Monthly Recap: January 2018

I don’t know about you but January always feels like the LONGEST month. I mean five Mondays just seems excessive, right?

But despite the dragging, I stuck to my goals and made some serious headway on a few. Others got somewhat derailed, and I got bronchitis… But hey, I am choosing to focus on the positive!

We hosted our very first #CheerChat with Writer’s Cheer – a hashtag created to provide a space where writers can celebrate their successes with each other. I saw an energy healer which was FASCINATING and a really eye-opening experience. I read a fantastic book for my internship with Entangled that I can’t wait to hopefully follow through the publishing process.

All in all, not bad. But let’s dive into the specifics and share what I did in the reading and writing world to kick off 2018!

What I Read

GRAND TOTAL: 4

The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen ★★★★☆
While still not my favorite series, this book was definitely an improvement on the first. The pace is much more balanced, Kelsea’s character development and war between the two sapphires is well-done, and we are introduced to an entirely new storyline: that of Lily who lived before the Crossing. Some questions are finally being answered, and Lily’s chapters were by far my favorite. I actually sort of wish the entire novel was about her because I still really can’t stand Kelsea.

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But the rest of the characters are likable enough especially Mace, Ewen, and Aisa. The final few chapters are GREAT – we finally learn who the Red Queen is and it’s a doozy – and Erika’s writing style continues to impress, fluid and easy to read. Onto the next book…

The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen ★★☆☆☆
My rating for this book changed several times throughout the story. It started out with the same three stars as the first installment – a lot of sitting around in a jail cell, mourning a missing queen, some random new viewpoints. We also get the new secondary plot line of Katie, a young girl who lives in Tear’s new town after the Crossing. Similarly to Lily’s story in book 2, this was so much more interesting to me than Kelsea’s narrative. I think it’s because these two women are actually advancing their own plots, whereas Kelsea just seemed to be carried along by others.

Then about a third of the way through, the pace seriously picked up, and I found myself inching toward four stars. The storylines all went in directions that I didn’t expect, and the evolving relationship between Kelsea and the Red Queen was phenomenally done, and by the end of Part 2, I was enthralled.

But then everything started to go downhill in the final 100 pages. The genre – which has always been fluid in this series – started to evolve into something close to horror. There were a LOT of unanswered questions left over, and some that were answered but didn’t get the credit deserved. We finally get to know who Kelsea’s father is but no one seemed to really care. The character development also starts to fall apart.

Then there’s the final chapter… (No spoilers here, but head on over to Goodreads, you can find some if you are interested). I am actually glad that this series didn’t have a happy ending, but this particular method felt like SUCH a cop out. Two disappointing stars for such a hyped up series.

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon ★★★★☆
I have been obsessed with the story of Anastasia since I was a little girl, when my grandma told me we were related to the Romanov family. Years later, I realize she was probably stretching the truth, but for a while, I was convinced that one day a group of Russians would show up at my door and say I was the long lost missing princess. Obviously didn’t happen. Neither has my Hogwarts letters.

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Anywho… When I saw this novel, it was automatically a must-read, and it did not disappoint. Impeccably researched and full of suspense, I consumed this. It’s told in a very unique – and sometimes confusing – that takes a little adjustment at the beginning. One storyline – that told from Grand Duchess Anastasia’s POV – progresses chronologically, documenting her family’s exile and execution. But the second POV follows Anna Anderson – the woman who long claimed to be the missing princess – in backwards order from when her appeal was ruled against toward the mystery of who she really is.

If you know how this story ends, it might be a little less exciting, and you do really need to pay attention to the dates at the beginning of each chapter to not become confused. That being said, I knew what was going to happen and still loved it. The final chapters – and even the author’s note – concluded spectacularly. Definitely planning to check out more books by Ms. Lawhon. Thanks to Doubleday Books and Netgalley for an early read!

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin ★★★☆☆
Would you want to know the date of your death? This novel hinges on that very question, and the four siblings who decide to find out. A fascinating premise that starts in 1960s New York City and follows each sibling as they near their date.

I feel a little conflicted about this novel overall, as there are some pieces that I love and some I didn’t care for. First of all, it is beautifully written, but it is definitely literary fiction. Which some people love but isn’t my genre of choice. It’s marketed as magical realism, and besides the prophecy itself, I didn’t get much of that. The story is very much rooted in reality.

