Archive for April, 2015

Another self help book. This one claims to help you overcome procrastination and become more productive. I don’t know about you, but I can always use a productivity boost. There are just so many things to do and never enough time to do them in.

Writing, crafting stories, various writing courses, editing, publishing, learning spanish, a full time job, chores, exercise, eating, sleep. And that doesn’t include all the extra commitments that seem to pop up out of nowhere. Not to mention all those times your brain crashes and refuses to do anything that so much as smells of effort.

This book is a little short of four stars on goodreads. A good rating but not overwhelmingly brilliant. I however loved it, so I gave it five stars.

It gives some simple techniques to help increase productivity, some which I hadn’t heard of before. Now I just need to remember to use them. I won’t give them all away but one of the really useful things I picked up was not to be so hard on myself.

Instead of saying ‘I must do this’ or ‘I have to do this’ (which I still find myself doing even now) say ‘I want to do this.’ The book goes further into explaining why this helps motivate you more, but what I took from this was to view the fun in tasks. Don’t build it up in your brain as this big scary thing that is nothing but work, work, work. Concentrate on the good parts and chances are you’ll enjoy it more and find it easier to start whatever task it is.

And for tasks that you really can’t see anything good in: break them down into little parts. Doing something horrible for an hour seems impossible. Doing something for a few minutes feels a lot more possible.

If you’re an increasing productivity obsessive like me, then I definitely recommend this book. It’s not the most life changing productivity book I’ve ever read (that title still belongs to ‘how to be an A star student’ which despite its title has useful tactics for all, not just students) but it has some interesting ideas that I hope will give my productivity that extra boost.

For more reviews on this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/95708.The_Now_Habit

This one is a short read, but definitely worth it if you liked the humor in the Sarah Milton Chronicle books – which by the way I wholeheartedly recommend. It’s an expansion of events mentioned in the second book which were only mentioned in passing. And it’s really really funny.

Link to my review of the first book: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/book-review-wednesday-reading-the-dead-5-stars/

Link to my review of the second book: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/book-review-wednesday-reading-the-dead-fidelis-in-aeternum-4-stars/

The humor of the series reminds me of Buffy. Some may see something different in it, but that’s how I view it. Now I know there are those who hate buffy humor with a passion, in which case this may not be up your street. For my fellow buffy fans who have not read these books, click on the above link to read my review of the first book in this series.

By this paragraph I’m going to assume you guys still reading this have read at least one of the Sarah Milton books and know what I’m talking about. If not prepare for confusion.

Anna gets the front seat in these stories. The first is her point of view of the night the “Fancy Dress Killer” almost killed Sarah. This was mentioned in the first book and detailed pretty explicitly in the second, so not much new here. Still was interesting to see Anna’s side of things though.

The second story is the real prize. This one takes place during Sarah’s dad’s wedding which was mentioned in passing in the second book. It’s kind of like Casper meets Home Alone, and this one was hilarious.

Two criminals have the bright idea to infiltrate the wedding to try and steal money from the house while the guests are busy shedding tears over the vows. Anna just so happens to spot them and takes it upon herself to teach them a lesson.

This was pure unadulterated fun, so don’t expect anything serious from that story and you’ll enjoy it.

For more reviews on this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20693234-anna-s-adventures

The third book in the Cinder series!

For reviews for book one go to: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/book-review-wednesday-cinder-5-stars/

And book two: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/book-review-wednesday-scarlet-the-lunar-chronicles-5-stars/

We meet a new fairytale character in this book. She doesn’t spend much time outside, and has long long blond hair. Can you guess who she is?

Rapunzel goes by Cress in this book but she’s the same character. Only I think she’s a bit more realistic than some other versions. For one thing, her long hair is a matted tangled mess. Makes sense. Is it even possible to brush that much hair yourself? It trails along the floor. Can you imagine the upkeep? And she would’ve had to start growing it very young. Can you imagine a small child being able to keep that much hair in order?

She’s also shy. Very shy. Like hide under the desk when the handsome man on the computer screen talks to you kind of shy. The handsome man being Thorne who was introduced in the last book. They spend a lot of time together in this book. (Crash landing in a desert together does that.)

I like how the author tries to make the characters different from each other. Cinder was driven from the beginning back when her acts of rebellion consisted of her scrap projects and keeping her odd robot Iko safe. As her book went on she developed a cool calm confidence that made her a good leader. Red was headstrong and quick to temper, but unfocused in life which is something she developed during her book.

Cress quite possibly has the farthest to develop of them all. She starts off timid of everything and everyone. She hasn’t been outside her tiny home in years, and hasn’t talked to anyone but her abusive jailer in just as long. Then lo and behold, Cinder contacts her and says they’re coming to her. Wow! Cress’s mind explodes.

Only she’s in a novel. So of course to say things don’t go smoothly is an understatement. (Lots of action later and she and Thorne crash-land in the middle of a desert. Well, at least she gets to see earth for the first time.)

It’s so sweet seeing her get excited over absolutely everything. And the relationship that develops between Cress and Thorne is both cute and hilarious.

Speaking of hilarious, humor is just as present if not more so in this novel as the last ones. There were so many laugh out loud moments, particularly around Thorne, and the interactions between Thorne and Cress. That’s not to say the others didn’t have their funny moments. Iko in particular had oh so many.

