf than I currently have checked out! SO MANY BOOKS!

Until Thursday Blogland!

 

BZ

Book Review – A Borrowed Man by Gene Wolfe

We meet again, Mr. Blog…

Obviously, I’m in a strange mood today. Yesterday was a refreshing success on many accounts, and I’m feeling relaxed and ready to get some work done today. The Husband came home sick from work, so he’s in the next room napping, and I’ve got the Writing Room door closed for the first time since I’ve started using it for its intended purpose.

It feels so… solitary. Isolated. Deliciously mine. Surrounded by my favorite things (my Garrus Vakarian figurine, my framed Elantris maps, coffee, my diplomas, and of course the books!) I finally feel like I can get down to business.

garrus-vakarian

“Can it wait a minute? I’m in the middle of some calibrations.”

So, yesterday. I wrote a book review for Blood Rites, outlined four chapters and an interlude of From the Quorum, and then wrote 1,113 words of chapter 11.

I also read Saga vol. 6, and finished reading A Borrowed Man. FINALLY. This book took multiple attempts, each time maxing out the possible renewals from the library. I had to return it and read something else at one point, but I finally came back to it.

I was damn near ready to execute my “200” rule. This is a relatively new thing I’ve implemented, in an effort to keep me reading as I work on completing my annual reading challenges. I found that, occasionally, there are books that I just can’t get through. I’ll spend weeks trudging through them, or avoiding them, instead of moving on and reading something else.

In an effort to curb this habit, I created a “rule” for myself. If I can get to page 200, roughly the 50k word mark of most books (which is a generally accepted minimum length of a novel), and I still am not interested in finishing the book, I get to count it toward my reading challenge. At that time I can decide, based on how much I understand of the book, whether or not to write a review.

Obviously, any review written about an unfinished book would be proclaimed as such, and would be a generally vague “I liked it and why” or “I didn’t like it and why” sort of review. I have yet to actually do this, but I am open to it. And who knows, maybe I’ll make another attempt to finish it somewhere down the road, as I’ve done in the past. In which case I could then do a full and proper review.

Anyway, a comment of mine basically stating the concept of the “200” rule on John Guillen’s blog led to this response blog post on his site. It’s worth a read and comment if you’re so inclined.

But, A Borrowed Man was nearly my first “200” book of 2017. I was all set and ready to return it unfinished. And then I hit page 200 and things actually started happening. Literally 2/3 through the book and something interesting finally happened.

But, let me go back and actually do this review right.

a-borrowed-manA Borrowed Man is a Sci-Fi novel by Gene Wolfe. He is widely accepted as one of the most prominent literary voices in the genre, and seems to be generally well-loved. Apparently, my mistake was introducing myself to him via this particular book. Based on a number of reviews, I should have started somewhere else.

I would consider this book to be literary Sci-Fi. The science fiction elements are definitely there. The whole premise is that E.A. Smithe is the property of the Spice Grove Public Library, because he is the clone of a popular 21st Century crime novelist. A woman checks him out to help her solve the mystery of her father’s and brother’s deaths, not just because of his expertise in understanding and writing murder-mysteries, but because their deaths seem tied to a physical copy of one of his books, Murder on Mars.

Add to it that the setting is a futuristic Earth that lost 2/3 of the population to some sort of war, and a very intriguing bit of astrophysics later in the book, and I staunchly agree that this is a Science Fiction novel.

But, it’s also a Noir. And it’s also very literary in its approach to character development and the narrator’s voice.

This combination of genre elements could have been very interesting and attention grabbing, but instead it plodded along, and bits and pieces fell together in ways that just weren’t very satisfying for me.

That could be a problem with me and not the book. Perhaps I missed a lot of cues early on (most likely due to bored inattention) that prevented me from anticipating the finished result. Apparently, with Gene Wolfe, that’s not unlikely. The book is very cerebral, without giving me anything to latch on to and get my brain in gear. dark-run

In short, I was bored. Only the last 50 pages or so were decent, but by then I was just frustrated with the previous 250, and not open to thinking too kindly of E.A. Smithe and his associates.

Anyway, it all comes together in the end, so if you don’t hate the first half of the book, its worth finishing. But, I’m glad I can put this one in the rear-view mirror. Now on to Dark Run by Mike Brooks! Nothing like a jaunt with space pirates to captivate my attention!

Until next time, Blogland!

 

BZ

 

Book Review – Beacon 23 by Hugh Howey

Hi Blogland!

Quick update before we get on with the review. NaNo is off to a good start. I wrote 1,225 words yesterday and 576 today. Since my goal was 500 a day, things are going really well!

