That Dreaded TBR #3

It has been way too long since I did this – the last one was back in November. But since then I’ve been trying to catch up and keep ahead of the reviews. And now I’m in a position where I don’t currently have reviews to write for the blog. Weird. Anyway, Part 1 and Part 2 both helped me cut down my Goodreads TBR a little bit, so let’s do this again.

I originally saw this on Becky’s Book Blog

Rules

Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
Order on ascending date added.
Take the first 5/10/however many books. If done again, start from where you left off.
Read the synopses of the books
Decide: should it stay or should it go?

#1

don quixote

Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Don Quixote has become so entranced by reading chivalric romances that he determines to become a knight-errant himself. In the company of his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, his exploits blossom in all sorts of wonderful ways. While Quixote’s fancy often leads him astray—he tilts at windmills, imagining them to be giants—Sancho acquires cunning and a certain sagacity. Sane madman and wise fool, they roam the world together, and together they have haunted readers’ imaginations for nearly four hundred years.

With its experimental form and literary playfulness, Don Quixote has been generally recognized as the first modern novel. The book has been enormously influential on a host of writers, from Fielding and Sterne to Flaubert, Dickens, Melville, and Faulkner, who reread it once a year, “just as some people read the Bible.”

This is one of those books that, for years, I’ve thought, “I should read that.” But I’ve yet to pick it up, and to be honest there are constantly so many other good books being released, I only have so much patience for ‘Classics’. This one goes.

#2

flowers in the attic

Flowers in the Attic – V.C. Andrews

Such wonderful children. Such a beautiful mother. Such a lovely house. Such endless terror!

It wasn’t that she didn’t love her children. She did. But there was a fortune at stake—a fortune that would assure their later happiness if she could keep the children a secret from her dying father.

So she and her mother hid her darlings away in an unused attic.

Just for a little while.

But the brutal days swelled into agonizing years. Now Cathy, Chris, and the twins wait in their cramped and helpless world, stirred by adult dreams, adult desires, served a meager sustenance by an angry, superstitious grandmother who knows that the Devil works in dark and devious ways. Sometimes he sends children to do his work—children who—one by one—must be destroyed….

‘Way upstairs there are four secrets hidden. Blond, beautiful, innocent struggling to stay alive….

I actually tried to read this book many, many, many years ago. Well, no – my mother tried to make me read it, when I was way too young. I didn’t even get to the worst parts, wouldn’t find out for years after what actually happened in that attic. I just remember being extremely bored by the first few chapters. And then I had nightmares about something happening to my dad. So I put it down and have never picked it back up. By this point, I don’t think I ever will. This one goes, too.

#3

the corrections

The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen’s third novel, The Corrections, is a great work of art and a grandly entertaining overture to our new century: a bold, comic, tragic, deeply moving family drama that stretches from the Midwest at mid-century to Wall Street and Eastern Europe in the age of greed and globalism. Franzen brings an old-time America of freight trains and civic duty, of Cub Scouts and Christmas cookies and sexual inhibitions, into brilliant collision with the modern absurdities of brain science, home surveillance, hands-off parenting, do-it-yourself mental healthcare, and the anti-gravity New Economy. With The Corrections, Franzen emerges as one of our premier interpreters of American society and the American soul.

Enid Lambert is terribly, terribly anxious. Although she would never admit it to her neighbors or her three grown children, her husband, Alfred, is losing his grip on reality. Maybe it’s the medication that Alfred takes for his Parkinson’s disease, or maybe it’s his negative attitude, but he spends his days brooding in the basement and committing shadowy, unspeakable acts. More and more often, he doesn’t seem to understand a word Enid says.

Trouble is also brewing in the lives of Enid’s children. Her older son, Gary, a banker in Philadelphia, has turned cruel and materialistic and is trying to force his parents out of their old house and into a tiny apartment. The middle child, Chip, has suddenly and for no good reason quit his exciting job as a professor at D—— College and moved to New York City, where he seems to be pursuing a “transgressive” lifestyle and writing some sort of screenplay. Meanwhile the baby of the family, Denise, has escaped her disastrous marriage only to pour her youth and beauty down the drain of an affair with a married man–or so Gary hints.

Enid, who loves to have fun, can still look forward to a final family Christmas and to the ten-day Nordic Pleasurelines Luxury Fall Color Cruise that she and Alfred are about to embark on. But even these few remaining joys are threatened by her husband’s growing confusion and unsteadiness. As Alfred enters his final decline, the Lamberts must face the failures, secrets, and long-buried hurts that haunt them as a family if they are to make the corrections that each desperately needs.

