Doesn’t the title sound intriguing? That is initially what grabbed my attention. The cover is beautiful too. The story did not disappoint either. This was the 2017 Newbery Medal Winner, and it was well deserved! There is just something about the tone of this book that I adore.
Why Join a Writing Group?
There are so many benefits to being in a writing group!
I am an extremely shy introvert. So, joining not one, but two, writing groups was perhaps the most difficult, terrifying thing I’ve ever done. My goal is to be a good writer though. I don’t want to embarrass myself by publishing something that is terrible, so I must get feedback from other people.
I found my first writing group through Meetup. (I’ll talk more about how to find a writing group later in this series.)
I went to the coffee shop and saw a bunch of people together with laptops. I figured that was the group, but I was too scared. I sat at another table with my coffee and spent the next 20 minutes working up the courage to go over and ask if they were the group. Then I was brought into the fold.
Writing groups are an excellent way to throw out crazy ideas and see what resonates. Your group gets to know your characters. They get to know you and how your brain works. When I ask my non-writer friends about an idea, they quite often just agree with me. They are far too nice. Because my writing group friends know me so well, they are not afraid to tell me when an idea is too far out there. Plus their knowledge of writing allows them to explain why an idea may or may not work for readers.
My writing group has a diverse group of people with many different backgrounds. (medical, historical, technical, teachers, and more) They are an invaluable resource for when you have questions and need educated opinions. Together we help each other solve countless problems and plotholes in our stories.
The feedback from my writing group is the most valuable. Many readers will read something and tell you if they like it or not. They can’t always accurately tell you why the writing works or what is broken. A good writing group will have the knowledge to tell you why something is working or not. I have learned so much from their feedback, and I believe I’m a better writer because of them.
My critique group is particularly good at this. I feel the need to have something to present to them. I could go and just listen to others read, but I prefer to have something to share. My social group doesn’t put on any pressure but will ask what I’ve been working on lately. It is more fun if I do have a current project to talk about with others.
It is Fun and Energizing
Speaking of fun… The most important reason for being in a writing group is because it is fun. I write because I enjoy doing it, um, most of the time. It is not as fun when I paint myself into a corner. When I get in that situation, I’m tempted to toss the whole project. My group not only helps me fix it but gives me the encouragement I need. I have a major case of I’m-not-good-enough. They help me keep everything in perspective.
For my social writing group, we quite often sit around and talk about our characters, or talk about life in general. We laugh together. We vent. We cry together. We worry. We compare notes. We celebrate. All of this is energizing and often provide snippets of inspiration so that when I get home I feel like staying up all night writing.
The title and cover art grabbed my attention for this book. This picture doesn’t do the cover justice. It is rich and beautiful. Also I happen to know Mary Robinette Kowal is an excellent writer.
Forest of Memory
by Mary Robinette Kowal
Cover Art: Victo Ngai
(Isn’t it amazing?)
This story is set in the future when everyone wears a device in their ear that connects them to a network. There is an optical display which allows them to see information above their head about a person as that person approaches.
How cool is that?! Continue reading
I would love to have a day to do nothing but sit and read and maybe drink a cup of hot tea. The reality is that it is not likely to happen for years to come. I have a six-year-old adorable little boy at home that demands my attention every few hours…or every 3 minutes. smile
You may have children of your own. You might be a teen or preteen with an annoying brother or sister that interrupts your reading time. You might just be a really busy person. Whatever it is, you likely don’t have time to read. Do you know how many times I hear that from kids AND adults? We are just plain busy, but if it is important, you’ll find the time. I’m here to help you with that by offering some suggestions.
In the Morning: Get up ten minutes early. Get ready fast. Sit and read while everyone rushes around. Or flip that. Get up early and read first. That is what I have to do.
Before Bed: This is probably the most obvious and the most common. This is a dangerous one though. With no one to drag you by your hand away from your book, you could get lost in your book for hours on end. I have on occasion been known to stay up until one am to finish reading my book. Though those days are fewer than it used to be. More often than not, I wake up at midnight after having fallen asleep while reading. Continue reading
I always get bored with character sheets. It is critical that you know your main characters well though, so they are a necessary evil. As a Fantasy writer, many of the existing character sheets have so many aspects that don’t apply to epic fantasy characters. Other character sheets go on and on forever. I have yet to find one I like.
The solution: make my own. I kept it to one page and tried to stick with only the most critical elements of a character. Something else I included was an area for a character arc. This will help me remember that if the character is important enough that I have a character sheet on them, then they need an arc, even a minor one.
Some people hear writing group and immediately cringe or even run like you are being chased by a zombie. This is usually because they have tried a writing group and had a bad experience, or they’ve heard about the bad experiences. I have heard my share of horror stories. However, I currently participate in two writing groups and love them.
