Keeper of the Winds

Naturally everything we own was packed away when we moved, so upon joining my new local library I borrowed this book to bridge the gap whilst searching for Seaborn (the book I started long ago and now intend to finished).

Keeper of the Winds by Jenna Solitaire is teen fiction and I suppose I would put it into the urban fantasy genre. Other readers might slot it into the mystery/suspense genre and possibly even romance (although I feel the romance thread isn’t strong enough to do that).

The book is the first in a series called Daughter of Destiny and from a writer’s perspective there were two things that really stood out to me.

The first – a positive – is that I enjoyed the writer’s style and voice. It was easy to read and felt comfortable, which I feel is very important for any reader, especially me, as it allowed me to become absorbed in the story. I also liked the way the book was set up, i.e. at the beginning of each chapter are tiny scenes that lift the suspense and will make readers want to find out what they relate to. In my opinion, these teasers (as I call them) were well done and added to the overall story.

The second – actually there are two negatives – relates to the character building aspects of the main character. The other characters were fine, believable, but the main character is a girl who really got on my nerves because she continually moaned and groaned and fought against everything…and I mean everything! I understood that her makeup was a non-believer, but I think the author ended up making her unrealistic. As I read the story, I found myself wanting to cross out sentences that took this “non-believer” stuff too far. The second negative is that I got a bit confused about the time of the day that some of the scenes in the story took place. For instance, one scene started at about lunchtime but before I knew it the main character was exhausted and going to bed! It was supposedly 9pm by this time but the events that occurred in that time didn’t feel right to fill up that amount of time. This happens several times throughout the book.

Putting the negatives aside, the overall story was interesting enough for me to continue reading. In fact, I wanted to know where everything was heading and only felt annoyed by the main character’s refusal to accept anything that was happening to her. The other negatives were minor nit-picks on my part.

One thing that is worth mentioning is that the author of the book is also the main character in the story. I believe this was a clever decision on the part of the author and/or publisher. They are making out that the events are based on truth. The plot has been well thought out and the book is written in first person. I believe that this author/main character thing will create a bit of a buzz that will bring more sales. Good luck to them.

Anyway, overall I think readers of fantasy and young adult fiction will enjoy this book.

Good Reads

Following Benjamin Solah’s example, I’ve spent some time this evening updating my Goodreads account to reflect some of the books I’ve read in the last couple of years. I will continue to add books as time permits, but for now I have laid the foundations for my reading future. 😀

As you may know, with the upcoming move comes the opportunity to do some serious reading this year. To be totally honest, I am extremely happy about this and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into my first book – Seaborn by Chris Howard. After that, I have boxes full of books to get through so I will be spoiled for choice…to say the least.

As you may have noticed, I’ve updated the right hand sidebar. The book I’m currently reading (or planning to read) will be shown in the same fashion as always. However, I’ve added a Goodreads widget that automatically updates as I change the status of books from “currently reading” to “read”. If you hover over a book cover you’ll see some extra details about the book, including my rating. Cool, isn’t it?!

Edit: Above, I said that the format for the book I’m currently reading will remain unchanged, but I’ve changed my mind. If I’m going to use Goodreads to showcase my bookcase I may as well do it properly. In the long term it will save me time, so I have added a second widget for “currently reading”. I’ve manipulated the code to the best of my ability, but unfortunately I’m unable to get rid of the white space between the cover and the text without the entire box shrinking. Never mind.

Writing on the Move

With the upcoming move, I’ll also be changing a lot of my current habits. In my experience, every time I’ve moved, my routine has gone out the window and I start again. I see this as a good thing, because we often get stuck in a rut and complain about “the same old same old”, but we never do anything about it. We always intend to, but it doesn’t happen. Moving makes you change it.

Anyway, packaged in this move is a good deal of commuting to work. When I tell people the details, their eyes go large and their mouths drop open, because they are gob smacked. OK, are you sitting down? I’ll be travelling two hours (each way) to work each day. “Are you kidding?” is a question I’ve been asked a fair bit in the last six to eight weeks. I just smile and say, “I never kid.” 😉

Yes, that’s a lot of travelling and anyone in their right mind would avoid it. Obviously I’m not in my right mind because I’m willing to do this. But the way I see it is that I’ll be sitting on a train and if I use the time effectively, this could be a very good thing! I could do exactly what I do at home, but on the train instead. In fact, I might (and should) even do more on the train as it’s uninterrupted time with no distractions. Being a writer, I am looking for ways to make some of this time my writing time – maybe the morning trip when my fellow commuters are quiet and sleepy and I’ll catch up on some reading time on what I think will be the noisier trip going home. Reading and writing have always been two of my loves, yet over recent years I have found that both have slipped further and further away from me. The commuting will bring them back to me and, believe it or not, the prospect is exciting!

