Camp NaNoWriMo April 2016: Week 1 Progress

Ok. So. As it turns out? I’m not good at planning my stories. Obviously this is something I need to work on. My word count for Week 1 might seem dishearteningly low, but a major part of that is a Day 2 project switch. I had a project I was interested in working on—and some of an important scene sketched out on scrap paper—but then I had a dream.

I’ve written before about how dreams inspire my writing and my current project came entirely from a dream I had on April 2. But switching projects meant not only scrapping what few words I’d already written for the abandoned project, but also building a world from the ground up, figuring out the new characters, figuring out the magic system—oh, and of course figuring out what the broader plot of the story beyond the instigating incident (i.e. the dream). Which meant a few days doing some mental sorting.

In the end, writing on the new project didn’t seriously begin until yesterday. I wrote 682 words, and I think I actually have forward momentum at this point. There are still some important things to figure out for this story—does it have an antagonist? does it need an antagonist?—but I actually have enough of foundation to just write my way into those answers.

I’m still at the point where I have to remind myself every few minutes that this is just a first draft, that I’m supposed to just throw everything I can at the project right now—and not even check to see what stuck until after April is over. Right now I need to put all the words in one place. I can shape the book later. As Rainbow Rowell said in her NaNoWriMo peptalk, “But then I thought about how wonderful it would be to have a pile of 50,000 words… […] First drafts always make me feel anxious and a little desperate—like, ‘Oh God, I just need to get all of this out and on paper, so that I have something to work with.’ I like having something to work with.”

So that’s where I am now.

  • Current Word Count: 682
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Thinkin’ About: Camp NaNoWriMo

So, the first of this year’s two Camp NaNoWriMo months is April, and I’m determined—somewhat determined? a little determined?—to do some writing in the next calendar month. This means I’ll need to finish my planning in the next few days. That seems pretty soon, but I have been thinking about this endeavor for a little while, so I did manage to do some planning in February and March.

Camp NaNoWriMo is a little different than “regular” NaNoWriMo in one main way: the word count goal is flexible and set by the writer. So maybe you’re goal is to write a novel, but maybe it’s just to write a short story or a novella… Or maybe you plan to write two whole 80,000 word novels in one month because you’re crazy and also highly ambitious.

My goals are somewhat more modest. I think I can reasonably expect (and possibly push) myself to write 500 words each day, which will get me 15,000 words. Anything more than that would be a bonus. Now, obviously, 15,000 words a novel does not make. But I think I can probably lay in the main plot (or a hefty chunk of it), which will give me something to work with once Camp NaNo is over and done with. At this point I have… Well, ok, I have the beginnings of a plan. Not quite enough to be getting on with, but I have a few more days still.

What this means for this blog is that I’ll be updating here with my progress, just like I did with NaNoWriMo back in November. Only, you know, I hope to be somewhat more productive this coming month than I was last November. So wish me luck!

P.S. If you’d like to follow along with me elsewhere, you can find my Camp NaNoWriMo profile here.

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Romantic subplots and why they’re starting to bother me.

It’s been a little while since I’ve had much to write about here. I’ve be caught up reading Pierce Brown’s Golden Son and Morning Star—which are really great, but I don’t seem to read them as quickly as I do other books. (If you’re looking for something good to read, I definitely recommend these books, but start with Red Rising, which is the first book in the trilogy.) I’ve also been brainstorming things to post here that aren’t book reviews. There have been a lot of those lately, and while I enjoy writing them, I want there to be other things here. In that vein, here is something I was thinking about recently.

Rachel Aaron posted to her blog in early February about subplots and why they’re important, which of course got me thinking about my own experience with them—be it in my own writing, or in other people’s stories in both books and TV. My boyfriend almost always has the TV on when he’s at home because having the background noise helps him relax. In the last few months he’s gotten through all 12 seasons of NCIS and five seasons of Hawaii Five-0 on Netflix. Which means that I end up watching some of these episodes as well, and even though I’m not really watching the show, some things filter through. In particular, I seem to be aware of the romantic subplots and their particular brand of tension. Which has made me wonder.

