I may have mentioned 2016 was a learning year for me and as I relaunch myself in a brave new world, I want to share my top picks for books that inspired me to be a better writer in 2016. I’ve listed them in descending order.
LIFELONG WRITING HABIT- Chris Fox
This is the book that got me thinking about 2016 and what I could have done better and helped me reach peace with the realization that sometimes you have to step back and absorb everything. As you can imagine, it talks about how to make writing part of your routine, which I really needed. But it also talks about habits in general and it really got me thinking about my habits, good and bad, and how I can improve as a person.
OUTLINE YOUR NOVEL -K. M. Weiland
I am a long time die-hard outliner. And if you’re a writer or if you’ve even dipped a toe into the writing community you know that there are lines that divide writers. There are the pantsers (those who write by the seat of their pants and make up a book as they go along) and there are plotters (those who write out an outline before they start). I love outlines, but even when I feel like I’ve written a highly detailed outline, there seems to be something missing. My first drafts are too thin, or the outline too vague when it comes down to what actually needs to happen. This book drastically changed my method for outlining and I know it is going to make a huge difference in my writing in 2017.
STRUCTURE YOUR NOVEL -K. M. Weiland
This is by the same author, and it takes a deeper dive into story telling. I can say this book wasso good, I would recommend it to EVERY writer. It literally changed the way I look at storytelling. I feel like this book could apply to anyone who wants to write, whether you like planning or not. I had so many ideas that came to me while I was reading. I even bought the work book, which has become an invaluable asset.
THE ONE WITH ALL THE WRITING ADVICE:
I grew up watching Friends, and this book is basically a book that analyzes friends and gives you tips on how to write from what can be learned from the show. I’ve read just about every non-fiction book by these authors, and their laid back writing style and the content made it one of my top reads of 2016. Highly recommended.
This book came to me at a really necessary time. I was feeling like crap about my year, about what I hadn’t done that I had set out to do. And it really helped me change my mind around on how I see my failures. And it lets you know that you’re not alone, the author struggle is universal. A must read for all creatives.
More than anything the non-fiction I read this year, really influenced me. I learned a lot about myself and my craft and I plan to read even more non-fiction books in the coming year to continue to improve myself and keep growing.
How about you, do you have a non-fiction book to recommend?
Since I’m releasing the final audio book in my Diviner’s Trilogy. (Internal screaming) I thought I’d make a recommendation for a couple of Audio Books that I’ve listened to and that absolutely blew my socks off.
The Artifact Hunters By A.W. Exley and Narrated by Gemma Dawson.
I talked about this series as being one of [my favorites in 2016]. I consumed the entire series in audio. I’ll briefly go over why I loved the series but you can read my full review here.
My favorite thing about this series was the main character Kara, she’s smart, carries a gun and wears a corset but she’s also vulnerable and has a dark past which makes her so much more relatable. The series starts out with a bang as Kara races to stop a serial killer, whose killing young woman in an attempt to gain immortality. It had me on the edge of my seat -literally cause I was listening on my commute to my dat job.
The narrator Gemma Dawson was amazing! Her character work was so perfect and her smooth British accent made the Victorian setting come alive. I would listen to more of her narration just to hear her voice.
My second choice is Dead City by Sean Platt and Johnny Truant Narrated by Scott Brick
This book was a thrill ride. It’s a zombie political thriller. If that sounds crazy, well it is. The setting is a world where there was a zombie outbreak which was cured and halted. People who were infected, still deal with a bit of decay and are treated as second class citizens. The story surrounds the people involved with the company who invented the cure, and keep it from returning.
The narration was great, Scott’s voice is gravel and intense, he even does a good job narrating the female characters (of which there are many.) Without sounding stupid. Some male narrators try a falceto and it just totally rips me out of the story. The first couple chapters are short, and fast paced and I could not stop listening.
