Book Reviews

Bout of Books May 2022 #books #bookreviews

I decided to clear out my TBR, one reading challenge at a time. In April, I did a full month of books (some in series) according to the letters of the alphabet. This month, I did the week-long reading challenge with Bout of Books.

The reviews are super short and I had decided to stick to my non-fiction shelf. Besides tackling a couple of books I’d been meaning to read for a while, I also finished reading an encyclopedia and several thesauruses.

About the Book

From USA Today Bestselling and Kindle All-Star Author Elana Johnson comes the ultimate guide to writing and releasing rapidly for self-publishers.

You’ve heard the term “Rapid Release” and you’re wondering if it’s a viable strategy for you. This book has everything you need to get started writing and releasing quicker, as well as half a dozen case studies outlining 6 different Rapid Release Launches Elana has tried for herself.

There’s something for every Indie author, in every stage of their self-publishing career, though this isn’t a how-to book on self-publishing. You’ll get tips and tricks to organize a Rapid Release, as well as an entire chapter dedicated to the how-to of writing faster.

Elana is transparent with her numbers, and she outlines many marketing strategies while detailing her thoughts behind her Rapid Release strategies that can be applied to any launch, regardless of how quickly the books come out.

Get inspired in your Indie career with Elana!

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

A great introduction on how and why rapid release can work. The case studies were interesting. And her suggestion to reward yourself at benchmarks is something I can totally relate to.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Romance novels aren’t like other genres and hitting all the things that romance readers want can be tricky. How do you make your readers believe your characters are falling in love? How do you show that sizzle of attraction? How do you write a good kissing scene? How do you bring in the much-needed tension but still have your characters flirting and getting closer?

In this book I take one of my romance novels (Acting Married) and I go through the entire novel with you, basically interrupting myself to tell you what I was thinking as I was writing the novel. It’s like watching a movie with commentary. I pull back the curtain so you can see why I started it the way I did, why I decided to put certain scenes in, and what pushes the romance forward in the book.

I preface all this with what I consider the essentials of a good romance novel, and I end with my list of well-loved romance tropes that you can draw from in order to write your own bestselling romance novel.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

A workshop in a book! I would have liked to see more how different tropes work well together with examples (I liked that she used examples of movies I’ve seen).

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Many authors write, then market. Successful authors write TO market

Have you written a book that just isn’t selling? Would you like to write a book that readers eagerly devour?

Many authors write, then market. Successful authors write TO market. They start by figuring out how to give readers what they want, and that process begins before writing word one of your novel.

This book will teach you to analyze your favorite genre to discover what readers are buying, to mine reviews for reader expectations, and to nail the tropes your readers subconsciously crave.

Don’t leave the success of your novel up to chance. Deliver the kind of book that will have your fans hounding you for the next one.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

An excellent guide to figure out what you want to write, who the competition is, what readers expect, and how to deliver a book that will sell. Doing the exercises is time-consuming but well worth it.

A must-have in every author’s library.

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

SAVE THE CAT!® by Blake Snyder is a popular screenwriting book series and storytelling methodology used by screenwriters, directors, and studio execs across Hollywood. Now, for the first time ever, bestselling author and writing teacher, Jessica Brody, takes the beloved Save the Cat! plotting principals and applies them to the craft of novel writing in this exciting new “workshop style” guide, featuring over 20 full beat sheets from popular novels throughout time.

Whether you’re writing your first novel or your seventeenth, Save the Cat! breaks down plot in an easy-to-follow, step-by-step method so you can write stories that resonate! This book can help you with any of the following:

Outlining a new novel
Revising an existing novel
Breaking out of the dreaded “writer’s block”
Fixing a “broken” novel
Reviewing a completed novel
Fleshing out/test driving a new idea to see if it “has legs”
Implementing feedback from agents and/or editors
Helping give constructive feedback to other writers

But above all else, SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL will help you better understand the fundamentals and mechanics of plot, character transformation, and what makes a story work!

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I liked the analysis of different types of books, the breakdown of genres and the approach to structuring story. The beat sheet is an absolute gem.

A must-have in every author’s library.

