Quick book review – books read in 2014

I originally posted this as a page on the website, but given the transient nature of posts and my irregular reading schedule, I figured this would be better republished as a blog post, with the main quick reviews page listing these posts.

Instead of a lengthy review, I’m trailing out a quick review system for the books I’ve read:

A Quick Review System:
Will I read it again? Yes, No, Maybe
Love it? Yes, No, Unsure
Will I read the rest of the books in the series (if applicable)? Yes, No, Maybe

On without much further ado, quick (and hopefully better formatted) reviews of the books I’ve read in 2014!

FICTION

The Mistborn Saga – Brandon Sanderson

  • Final Empire
  • Well of Ascension
  • Hero of Ages
  • Alloy of Law

Quick review:

  • Will I read it again? Yes
  • Love it? Yes
  • Will I read the rest of the books in the series (if applicable)? Yes
  • Comments: Final Empire started my love affair with Sanderson’s writing, and it’s still going strong!

 ***

Throne of Glass series – Sara J. Maas

  • Throne of Glass
  • Crown of Midnight
  • Heir of Fire

Quick review:

  • Will I read it again? Yes
  • Love it? Yes
  • Will I read the rest of the books in the series (if applicable)? Yes
  • Comments: I came across the series while browsing the iBookstore. The blurb for the book and the main characters read like my current trio of characters in my current work-in-progress, and I was curious to see how it would turn out. The body of work is different from what I am doing (thank goodness!), and I found myself completely enamoured with the world of the series, and with Maas’s rich characters!

 ***

The KingKiller Chronicles – Patrick Rothfuss

  • Name of the Wind
  • The Wise Man’s Fear

Quick review:

  • Will I read it again? Yes
  • Love it? Yes
  • Will I read the rest of the books in the series (if applicable)? Yes
  • Comments: Am patiently waiting for payoff in the last book. Otherwise, beautifully written.

I am listing the following novella separately, even though it is set in the same world as the above books.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things – Patrick Rothfuss

Quick review:

  • Will I read it again? Maybe
  • Love it? No
  • Will I read the rest of the books in the series (if applicable)? Yes
  • Comments: Patrick Rothfuss has said that this is not a book for everyone. While beautifully written, this is also true.

***

Fitz and the Fool Trilogy – Robin Hobb

  • Fool’s Assassin

Quick review:

  • Will I read it again? Maybe
  • Love it? Not sure
  • Will I read the rest of the books in the series (if applicable)? Yes
  • Comments: I love the Royal Assassin series, and I loved the Tawny Man series. But this books feels like the seasons of One Tree Hill after Season 4. It should have ended at Season 4. I will still keep reading anyway, because Fitz deserves a happy ending, and I damn well hope he gets one.

***

The Black Magician Trilogy – Trudi Canavan

  • The Magician’s Guild

Quick review:

  • Will I read it again? Maybe
  • Love it? Not sure
  • Will I read the rest of the books in the series (if applicable)? Maybe
  • Comments: The book was a little slow for me, and a lot of the magic was hand waved away. But it was a good read and well-written, so I may decide to pick up the sequels some day.

***

Dark Heavens Trilogy – Kylie Chan

  • White Tiger

Quick review:

  • Will I read it again? No
  • Love it? Not sure
  • Will I read the rest of the books in the series (if applicable)? No
  • Comments: The premise is cool. The payoff is great. But the way Chinese mythology was used bugged me. There is not much depth to the wholesale usage of the mythology, and after a while, it felt like the author was just throwing all the pre-made ingredients into the soup bowl. A lot of the book could have been refined further, and a lot of the plot less contrived.

***

Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan

Quick review:

  • Will I read it again? Yes
  • Love it? Yes
  • Will I read the rest of the books in the series (if applicable)? Yes
  • Comments: Can’t wait for the next book! Also, damn hilarious and some of the stories are insanely relatable.

***

Jeff Aiken series – Mark Russinovich

  • Zero Day

Quick review:

  • Will I read it again? No
  • Love it? Not sure
  • Will I read the rest of the books in the series (if applicable)? No
  • Comments: The author was obviously writing a Gary Stu. I picked up the book because I craved well-written technological fiction, and while the IT bits are great (this guy is a guru in real life), the writing was formulaic and left much to be desired, à la Dan Brown.

