Book Review – The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

Blogland!

I finally have a calm moment to try and write this book review.

Oregon is… in a weird place right now. A vast majority of the state is in flames as forest fires ravage my green home. Salem is nestled in the Willamette Valley, and is safe (so far) from the wildfires, but the Columbia River Gorge, Central Cascades, and Southern Oregon are all on fire. Ash is falling from the sky in Salem, coating cars and outdoor furniture, and tainting the air in a grayish-brown haze that makes breathing uncomfortable for many.

It’s pretty tragic, and terrifying.

But, that’s just another disastrous event I can tack on to this summer. I worry for the forests and natural beauty of Oregon, and my thoughts go to the people these fires have displaced. I heard it might rain on Thursday, and I sincerely hope it helps.

But, let’s talk about The Glass Magician!

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Blah blah Spoilers Ahead blah blah

In this sequel to the very enjoyable The Paper Magician, Ceony must face the consequences of the first book.

It’s been three months since the events of the first book, and life has gone back to normal for Ceony and Emery Thane, much to Ceony’s dismay. You see, she saw her future with Emery in the fortuity box, and she’s eager to get their romance rolling. But, though she now calls him by his first name, and they’ve fallen into comfortable domestic routines, they have carefully danced around their feelings for one another.

When Ceony is at the center of a series of attacks from the Lira’s cohorts (Emery’s ex-wife, and Excisioner baddie from the first book) things begin to heat up between the Magician and his apprentice. One scene that stood out was when Emery asked Ceony why she did all she did to save his heart. Her response was quiet and almost hurt, “don’t ask me that. You know why.”

Cue that painful disgusted sound that is synonymous with getting your heart twisted and wrung out to dry.

Her answer didn’t make Emery deny her words or even deny his own feelings, but he did share his doubts about the morality of such a relationship, between a Magician and his apprentice. That was enough of an admission for Ceony. But, the subtle change in their relationship doesn’t go unnoticed.

Magician Aviosky, the Glass Magician that mentored Ceony before she graduated from Pragis Taff, has suspicions that the relationship between Ceony and Thane may not be purely professional or scholarly, and she greatly disapproves.

So, not only are they trying to avoid death at the hands of crazy Excisioners (Magicians who have Bonded to blood), but they’re trying to keep nosy busy-bodies out of their private business. Even if those busy-bodies might have a point.

The best part of the book, for me, was when Emery was headed to the train station to hunt down Saraj (Bad Guy #2), leaving Ceony behind in London. She gets out of the cab, and fearing that she may never see Mg. Thane again, calls across the courtyard, “If you’re going to get yourself killed, the least you could do is kiss me goodbye!”

And he DOES IT! I definitely squealed, chock-a-block full of that ridiculous giddy feeling when two characters FINALLY get together.

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Me when Emery actually KISSED Ceony!

But, that was one shining bright moment that was quickly snuffed by the end of the book. Not story-wise, though that does get dark very quickly. But, writing-wise. Ceony is left on her own, dropped off at Mg.  Aviosky’s house in London. When she arrives she finds that Grath Cobalt (Bad Guy #1), who is actually a Glass Magician, not an Excisioner, has killed Aviosky’s apprentice and tortured Mg. Aviosky herself.

Some epic shit goes down, and Ceony does some quick thinking to save the day before she passes out and the point of view shifts to Emery…

WHAT? Like… WHAT THE WHAT? You can’t just do that! You can’t just knock your main character unconscious and then swap POV when you have literally NEVER SWAPPED POV BEFORE!

It felt cheap. The easy way out from a writing perspective. We watch Emery deal with Saraj, for a short chapter, and then go back to Ceony’s POV in which she awakes and Emery is already back and everything is said and done. WHAT?!

I’m still pretty worked up about it, and I think the only thing that could fix it for me is if the next book, The Master Magician, alternates point of view consistently. Otherwise I will continue to feel a bit put out over this.