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The dictionary defines aphorism as a short pithy statement or maxim, but beneath this definition lies a wealth of wit and insight to which neither the word nor any brief description can do justice. This delightful anthology demonstrates just how rewarding the aphorism can be and how brilliantly the aphorist can illuminate a hidden truth or reveal the ironies of life.
Whatever the situation, whatever the mood, the reader will find in this international array of aphorisms just the right words to give his or her feeling pungent expression. The classic aphorists–La Bruy�re, Nietzsche, both Samuel Butlers, La Rochefoucault, Emerson–are here in abundance, as are the philosophers from the Greeks of Paul Val�ry, the social commentators from Edmund Burke to Walter Benjamin. Statesmen and scientists, Olympians and gadflies, mystics and boulevardiers–this collection brings together the most diverse figures, drawing freely on ancients and moderns, on the widsom of East and West, juxtaposing viewpoints as different as those of Jean Cocteau and George Orwell, Ambrose Bierce and Marcus Aurelius, Lord Chesterfield and Elias Canetti. Profound, provocative, and vastly entertaining, The Oxford Book of Aphorisms will lure the reader back to its pages time and again. The book is fully indexed, and wherever possible, sources, dates, and complete names are supplied.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

This one was highly recommended, but I found it a bit meh. Perhaps because I’ve read/heard it all before?

2 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The ultimate a—z of fantastic beings from myth and magic.

Discover an incredible world full of every magical creature you could possibly imagine…
From unicorns, salamanders, satyrs, giants, elves and trolls, to dragons, nymphs, mermaids, werewolves and griffins — take an enchanting journey through the history, folklore, and mythology of these beasts from virtually every culture in the world. With stories and amazing facts on even the most obscure mythological creature, this is a cornucopia of magic and folklore.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

A great research resource on everything to do with magical creatures and monsters. Loads of cross-referencing and extra pieces further exploring topics. A couple of deities are included if they are closely connected to animals or magical creatures.

A firm favourite in my library.

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Within the pages of a book exists a world drawn from a writer’s deepest imaginings, one that has the ability to pull readers in on a visceral level—but only if the realm and its inhabitants can be described well. This can be achieved by providing readers with a unique sensory experience via the setting. So much more than stage dressing, the setting can build mood, convey meaning through symbolism, drive the plot by creating challenges that force the hero to fight for what he wants, and trigger emotions which will reveal his most intimate feelings, fears, and desires.

Inside The Rural Setting Thesaurus, you’ll find:

• A list of the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds for over 100 settings revolving around school, home, and nature
• Possible sources of conflict for each location to help you brainstorm ways to naturally complicate matters for your characters
• Advice on the many effective ways to build mood, helping you steer both the character’s and readers’ emotions in every scene
• Information on how the setting directly influences the plot by acting as a tuning fork for what a character needs most and by testing his dedication to his goals
• A tutorial on figurative language and how different descriptive techniques can bring settings alive for readers while conveying a symbolic message or deeper meaning
• A review of the challenges that arise when writing description, as well as special considerations that apply specifically to rural and personal settings
• Downloadable tools that encourage a deeper sensory and emotional exploration of each setting

The Rural Setting Thesaurus takes “show-don’t-tell” to new heights. It offers writers a roadmap to creating fresh setting imagery that impacts the story on multiple levels while keeping readers engaged from the first page to the last.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

As I love writing setting, this is my favourite one in the series. This one focuses on rural settings. There’s so much here to make your setting a character, essential in your story, instead of just a place where things happen.

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Character creation can be hard, but it’s about to get a lot easier. Inside The Positive Trait Thesaurus, you’ll find:

* A large selection of attributes to choose from when building a personality profile. Each entry lists possible causes for why a trait might emerge, along with associated attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and emotions
* Real character examples from literature, film, or television to show how an attribute drives actions and decisions, influences goals, and steers relationships
* Advice on using positive traits to immediately hook readers while avoiding common personality pitfalls
* Insight on human needs and morality, and how each determines the strengths that emerge in heroes and villains alike
* Information on the key role positive attributes play within the character arc, and how they’re vital to overcoming fatal flaws and achieving success
* Downloadable tools for organizing a character’s attributes and providing a deeper understanding of his past, his needs, and the emotional wounds he must overcome

If you find character creation difficult or worry that your cast members all seem the same, The Positive Trait Thesaurus is brimming with ideas to help you develop one-of-a-kind, dynamic characters that readers will love. Extensively indexed, with entries written in a user-friendly list format, this brainstorming resource is perfect for any character creation project.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

It’s all about the good traits your character can have to make up for their flaws (as discussed in the Negative Trait Thesaurus).

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Crafting likable, interesting characters is a balancing act, and finding that perfect mix of strengths and weaknesses can be difficult. But the task has become easier thanks to The Negative Trait Thesaurus.

Through its flaw-centric exploration of character arc, motivation, emotional wounds, and basic needs, writers will learn which flaws make the most sense for their heroes, villains, and other members of the story’s cast. This book’s vast collection of flaws will help writers to explore the possible causes, attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and related emotions behind their characters’ weaknesses so they can be written effectively and realistically. Common characterization pitfalls and methods to avoid them are also included, along with invaluable downloadable tools to aid in character creation.

