Tag Archives: goodreads

A Year in Books

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions.  I tend to celebrate my ‘new year feelings’ on July 4th anyway, which is when I get all introspective and moody on the previous year, and give myself either a thumbs up or down.

But, to celebrate the ‘official’ New Years, I’m making a not-really-resolution to read (and write) more good books.  (Hey, I was totally going to do that anyway!)  By my best count, I’ve read 110 books this year, and when I go through the list, I can single out 11 of those as being truly good books.  The sort of books that, months later, when I see their titles written down, they give me that tingle of happy memory.  Here they are (in no particular order of goodness):

Black Juice, by Margo Lanagan.  This is a collection of short stories, and while I don’t remember most of the stories in it, one does stand out as being one of the top five short stories I’ve read in my entire life: Singing My Sister Down.  I still get chills, thinking of it!

Tesla: Man out of Time, by Margaret Cheney. This non-fiction book about America’s true genius will completely change your view of history.

Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater. Wonderful and haunting.

Way of Shadows, by Brent Weeks. The first of a fantasy trilogy, and the others are equally good.  Deep, shocking, and twisty!

Mimus, by Jeffrey Masson. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, this is character-driven fantasy at its very best.

Bess of Hardwick, by Mary Lovell. Non-fiction about an incredible Elizabethan woman.  And my ancestor!

In the Woods, by Tara French. Beautifully written study of character, masquerading as a mystery.

Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson. If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you already know the strong adoration I have for Sanderson’s writing.  He’s brilliant.

Common Sense, by Glenn Beck. Non-fiction about the trouble we’ve sunk America into and how to save ourselves.  This should be required reading for every American.

The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters. One of the absolute best accounts by an unreliable narrator I’ve ever seen.  Twisty, chilling, and mesmerizing.

Project X, by Jim Shepard. I can’t stop reading this book.  I’ve read it cover to cover three times, and every now and then I dip at random into it, just for the pleasure it gives me.  So true, and so perfect, this one has a forever place in my Top Five Books.

And that’s the 2009 Eleven Books I Loved.  When I was writing out this list, however, I was disappointed that several books I could have sworn I read in 2009 just missed making this list, having been read in late-ish 2008.  Since I can’t bear to leave their titles unspoken, I made a second list, of the Thirteen Books I Loved in 2008.  Again, in no particular order, I give you:

Coraline, by Neil Gaiman. Grown-ups who don’t read “children’s books” are missing out.  This one is more eerie than Stephen King and more delightful.

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. So. Bloody. Good.

Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. The man’s a master of words, and this is a true treasure.

Hero of Ages, by Brandon Sanderson. This is the last book in a trilogy, and while I read all three with massive amounts of enjoyment, I chose the final book for my list, because this is where everything you think you know about his world and characters flips upside down, and you are left with your mouth hanging open in shock and your heart racing.

Time Traveler’s Wife, byAudrey Niffenegger. Brilliant story, brilliantly told.

Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan. Bears and girls and twisted fairy tales, oh my.

Traffic, by Tom Vanderbilt. If you drive a car, ride in a car, or walk near a car, you should read this non-fiction book.  It could very well save your life.  And it’s fascinating!

Passage, by Connie Willis. It sucks you in and won’t let you go.  Brain science and the Titanic, flawlessly mingled into a totally original work of fiction.

The Ghost Writer, by John Harwood. Okay, I will admit that the ending was flawed.  But the rest of the story more than made up for it.  Chilling and twisty.

Shadow Man, by Cody McFadyen.  Gory, riveting thriller.  Unlike some of those other guys (coughpattersoncough) McFadyen can write.  Lyrical and lovely even at its most disturbing, it doesn’t skimp on the thrills or plot.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. Massive tome, massive but quiet story that lulls you with its delightful language and whimsy, only to creep up on you and half throttle you with nail-biting suspense in the last half.  Not to be missed.  There really is absolutely NOTHING else remotely like it in the literary world.

The Unthinkable – Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why, by Amanda Ripley. Here’s another book that could be life-saving, and it makes for fascinating reading as well.

Boy’s Life, by Robert McCammon. This is a undescribable and brilliant work of fiction.  Part coming of age, part fantasy, part mystery, part thriller, it brings me to tears every time I read it.  It’s one of those perfect works of fiction that touches you no matter how many times you’ve read it before.  I make a practice of reading it every few years.  Another Top Five Forever.