We root for the characters we like. We want them to do good, be happy, be loved. By themselves, these things don’t always make for a very interesting story, but that can usually be fixed by making the main plot tense and fraught and thoroughly frustrating to the characters. After all, plot is the problems in a characters life and how they solve them. If the story doesn’t revolve around the characters’ personal lives—for instance, this theory probably wouldn’t work for a romance novel where the characters’ love lives is the plot—then why does everything in their life have to kick them in the teeth?

There are a few examples this brings immediately to mind. If you’re at all familiar with them, you’ll know that Bones and Castle are both TV shows with two main characters whose romantic tension played huge roles in the early seasons. But in more recent seasons of both shows (spoilers coming), those two main characters got together. In both shows they even got married. And, in both shows (I assume; full disclosure, I stopped watching Bones about three seasons ago), those relationships are still undergoing a fair amount of turmoil and providing the show with dramatic tension. I understand that this is a great opportunity for character development and the like. But—and I don’t know about you—I’m over it.

I want the characters to be happy. They have enough tension in their work lives (both of these shows are basically police procedurals and are pretty much about solving murders) that I want them to have someone to come home to after all that work is done. Which brings me to my next examples. Mercy and Adam in Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series and Toby and Tybalt in Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series. While both of these examples have had their fair amount of tension and drama in the early days of these relationships, in the most recent books they’re fairly stable. Adam and Tybalt are always there when Mercy and Toby need them, always stand with their women through whatever mystery or problem their authors throw at them, and—barring future drama or trauma—aren’t going anywhere.

I love that. I love that some things are reliable in the hectic and chaotic lives of these characters. It provides comfort to the characters—and to me. I’m not afraid that any new thing will end the relationship, I’m not afraid that one or the other person will leave. There’s a larger message in that, too: love can be quiet and persistent and just always there for you. Isn’t that how we all want it anyway?

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Review: Kingfisher by Patricia A. McKillip

25489443 Patricia A. McKillip is one of my favorite authors. Without fail, at the end of every one of her books, I find myself thinking, “That was amazing. That was so beautiful. I honestly have no idea what I just read. Everyone should read this book.” Kingfisher absolutely lived up to that expectation. I loved it, I’m still not entirely sure what happened, and I think everyone should read this book. There’s not a single one of her books that I haven’t liked, if not loved, and holy cow did this book rocket to the top, claiming for itself a place among my favorites. January of 2016 isn’t even over yet, and I imagine that this book will appear on my “Best Books I Read in 2016” post at the end of the year.

Hidden away from the world by his mother, the powerful sorceress Heloise Oliver, Pierce has grown up working in her restaurant in Desolation Point. One day, unexpectedly, strangers pass through town on the way to the legendary capital city. “Look for us,” they tell Pierce, “if you come to Severluna. You might find a place for yourself in King Arden’s court.”

Lured by a future far away from the bleak northern coast, Pierce makes his choice. Heloise, bereft and furious, tells her son the truth: about his father, a knight in King Arden’s court; about an older brother he never knew existed; about his father’s destructive love for King Arden’s queen, and Heloise’s decision to raise her younger son alone.

As Pierce journeys to Severluna, his path twists and turns through other lives and mysteries: an inn where ancient rites are celebrated, though no one will speak of them; a legendary local chef whose delicacies leave diners slowly withering from hunger; his mysterious wife, who steals Pierce’s heart; a young woman whose need to escape is even greater than Pierce’s; and finally, in Severluna, King Arden’s youngest son, who is urged by strange and lovely forces to sacrifice his father’s kingdom.

Things are changing in that kingdom. Oldmagic is on the rise. The immensely powerful artifact of an ancient god has come to light, and the king is gathering his knights to quest for this profound mystery, which may restore the kingdom to its former glory—or destroy it…

Of all the authors who I count among my favorites, McKillip is also one whose writing style I hope to emulate in my own writing someday. Not just because she’s a great writer, but because her stories have a way of evoking particular moods in the reader—of making the reader see, hear, and feel not only like they’re in the world, but like the world is all around them. Part of this, I think, is suspension of disbelief. And not just in the reader. Since I was reading this book for review, I tried to pay more attention to particular techniques that McKillip uses to engaged her readers this way. One thing I noticed is a lack of confusion in the characters. Strange things happen to Pierce that by all rights should make him stop and say, “Wait, what?” But because he accepts it and moves forward, the reader does the same. Strange things become normal, even when the normal is already strange and fantastic.

