Post NaNoWriMo/November 2015 Wrap-up

Nano 2015 Chart

I technically didn’t win NaNoWriMo, but did finish my first draft. This was my original goal for the month, so I’m satisfied. I also managed to keep up with the progress bar for the first fifteen days as shown above. Considering this was my first semester in college, I’m surprised I managed to keep up for so long.

The reason this draft was so short is in part because my first drafts are very underwritten, and also because I was writing middle grade. My November project follows twelve-year-old Rebah who has grown up to believe she is a robot, and has never seen another human-being.

Reading

I didn’t read much this month because I was so busy writing. I’m actually surprised I found any time to read at all.

Short Synopsis: In this futuristic society children are raised to be turned into horrific “creatures” on their fourteenth birthdays.

Thoughts:  I’ve read many of Garth Nix’s books. As always there was unique world building, but in this case the execution left something to be desired. I never felt entirely invested in the characters and the story.

Rating: 3 blue jays

Short Synopsis: Book six in a series about aliens blending in on Earth while other aliens try to invade.

Thoughts: These books are very addictive. Normally, I would have stopped reading a series I was having this level of enjoyment of, but I just feel too much urge to find out what happens next. That doesn’t mean I’m beyond skimming, though.

I had some issues with plot holes in previous books that were solved in this one. (*book 1 minor spoilers* How were they planning to repopulate a planet with only nine people left?)

Rating: 

3 blue jays

Short Synopsis: Four children summon ancient beasts of legend though a ritual that binds a human and an animal.

Thoughts: Each book in this series is written by a different author, many of them well known. I’m interested to see how the series will progress through each change in writer. This book was a fun introduction to this fictional universe. I have recommended this series to my brother.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

My favorite Books of 2014

The books I’ve read in 2014:

The Iron KnightThe Iron QueenFangirlThe Iron DaughterThe Iron KingGrave MercyOut of the Silent PlanetA World Without PrincesThe Iron TrialAbhorsenLiraelEverfound1984Ruby RedSilver ShadowsFinnikin of the RockUndividedThe Blood of OlympusIllusions of FateEverwildNaked Economics: Undressing the Dismal ScienceAfterworldsThe Infinite SeaThe Indigo SpellEverlostHeir of FireIf I StayThe Fiery HeartThe Revenge of SevenStarglassThe Poisonwood BibleThe Golden LilyHow to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the LinesBloodlinesLast SacrificeSpirit BoundOpalBlood PromiseOnyxThe Kiss of DeceptionSinnerShadow KissWhat's Left of MeClosed HeartsEona: The Last DragoneyeThe School for Good and EvilPoison StudyLament: The Faerie Queen's DeceptionUnhingedSplinteredCaptivateCity of Heavenly FireThe OneThe Maze RunnerObsidianOpen MindsSteelheartIllusionThe Great GatsbyThe Bone SeasonRuinsFrostbiteInfiniteThese Broken StarsIgnite MeAlienatedCressWorld AfterAngelfallPhoenix OvertureScarletCinderThe DivinersSabrielInvisibilityReal Mermaids Don't Need High Heels

