What I’m Reading: Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

Young Adult Book Review: Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

I picked up Anna and the Swallow Man from my local library on audiobook when I was browsing for a new listen. The story is about Anna, a young girl orphaned during the second World War, and her subsequent journey through Poland. I loved this book. The audiobook was only five hours long, but excellently narrated. The touch of fantasy in the novel was just right, and all of the characters were well developed.

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Books about the great wars can be depressing, this is heavy stuff, but it’s something I think is important to know about so that it never happens again. My heart ached for Anna through most of this book, but the narrative gave me cause to hope. The prose was lyrical, and the language delightful, I found it very easy to fall into this book and to keep listening.

5/5 Stars

JEH

A Writer’s Plans for 2018

Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone had a great New Year, and maybe found a bit of time for reading, much like I did. I’m glad that 2018 is here. The end of 2017 found me distracted and blue, and I’m ready for a new start. After a busy 2017 releasing Under Jupiter and The Torc, and drafting The Circlet, it is time for a new plan for 2018.

In 2018, I do plan to finish the Artifacts of Avalum Series, with Books 2 and 3 releasing in Sprint and Winter (most likely). But mostly my writing life will be shifting focus because I got a writing grant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This grant will allow me to take four months off from my day job to focus entirely on writing. For the grant, which I’ve received from the Saskatchewan Arts’ Board (thank you Arts’ Board!), I will be working on a very specific project, namely some literary short stories. This is very different writing that what I normally post about here, but I love it just as much. (If you want a sample of this work, you can find a free story here, at Broken Pencil Magazine, but again, it is very different than the genre fiction I write).

I’m very excited to have dedicated time that is all mine to explore some themes I’ve been pondering for a few years. I start my ‘writing job’ March 1st, and I plan on spending the first couple months of 2018 planning how I will structure my days. I imagine they will involve lots of tea, coffee, and pretty notebooks (and a lot of hard work).

In reading, I set my Goodreads goal yesterday for 53 books in 2018. This is less than the 62 I read in 2017, and for that there are two reasons: 1. I hope to be spending a lot of time writing and rewriting, and 2. I hope to read some longer books. I’ve found over the past year that when I have a goal for reading a lot of books, I tend to choose quicker reads. This means that a lot of books I’ve purchased in the past have been sitting on my shelves for years. (CONFESSION: last year I had 67 books I hadn’t read yet on my upstairs shelves, I now have over 100!!!!). It is definitely time to do some catching up, so I WILL NOT be purchasing new books (probably… well…. maybe… okay, maybe I should be reasonable and say I will not purchase more than 5 new books this year – I hope instead to do some book trading at my local used book store).

So, with piles and piles of books waiting to be read, and a day job to get back to (for the moment), I will once again say Happy New Year, and all the best in 2018. Do you have any big plans you would like to share?

JEH

What I’m Reading: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Young Adult Book Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling is one of those books I heard a lot about for a long time before I finally decided to pick it up. Graceling is the story of Katsa, a fun, fearless, kick-butt female hero who reminded me a lot of Aelin from Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass Series. Published in 2008, Graceling came well before Throne of Glass, but came in the same year as The Hunger Games and the now very well known Katniss Everdeen.

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Since I was a child, female hero’s have definitely become stronger, more independent, and just as deadly as any male counterpart. And I love this. Graceling is very much a classically written epic fantasy, with slow moving, but beautiful passages of description, and less dialogue. There are good guys and bad guys and of course a few love interests.

I really enjoyed Graceling, though I felt this book had a good ending, and though there are two more books in the Graceling Realm Series, I don’t feel pressed to pick them up, as the books are about other characters. Sometimes I like this, and other times I fine with one book being just one book.

A solid 4/5 Stars.

JEH

Writing 365,000 Words in a Year Update #26

Something has changed with the arrival of summer, and unfortunately that appears to be the amount of time I have for blogging and writing. I’ve been doing a miserable job keeping up here, and also keeping up with my 1,000 words a day goal. It’s been off and on lately. The good news is that if I forget one day, I tend to remember and prioritize it the next. I’ve found a few hours this weekend to dedicate to a “mini-marathon” and maybe I will somehow be able to catch up on the 23,000 words I’m behind on. If I could manage to catch up, that would mean I’d almost completed the draft of The Torc, the new thing I’m working on. Here’s a look at my word count chart for the beginning of June:

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The large number on the right is my current deficit. I realized the other day that if I was caught up, I would have less than 100,000 words to write before reaching my goal! That makes me feel pretty close to achieving my target with approximately 3 months to go. Time is ticking away quickly and there is still a lot I want to get done before September 1st, when my goal will shift to rewriting, though I plan on continuing to draft a lot, since drafting makes me happier than rewrites.