This book was different from many of my favorite of McKillip’s book in another way. Rather than creating a world from scratch, the world of Kingfisher resembles ours in many ways. Equal parts modern and fantastic, the sorceresses and shapeshifters of Severluna don’t feel out of place with the cell phones and cars they use. This blending of elements creates a world that the reader can really feel at home in, melding the fantastic elements of kings and knights and sacred quests with the comfortable familiarity of a modern pub and inn and all the recognizable people that comes with.

Moreso than her previous books, I felt that this one left me with so many unanswered questions. That’s usually something I expect with McKillip’s writing, but at the end of Kingfisher I felt there were characters whose stories were incomplete in ways that seemed usual. The way the story ended almost made me feel as though my copy of the novel was cut short, or was—I hoped—an earlier edit, while the published version would contain more of an ending. While the story wraps up Pierce’s story neatly, nearly every other character’s story is left open and left me wondering what happens to them next. The strange double love triangle of King Arden, Queen Genevra, Sir Leith, and Heloise is left completely unresolved, and of the four POV characters, it’s only Pierce who gets a neat story. The future of Prince Daimon, Princess Perdita, and the cook Carrie are left mostly untouched and unresolved.

As always with books I love, I wanted more in this world, more of these characters. But since the bulk of McKillip’s books are standalone novels, I suspect this will be the same. Part of that means I don’t know what her next book will be, or even when it might come out. But while I’m eagerly awaiting whatever Patricia McKillip writes next, I can use the time until then to re-read the rest of her books.

Kingfisher is written by Patricia A. McKillip and will be published on February 2, 2016 by Ace.

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Review: City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

91xkKHcL6VL When I made the resolution to be healthy at the end of last year, I didn’t mean to let yoga and barre take over my life. I have actually been reading (though not as fast as I’d like), but not writing or revising as much as I thought. On the other hand, my happiness levels remain delightfully high, which I’m taking as a win. Anyway, I promise there will be more things on this blog in the near future—and to start, here’s a book review.

When City of Blades showed up on NetGalley I felt somewhat obligated to read it for review since I reviewed the first book in the series here as well. And I’ll admit, I felt a little apprehensive about this book since the first was difficult for me to get into at first—even though I ultimately ended up liking it a lot. But spoilers for the rest of this review: I liked this book a lot too. Maybe even better than the first one.

The city of Voortyashtan was once the domain of the goddess of death, war, and destruction, but now it’s little more than a ruin. General Turyin Mulaghesh is called out of retirement and sent to this hellish place to try to find a Saypuri secret agent who’s gone missing in the middle of a mission, but the city of war offers countless threats: not only have the ghosts of her own past battles followed her here, but she soon finds herself wondering what happened to all the souls that were trapped in the afterlife when the Divinities vanished. Do the dead sleep soundly in the land of death? Or do they have plans of their own?

I’ll be honest: most of my apprehension about this book stemmed from Turyin Mulaghesh being the main POV character. Not because she wasn’t a perfectly fine character in City of Stairs, but because I really enjoyed Shara from the first book. Mulaghesh honestly wasn’t that memorable compared to Shara and Sigrud. Which, in its own way, makes her a great character to follow through a sequel. I imagine that writing a character with a disability like her’s—she’s missing an arm—could be a really interesting challenge for a writer who doesn’t have the same disability, but I thought that Robert Jackson Bennet did a good job with that. I never once forgot what challenges Mulaghesh overcame in her journey through each day, but neither was it constantly shoved in the face of the reader. I found myself liking her more than I thought I would—though a big part of that is her cussed stubbornness and the sheer amount of complaining she does before getting shit done.

My overall impression of the first book is that it had a fair amount of politicking, while at its core being a sort of spy thriller. And while City of Blades definitely has a similar formula, it felt like more of a detective novel. Shara was a clandestine operative, but Mulaghesh is more like the “hard-working gumshoe” of the noir genre. This book starts with a missing person—possibly murdered, possibly a murderer—and then uses the conventions of the world (as set up in the first book) to hit the ground running. I absolutely guessed the whodunnit fairly early on, but by the time I was proven right, I had changed my mind and second- and third- and even sixth-guessed myself.