I don’t know why this is on my ‘Want to Read’ list. Looking over the blurb – why is it so long? – it might be one of those books I maybe saw a review for, thought, “Oh that looks good” and added on, but I honestly can’t see me ever getting to this one. Like the other two, it goes.

#4

canada

Canada – Richard Ford

“First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.”

When fifteen-year-old Dell Parsons’ parents rob a bank, his sense of normal life is forever altered. In an instant, this private cataclysm drives his life into before and after, a threshold that can never be uncrossed.

His parents’ arrest and imprisonment mean a threatening and uncertain future for Dell and his twin sister, Berner. Willful and burning with resentment, Berner flees their home in Montana, abandoning her brother and her life. But Dell is not completely alone. A family friend intervenes, spiriting him across the Canadian border, in hopes of delivering him to a better life. There, afloat on the prairie of Saskatchewan, Dell is taken in by Arthur Remlinger, an enigmatic and charismatic American whose cool reserve masks a dark and violent nature.

Undone by the calamity of his parents’ robbery and arrest, Dell struggles under the vast prairie sky to remake himself and define the adults he thought he once knew. But his search for grace and peace only moves him nearer to a harrowing and murderous collision with Remlinger, an elemental force of darkness.

A true masterwork of haunting and spectacular vision from one of America’s greatest writers, Canada is a profound novel of boundaries traversed, innocence lost and reconciled, and the mysterious and consoling bonds of family. Told in spare, elegant prose, both resonant and luminous, it is destined to become a modern classic.

A literary coming of age novel, I think. And there are so many good fantasy and horror coming of age books, that I can’t imagine myself picking up a ‘literary’ one. Plus, whenever I do pick up something ‘literary’, I often find myself getting frustrated at the way the author writes women. Canada might not be bad in regards to that, but I have no interest in checking it out. This one goes.

#5

unexpected gifts

Unexpected Gifts – S.R. Mallery

Can we learn from our ancestral past? Do our relatives’ behaviors help mold our own? In “Unexpected Gifts,” that is precisely what happens to Sonia, a confused college student, forever choosing the wrong man. Searching for answers, she begins to read her family’s diaries and journals from America’s past: the Vietnam War, Woodstock, and Timothy Leary era; Tupperware parties, McCarthyism, and Black Power; the Great Depression, dance marathons, and Eleanor Roosevelt; the immigrant experience and the Suffragists. Back and forth the book journeys, weaving yesteryear with modern life until finally, she gains enough clarity to make the right choices.

I have to admit, I’m a little torn on this one. It sounds intriguing, for sure, has an interesting premise, and the reviews on Goodreads all look really positive. So for now, this one can stay.

Well, 4 out of 5 gone. Not bad. I might actually be able to get my Goodreads TBR – if not my actual physical TBR – down a fair bit if I keep doing this. Might stop things like recommendations glitching on me (I always live in hope).

Have you read any of these books? Think I made the right decisions?

The Darkwater Bride – Marty Ross [Books]

darkwater bride

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Audible Studios

Rating: starstarstarstar

Katrina believes her father to be a good man, honest and hard-working. He promises her he has to make one last business trip to London, and then he’ll never have to leave home again. But when his body is pulled from the Darkwater, Katrina travels to London to find out what exactly happened to her father.

This is another full cast audio production, and it works really well. The characters are fully fleshed out, emphasised by the voice actors, from the innocent Scottish Katrina to the maybe a little naive policeman Cully, to the gruff old detective and the various others who inhabit this world.

Katrina and Cully retrace her father’s footsteps, revealing to Katrina that she, ultimately, didn’t know her father at all. Overshadowing all this is the The Darkwater Bride, a mysterious figure mentioned in passing, who Katrina becomes convinced is tied directly to her father’s death.

Along with the characters, the story weaves in and out of various locations in London, with Cully forever insisting Katrina remain behind, and her determined to move ahead and confront exactly who her father was. I have to admit, this back and forth got a little tedious at times, a touch repetitive, but the voice actors dealt with it well and the interactions between the pair were still entertaining, even if we’d heard something similar shortly before.