And there you have it, Alisa’s Year(s) in Books.  If you want to see the other books that didn’t make my lists, you can check me and my book reviews out on goodreads.com.

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Me and Cool Stuff not Related to Me.

Okay, so I was doing pretty good at this blog thing for a little while there.  I was posting regularly at least!  My only excuse for failing lately with the regular posting is that I was costuming like a crazed thing.  Yup.  And for all that, I actually only completely two costumes: Elizabeth Bennet, Zombie Slayer and a steampunk outfit.  We won’t discuss the projects still laying about in various stages of completion…at least not here.  The fire has burned through, I’m in a relatively sane, quiet phase of my costuming (which means no deadlines for finishing anything until Halloween).  If you want pictures, etc, they are on my other blog.

This not to say that I’m sane, however.  What fun would that be?  It’s just that my mad-doctor focus has shifted back to my doll-making and writing.  Where it properly should be, perhaps, giving that those are the things which actually bring in some funding for the costuming.  It’s a vicious circle.  Sigh.

The dollmaking will be spoken of later, when there are pictures.  The writing, well, okay, let’s talk about that.  I’m about 13,000 words into my new novel.  It’s set in a mad, poisonous Elizabethan court in a city much like Venice (except that the water in the canals is not exactly…normal).  There are two girls, one a Queen trying to keep her throne, and the other a girl just trying to hold onto her mother’s life.  There’s a serpent/dragon, and Six Very Dangerous Men and at least Six Very Dangerous Women.  To help myself keep on track, I’m posting it chapter by chapter on Goodreads.com, right here.  You can check it out, if you wish – I adore comments, suggestions, and all feedback.  I’m trying to put at least one new chapter up a week, as I write it.  Slightly scary proposition, since I could easily write myself into a corner I can’t get out of, but it worked out okay last time…and it was fun.  And it kept me focussed, since there’s nothing like a message in my inbox, begging for a new chapter, to inspire me to write another ten pages instead of just sitting down to watch t.v.

And in the wider world of Cool Things, my deeply beloved author Scott Lynch is back from his mysterious disappearance, and is regularly blogging on his livejournal account once more.  He says he’s deep in revisions of the next Locke Lamora book, so I can finally breathe once more.  And better still, he’s posted author notes to the first chapter of Red Seas Under Red Skies, AND a first chapter of his upcoming novel, The Republic of Thieves. Right here.  I’m so conflicted.  So far I haven’t read it, because I’m one of those people who don’t read advance chapters.  Ever.  I’d rather wait and sit down with the entire book – it just feels so much more special.  But part of me just wants to make an exception.  Because it’s Scott Lynch.

BUT.  And here’s where it gets so cool I just might be about to pee myself, Scott Lynch is also writing a different, non-Lamora novel, and he’s posting it chapter by chapter on his website. For free.  Because he loves us, (and maybe he’s just a little sorry he vanished for so long?).  Go here.  Go now.  I have yet to read it, because I’m savoring the anticipation just a little bit.

qmain

What else?  The glory of that has temporarily blocked all blood to my memory…

Oh yes.  Bloglovin’.  Ever had that feeling that you read too many blogs?  And while you keep checking your favorites over and over hoping they’ve blogged something new, other blogs just keep slipping through the tracks and you don’t remember to check them for 6 months?  Been there, done that, will never do it again: I’ve discovered Bloglovin’.  Thanks to a reader of my site who apparently has my very own blog saved to that site (the incoming address showed up, and I got curious), I’ve discovered how awesome this site is.  You simply save all the addresses of the blogs you like to this site, and it checks them for you.  As soon as one of those blogs updates, Bloglovin’ shows a link to it on your personal Bloglovin’ page.  You only have to visit one page for all your blogging needs!  And if there’s a particular blog entry you like and want to save, simply click the little red heart next to it, and Bloglovin’ saves that entry for you on a separate page.  So you will be able to find it easily and visit it whenever you wish.