Another thing I was less than satisfied with is the ending itself. The book sort of just… ends. The bad guys are handled, Ceony will be okay, and Emery is there. But, she broke her Bond to paper in order to Bond with glass and defeat Grath. She tells Emery this, and how she needs sand to break her Bond with glass so she can go back to paper, and he is confused but so relieved she’s all right that he just sort of nods and promises to get her some.

the paper magician

That’s it. That’s the end. No demand for an explanation of how she somehow managed to break the main tenet of their magic system, no in scene moment of performing the ritual and re-Bonding with paper. Nothing.

I really enjoyed the majority of this book, but the last 20 pages or so left me feeling gypped (I really don’t like this word but it is the right one in this scenario). When your book is only 213 pages long, you can’t have a reader upset at 10% of them. Just saying.

Anyway, I have all my hopes pinned on the last book in the series. Hopefully it will redeem this one for me. Either way, I love the characters enough to keep reading. It’ll be a little while before I get to that one though, since I’m still reading The Stone Sky, and about a million other things at once.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but it feels like it. Check out my Goodreads to keep tabs on my ridiculous reading schedule as I try to make up for lost time to get to 65 books this year.

And until next time, Blogland,

 

BZ

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Book Review – The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

Good evening Blogland!

Sorry this is so late, but I procrastinated by talking with out of town family for hours today. Then I helped walk Trevor through some stretches before he got into his workout today. So, here I am ready to talk all about our book club meeting and The Paper Magician.

Last night the book club congregated at Taproot, our favorite local bar with healthy eats and a very laid-back atmosphere. Towards the back of thetaproot building there’s a nook I refer to as the Book  Nook, where the owner (who also was the Officiant at my wedding) put up a ton of shelves with old hardback books from library rummage sales. Coupled with the worn, comfortable couches and custom wood coffee and end tables, it’s the perfect spot to meet.

And everyone showed up! Those of you following along these last couple years know that it’s a rare meeting when everyone’s in attendance and everyone read the book. I was really excited last night.

But, I’m even more excited because everyone was really thrilled with The Paper Magician.

This is the part where  I tell you that there are spoilers ahead. You were warned.

The book is set in the late 1800s, just outside of London. Ceony Twill has just graduated from The Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, in half the time, only to have her hopes crushed. She wanted to be a Smelter, a magician who deals in metal, but instead will be a Folder- a magician bonded to Paper. Print

It’s important to note that once a magician has bonded with their element, all other forms of magic are unavailable to them

While Ceony never really reveals why she wanted to desperately to be a Smelter, she is crushed when she’s delivered to the home of Mg. Emery Thane, who is to be her mentor for the next 2-6 years.

And though he’s younger than she imagined, and attractive in a thin, nerdy way, she’s an absolute brat her first day with him. He knew that Folding was not what she wanted, and he did his damnedest to show her the wonders of Folding, all prepared before her arrival. Paper snowflakes, cut and painstakingly Folded, and then imbued with a chill all of their own. An entire garden of paper tulips, blooming in the wind. Paper birds flitting about the house, and Jonto, a paper skeleton capable of simple butler-esque tasks.

Oh! And, on the second day, after seeing her stroking a small dog collar mournfully, Thane stayed up all night to fold her a small paper dog, who she names Fennel. He’s the size of a terrier, and has all the anatomy of a dog, Folded in complicated patterns and links. That gesture made me cry pretty good.

And so Ceony starts her studies. But, just as she’s coming around to her lot in life, prepping meals and memorizing her Folds, Emery’s ex-wife shows up and rips his heart of his chest. Literally. She’s what’s known as an Excisioner, a magician who manipulates human flesh. It’s a forbidden practice, and one Ceony knows nothing pretty much nothing about.

Ceony’s quick thinking saves the Magician, but only temporarily. A paper heart, no matter how well Folded (her’s wasn’t) can only last so long. So she sets out, against the Magician Councils orders, to retrieve Emery’s heart and save his life.

Using some advanced magic left behind by Thane, Ceony is able to track Lira (the ex-wife) to a secluded cave on the coast, and there she has the  Magician’s heart in a ceremonial bowl of his own blood.

Unsure of how else to get the heart back, Ceony uses her small pistol on the woman, only to find that the Excisioner was able to manipulate her flesh into spitting the bullet out.

This woman means business. But so does Ceony, because she was starting to fall for Emery. And she refused to go home without his heart.