It really was the voice acting that made this a 4 rather than 3 star. The story is good, but does get a little repetitive – characters go to dodgy places, discover Katrina’s father went to these places, find out he did something bad there. At times, Katrina comes off as too naive, and at others, so does Cully, whereas in other scenes we see the opposite.

The Darkwater Bride is definitely enjoyable, with the mystery of the bride building up, and there’s a lot in here about the way women are treated, what women must do to survive and the sort of thing they have to put up with to just keep going. The ending felt a bit forced, but overall this was a good production with a good cast, and an interesting story.

The Ringmaster’s Daughter – Carly Schabowski [Books]

the ringmasters daughter

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Bookouture
Release Date: July 7th, 2020

Rating: starstarstar

Michel enjoys his life in Paris, working with horses and living near his dearest friend. But the Nazis are edging closer to the city, and even if Michel doesn’t want to leave, his friend knows he must. Michel ends up on a train heading south, only to discover the train belongs to a circus. Michel joins the circus to look after their horses, despite the hostility from the ringmaster. And Michel falls in love with the mysterious trapeze artist, although he feels she can never really be his.

Okay, firstly: I liked the first part of this book. Enjoyed it, and until about halfway through it would have maybe been a 5 Star, but everything felt off after that. The description at the start was intriguing, Michel a likeable if dim character, and the situations presented with the Nazis drawing ever closer made for some good tension.

But almost as soon as the threat itself is pressed on the characters, it lost the things that made it good in the first place.

Firstly, the title is The Ringmaster’s Daughter, but Michel spends a vast majority of the book not realising the woman he loves isn’t his boss’s wife. It would have been handled better if he found out sooner, but instead it’s stretched out for so long it becomes frustrating, it’s treated like a huge reveal, and even the conversations that take place regarding her are confusing. The way Michel talks makes it clear what he thinks, but not a single person corrects him.

And it’s built up as a great big love story, but Michel barely even speaks to her, just spends half his time lusting over her while sleeping with someone else.

The actual female characters here aren’t great. The two main women exist solely for Michel, never interacting with one another, and the others are barely existent in themselves, like mannequins that only come to life when looked directly at. By about three-quarters of the way through this book, I was frustrated. The dialogue was bland, the interactions between Michel and his ‘love’ felt like two fish who kept headbutting each other in a bowel, and the fact this was during World War 2 seemed forgotten for the most part, unless it was required for the plot.

So much of this story hinged on the idea of a ‘mysterious circus’, but we don’t even get to see the circus itself, and things are only a mystery because Michel cannot be bother to do much of anything. He goes from dim but likable to just dim and boring, never really doing much except reacting to what was happening.

This is set in France, when the Nazis invade, but you’d be forgiven for forgetting that during the book’s meandering plot. Michel, for the most part, seems happy to ignore what is really going on, to not pay attention to the way others are reacting, to ignoring the news they get filtered through to them. He just doesn’t seem to care about much of anything.

And then there’s the ending. The ending, which could have been really strong and redeemed the book, instead felt like it was tacked on, like the author had an idea in mind for how to end, but changed it at the last minute. The last section feels both rushed and too slow, with no real reason for it.

I was really keen to give this book a try. I thought there’d be a bit of magic to it, a grand romance, an intriguing setting. Instead, this book let me down, and it could have been so much better than it really was. I felt like the author had the ability to create something really compelling, but got bored of their own story, right when things should have got interesting.

 

Penny Dreadful, Volume 1 [Books]

penny dreadful

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Titan Comics

Rating: starstarstar

I really liked the TV series Penny Dreadful. (Not the ending though, but I can’t remember the last time a TV show ending actually left me satisfied) Penny Dreadful is what a good The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen adaptation should look like. Vanessa, in particular, is a fantastic character throughout the series, and I was keen to check out the graphic novel that explored the events prior to the start of the TV show.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think this really added much, and felt more like rehashing what we’d been told within the show itself. The book is marked as ‘1’, but as far as I can tell it’s a standalone graphic novel, whereas there’s another series that continues on from the show itself, which I’d still be interested in checking out.

The artwork is beautiful and Vanessa looks exactly like Eva Green. However, a large amount of the artwork is obscured by darkness. It gives the same effect as trying to watch dark scenes on TV with the curtains wide open.

You can probably tell by now how much I adore graphic novels. And I suspect a glance over my Goodreads will show I give a majority of them 4 or 5 stars. It’s rare where I read one and get frustrated, or start thinking about the next one on my comics TBR before I’ve even finished what I’m reading.

