A Note on Post Timing

As you guys have probably noticed, today I published my review way later than usual.  This is in part because Real Life is getting in the way lately.  I still have a lingering cough from a nasty cold that’s lasted about a month and work is getting more stressful than ever.  To add to that, my personal life is kind of a mess right now.

Basically, I’m sorry for the late posts but I will be continuing with my daily posting schedule.  When those posts will appear is slightly suspect, though.  Unfortunately this uncertainty may last for a couple of months but I’m going to do my best to stay consistent as much as possible.

Keeper of the King’s Secrets by Michelle Diener

Keeper of the King's Secrets by Michelle Diener(Cover picture courtesy of Michelle Diener’s site.)

A priceless jewel. A royal court rife with intrigue. A secret deal, where the price of truth could come too high . . .

The personal artist to King Henry Tudor, Susanna Horenbout is sought by the queen and ladies of the court for her delicate, skilled portraits. But now someone from her past is pulling her into a duplicitous game where the consequence of failure is war. Soon, Susanna and her betrothed, the King’s most dangerous courtier, are unraveling a plot that would shatter Europe. And at the heart of it is a magnificent missing diamond. . . .

With John Parker at her side, Susanna searches for the diamond and those responsible for its theft, their every step dogged by a lethal assassin. Finding the truth means plunging into the heart of the court’s most bitter infighting, surviving the harrowing labyrinth of Fleet Prisonand then coming face-to-face with the most dangerous enemy of all.

[Full disclosure: I received a free print copy from Michelle Diener in exchange for an honest review.]

After the awesome novel that was In a Treacherous Court, I decided that I desperately needed to read the rest of Susanna Horenbout and John Parker’s story.  After all, there’s still plenty of intrigue coming up in the court of Henry VIII at this point in time.

Michelle Diener didn’t disappoint with this sequel.  Compared to her debut novel (which was good) this one is even better simply because of the quality of the writing.  She slows down a little to describe things like how Susanna illuminates manuscripts but not too much so that the plot is any slower than the first book.  The extra descriptions are relevant and on the whole just make the story better, not slower.

The characters are, as always, fantastic.  I enjoyed seeing Susanna and John working together to find the Mirror of Naples because you can really feel their love for each other.  They work well together as a team and even though they don’t always agree on things their love shines through and they’re able to reconcile.  Compared to a lot of YA I’ve been reading lately, this adult historical fiction novel was a breath of fresh air because of the stable, loving relationship Susanna and John have.

One thing I was surprised at was how fleshed out King Henry VIII was in this book.  We get to see a lot more of him this time around and you kind of see both the good and bad sides of his character.  I don’t want to give too much away, but I’m sure I’m not the only Jean fan in this book because he truly is a fascinating character.

As with the previous novel in the series Keeper of the King’s Secrets kept me guessing right up until the very end.  It was well researched and well plotted; you really couldn’t ask for more in historical fiction.  There’s also a very interesting little cliffhanger at the end that will make you very, very eager to get your hands on the next book In Defense of the Queen.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Writing Pitfalls: Dialogue

I don’t claim to be a writer or even an expert on books in general, but I know what I like as a reader and what other people like to read in general.  That’s why I’m writing this 10 part series to help writers, especially self-published writers, improve their writing.


I can’t tell you guys how many times I’ve wanted to throw my Kindle or my book at the wall because of bad dialogue.  You could say I’m exaggerating but I’m being completely honest when I say that if your book has awesome characters, a fast-paced plot and solid world-building but has bad dialogue I will not be able to finish it.  I have had to give up on more books than I care to admit because of wretched dialogue.

All of the mistakes with dialogue basically boil down to three main categories, which I’ll go into detail below.

Snobbery

Pitfall #1: Stiff dialogue.

Example: “Why hello Gerard!  What a lovely day it is outside, is it not?  I believe the chief meteorologist Jonathon Ziegelgansberger predicted a temperature of 90 degrees, which is 15 degrees above the seasonal average.  In our little town of Cosmo our main industry is tourism, therefore I expect all of the businesses will see a 100% increase in sales this financial quarter.”

How to fix it:

I swear the example above is not an exaggeration of some of the dialogue I’ve read in books, both self-published and traditional.  Dialogue is a tricky thing but the main problem I seem to see is that authors don’t read their dialogue aloud to themselves.  They don’t consider whether the way they write is the way a person would actually speak in the real world.  Authors: you need to make your dialogue flow naturally.  I have two very simple tips below to help you:

1.  Read it aloud to yourself.  If you stumble over words or it sounds ridiculous to your ears, that’s a good hint that your dialogue is stiff.

