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text 2018-03-03 23:58
February in Review

January in Review


(Read: 5 / Reviewed: 6)


February sure flew past! I have to say, I had so much fun this month! There was a lot of coffee, wine, and book-related delights! I also had the chance to take part in a Q and A for Booklikes, which really made me feel warm and fuzzy inside! I know it's not that big of a deal, but it's nice to be acknowledged for something you work hard on. See my post about it here!






John Dies at the End by David Wong - It's surely becoming a regular enjoyment; taking part in the monthly group reads of Horror Aficionados! I honestly wasn't sure about this one at all - it sounded way too silly for my taste. How wrong I was! What a great start to the month!



The Devoured by Curtis M. Lawson - I was requested to read and review this one by the author. I'm glad I did, as it was a bit different than my usual reads, but in a good way. I promptly consumed it and reviewed it.


Hidden by Benedict Jacka - I started this series in 2015, whilst still in my Urban Fantasy phase. What intrigued my about it, was that it had a male protagonist, something that's not all too common in the genre. This series has never been perfect for me, but I still like to see what trouble Alex gets himself into.


The Fallen Kind Vol I: Ghosts Of Nunchi by M. Almelk - After being contacted by the lovely author, I quickly accepted his request! Post-apocalypse but on another planet? It certainly piqued my interest. I reviewed it here.


Preta's Realm by J. Thorn - A last minute read for the month. Having been on my Kindle for a long time, I decided to finally give it a shot. It was short, and it included some truly disgusting scenes.




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Morium by S.J. Hermann

Splatterpunk Fighting Back by MULTIPLE

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

The Devoured by Curtis M. Lawson

The Darkest Torment by Gena Showalter (WORST READ)

The Magic Cottage by James Herbert (2017 Review) (BEST READ)

The Awesome by Eva Darrows (2017 Review)

The Fallen Kind Vol I: Ghosts Of Nunchi by M. Almelk


I strive for two reviews a week, but I had extra space this month, so I included reviews from last year. I think I'll do that - start to post old reviews, just to have them on this blog. On Goodreads I have over a hundred reviews, dating back to 2011! This month also included a trip to Waterstones, and a basket full of books! All horror, of course.




So how did February go for you? Read anything good? Let me know!


Red xx

Source: redlace.reviews/2018/02/28/february-in-review
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text 2018-02-28 18:43
Reading progress update: I've read 68%.
Memo from the Story Department: Secrets of Structure and Character - David McKenna,Christopher Vogler

Previous updates and comments:






I began this re-read to refresh my memory of how Chris Vogler and -- though to a lesser extent -- David McKenna had analyzed Story. 


Both of them are primarily analysts of the already-written Story.  When applying their template to a familiar film, such as Casablanca or The Princess Bride, the student is readily able to see the various archetypes and details at work. 


For that reason, Memo from the Story Dept is an invaluable tool for the critic or even the teacher.  It's less useful, however, for the writer.


Until Chapter Fifteen, that is, when McKenna takes over with his Environmental Facts analytical technique.


For me, writing has always involved several distinct but integrated lenses through which a story is viewed.  It's like zooming in with a camera and having to change the lens or tighten the focus as the writing narrows in from overview to final draft.


First is the plot structure that moves the action from opening scene through various conflicts and obstacles to final resolution, in a kind of "this happens, then this happens, then this, then this, then this, and they all lived happily ever after" sequence.  This can be done in an outline or synopsis of anywhere from two to two hundred pages, but usually the shorter is better, even if it's no longer than the back cover blurb.  The skeleton, so to speak.  The long distance overview.


Second is the characters and their respective backstories that bring them to the point of what happens on page one.  This starts to flesh out the framework and is usually longer than the synopsis.  We're starting to focus in now on what's happening and to whom it's happening and why it's happening.


Fourth is the actual book, with all the nuances of style and dialogue and action and language and research and so on.  This is the final product, the intimate close-up lens that puts the reader in direct contact with what the writer envisioned.


McKenna's "Environmental Facts" chapters fill in the third lens.


At first, I barely remembered reading this section previously, but then various details resurfaced, and in the process reminded me why I had found this book so valuable.


If you're a reviewer just reading and writing reviews, you probably don't need to get quite as analytical as this information suggests.  It's enough to just like or not like a book.


On the other hand, if you want to better understand what makes a book click for you or not, McKenna's chapters could provide the needed insight.


And if you're a writer, at least give these chapters a careful read.  They gave me a better understanding of certain techniques I tend to take for granted.

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text 2018-02-28 17:19
A quote for readers as much as for writers
Memo from the Story Department: Secrets of Structure and Character - David McKenna,Christopher Vogler

The terms are these: They agree to give you something of value, their money, but also a much more valuable consideration, their time. As a screenwriter you are asking them to pay attention to you and you only for ninety minutes, and as a novelist for much longer. Think about that! Focused attention has always been one of the rarest and most valuable commodities in the universe, and it's even truer today, when people have so many things fighting for their attention. So for them to give you even a few minutes of their focus is huge stakes to put on the table, worth much more than the ten bucks or so they shell out for a book or a movie ticket. Therefore, you'd better come up with something really good to fulfill your part of the bargain.

McKenna, David and Vogler, Christopher.  Memo from the Story Department: Secrets of Structure and Character (Kindle Locations 454-459). Michael Wiese Productions. Kindle Edition.


Emphasis is mine.


