Archive for January, 2016

1016464_72086621

A dead friend. A mission for justice.

Isaac can compel anyone to do what he tells them to, but he can’t bring his best friend back from the dead. So he’s determined to do the next best thing: find out who killed her.

Love Me, Leave Me is a short mystery/fantasy story of around 9000 words.

Another short story. This one set in Isaac’s world. Isaac was first introduced in Listen To Me. There he used his power to control people with a few words, taking what he needed to live off people.

In Love Me, Leave Me, he’s still doing that, but he’s also helping people. Baby steps. Isaac isn’t morally pure by any stretch, but he tries.

Things get personal when someone murders his best friend. Follow his adventures here as he uses his powers to find the murderer, and uncover a few things he doesn’t expect.

Advertisements

Blurb:

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

If you haven’t heard of this one you’ve been living under a rock.

There’s been so much hype surrounding this one, and I’m happy to say it’s well deserved. This is a good book. The plot is great, the character development is epic. It’s pretty darn perfect.

The author said that the number one thing she tried to do was make her main character proactive. This shows, and the book is a great read because of it. The pacing is fast. The world is rich and well thought through. The themes are present but not suffocating.

And it’s fun – the most important element of a book. I was glued from start to finish. It didn’t quite reach the candy covered addictive levels of the Cinder series, but it got very close.

If I’m going to be picky, I’d say that I don’t think the danger of being a divergent came across as well as it could have in the start of the book. But that’s a niggle.

Niggles aside, this is an epic read. 4.5 stars. If you like dystopian in any way shape or form you have to read this.

Link for more info.

Another book I’ve been meaning to get around to for a while. This one stars 12 year old Meggie, who finds out her father can read characters out of stories, bringing them to life.

Neat idea, and great for a range of ages. I’d say it’s suitable for anyone middle grade and up. There is some violence. The bad guys are definitely bad guys. They use guns, they kidnap children, they murder, and one of the child characters talks about having been beaten repeatedly.

Most of the bad stuff is off camera, but there’s definitely a real air of danger here. So be aware if suggesting it to sensitive children.

On the whole I loved this story. The plot is good. The idea is unique. The writing is of good quality. You really get a feel for the richness of the world the characters are in. There’s some great action scenes, and a lot of tension and emotion.

Now the negatives. The character development could’ve been better. The character don’t change much over the course of the story. And the pacing was a little muddled. Some places were great, and in other parts it slowed to a crawl.

Overall I give it four stars. It’s a richly written book with an interesting story. If the blurb strikes a cord with you, give it a go:

Twelve-year-old Meggie learns that her father, who repairs and binds books for a living, can “read” fictional characters to life when one of those characters abducts them and tries to force him into service.

Characters from books literally leap off the page in this engrossing fantasy. Meggie has had her father to herself since her mother went away when she was young. Mo taught her to read when she was five, and the two share a mutual love of books. He can “read” characters out of books. When she was three, he read aloud from a book called Inkheart and released characters into the real world. At the same time, Meggie’s mother disappeared into the story. This “story within a story” will delight not just fantasy fans, but all readers who like an exciting plot with larger-than-life characters.

Link for more info.

Ryan Hutton unsplash

To be ordinary, or extraordinary?

This isn’t the way Paul thought his life would turn out. Stuck in a failing marriage, walked over by co-workers in a thankless job. He thought he would be extraordinary.

He’s about to find out he’s right.

Fantastical Things is a short fantasy of around 9000 words.

 

Another short story. Buy it here for $0.99.

I’m slowly putting up my backlog. There’s a lot. This one is one of my favourites. I think everyone has considered leaving their lives behind at some point. I have.

Think about it. One day out of nowhere you find something fantastical. It’s everything sci fi TV told you to expect out of life. It’s this whole other option you thought you didn’t have.

Do you jump on that opportunity with grabby hands? Do you keep to the life you know? What if this is the only chance you get? Is it worth leaving everything behind?

Really enjoyed writing this one. Hope you guys enjoy reading it!

World war two holds a lot of interest for me. So it’s a little strange that it took me this long to get around to this book.

For those not in the know, here’s the blurb:

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

If I were to chose one word to describe this book it would be ‘beautiful.’ Really I’d want at least two more words to get a better picture. ‘Tragic’ and ‘inspiring.’

To me this book was about resilience in harsh times. It’s about normal life filled with love, friendship and little moments of happiness that can be found even when times are difficult. It’s about the decision to do the right thing, even when no one else thinks it’s right, and it may end in your death.

Our main characters are kids. They’re flawed. They’re young and start off knowing little about the war happening around them, but they learn and grow as the story carries on.

I think the author did a good job capturing the atmosphere of the times. You have some fanatics who love Hitler and everything he does. You have some who hate him and keep their mouth shut about it to survive. And you have others who care little either way. They have nothing against Jews or other minorities. But they join the party because those who don’t see their businesses suffer, and they need to feed their families.