Written in list format and fully indexed, this brainstorming resource is perfect for creating deep, flawed characters that readers will relate to.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

It’s basically about the Wound, the Lie and the Blindspot – all excellent ways to create great characters.

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The bestselling Emotion Thesaurus, often hailed as “the gold standard for writers” and credited with transforming how writers craft emotion, has now been expanded to include 55 new entries!

One of the biggest struggles for writers is how to convey emotion to readers in a unique and compelling way. When showing our characters’ feelings, we often use the first idea that comes to mind, and they end up smiling, nodding, and frowning too much.

If you need inspiration for creating characters’ emotional responses that are personalized and evocative, this ultimate show-don’t-tell guide for emotion can help. It includes:Body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for 130 emotions that cover a range of intensity from mild to severe, providing innumerable options for individualizing a character’s reactions A breakdown of the biggest emotion-related writing problems and how to overcome them Advice on what should be done beforedrafting to make sure your characters’ emotions will be realistic and consistent Instruction for how to show hidden feelings and emotional subtext through dialogue and nonverbal cues And much more!

The Emotion Thesaurus, in its easy-to-navigate list format, will inspire you to create stronger, fresher character expressions and engage readers from your first page to your last.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

A great guide on expressing your character’s emotions in a way readers can relate.

A must-have in every author’s library.

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Making readers care and feel like they’re part of the story should be the number one goal for all writers. Ironically, many storytellers fail to maximize one of fiction’s most powerful elements to achieve this: the setting. Not only can the right location become a conduit for emotion, it can also provide conflict, characterize the story’s cast, reveal significant backstory, and trigger the reader’s own emotional memories through sensory details and deep point of view.

Inside The Urban Thesaurus, you’ll find:

• A list of the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds for over 120 urban settings
• Possible sources of conflict for each location to help you brainstorm ways to naturally complicate matters for your characters
• Advice on how to make every piece of description count so you can maintain the right pace and keep readers engaged
• Tips on utilizing the five senses to encourage readers to more fully experience each moment by triggering their own emotional memories
• Information on how to use the setting to characterize a story’s cast through personalization and emotional values while using emotional triggers to steer their decisions
• A review of specific challenges that arise when writing urban locations, along with common descriptive pitfalls that should be avoided

The Urban Setting Thesaurus helps you tailor each setting to your characters while creating a realistic, textured world readers will long to return to, even after the book closes.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

Okay, so this is also my favourite one in the series as it’s about settings, only focusing on urban settings. There’s so much here to make your setting a character, essential in your story, instead of just a place where things happen.

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

When writing fictional characters, it’s hugely important to convey their emotions effectively so readers will be drawn in and become invested in those characters. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression was written to help writers convey the quality and depth of their characters’ feelings through their thoughts, body language, and visceral reactions. But there are also ways to amplify what a character is feeling, thereby heightening their emotional responses.

In Emotion Amplifiers, a companion guide to The Emotion Thesaurus, we explore 15 common states that naturally galvanize emotion. States like exhaustion, boredom, illness, pain, and extreme hunger can push characters to the limit, compromising their decision-making abilities and decreasing the likelihood of them reaching their goals. Emotion Amplifiers is a great tool for any writer wishing to tighten the screws on their characters and amp up the tension in their stories. 

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

A great companion to the Emotion Thesaurus, with examples from books I’ve read.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

“A practical, heartfelt manual for anyone who needs to change minds and actions. Lisa Cron shares the art of practical empathy with leaders who care enough to make a difference.”—Seth Godin, author of The Practice

A step-by-step guide to using the brain’s hardwired need for story to achieve any goal, from the author of Wired for Story

Whether you’re pitching a product, saving the planet, or convincing your kids not to text and drive, story isn’t just one way to persuade. It’s the way. It’s built into the architecture of the brain, and has been since early humans gathered around the camp fire, trying to figure out how to outsmart the lion next door.

In Story or Die, story coach Lisa Cron sets out to decode the power of story, first by examining how the brain processes information, translates it into narrative, and then guards it as if your life depends on it. Armed with that insight, she focuses on how to find your real target audience and then pinpoint their hidden resistance. Finally, she takes you, step-by-step, through the creation of your own story, one that allows your audience to overcome their resistance and take up your call to action, not because you told them to, but because they want to.

That is the power of story. Use it wisely.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

Turns out to be an excellent marketing book. Sure, there are some gems to make your writing better, but the focus is on finding your ideal audience and effectively communicating with them.

Highly recommended.

5 unicorn star rating

Have you taken part in reading challenges? Have you read any of these books? Do you have an out-of-control TBR?

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