Books & Writers

Book Reviews 2014 :: Part 2 of 3

Books 004This year, I aimed to complete 2 books a month. You can see what I’ve read over at this page. Originally, I’d planned to share these reviews every 3 months (every 6 books), but once I got behind, that idea seemed less sensible. Half way through my list, I wrote out my reviews here (part 1). Now I’ve reached the 75% mark, I’m sharing the reviews here (part 2). At the end of the year, I’ll post reviews from the final count (part 3).

Thus, this post covers books 13 to 18, excluding Beta-reads and WIPs.

If you click on my Goodreads widget, you’ll notice that in order to get the books to match up (including unpublished books) I’ve included children’s books which I have read, but wouldn’t count, to keep the numbers the same.

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September :: The Gospel of Loki – Joanne Harris

5 Stars

I loved this book. I personally really enjoy Norse mythology, which made this even more enjoyable as I was immediately sucked into the characters, as I somewhat knew a little about them.

I enjoyed the pacing — the chapters are short, and each take on an aspect of a myth I already vaguely knew. Yet, the story flows form each story/chapter to another. Joanne Harris has, in my opinion, really nailed Loki’s voice. A lot of myths feel contradictory, from this charming man all the way through to seemingly cruel actions. In this book, the shifts and melding of the key aspects of his sometimes-selfish, yet charming persona were very well done. I found him believable.

Having said this, I wasn’t sure how easy to follow this would be for someone with zero background knowledge of the many characters.

I’d really recommend the book, and give it five stars.


September :: The Well of Ascension – Brandon Sanderson

5 Stars

I loved The Final Empire – book one in this series. This instalment not only built upon the first, but drew out the finer details; providing new conflicts alongside old, slightly-open threads.

If you want to understand foreshadowing, I’d recommend reading these. Sanderson has a wonderful talent for providing lots of options, and then the solution comes from something somewhat overlooked; yet obvious in hindsight. The characters had a good balance of flaws and positive personality aspects, and their decisions tend to make sense for them, even though I, as a reader, know more of the big picture and wouldn’t have done that.

As he is famous for doing, Sanderson pulls off another plot twist or two near the end, which both surprises, yet feels realistic and makes sense in hindsight.

Definitely a five star book, and I’ll be beginning the third book soon.


September :: The Usual Error – Pace and Kyeli Smith

5 Stars

As I was moving in my other half this month, I thought this would be a good opportunity to grab myself a non-fiction book on communication. I enjoy psychology, and believe that communication is important in general life, as well as helpful for a writer.

Although not every chapter meant something to me, I enjoyed the book. Nothing felt like a waste to read, and the comments that did speak to me were really helpful.

Although it’s not a book my partner would read with me, I did pick out key aspects (5 or 6 of the 34 chapters) to create an open discussion and get his views on the techniques I thought I might try. I was also reminded of techniques I know inherently help me to feel understood and valued, yet forget to actually practise.

Every part of this book was useful to read — especially thinking about how other people communicate, especially if a section didn’t really speak to me, I could usually think of someone I knew who I could now improve communications with.

Five stars, all the way.


October :: Charisma + 1 – Jessica Brawner

4 Stars

This was a really interesting book. It’s not something I think I’d have bought if not for being in a bundle, but I’m glad I got to read it.

The tips weren’t anything particularly new (shower & be polite), but it was fun to read, and I did learn a few terms for the people I see at conventions. There was a good balance of serious comments with humour, the examples used to illustrate points were clear, and I was glad to see some comments about harassment, as my first convention experience did not have an obvious policy.  I’m also going to keep a copy of the list of items to take to conventions, because I love the format: “Cold Medication (Healing Potion +1).”

I consider myself a gamer, and I play RPGs. However, I’ve not played D&D specifically and found that although most of the book was accessible, their were a few terms that were confusing. One problem with having the kindle copy was that the glossary of terms, which was pretty clear when I did use it, is tricky to find then go back to the original page. Also, the glossary terms were often only a sentence long, and I feel this wouldn’t have been difficult to include the definition in the text rather than “Term, go look at another page to find out the meaning.”

Aside from that, I really enjoyed this book and for someone fairly new to the convention scene, it’s would be a handy checklist and reminder book.

Four stars.


October :: Drawing on the Power of Resonance in Writing – David Farland

5 Stars

Resonance within writing isn’t a new thing; but actively thinking about it, labelling it and directly including it in your writing might be.

This book uses well-known examples to explain how resonance can help your work connect with readers; I particularly found it interesting how Tolkien used his languages to create resonance, evoking other people/things through use of similar name patterns. Even though I couldn’t get through LOTR, I read the Hobbit and am a Fantasy reader, which made enough of the content accessible to me, despite not knowing every example. Although he focuses a lot on Tolkien, Farland even points to more modern books, explaining how they have resonance with Tolkien’s books; showing how the comments can apply to other works.

Although resonance is something we understand subconsciously, and I certainly found I already use some of these techniques instinctively. And that’s what makes this book so unique – it puts that instinct into a formula, into something that can be studied and understood.

If you’re looking for something beyond the “how to plot” writing book, I’d recommend this: Five stars.


October :: The Pursuit of Perfection and How it Harms Writers – Kristine Kathryn Rusch

5 Stars

As a writer currently submitting work, I;m glad I read this book now.

Kristine talks about how, in writing classes, we’re so often taught to find the ‘potential’ and ‘look to edit’, rather than just love a piece of writing for what it is. We, as writers, tend to forget the positive comments; and this is likely in part, due to being taught in English classes to criticise and find things which need improvement.

I hadn’t before considered that reader’s who’ve bought a book have invested time and chose to read it, thus if the book isn’t great, it’s partly their fault for picking it. Yet as writers and reviewers, there’s less of that shared responsibility. It was reassuring to have the consistent message: when the story’s done, and a few people have loved it, it’s done. mail it, submit it.

And when’s the story done? The show goes on because it’s 11:30, not because it’s been rehearsed to perfection.

This would be a useful read for any writer, and I give it five stars.


Which books have you enjoyed this year?

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