My third choice is The Beam Season 1 and Season 2 By Sean Platt and Johnny Truant Narrated by Johhny Heller, Tara Sands, Ralph Lister, Ray Chase, R.C. Bray. Jeffery Kefer, Chris Patton, Rachel Fulginiti.
It took me a couple chapters before I really sunk into this book, but once I did, oh man was I hooked. There’s so many layers of plot going on I don’t even know where to start. Lets see, this is set in our not too distant future in a world of technology like what we have today but advanced to an extreme level of connectivity. Just think of AI in everything, from your walls to inside your skull. And the story centers around two brothers each heads of different political parties right before there form of an election and the back stabbing and secrets that go with it.
This narration is a full cast narration and it was my first time listening to it. Going in I thought full cast meant that you heard each narrator narrate the voice of the character while someone else read the other parts. But instead each chapter’s character perspective is narrated by a different voice. It was jarring at first but once I got into it, I started to enjoy hearing the characters voices done a certain way by a certain narrator.
This series was really good, I highly recommend it. There’s only two books in audio in the series, and I’ve got the ebook on my to read list. But as I follow the authors I know the series is not done, and also knowing them, knowing that this book will probably destroy me when I get to the end of Season 3.
How about you are you listening to audio any you’d like to recommend?
I mentioned in my previous post, I had a lot of ambitious plans for 2016. Not all of them panned out but one thing I can say I accomplished was I met my goal of reading 50 books. Which is harder than I thought it would be. Here is my top five reads from 2016 for Fiction (In Descending Order). I’ll be doing a follow up post about my non-fiction picks.
This book, was beautiful in it’s simplicity. I never thought of literary sci-fi even being a thing but that’s what it was. An entire planet is destroyed and the survivors of the genocide have been searching nearby planets for more people who share their ancestry and are scattered across the solar system. Tangled up in this poetic narrative, is a love story and a story about finding your roots, and cultural identity. It made me think, and it was beautiful. I cannot praise this book enough.
THE ROAD- By Cormack Mccarthy
This book sat on my shelf for over a year. I am going to admit that I saw the movie first and it kind of destroyed me. I cannot handle children in danger plots, and the entire story is about a father and son, struggling to survive, as the world is dying around them. The writing style of this book is different. If you are particular about writing I would skip this one. But the tone it evokes, and the story that Mccarthy weaves through this father’s eyes had me turning pages well into the night. It’s the sort of story that sticks with you long after you’ve finished reading it.
I love this series, and I read 3 out 4 of the books this year. It was hard to pick a favorite out of the bunch, and without giving away too many spoilers, this book is about a bad ass chick, set in a steam punk universe. Kara Devon has everything I love in a female lead, strong, independent, and clever. She gets into some terrible tight spots and she always finds a way out. There’s a love story to this book as well, which given the premise of this particular novel was used to great effect. (Vague enough? I don’t want to spoil) I highly recommend this entire series.
OK this is a bit of a cheat, but I seriously cannot pick a favorite from this series and if I didn’t pick the series this entire list would be dominated by these books. This was the first time I had read anything by this author but she quickly has become a new favorite. The tone and atmosphere was so palatable. The language she uses it just grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let you go. The entire series was wrapped up in a mystery so many layers deep, I didn’t even know how far it had gone, until I was almost drowning in it. This series will probably go down as one of my all time favorites. Now you may ask, why not my number one pick? I knocked it down a couple, just because the characters and the conclusion felt like a let down. I had fallen to hard and fast in love with this series when it came to the end, I was left kind of wanting. The main character had a ton of potential, but she felt flat on the page. Same with her romantic interest. To be honest, the back ground characters were much more interesting.
So Steiver did end up taking the top spot for me. This book, made up for all the short comings in the RAVEN CYCLE. The writing is visceral and nearly leaps off the page, the main character was everything I wanted from Blue and the supporting cast felt real to me. I really enjoyed this book. And it’s stand alone, which was great and bad at the same time. I wanted to keep living in that world. But the story line was so succinct and well done, that I didn’t mind it when it was over.
