Jun 05 2017

Mid Year Check in #NewToMe2017 #SpecFic

#NewToMe2017 image GenreSF120

What’s a #NewToMe2017 book?

–First time reading an author
–first book in a series
–first book you’ve read from a series
–first time trying a genre/subgenre
–a debut book from an author (even if you’ve read them before)
#NewToMe2017

Pick Your Genre Reading Challenge:
My genre choice: Speculative Fiction #SpecFic

The book just needs to fit your chosen genre.
Any book over 80 pages
Any format is fine.
Re-reads count!
Pick Your Genre

#NewToMe2017 total so far= 9

#SpecFic total so far= 6

The Virgin Billionaire (Virgin Billionaire, #1)The Virgin Billionaire by Ryan Field #NewToMe2017 (First time reading this author)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is the love story of Luis and Jase. (Jase being the Virgin Billionaire, and owner of a company called Virgin, so it’s a double entendre.) I really liked Luis. He picks a favorite word and then works it into conversations. His train of thoughts felt like Holden Caulfield of Catcher in the Rye, which intrigued me. He’s exactly the sort of gay guy that one expects in NYC. (Before you lecture me, watch Sex and the City. “Cliché for a reason.”) The best part of Luis is his heart; he does things to have money to send to his uncle who is HIV positive, even though the uncle sends the money back.

Luis is obsessed with a blog. There’s a section where he tells Jase about commenting on the blog, and it really hit me. It’s just brilliant. I’m not sure why I haven’t heard others say something along these lines, but it feels like it ought to be a popular quote. “Elena wasn’t getting paid to write these excellent blog posts. She was doing it because she loved it, and Luis liked to compliment her as much as he could so she’d keep her blog going forever.”

What I disliked, or just found difficult “suspension of disbelief” wise, was the world these two men live in. It’s not just that there’s an unbelievable amount of acceptance everywhere, but the uncanny amount of men (of any/every sexual preference) that are attracted and flirty/ accept flirts. The book seeps into Fantasy there, in my opinion. Luis says that no one cares if you’re gay nowadays, and Jase asks what planet he lives on, “The Planet of Celestial Hope and Goodness?” Granted, NYC has a considerable amount of open-mindedness (or general lack of giving a f…), but the book felt like it skirted over the line just a bit. Maybe that was intentional, making the setting a dreamy character for the reader to lust over.

I felt on-the-fence about Jase’s character. On one hand, it felt accurate. On the other hand, his thoughts about being glad that Luis takes on a feminine role… it just struck me wrong. More the way he thought it than that he thought it, if that makes sense.

The editor only missed six typos (knew/new, hip/up), so I feel I can say the author’s writing is good.

Tender Wings of DesireTender Wings of Desire by Harland Sanders #NewToMe2017 (First time reading this author)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh my (*insert voice of George Takei here). Judging by the cover (which we all know to never do), I expected a corny, hilarious story mixed with some romance. Also, the main character doesn’t wear jeans, but rather is from the era of corsets and dresses covering hoop skirt petticoats. I’m willing to overlook that because the artwork, as hokey and unrelated to the story as it is, is what drew me in. Actually, this was just an ordinary alternative-history romance. (I’m assuming it’s alternative history.) There is only a vague reference, near the end, to the chicken chain.

I’m giving it four stars because it’s a fine book, but I’m not going running to social media to insist all my friends read it. (Even if such insistence is how I end up reading most of these cisgender romance novels about Europeans.) It’s low on the heat scale, probably so conservative readers can enjoy it too. A privileged young lady runs away from an arranged marriage, pretends to be a commoner to get a job, and meets a guy. (Was there a spoiler in that? It’s basically a “reforming the rake” romance plot.) And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s even done well.

There’s a character named Caoimhe— gotta love that.

The chicken-making author has two typos/formatting issues (“womenin” and “womaninto” ), and there’s always a debate in the grammar world as to if “alright” is an acceptable word (instead of all right).