***

NON-FICTION

Tony Hsieh

  • Delivering Happiness

Quick review:

  • Will I read it again? Maybe
  • Love it? Yes
  • Will I read the rest of the books in the series (if applicable)? Not applicable

***

Anthony Bourdain

  • Kitchen Confidential
  • Medium Raw
Quick review:
  • Will I read it again? Maybe
  • Love it? Yes
  • Will I read the rest of the books in the series (if applicable)? Yes
  • Comments: Anthony Bourdain ftw!

***

Sheryl Sandberg

  • Lean In

Quick review:

  • Will I read it again? Maybe
  • Love it? Yes
  • Will I read the rest of the books in the series (if applicable)? Yes
  • Comments: I believe this is an important book for the women of our time.

 

I am writing a book

I am writing a book. I have been writing a book since June last year, and it has been an educational process. It is also the first book I have attempted to write in many years, and the first book I hope to complete.

This time, I will complete it. This time, things will be different. I am older, wiser, humbler and a lot more disciplined. Well, more than I used to be when I was younger. I have over 200,000 words worth of notes and rewritten material (a lot of it is rewritten material and several versions worth of the same chapeter/scene). And that’s just what I have in Scrivener. I haven’t bothered to do a word count on the notes I’ve put down in Evernote.

I don’t know if I’ve ever written this much material before. I used to write the old fashioned way – pen and paper. LOTS of pen and paper. That was a long time ago though.

But back to this book of mine.

The working title of this book is called “Mageling”. It is a name that I had struggled to give my book until very recently, when my most recent round of edits clarified what I wanted this story to be (hint: it centers on a noob magic user). I probably will change it somewhere down the line, because I don’t want to draw comparisons with Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realms series (great series by the way, and very different to what I’m attempting here).

As for how far along into this book I am, well, first, you must know three things:

1. I write out of order. I have scenes that come into my head, and sometimes they are so vivid that I have to put them down in writing. That leads to my story coming together in bits and pieces. I already have my end written up, and while the scene itself does not change, the scenes around it do. Writing out of order allows me to change it up as the story changes.

2. I am an outliner. This appears to contradict Part 2, but it really doesn’t. When I first started this in June, I was on a plane, reeling from what was, and still is to me, an emotional disaster. I drew from an old story idea and ended up plotting out the entire story of Mageling on the plane – I had my start, my middle, and my end. I had my key characters and my key scenes all planned out. Thanks to that outline, I am able to write my scenes out of order, and then be able to stitch them all up and still have the order make sense.

3. I am a rolling editor. I rewrite a lot. I like to get parts of a story all pieced together and polished enough before I move on to the next section. My outline had changed over the months of labouring over this story as I write more and discover more about my story and my characters. As things change, I go back to the beginning, and refine and polish and rewrite.

My last rewrite cut down my first act from over 50,000 words to just over 25,000 words. This was the largest bit of editing I had ever done. EVER. I did this because I started treating my existing material as a first draft. I had hit the point where my scenes did not work chronologically, and I knew that I had to clean it up massively for me to be able to move forward.

The story had also changed over the months of refining it, writing it, and discovering it. I realised that my original beginning did not work. I was struggling to get from my good first few chapters, to my more fast-paced middle chapters. I finally realised that while those middle chapters build lots of backstory and character, they did nothing to advance the plot.

So chop chop, away they went.

I read somewhere that you can worldbuild all you want, and you can let that enrich your world, flesh out your characters. And your readers will never have to read a thing. But those scenes, those deleted chapters, all of it builds the world and the characters in my mind and make the main plot all the richer for it, just like the bulk of an iceberg hiding under the surface.

This is me wanting to talk about my book, my process, and what it means to me. I probably will waffle on more in the future, but I guess the big question is: What is the book about?

I’ve been working on my summaries for the book. This is what I have so far:

Alyssa had everything – the job of her dreams as the Crown Prince’s bodyguard, and close access to the love of her life – the Crown Prince himself. Then the King falls, assassinated after personally leading a charge of soldiers against a bandit horde. This sets off a spiral of events that threatens to destroy everything Alyssa ever held dear.

Soon, she must decide what price she is willing to pay for her new King.

 

This is the book in my heart of hearts, or at least the one that’s been living vividly in my mind for the last few months and more.

Also, I wasn’t entirely truthful. I wasn’t writing a book. I am writing two.

I have a second book in progress tucked away as a side project. It’s not as far ahead as this project currently is, and is currently on hiatus. And I’ll save my waffling on my second book for another time.