Goals Summary 2020 – Wk #14

Last week was… intense. There was a lot of work to be done in a very small amount of time to get students ready to transition to distance learning. Add in a migraine and I honestly don’t have many details on the week.

Last Week

  • Edit The Lament of Kivu Lacus
  • Finish reading Ashlordsashlords
  • Write 800+ words

How’d I do?

  • Edit The Lament of Kivu Lacus
    • Yep! Sent it out to some friends to get feedback.
  • Finish reading Ashlords
    • Yes. The last 100 pages or so would not let go.
  • Write 800+ words
    • Yes, barely.

Weekly Word Count: 952

I don’t have a lot to say about this week. I finished reading Ashlords, immediately started Vengeful, and then listened to The Ocean at the End of the Lane over the weekend while I was down with a migraine. So, a productive reading week, at least.

I did get another revision on the short story done, and sent it off to a handful of friends for feedback. So, that’s good. Once I hear back from them I’ll make any final tweaks and then start the submission process. Which is kind of crazy to think about. Every time I start a new story, submission quality seems so far away. And then one day… it’s just ready.

It’s wack.

I did a little bit of writing on some fanfic, but not a ton. I’m really struggling with this oneshot, and I’ll admit it hasn’t had much of my attention lately. Hopefully now that school will fall into some sort of routine again I’ll be able to hunker down at the keyboard and get some words down.

What’s Next?

  • Tavi revisions
  • Finish reading Vengefulvengeful
  • Make and post The Ocean at the End of the Lane video review
  • Write 800+ words

It’s pretty straightforward again. I’m over halfway through Vengeful already (because V.E. Schwab owns bones). I have a good chunk of time tomorrow to work on the next episode of Mrs. Harlow’s Quarantine Reads!, and I want to finish this oneshot.

The big question mark is the novel. Revisions suck. I can’t help but feel that way for a project this big. I’m not even 100% sure where to start, even though I just read the thing two weeks ago.

I think I need to just read through it again and let myself make the edits that come to me. I had some questions and notes on the first read through, so I should just make the changes and answer the questions. I need to sprinkle in some foreshadowing, get the main character’s emotional struggle on the page sooner, and iron out some details in the ending.

… Okay. Maybe I do know where to start? I might have thought about this more than I realized.

So, yeah. That’s the big project on the docket this week. And I’ll be honest, I’m not expecting huge strides here. It’s a big, super daunting task, and I need to take it piece by piece or I’ll get startled and run and hide.

But, I’ve been listening to the playlist again, which is always the first step in any writing project. I’ve been thinking about the book, about the characters, and wondering how to make every moment shine. I think I’m just about ready to try.

So, yeah. That’s where I’m at. Feeling good, if a little nervous. I’ll be back later this week with a video book review to share.

Until then, Bloggarts!

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2020 – Wk #12

Hi Bloggarts!

It’s a little weird jumping into the blog so late in the year, but late is better than never I suppose. By now you know that I’m not working (at least not in the same capacity) because of Covid-19 and this sudden addition of unstructured time has led me to re-examine my routines. Which reunited me with my trusty whiteboard…

Last Week

  • Edit The Lament of Kivu Lacus rough draft
  • Read Dragon Age: Tevinter NightsTEvinter Nights
  • Write 800+ words

How’d I do?

  • Edit The Lament of Kivu Lacus rough draft
    • Yep. I’m sort of struggling with this one because I like it so much. I know better than to submit a story that hasn’t been extensively revised, but I don’t know what else to do to it…
  • Read Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights
  • Write 800+ words
    • Yep. Pretty much right away. Some things clicked into place and my writing brain kicked into gear.

Weekly Word Count: 1,618

So. Yeah. First week “back” and I accomplished all my goals… That’s weird. But, not only did I accomplish all my goals, but I started a new YouTube series for my students. I’m screaming about it here on the blog so I’m sure you’ve seen it. I won’t blather on here about, but I do recommend you check it out.

Beyond video-making and goal-reaching there really isn’t much going on. State Parks closed today so I’m feeling pretty down about that. The nice weather finally gave out and we’re back to cold rain and grey skies.

I’m still playing Dragon Age, because y’know, I’m obsessed. I’m still writing fanfic and working on original projects. I’m here. Home and working and trying not to wonder too much about the future.