It is hard to spend days, months, or years writing something. You take a piece of your soul and put it into your writing. (Kind of like a Horcrux.) Then people say that you should share it with other people who are going to tell you what is wrong with it!? That is just crazy talk!
Now that my first novel manuscript rough draft is done, you might think I’d start on revisions. Not quite. Often writers need time and distance from a rough draft to do a good revision. I recently began grad school so I will likely set it aside for 2 years while I work on my MLIS.
If you know any writers, you probably know that writers can’t just stop writing altogether. I will be working on writing some short stories when I have a spare moment or two. The problem is that I don’t read many short stories. You can’t write what you don’t read if you are going to be good at it. I desire to write well. So the solution is to find short stories to read. I read some magazines with short stories which I didn’t care for very much. The beauty of short stories is they involve little investment of time. If you don’t like it, you are not out much time. However, if you love it, then it is over too quickly. That is why I historically haven’t spent much time reading short stories. For me the bigger the book the better. But I need to learn the craft of short stories. So I found L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Volume 33. If they have 33 Volumes of it, then it must be good, right?
*Disclosure: I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The first thing I noticed is that when you get a book from NetGalley it is sent out before it has been formatted all pretty. There was no table of contents or titles for each story. So I apologize for not giving credit where credit is due to each of the authors. If I was reading a regular novel instead of an anthology, this would not be a problem. Live and learn, right?
L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Volume 33
Editors: L. Ron Hubbard, Anne McCaffrey, & David Farland
By by Anne McCaffrey, David Farland ( Author) (Editor), Robert J. Sawyer (Author), Todd J. McCaffrey, Larry Elmore, Bob Eggleton, L. Ron Hubbard, Stephen Lawson , Sean Patrick Hazlett (Author), Preston Stone, Dustin Steinacker, Anton Rose (Author), Doug C. Souza (Author), Walter Dinjos (Author), Jake Marley (Author), C.L. Kagmi (Author), Andrew Peery, Ville Meriläinen (Author), Ziporah Hildebrandt (Author), Andrew L. Roberts (Author), Aituar Manas, Chan ha Kim, Yader Fonseca, Jason Park, Christopher Kiklowicz, Anthony Moravian, David Furnal, Michael Michera, Hanna Al-Shaer, Ryan Richmond, Joshua Meehan, Asher Ben Alpay, Molly Elizabeth Atkins (Author), David VonAllmen (Author), Rachel Quinlan (Author) (Illustrator)
Publisher: Galaxy Press
Illustrator: Rachel Quinlan
Here is a quick teaser for each of the stories in the first half of the book:
The first several stories were very enjoyable. The first story was a locked room mystery set on the moon! The writing was excellent. The ending was not as clever as I had hoped it would be though.
The second story was about a man in a Mech, a mechanical robot used in battle. He was injured on the battlefield and knew it was really bad. He went home to see his family one last time. The description in this story is gritty and the emotion is visceral. This one did surprise me. The ending was quite satisfying, which is rare for me. I often find short story endings too abrupt. This one was well done in my opinion though.
This one is about an alien being, called the Envoy. The Envoy is revered as something holy. The most recent ambassadors did not return. A team has been sent to get them back. What they find shakes their faith. What they find makes them look at what they know about the entity with more knowledge. This one was very interesting. I do like the perspective and the introspection in this story.
I didn’t care for this story. It was a story about a man in a lifeboat from what I could gather. It was one of those stories where the POV character is hallucinating and doesn’t really know what is real and what is not. I don’t usually like that kind is stories-; concrete stories are better.
The next story was about a man who fell in love with a selkie. There just aren’t enough stories about selkies. This one was powerful with emotion– heart-rending. This had a satisfying ending but I still wanted to hear more of the story.
This story is about some beings that do not have a corporeal form. This story makes me wonder, if when we explore space and start finding other life forms, will they be more advanced than us or more primitive. This story is a fascinating test of humanity.
Ready for a good old ghost story? Do you like ghost hunters? This one had a twist though!
Varga and Fiske. Fiske is just a simple hunter. Varga is a warrior. The lanky hunter must guide Varga into the mountain where strange things have happened and people have disappeared. They find the shredded remains of a campsite. The creatures are something I’ve never heard of before. I’m curious to know if this was the author’s creation or an obscure myth they dug up. Either way, I love this monster! As a reader, I was torn between pitying the creature and hating it! Well done! I think this one was written by Anne McCaffrey.
Gators in the sewer type story. Meh.
I liked this one quite a bit. It is about a boy whose mother is dying. To save her he must kill a rare bird which is special to him. This author writes internal conflict well.
