Monthly Recap: September 2017

It’s officially my favorite time of year: fall, football season, new book releases. It’s the time of new beginnings (even though the plants may be dying), and I am hoping to take advantage with writing a new book soon.

But first, what was I up to you this month? Well, hold on to your hats…

What I Read

GRAND TOTAL: 7

The Dazzling Heights by Katherine McGee ★★★★☆
I read the first in this trilogy back in December and loved this second installment just as much! First of all, this cover is GORGEOUS and one of the most apropos I’ve ever seen in that it relates to the story perfectly. In Book #2, we get to meet a new character – con artist Calliope Brown – and I love her. Because we obviously need even more lying and manipulation.

As a big fan of tiny details, I loved all the small futuristic items like mood flowers alongside remnants of the past like the rich still getting their hair done by humans because computers only have a few programmed options. Although I did miss seeing the seedy underbelly of the tower in Rylin and Eris’ storyline. I wish I could have seen a few new locations.

Avery and Leda’s character development was astonishing. One went from perfect princess to “a creature half-wild”, the other went from drugged out bitch to actually kind of likable.

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There were fewer controversial topics in this one, but just as much drama. Even moreso, there was a lot of healing. I enjoyed seeing how forgiving the human race actually is. I did miss Cord and thought the Avery/Cord storyline was a little weird. Although McGee nailed the realistic search for blackness in another person’s arms. Lastly, what a cliffhanger!

The Host by Stephenie Meyer ★★★★★
Yes, you may recognize the author’s name. But trust me, this is one million times better than the Twilight series and The Chemist. Combined. Earth has been invaded by aliens, but it’s not what you think. These creatures invaded human bodies and take them over like… you guessed it, hosts.

So here we have a beyond unique situation with an even more interesting protagonist… Two minds locked in one head. Two competing romances, two competing interests, two competing societies.

The world building that went into this novel – especially considering that it’s actually based in the Arizona deserts. And considering that both protagonists share the same body and mind, their personalities and character flaws are completely distinct and well-formed. You’ll shriek, you’ll swoon, you’ll cry… Don’t let reputation hold you back on this one. It’s worth a read.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris ★★☆☆☆
This book was marketed as the next “Gone Girl”… It’s not. While entertaining, it was nowhere near as psychologically smart or twisted, and it felt like every other “my husband is secretly a psychopath” story.

Jack’s psychosis seemed overly cliche with several textbook examples of crazy people like refusing to let his wife go to the bathroom by herself or being so ridiculously charming that you just know something is wrong. Grace irked me as well, and I couldn’t help but think that she could’ve ended this before it even began. Yes, her past made her original infatuation understandable, but when his true colors start to show, Jack gives her a pretty clear opportunity to escape. There were also hardly any dialogue tags (as in “he said” or body language – and I really struggled to see the characters interact in the scene.

I loved Millie, and Esther – the one character who seems to catch on – was fascinating. But I wanted to know more about her and felt the ending was too easy and lacking the twisty-ness I wanted.

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Partnering the overblown hype and the fact that I recently read a better version of the same story – The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti – I was disappointed. But it seems like the opinions are varied on this one. Paris’ novel was the first we read in my new book club and the jury was hung. Several loved it, and you might too.

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas ★★★★★
I did not want to read this book. Chaol was my least favorite character of Maas’ Throne of Glass series, and a book centered around him and lacking the rest of the stellar cast was a huge turn off. But a friend said it was crucial to read before the final installment, so I sucked it up.

And I am so happy I did! Chaol’s character development was astonishing: from weak and self-pitying to brave and accepting. Nesryn still doesn’t do it for me, and her storyline – while interesting – gave me zero insight into who she is. But Antica and the new royal family based on Genghis Kahn was fascinating.

Yrene… Oh, Yrene. Maas has always excelled in creating badass warrior women, but it was so nice to see a female character that was just as badass yet softer. The healing scenes between her and Chaol were so honest and raw… And the themes of forgiveness were truly touching. Overall, another astonishing feat of world building in an entirely new continent, and the subtle connections to Aelin had me bawling like a baby. In a good way. What started as a novella and an annoying delay for the final novel in the series turned into a new favorite that’s an integral piece of the puzzle.

