Book Reviews

Book Reviews: Fractions of Existence by @JLenniDorner Little Ragdoll by Carrie-Anne Brownian Slipstream by @MichaelOffutt #IWSGBookClub #IWSG #BookReviews

We’ve changed things up with the IWSG Book Club, featuring a books from members and pre-approved craft-books (meaning one of the moderators had read this book and found it useful).

Learn more here.

About the Book

“Last night I died for the third time this week…” Those are the words spoken by Jordan Pendragon on the curb out front of his high school. He’s talking about dreams he’s been having. However, he soon discovers that they’re not dreams but a premonition of things to come.

Jordan wants to be like every other seventeen-year-old boy. The only problem is that he’s extraordinary in so many ways. For one, he’s crazy good at fixing situations that have gone bad. It’s a talent prized by his high school ice hockey team. However, when a car accident puts Jordan in the hospital, he wakes up with more than just an amazing slapshot in his toolbox. Jordan can manipulate space-time and in just a few weeks, he’ll depend on it to save his life.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I was intrigued by the blurb – I enjoy stories about multiple realities. But the first chapter was confusing: Jordan and Kat stand somewhere watching traffic for reasons unknown while he tells her about his nightmares. Nothing much happens and then they talk about his part-time job. It flips between Jordan’s POV and Kat’s – sometimes in the same sentence. Then the commotion of school coming out at the end of the day – still no explanation as to why they weren’t in class. Then some guy picks them up – who is he to them? – and then more talking, thinking, jumping POV, and a crash.

As I said, confusing. And as much as the premise intrigues, I’m not up for being confused by lack of basic information in the narrative and unnecessarily jumping POV (which was more like info-dumping anyway).

DNF

About the Book

Tired of the hero’s journey?
Frustrated that funny, romantic, and comforting stories aren’t taken seriously?
Sad that the books and movies you love never seem to be critically acclaimed, even when they sell like crazy?

The heroine’s journey is here to help.

Multiple New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger presents a clear concise analysis of the heroine’s journey, how it differs from the hero’s journey, and how you can use it to improve your writing and your life.

In this book you’ll learn:

* How to spot the heroine’s journey in popular books, movies, and the world around you.
* The source myths and basic characters, tropes, and archetypes of this narrative.
* A step-by-step break down of how to successfully write this journey.

What do Agatha Christie, JK Rowling, and Nora Roberts all have in common?
They all write the heroine’s journey. Read this book to learn all about it.

From Harry Potter to Twilight, from Wonder Woman to Star Wars, you’ll never look at pop culture the same way again.

With over a dozen NYT and USA Today bestsellers, and over a million books in print, popular genre author and former archaeologist Gail Carriger brings her cheeky comedic tone and over a decade of making her living as a fiction author to this fascinating look at one of the most popular yet neglected narratives of our time. The presentation she does on this subject sells for hundreds of dollars.

“I’m not sure how you can just rewire my brain to see the heroine’s journey like this and then expect me to make coherent, thought-out comments about the text when all I want to do is hold it in my twisted little grip while I shove it at people screaming like a madman and pointing at passages.”
~ Author Beta Reader

Gail Carriger uses the heroine’s journey to produce bestselling, critically-acclaimed books that genre blend science fiction, cozy mystery, young adult, urban fantasy, romance, historical fiction, and alternate history. In this non-fiction book she uses her academic background and creative writing skills to bring to life the archetypes, tropes, story beats, themes, and messages inherent in the heroine’s journey. Part treatise on authorship, part feminist literary criticism, part how to write guide, Carriger uses mythology, legend, and Gothic victorian 19th century literature to explore movies, screenwriting, books, and audience desires.

This is an excellent reference guide for genre fiction authors seeking to improve their craft or for readers and pop culture enthusiasts interested in understanding their own taste. It is the perfect counterpoint to The Hero with a Thousand Faces not to mention Save the Cat, Women Who Run With The Wolves, and The Breakout Novelist. 

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

An excellent book about writing a specific journey that celebrates relationships, community and love – no matter the genre you write.

If Wonder Woman is an excellent example of a woman cast in the Hero’s Journey, then Harry Potter is a great example of a boy/man cast in the Heroine’s Journey. Which just goes to show how different these journeys are and that they aren’t bound to physical gender.

I like how the author explained the journey, used examples from myth and pop culture, looked at different aspects, and compared the two journeys.

One of the best books on craft I’ve read in a while.

A must-have in every author’s library.

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

In the world Adicia Éloïse Troy is from, life is more like a Grimms’ fairytale than a Disney fairytale. But sometimes even the darkest, most twisted fairytale has a happy ending, even for a poor girl from the Lower East Side.

In spite of the rough life she’s been born into, Adicia is buoyed by the loving bond she shares with her four closest sisters, her surrogate mother Sarah, and her one decent brother. Though her parents expect all nine of their offspring to follow in their footsteps by remaining in the old neighborhood, dropping out of school, and working low-paying, dead-end jobs, Adicia, her sisters, and her brother Allen have higher aspirations. Oldest sister Gemma becomes a sacrificial lamb when their parents derail her plans to go to college and force her to marry an awful much-older man, but Gemma gets the last laugh and shows her sisters they can get above their raising by escaping the old neighborhood, leaving poverty, and going to college. It’s no longer just an idle pipe dream after they’ve seen it done within their own family.