I thought there was something very real in the everyday struggle for Liesel to learn to read while still grieving and coping with the challenges of life around her. And something very beautiful in the small acts of kindness and bravery she and Rudy carried out toward the end of the book.

All in all I give this one four stars. I can’t pinpoint an exact reason why this wasn’t five stars, except that it didn’t move me enough for that.

This is a great book and the book as a whole is very beautiful and moving, but some of the parts fell a little short for me. I found this story very very good and I think you should read it. It just didn’t feel as amazing as I expect a five star book to be. Perhaps my expectations were too high.

Anyway, if you like the idea of historical coming of age story in ww2 Germany, then try this one out. It’s narrated by death no less, which was an interesting spin on it.

For more information about this book click here.

10 favourite reads in 2015

Posted: January 6, 2016 in Book Reviews

Note: these are books I’ve read in 2015, not books published in 2015.

In 2015 I read over 75 books. A little short of 2014’s 85 books, but still decent. The following is in no particular order.

  1. Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.

Yes, I know I’m about ten years late with this one. In my defense I did start it last year. On the advice of one of my many writing courses I decided to analyse this book, focusing mainly on character choice within scenes.

This is a LONG book to analyse. On the plus side I learned a lot and it was great fun. So yay! The characters were chosen so well. The scenes have great structure to them. This is such a rich book with a nice fast pace. It kept me hooked from start to finish. Even if you’re not a fan of epic fantasies, you need to give this a try.

Goodreads link.

2)  Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

This has so many things I love to see in a novel: dead people, creepy monsters, humorous banter, a romance where the pair are first and foremost best buddies. Odd is a short order cook who can see dead people. He can also see when something big is about to come up that will make a lot more people dead.

Cue a fight against time to figure out what is going to happen in time to stop it. I loved this one. It kept me engaged throughout, the humor was nice, and there were loads of edge of the seat moments. The film by the same name is very good as well.

Goodreads link.

3) All Our Yesterdays

Such a pretty book. This could be me geeking out on the science behind time travel, but I loved how this book weaved together the science bits with all the other bits. It was beautiful.

Anyways. This is a sci fi thriller. Our protags are Marina and Em. Marina is young, innocent, and in love with the guy next door. Em is a cold girl, hardened by years of imprisionment and torture. She travels from her dystopian future, back to Em’s time. Her mission? To stop the time machine from being built and destroying the future. The problem with that? A note in her handwriting tells her she’s failed to do that 15 times, and there’s only one solution left.

I loved this book so much. It’s heart wrenching. It’s packed with tension. It raises serious ethical dilemas that I’m still not sure how to answer. Just go read it.

Goodreads link.

4) Broken Skies

This one is a lot easier on the brain cells than the one above. It’s a good old fashioned YA dystopian romance. It was published in april 2014, and considering how good it is, I’m surprised that more people haven’t heard about it.

Our dystopia is a post civilization world after the human race was mostly wiped out by a virus. Said virus killed more females than males, so females are a rare commodity. Our herorine Jax is a member of one of the few communities considered safe for females. Safe meaning they’re married off as soon as possible and expected only to yern for a life of making babies.

Jax doesn’t want that. She’s lived out in the forest with her twin brother for all her life. She is a self sufficient badass, and has more than one issue with being around other people. Oh, and there are aliens who live in one of the abandoned cities nearby. They stay away from humans, and make the humans stay away from them via cool forcefield technology. Not very neighbourly.

Then they go and kidnap Jax’s twin brother. Also not very neighbourly. And Jax has to team up with a stranded alien boy to get her brother back.

This is a book with a cool plot, a nice dose of sarcastic banter, a sweet slow build romance, and a main character with mental health issues (ptsd) who is in no way a victim. If you like YA dystopian romance, you should love this book.

Goodreads link.

5) Divergent by Veronica Roth

This one you’d have to have hidden under a rock for the past three years not to recognize. Another YA dystopian romance. I like them, OK?

For those who haven’t gotten around to this one yet (I know some of you are out there), this book is worth the hype. We’ve got action, we’ve got mystery, we’ve got serious things to think about. Which faction would we be? Which faction would we choose? Would we survive initiation? And then there’s the romance. Also a surprisieng amout of humor. I watched the movie first, so was surpired at how funny parts of the book were. Drunk Four, you are wonderful.

Our protagonist Tris has to choose one of five factions. Now usually you take a test which tells you which one you fit into. Only her test says she’s sutable for multiple factions, which is so not usuful in helping her make up her mind. It’s also very dangerous. I feel the movie put that across better than the book in the beginning. We learn how dangerous it is throughout the book, but at the start I got the impression it was more deeply weird than life threatening. Maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat, and the romance will make your heart flutter if that’s your kind of thing. My favourite part of the book was the character development. Tris at the end is very very different to Tris at the beginning. I rarely see such well crafted character development, so I’m a little in love with that aspect of this book. In short, read it.

Goodreads link.

6) Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Another dystopian with a bit of romance. Not as much romance as the above books.