With this, I found myself increasingly bored. There were some good moments, and it was interesting to get a proper look at Harker, but most of the time it felt like it was dragging on – perhaps because of the previously mentioned problem where it was actually difficult to see what was happening in different panels.

I feel like there were much better directions this could have gone, and overall although I sort of enjoyed reading it, it was a little disappointing. Like I said though, it hasn’t put me off checking out the other Penny Dreadful series, though I hope the scenes in the other one are easier to see.

May 2020 Reading Wrap Up – Part Two [Books]

May 2020 2

JanuaryFebruary / March Part 1 / March Part 2/ April Part 1 / April Part 2 / May Part 1

Black Dogs, Black Tales – Edited by Tabitha Wood & Cassie Hart

black dogs

Review Coming Soon on Dead Head Reviews

This is an anthology you should definitely pick up. 17 authors to represent the 17% of people in New Zealand with mental health problems, and with profits going towards a New Zealand Mental Health Charity. Even without that awesomeness, the stories here are brilliant, powerful, moving, and creepy. And best of all, the dogs all survive.

American Gods – Neil Gaiman

american gods

My Review

I read this book years ago, but revisited it via Audible. The version I listened to was full cast, and was really good. Turns out there were some parts I remembered really cleary, and others I didn’t, but it was still great to slip back into this world.

From Twisted Roots – S.H. Cooper

from twisted roots

Review coming soon on Dead Head Reviews

I will never stop talking about good Cooper is. Her work is fantastic. Her short stories are really unique in their style and range, with a lot falling into that strange sub-genre of wholesome horror. From Twisted Roots takes a lot at families, at relationships, some with supernatural horror elements, and some where the horror comes from the humans themselves. Definitely worth checking out.

Devolution – Max Brooks

devolution

My Review

Although I didn’t like this as much as World War Z, I still really enjoyed it. It’s a fantastic book, using that ‘found text’ style, and where WWZ read like a history textbook (in a good, OMG this feels like it happened kind of way), Devolution takes a more singular, personal approach, and presenting it as a journal works really well.

Spider-Man/Deadpool Volume 1: Isn’t It Bromantic

spiderman deadpool

My Review

I love a good graphic novel and this one did not disappoint. Teaming up the wise-cracking Spider-Man with the Merc with the Mouth results in some funny, some heartwarming, and some damn scary moments. The way they riff off each other just feels natural and I’m keeping hope we eventually get to see these two in a film together.

Breakfast at Bronzefield – Sophie Campbell

breakfast at bronzefields

My Review

A woman’s experiences in two British women’s prisons, this is a book I would strongly urge others to pick up. Campbell explains the treatment she received in prison, as well as providing facts and statistics where they are related. It’s eye-opening, and makes the argument for reform really well.

Zombieville – C.V. Hunt

zombieville

Review Coming Soon on Dead Head Reviews

This was one where I listened to the Audiobook version. It’s an intriguing story with two interesting point of view characters – Chris, who is a zombie, and Raven, a young woman who has just moved to town, and has no idea what she’s really getting into. The only let down in this was the narrator really, but I go into that more in the actual review.

Writing the Other – Nisi Shawl & Cynthia Ward

writing the other

My Review

Another book I honestly think everyone should read. Everyone with an interest in writing, anyway. This book doesn’t talk down to the reader, explains that yes, when writing outside your experience you will make mistakes, but if you do what you can to mitigate that, it’s better than not trying. I really would urge writers to pick this one up – it’s one of the strongest craft books I’ve read recently.

So there we have it. The second half of my May wrap up. I read 16 books in May, and my current total on Goodreads (at time of writing on 12/06) is 66/75 books read for 2020. I originally set my goal at 50 with the plan being to revisit it this month, but I upped it previously as I’d exceeded 50. If I managed to hit 75 this month, I’ll be amending my goal to 100. Let’s see how that goes.

How did your May go? Did you read everything you wanted to? Anything unexpected you really enjoyed?

May 2020 Reading Wrap Up – Part One [Books]

May 2020JanuaryFebruary / March Part 1 / March Part 2/ April Part 1 / April Part 2

This will be another two parter, as I ended up reading 16 books in May. So I’m not going to even speculate here and say, “Oh I probably won’t read as many in June” because I have now done that twice before and I did, indeed, read as many. So, we’ll see. But as of the time of writing this, I am currently all caught up with my reviews! Which is annoying because it means I’ll have to think of other content to fill up the time between reviews.

