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Read More… In Review

This year, I made a vow to read more as a step to writing more. It’s a weird thing to say I’m taking December off from reading, but I’m taking December off from a lot of things. That lets this be as good a time as any to sum up what I read this year.

Kindle e-reader from AmazonMarch through November, I read twelve novels, including two trilogies, and one book I didn’t write a post about. I also read three non-fiction books. Since, at least as far as fiction goes, that’s probably higher than my total for the five years before hand, I’d call it a successful venture.

Two of the novels were classics (Treasure Island, The Island of Doctor Moreau), four were self published (The Lodestone Trilogy, Alice in Deadland), and six were put out through professional houses (The Hunger Games Trilogy, Wicked, Old Man’s War, Pirate Cinema).

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My thoughts on PIRATE CINEMA

Pirate Cinema was another of the books from the Humble E-Book Bundle I picked up a couple months back. It is the latest novel by Cory Doctorow whose first book, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, I’d read a couple years ago and enjoyed very much.

Sadly, I can’t say the same for Pirate Cinema. Here’s the blurb:

Cory Doctorow's Pirate CinemaIn a somewhat dystopic future where copyright enforcement has run amok, a young boy runs away from home after his illegal internet activities get his family cut off from the internet for a year. He runs off to London where we gets in with the cool street kid crowd where he finds love and starts an underground movement to lobby the British government for more relaxed laws.

To be frank, of all the books I’ve read this year as part of Operation Read More, Pirate Cinema was the only one that I didn’t enjoy. In fact, it kind of annoyed me.

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My Thoughts On OLD MAN’S WAR

John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War (2005) came to me as part of a Humble Bundle that included eight books. Some were novels, others were story collections, one was a graphic novel. You can pick it up on Amazon.com for ten-ish dollars. And in place of my usual warning, this may be the first spoiler-free report I’ve written.

Old Man's War Book CoverThe Breakdown: On his seventy-fifth Birthday, John Perry, like many, many others, enlists to join the Colonial Defense Forces and leave Earth behind forever. He’s quickly thrown into a universe more wondrous and more harsh than anything he could have ever imagined. Old Man’s War, as much as anything, is a book about what it means to be human.

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My Thoughts On THE LODESTONE TRILOGY

I picked up The Lodestone Trilogy, by Mark Whiteway for $6.99 in a special Kindle bundling. The synopsis sounded decent, and it was labeled an award-winning best seller so I figured that lent social proof to it being of quality. The plan was, like with My Thoughts on THE HUNGER GAMES, to report back after every book in the series but by the time I had any time to write about the first book, I was already half way through the second and thoughts were all starting to blend together. I figured I’d just wait until I finished the full trilogy. A thousand pages and 360,000 words later, I’ve got some things to say. This will be a bit of a long post. I considered breaking it into multiple posts but ultimately said screw it. Let’s get into it. As always, my friends, there will be some moderate spoilers from here on in.

The Lodestone Trilogy Book Cover - by Mark WhitewayThe Breakdown: In the pre-industrial Kelanni society, soldiers collect tributes from towns on a regular basis on behalf of a tyrannical prophet. These tributes will be worked to death mining something called Lodestone, a metal with magical properties that’s built into the weapons of the prophet’s elite Keltar warriors. When the soldiers, accompanied by one of the Keltar, visit the town of Corte, they’re unexpectedly attacked by a stranger inexplicably using Keltar technology. The man, Lyall, is on the verge of defeat if not for the bold intervention of a scullery maid called Shann. This puts Shann on an adventure she never could have dreamed for to save her people not simply from tyranny but from utter annihilation.

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My Thoughts on THROUGH TRAVEL AND ERROR

July 2011, I was contracted to produce a video to promote a book via author interview. The marketing company is based out of town so they contract me when they’ve got an author nearby. This was the first one I did for them. The video is embedded below.


Trouble with the video? Watch directly on Vimeo instead.

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My Thoughts on YOU ARE A WRITER and 250 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WRITING

(This is part of a series of “book reports” I’m doing – recording my thoughts on the books I’m reading as part of a general desire to read more. This will typically be talking about what I liked or didn’t and why I did or didn’t, generally related to thoughts on story-telling. It won’t be a discussion of deeper themes and meanings. Comments are always open to tell me your take. Click here to see all the books I’ve talked about.)

I broke away from novels after Wicked to read two books about writing I picked up at the Kindle Store. I wish I’d been smart enough to write this up closer to when I finished, but I know the gist of what I’d thought at the time so here’s a couple paragraphs about them:

You Are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins

You Are A Writer Book CoverThe focus of the book is on the things you should be doing to get your mindset into making a career out of writing. Things like building your platform and the importance of a brand and how to make connections and so on. There wasn’t anything I didn’t really know already and the book wasn’t about the nuts and bolts of story-craft, but it’s all useful knowledge and good for beginner writers (or lapsed writers) ready to make a career out of writing.