That is just the first half of the book. I may go back and reread some of these. They could teach me a lot about writing internal conflict in a very short time. I recommend you read this book!
For the most part, the writing was excellent. The characters were engaging and had depth throughout most of the stories. There were a few that just didn’t grab my attention, but most of the stories were engaging.
What I like best about this book is that the endings were really good. I normally strongly dislike the ending of short stories. Usually, they leave the reader to figure it out from the clues they laid out. They literally drop the end off: they hint at the resolution and completely omit the denouement (falling action). They cut the story off right where the line is between the middle and end in the diagram above. I guess I’m a lazy reader. I’d rather not have to put the clues together and figure it out. I like to see the story come together and simply must have a resolution and have at least a tiny bit of denouement to be happy at the end of the story. The vast majority of these stories had sufficient resolution and denouement to make me happy.
Who Will Like This?
This book has a little bit for everyone that likes some form of Science Fiction. There is something for those who like alien stories, ghost stories, outer space stories, technology stories, mythological creature stories, and even a mystery. This will also appeal to anyone who likes nearly instant gratification since you can sit down and read a whole story in less than an hour.
In the first half of the book…
(and likely the second half as well.)
Foul Language: None
Graphic Violence: None
Sexual Content: None
Substance Abuse: None
I can’t believe I have been blogging for a whole year now! I have learned so much and made so many new friends through this blog! I love connecting with my readers through the comments, Twitter, Instagram, and email. I’m happy to announce that I now have an author page on Facebook! (link below)
Goal for this Year
I post far too infrequently as of now, I hope to start making a weekly post. I am going to try my best, but I am working on my Master in Library and Information Sciences and I’m working, so I don’t know if that goal is realistic. I do have some ideas for some new kinds of posts I’d like to start doing. I am going to expand beyond just book reviews and try to provide more content having to do with reading and writing.
To celebrate my blogiversary, I am going to run my first book giveaway! The book I’ve chosen to giveaway is The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell. Y’all this book is gorgeous! I’m going to have a hard time parting with it. I read the first couple chapters and so far it is amazing! It was released July 18, 2017, so I hope that means you don’t already have it. It is a hardback book.
Years ago I read The Lightning Thief by Riordan along with the rest of the world. I enjoyed the book, not enough to go on and read the rest of the series though. It wasn’t bad. My kids loved it. It is a great way to introduce kids to the basics of Greek mythology and get them excited about it. Here in Texas, Greek mythology is required in 7th grade. Some might argue that it is not an accurate portrayal of the original stories. Of course not. But what I like is that kids come to class and hear about Medusa and think, oh yeah, I’ve heard of her! Instead of thinking, Medusa? A lady with snake hair? What? That is crazy-talk! So the books serve a good purpose in my opinion.
Now, why did I pick this book up? I have been fascinated by Norse Mythology since before it was cool! I bought a book of Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley Holland maybe a decade ago. Right after I read Magnus Chase, I picked up Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. Guess what I’m reviewing after this post!
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard
The Sword of Summer
By Rick Riordan
Edited by: I wasn’t able to find it.
(Little Rant: The front matter has the illustartor’s name, author’s name, rune artist’s name, and cover designer’s name, but it doesn’t have the editor’s name. Editors are a huge part of what makes a book amazing, so why don’t they get more recognition? Usually it is in the acknowledgments, but since I listed to the audio version, I don’t have that. )
Narrator: Christopher Guetig
First, here is a book trailer for you that I found on Riordan’s website.
I thought that was pretty cool!
This book begins with a teen boy named Magnus Chase. (Interesting name! Apparently Riordan got it from Cassandra Clare and dedicated the book to her for the idea!) His parents died in a fire two years ago. He has been homeless ever since. He refused to go into foster care. It is his birthday. His crazy uncle, Randall, was out looking for him.
Out of the blue, he gets attacked by a fire giant. Why is he attacking a teenager on his birthday? That is just crazy!
He has two friends who help him. One friend is named Blitz; he hates daylight for some reason. His other friend is Hearth, who is deaf. The three of them all know sign language. I love that Riordan included a character with a disability. It added another problem for them to overcome in the scenes. It also gave representation to a population of people which are grossly underrepresented in literature. Go Riordan!
Magnus, with his friends Blitz and Hearth, are plunged into a wild adventure that is a twist on all the old Norse myths. As I said, I read Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman right after this book. It has been eons since I read the Holland one so I had forgotten most of what I read before. When I read Gaiman’s book, I realized that Riordan had taken a ton of the myths and put Magnus into the center of those stories in some way. I think it was rather brilliantly done!