Gemma’s escape is only one of many dramatic developments which unfold over that year. Other shocks include Sarah’s unexpected dismissal; a fire which sends the Troys to Two Bridges; another attempted forced marriage for the second sister in line, Lucine; and, most shocking of all, Adicia’s mother being arrested for embezzlement. It seems like hard times are over forever when Allen makes good and moves his sisters into his new West Village apartment, and their happiness only increases when a young runaway named Lenore joins their unconventional little family. However, this paradise only lasts five and a half months. Almost as soon as Mrs. Troy gets out of prison, she forces her daughters to move to the family’s new tenement in Hell’s Kitchen on Christmas Eve.

Adicia experiences many highs and lows during her seven years in Hell’s Kitchen, all the while still sustained by the love of her sisters, Allen, and their friends. Among the highlights of this grim period are Allen and Lenore’s romance; an exciting weekend trip to Long Island for Gemma’s graduation from Hofstra University; and Adicia’s chance meeting with a kind stranger who turns out to be a famous pop star. This encounter inspires a #1 hit song during the summer of ‘64. The lowest point of this grim period comes when Mrs. Troy manipulates Adicia into sacrificing one of the few things a poor girl has going for herself, just so Adicia can save her from returning to prison. At the close of the Sixties, the family moves back to the Lower East Side.

In January 1972, Adicia meets Ricky Carson, a young millionaire who’s just moved up the street to the newly-formed East Village. They form an unlikely friendship, against the disapproval of their parents and Allen, and Ricky falls in unrequited love with Adicia. By this point, Mr. and Mrs. Troy are desperate to salvage what remains of their reputation. To try to save their family’s name, they plan to marry Adicia off to a man forty years her senior.

Adicia has never even considered leaving home underage like her older sisters. Once she became the biggest sister left at home at age nine, Adicia’s bond with her baby sister Justine got even stronger. She’s passively stayed and put up with so many indignities all so she can protect Justine. But now, with the noose tightening, Adicia has little choice left, and finally acts instead of being acted upon. Her plans to run away don’t go exactly as expected, though, and it seems like she’s thrust into a passive role again when Ricky saves her with an offer of convenience marriage. However, this seeming rags to riches happy ending has an unexpected, nightmarish twist.

Will Adicia find the strength to survive this final ordeal and emerge as a strong, confident woman, and leave her role as a little ragdoll behind forever? 

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I’m not going to read this one because the blurb is the length of a short story.

About the Book

“A superb tutorial for anyone wanting to learn from pros how to polish fiction writing with panache.”– Library Journal

Hundreds of books have been written on the art of writing. Here at last is a book by two professional editors to teach writers the techniques of the editing trade that turn promising manuscripts into published novels and short stories.

In this completely revised and updated second edition, Renni Browne and Dave King teach you, the writer, how to apply the editing techniques they have developed to your own work. Chapters on dialogue, exposition, point of view, interior monologue, and other techniques take you through the same processes an expert editor would go through to perfect your manuscript. Each point is illustrated with examples, many drawn from the hundreds of books Browne and King have edited.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

“There was a time when your characters were convincingly worldly and streetwise if they swore a lot. But profanity has been so overused in past years that nowadays it’s more a sign of a small vocabulary.” Love this!

The book teaches about nuance, voice and taking out unnecessary words (among other things). An excellent guide to sharpen your writing and a book I think all authors should read, no matter where they are on the writer’s journey.

A must-have in every author’s library.

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Once they were humanity’s exalted protectors— now they are being hunted.

Xavier will weigh all human life against Gwendolyn’s ignorant happiness.
The good news is that her choice can blow his away.

Omnipotent beings find each other while playing an online game. Xavier has been searching for Gwendolyn, his true mate and the missing member of the Existence. Only if reunited can the group regain the rest of their memories and access all of their powers. Hidden in plain sight, disguised as humans, they help who they can, as best they can, when they can.

The Eyes in the Shadows, a religious sect, has been trying to free humans from the “prison” of life on Earth for millenniums. The Existence has always been able to thwart them… until now. They’ve discovered a way to end the world that no one will see coming.

Gwendolyn has her future all laid out. There is a plan. She knows what her parents want for her and how to get it. Then Xavier, a friend from a virtual game, makes her question everything. He’s full of secrets, one being an understanding of her fear of the wind.

She tries to suppress her intense attraction to the mysterious and frustrating Xavier. She’s engaged, after all, and the thoughts she’s having aren’t proper. Gwendolyn is swept into a whirlwind of secrets, danger, and a forbidden attraction. She’ll drive across the country in her beat-up old car, not knowing if he is genuinely interested or just being polite. (He refuses to kiss her!) Gwendolyn’s journey is full of self-doubt, sacrifice, and dark visions that invade her sleep. Will she uncover the truth about herself?