I usually try to avoid outright spoilers, but possibly the only disappointing part of this book was that a character I really liked—and hoped could be a POV character in a future book—was killed in the climax. There was a moment when I didn’t believe it, when I thought that perhaps I had read too much into a particular scene, when I thought the author would bring her back in a dramatic moment. And then a few chapters later both her father and her lover are driven a little bit mad by seeing her body. I was a little too sleepy when I was finishing the book to cry for her, but I genuinely thought about it.

I’m really looking forward to the next book in this series. I can’t wait to see what the next Divine mystery in this world is, and whose job it becomes to solve it. Yes, the writing is excellent, but these books are also highly entertaining—something I don’t discount in any book I read.

City of Blades is written by Robert Jackson Bennett and will be published on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 by Broadway Books. It is the second book in The Divine Cities series. My review for the first book can be found here.

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New Year’s Resolutions

I haven’t always been the best about making my New Year’s Resolutions clear, even to myself. But at the end of this year, as we head into the next, I still have accountability on the brain. So I thought I would make it clear to everyone, just what my goals are for the next 366—because 2016 is a leap year—days.

  1. Read. I didn’t read very many books this year compared to other years. Many of those I did read were fabulous (my list of best books I read in 2015 is roughly a third of books I read this year) and I know that I didn’t get around to many amazing books this year. So this year I have a list, and if I read only books from that list, I’ll be doing pretty good. There are some I’m already planning on reviewing, and some new installments in series I love, so I have my fingers crossed that this won’t be much of a challenge.
  2. Write. I started two novels this year, and didn’t get far on either of them. I want to get farther on both of them in the coming year. I want to make real, tangible progress. At the same time, I also want to lay in plans for other projects that are still more nebulous. At 27 I’m still figuring out how to “adult” better, and I think that means doing the work even when it’s hard and I don’t really know what I’m doing.
  3. Revise. I wrote a novel in 2013, and it’s been sitting on my shelf since I finished it. I think it’s probably time to take a look at it again, and see what can be done with it—and especially fix the things I already know I want to change. I’ve been putting off writing the next book in the series until I fix the first one, so I should do that so I can move forward with the story.
  4. Be healthy. It became clear recently that I have little to no upper body or core strength. I’ve already leapt headfirst into some yoga classes that I’ve really enjoyed and I’m looking forward to continuing with those. A friend has roped me into barre classes too, the first of which practically crippled me for several days afterwards. I’m looking forward to the day when that doesn’t happen. In the warmer months of the coming year, I’ll be able to swim in our pool, which is absolutely my favorite form of exercise.
  5. Be happy. I’ve been so amazingly happy for most of this past year and 2016 looks like it’s going to be even better, so I don’t think this will be hard. But I do think it’s important to remember that this is always a goal, and to be mindful of it, to always work towards your happiness and the happiness of those closest to you. I hope I can remember that in 2016.

The mantra for today, stolen from a friend, is this: Start as you mean to go on. Which is why I’ll shortly be heading to my first yoga class of the year. And when I get home, I hope to get a start on some writing as well. Make a good start of it, so that I can continue with the forward momentum.

P.S. The corollary to #2 is that I also want to write more in my paper journal. I keep forgetting about my journal, a practice which has gotten me though light and dark times in the past. I love having the physical record of the events of my life, of the thoughts in my head, and all the emotions that I go through. The month-long gaps in that record are a concern to me, so this coming year I’ll try to eliminate those gaps.

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New Year’s Eve

Tonight is the last night of 2015, and at midnight all of our calendars will tick over into 2016. Tomorrow I have a post about my resolutions and hopes and aspirations for the coming year, but for tonight, I’m looking backwards.

Like any year, 2015 had its ups and downs. Sure, some of those ups were really amazing, but at the same time some of those downs were really dark spots in an otherwise pretty great year. But I got through them—we got through them—through whatever means necessary. I don’t always feel strong or competent or any of the things I want to be, but we can look back at times moments like this and see: I am all the things I need to be, all the things I want to be. How do I know this? Because I got through, and now here I am.

Lest you think otherwise, let me tell you that 2015 was also a really great year for me. I met someone really amazing, someone who has changed my life, enriched my life, given me so many great things to look back at—and so many great things to look forward to.

It’s true that I didn’t accomplish much creatively, so I have that to look forward to as well.