A Cosmology of Monsters – Shaun Hamilla cosmology of monsters

My Review

A fantastic, haunting tale of a family haunted by monsters, told through the eyes of the youngest member. This was one of my first NetGalley reads, and it’s from my favourite publisher (Titan) – it definitely did not disappoint.

A Collection of Dreamscapes – Christina Sng

a collection of dreamscapes

Review Coming Soon on Dead Head Reviews

I touch on it more in my review, but I’m not the biggest fan of poetry. A Collection of Dreamscapes, however, might have converted me. Sng gives us a solid, varied collection, a mixture of dark fantasy and horror, and one which I devoured really easily.

Venators: Promises Forged – Devri Wells

venators 2

My Review

I read this as part of a blog tour. It’s the sequel to the fantastic Venators: Magic Unleashed, and it was great to get more into this world and see more of these characters. I think I preferred this one to the first – there was just more to it, rather than having to spend more time setting things up. Definitely a series I’ll be sticking with.

How to Write Your First Novel – Sophie King

how to write your first novel

My Review

A writing advice book I didn’t find particularly helpful. I love books about the craft of writing, but I’ve been increasingly disappointed by them. I’ll keep reading though, and you’ll definitely hear about it when I find good ones, like one I read later in the month.

So This Is Love – Elizabeth Lim

so this is love

My Review

I love the Twisted Tales series. And since reading the Mulan tale Reflection, I have absolutely loved Lim’s writing, including her non-Disney debut novel, Spin the Dawn. The latest addition to the series, So This Is Love, looks at what happens if Cinderella never tried on the glass slipper. It’s another example of Lim’s fantastic, wonderful writing, and she pulls you so completely into this world. Cannot wait for her next book, whether it’s the Spin the Dawn sequel or another Twisted Tale.

New York City in 1979 – Kathy Acker

new york in 1979

My Review

This is one of those books I feel like I should have liked more than I did, and if I wasn’t trying to use it as research, I maybe would have. This very much falls into the category of experimental writing, with snapshots of conversation sprinkled in with images and some description. I don’t think this was a case of ‘not for me’, but more that I picked it up at the wrong time.

The Dark Continent – Scott Reardon

the dark continent

My Review

This was one I wasn’t fussed on. It was a little too ‘action’ based for me, too repetitive, and too long. ‘Continent’ is overstating things too when the area affected by events in the novel is a section of the USA. But anyway, that aside, as I say in my review I can see the appeal for some readers, and I think there are those who’d likely get a kick out of this.

iZombie, Volume 1: Dead to the World

izombie

My Review

I really enjoyed this graphic novel, and liked the mix of different ‘monsters’. It’s vastly different from the TV show (I’m now on season 2), but the TV show does have slight nods to the graphic novel. Both are very good though, and I’m excited to check out volume 2.

So there’s the first 8 for May! Keep an eye out for part 2 soon.

Writing the Other – Nisi Shawl & Cynthia Ward [Books]

writing the otherThere have long been discussions surrounding representation in books, and those discussions have increased recently. Fact: We need more diverse people in publishing, in various roles, including as agents, editors, in marketing, in buying, in selling. We need people who aren’t going to tell Black men and women they didn’t connect to the ‘voice’ of their character. (What does that even mean?) I wrote a post recently (which you can read here) touching on why we need to actively search out books by diverse authors.

If you’re a writer, as well as a reader, you might now be wondering about your own writing. Is your cast of characters diverse? Do they reflect the world we live in, or are the characters carbon copies of the person writing them? (I’m talking specifically to white, cis authors here, by the way)

There are some stories that are not ours to tell. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t include characters who are different than us in our own stories. Writing the Other gives a brilliant idea of how you can start with this.

In this book, Shawl & Ward do not shy away from hard topics. They outline to us, the reader, why diversity is important, as well as touching upon the fact that not trying is almost worse than getting it wrong. They also briefly discuss the fact that yes, we will get it wrong, we are human, but it’s important to acknowledge that if and when we do and to strive to do better.

My personal opinion is, if you are writing outside your experience, use sensitivity readers. (And pay them) This book is, however, a fantastic starting point, giving direction and guidance on where to start, on what to take into consideration, and there are great exercises included if you like doing that sort of thing.

This book will help you look at your writing (and perhaps the writing of others) in a different light, and help you create a more diverse cast of characters in your fiction. I strongly suggest making this the next writing book you pick up.