Glass Sword (Red Queen, #2)Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard #SpecFic
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I would go mad if there wasn’t another book in this series. This rollercoaster of emotion and action that fills the pages ends on a note that’s like being struck by lightning.

Like Red Queen, I find the book, a fantasy story which seems to have a setting of future Earth, to feel very much like the present day. There’s a line, “He never got to teach me about the Divide, the ancient moment when silver blood split from red,” which feels to me like the way Americans talk about being divided now. (Rich versus everyone else, healthy versus anyone taking any prescription ever for anything, races, religions, etc.) There’s a line in the book, “Sickness with easy cures, but no money to buy the medicine.” This is fantasy world where there are people who can heal almost anything with just a touch… but they only treat the richest, the silver bloods. It’s those tiny mentions in the book that hit too close to home for my heart and head.

In this a fantasy world filled with people who have super powers, it’s still the psychic, Jon, who gets questioned. Calling lightning and commanding electric, sure. Healing with a touch, okay. Seeing a few minutes into the future, you bet. But seeing time, seeing days ahead… that’s where the characters get skeptical. I found Jon and his power, and the reactions the others had to it, to be very amusing. To quote, “chose to trust what they could understand, rather than what was true.” Those are more than words in a book. There’s wisdom leaking out, which is what I love about this author. A paragraph later explains the fantastic covers of these books, the crowns dripping with blood. I love when the reason for a cover becomes obvious in the pages.

I’m pretty sure I know what Farley’s question is, the one to which Jon tells Mare that the answer is yes. It’ll be the next book before I know for 100% sure, but I’m 99% betting that I know.

I’m also going to mention quickly how fun the acknowledgment was to read.

RunawayRunaway by J.R. Vincente #NewToMe2017 (First time reading this author)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Before I get to the review, let me recap a little conversation…
Me: I finished reading that choose-your-erotica book you mentioned.
“Friend” (note the quotes…) : Did you find secret scene?
Me: Secret scene? You mean the secret she has for most of the book?
“Friend“: No! There’s a secret scene from one of the choices. I found it. Didn’t you find it? Who did she end up with?
Me: The dog owner was texting her, but she ended up single and fine with it.
“Friend“: I can’t believe you missed the secret scene.
Me: I can’t believe how much I hate you right now.

I then reread the book, making different choices. And then… read it again. The scene! I found the scene!

Yes, this does make me cooler than the rest of you.

The cover of the book, by the way, is a bed (or mattress) that’s bondage ready. That cover should be your clue to how high on the heat scale this could be.

Some of the book takes part in my home state of PA. (I was looking for a book with a setting in my hometown for a reading challenge in 2015.)

I read the book three times (in my quest for the secret scene). I enjoyed all three read-throughs. There is a good amount of suspense, making it more like a mystery-thriller, in several of the choices. It’s easy enough to believe that this could be real; that the characters could exist, as could the scenarios. Runaway was as fun to read as every other choose-your-adventure book I’ve picked up. It might be hardcore, it might be softcore, there are some HEA and some not, or it might just be a suspense with some romance… the reader decides.

I read erotica when it is written by someone I know or recommended to me. (This book was a recommendation.) I was pleasantly surprised by how fun this was to read. Perhaps because I was able to decide her fate. The only problem I had was that I didn’t get that secret bonus scene on the first read, so I had to go back! Okay, that’s not a bad problem to have, and speaks more to my stubborn determination. It was a fun journey.

Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard #SpecFic re-read
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The book does stand alone, but I’m hoping for it to become a series. The themes presented in Red Queen are relatable. One more story of oppression, of the 1 percent lording over the 99 should be eye-rolling and dull — but this book makes it feel fresh and exciting! Another fairytale with the poor girl catching the eye of the handsome prince should be a snoozefest — but the twist and turns of Red Queen turn it into a thriller. Books are supposed to have one climax, but this book has a new climax every few chapters. There’s some beautiful foreshadowing. Poetic prose snuck in a few times and took my breath away. This book is utterly magnificent. I’ll be in line for the midnight release of the movie or the next book — hopefully both. Yes, it really is that good.