I think my favorite scene in this book was a competition between two dwarfs to craft the greatest gifts for the gods. Magnus and friends needed one of the dwarfs to win. Hilarity ensues. I won’t spoil it for you but it made me laugh out loud.
At first the narration of this book drove me absolutely bat-crazy! I have never heard this narrator before. The way he read Magnus made the character sound vacant headed. After awhile I got used to it and the character somewhat fits with that vacant head personality. After all, Magnus is a teen boy caught up quite unexpectedly in a world of gods and giants and is completely out of his league. I’m curious to listen to another book narrated by this person.
This is actually an excellent book for having narration. I don’t know about you, but I am not overly familiar with how to pronounce all the names in Norse literature. Often when there is a word or two I don’t know how to pronounce, I just skim over it without much stress. This book has quite a few though, so the narration was nice to have with this book.
One thing I love about the writing in this book is the description, similes, and metaphors. Here are some examples:
“His tie looked like it was tied when spun around in total darkness.”
“A scab was ripped off my brain, exposing memories from when I was six years old. I remembered…”
I love the silliness, unique perspective, and sarcasm of this character.
Who will Like This?
This book would be appropriate for an advanced 3rd grader and up from there. This book is aimed at around 4th grade to 7th grade age kids. If you like humor and adventure, you’ll like this book. It is very fast paced too, which is one of the reasons kids love Riordan’s writing so much.
Foul Language: Very, very mild. A few words that kids use all the time because some people don’t consider it a cuss word.
Excessive or Vivid Violence: None
Sexual Content: None
Substance Abuse: None
So overall what is my opinion? I give it 4 quills.
Bonus: I stumbled onto some very exciting news! Take a look at this: http://rickriordan.com/2017/04/rick-riordan-presents/
I love that Rick Riordan is doing this project! I mean really love! I am fascinated by by stories from other cultures and I can’t wait to read these. My regard for Rick Riordan has gone up because he is using his fame to promote diversity and help promote new authors.
I have had a subscription to Audible for about three years now. I have a 45 minute commute to and from work each day and audiobooks make it a joy. Some audiobooks are excellent and some are not. Many times the narrator either makes or breaks the story. I can’t imagine all the work that goes in to reading a novel for narration. When I read to my classes, I get tongue-tied all the time.
These narrators are all masters at their craft. I would listen to any book read by them. I’ve listed them alphabetically by last name because I can’t possibly decide which one would be number one. In my opinion these are the best I’ve heard so far:
- Scott Brick– narrated the Isaac Asimov’s novels, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and many more.
- Jim Dale– narrated The Emerald Atlas, all the Harry Potter books, and many more.
- Neil Gaiman– narrated The Graveyard Book and all his other amazing books.
- George Guidall narrated The Golem and the Jinni
- Mary Robinette Kowal– narrated Seveneves, I am Princess X, and many other stories by various authors. She also wrote and narrated Shades of Milk and Honey, Ghost Talkers, and many more.
- Michael Kramer– narrated The Eye of the World series and all of Brandon Sanderson’s books. Both Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson write long novels, so he has created literally hundreds of hours of entertainment for us!
- Kyle McCarley– narrated The Goblin Emperor
- Nick Podehl– narrated The Name of the Wind and the other Rothfuss books.
The most remarkable thing is Mary Robinette Kowal and Neil Gaiman are not just narrators. They are also writers. Both are truly talented writers.
If you read this blog regularly you know that I don’t normally love romance stories. However Kowal is one of the podcasters on my favorite podcast, Writing Excuses. I’ve listened to her writing advice for years. I admire her teaching ability on the podcast. She writes regency romance but it is fantasy so I was intrigued. So I read her first book called Shades of Milk and Honey. It was a marvelous story. I loved her creative use of magic, not as the main focus but as elegant window dressing. It is meant to be kin to Pride and Prejudice and it is. You simply must read this book!
Neil Gaiman writes almost poetic YA novels. I read The Graveyard Book and fell in love with his narrator’s voice, both his actual voice AND his writing voice! That story writing voice has such a unique tone. I’m actually attempting to emulate that tone in a short story I’m writing. I am a firm believer in this method of learning from masters of the craft like Gaiman.
You may notice that I only have one female narrator on here. It is important that the narrators can read both male and female voices. There are very few women who can imitate the male voice in a very believable way. Mary Robinette Kowal is one of those. She is a professional puppeteer in addition to being a gifted author and narrator. Her voice training as a puppeteer shows in her narration.
Each of these narrators allow us to immerse ourselves in these delightful stories, forget our surroundings, and live the events. I just want to say thank you to each one them; your hard work is appreciated by this reader.
Would you add any narrators to my list?