My day job has kept me busy, so busy that I haven’t even had time to read much, though I was traveling so I did finish a couple audiobooks. Being busy hasn’t stopped me from buying more books to read either. Or planning to read more books. I was terribly behind on my GoodReads entries, and just paused to enter all my recent reads. The funny thing is that I feel like I’ve missed entering a book, but if I have, I don’t know which one. This is why I use GoodReads, because otherwise I forget what I’ve read! Here’s a shot of some new books in my garden. They’re so pretty.

So, after catching up on my GoodReads entries, I’m still two books ahead of my GR goals, which is awesome. I wound’t be anywhere close if I hadn’t listened to so many audiobooks this year, but listening to books at the gym has been inspiring both for my reading and writing, and also for working out. My current listen is Graceling, which i’ve just started. It will probably take me a while to get through as it is 11 hours, and I don’t have any solo road trips planned, though I do have a family trip.

Alright, so for the next week, my goal is to catch up on blogging, aim for 1,500 words a day, and just continuing enjoying books. What are your plans?

JEH

What I’m Reading: Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

A few years back I went on an East Coast road trip. During the trip, my husband and I spent a couple days on Prince Edward Island, so of course I had to go see Green Gables. I’d never read the world renowned books written by Lucy Maud Montgomery, even though I’d spent hours of my childhood watching the CBC television movie specials and tuning in every week to watch Road to Avonlea.

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I bought my copy of Anne of Green Gables at the Green Gables gift shop, with the intent of reading it during the trip, but that never happened. Then, the other week, I heard a radio program discussing the 75th anniversary of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s death (what is with all the death anniversaries lately?). This inspired me to pick up the book and I began reading. Once I started, I couldn’t stop.

Anne of Green Gables was written in the early 1900’s, so the style is much different than books today. But I found this refreshing. There is something so charming in Anne’s page long ramblings that just puts a smile on my face. Not only did the book remind me of childhood and make me long for the days of playing outside, it also reminded me of my trip to the island. And let me say, Prince Edward Island is a beautiful place. Reading this book made me want to go back there. Below are a few pictures from my time on the island, if you’ve never gone, or read Anne of Green Gables, I highly recommend both.

JEH

What I’m Reading: Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

Young Adult Book Review: Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

This week I was pretty obsessed with finishing the last book in Brandon Sanderson’s Young Adult Reckoners Trilogy. If you haven’t read the review of the first book, Steelheart, you can find it here. Now that I’ve finished the trilogy, I can admit a few things: Steelheart was my favourite book of the Reckoners, I wish I could write as well as Brandon Sanderson, and I’m sad that I never got to go back to Newcago. While the setting of every book was unique and interesting, Newcago was my favourite by far. I would definitely go visit it if I could, if the Reckoners wasn’t a dystopian-Marvel-esque- Fantasy.

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Brandon Sanderson has already announced that his next Young Adult series will be called the Apocolypse Guard and will be set in the same world as Reckoners. I will definitely pick it up. The ending of Calamity definitely left me thinking, and there are still a couple things I’m trying to figure out (like most of Sanderson’s books, I’m not sure I’m supposed to understand everything). You can read more about his next series on his blog if you’re interested.

Calamity of course was  full of action, fairly quick paced (though I thought it dragged slightly more than the other two books, though I would hardly call it dragging). There were lots of laughs and lots of tension.

A solid 4.5/5 Stars.

NOTE: Finishing this book puts me at 16/60 books on my Goodreads goal, 2 books ahead of  schedule!

JEH

Writing 365,000 Words in a Year Update #19

Ah, let’s just start this post off with a nice cup of tea, shall we?

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Ah, that’s better! *refreshed*

Right, well. What have I been up to lately? Writing, writing, writing. Though I still haven’t got up to my target word count. I’m almost exactly halfway through this personal challenge, and I’m feeling pretty darn good about what I have accomplished so far this year. As you can see from the table below, I’ve begun tracking which projects I’m working on when. Hopefully this will help me develop more consistency with projects, and not jump around so much. I’m supposed to be focusing on UJ, which is a rewrite, which means that somedays I have to write other things to get my 1,000. The good thing about my rewriting process is that I tend to add words. I write clean, plain first drafts, and fill things up with detail on the second go around. I started rewriting UJ at around  63,000 words, and already I’m up over 67,700 words.

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As for the gym, I know I haven’t updated that one in a while, but I have been going more regularly, usually at least two times a week. I’m still listening to audiobooks when I’m there, and I love it. I’ll have an audiobook review up this weekend.

As for my GoodReads goal, I set it for 60 books this year and I’ve so far finished 9 books, and GoodReads tells me I’m one book ahead. Yay, me! I’m also nearly finished two other books so I should be at eleven books soon.

Going back to the abbreviations above, I’m sure you’re all dying to hear the name of my new novel. Well, it’ll be here on the weekend, too. I can’t wait to reveal it.

JEH