So, What’s Next?

  • Edit The Lament of Kivu Lacus
  • Finish listening to Tunnel of BonesTunnel of bones
  • Write 800+ words

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Right? Last week’s successes don’t need to be built upon just yet. I want to get into a rhythm and used to working again before I start getting ambitious. Besides, this week is officially Spring Break. There are no work expectations for me right now, but starting the 31st I’m expected to be available and may have work to do. I don’t want to plan goals based on my time constraints now only to have them change in a few days.

That’s about it, Bloggos. I’ve already made another video to share later this week. I’m still listening to Tunnel of Bones and reading Ashlords. I’m playing Dragon Age and pining for a hike, and seriously missing my bi-weekly karaoke sessions. Luckily our Dungeons and Dragons group has agreed to video conferencing our sessions so we don’t have to sacrifice that. A little normalcy will be nice.

I’ll be back later this week with another video! Until then, Blogland.

 

BZ

 

Book Review – City of Ghosts (Cassidy Blake #1) by Victoria Schwab

Blogland! My reading is picking up as the year draws to a close, as is tradition. I’m too competitive not to make a mad dash for my Goodreads Challenge goal, no matter how far behind I am.

City of Ghosts was not on my radar at all until quite recently. I discovered V.E. Schwab this year when a migraine struck and I listened to the A Darker Shade of Magic audiobook. The next two weeks had me feverishly consuming the sequels and adding any and all of her books to my TBR. But somehow, this book got missed.

Then I saw it on the shelf of my school library’s YA section and had a minor heart attack. I bought the audiobook with an audible credit and listened to it in two sittings. I have zero regrets.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

city of ghosts

Cassidy Blake is eleven years old and like a lot of only children, she has an invisible friend. The difference is that Jacob is very, very real. He’s just a ghost! After she fell in an icy river and quite literally died, Jacob saved her and brought her back to the land of the living. They’ve been inseparable ever since, and Cassidy has been able to cross the “Veil” to the land of ghosts, where she explores and takes creepy photographs of the beyond.

It’s all innocent fun until her parents announce they’re starring in a new show, The Inspectres, where they travel the world and investigate haunted cities. The traveling bit sounds cool, but the haunted bits sound… problematic. Especially since, out of her whole family, she’s the only one who’s ever actually seen a ghost.

So off to Scotland they go, with Jacob and the cat, Grim, in tow.

What I loved:

  • I loved the characters. I know, what a surprise, right? But, man, Victoria Schwab writes people so so well. I loved Cassidy’s wry humor and her affection for Jacob. I love Jacob, his nervousness, his timidity, and his sarcastic banter with Cassidy. I loved that Cassidy has a good relationship with her parents and that they seem to really love one another. I thought the whole family dynamic was super believable, especially since I was an only child, at least until I was almost 16.
  • The setting! I’ve always entertained the idea of visiting Scotland, but don’t really know much about the country, or of Edinburgh. Schwab’s descriptions really struck me. I’d love to see the city and the castle and absorb the general vibes of the place. So, thanks for that Schwab.
  • The narration! Reba Buhr read the book and did a fantastic job. I’ve read enough of Schwab now to recognize her writing no matter who’s reading, but I liked the voices and accents she did. It really helped me get immersed in the story.

What I didn’t love:

  • Um… it was a bit lower level than I’m used to reading. That’s not really a problem with the book, it just left me wanting more. The plot was largely predictable, but still good. I just wasn’t as engaged with the material as I would have been with an older Teen or Adult story.
  • I didn’t super like Laura. She felt sort of forced and I can’t really say how or why. I kept waiting for her to be the bad guy, and she wasn’t, so maybe that had something to do with it.

I love Victoria (V.E.) Schwab and this book is no exception. Not necessarily her best, but I’m also not the target audience. For middle school-aged me, it would have been an instant favorite.

There is a sequel, which I’ve already downloaded on audible, but I’m… hesitant. Ok, really talk, the sequel is called Tunnel of Bones and is set in Paris. They are FOR SURE going into the catacombs and… I can’t. Like, just the idea of the catacombs makes my heart race. Creepy, underground tunnels are a major fear of mine. Dunno why but just thinking about them makes me break out in a nervous sweat.

So, yeah. Might have to take it slow with that one.