It’s also only a sweet $2.99 from Amazon. There’s also a website if you want to check it out.

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My Thoughts on WICKED

(This is part of a series of “book reports” I’m doing – recording my thoughts on the books I’m reading as part of a general desire to read more. This will typically be talking about what I liked or didn’t and why I did or didn’t, generally related to thoughts on story-telling. It won’t be a discussion of deeper themes and meanings. Comments are always open to tell me your take. Click here to see all the books I’ve talked about.)

My Thoughts on WickedWhen Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West was first a thing, I resisted it with all I had. I felt that the author was building his reputation using the fame of another person’s work in a way intended to change the perception of that person’s work. Gregory Maguire intended to change the viewpoint/perception of L. Frank Baum’s character in the public consciousness in a way that was never intended by the original author. While the copyright’s expired on Wizard of Oz, that’s why copyright was set up in the first place. So in my writerly mind, I thought it was in bad taste to be doing it. Uncool.

The Breakdown: A little girl in a kind of depraved community is born with green skin. She has a hard time of things growing up. She learns that the dictator-like Wizard may be evil and tries to stop him. She then goes into hiding.

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My Thoughts on TREASURE ISLAND

(This is part of a series of “book reports” I’m doing – recording my thoughts on the books I’m reading as part of a general desire to read more. This will typically be talking about what I liked or didn’t and why I did or didn’t, generally related to thoughts on story-telling. It won’t be a discussion of deeper themes and meanings. Comments are always open to tell me your take. Click here to see all the books I’ve talked about.)

My Thoughts on Treasure IslandAfter going through what passes for modern literature and the Hunger Games Trilogy, I decided to head back for some classic literature and read Moby Dick.

This post, however, is not called, My Thoughts on Moby Dick. About five pages in to the White Whale, all I wanted to do was punch Ishmael in the throat. I get it, you like the sea. You don’t need to go on about it. I mean I can deal with arcane vocabulary if it’s in service of story, but it really drones in pages of description or mental inventory when nothing is actually happening. By chapter three I gave up. I will go back one day. Maybe.

In the meantime, Treasure Island, the tale of Jim Hawkins’ adventurous quest for pirate booty, told largely by Jim Hawkins. The book is classic for a reason and has inspired many iterations and evolutions of its tale.

The Breakdown: A secret pirate treasure map comes into the hands of young Jim Hawkins. Some fine and noble Englishman set out, with Jim as a partner, to find said treasure. Trouble is some of their crew may be pirates who are planning to mutiny, and to take the ship and treasure for themselves.

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Three Final Thoughts about THE HUNGER GAMES

(This is part of a series of “book reports” I’m doing – recording my thoughts on the books I’m reading as part of a general desire to read more. This will typically be talking about what I liked or didn’t and why I did or didn’t, generally related to story-telling. It won’t be a discussion of deeper themes and meanings. Comments are always open to tell me your take. Click here to see all the books I’ve talked about.)

My Thoughts on The Hunger GamesWhen doing my write-ups on The Hunger Games Trilogy, I trimmed some smaller points out so I could focus on the big things I was thinking. Then I figured why let them go to waste so if you’re not sick of reading my thoughts on the Hunger Games yet, here’s three final things, mostly minor, that annoyed me about the Hunger Games. (If you missed them, go ahead and read My Thoughts on The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, or Mockingjay first)

What’s in A Name?

So, District 13? You’ve been independent for 100 years of independence and you couldn’t come up with a decent name for your country? Freelandia. Undergroundia. IDK, but something. It makes sense enough that the other districts were numbered. They were oppressed (though even they would have had their own names for their district). But 13 is free, the first thing they would have done was name their colony. People name their cars and their computers and their phones. Name your country. And make a flag. Districts love flags.

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My Thoughts on ALICE IN DEADLAND

(This is part of a series of “book reports” I’m doing – recording my thoughts on the books I’m reading as part of a general desire to read more. This will typically be talking about what I liked or didn’t and why I did or didn’t, generally related to story-telling. It won’t be a discussion of deeper themes and meanings. Comments are always open to tell me your take. Click here to see all the books I’ve talked about.)

Next up is a book I picked up for 0.99 on my Kindle. I was actually kinda misled because I thought it was an Alice in Wonderland retelling with a Zompocalypse angle – and the promo for the book sells it as just that:

My Thoughts on Alice in DeadlandCivilization as we know it ended more than fifteen years ago, leaving as it’s legacy barren wastelands called the Deadland and a new terror for the humans who survived- hordes of undead Biters.