Why “I Don’t Care About the Author’s Race/Sexuality/Gender” Isn’t Good Enough

There’s a lot I’ve wanted to say over the last few days. But every time I’ve written out a Tweet, I delete it and spend my time retweeting other voices instead. I’ve argued against racists on Twitter, I’ve tried to step in where I could. But there is a huge problem in the book community right now, and whereas on Twitter I feel there are people putting things into better words than I could, this blog is my own space, and there’s something I do want to say that specifically relates to books.

This is an argument that comes up a lot. Usually when people are talking about why we need better representation in books. Why we need more diverse representation, as well as diverse authors. Why we need ownvoices stories, and stories written by marginalised authors that aren’t only ownvoices. I’ve seen it used a lot. During Women in Horror month, during Pride Month, during any discussion about how this industry is dominated by cis straight white people.

.And usually, these words are written out when someone is doubling down, or sometimes even just when another person – usually not white, or not straight, or not a man – says, “Hey, we should promote more books like these.” Every time I see it, I cringe. Because the person typing them is missing the point.

“I just want a good book. I don’t see colour/sexuality/gender/etc when I’m reading. I don’t care if it’s a man or woman or white or black or gay or straight.”

And therein lies the problem. You should care.

You should care if the book you’re reading which tackles issues faced by immigrants on a daily basis is by an own voices writer or not. You should care if your shelves are stacked exclusively with books by straight white cis men. You should care if you’re in a bookshop and can only see books by James Patterson and Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

“I just pick up random books in the bookshop!”

Riiight…and you never actually buy online, where you need to look for a specific author? Okay, fine, let’s say you just shop exclusively in physical shops. These shops determine what people buy, not the other way around. Unfortunate, yet, but true. They decide what goes on their front tables or gets stocked on their shelves, and sometimes you really have to hunt for a book that isn’t just one of the top sellers.

And likely, the books being promoted are not going to be books by marginalised people. (I’m thinking specifically of big chain bookstores, not indie, by the way)

Think about it. If you walk into a charity shop, stand in front of the books they’re selling, and close your eyes, to ensure you know absolutely nothing about the author you’re going to select, what book do you think you’ll pick up? Because from personal experience, the kind of books in second-hand bookshops of any form all tend to be the same authors.

Publishing pushes hard on the books THEY think will sell. Right now, they push hard on books that are not, to put it bluntly, diverse, unless it also matches a narrative they like, and that narrative is not decided by diverse creators, but by an industry dominated by straight cis white people.

What I’m trying to say – and this has become longer than it should be, really – is this:

‘I don’t care’ isn’t good enough. You have to seek out diverse voices. You have to actually search for books by diverse people, and be aware of authors. You cannot just go by someone’s name, or the plot of a book, and assume you’re supporting someone in particular.

Seek out underrepresented voices. Look for recommendations (Google is your friend) in whatever genre you enjoy writing in. Look out on Twitter for people discussing books, follow people who read a range of different books. Read a variety of blogs, and help boost voices from different people. I absolutely promise you, your reading experience will be so much better for it.

How To Write Your First Novel – Sophie King [Books]

how to write your first novelI am a big lover of writing craft books. I read a lot of them, and I read a variety. Many have interesting tips, great advice, and can be written really well. Unfortunately, How to Write Your First Novel is not one of them.

This book is for absolute, complete beginners. The problem, I think, is assuming people know absolutely nothing about writing when coming to this book. I honestly think by the time someone picks up a book about the craft, they know something. They know the elements of a story, perhaps, or have written some short stories. Which then makes a lot of the ideas raised in this book a little bit obsolete.

As well as that, this book was published in 2014. It is beyond the author’s control, but it means a lot of information contained within is now outdated. But it is still being promoted alongside the fantastic Writing Magazine in the UK, given as a gift to subscribers (that’s how I got my copy), so perhaps it is time to do a revised updated version.

One thing I’ve definitely found I dislike in writing advice books: writers who only use their own works as examples. And King does it here a lot. It’s not in a “here’s an idea of how you can do this” way either, or “this works for me maybe it’ll work for you”, it’s essentially putting herself as the expert, showcasing extracts of her work as perfect examples.

They’re not bad as such, but they’re not really as good as the author seems to think they are. And as another sign of an aging book, some of the extracts (and, apparently, the author’s novels themselves) are pretty ableist.