Before I found this site, I was using MyYahoo to keep track of my favorite blogs, but it lists the last five posts for every blog you follow, no matter how long it’s been since the blog updated.  Bloglovin’ shows only the new posts, so you don’t have to remember if you’ve read a particular entry or not.  My most genuine thanks to the reader of this blog who inadvertantly led me to Bloglovin’!!!

And finally, here is what’s stuck inside my brain this week:

Too much eye make-up, dude, but the song’s friggin’ addictive!

Thoughts on Arassa at 100,000 words

Those of you following this blog probably know that I am writing a pseudo-historical fantasy novel set in pseudo-Ancient Rome.  (All the pseudos are because I’m far too lazy to write a straight-up historical novel, and even if I weren’t, my brain’s too crazy not to invent things like magic systems that use ink written into flesh.)

But what I wanted to talk about today was the Priest.  You’ve met him, you people currently reading my chapters-in-progress on Goodreads; he’s the guy who showed up rather suddenly seeming as though he should have had more history than he did.  The reason for that is, he does.  He has lots of history, you just don’t know it.  And you should, and I’m sorry, but that’s the thing about reading this writer’s first drafts – you don’t get the whole story, because often I don’t have it all until toward the end.

I’ve known since the beginning that I wanted another viewpoint character besides Arassa.  It was suggested to me that I use Pullo, and I really thought I would….except that Pullo never really popped into my head that way.  He never seemed interested in talking to me, the mere author, he’s too busy saving that frustrating woman he’s in love with.  So I let him be, and was content with writing only from Arassa’s POV.

But about a month ago, I discovered there was someone new inside my imagination, who did want to talk to me.  His name’s Warre, and he’s a Priest of Minos, and Arassa’s sworn enemy.  He’s a little peeved with how I’ve been representing his homeland, and wants to set the record straight.  What’s more, he knows what happened in Minos when Pullo went there to reclaim the royal treasury, and he knows what’s really going on with the gods and Arassa’s new powers…he even knows what’s been happening with Sulili while she was in the Minosan camp.  He’s perfect as a viewpoint character, because he knows the exact opposite of what Arassa knows, and he believes exactly the opposite things.

But, unfortunately, we’re already in the homestretch of the first draft, and I don’t feel I can stop the story dead while I go back and rewrite all the previous chapters and insert his POV.  My readers (who are still waiting for that kiss), might send a few brutal little gods after me.

First drafts are strange that way, when you write completely out of the right side of your brain, like I do.  No outlines, only a few grand ideas for what’s coming a few scenes ahead of where I’m currently writing, and few more scribbled notes of cool dialogue, character names, and description.  If I’m really, really lucky, I know the ending before I begin, or at least have a feeling for it.  For Arassa, I had nothing but the beginning, and that scene where Pullo kneels to Arassa and cuts his hands on his sword as a sign of fealty.  I had nothing else. I didn’t know about the Arcane, the magic system, the secondary characters like Micah or Aenius, or what would happen at the end.  Luckily, everything’s been pulling together pretty well, and luckier still (since I’m writing chapter-by-chapter and posting each one as I finish), I haven’t written myself into any plot dead ends or serious technical difficulties.  It’s been great fun, if constantly a bit nerve-wracking, and the feedback and comments from my readers (besides being helpful in content) has really helped keep my nose to the grindstone.  I feel an obligation to those readers now, and I feel really bad if I can’t get a new chapter posted at least once a week.

The worse thing about writing chapter by chapter and inventing as I go, is that the story isn’t as cohesive as it should be.  Since I often only find out important plot points as I write them down, I can’t fore-shadow as well as I should, and I leave dangling sub-plots longer than I should because I don’t know all the answers yet myself.  The perfect example being Sulili’s sudden return from the Minosan camp.  She went, she returned, and there wasn’t much said about it, because everything that happened, happened between her and the priest.  Arassa doesn’t know, so the readers (at this point) don’t get to know either. If it’s any consolation, I don’t really know what happened yet myself.  The priest and I are going to have to sit down with a cup of tea and have that long talk, one of these days!

The good news, overall, is that I can feel the ending to Arassa’s story quite close now.  I’ve written over 100,000 words – longer than I thought this one was going to be.  Silly me.  I thought this one was going to be a short book, maybe even a novella.

If you’re reading this and don’t know who the heck “Arassa” is, and would like to, feel free to check out my novel in progress on goodreads.

http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/1090425