 

Fifteen year-old Alice has spent her entire life in the Deadland, her education consisting of how best to use guns and knives in the ongoing war for survival against the Biters. One day, Alice spots a Biter disappearing into a hole in the ground and follows it, in search of fabled underground Biter bases.

 

What Alice discovers there propels her into an action-packed adventure that changes her life and that of all humans in the Deadland forever.

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My Thoughts on MOCKINGJAY

(This is part of a series of “book reports” I’m doing – recording my thoughts on the books I’m reading as part of a general desire to read more. This will typically be talking about what I liked or didn’t and why I did or didn’t, generally related to story-telling. It won’t be a discussion of deeper themes and meanings. Comments are always open to tell me your take. Click here to see all the books I’ve talked about.)

My Thoughts on MockingjayI’m writing this much longer after reading than I’d have liked so while my details may be less in depth, I’m still pretty galvanized about the main points I’m writing about. Mockingjay is the third book of the Hunger Games Trilogy. If you haven’t yet, feel free to read My Thoughts on The Hunger Games, or My Thoughts on Catching Fire, first.

It seems that with each book, I start in with so much hope I’ll like it even better than the last one. The set-up for Catching Fire was strong, and I loved the arena, but, well, I’ve already talked about that. This was the same way, I was so ready to have Mockingjay be the book that made me LOVE the Hunger Games series. Alas…

The Breakdown: Mockingjay picks up shortly after Catching Fire ends. Katniss and a couple other all-stars have been rescued from the arena and spirited away. Katniss has become a beacon of rebellion against the Capitol , and the long-thought-destroyed District 13 is coming out of retirement to war with Rome once more.

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My Thoughts on CATCHING FIRE

(This is part of a series of “book reports” I’m doing – recording my thoughts on the books I’m reading as part of a general desire to read more. This will typically be talking about what I liked or didn’t and why I did or didn’t, generally related to thoughts on story-telling. It won’t be a discussion of deeper themes and meanings. Comments are always open to tell me your take. Click here to see all the books I’ve talked about.)

My Thoughts on Catching FireMy word count talking about Catching Fire (the second book of the Hunger Games trilogy) is mercifully going to be much smaller than my review of the Hunger Games itself, but the very synopsis of Catching Fire will spoil things from the first book so if you’re trying to keep yourself pure, check out this YouTube video of Rooster Police. If you’d like, you can go back and read My thoughts on The Hunger Games.

The Breakdown: Catching Fire sees Katniss dealing with her feelings for the two men in her life and her growing hatred of the Capitol whose popular support among its colony/slave states is at an all time low (thanks, unbeknownst to her, to Katniss). Along with earning the ire of Panem’s president, Katniss then finds herself put into the Hunger Games arena a second time with a cadre of other past victors for the Quarter Quell (75th anniversary).

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My Thoughts on THE HUNGER GAMES

(This is part of a series of “book reports” I’m doing – recording my thoughts on the books I’m reading as part of a general desire to read more. This will typically be talking about what I liked or didn’t and why I did or didn’t, generally related to thoughts on story-telling. It won’t be a discussion of deeper themes and meanings. Comments are always open to tell me your take. Click here to see all the books I’ve talked about.)

My Thoughts on The Hunger GamesI recently finished The Hunger Games (first book) and while I really enjoyed it, there were some things that kept me from loving it. Most came up in the first part of the three part book and didn’t hurt my enjoyment of it so much as just kept me from being pushed into “wow, this is amazing” territory. That is, until the third section of the book…

The Breakdown (for those who don’t know): The Hunger Games is set in an updated version of Ancient Rome. The excessively ravish and clownish Capitol rules over 12 other districts. They’re effectively slave states who pay tribute to their overlords via harvest of their primary industry as well as annual tribute in the form of two gladiators, aged 12 to 18, who are either selected at random or are volunteers. These twenty-four gladiators are then dropped in an arena where they fight to the death. It’s Survivor for real, as the event is broadcast across the country.

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Read More…

If you want to be a writer and ask a writer for advice, the almost universal response will be to read more. A writer needs to read. Screenwriters need to read scripts. Playwrights should read plays. Novelists should read books. Just read, dude. (Parallel to that, if you’re a scriptwriter, you also need to watch a bunch of movies and television and online video and plays–it’s a wonder any writing gets done.) 

Well, I’ve been very lax on creative reading over, say, the past decade. I had a nice spree a while back but really, I’d average out one book and one screenplay a year if I were being honest. Usually a Robert J Swayer book, as he’s the only author I know who I consistently like. Being busy isn’t a great excuse, but it’s the one I have.

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