Lira worked some dark magic that sends Ceony into Emery Thane’s heart, and there she’s on the run, fleeing through the chambers of his still beating heart to try and escape the evil woman, as well as find a way out.

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Fanart entered in a competition, Pages of Adventure by Jynette Tigner

Ceony learns a lot about Thane as she travels through his heart. Each chamber has a different theme to the memories. Good memories, bad memories, hopes, and fears are all presented, and Ceony must maneuver through them to find a way out.

I don’t want to give too much away, because I really liked this portion of the book. What a crazy cool way to develop a character, by literally taking a stroll through his heart!

I didn’t expect to enjoy this book so much, especially since it’s so short, only 213 pages. The world building is thin, and the clubbers had some questions in that regard, same as I did. Are Magicians a public fact? How much do magicians earn? How many are there? These kinds of things. We wanted more!

But, ultimately, this story is about Ceony and Emery, and establishing the magic, which is all done very well. The book club agreed, all of them eager to read on to the next books. I already have the rest of the trilogy on the Library Book table, waiting for me to finish up with The Six-Gun Tarot.

So, I very much recommend this book. It’s whimsical, romantic, and cute, but also has some darkness to it that keeps it from being too sappy. You can tell it’s Holmberg’s first novel, but I have every confidence that things get ironed out as she continues to tell Ceony’s story. As it is, I did enjoy the dialogue and the prose very much, and I will admit that I would read aloud to myself in British accents, because I’m a nerd like that.

Don’t worry, only my dog was subjected to it. I was otherwise very much alone.

Anyway, I hope you all give The Paper Magician a shot. It was a ton of fun, and I look forward to reading more from this author.

Until next time, Blogland.

 

BZ

Recap and Stats

Hi Blogland,

I had some things I wanted to talk about, but tomorrow’s book review just isn’t the place.

First, I wanted to share some stats with everyone, mainly because I’m proud of them, and by talking about them I hope to keep the momentum going.

February was a record month for the blog. Over 300 views in one month is unheard of here, and I am blown away by it. So thank you, everyone who stopped in to read what I had to say. You’re awesome! Also, the blog has surpassed 400 followers, which is unfathomable to me. I hope you all enjoy what I write here, and I promise I’ll keep coming back, sharing my life story by story with you all as I take my own steps on the “writing journey”.

In January I started my writing journey anew. Now, if you haven’t been following me since the beginning, let me throw some history at you. I started this blog in September of 2011 after a professional writer visited my Planning and Structuring the Novel class at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. Per his advice, I started my social media presence with a blog, followed by a dedicated Facebook page and twitter account.

I didn’t know the first thing about blogging. I probably still don’t, since my views don’t typically number in the thousands. But, I knew it needed to focus on writing and my experiences working toward fiction as a career. That’s all this has really ever been: a place for me to get the buzzing thoughts out in a constructive way, and to share these thoughts with like-minded folk.

Here we are in 2017 and the blog has become an inseparable part of me. I list everything I read, review books, as well as track my personal writing goals and learning experiences as I go through the steps of writing, editing, rewriting, and polishing manuscripts, as well as the editing and submission process for short fiction.

So, thanks again for following this page and hearing me out. It’s been amazing.

Another thing I wanted to mention was that I’m keeping much closer tabs on my word count accomplishments. I was tracking them weekly, and then including them in my weekly Goal Summary post, and I’m still going to do that, but now I will be tracking it monthly and setting monthly word counts.

So, how’ve I done so far?

January was my first month back in full writing mode. I used to write almost 9k words a week, back when I wrote five days a week.Before school and the the second job. Back when it was just me and Starbucks in a new town. I really want to get back to that, and I set a lofty goal for January because of it. I wanted to write 12k words, but came in at 5,134 instead.

For the first month back on a (somewhat) dedicated schedule, that’s not too bad. In fact, I feel pretty damn good about it. 5k words is more than I wrote in the six months prior to that, so I’m calling it a win.

Now, for February the plan was to start editing The Steel Armada, plus it’s a short month, so I knocked my goal down to 8k words. Honestly, still pretty intense seeing as I’m still working this writing muscle into shape.

But, I just tallied it all up, and I finished February with a total word count of 8,700!