Also, I need to make a small edit to the goals for this week. Due to holds on items at the library, I’ve decided to read The Vagrant by Peter Newman before I read A Borrowed Man by Gene Wolfe. Wolfe’s novel is renewable, Newman’s is not. The Vagrant is almost double the size of Wolfe’s book, so I’ve scratched the goal to have it finished this week, and instead am hoping to write the review sometime mid-next week.beacon-23

Of course, I’ll mention all that in Monday’s post as well.

Now, on to Beacon 23!

I picked this book off the NEW SCI-FI shelf at my library mainly because of the description inside the jacket:

For centuries, men and women have manned lighthouses to ensure the safe passage of ships. It is a lonely job, and a thankless one for the most part. Until something goes wrong. Until a ship is in distress.

In the 23rd century, this job has moved into outer space. A network of beacons allows ships to travel across the Milky Way at many times the speed of light. These beacons are built to be robust. They never break down. They never fail.

At least, they aren’t supposed to.

Now, I had just finished reading the Red Rising trilogy and was dying for more Science Fiction in my life. I ended up reading a lot more Fantasy before I finally cracked this one open, but it was worth the wait.

Beacon 23 is a weird little book. So, the premise is that in the future NASA has strategically placed beacons throughout various sectors of space. These act as lighthouses, directing ships away from hazardous regions of the galaxy.

The protagonist, who remains nameless,  is an operator of one of these beacons. Oh, and he’s a war hero. Though, he doesn’t consider himself such. Much of the book revolves his struggle with PTSD and survivor’s guilt. Some of it’s funny, like when he talks to a rock for a week, convinced that it’s a sentient species of alien. And then sad, when he realizes that in order to cope with the death of eight crew members of a crashed cargo ship, which he feels responsible for, he fabricated the existence of the rock’s personality.

beacon_bja

Interior illustrations by Ben J. Adams. Check out his work here.

There’s a lot of dark, bleak moments. And Hugh Howey does a wonderful job of writing them. His prose is sparse. The protagonist has a very relatable and distinct voice, and his narration of life in Sector 8, in Beacon 23 is definitely memorable.

I don’t want to give too much away, because the book moves in harsh twists and turns that are worth keeping spoil-free. But, suffice it to say that this narrator is lovable, loath-able, and probably more than a touch insane.

But you’ll have to read it for yourself to find out.

What really struck me, more than anything else, was the writing. It’s been a long time since I read something that was so straightforward and human, set in a world completely foreign. The narrator’s situation is far from typical, and yet his reactions and thoughts are 100% believable, and powerful. Even when he makes you doubt the last 40 pages with a single line.

It’s just damn good writing. I will say, the book itself is a little stilted, because it was originally published as five individual ebooks. The copy I read is a single binding, referred to as “The Complete Novel”. I think reading them individually, and waiting for the subsequent releases would have made the book that much more enjoyable, because Howey always left the reader on the edge of a cliff, and you never knew how the narrator would respond to it. Would he jump? Turn around and leave? Or simply drop to his knees and give up?

Waiting for those outcomes would have added a really nice sense of suspense and anticipation. I got to bypass that by flipping to the next page.

Also, this printing had really wonderful art before each “book”. I’m not sure if that art was included in the ebook format, but I enjoyed them in the printed edition.

beacon5_bja

Illustration by Ben J. Adams

In conclusion, I would purchase a copy of this book. I think that a second read through would probably offer more insight into what’s real and what’s PTSD delusion, and give me a chance to really appreciate the narrator’s struggle even more. There were a lot of funny moments, but there were a lot of really poignant and powerful ones too.

Thanks to this quick read, I’ll be adding Hugh Howey to my list of authors to read, always.

Until next time Blogland,

BZ

 

Book Review- Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

Blogland!

If you haven’t read the first two books, you’re going to want to go do that now. When you’re done with that, you should read my book reviews for them here. All caught up? Good!
libraryofsouls

This book was awesome! I finished it last night cozied up on the couch with Simon. I teared up a little, but not where I expected to, which was kind of nice.

What I thought was really successful about this book is how much I identified with Jacob. I remember when we first read Miss Peregrine’s that someone in Book Club didn’t really believe in Jacob as a character. They didn’t think a sixteen year old would think and talk like that.

But, that’s exactly how I thought and talked at that age. Smart mouthed and left to my own devices, much like Jacob was, I understood him immediately. I worried that, over the course of three books, Jacob would lose his voice. That he might drown in a sea of peculiar children.

But Ransom Riggs did a really wonderful job of keeping each child individual. I often read lines of dialogue, and knew who was speaking before reading the dialogue tag. With as many characters as are in these books, that’s pretty impressive.

The second book was really about developing all these children into the individuals you come to see them as. By the end of it, you’re in love with them all. And then in the third book, they’re all captured and in terrifying mortal danger off screen. The clock is ticking for Jacob and Emma as they try to rescue their friends from the Wights.

peregrines-quote

Lots of great quotes in this series.