Our dystopian world is an ugly place. Mass pollution, lots of poverty, and big companies who essentially turn you into a slave if you don’t keep up payments. Though they wouldn’t call it slavery. They’d spill out some legal mumbo jumbo, then bury you in paperwork. Which for me made this dystopia so much more scary than others I’ve read, because it’s frightenly plausiable.

People turn away from their ugly world to the virtual utopia known as OASIS. People live most of their lives on OASIS. They go to school there. They go to work there. They make friends. And of course they play games, destroy monsters, and level up.

Before he died, the game creator hid an easter egg in OASIS. Whoever tracks it down inherits the guy’s giant fortune and the game. Our protagonist is one of our determined hunters. And he’s a dedicated expert of era of history the game creator was known to be obsessed with: the 80s.

So many 80s references, so many. This book is full of geek humor. It’s also pretty exciting. A lot of people want the egg, and not everyone will stay in the confines of the game to get it. We’ve got some high life and death stakes for our teenage protagonist to handle.

I’d say, if you like geek humor you’ll love this book.

Goodreads link.

7) The Girl With All The Gifts by M R Carey

Every morning Melanie is strapped into a chair by a soldier who holds a gun to her head. The soldiers wheel her to a classroom where she hopes it’s her favorite teacher today.

In some ways Melanie is your average child. She loves school. She loves stories. And in other ways she’s as far from your average child as you can get. I won’t spoil the surprise and say exactly what Melanie is (though the blurb has heavy hints) but this is a sci fi/ horror book set in a dystopian future. Expect something not your average human.

The science in this book is wonderful. The author has clearly thought through a unique way for this to happen. Yet it’s not bogged down by heavy explanation. The science is easy enough to understand but detailed enough to be interesting.

There are strong themes of horror here. We see some pretty gruesome things happen to kids. It’s not all like that, but there are parts that made my heart hurt. The plot is great. The character development is awesome. The story raises interesting thoughts about life and our right to it vs other creatures. And I don’t think you’ll expect the twist at the end.

A neat book if you like horror/dystopian. Go read it.

Goodreads link.

8)Write. Publish. Repeat.

This one will only be relevant if you’re a writer like me. If you’re not, feel free to skip to the next one.

Still here? Then if you’re a writer (particularly a indie writer) you NEED to read this book. No ifs, buts, or maybes. Go read it. You’ll thank me.

I’ve read quite a few books on craft. This only has a little of that. Mostly it’s about the business side of writing. There are so many useful chunks of information here. Seriously, this is a life changing book for most indie writers.

Goodreads link.

9) The War of Art

This one I think you’ll like if you’re passionate about anything creative. Writing? Painting? Making sock puppets? Whatever it is, this is a good read for you.

It’s a non fiction book about breaking through creative blocks, getting your butt in that chair and working. There are some good tactics here. A must read for anyone who depends on something creative to make their living, or would like to.

Goodreads link.

10) Getting Things Done

I am a self confessed productivity junkie. Occasionally I’ll come across a book that changes my life. This is one of those books.

I think it was aimed at people running businesses, but this book will boost your productivity no matter what you want to be more productive at. The author openly acknowledges this and takes the time to explain how  some of the more business seeming suggestions can work for anyone.

What I wasn’t expecting is the book methods impact on my anxiety. I’ve made more progress getting my anxiety in check using this book than any of the therapy I’ve done. For those interested in this side of things, I used all the basic methods in the book. Then once a day I download my thoughts, identify worries and what I could do to fix them. Then I plug any goals or tasks created from all this into the lists detailed in this book.

Awesome stuff. I modified a few things to make it more digitally based since I hate the clutter of paper. This modified version is working really well for me. My efficiency has increased and best of all my anxiety is the lowest it’s been in ages.

Productivity junkies, go read this book.

Goodreads link.

Honorable mentions = Hero by Perry Moore, Room by Emily Donoghue, and A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie.

Matthew Wiebe unsplash.jpg

Payton is having a bad day.

Rejected from yet another job, she sits on the verge of homelessness. Life seems hopeless. Then something unexpected happens.

A chance meeting with a stranger who is determined to turn her bad day into something else. But this mysterious boy keeps secrets.

Her bad day is about to get a whole lot worse.

Troubles is a short paranormal story with a dash of humour.

For the readers of Crystal Wolves, you’ll recognize quite a few characters in this short story. This sits between the events of the first book ‘Moon Madness,’ and the second ‘Blood trail.’ No knowledge of the series is required to enjoy this book. In fact it’s better if you go into this one without reading any of the other stories first.

Here we meet Payton who plays a big role in book two of Crystal Wolves onwards. Pick it up here for only $0.99: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B018UZPLV4?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

And for everyone waiting for the next installment of Crystal Wolves, the third book will be out soon! Keep an eye on this website or sign up to my mailing list below to get updates sent to your email.

http://forms.aweber.com/form/70/1281520670.htm