I finished Gideon the Ninth and started reading Vengeful tonight. Lots of reading and a little writing. Life is good.

Talk soon, Bloggarts.

 

BZ

Reading Round Up – September 2019

There wasn’t much reading in September, unfortunately, but I still ought to talk about what I did manage to read.

Title: Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2)our dark duet cover
Author(s): Victoria Schwab
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: This book took me entirely too long to read. It had everything to do with my own personal and professional turmoil and utterly nothing to do with the book. I love the characters and the world and the crazy way music is intertwined through the whole thing. It’s very artfully done and sets a really high bar for YA fiction. As far as I’m concerned, Victoria (V.E.) Schwab is one of the best writers around and a new favorite. Read my full review for more details.
Recommend: Yes!

Title: The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited (The Adventure Zone #2)TAZ v2
Author(s): Clint, Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy and Carey Pietsch
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: I love The Adventure Zone podcast and I particularly love these characters. Listening to the podcast was wonderful, but the beauty and wonder of the graphic novel adaptations is that it does that thing we all wish we could do with every piece of media we love: it lets you experience the content as if it were the very first time. Add that the artwork is fantastic and you really can’t go wrong with these adaptations.
Recommend: Absolutely! Gotta have my good, good boys!

Title: X-Men Season Onexmen season one
Author(s): Dennis Hopeless and Jamie McKelvie
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars
Thoughts: Hmmm… I don’t have a lot of thoughts on this. It’s a short look at when Jean Grey came to the X-Men. Cyclops, Archangel, Beast, and Ice Man are the main characters which I enjoyed. I didn’t love Jean’s characterization and I hated that she was the only girl in the whole book. The whole “two boys like me, oh noes” plot was irritating. I liked the art though!
Recommend: Meh. If you’re a big X-Men buff and want to read about some early school days stuff, why not?

That’s all I got in the month of September. October is already off to a better start so there should be much more to talk about in the next Round Up. I’ll be back this week with a book review for Vicious and then quiet through the weekend while I attend a library conference!

Until then, Bloggarts.

 

BZ

The Recap – September 2019

Better late than never, right?

September Goals

  • Finish The Lament of Kivu Lacus
  • Continue short story submissions
  • Keep reading!

How’d I do?

  • Finish The Lament of Kivu Lacus
    • No. But I did write a little bit (800ish words) which, given the last few months, feels like a win.
  • Continue short story submissions
    • Yep! Stories are out.
  • Keep reading!
    • Yes, kinda? I read three titles in September which is better than August’s zero. I’ll take it.

 Monthly Word Count: 750

September feels like fog. The first half in particular. The new job has been all-consuming and the only way to turn my brain off has been television and movies. Somewhere in the middle things in my brain calmed down enough that I started reading again which felt like coming home. I really don’t function on all cylinders without a book in hand. And with reading came the itch to write. It wasn’t much of an itch at first, I’ll admit. It was more of a fleeting idea, a thought there and gone again before I could latch on and do anything about it. But I was thinking about my writing again, and that meant everything.

October Goals

  • Finish The Lament of Kivu Lacus rough draft
  • Revise and polish Exodus: Descent
  • Continue short story submissions
  • Keep reading!

I’m really close to finishing this short story. I’m working on the final scene today, though I think it may take multiple sessions to get down. It’s very heavy, depressing stuff and the story is dictating the pace. Which was actually a bit of a relief. Usually, when my routine has been gutted and I’m reeling, I’m avoiding my writing and wracking up the guilt. This time the story was nowhere to be found. It didn’t want me to work on it, it didn’t call for me and make demands. What a nice change of pace.

Exodus has been neglected long enough. It needs some tweaks and polishing and then I want to submit it. As a novella, finding markets for it is challenging, but my dream market for it is open right now so I REALLY need to get on this project. Luckily the writing is clean, it just needs a little work streamlining it to be the best it can be.

As ever, short story submissions will continue until there’s nothing left to submit. It’s nice always having this bullet-point completed.

My reading habits are back. I finished reading Vicious on Friday and I’m almost done with The Last Tsar’s Dragons. I expect I’ll finish it tonight. My TBR pile from the library is absolutely out of control and I’m sure I’ll have to return some things because of holds, etc. I also have about two hours of reading left in our book club book and plan to finish that while I’m at a library conference next weekend.