Assasin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas ★★★☆☆
This is basically a complication of five short stories exiting in the Throne of Glass world and centered around Celaena Sardothien. If you haven’t started this series yet, I would definitely read this one first as it gives great insight into her past, her personality and her coping mechanisms. It also gives a face and a meaning to Sam Cortland, her first true love.

As much as I love this series, I found myself a bit bored with this installment. Some stories were much, much more enjoyable than others. Plus, we all know how it would end having read Throne of Glass. The main problem is that I never really liked Celeana until she embraced her true identity as Aelin. But it was pretty incredible to see how far she’s come from that arrogant teenager.

The best part was seeing some of the major characters who show up later in the series (Rolfe, Lysandra, Yrene and Ansel among others). And while it wasn’t my favorite, I did get a bit choked up at promising moments like Terrasen’s white stag appearing to her in the forest and the introduction to her famous saying of “I am Celaena Sardothien, and I will not be afraid.”

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake ★★★★☆
I have gotten incredibly lucky when it comes to YA fantasy lately. Usually the storyline is too convenient, the world isn’t built enough, and the cast of characters is either too limited or underdeveloped. But Kendare Blake takes those stereotypes and turns them all on their heads.

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When I say this book is epic, I don’t only mean it’s fabulous. I mean “epic” in that it contains an entirely new world that is complex, perfectly developed and contains characters that are the same. It’s like Game of Thrones – just as much blood but with a slightly more limited cast. The lines between hero and villain are also equally as blurry. I can’t quite decide who I am rooting for during action scenes and it makes for a very unique reading experience.

The three main characters – while sisters – are extremely unique and different from the other. Arsinoe is the most likable, Mirabella the most queenly and inspirational, and Katherine the most interesting. Add in the three distinct types of magic and the mystery surrounding who really got which, and you’ve got a story that will have you hanging on every word.

I took one star away just because I really can’t stand most of the male characters. Although Blake may have done that on purpose. Joseph… Blegh. Pietyr… Weak. Nicolas… Creepy. Billy… An exception. I love him.

The pacing moves much faster than the first book. Almost too fast at times, especially with the rushed final chapter. And what could beat the incredible cliffhanger of Three Dark Crowns?! But we are still left with questions and mysteries – What the hell is going on with Katharine? Is she possessed? – and I am so excited that Blake extended this series from two to four books.

Reading People by Anne Bogel ★★★☆☆
One of the main reasons I minored in psychology was due to my interest in personality profiles and testing. When I began writing, my obsession grew. That’s the main reason I picked up this book. Maybe it would give me some greater insight into crafting characters. I didn’t bet on learning even more about myself!

Granted, most of the personality information in this book can be found on the internet. But Bogel’s anecdotes on how she applied it to her own life enhanced the more scientific parts. Yes, I already knew my love language, my Kiersey temperament and my MBTI type (INFJ if you were wondering) but now I also know how to take these insights and use them to better understand and effect change in myself and my relationships.

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September Reads

What I Wrote

Well not much actual writing took place this month, but my brain is exhausted! I’ve been querying like crazy to moderate success so far – everyone keep your fingers crossed – but more so, I’ve been brainstorming and fleshing out new story ideas. My new goal is to finish book #3 by my birthday in March…

In addition to some preliminary research and outlining with the hero’s journey, I created these aesthetics for inspiration. It was a blast, but instead of helping me decide I am now equally excited about all three!

 

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What do you think? Have a favorite or any tips on how to choose between story ideas?

Help!

Coming up…

October is gearing up to be an equally exciting and busy month, but as always, I will be making time to focus on my next story and read some great books:

  • A Map for Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor
  • The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor
  • The New Orleans Voodoo Handbook by Kenaz Filan
  • As much Harry Potter as I can manage because it’s October and because if you’re not rereading this series every 5 years then you’re doing life wrong

What are you most excited about for fall? Let me know below!

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