Looking back, I read a lot of traditionally published titles. Which was convenient, (easier to get from the library) but since I am an Indie author my goal for 2017 is to read more Indie Books. And my Goal is to read 50 indie titles by the end of 2017.
What are you favorite books from last year?
Last week, I did a review for book one of the Succubus in a Red Dress. I hope you’ve downloaded a copy, because why not it’s free and it’s awesome! I’ll wait while you get your copy…
Anyway, I’m going to try and limit spoilers here because you definitely need to read The Succubus in a Red Dress before reading Succubus and the Crown. But I’ll keep this as vague as possible. We rejoin Delilah who do to (redacted) reasons has become the Succubus Queen of New York city. As usual our reluctant heroine is not pleased with her current circumstances especially when more succubus start trickling into the city and looking for her protection. While she’s trying to handle her new kingdom, her new boyfriend Ken and her are having some domestic issues, mostly involving his mother wanting her dead. As you can imagine hilarity ensues.
This was a wonderful follow up to the sassy tone of The Succubus in a Red dress and I devoured it over a weekend. It was one of those reads you could not put down. I enjoyed it immensely! We get a lot more action in this one which had me reminiscing about all the Buffy the Vampire I watched growing up. As before, I loved this book but especially Delilah. We need more strong females in fantasy, don’t you agree?
Coming up next, the Succubus in a Black Hat
I read this book a while back and thought I had already reviewed it. And while going through my reviews trying to decide what to review next I realized my error. Well now I plan to rectify that! Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to be introducing you to the fabulous world of The Succubus in a Red Dress. To start today, we have this fabulous romp. Delilah is pretty average, she’s struggling to make ends meet in NYC working at a coffee counter for pennies when she discovers some previously unknown powers when she accidentally drains a man and almost kills a man.
Cue her new mentor, Chloe who has conveniently swept into plan and decides to take Delilah under her wing. She teaches her everything there is to no about enchanting men and sucking the life out of them. But our herione is not so keen on her new found powers and openly rejects them.
This book was a fun twist on the classic idea of a Succubus, Delilah is not your a-typical sultry seductress. She is clumsy and awkward and painfully relatable. I think we can all relate to that sense of not knowing what to do with your life and who hasn’t struggle a time or two. It was a quick read, it probably took me a day or two. It was an amazing book, and as if it couldn’t get any better it’s currently FREE on Kindle and Kobo. So Pick up your copy you won’t be disappointed.
I love supporting Indie Authors, there’s a real sense of community when we all rally together. I was lucky to have Kara as guest at my Kistune Release Party and I was really excited because just the day before I finished this fabulous book in her Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. This is the second book in the series, and as with her Earl of Brass, Ms. Jorgensen’s talent for diverse characters stole the show from the start!
I really enjoyed her first book, Earl of Brass, but fell in love with her writing in The Winter Garden. Throughout the book, there’s this sense of fear that overlays everything. Emmanuel is a German student studying anatomy at Oxford when he saves a girls life by using a family heirloom. Turns out his family deals in alchemy and using what appears to be a philosophers stone. But when he revives her their lives are linked together. Emmaline’s mysterious recovery piques the interest of of those who would use their apparent link, and the two become entangled together, in unexpected ways.
Ms. Jorgensen captures so many themes, and does it with such expertise that I could gush about how much I love this book for thousands of word. But I am sure they would all start to run together and I won’t subject you to that. I will give you the best impression I can, but honestly you should just buy the book. Her writing is beautiful and poignant. Starting with Emmanuel, he deals with a lot. He’s damaged and afraid and his feelings just jump off the page. I felt like he was a real person as if this was a story told by a friend beside me. Then there’s Adam his love interest, he’s hidden his homosexuality for his entire life and it takes a lot for him to give in to opening up his heart. You feel the danger of discovery for these two. I never thought too much about homosexuality in the Victorian age but now that I have, I want to read more about it. The romance between the two characters felt natural. There was no pomp, which was so great. I’ve read novels with homosexual relationships as a minor subplot and it always feels like the author is waving a diversity flag for the sake of diversity. These characters breathe real life! With Adam and Emmanuel they just are, and there’s something simple and special about that. I have to say it, I love this couple! Intermixed with these characters you fall in love with is this prevail sense of magic, danger and mystery. It had every element of a story that I just love. An absolute must read!