Dear Readers:  If the author doesn't keep his or her "part of the bargain," you don't owe them anything further.  Not kindness, not praise, not consideration for the time they put in.  They are like any other purveyor of goods or services: If the product is bad, you have no obligation to lie to protect their feelings.

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text 2018-02-28 17:02
Reading progress update: I've read 59%.
Memo from the Story Department: Secrets of Structure and Character - David McKenna,Christopher Vogler

This is a re-read for me. 


Disclosure:  I purchased the Kindle edition of this book at full retail price.  I have met one of the authors, Christopher Vogler, once, in 1995 when he was a speaker at a conference I chaired in Los Angeles.  I do not know David McKenna.  I am an author of historical romances, contemporary gothic romances, and miscellaneous non-fiction.


I wasn't going to post a status on this reread, but then decided last night that it might be a good idea.


Memo from the Story Department is a follow-up to Vogler's The Writer's Journey. Although Memo reprises a lot of the information in TWJ, I strongly recommend reading TWJ first.


There is a great deal more information in Memo regarding story and mythic structure, but in fact there's so much more that it becomes almost confusing for someone who's not familiar with Vogler's take on the (somewhat) original Joseph Campbell theories.


The back-and-forth style of Memo - parts are written by McKenna and then Vogler adds commentary, other parts are vice versa - can also be a bit confusing. 


Reading this, however, has prompted me to wish I had both Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces and Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment.  Maybe I need a trip to the library.



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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-02-27 19:24
The Fallen Kind Vol I: Ghosts Of Nunchi by M. Almelk
The Fallen Kind Vol I: Ghosts Of Nunchi - M. Almelk

The Fallen Kind Vol I: Ghosts Of Nunchi by M. Almelk
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The planet has suffered since humanity arrived, and war has run rampant. After an event of near mass extinction, the survivors struggle to do their best in the grim conditions that have befallen them. It's not over yet, however, as a certain individual plans for a world-wide cleansing. He'll stop at nothing to protect the "Promised Land" from the conflict that so closely follows humankind. What he doesn't foresee, are the actions of a select few, and how they threaten everything he's working toward.

(WARNING: This review contains spoilers.)

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to M. Almelk for giving me the opportunity!

I feel I need to be clear right from the beginning - I didn't consider this to be a bad debut novel. In fact, I believe there to be good, solid ideas here that verge on being original. There's been an abundance of post-apocalyptic titles saturating the market lately, and whilst there's nothing at all wrong with that, I admittedly find it difficult to differentiate them all from each other. It's nice to find one that starts off in a new direction, with something that so obviously sets it apart. The planet of Casi immediately piqued my interest and I couldn't help but acknowledge the creativity involved - Almelk included geographical details and information regarding its wildlife that, quite frankly, impressed me. In particular, the way in which animals were presented was a personal highlight; Emba the cat, the Oroculyx spiders - I found enjoyment in their scenes, especially when they displayed their uncanny intelligence.

Despite those positive elements, however, it's unfortunate that from early on, I just couldn't connect to the characters or feel all that invested in the plot. Evan, Beveridge and Reya, whilst decent and likeable enough, remained at a distance as the story constantly jumped around. There were mere glimpses of the friendship and romance between them, and rather than witness their connection first-hand, I was told of it. For instance, Evan and Reya had very little interaction on-page before I was told of their feelings for one another. Even if they had history, and even if their partnership was fated, I always need more substance to feel any semblance of emotion for any romance.

That brings me to my biggest issue - the telling rather than showing. There are certain things that are automatically detrimental to my appreciation of a book, and this is one of them. I much prefer when I can glean the feelings and intentions of a character without them being outright explained to me through the author's narration. Dialogue's an important and essential tool for this, but it wasn't used here, not to its fullest potential. I would've much preferred had there been more quality time with the characters that mattered, with the inclusion of discernible development, instead of trying to fit in a confusing amount of people and relationships. I lost track of everyone that was named in the Nodding Hamlet, and wondered why the story often got side-tracked delving into the history of someone that didn't seem to play a critical role. Of course, switching between multiple perspectives can be done well, but in this instance, it didn't work for me and only caused a great deal of confusion.

If I had to pick a favourite character, excluding the non-human entities, it would be Beveridge, or perhaps even Law. The former gave the impression that he wasn't a normal human being, whilst the latter didn't strike me as a traditional bad guy. I agreed, to an extent, with his belief about humanity - as a species, we truly are destructive. Just think of the damage we'd do if we decided to settle upon another planet that already had an established ecosystem. Not worth thinking about, really! I would've probably liked to see more of Law's magic, or whatever he did to raise people from the dead.

In conclusion: In truth, I believe this is just a case of "this wasn't for me". I didn't hate it, but I couldn't love it either. My complaints lie with how it was written; a large amount of telling, as well as continually leaping around and not giving the main characters enough attention.

Notable Scene:

Emba swished his tail a little in amusement. He truly enjoyed listening to spoken language. Of course, he didn't offer a response. Perhaps he was unable to. Perhaps it was more fun not to. How curious it was that Evan and his kind had developed complex languages for communication, yet they couldn't communicate properly with each other. Their history was littered with conflict, war and atrocity. Some might say that language simply constructed a bigger platform upon which this species displayed its hidden, unshakeable faults.

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/02/27/the-fallen-kind-vol-i-ghosts-of-nunchi-by-m-almelk
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