There is no shortage of books in my life. Hallelujah!

Hiking season, while technically still possible, has come to a mutually decided halt. We’re hermit-ing up, longing for hot chocolates, hot toddies, and all things fall. It’s my favorite time of year and I’m excited to share it with all my favorites.

With some luck and a lot of self-discipline, I should be around the blog a lot this week. I need to do a Reading Round-Up and get back on track with my weekly goals. There’s also the matter of the book review of Vicious. So, yeah, expect to see me a bit this week.

Until then Bloggos!

 

BZ

 

Book Review – Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2) by Victoria Schwab

It took me a really long time to read this book. It had nothing to do with the story, and everything to do with my tumultuous summer, which I should have planned for. I always have a tumultuous summer. There’s no escaping them, apparently.

But, once I finally focused and spent some time in these pages, I remembered why I refused to return the book to the library despite my lack of reading. If you haven’t read my review for This Savage Song, now would be a good time.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

our dark duet cover

After This Savage Song, Kate Harker fled her hometown of Verity, and left more than just her demons behind. She thought she left monsters, bad and good, but it turns out monster-hunting is a profession just about anywhere these days. She’s made some friends, computer nerds mostly, and together they are the Wardens, unofficial protectors of the city.

Meanwhile, back in Verity, August had very big, soulless shoes to fill. Leo may be gone, but he haunts August’s every step as the Sunai tries to be the leader, and monster, he was meant to be. It’s destroying him, but it’s the cost of success for the FTF. He’s determined to pay it.

But when a new kind of monster, one that feeds on violence and fear, climbs into Kate’s head and learns about the brutality of every day life in Verity, there’s only one course of action to take. Kate abandons her new life, risking the trip back into the city she left behind in order to warn August and help save Verity, even as it tries to kill them both.

What I loved:

  • The characters. I loved Kate and August in the first book and though there is a lot of tension between them in this book (which hurt to read) they were still utterly fantastic. I will love that violin wielding boy, forever and ever, amen.our dark duet cover 2.jpg
  • The stakes. The plot was a little slow to start, but once August and Kate got on the same page again it was nonstop. Lives are at stake, the city is at stake, and their relationship is at stake. It’s all so freaking good and pulls on every heartstring. Muah!
  • The writing. Victoria Schwab (aka V.E. Schwab) is a FANTASTIC writer. I adored her Shade of Magic Series, which led me to this duology and I couldn’t be happier. She really flexed her writing muscle with these books and I was torn between speed reading to find out what happened next and pausing to appreciate the music that echoed off the page.

What I didn’t:

  • Um… That there’s only two of them? I don’t know. The ending was perfect and inevitable. It was a tiny bit predictable, but I think knowing how it HAD to end actually upped the emotional stakes. It was sad and beautiful and perfect. But it was still sad. So I guess I didn’t(?) like that.

I feel sort of rusty at these book reviews right now. I’m out of practice in so many aspects of my reading and writing life right now. But, it’s like riding a a bike, right? Writing a bike?

Something like that.

I have a ton of reading lined up for the rest of the fall, so expect to see some more regular book reviews from here on out.

See you then, Bloggarts!

 

BZ

Reading Round Up – June 2019

June was a tumultuous month for me. My reading, much like my writing, came and went. I was distracted and had trouble committing to much of anything. That being said, I read more than I thought I did! Hurray!

Title: In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children #4)in an absent dream
Author: Seanan McGuire
Format: Trade Paperback ARC
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: I had low expectations for this book, since I wasn’t overly fond of the third one, but I LOVED this book. It tells Lundy’s story, of how her door opened and her time in the Goblin Market. I found it to be a perfect blend of cynicism and whimsy that really captured my attention.
Recommend: Yes, though you’ll want to have read at least the first book, preferably all of them first.

Title: Knight’s Shadow (Greatcoats #2)knight's shadow
Author: Sebastien De Castell
Format: Digital Audiobook
Narrator(s): Joe Jameson
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: This story is much darker than the first, and let’s be real the first book had five days of torture and a weeklong Purge scenario. I really liked this book, but less for the actual plot and more because I love the Greatcoats (especially Kest and Brasti) and Joe Jameson’s narration is fantastic. I love listening to Falcio talk, which is fitting, seeing as he does so damn much of it. See my full review for more details.
Recommend: Yes. Just buckle up and prepare yourself for some discomfort and some irritation.