In 2014, I read a total of 77 books, all of which are pictured above, and I ended the year currently reading three: The Winner’s Curse, Pride and Prejudice, and The Fire in Fiction.
 The Winner's Curse by Marie RutkoskiPride and Prejudice by Jane AustenThe Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass
Of these I will be choosing my 10 favorite books and series I read in 2014. Before I continue I would like to point out that just because a book I read didn’t make this list doesn’t nessissarily mean I did not like it, or I don’t think the book is worthy of the praise it is given. For me how much I enjoy a book has a great deal to do with timing. I need to be in the mood for it, and I realize that this list is heavily influenced by this fact.
 City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments, #6)
10. City Of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments book 6) by Cassandra Clare
This book made the list not so much because of it’s content, but because of the circumstances under which I read it, and the length of time which I have been reading this series. I read around a fourth of this over 700 page book while in the middle of a lock down that lasted the entire school day, and an additional roughly two hours after school ended.
Without this book I would have been bored out of my mind, focusing on the fact that there was no way to access a bathroom, and pacing back and forth in the confines of our small classroom complaining about how much I never wanted to see the room again. Instead this book inspired me to write a middle grade story about faeries, quite a bit of which was planned during this time period, along with other stories planned but not yet written inspired by the event itself.
What kept this book from being higher on my list is that I felt some of the content setting the stage for the next series in the Shadow hunter Chronicles was unnecessary, and I feel that the characters’ personalities weren’t entirely constant with previous books in the series.
Vampire Academy (Vampire Ac...Frostbite (Vampire Academy,...Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academ...Spirit Bound (Vampire Acade...Last Sacrifice (Vampire Aca...
9. The Vampire Academy Series by Rachelle Mead
 I have put off reading this series for years. Back when I was 12 I was a fan of Twilight, but have made an effort to avoid books Vampire related ever sense, especially those with the word “Vampire” is in the title. I like this series for its suspense. Once I start reading I can’t seem to put these books down. These books made it extremely difficult to stop in the middle of a series to finish my summer reading.
Poison Study (Study, #1)
8. Poison Study by Maria V. Snider
This book was fast paced and engaging. It reminded me a lot of the Throne of Glass series which I also enjoy quite a bit. What kept it from being at the very top of this list is that I’m not sure I want to continue. The other books in the series don’t seem to have very good reviews. If anyone has read the other books in this series I would appreciate them leaving their opinion in the comments below.
SplinteredUnhinged (Splintered, #2)
7. Books one and two of the Splintered Series by A.G. Howard
I really enjoyed this retelling/reimagining of Alice in Wonderland. I had a hard time getting into book one, but once I got engaged in the story I absolutely loved it. This version of Wonderland was well thought out, and the small details helped make the world feel real to me. My one complaint is the love triangle.
Sabriel (The Old Kingdom Trilogy, #1)Lirael (Abhorsen, #2)Abhorsen
6. The Old Kingdom/Abhorsen Original trilogy by Garth Nix
I have been a fan of Garth Nix since I was about 11-years-old when I read his Keys to the Kingdom series. I often struggle to get into his books, but I love the world building which is what keeps me coming back to read more of his novels.
My favorite book in this series is book two, and I’m not sure that it’s necessary to read book one first although it would be helpful. A prequel to the trilogy was recently released, but I’m not sure if I will read it as it seems to be getting mixed reviews.
Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)World After
5. Angelfall books one and two by Susan Ee
I read book one in a single day on a school night. This almost never happens because it usually takes around 50 pages or so for a book to truly engage me. Also, if it happened all the time I would never get any sleep and would have terrible grades.
My favorite of the two was AngelfallWorld After was still very good, but I liked the first book much more.  My only major complaint about this series is the cannibalism as I feel it is unnecessary, and a distraction from the overall plot.
Steelheart (Reckoners, #1)
4. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
This is the first Brandon Sanderson book I’ve read, and even though superheros aren’t something I typically enjoy, I loved the world-building in this book. I already own the box set of the first three Mistborn books. If I weren’t so intimidated by their length I would have started them long ago. I want to read the Mistborn books when I have a lot of time set aside to read uninterrupted which is unlikely to happen until next summer. The sequel comes out in a few days on January sixth, and I can’t wait to read it.
EverlostEverwildEverfound (Skinjacker, #3)
3. The Skinjacker Trilogy by Neal Shusterman
Neal Shusterman is one of my favorite authors. I love the way his world-building is so thought out, and how his books make me think, but at the same time how I never feel as if he is trying to manipulate the reader into thinking a certain way. The first book in the Unwind Dystology will always be my favorite, but this series and Bruiser are really good too. I can’t wait to read more of his books.
This series falls somewhere between middle grade and young adult whereas I feel Unwind is most definitely young adult rather than being able to fit into either category.
CinderScarletCress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3)
2. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
My favorite book out of the three is Cress, but I enjoyed all three of the books that have been released so far. Most series seem to have an amazing first book, but then the rest of the series ends up being either just okay or downright terrible. Not so with this series.
I love the way this series incorporates familiar fairy-tales, but is still it’s own original story. The interaction between characters is great, and I love the way each book introduces a new story arc while still incorporating the old ones. I theorize this is how the series succeeded while others have failed to keep my interest after the first book: by having each new novel focus on a new character but still having old characters narrate. The symbolism from the fairy-tales is another one of my favorite aspects of this series.
I have some problems with the believability of the world building in this series, but am willing to overlook this because everything else about it is amazing.
Undivided (Unwind, #4)
1. Undivided (Unwind Dystology book 4) by Neal Shusterman
This is the best conclusion to a series I have read in a long time. It’s also one of the only books to have actually made me cry. Books often make me teary-eyed, but this is one of the only ones that has made me sob. I wasn’t prepared to like this book as much as I did since book three was my least favorite book in the series, but it’s a tie between this book and the first as to which I love more.
I’ve been reading this series since my freshmen year of high school, and it’s hard to believe it is finally over. At the same time, I can’t wait to read more of Neal Shusterman’s books. His ability to shuffle between many characters and still give each a unique voice and personality is amazing, the world building in all of his books I’ve read has been well thought out, and I said this already, but I love the way his books make me think.