The reading part of this scenario is easy. I take a book on the train and read it. No surprises there. However, I’ve been thinking about how I can make the most of my new “writing time”. Years ago, I would have bought myself a notepad or exercise book and written longhand. These days, I hate doing that. It’s fine for planning, but not effective (for me) for writing. So I started looking at mini notebooks (the laptop kind). Not only would I have all my files with me, I could happily type away to my heart’s content. Perfect!

Once I got the notion that this would be the way to go, I started checking them out. They are small, light and would provide exactly what I need. But…to buy one would set me back around $600. I could get an Asus EeePC for $327, which has Linux instead of Windows (I don’t have a problem with this), but the keys are quite small and I believe it would hinder my typing to the degree of being frustrating. Acer, HP, Dell and Toshiba have their own versions out, with larger keyboards. However, the problem is that I already have a normal sized laptop which works perfectly well (and is not even a year old yet) and I can’t justify spending $600 on a mini laptop. Admittedly, my current laptop is large and quite heavy compared to the smaller versions and wouldn’t really be suitable for lugging to work and back each day, but does that give me an open license to purchase another laptop?

Why not buy second hand, at a fraction of the cost? Sometimes I amaze myself at how brilliant I am. So I went to ebay (and a couple of other online auction places) to check out what bargains were available. In my mind, I’d be spoilt for choice, but in reality I discovered that purchasers on these sites obviously haven’t done their homework and they were buying used good for almost the same price as a brand new one. In many cases, purchasers of the Asus EeePC were paying more than shop prices! What’s wrong with these people?

Now I’m not sure what to do. I can see this travelling time being a perfect time to write, but I’m loathe to spend the money to set myself up because I don’t know how long I’ll be commuting. If I don’t buy the mini notebook, I know the new habits I form after I move will be detrimental to my writing, but if I do buy it I might only get a few months use out of it. Then again, I might love the routine and not want the commuting to stop.

I guess if I buy it and then stop the commuting in coming months, then I could put it up on ebay and hope some fool gives me my money back…or more!

New Beginnings

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting much lately. There is a reason for that and I’ll tell you what it is later in the post.

Firstly, here’s a quick update on my writing. I have been rewriting that character’s storyline that I’m mentioned continually for the better part of this year. The rewrite is going quite well and I’m pleased that I persevered and made the changes. It has made a huge difference to the overall storyline and brings everything back inline with what I originally planned. I’m roughly half way through, yet I will have to work my way through the other character’s storylines again and fix up the way they perceive this “new” character. I don’t see that as being a problem.

Secondly, an update on my reading…or lack of. Seaborn by Chris Howard has been in the sidebar for some time now. Actually, I think I placed it there before Christmas or maybe it was just after, I can’t remember. I read the first two chapters or so and then put the book aside because of “the reason I haven’t been posting”. I envision I’ll start reading again as from 20 April. Yes, I can be that specific!

Now, the reason I haven’t been posting is because I’m moving. This move is not just around the corner, so it’s no small thing. And…now that the children have left home, we have so much unneeded furniture that we had to get rid of. Not to mention the mountains of books! Most of the books ended up being donated to charity, but I gave a lot away too. Yes, I know I could have listed them on ebay or taken them to a second hand bookshop, but my experience with ebay is that I pay more in fees than what I make from selling them, so what’s the point, and we don’t have a second hand bookshop in my area anymore. Besides, I really couldn’t be bothered with taking photos and uploading them and then, if I were lucky enough to sell the books, cart them to the post office. Dropping them off at the charity store was far easier.

Then there is the packing. Honestly, I feel exhausted and I’m surprised I’m even doing the rewrite. Anyway, we move on 4 April and I return to work on 20 April, which is why I know the exact date I’ll return to reading. I’ll be commuting, so I’ll have lots of time to read Seaborn and then all the books I didn’t get rid of – only four huge boxes full!

Let the Reader Soar

Just because the prose is not eloquent doesn’t mean it’s not good.

~ Benjamin Solah

Benjamin Solah is talking about the book Twilight in the above quote. Visit his website to read the full post – On Twilight. What I’m about to say has nothing to do with Twilight; it’s about all published books, but the quoted sentence prompted my thoughts and that’s why I’ve included it here.

I’ve read a lot of books over the years – some have been great, many have been mediocre and a lot have been tolerable, bordering on terrible. And yes, I’ve even attempted to read some that could only be described as a complete waste of time and money; and I always wondered how those ones got published.

In my opinion, the books that didn’t make the grade (for me) might have been great stories if I had persevered, but I can’t see why I should force myself to read dribble. But were they really dribble? Or was it simply a case of those particular stories not “speaking” to me personally.