The following TRIGGER WARNING may contain spoilers :

This urban fantasy is 99k long and contains some strong language, sexual situations, alcohol, a scene with medical marijuana, violence (including a memory of the murder of a sadist seconds before he commits rape), an arranged marriage, and college student debt. The majority of this book takes place in 2005.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I liked the opening: Xavier sniffing everyone on a crowded Manhattan street. LOL.

“Quiet, hiding, broody people were always suspects. Attractive, well-mannered, charming people could easily distract others.” Though this is meant to protect those of the Existence, I think it rings true for most villains, too.

I like that the spiral on the cover is the tattoo on the faces of their enemies. I would have liked to know more about why they are hunting the Existence, even though Xavier’s scars and some flashbacks show that they are serious.

This book is a bit difficult to shelve in a specific genre… I’d say that if you enjoyed “Avatar: The Last Airbender” with its manipulation of different elements and different benders coming together to protect the world, you’ll like the elemental magic in this book. Though it’s definitely urban fantasy, has elemental magic users who were revered as deities at some point, tattooed adversaries out to destroy them, and has some spectacular actions scenes when these two groups clashed, it’s hard to compare it with other books out there. It has an ensemble cast with more than one POV MC – like Rick Riordan’s “Heroes of Olympus” series, but without specific chapters dedicated to one POV: you go seamlessly from one character to another in the same scene (much like in a movie) and they all make the MC together. As they call themselves the Existence, I believe this is the author’s way to show that they only truly function properly as a unit – a stylistic choice that works with the pacing of the book. The book has a bit of a literary bend as the journey of the characters is more important than some big plot goal. Literary Urban Fantasy?

Wend’s life couldn’t be more different to that of Xavier, Heath and Jez’s. She’s a poor, pious Mormon – and they have drug and alcohol fuelled parties (orgies?) in their expensive Manhattan apartments. And she has no idea that she has magic – even though the wind reacts to her emotions.

What bothered me about Wend’s life (besides her younger sister invading her privacy by reading her diary) is the fact that she has no agency: she allows others to decide how her life should go (her mother and younger sister not liking her clothes and dressing her in her mother’s clothes; her father arranging her marriage to a man twice her age). Wend’s also a bit fickle – which probably had always been her nature as Caleb says at one point that she is as fickle as ever.

What bothered me about the others’ lifestyle choice was the emptiness of drugs, alcohol and meaningless sex. Oh, they have their moments of being kind and thoughtful, but for the most part they are lost.

All which to say, they have plenty of growth to go through in the rest of the series.

There are some typos (mostly missing words) in later chapters, but not a big issue.

The way their powers work, the flashbacks Wend gets from past lives –and then that ending! I need to read the next book right now.

A trigger-warning I would add to the author’s blurb is that some parts might be unsettling for readers with emetophobia as Wend is prone to vomiting.

I think I know how to recommend this book: The elemental magic and friendship of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” with mature themes and a literary bend that shows that true love can survive clashing cultures, past mistakes, and travelling across a country.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Engage Your Readers with Emotion

While writers might disagree over showing versus telling or plotting versus pantsing, none would argue this: If you want to write strong fiction, you must make your readers feel. The reader’s experience must be an emotional journey of its own, one as involving as your characters’ struggles, discoveries, and triumphs are for you.

That’s where The Emotional Craft of Fiction comes in. Veteran literary agent and expert fiction instructor Donald Maass shows you how to use story to provoke a visceral and emotional experience in readers. Topics covered include: emotional modes of writing beyond showing versus telling your story’s emotional world moral stakes connecting the inner and outer journeys plot as emotional opportunities invoking higher emotions, symbols, and emotional language cascading change story as emotional mirror positive spirit and magnanimous writing the hidden current that makes stories move Readers can simply read a novel…or they can experience it. The Emotional Craft of Fiction shows you how to make that happen.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

All fiction writers want to write a book that keeps readers engaged and cause them to feel everything the protagonist does. But not everyone is successful at that.

This book teaches how to write the story beneath the surface (as the subtitle says) by showing how to master each step in the emotional journey. There are exercises to figure out exactly how to incorporate each lesson into your current WIP. And the imagery used – from the highs and lows of a subway ride and how it can be applied to a character’s arch to the differences in architecture – leaves a lasting lesson in how one should incorporate different emotional states in ones writing.

You probably already know what your protagonist should be feeling, so this book will help you to bring that across on the page in a way that will make a lasting impression on readers – no matter the genre you write in.

A great book that I’ll recommend to all novelists.

5 unicorn star rating

What do you think of these books? Have you read them? Have you read anything by these authors? What are your thoughts on book clubs? Check out more reviews for these books on our Pinterest board.

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6 thoughts on “Book Reviews: Fractions of Existence by @JLenniDorner Little Ragdoll by Carrie-Anne Brownian Slipstream by @MichaelOffutt #IWSGBookClub #IWSG #BookReviews”

  1. I absolutely love your review. 💖

    “If you’d like Jez to burn your enemies, leave this book a review on Goodreads.* For your chance to be cuddled by a litter of the baby animal of your choice, just review this book anywhere that Caleb, and other readers, will see it.* (* Fictionally speaking, of course.)”
    Looks like rewards from the thanks are due to you. 😘😉

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