There are so many fantastic how to write novel books out there, or general how to write, or genre specific books, and this one really doesn’t add anything to the discussion. If you’re looking for ways to improve your writing, I would suggest picking up On Writing by Stephen King, Damn Fine Story by Chuck Wendig, or one of the first writing books I ever read, How NOT to Write a Novel, by Howard Mittelmark. The information in How to Write Your First Novel is too basic to really be of interest, the publishing advice is by now outdated, and the extracts are at times uncomfortable, making it feel like the author is patting themselves on the back.

I’ll always suggest reading books about the craft of writing, but I wouldn’t suggest reading this one.

April 2020 Reading Wrap Up – Part Two [Books]

April 2020 2

January  / February / March Part 1 / March Part 2 / April Part 1

Welcome to my April Reading Wrap Up, Part 2! Like March, I read a lot in April. 18 books in total. I’ve hit a little bit of a reading slump in May, so hopefully May’s Wrap Up won’t need 2 parts to go through. But anyway, here are the other 9 books read in the second month of lock down.

Bone Harvest – James Brogden

bone harvestMy Review

I really liked this book. Brogden’s novel spans decades, starting with World War I and coming right up to a now alternative 2020 where Covid-19 doesn’t exist. Instead, all these characters have to worry about are the VE Day Celebrations. Or at least they think so. This novel really hit a couple of sweet spots, and I really do recommend it.

The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas, Volume 1

twilight zone

My Review

This was a very enjoyable listening experience. These radio dramas are fully casted, and contain multiple stories, all of which had that strong Twilight Zone feel to them. I only came to this show fairly recently, but I absolutely love anything to do with it (Tower of Terror is a ride I refused to go on when we went to Florida, because I was five and terrified, and was my second favourite ride visiting Disney Paris) including this audio production.

The Seven Endless Forests – April Tucholke

seven endless

My Review

This had all the makings of a book I wanted to love. Female led fantasy based around the King Arthur legend, I was sold. Unfortunately, the book itself wasn’t that great. It rambled, a lot, and there was little to resemble King Arthur’s story found in the pages. This one definitely wasn’t for me.

Catalyst – Tracy Richardson

catalyst

Review Coming Soon

This was a book I read for one of the Write Reads blog tours. Unfortunately, I didn’t really enjoy this one. It took some really interesting ideas and felt like it simplified them too much. And presented simple ‘solutions’ to the main crises’ we’re facing today. Was a little disappointed, but keep an eye out for the blog tour, as I’m sure other bloggers felt differently from me.

Shades of Magic, Volume 1: The Steel Prince – V.E. Schwab

shades of magic steel prince

My Review

I don’t know which situation I would prefer: always having a few Schwab books to read, or being completely caught up and eagerly awaiting the next one. Either way, just like with Vicious, I knew picking up this graphic novel I would love it. I haven’t come across a Schwab book I didn’t like. If you’ve read the Shades of Magic trilogy, I highly recommend jumping into The Steel Prince.

Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds: The Musical Drama – H.G. Wells

war of the worlds

My Review

Another great listening experience! Though sadly there is no singing in this one. It was still very enjoyable though, and the cast involved was excellent. I definitely recommend this one, as the soundtrack is amazing.

Tiger Queen – Annie Sullivan

tiger queen

My Review

I enjoyed this one. It was a fun, easy read that had be completely hooked. A good YA novel, that maybe leans a little too much on various tropes, and could have done with stronger female characters, but overall, like I said, it was enjoyable.

Dark Ends – Edited by Clayton Snyder

dark ends

Review coming soon on Dead Head Reviews

This is an absolutely brilliant dark fantasy anthology, and one I really suggest picking up. This anthology is made up of novelettes, many set in worlds already created by the writers. Which is great because with every story I definitely found myself wanting more.

The Deception of Kathryn Vask – Mark Steensland

the deception
My Review

My final book for this month. The Deception of Kathryn Vask is a fantastic, tight play that I can easily imagine on stage, and will hopefully one day get to see on stage, too. My review is nothing but glowing praise for Steensland, and recommendations to keep an eye out for this one.

And that is it for April! How did your month go? I seem to be going through books faster than I realise at the moment, though it has calmed down for May. I’m also reading slightly longer stuff this month, and listening to American Gods on Audible which is really long. I amended my Goodreads Goal to 75, after hitting the 50 mark, and I’m currently on 55 so I’m pretty happy with that.