Not everything is a playful romp. This book does have its serious moments, and a lot of action. And Cinder finally manages to talk to Kai. But only after attacking him, because, apparently that’s a lot easier than having a sensible conversation.

Lots of action, lots of plot, and loads of funny. I’m loving this series. Near the end of this one we catch a glimpse of the fairytale character that stars in book four: Winter. She has an evil step mother, a fondness for animals, and was scarred by her step mother because she grew too beautiful. Can you guess who it is?

For more reviews on this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13206828-cress

Not the most useful self-help book I’ve ever read (I’ve read a lot of them), but there’s some practical stuff here. It’s an easy read, and has a lot of neat exercises that can help you figure out what you want to get out of life,  and what steps you need to do to get there.

I think my major problem with it was there were a lot of little things they recommended you do every day. By the time I reached the end of the seven days I’d lost track of most of them. Maybe a checklist at the end might’ve helped?

Anyways, I found the assessment questions at the start the most helpful. They helped me assess my priorities. One of the things I find most difficult to grasp is we only have one life. I want to do everything. I want to write a million books, master several genres, master drawing, learn dozens of languages, travel the world (and while we’re at it, space looks a neat place to go), be brilliant at parkour, martial arts, and a bazillion other things.

I’ll be able to do some of those things, but until longevity research does its thing and makes us immortal, I’m left with only so much time. So that first section was an eye-opener when I listed all the things I wanted to achieve in an ideal life.  (I want superpowers by the way. Telekinesis and invulnerability are at the top of my list.) Seeing all those things helped me pare things down (I left cryogenics as my lottery ticket to immortality and hopefully cool superpowers).

The vision boards idea was interesting. I think it has to be done in moderation. You can spend so long on making a pretty vision board that you take away from time on your project.

I’m not quite syncing with meditation, but I’ve heard from other sources this is a good thing to do, so I keep trying.

The book talks about positive thinking quite a bit. For those not in the know this is where you act like you have something, then it comes to you. That might be a bad definition, but that’s how I understand it. The author talks about how he modified one of his bank statements to have a huge amount of money, then a short time later through a series of circumstances did manage to receive that amount of money.

I’m not sure how I feel about positive thinking. It seems a little new agey. Then again, there are factors like confidence that suggest there may be something to it. There are enough examples of people who win the lottery, then through self sabotaging acts lose all that money. You could argue that they didn’t change their mindset to their new amount, and so unconsciously sabotaged themselves to get back to where they were.

Still it seems a little odd to imagine yourself a millionaire then have that opportunity to become one land on your doorstep. Maybe it’s just that if you’re thinking about it, you’re more confident and able to recognize and take on those opportunities when they come?

Ok, getting back to the point. If you’re a bit of a self-help book junkie like me, then this book is worth a read. If however you’re looking for one self-help book to turn your life around and make you one million times more productive I don’t recommend this one. It’s a hard choice, but I think the most useful and practical self-help book I’ve ever come across is ‘how to become a straight A student’ by Cal Newport. Don’t be put off by the title, that one has so many productivity hacks for work, school, hobbies, whatever. And the suggestions are so easy to put into practice. Love, love, love that book.

For more reviews on ‘change your life in 7 days’ go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/377682.Change_Your_Life_in_Seven_Days

I’m in the middle of writing a novel about a teenage girl in an extremely patriarchal society who decides to become a knight, then ends up forming an odd kind of bond with the dragon she sets out to kill. Tentative title is: Damsel Knight.

Or in other words, I’m playing with this great new toy and won’t have time to make any smaller toys for a while. I’m 57 thousand words in and still going strong. Estimating another 30 thousand words, but we’ll see.

That should tie me up for at least another month, and after I’m planning to sit down and write out the next stories in the Crystal Wolves series. I’m leaving the last two short stories up until I decide what to do next. Let me know what you want me to do.  Do you want me to recycle the last ten or so short stories? Or would you prefer to see something different? Insights into the writing process? Something I haven’t thought of yet?

Name away and I’ll consider it.

The reviews will continue to come every Wednesday. I’ve already read enough books to last a good few months yet! And since my goal this year is to read 86 books (one more than my achievement last year), I should have no problem keeping up with that.

I’m also thinking of doing something related to disability and representation of that and other minorities in media and books. Not sure on the details or time-frame yet. Any interest in something like that?

Ok, enough procrastination. Back to writing.

I’ve heard that the author didn’t like this short story much. It follows Dresden back when he worked with Nick, and they worked to find missing children. So it’s set before any of the books in the Dresden Files series. He’s looking for a girl who is definitely not happy to be found.

This is also the first time Dresden meets Murphy, and she’s as kickass as always. Plus we meet a troll. A big ugly troll out to eat naughty little children.

The kid in question; a girl called Faith is a neat character. She’s rough and tough, and gives poor Dresden a hard time for trying to rescue her. But when you find out her reasons you understand why.

They eventually form some kind of bond, what with all the danger about and Dresden being the only one who can practice magic. An action packed little story with some sweetness and a newbie to the paranormal shell-shocked Murphy. If you loved the Dresden series, then I recommend this one.

For more reviews on this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15732549-restoration-of-faith