Word Magic for Writers: Your Source for Powerful Language That Enchants, Convinces and Wins ReadersWord Magic for Writers: Your Source for Powerful Language That Enchants, Convinces and Wins Readers by Cindy Rogers #NewToMe2017 (First time reading this author)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There is quite a bit of information in this book which I have previously used and been called out by editors for daring to put in a manuscript. On the other hand, this book defines what those methods and such are in a well-done way. Proceed with caution if you are above an eighth grade writing competency level.

Antimetabole, repetition of identical words, is often a frowned upon practice. Antiphrasis is used in every mob-fiction story I’ve ever encountered, as they all have a character named “Tiny” who… isn’t. Chapter 11’s ideas about writing colors, however, is useful and interesting. (Wine red and glittering gold instead of just red and gold.) The vivid verbs topic interests me, but the book made it dependent upon sports reporting, and was less helpful than I desired. However, a GREAT tip in the book: “The peppering of to be verbs, and of helping verbs such as do, have, can, may, might, must, ought, could, should, would deadens a paragraph or a scene faster than hail on a tin roof deadens the senses. Action verbs activate a scene every time.” And there’s a good review of show-don’t-tell. There’s a mention of embedding the setting into the action.

The section on titles and using key words is spot on. Then there’s a tip which is contradictory to several other writing how-to reference guides: “Chapter endings cannot all end with a dangler or a lure into the next chapter.

For information and education theory, this is a 5-star book. It would be great for young writers or those interested in learning about the craft. For adult writing in the world of submitting to agents and publishers, it’s a 3-star book.

Moonless (Maiden of Time, #1)Moonless by Crystal Collier #NewToMe2017 (First time reading this author) #SpecFic
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OMG! I have a new favorite book in my top 10!

There is a Pride and Prejudice similarity in the scene where a friend asks another friend to marry him, and soon after someone else says, “Why can you not take up a decent prospect like any normal girl?” It’s an amusing scene.

My heart… all the feels in this scene: “Alexia realized, self-consciously, her mistake. They belonged to the adult world now. They couldn’t interact as freely as they once had.” That got me. Reading it again here, I’m still feeling it.

Here’s my very favorite quote from the book: “That is what I like about you. You have never cared what others think. It is all about what matters to you.” Powerful line!

I’m torn between reading this one again and moving on to the next in the series. I want to do both at the same time! Ha ha. But seriously, this book is fantastic.

Carve the Mark (Carve the Mark, #1)Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth #NewToMe2017 (first book in a series) #SpecFic
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What we have here is the ultimate example of Speculative Fiction. There’s plenty of fantasy, of that which feels imagined, and there’s science with spaceships and floating vehicles, and there’s even some horror with all the killing that goes on in this book. Plus, there’s mention of the history of that galaxy, which has multiple interpretations, some of which just feed perfectly into fantasy. As I said, this is Speculative Fiction, this is the gold standard for encompassing the entire genre.

There’s also a grab bag of diversity (though it is set in another galaxy, so take that as you will). There are two main characters, one with “brown skin” (Cyra). Cyra’s chapters are written in first-person, but the chapters belonging to Akos are written in third-person limited. It sounds jarring, but it isn’t. The book is gripping and wonderful. When does the next one come out? The ending has me needing the next book.

Some of my favorite parts:

“The pain I chose, instead of the pain that had chosen me.” This is a line that anyone suffering from chronic pain will appreciate.

The book just came out January 17, 2017, but it feels very current and politically relevant (in the USA, in my opinion).

“Ridiculous, really, but sometimes people just believed what they were told. It was easier to survive that way.