Title: Revenger (Revenger #1)revenger
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: N/A – Did Not Finish
Thoughts: This book struggled from page one. I’m hesitant anytime I read a story with a teenage girl protagonist written by a middle-aged man, but I also like to give it a fair shot. I made it about 80 pages before I finally had to call it. The plot was slow to build, the characters were either unlikable or pretty cliched. There were a lot of cool concepts, but the writing and characters weren’t compelling enough to convince me to do the work to read it. When I have a TBR that’s literally overflowing I don’t have time for bad books. Sorry, not sorry.
Recommend: No.

Title: The October Man (Rivers of London 7.5)the october man
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: I’m usually pretty ambivalent about the Rivers of London novellas, but this one was really good! It was fast paced, introduced all new and likable characters, and had a really intriguing plot. It also made me want to visit Trier really badly. I liked Tobias, although his narration wasn’t super different from Peter’s, just with a lot less humor and geekery.
Recommend: If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll like this installment.

Title: This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1)this savage song
Author: Victoria Schwab
Format: Trade Paperback, Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: This book surprised me, which is silly since it’s by Victoria (aka V.E.) Schwab. She absolutely blew my mind with the Shades of Magic books, and after this book I think I’ll trust her with just about any book she wants to give me. Verity is a post-apocalyptic (sorta) version of the Midwest. In this world, literal monsters are born from violence. There’s the Corsai, made of shadows and teeth, the Malchai, which seem to be even creepier vampires, and the Sunai, which eat the souls of sinners with a song. It’s incredibly imaginative with wonderful characters yet again. I did give it four stars because it was a little slow to start and felt a little bit… tropey. Like, it very much felt like a typical YA book until about page 100. Not that that’s inherently bad, but it’s not my fave. Pretty much everything after that was spectacular though! Find out more in my full review!
Recommend: Yep! Treat it with patience until around page 100 though.

Title: “Where Monsters Dance”A. Merc Rustad
Author: A. Merc Rustad (now Merc Fenn Wolfmoor)
Format: Trade Paperback
Collection: Transcendent: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction
Editor(s): K.M. Szpara
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: This story is… weird. In a really good way. An imaginary friend turns out not to be so imaginary, and the main character has to save them in a hidden dimension of benevolent monsters. I really liked the blend of reality and imagination.
Recommend: Yep. This is a visceral and whimsical tale well worth the read.

Title: “Be Not Unequally Yoked”Alexis A. Hunter
Author: Alexis A. Hunter
Format: Trade Paperback
Collection: Transcendent: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction
Editor(s): K.M. Szpara
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: I loved this story. It was so unbelievably up my alley. A young Amish man lives with a terrible secret: sometimes, he turns into a horse. The lines are blurring between him and the mare he becomes, until finally they are no longer separate identities. This story accomplishes so much. It’s a trans story, it’s a coming out story, it’s a first love story, it’s a story about religion and family and finding your place in a world you don’t really fit into. It does all of that with beauty and grace and ethereal quality that kept me hooked.
Recommend: Yes! I think there’s something here for just about anyone.

Title: “The Thing on the Cheerleading Squad”molly tanzer
Author: Molly Tanzer
Format: Trade Paperback
Collection: Transcendent: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction
Editor(s): K.M. Szpara
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: I liked this. It’s more straightforward than a lot of the other stories in this collection, and it’s Weird Fiction, which I read a lot of. The plot was a little predictable, but I liked it nonetheless. A tale of body-snatching, dark rituals, and how fear and hate can have unexpected consequences.
Recommend: Sure! It was a fun story.

Title: “Kin, Painted”benjanun
Author: Penny Stirling
Format: Trade Paperback
Collection: Transcendent: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: I had to take some time to really marinate on this story. It’s very quiet, with not much action at all. A nameless character struggles to find their “paint” in a family full of artists. The art in this story is more than expression, it is identity. What I really liked was that, while the character struggled and experimented, the family members never once judged or condemned. They support the main character and treat them with kindness and patience. I loved that. It was a lovely and hopeful note to end the collection on.
Recommend: Yes. Honestly, I recommend the entire collection.