The story itself is very well organized, broken into four parts, one for each sibling. Quite frankly, I didn’t really like any of the characters, but some of their stories were better than others. Simon’s was by far my favorite, extremely intriguing and full of color albeit a bit predictable. Klara could have been an entire novel on her own with the amount she had going on, but while her story was good, it was also disturbing. Daniel’s made little sense, and his actions seemed out of character and irrational. Varya’s was very interesting. As the last sibling left, she’s stuck in a holding pattern of guilt and regret. It’s a bit heavy on the message, but I was at least surprised by her evolution.

Overall, it’s extremely readable and even enjoyable, but not exactly memorable. I feel as if the execution of the plot itself did not live up to the premise. Although there are several 4 and 5 star reviews, so it may be a classic “it’s not the book, it’s me” situations.

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What I Wrote

After completing revisions on 700 Main, I needed something to occupy my time while waiting for responses from agents (there’s still six out there!). I had a hard time deciding whether to pursue a new project or go back and totally rewrite my first novel. For now – and I reserve the right to change my mind – I’ve decided to dive into my new New Orleans based-WIP.

January was for characters. Lots of writers tend to start with plot, but I like to have at least an idea of who I am working with. Then I can develop plot points that torture those specific people based on their personality, background, and emotional wound. Yes, writers are evil.

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I took personality tests, searched Pinterest for photos, combed through Kristen Kieffer’s workbook, and answered silly questionnaires. But my main goal was to create a main character who was absolutely nothing like me.  That’s been a challenge of mine, and both my past MCs have eerily resembled my own personality traits and flaws. So it took a little longer to get to know her this time, but I can say with certainty that Jessa is nothing like me. She’s bold but reckless, observant but insensitive. You guys are gonna love her.

Coming Up

February is going to be all about plot. This week I started James Patterson’s Master Class (full review to come when I finish) and the main assignment is to create a chapter by chapter outline. Between all the research I’ve done and the Pre-Write Project I am completing now, I think I’ll be able to get a chunk of that done this month. We’ll see…

As far as reading goes, I am already behind on my TBR list (to no one’s surprise) but here’s my books for February:

  • Honeymoon by James Patterson and Howard Roughan
  • Circe by Madeline Miller
  • Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict
  • The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
  • The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

How did everyone else’s first month of the new year go?

 

4 thoughts on “Monthly Recap: January 2018

  1. Cara Sue Achterberg says:

    My goodreads goal is to read 50 books, and after I posted that I got scared that I was being overly ambitious, so I’ve been a reading madwoman, every spare moment. In January I finished four books I had started in 2017 – SWIMMING TO ANTARCTICA by Lynne Cox (LOVED IT – but I love memoir about extreme people), THE ART OF MEMOIR by Mary Karr (homework – pretty writing, learned a few things), WISHIN’ AND HOPIN’ by Wally Lamb (my ALL time favorite writer so this was a holiday treat), and MOMENTS OF SEEING by Katrina Kenison (lyrical, mom writing I love). Then I read EMILY ALONE by Stewart O’Nan (great writing), HAPPINESS by Heather Harpham (my favorite book to date for 2018), RESCUING PENNY JANE by Amy Sutherland (because I have a dog memoir coming out in August, hers intimidates me now, though), OFF THE LEASH by Matthew Gilbert (same reason as Penny, but meh on this one) and THE HORSES OF PROUD SPIRIT by Melanie Sue Bowles (because I’ve recently gotten to know Melanie and she rocks). Pretty safe to say I’m gonna meet my goal.

    As far as writing, I’m currently meandering around in my WIP and reading your post made me realize I probably need to go back and spend a little more time with my characters. I think I don’t know them well enough. Other than that all my writing time is focused on launching my summer release.

    Probably more than you wanted to know – but you asked!

    Like

    • tauricox says:

      Wow sounds like you are killing it! That’s a lot of books in one month. I am going to have to check a few of those out.

      My favorite place to start with characters is personality testing. So once I have a general idea of the character, I take an abbreviated version of the Myers-Briggs test. It can give a lot more insight into their strengths/weaknesses, motivating factors and how they act in relationships.

      And congrats on your upcoming release!

      Like

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