Testament: The TrialTestament: The Trial by Edward V’Kanty #NewToMe2017 (First time reading this author) #SpecFic
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book has strong and very explicit violence, sexual content, and drinking. It is not for the faint of heart. However, if you want a book that blends historical fiction (1665), fantasy (assuming one counts possible witchcraft and voodoo as fantasy), and erotica (including and especially the more violent types), then this book will quench your thirst. There is a degrading and pain-filled rape scene which is difficult even for the main character to witness. The writing is solid and the grammar seems spot on. It’s partially first person written in a journal, but also contains statements and testimony from other characters. Were the character Tiekka the main character of this book, it would count as diverse fiction. (Indeed, I imagine the story from her point of view would be astounding.)

The book makes it easy to see how mob mentality and a lust for power brought about so many witch trials. Some of it feels like history that needs to be re-learned by society today. Here’s a quote:

“I’d watched this crowd -a group of what I’d assumed had been sensible, civilized, 17th century people- and had seen them grow irate and fearful. They knew next to nothing of the case and even less of the people directly involved, yet they were already demanding blood for the apparent injustices suffered.”

Here’s something that I never heard before and did not know:

“Under English law, witchcraft in itself is not illegal at present, but to practice said arts for the purpose of causing harm or peril is most definitely a crime and will be prosecuted.”

However, it conflicts with other research, such as, “In 1542 Parliament passed the Witchcraft Act which defined witchcraft as a crime punishable by death. It was repealed five years later, but restored by a new Act in 1562.” (http://www.parliament.uk/) I am unsure what to make of this conflict of knowledge.

I disliked that the book concluded in a choose-your-adventure fashion whereby the ending of choice is sold separately. (I can appreciate the marketing tactic, but I personally felt jilted.)

Four: A Divergent Story Collection (Divergent, #0.1 - 0.4)Four: A Divergent Story Collection by Veronica Roth #SpecFic
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantastic writing. A thrill to read. There’s a line in the book, “How is it possible to live the same story twice, from different vantage points?”, which is ironic and sums up half the book. Reading Divergent first is imperative. If you enjoy getting the other side of a story, this book is ideal.

There is quite a bit about child abuse in this book. (If you know the character Four, you know why.) There’s a part where Four is afraid that Tris would look at him with pity, and make him feel weak, small, and empty. But, of course, she doesn’t, she instead is angry at the abuser. To me, this is a really deep moment. All too often, those who have been abused, those who have experienced horrors without consent, feel they will be blamed– and, disgusting as it is, that does happen. There is hope and brilliance in a book that reinforces putting the blame on the abuser, on the attacker, on the person unable to control their own behavior. I’d give the book a sixth star just for this scene.

A quote that cracked me up:
“uncomfortable and wrong, the way an Erudite feels when she reads a grammatically incorrect sentence.”

A quote that I want as a pin image:
“Dead people can be our heroes because they can’t disappoint us later; they only improve over time, as we forget more and more about them.”

The Miniature Golf Course Murders (River Corners Mysteries)The Miniature Golf Course Murders by Sara Penhallow #NewToMe2017 (First time reading this author)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book follows Isobel Santini, an editor, as she accidentally discovers and solves a murder. The guilty person, the one who did it, made me laugh in an “I see what you did there,” way.
Some quotes I enjoyed from the book:
“Some of us don’t decide that God is irrelevant when he’s inconvenient.”
“But Papi always said his little princess didn’t need to work,” Aunt Rosa said softly, “and you didn’t want to disappoint him.”