At first, I was irritated that almost everyone else was out of the picture. But, as I read on, I found that the book worked really well with just Jacob, Emma, and some rotating side characters. The first book was about Jacob. The second book about the Peculiars. And this book was about Jacob and Emma, their relationship.

And it was perfect.

Also, this book had a lot more action in it. People get hurt. Some people die pretty gruesome deaths. There aren’t as many miraculous saves as in the second book, and there are some pretty dark themes explored. Drug use and addiction, kidnapping, torture, etc. I was impressed.

My one complaint, I think, is how much this book covered. The whole concept of Abaton and the Library of Souls is introduced in this book, and then resolved within those same pages. That’s a huge plot element to arrive in the third act, in my opinion. Granted, I’m not sure how else it could have been approached, but I wish there’d been more time to explore the Library and what it meant to Peculiardom.

Same for Bentham’s Panloopticon. I won’t go in to too many details, but it’s an impressive device that allows travel between loops. If you’ve read any of the books, you know this is a big deal. But, it doesn’t really get as much attention as I would have liked.

I think it’s a pretty good thing when a reader’s biggest complaint is that they wished there was more. In this case, Jacob’s story is told. We get a conclusion, one I was quite pleased with, and I feel satisfied in that regard. But, if Ransom Riggs wants to write more books about the Peculiars, I am all for it!

I would really love to read a book about Millard. He was my favorite of the Peculiar children, and spending more time with him would be lovely. But, really, I’d be happy with any of them. Enoch, Hugh, even Horace! I loved them all, and any adventure they want to go on, I’d be more than happy to follow along.

peregrines-quote-2

This one really struck  me in the moment. Thanks Miss Peregrine…

So, I’d say this book was a success. It was better than the second one, and I think better than the first. Although, the first book already has a bit of a nostalgic feel for me. Amazing since it hasn’t even been a full year since I read it, but everything that happens in it seems so distant from where Library of Souls ends that I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic about it.

If you’re looking for a quick read series that has a little bit of everything, I’d recommend the Miss Peregrine’s series. Very entertaining, with funny moments, sad ones, and a lot of jaw dropping and awe inspiring ones too. And let’s not forget all the awesome photographs!

On a more personal note, Library of Souls was my 50th book this year. Two more to go to reach my goal, so that’s going well. I’ve already moved on to Beacon 23 by Hugh Howey, and I’m enjoying it so far. Hopefully you’ll see a book review for that soon.

Halloween parties are this weekend, so I anticipate my reading will be thin, but if I’m lucky (read: disciplined) I’ll get A Borrowed Man by Gene Wolfe done by early next week, and I’ll be on track to read 70 books by the end of the year!

Anyway, I hope you all are having a great week so far! I’ll talk at you soon!

 

BZ

 

 

Goals Summary Wk of 9/26

Hey Blogland,

So this last week’s goals were a little ambitious, because I wanted to make up for the previous week’s utter failure. Luckily I landed somewhere in the middle, and I feel pretty good about it.

So, goals were:

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • A Monster Calls book review
  • Golden Son book review
  • Morning Star book review
  • Finish chapter 7 of Jordinn’s Story

I completed the first three, and actually made a tiny bit of progress on the chapter. Some streamlining and outlining mostly. But, I have a much better idea of where the chapter is going and how it connects to the subsequent chapters that are already outlined.

So, overall, I feel good about this last week. Not writing the Morning Star book review is all right, mainly because I need time to absorb the material. I’m excited to talk to all of you about it, just as soon as I’ve come to terms with the fact that the series is over.

So, what’s on the docket for this week?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Morning Star book review
  • finish chapter 7 of Jordinn’s Story

I know, what a lax week. But, I feel good about the work load, and I need to be more realistic with my goals. Setting small, achievable goals is the key to growing success. Yes, I want to challenge myself, especially since I so desperately need and want to get back into my old writing habits, but if I keep falling short week after week, it’ll become discouraging.

So, let’s lower the bar a bit until I start consistently meeting and exceeding goals. I’m alright with that.

In other news, Trevor and I bought a dining set today. I’m in love with it, and can’t wait to actually have a meal we prepared at it. This house is coming together bit by bit, transforming into a home before our eyes. Sorry for the sap, but it’s true.

Also, if you haven’t checked out The Audient Void yet, now is the time. Issue #2 is right around the corner! Click here to visit the Facebook page!

And, just as an update, I’ve decided that I am going to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I’ll be working on Jordinn’s Story, and though I don’t imagine I’ll win this year, it’ll be nice to get back to writing every single day. Even if it’s just 500 words over breakfast.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at right now. Social activities are at a minimum this week. Yesterday was my mother-in-law’s birthday, so we had the folks over and made dinner. Saturday was my first day on my new schedule, which is working 10+ hours straight between the two jobs.