That is insane to me. I can’t really believe it. I wrote 2.5 chapters this month, and outlined the manuscript through to the end. And I’m well on my way through the read through/initial edits of The Steel Armada. February was just a really great month for me, all around.

I’m hoping to keep the momentum going through March, but have dropped my word count goal again. Mass Effect Andromeda releases in less than three weeks, and once it’s in my hands I am at its mercy until who knows when. So, I’m shooting for 6k words this month and continuing edits. Also, if I can get the next book club title finished before the game releases, that’d be great.

So, that’s where I am here on March 1st. Things are going really well, and I’m making use of all this unwanted free time while I work part-time.

Also, if anyone is wondering, I’m getting used to this new laptop. I got a small wireless mouse, and disabled the touchpad, which helps tremendously. I no longer accidentally scroll the wrong way, or magnify or shrink things for no apparent reason. Plus, I wrote this blog, listened to music, opened multiple webpages, Scrivener, and  OneNote (and drew a stupid whale scene like the ones I did back in grade school) without the computer freezing and panicking and generally being a twit. Plus, being able to move windows with my fingers is pretty cool. Makes me feel like Iron Man.

I’m keeping it.

Anyway, that’s what I wanted to chat about. And I wanted to spend more time typing on this computer in preparation for tomorrow. Thursdays are always my big writing days, what with book reviews, fiction, and edits. I didn’t want to sit down tomorrow and feel intimidated or uncomfortable, so any excuse to get typing is a good one.

Thanks for getting this far, Blogland. I’ll see you all tomorrow when I finally get to talk about The Paper Magician!

 

BZ

Goals Summary wk 8

Well, Blogland… I did it. I finally did it. Well, sort of.

For about 2 years now I’ve talked about my ailing Macbook. I’ve tried all kinds of tricks to prolong its life, a new battery pack, deleting caches, empty my trash consistently and thoroughly. But, even then it was struggling.

Typically I use my computer with at least three programs running at once. Scrivener, iTunes, and Firefox. Occasionally it bumps up to four with Word. But, lately my computer has struggled to even run two programs at once, and if I open a second tab in my web browser, forget about it!

After a particularly frustrating session on Thursday, my husband convinced me to try out “our” Windows laptop. It was a Black Friday purchase a couple years ago, and though we bought it with the intent of it being a mutual device, neither of us use it.

Until now.

Sunday night I upgraded to Windows 10, and have spent the entirety of my morning getting programs downloaded and trouble-shooting my external hard drive. Turns out that, when I bought the thing four years ago, I formatted it for my Mac. At the time that wasn’t unreasonable, seeing as I had zero intentions of ever going back to PC.

But, here I am. So, I had to erase the entire drive, reformat it, and am now reloading all my writing, music and photos. Only then will I be able to put the files on the “new” computer. Hopefully. It’s given me a lot of issues already. And by issues I mean that I have had a mac for far too long and am PC illiterate.

But, this computer is nice. Just, weird. The keys are slightly farther apart, but they’re lighter. I don’t have to press as hard, and they’re quieter. There’s 10-key, which I love/hate. I love it because 10-key is awesome and convenient. I hate it because it makes the computer that much bigger.

Also, I am not a fan of the touch-pad on this laptop, so I’ll be getting a wireless mouse this afternoon. And, the backspace key is shorter than I’m used to, so I have to get used to that.

A bunch of tiny things that I won’t even notice, given some time. But, right now, they’re glaring.

But, It’s Monday, so let’s talk about goals!

Last week I wanted to:

  • write chapter 13 of From the Quorum
    • Didn’t happen. I wrote 346 words, but did outline the rest of the novel. 17 chapters to go!
  • read The Paper Magician
    • Done! And moved on to The Six-Gun Tarot.
  • publish 2 blog posts
    • Done!
  • continue The Steel Armada edits
    • Done! I’m on chapter 15 of my read-through, which has become much more active editing than anticipated. I’ve done a lot of world building already, and have set about answering some of the Betas’ questions. I also created a new Scrivener project for The Steel Armada, in which I will do my further edits, instead of relying on printed copies from Word. So, once I’m through with the read through and any handwritten notes, I’ll head back into Scrivener and get to work.