So yes, 2015 was something of a mixed bag. But it was a good mixed bag. At at the risk of pointing out the obvious, I couldn’t possibly be who I am, where I am, or with who I’m with, without every mixed blessing that 2015 gave me.

So, thank you, 2015. And bring it on, 2016.

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Why you should be excited for Star Trek Beyond.

The trailer for Star Trek Beyond hit the internet this morning, and I’ve already seen reactions ranging from the ecstatic to the underwhelmed. But I am here to tell you that Star Trek Beyond looks amazing and perfect and why you should be looking forward to this movie just as much as I am.

I grew up watching The Next Generation with my grandfather whenever I visited him and my grandmother. When Star Trek: First Contact came out I was 6, and I declared that I was absolutely old enough to see it in theaters—a declaration which I regretted, since (spoilers) after the Borg peeled Data’s face off, I spent the rest of movie crouched on my chair facing the back of the theater, watching the light come out of the projector. I’ve seen scattered episodes of The Original Series—which I like the philosophy behind but generally find just slightly too campy to actually subject my eyeballs to—the first three seasons of Deep Space Nine, none of the original movies and both of the new ones.

What was the best part of any of these? Well, for me (and I suspect for a number of you out there) the most interesting and exciting parts of any of the Star Trek franchises was when the away team went down to the new planet and interacted with a new alien species. Yes, the crew interactions on the Enterprise (or DS9) were interesting too, and yes the character arcs helped the stories along, and I like all those things just fine. And don’t get me wrong; the new Star Trek movies are some of my favorite movies. But I find them lacking in the diversity department. To me, at its core, the Star Trek series has always been about exploration and pushing past our furthest limits—whether those limits are of space or of our minds.

Now watch this trailer.

I don’t know about you, but the first thing I noticed is the sheer number of aliens in the new trailer. And it seems like the crew will be stranded on an alien planet for at least part of the film. How is this not the most exciting Star Trek trailer you’ve seen in forever? Does this not swell your chest with nostalgia? I can’t quite articulate how excited I am for this movie. I love the new cast, and their portrayals of the characters, and I think they have potential we likely haven’t seen yet. And since Simon Pegg is one of the writers of the screenplay for this movie, I’m hoping that means better decisions made about diversity for this movie.

I’m absolutely thrilled to be exploring new worlds, meeting new alien races. Star Trek Beyond promises to do what Star Trek does best: they will boldly go where no man has gone before.

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Best Books I Read in 2015

We’re coming up on the end of the year, which means the internet is starting to be inundated with all the “Best of 2015” lists. This is my little contribution to that. All of these are books that I read this year, and not necessarily books that were published this year—although some of them were—and listed in the order I read them. If you’re looking for any last minute presents for a book-lover, you could do a lot worse than any of the books on this list.

A1UmUEVNESL The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter
      In the hallowed halls of Oxford’s Merlin College, the most talented—and highest born—sons of the Kingdom of Britain are taught the intricacies of magickal theory. But what dazzles can also destroy, as Gray Marshall is about to discover…
      Gray’s deep talent for magick has won him a place at Merlin College. But when he accompanies four fellow students on a mysterious midnight errand that ends in disaster and death, he is sent away in disgrace—and without a trace of his power. He must spend the summer under the watchful eye of his domineering professor, Appius Callender, working in the gardens of Callender’s country estate and hoping to recover his abilities. And it is there, toiling away on a summer afternoon, that he meets the professor’s daughter.
      Even though she has no talent of her own, Sophie Callender longs to be educated in the lore of magick. Her father has kept her isolated at the estate and forbidden her interest; everyone knows that teaching arcane magickal theory to women is the height of impropriety. But against her father’s wishes, Sophie has studied his ancient volumes on the subject. And in the tall, stammering, yet oddly charming Gray, she finally finds someone who encourages her interest and awakens new ideas and feelings.
      Sophie and Gray’s meeting touches off a series of events that begins to unravel secrets about each of them. And after the king’s closest advisor pays the professor a closed-door visit, they begin to wonder if what Gray witnessed in Oxford might be even more sinister than it seemed. They are determined to find out, no matter the cost…