Blog, Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create CommunityBlog, Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community by Joy Deangdeelert Cho #NewToMe2017 (First time reading this author)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recommend this book to everyone who has a blogged or is thinking about starting a blog. This is a wealth of information. This book was like taking a 101 college class about blogging.
The book suggests thinking about what makes your blog special. It asks if this is your hobby, outlet, or possible career, and then offers tips for each of those choices.
To quote:
“What makes it unique? The best blogs are ones that add their own unique twist or style to a topic. What ideas do you have that will make yours different?” And, “a succinct description of your blog that tells others why you started it, what you blog about, and why it’s fun and different.”
I learned that some of the types of posts I most enjoy making are “Updates: In addition to seeing your newest work, readers often like to see pieces that didn’t make the cut,” and “Updates Similar: behind-the-scenes details from the building of your (novel), special discounts for blog readers,” and Reviews.
It defines Trackbacks, Categories, and Tags. (I knew about Tags, but I never considered using “Google’s Keyword Tool or Wordtracker to find the optimal words or phrasing to use.”) It explains, in detail, how to write your Bio and the function of having one. It mentions trademarking your blog’s name. (Which I never thought about spending money on before.) It talks about a blog’s bounce rate, which I had never heard of before.
The made me wonder if I give enough of myself, if I have enough of a “real person” angle to inspire people.
A great quote from the book:
“Building and maintaining your community is just as important as coming up with a great new post and should be given the same care and attention.”
To me, that part of the book reminded me of the #AtoZChallenge. That feels like the very definition of what we do in April.

47 Mind Hacks for Writers: Master the Writing Habit in 10 Minutes Or Less and End Writer's Block and Procrastination for Good47 Mind Hacks for Writers: Master the Writing Habit in 10 Minutes Or Less and End Writer’s Block and Procrastination for Good by Karen Dimmick #NewToMe2017 (First time reading this author)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There were parts of this book that interested me as a writer. It would certainly be more relevant for non-fiction than fiction, but it’s still useful either way. The book had some insights and knowledge that I had not encountered before. I enjoyed doing the suggested exercises to the best of my ability (see next section about downloads). The book has helped me set some new goals, and for that, I’m grateful.

To create my “pick up plan” I was supposed to download a template. To download a template, I had to go to the site (again) and enter my name and email (again) and wait for yet another email that never comes (and yeah, I’ve checked spam).
When an author has templates that go with the book and I have “sign up for” or jump through a hoop to get them, I feel annoyed and exploited.
When that template doesn’t come, I feel cheated and betrayed, and my opinion of the author’s authority drops considerably. I question if the author does not believe in the work, and thus created a way to trick readers onto a mailing list.
I wonder what my purchase meant to the author. I wonder if I’m just a number to grow an email list.
I would prefer if I could go to a web page and download the templates which accompany the book, and then be given an option to sign up for a mailing list and such. If a book is genuinely good, then I’d sign up. But I feel that being required to sign up for an email list (especially to get what I’d consider “the other 25% of the book I paid for) is a weak and shady business practice.
As a result of several templates that never came and being required to sign up for an email list to attempt to get them (rather than signing up because of a genuine interest), I’m knocking off two stars. I’m genuinely more displeased at having to sign up for a list than I am that the emails didn’t come. Forcing me to sign up to get the rest of what I paid for is a choice the author made. Only one download (the 8-page workbook) out of all of them coming is probably some computer glitch, and that’s something which annoys me but that I could forgive.

The sections about Trolls were well-written, humorous, and insightful. (However, it doesn’t address how to deal with doxing. Perhaps because no one actually knows how to deal with it yet.) But I liked that section enough to give back one star.

That’s a total of 4 out of 5 stars for this book.
So long as you’re prepared to click on SIXTEEN links to 47MindHacks.com (backslash whatever template or directory), and enter your name and email address each time, you’ll enjoy this book.

I do believe that plenty of people read, and that self-publishing is a viable option, and most of the rest from the workbook. (The only email download from the sign-up list to come.)

View all my reviews

#NewToMe2017 total so far= 9

#SpecFic total so far= 6

2 comments

  1. Great selection. Now I have new books to add to my TBR 🙂
    Ronel Janse van Vuuren has this post to share Devoted to the Crazy Writing Life #IWSGMy Profile
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    1. You’re welcome.

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