And once you finish that, pick up the Oxford Holiday. It’s a delightful glimpse into the lives of Emmanuel and Adam after The Winter Garden. It’s a quick read that will sate your craving for more of this couple, because believe me, you will fall in love with them! Not only was it great to see them being their adorable selves, it sets up future conflicts to come introducing new characters and teasing us with brief glimpses of what we can expect in future books. (Yes I’m onto you Kara!) Pick them both up at the same time, because you’ll want to read the short right after.
The Winter Garden:
An Oxford Holiday:
Steam punk is one of those genres, I thoroughly enjoy but so rarely indulge in. I had the pleasure of reading The Earl of Brass recently and absolutely fell in love with the genre all over again. I’m going to try and keep this review concise, because I want to gush about everything all at once. Let me start by saying, I adored the main characters Hadley and Eilian. Two very different characters, who broke the mold on gender sterotypes in a classically rigid time period. Hadley is everything I look for in a female lead, strong indipendent and out to change the world. Hadley is a mechanical genuis who learned about autotomics from her older, when her older brother dies from a disease, she is determined to keep her business afloat, even if it means impersonating a man. The secret feminist in me, gets a little giddy when women in the Victorian era are going against the patriarchy. And Hadley definitely fights the good fight.
While Eilian, is not classically masculine, he is the right mix of intelligent, insightful and with perhaps a dash of awkward, but that might be my imagination since that’s my weakness. He has a serious case of wander lust, and rejects the antiquated notions of earldom, which he is destined to inherit. After a derigible accident (which is tragic but also awesome, come on a derigible crash!) he loses his arms from the burns. In comes Hadley. She and her brother make prostethesis and after a humiliating dinner party, Eilian agrees to be the guinea pig for a new experimental prostetic arm, which will move and function like a real arm, but made of metal (this is freaking amazing, I cannot tell you how much I fangirled over this one concept).
I have to talk about the arm, because I can tell Jorgenson spent a lot of time researhcing biology and mechanics. But if any of you are a fan of the Manga/Anime Full Metal Alchemist, you’ll remember Edward Elrich had a metal arm, and Eilian’s puts it to shame. It was a forgone conclusion from there that I was going to love this book after that.
I wont spoil what happens from there, but lets say there’s a bit of gender bending, some interesting philosophical questions posed, bad guys with guns and the pressures of gentry. This is an absolute must read! But if you still need convincing here’s some of the book details:
When Eilian Sorrell, a promising archaeologist and the eldest son of the Earl of Dorset, loses his arm in a dirigible crash, he fears he will face a bleak future among London’s aristocracy. On a quest for normalcy, Lord Sorrell commissions a prosthetic arm but finds the craftsman is not what he seems.
After the death of her brother, Hadley Fenice takes over his prosthesis business but knows it will be an uphill battle as women are discouraged from doing man’s work. In return for building Lord Sorrell an automaton arm, he offers her a chance at freedom by following him to the Negev Desert under the guise of a man.
But what lies beneath the desert is more precious than potshards or bones. As they venture deeper, they discover a society where the path of life is not governed by gain but by passion. When imperialistic invaders come in search of a new colony to pillage, Eilian and Hadley are forced to defend their fleeting glimpse of paradise.