I fell into this book like falling into the deep end of the pool. Like falling in love. Which is exactly what I did. And when I was done reading the book, I was still stuck in that world for long, long days. I wanted to read twelve more books exactly like it. There’s nothing quite like this book and the world it creates, but the second book also came out this year. I haven’t gotten around to it quite yet—it feels like I’m saving it, like a good vintage of wine that needs a special occasion.

the_darkest_part_of_the_forest-black_holly The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
      Hazel and her brother, Ben, live in Fairfold, where humans and the Folk exist side by side. Tourists drive in to see the lush wonders of Faerie and, most wonderful of all, the horned boy. But visitors fail to see the danger.
      Since they were children, Hazel and Ben have been telling each other stories about the boy in the glass coffin, that he is a prince and they are valiant knights, pretending their prince would be different from the other faeries, the ones who made cruel bargains, lurked in the shadows of trees, and doomed tourists. But as Hazel grows up, she puts aside those stories. Hazel knows the horned boy will never wake.
      Until one day, he does…
      As the world turns upside down, Hazel has to become the knight she once pretended to be. But as she’s swept up in new love, with shifting loyalties and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

A solid third of the books on this list are about faeries—which isn’t actually surprising since I love reading (and writing) about the fae. On the other hand, this book is one of the only Young Adult books I read this year, and a reminder that if so many of them didn’t use the same tropes—tropes I just don’t like reading—I would absolutely read more of them. I absolutely loved the way Holly Black subverted expectations in this book, and the writing is utterly mesmerizing. For more of my thoughts about this book, you can read my review here.

uprooted Uprooted by Naomi Novik
      Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood’s powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost to the wood.
      The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia—all the things Agnieszka isn’t—and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
      But no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.

I was slow getting into this book, but it made it onto this list. I absolutely loved the fairy tale premise, and how the author turned it on its head. Yes, there were things that I didn’t totally like, but the end of this story more than made up for any of that. While I seem to be the only person who had a problem with even part of the story, I’ll be joining those who would pass copies of this book out like candy in the hopes that everyone reads it. For more of my thoughts about this book, you can read my review here.

81eOs-MTAQL A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
      Kell is one of the last Travelers-magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes, connected by one magical city.
      There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad king-George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered-and where Kell was raised alongside Rhys Maresh, the rougish heir to a flourishing empire. White London-a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.
      Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.
      Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
      Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

I didn’t end up reviewing this book here because I wasn’t entirely sure what to say about it. Mostly my head was filled with a single high-pitched tone of happiness and despair. Happiness because the book was so good, and despair because I had finished reading it and would have to wait until February 2016 to read the sequel. This book is really fabulous, packed to the gills with characters I never wanted to say goodbye to and locales I desperately want to visit myself, and I expect that I will soon be getting my hands on all the other things Victoria (aka V.E.) Schwab has written as a way of staving off my desperation for the next book in this wonderful series.

81HrFxqt+PL One Good Dragon Deserves Another by Rachel Aaron
      After barely escaping the machinations of his terrifying mother, two all-knowing seers, and countless bloodthirsty siblings, the last thing Julius wants to see is another dragon. Unfortunately for him, the only thing more dangerous than being a useless Heartstriker is being a useful one. Now that he’s got an in with the Three Sisters, Julius has become a key pawn in Bethesda the Heartstriker’s gamble to put her clan on top.
      Refusal to play along with his mother’s plans means death, but there’s more going on than even Bethesda knows. Heartstriker futures are disappearing, and Algonquin’s dragon hunter is closing in. Now, with his most powerful family members dropping like flies, it’s up to Julius to save the family that never respected him and prove once and for all that the world’s worst dragon is the very best one to have on your side.

The first Heartstriker book ensured that this series became one of my favorite. This one blew the first out of the water. Rachel Aaron’s Eli Monpress books have been on my To Read list for quite some time and I still haven’t gotten to them. But Nice Dragon’s Finish Last was in my Amazon cart about four seconds after I learned of its existence. If you’re looking for a new series to start and larger series are intimidating, One Good Dragon Deserves Another is only the second book in the series—and it’s fantastic. Literally.