I find I enjoy books I can relate to. Books that confirm I’m not the only person with a particular problem or goal, or the only person looking for love and acceptance, or the only person to experience grief, happiness, fear, joy and all those other emotions that fill me during any given year. I enjoy books that help me explore topics and places I love. I don’t enjoy books that force me to explore topics and places I find incredibly boring. But that doesn’t mean the person sitting next to me or across from me won’t enjoy that same story. Those people have different views to me, have experienced different lives, have different goals and most likely enjoy hobbies that differ from mine, so it’s likely they will enjoy different books to me too.

One thing I must say is that some of the great books I’ve read have not been written particularly well, but the characters and setting have pushed that fact aside and allowed me to soar into the world of make believe. A book is about the written word, of course it is, but it’s also about pulling the reader into the pages of the story so that they feel part of what’s going on. A book that does that is a success in my eyes.

I just wanted to share that with you.

Book Review: Deep Water

Deep Water (Castings Trilogy, Book 2)

Deep Water by Pamela Freeman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Last night, I finished reading Deep Water by Pamela Freeman – book 2 of The Castings Trilogy. I must say that I particularly enjoyed how the author ties everything together. Even the “mini stories” play an important role in the overall plot – and not only because they give the world and the characters more depth. My only complaint is that the third book won’t be released until late in 2009.

My apologies for the lack of enthusiasm in my “review” of the book. It really is a good book and deserves much more than what I’ve written here, but I have a tummy bug, so I’m not feeling 100% and don’t have the energy to think and be creative. I might come back to this post and expand on it at a later stage…when my brain isn’t fried and I’m feeling better.

Edited on Tuesday 9 December 2008

Well, five days later and I’m still not 100%, but I do feel much better than I did and I’m ready to add something more to my review of Deep Water now.

As a reader, I found that the first two books of the trilogy spoke to me. I enjoyed the characters, especially their depth, and I related to their stories. I also enjoyed finding out what made them tick by reading their “mini stories”. Often we accept traits of characters on face value, but the author of these books offered reasons and circumstances that made me feel sorry for even the nasty characters. As I said in my review of Blood Ties (Book 1), this trilogy is the best adult writing I’ve read in a while.

As a writer, I found the “mini stories” worked well in captivating my interest, yet we are told time and time again that flashbacks should be kept to a minimum. I believe these books prove that rules are meant to be broken, if it is done well. I also took note that the flow of the writing was easy to follow. There were no strange words that stopped me in my tracks because I didn’t know what they meant. The character names and the names of places were easily pronounced, which again didn’t divert my attention away from the storyline. And…there were no long descriptions and no weather reports, which are two of my pet hates.

I think the only real criticism I have about this trilogy is the fact that the story is continuous from one book to the next. I’ve never like books that do that – especially when I have to wait almost a year before the next book is available to continue to read – as my memory isn’t the best anymore. But even when my memory was great, I didn’t like it. I prefer each book of a trilogy to have a main story that starts and ends in that book, even if there is a thread that stretches over all three books (which there should always be, in my opinion).

I enjoyed both books a great deal and they are highly recommended.

The Lord of Beasts

The Lord of BeastsI would call The Lord of Beasts by Justin Elliott a classic fantasy novel for young adults. It’s about a group of young teenagers (from memory, I think they are about 14) who are drawn together in the most unusual circumstances and then thrown into a quest that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

The story has it all – ogres, pixies, faeries, magic, fear, laughter and a very real threat of death, just to name a few. The characters are a good match. They are well written and each has their own problem to overcome. The setting is put together well and easy to imagine. The plot is believable, which is something some stories (and not just fantasy stories) lack, and it’s also fast paced. I enjoy a fast paced story. I don’t like being dragged through a book – grumbling and groaning all the way – so it was nice to find myself transported through a world I would not have been able to visit without the help of the author.

The Lord of Beasts is the first story in a trilogy or series. I look forward to the publication of the second instalment.

Book Review: Blood Ties

Blood Ties (Castings Trilogy, Book 1)

Blood Ties by Pamela Freeman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blood Ties is the first book in The Castings Trilogy. It is also the first adult fiction novel the author has published,as she usually writes for children. I have read several of her children’s books and enjoyed them immensely. This book was no exception. In fact, it has qualities that make it stand apart from her previous writings. If you are a fan of the author, then you definitely will not be disappointed with Blood Ties.

The story is well written – smooth and interesting. The characters are not perfect people, which make them realistic, and they are likable and well rounded. And the world is believable yet enchanting.

I was especially impressed with the flow of the story. It is so easy to read, which makes it almost impossible to put down. From what I’ve heard, the second book (Deep Water) is quite the page turner so I’m looking forward to reading it soon. Another unique quality of the book is what I call the mini-stories of the minor characters. They give the story depth and allow the reader to view storylines from different perspectives, which is brilliant.

In all honesty, Blood Ties is the best adult novel I’ve read in a while. I highly recommend it.