Al in all, not a bad week. That brings us to this week. What do I want to accomplish?

  • write chapter 13 of From the Quorum
  • read The Six-Gun Tarot
  • publish two blog posts
  • Continue The Steel Armada edits

Hopefully by the next Goals post I’ll be fully moved in to my new laptop, and less gripe-y than I feel now.

You should hear from me on Thursday, when I post the book review for The Paper Magician. Until then, Blogland.

 

BZ

Editing: On Research

Blogland!

It’s been a quiet week spent reading for Book Club. I just finished The Paper Magician last night, but won’t be posting the review until next Thursday, after our meeting. But, at least you have that to look forward to!

What I’ve really been focused on this week is research for The Steel Armada. Now, this is the first time I’ve ever actually done full blown research for a book. I’ve done some quick Googling on the spot to get clarity on an issue or scene, but I’ve never sat down with a text and taken notes and built up details and the world from there.

I had my first study session on Monday. For the first time in a long time, I took the manuscript out into the wild (Governor’s Cup, a local coffee shop downtown) and put in my earbuds to bring the din of espresso machines and conversations down to the comforting bustle of business.

It was a nice hour spent pouring over Sailing Ships. As previously mentioned, that book is a gold mine of info, but it’s actually a little advanced for me. It’s giving me terminology and diagrams, but it doesn’t really explain what the various parts of the ships do. So, I know where the mizzen is a on a ship, but I don’t know what function it serves.

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Dammit, Jim! I’m a writer, not an artist!

So, my research is leading to more research. Which is awesome! I’m taking notes, learning new things, and letting those things further develop the world. And when the world develops so do the characters who live in it.

But, I want to talk a little about research in general, in terms of writing fiction.

Those of us who took any Creative Writing courses have heard the “tried and true” advice spoken with finality: Write What You Know.

…Yeah. About that…

Funny thing for Speculative Fiction authors is that this advice falls flat. I’m writing about a desiccated planet and the small fraction of humanity that survived on a flying armada of steel ships above it. I don’t exactly know what that’s like.

But, I know what it’s like to be a seventeen year old girl falling in love with her best friend. I know what it’s like to lose your father figure. And I know what it’s like to demand more from the people and the world around you.

And anything I don’t know, like the architecture of rigged ships, I can research.

Which is really the most important thing I’ve learned so far. Speculative Fiction authors can still write what they know, they just have to know a lot about a ton of different things. The key to great world building is developing the small details that lend your world credibility. Yes, there’s much in Fantasy and even Science Fiction that is made up of things we can never truly know before we set out to write them. But, I can learn as much as I can about the things that are real, or based on reality.

Do giant sailed ships made of steel fly through the air? No. But, those ships of my creation can follow the look and feel of wooden rigged ships from human history. And the more I know about that, the more realistic I can make the ships of my creation.

Now, I’m not saying I’m going to be an expert of fully rigged ships after this book is finished. And I doubt I’ll ever try my hand at sailing even the smallest of sailed craft. That actually sounds terrifying to me. But, I will be able to name the parts of a ship with clarity and confidence.

Watch out Jeopardy! I’ll wreck that ship category when the time comes!

(See what I did there? Wreck? Ship? Hah!)

 

aeroponics-vs-hydroponics

I have only the slightest idea of what any of this means…

Another big research topic I’ll be doing soon is Aeroponics versus Hydroponics. These people have food, both plant-based and livestock, which means they grow crops. How? What’s their nutrition like? Their livestock’s nutrition? These are questions that need answered.

Not because they’re vital to the plot. They aren’t. At no point does a potentially under-nourished cow play a critical role in freeing this society from its oppressors. But, if I can lay the foundation of my own understanding, I can address any questions that might come up.

For instance, now that I think about it, goats are a far more believable protein source than cows. They’re way more versatile eaters and take up less space, while providing milk, cheese, meat, and hide.

Goats.jpg

Who doesn’t love goats? Look at ’em!

But, if you haven’t noticed by now, the research spiral can be a dangerous thing. I think it’s why I’ve avoided it so far. Because questions only lead to more questions, and I have a tendency to want them all answered.