1402x2313sr A Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire
      Things are looking up.
      For the first time in what feels like years, October “Toby” Daye has been able to pause long enough to take a breath and look at her life—and she likes what she sees. She has friends. She has allies. She has a squire to train and a King of Cats to love, and maybe, just maybe, she can let her guard down for a change.
      Or not. When Queen Windermere’s seneschal is elf-shot and thrown into an enchanted sleep by agents from the neighboring Kingdom of Silences, Toby finds herself in a role she never expected to play: that of a diplomat. She must travel to Portland, Oregon, to convince King Rhys of Silences not to go to war against the Mists. But nothing is that simple, and what October finds in Silences is worse than she would ever have imagined.
      How far will Toby go when lives are on the line, and when allies both old and new are threatened by a force she had never expected to face again? How much is October willing to give up, and how much is she willing to change? In Faerie, what’s past is never really gone.
      It’s just waiting for an opportunity to pounce.

This is the 9th book in the October Daye series—hands down my favorite Urban Fantasy series currently being written. Amazingly, these books only get better and better as the series progresses, and this book is no exception. While there was a significant derth of my favorite character, since I suspect she has a larger role to play in the series as a whole, I didn’t mind so much. And of course, I got sucked into the story just like I do every time. (I do, of course, recommend starting at the beginning of the series to get the most out of these books, but YMMV.)

tumblr_nuiyqvHkal1qzvo8to1_1280 An Apprentice to Elves by Sarah Monette & Elizabeth Bear
      Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear return with the third book in their Iskryne trilogy, An Apprentice to Elves. The trilogy began with A Companion to Wolves, and continued in The Tempering of Men. This novel picks up the story of Alfgyfa, a young woman who has been raised in the Wolfhall by her father Isolfr, who is the human leader of the queen-wolf Viridechtis’ pack, and was the protagonist of the first book.
      The warrior culture of Iskryne forbids many things to women-and most especially it forbids them bonding to one of the giant telepathic trellwolves. But as her father was no ordinary boy, Alfgyfa is no ordinary girl. Her father has long planned to send his daughter to Tin, a matriarch among the elves who live nearby, to be both apprentice and ambassador, and now she is of age to go.

I’ve been waiting for this book since the moment I finished the second one, and I like I actually liked this book better. I absolutely recommend beginning with A Companion to Wolves and The Tempering of Men before reading this one, but I can’t imagine you’d be disappointed. Everything I’ve read about this book says this is the last one in a trilogy, but I really hope these authors will return to this world. For more of my thoughts about this book, you can read my review here.

static1.squarespace Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
      Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.
      That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.
      Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

This is the best piece of fanfic that’s not really fanfic you will ever read. The sheer layers of meta in this book are amazing—this book began life as an imagined story in Fangirl—and I admit that the first thing I did after finishing it was check to see if there was fanfic. (Note: There absolutely is.) You can absolutely read this book without first reading Fangirl, but I highly recommend that you read the two together. Not because you’ll get more from it (though you might) but because your life just won’t be complete if you don’t.

A-Court-of-Thorns-and-Roses A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
      When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
      As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it… or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

This book sat on my Kindle for months, even though the blurb promised all the things I usually love. Of course this book exceeded expectations wildly, and I loved every minute of it. I don’t know enough about the individual fairy tale parts to say how close this story follows, but it seemed like it was equal parts Tamlin and Beauty and the Beast. Feyre is exactly the sort of protagonist I always want: one who actually asks questions—and lets the answers drive the plot—and one who’s highly capable. I’m really looking forward to the sequel, as well as updates on the proposed movie.

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NaNoWriMo 2015: Retrospective

It’s December 1st, which means that NaNoWriMo is over. I’m imagining that a huge sigh of relief is being breathed by writers the world over. As a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days, I failed this year’s NaNoWriMo. That’s ok, I’ve never actually “won” the challenge, and I’m not bothered any more by the loss this year than I have been any other year. Actually, this year felt better to me than previous years, even years when I’ve gotten quite close to winning.

More than other years, I feel like I learned something important this time around. I can sort of vaguely see a path forward that sort of vaguely looks like a path I might be able to follow. I have a sense of things I should do in the coming weeks, months, years. And I’m even a little excited?

The end of this month will have a New Year’s Resolution post which will list my general plans for the coming year. For now, suffice to say… November wasn’t a month in which nothing happened, just a month in which very few words were written.

  • Words Written on NaNoWriMo novel: 3,543
  • Novels Plotted: 2
  • Projects Sketched: 4
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