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Moving forward for 2016

I’m a day late posting this. It was written yesterday and then computer drama happened. I thought it was going to be a localized digital apocalypse, but happily just turned out to be time consuming, with no lasting effects. *deep, relieved breath*

Anyhow, as with every year lately, I cannot believe it’s a new year already! Unfortunately, it would appear that my belief is not required. It is 2016. So, what will I do with it; hopefully lots of things (not all of them relevant to this blog).

hale-cropWriting-wise, I’m about 50% into first drafts of two projects. In fantasyland I’d finish both of them. Here in reality, I’m aiming to have one ready to go out to betas and an editor by year-end (hopefully before).

In terms of reading, I’m laying off the challenges this year. I signed up for Goodreads’ reading challenge, aiming for 250 books. But this should be looked at a little skeptically. I’m starting 2016 as I ended 2015, with a broken arm that makes typing (and therefore reviewing) laborious. So, until my cast comes off, I’m concentrating on cleaning off my novelette/novella shelf. This has the obvious result up artificially inflating my ‘books read’ number. So, 200 books is my true goal. The rest is just padding.

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Zarah has read 5 books toward her goal of 250 books.

I quite enjoyed the alphabet soup challenge last year and will do it again. Basically, this just means I’ll read at least one book by an author whose name starts with each letter of the alphabet (yes, even X). I also liked the TBR challenge I did in 2015, in which I tried to read books that had been on my To-Be-Read list 2+ years. So, I’ll do that again. But I think that’s about it and I’m not signing up with anyone else for these. I’ll just be accountable to myself.

I’ll still keep myself open to review requests and try to read at least one a month, same for Netgalley. And I don’t even need a challenge to read Indie or SP books, that’s the majority of what I read nowadays. So, that’s about it.

readingI have decided to try and read better books. One thing that came out in writing my 2015 wrap-up was that I read a lot of books that were just so-so, last year. This, I think, largely comes down the fact that I read so many freebies. I don’t mean that as any sort of horrible generalization about books offered for free, but I am going to try and curb the urge to go, “Well, it’s free. I’ll give it a shot.” Because it’s often a failure. So, I plan on being a bit more discerning.

In the real, not book related world I’ve got yoga, tae kwon do (I’m a mere yellow belt, at least for now), family, friends, life, etc. So, there are plenty of distractions and reasons things could go astray. But as far as reading goes, this is my plan. What’s yours?


Book Review of Stygian, by Santino Hassell

StygianI bought a copy of Stygian, by Santino Hassell.

Description from Goodreads:
Jeremy has been isolated and adrift since the death of his brother. Most people just see him as the skinny emo kid who wears eyeliner and plays drums. No one gets him. Nobody tries. He thought the indie rock band Stygian would become his anchor, but—lost in their own problems—they’re far from the family he sought.

Still, hoping to get close to Kennedy, the band’s enigmatic guitarist, he follows Stygian to northern Louisiana for a summer retreat. They had planned to spend six weeks focusing on new music, but things go awry as soon as they arrive at the long-deserted Caroway mansion. Tempers flare, sexual tension boils over into frustration, and Jeremy turns away from the band to find a friend in his eerily beautiful landlord Hunter Caroway.

Kennedy suspects there’s something off about the creepy mansion and its mysterious owners, but Jeremy thinks he’s finally found somewhere he fits. It isn’t until Kennedy forces the Caroways’ secrets into the light that Jeremy realizes belonging sometimes comes with a price.

This one ticked a lot of boxes for me. I have come to love Hassell’s writing style and his basic….I don’t know what to call it, tone maybe. Just the way everything I’ve read by him, regardless of the genre, has a certain feel to it that I love. It’s gritty. It’s real. It’s maybe even a little nihilistic. It pretends happily ever after can’t exist, even if a character gets it in the end. Maybe you’d have to read his stuff for that to make sense.

In Stygian, Hassell has created a host of seemingly unlikable characters. I mean all of these guys repelled me at some point, some so much I didn’t think they’d be redeemable. But Hassell pulled that off too. The whole thing is as creepy and atmospheric as you’d expect a gothic style, Southern horror novel to be, with a villain that’s maybe a little more complex than first appearances suggest.

My only real complaints are that the narrative is a little conversational at times and I didn’t really feel the connection between Kennedy and Jeremy. A lot of it is pre-existing, based on events prior to the time frame of the novel. I definitely felt what Hassell is doing here, but I had to just take his word for it. As much as I liked Kennedy and Jeremy (and I did), the strength of emotion seemed sudden. (Though some of this feeling was ameliorated after reading the prequels.)

Lastly, there had better be a sequel or I may have to go a little Annie Wilkes on Hassell. (Ok, not really, but please be a sequel.)

As an additional bonus, if you read the book and want more, there are two prequels available. One from Dreamspinner (Feeling You) and one posted on Binge on Books (A Night in the Life). And though not quite out at the time of this posting, I’m told there will also be a Stygian related story in the free anthology Lead Me Into Darkness.

The Conquering Dark

Book Review of The Conquering Dark (Crown & Key #3), by Clay & Susan Griffith

The Conquering DarkI received a copy of The Conquering Dark, by Clay & Susan Griffith from Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
The Crown and Key Society face their most terrifying villain yet: Gaios, a deranged demigod with the power to destroy Britain.

To avenge a centuries-old betrayal, Gaios is hell-bent on summoning the elemental forces of the earth to level London and bury Britain. The Crown and Key Society, a secret league consisting of a magician, an alchemist, and a monster-hunter, is the realm’s only hope—and to stop Gaios, they must gather their full strength and come together as a team, or the world will fall apart.

But Simon Archer, the Crown and Key’s leader and the last living magician-scribe, has lost his powers. As Gaios searches for the Stone of Scone, which will give him destructive dominion over the land, monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane, alchemist extraordinaire Kate Anstruther, gadget geek Penny Carter, and Charlotte the werewolf scramble to reconnect Simon to his magic before the world as they know it is left forever in ruins.

If I was giving this a numerical star rating I would give it a 2.5 and I’d roll up reluctantly. I’d honestly like to roll down, but mechanically the book is fine. For me, that’s just about the only thing I would say was fine.

This book is action packed. It starts on the very first page and doesn’t stop until the very last and I’m almost being literal when I say that. This book is ALL, let me repeat that, ALL running, fighting, attacking, being attacked, dismantling this mechanized beast, defeating that elemental wizard, shooting him, stabbing her, setting this baddie on fire, blowing that up, almost falling into that lava pit, narrowing avoiding being dashed on those rocks, skidding to a stop inches from this ledge, etc. It just never ever stop.

And lets be honest, a book needs a little stopping on occasion. Character need time to discuss and grow (none did here). Plot needs non-fighting moments to progress (it really didn’t here). You wouldn’t think action could get boring, but in its repetition and exclusion of ANYTHING else it really did.

Additionally, I found the villains’ motivation flimsy (both the main one and the shadowy one). But beyond that I’d really like to rage a little about how often female villains’ motivations come down to romantic rejection, as if that’s our only available motivating force. Gah! Think larger people.

The only saving grace was the occasional amusing quip and that I basically still like the characters. Though their tendency toward artificially rousing speeches and heartfelt thanks of each-other got a little saccharine and Kate’s transformation from a ballsy 20-something to a coddling ‘that’s nice Dear’ spouting mother was graceless and abrupt.

Perhaps this is just third book syndrome and the series will improve, but at this point I think I might be tapping out.