Let me tell you now, that is not necessary. You don’t have to answer every single question. Because ultimately you just need enough truth to wrinkle out any doubt from your manuscript.

Of course, it’s not a bad thing to do too much research. You just have to recognize when to rein it in and bring your focus back to what really matters: the manuscript.

So, I’m spending a lot of time doing research this round of edits. But, I still feel hopeful about an August finish. I think this round of edits will go by faster because there’s a lot of content creation happening. That’s way more interesting than going through line for line and reworking things.

But, all this content creation means I’ll probably have to do a fourth draft, to clean up the lines I’ve added in order to flesh everything out. Bummer. I still want to have all of that done by August.

I’m going to need an endless supply of coffee and snacks.

 

BZ

 

Goals Summary wk 7

Hi Blogland!

Today is a new day. A day full of possibility, and it’s off to a wonderful start. A stomach full of some egg frittata concoction my husband made, and the bolstering aroma of percolating coffee hangs in the air.

I’m normally off on Mondays (for the time being) but the husband is also off thanks to its being President’s Day. I’m not letting that stop me from sequestering myself in the office and getting work done, however.

In my last post I told you all how sick we were last week, and I’m pleased to say that we’re both back to feeling relatively normal. There’s still the occasional sneeze and stuffy noses in need of tissue, but otherwise we’re well again.

So, how did last week stack up goals-wise? Not as badly as I thought.

Last week I wanted to:

  • Write chapter 13 of From the Quorumarcanum-unbounded
    • That did not happen. I didn’t even open Scrivener until last night. I considered writing for a tiny moment, but we had company and dinner in the works, so I decided against it.
  • Finish Arcanum Unbounded
    • Done. I don’t think I’ll do a review on this one, mainly because it would either be overly simplistic, glossing over the stories, or far too in depth as I gave each story its own review. Just know that, if you’re a Sanderson fan, you should read it.
  • Publish two blog posts
    • Barely. Last night’s little update counts, so I got to put this one into the black.
  • Continue The Steel Armada edits
    • Yep. Edited about three chapters last night. This is still technically a read through, but I’m taking a lot of notes, both on the pages and in a designated notebook. So, none of these chapters are ready to be called “Draft #3”, but the feedback I’m getting and the notes I’m taking or forcing me to do a lot of thinking and world building. I’m very excited about this editing round!

So, not too bad. Considering the week we had, and how awful I felt, I still managed to get most of my goals done. That feels damn good, and keeps the momentum going forward into this week.Print

What’s on the agenda for the next seven days?

  • Write chapter 13 of From the Quorum
  • Finish reading The Paper Magician
  • Publish two blog posts
  • Continue The Steel Armada edits/read through/research
    • A note on this one: As I’ve mentioned before, world building and character development are my two main focuses for this round of editing. I’ve done a lot of great work already in answering reader questions and addressing where there’s too many blanks. But, I don’t have enough knowledge about ships in general to describe them and let my characters discuss them in a convincing way. So, I’m doing research. I’ve loaned a book from the library called Sailing Ships by Björn Landström and it is full of diagrams and terminology for all kinds of rigged ships! I’m really looking forward to delving into it and learning more about the world of The Steel Armada.sailing-ships

Book club meets next week to discuss The Paper Magician, so I need to hurry up and get that done. I’m only on chapter 2, but according to fellow Clubbers, it goes pretty quick. After that I’ll need to read and write as much as possible in the two following weeks, because Mass Effect Andromeda releases on March 21st, and I will be useless for a long time after that.

In other news, I’m meeting with the creator/editor/producer of The Audient Void this evening to “discuss some things regarding books”. He and his wife operate a local indie bookstore, and since I work at a library I guess they want to meet up and chat. I’m not really sure about what, and I’m always a little nervous about vague social meetings, so I’m trying not to over-think it too much. I really like them both, so I’m sure it’ll be a fun and interesting conversation.

I’m forcing myself to look forward to it. Anxiety aside, I know I’ll enjoy myself. I’m just not good with unknowns…

Anyway, coffee is done brewing, music is playing, and there’s fiction to write and edit. I’ll talk at you all soon Blogland.

 

BZ