But, this week? We’ve got nothing planned. I’m pretty excited about it.

So, keep an eye out for the Morning Star book review sometime this week. I’m trying to read A Dance of Cloaks. I’m 45 pages in, and I have zero urge to get further. But I know better than to judge a fantasy book by its slow beginning. I’ll keep trucking on.

See you soon Blogland,

 

BZ

Book Review- Golden Son by Pierce Brown

I love the internet. Seriously, as messed up as it frequently is, it’s also a beautiful thing. For instance, in order to better get in the right state to talk about Golden Son after so long, I turned to 8tracks. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s pretty much the best.

People make playlists and share them with the world. But, you can tag them, and search accordingly. Apparently video game and book nerds are alive and well on 8tracks, because I typed in Red Rising and was offered a dozen or more playlists inspired by the trilogy.

I’ve done this for other books and video games before, and there’s nothing better when you’re stuck in a story hangover.

Anyway, you might want to read my Red Rising review before you jump into this one.

Ready? Let’s talk a bit about Golden Son. Be warned, spoilers abound!

goldenson
It’s been a couple weeks since I finished the second book in Pierce Brown’s trilogy and I have just under 200 pages left in its conclusion. For a series that so underwhelmed me at its onset, I have been utterly captivated by these characters.

So, Golden Son opens with Darrow at the Academy. Roque and Tactus are with him, as is Antonia’s older sister Victra. Spoiler alert, she’s way cooler than her bitch sister. Still a bitch, but way cooler. Anyway, the Academy is to teach Naval warfare. Darrow is a Praetor of a fleet, and must dictate their motions and actions. It’s going well, he’s got Karnus au Bellona (Cassius’s brother) on the run. Until a trap is launched and Darrow loses. He comes in second overall, but losing to the sworn enemy of house Augustus makes him worthless in Nero’s eyes. His contract will be sold at the Gala celebrating the end of the year of Academy.

But, Darrow has other plans. A ton of them. One of my favorite things about this series is the plotting. There’s a large cast of characters, and they all have their own ambitions and schemes to achieve them.

darrow

Amazing Darrow fan art by PhantomRun, found at the Red Rising Wikia page.

The Jackal plays a pivotal role in this book, mainly as a tentative ally to Darrow. And there’s a lot of tension over this alliance. Roque disagrees as a matter of principal. Tactus thinks it’s risky at best. Victra wants to put Jackal out of their misery. And Mustang warns Darrow that nothing good could come from aligning with her brother.

Spoiler alert. She’s right.

But, before the Jackal bares his teeth, Darrow duels Cassius at the Gala, earning Nero’s favor again, and preserving his position at the ArchGovernor’s side. And then all hell breaks lose as the Sovereign attempts to murder the entire house Augustus.

It’s exactly what Darrow wanted. Civil War. The Golds of Mars have entered into war with the Sovereign, and Darrow uses the promise of making Nero the new Sovereign to keep the man moving in the direction Darrow wants.

But, per Pierce Brown’s usual, nothing goes quite to plan. And although Darrow is largely victorious by the end, the toll is high. Characters die, and it’s not until you read their last words, their last breaths, and Darrow’s reaction to them, that you realize just how deeply you cared for all of them. Even obnoxious dipshits like Tactus.

And he takes the ultimate risk. He takes Mustang to Lykos, he shows her the truth. And she runs from him.

Only  then does Jackal makes his move, murdering his father, and others, as well as capturing Darrow. All with the help of Roque. To his credit, the Poet of Deimos cries when he betrays Darrow, but that doesn’t make it any easier to read. The betrayal burns hot in you, and you hate that little man you once loved so much, even as you mourn the guilt he’s feeling.

sevro

More from PhantomRun, this time of Sevro.

And that’s how the book ends. We know that Sevro, Mustang, and the Telemanuses (Pax’s father and brother) are missing. They weren’t present at Jackal’s slaughter. And Darrow is now in his evil hands, to be dissected to discover how he was Carved.

End. Scene.

Now, I’ve glossed over a lot, and I mean a lot, of the larger plot points. There are quite a few revelations as far as the Sons of Ares is concerned. There’s a ton more word-building, and character development is on point throughout the book.

What Brown really does well is pacing and plotting. This book flew by, dragging me with it as it twisted and turned. I mourned characters. Their deaths, their failures, their heartbreaks. I cheered for them. Their triumphs, their joys.

And that’s why I hurtled into the next book. And already I’m mourning the end of this series. Mourning the very thought of saying goodbye to these people I’ve come to love so much. I’m just not ready.

Anyway, I’ll probably still finish the book sometime this weekend. Ugh. I’ll see you all then.

 

BZ

 

P.S. I’ll leave you with this gem, sang by Sevro in Golden Son. sevro-song