More about Kara Jorgensen:
Kara Jorgensen is an author and professional student from New Jersey who will probably die slumped over a Victorian novel. An anachronistic oddball from birth, she has always had an obsession with the Victorian era, especially the 1890s. Midway through a dissection in a college anatomy class, Kara realized her true passion was writing and decided to marry her love of literature and science through science fiction or, more specifically, steampunk. When she is not writing, she is watching period dramas, going to museums, or babying her beloved dogs.
I’ve been on a bit of vampire kick later. After finishing THE CASQUETTE GIRLS, I wanted something with blood and hot guys. I mean who wouldn’t? I recently discovered Lana Sky through an author friend. I was fortunate enough to help host a Book Launch for another author where I was introduced to Lana’s book. And I gotta tell you, this book, well… you’ll see.
Ellie Gray is dying from an incurable and rare blood disease. She has resigned herself to her fate until she meets Dublin Helos. He offers her a choice, live or die. She had convinced herself that she was prepared for death. She had resigned herself to being a spinster and she thought she had nothing else to live for anyway. Then she decides to live and that’s when things really get interesting.
This book, I don’t even know how to explain it. I devoured it. Let’s start there. I went into it expect your run of the mill vampire romance. Girl meets vampire sparks fly and there’s some threats of drinking girls blood. That’s where I was very wrong. This is a dark romance. I almost want to relate it to Fifty Shades of Gray but that’s not quite right either (and it would almost be an insult to Ms. Sky’s writing). There’s definitely some bondage, and a lot of blood but also this consuming passion, a tempting of fate, or playing with fire. I will warn you there is graphic sex scenes in this novel and a couple time where things get intense, almost violent. But man was it a page turner! I cannot really explain Lana’s writing style, it is beautiful , visceral, and so real it just sucks you in. I could not put this book down. So if you’re interested in the darker side of romance, and vampires. I would highly recommend this read.
Anyone who has followed the blog since the early days may remember a feature called Wattpad Wednesday. Back in the day, I used to review books that I was reading on Wattpad at the time. It was fun to do but like most things time got away from me and I had to drop the feature. I’ve decided to pick up reviewing again because lets be honest, I love to read and I love sharing my opinions on books I read because who doesn’t love a good book recommendation. So that being said, I will only review books I have enjoyed and would want others to read. No ho-hums here, I don’t have unlimited free time. For my first review, I thought it would be fun to reprise one of my old Wattpad Wednesday reviews, THE CASQUETTE GIRLS.
The CASQUETTE GIRLS is set in a post storm New Orleans, where a young girl Adele returns with her father to help rebuild. As the body count climbs, it’s obvious is wrong in the city and its not just the storm damage. Adele discovers new powers and accidentally unleashes something sinister from within the attic of an old convent. Magic and mayhem ensue.
I adore a good vampire tale, and this book does not disappoint. It reminded me of Interview with a Vampire for the lush writing style and tangible descriptions of New Orleans. But unlike Anne Rice you get a much more grittier version of the Big Easy. It’s easy to see Arden loves the city, it shines through her prose. The characters in this are unforgettable. As I mentioned, I read this story back in the early days before it was published and back then there was a fierce debate about who Adele should end up with. For me personally, I vote for the sarcastic and artistic Isaac, but some others like the mysterious Italian, Nico. Whichever team you choose, you’ll fall in love with this story. It’s the right combination of mystery and action that will leave you begging for me. I’m still waiting on the sequel, which may be a while since Arden just signed a book deal. I can be patient though –if only a little bit.
This week, I am omitting the usual weekly feature in favor of a new month long spot highlighting some great Author’s on Wattpad. My first feature is one of my Wattpad BFFs but that is not the reason she won this feature. My choice for the month of February has consistently produced amazing stories that I fall in love with over and over again no matter what the story line! And what better writer to showcase in the month of love than the goddess of romance:
Her works will be featured on the side bar and you can read a review of her story ‘Catch Curse and Release‘ that I feature previously!
Check out her stories, what are you waiting for?