Series Review: The Abhorsen/Old Kingdom Trilogy –Lirael and Abhorsen

Lirael (Abhorsen, #2)Title: Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen
*Note: This is a review of the original trilogy not including the recently released prequel Clariel. It focuses on books two and three since they are two parts of a longer story-line. My review of book one is found here, but this review does not contain major spoilers.*

Author: Garth Nix

Genre: High Fantasy, Young Adult

Synopsis: All Lirael has ever wanted was to have the Sight so that she could be a full member of the Clayr. So long as she lives with the Clayr, a group of individuals tasked with seeing into the future, Lirael will be viewed forever as a child no matter how old she gets.

Picking up fourteen to twenty years after Sabriel left off this novel follows the separate journeys of Lirael and Sam, Sabriel’s son until their lives converge on their quest to protect the Old Kingdom from the Greater Dead.

Review: I liked Sabrel, but had a difficult time getting through it. When I decided to read the sequel I expected to have the same problem, but was  47666pleasantly surprised when I finished book two in only a day and book three in the two days after that.

My favorite aspect of this series is the world building. There are so many details in the way the necromancer’s bells work, to the magic system, and the way the fictional society is structured that make it feel more believable and realistic.

I found our new characters more compelling than the ones in the first book. I had a hard time connecting with Sabriel and Touchstone, but connected with Lirael almost immediately. I feel her sense of being estranged from everyone around her is something to which most people can relate. Sam can be annoying sometimes, but his passages were enjoyable as well, and I didn’t feel tempted to skip them during the time periods when Lirael and Sam are apart. I liked that it was Sam who needed to be rescued all the time instead of Lireal who would stereotypically be the damsel in distress in a fantasy novel where the lead male character holds aristocratic status.

This is the first book I’ve read in a while where there was both a lead male and female character and the two never fall in love. I know several people who have been trying to find a book where this happens, or rather doesn’t happen, and will need to tell them about it.

The linear progression of book two was unusual. Part one of the novel is told entirely from Lireal’s point of view on her fourteenth birthday and shortly thereafter. The rest of the novel is told after her nineteenth birthday. A time gap this large in the middle of a novel is unusual for young adult fiction, and it makes me wonder why it is classified as young adult. The only time I ever come across main characters in young adult books older than eighteen seems to be high fantasy. I’m wondering if the only reason this book is classified as it is has to do with the first book being YA and Sam being between the ages of  sixteen and seventeen throughout the entire portion of the novel he narrates.

Rating: I really enjoyed the second and third books of the Abhorsen series, and recommend them to anyone who read the first one and liked it even a little. For amazing world building and for being so engaging I give both books five stars.  As much as I enjoyed this continuation of the series, I’m not sure if I will continue with the recently released prequel as I have seen mixed reviews. If anyone has read the prequel I would appreciate them leaving their perspective on it in the comments.

five blue jays

Sabriel By Garth Nix Book Review

Title: Sabriel (Abhorsen book 1 AKA The Old Kingdom book 1) Author: Garth Nix Genre(s): High Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction Summary: Sabriel once dreamed of the magic and adventure of the Old Kingdom. Now she would give almost anything to return to her … Continue reading