2.  Ask yourself if a person with the character’s socioeconomic status, upbringing, education level, etc. would speak that way in the real world.

These are some pretty simple steps to fixing stiff dialogue but very, very few authors even bother to do them and editors don’t seem to catch it. Continue reading

The Week Ahead (#5)

Last week saw my stats go down in general, but at least my comments have remained consistent.  Outside of blogging I’ve been contemplating a new blogging business venture to help pay for my book habit and I’m actually pretty excited about launching it in the fall.  I’ll announce my plan closer to the date, but I think you guys will like it better than my proposed donating option.  Anyway…what am I doing this week besides dropping cryptic clues to torture you?

Monday

  • An article called ‘Writing Pitfalls: Dialogue’.  This article is the first in a planned ten part series designed to help authors with their writing, whether they’re just starting out or already have a few books under their belts.

Tuesday

Keeper of the King's Secrets by Michelle Diener

  • A review of Keeper of the King’s Secrets by Michelle Diener.  This is the sequel to the first book, In a Treacherous Court and I’m very excited to see how Michelle Diener’s writing has improved.

 

Wednesday

Roma by Steven Saylor

  • A review of Roma by Steven Saylor.  I was rather reluctant to start reading Roma but I’m about halfway through it at the time of writing this and so far it’s pretty good.  Sometimes there’s more showing than telling but Steven Saylor is a good storyteller.

 

Thursday

Evermore by Alyson Noel

  • A review of Evermore by Alyson Noel.  I’ve heard so much about this one and it’s been on my TBR pile for so long that I finally gave in and started reading it.  What have I got to lose?

 

 

Friday

  • Book Blast: 1066: What Fates Impose by G. K. Holloway
  • Book Blast: Destruction by Sharon Bayliss

Saturday

  • Discussion: Beta Reading.  If you’re a book blogger or author have you ever been a beta reader?  If so, how was it?  If not, would you ever consider being a beta reader?

 

Discussion: Reading Slumps

Sometimes I get in a kind of mood where I don’t want to do any kind of reading.  I’ll waste hours on the computer, binge watch Game of Thrones, do 2000 piece puzzles, anything just to keep from reading.  Usually these moods come about after reading a particularly bad or difficult book, the kind that makes you feel like reading is work rather than pleasure.  As a book blogger who generally writes 4 reviews per week this can present a problem.

When I’m in a reading slump I either do one of two things: wait for it to pass on its own or try to motivate myself by reading a book from my TBR pile that could be really good.  Both of these strategies generally work for me but there have been times when they haven’t.

Have you guys ever had reading slumps?  If so, what did you do to get out of the slump?  And if you’re a book blogger, how do reading slumps affect your blogging?

Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn

Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn(Cover picture courtesy of Kate Quinn’s website.)

An exciting debut: a vivid, richly imagined saga of ancient Rome from a masterful new voice in historical fiction

Thea is a slave girl from Judaea, passionate, musical, and guarded. Purchased as a toy for the spiteful heiress Lepida Pollia, Thea will become her mistress’s rival for the love of Arius the Barbarian, Rome’s newest and most savage gladiator. His love brings Thea the first happiness of her life-that is quickly ended when a jealous Lepida tears them apart.

As Lepida goes on to wreak havoc in the life of a new husband and his family, Thea remakes herself as a polished singer for Rome’s aristocrats. Unwittingly, she attracts another admirer in the charismatic Emperor of Rome. But Domitian’s games have a darker side, and Thea finds herself fighting for both soul and sanity. Many have tried to destroy the Emperor: a vengeful gladiator, an upright senator, a tormented soldier, a Vestal Virgin. But in the end, the life of the brilliant and paranoid Domitian lies in the hands of one woman: the Emperor’s mistress.

After reading and enjoying Kate Quinn’s latest series, the Borgia Chronicles, I decided to go back and try some of her earlier works.  I mean, she wrote about Renaissance Rome well, so why not ancient Rome too?

As it turns out, Kate Quinn is comfortable in either era.  I was surprised the most by her writing, which makes you feel like you’re there.  You can hear the roaring cheers in the arena, smell the stench of Rome in summer, etc.  Her writing isn’t as polished in her debut as it is in her other books but I still really enjoyed it and she is still very good.

I like how she wound history and her own story seamlessly into a coherent narrative.  Of course there’s no evidence for some of the stuff that happens in the novel but Kate Quinn acknowledges that in her Historical Note and explains her reasons for adding or leaving out certain things.  In the end, she gets the feeling of the period across to the reader and has obviously done her research about the details of ancient Roman daily life.  That’s what’s really important to me with historical fiction.

Her characters are most definitely memorable, Thea especially.  I’m a sucker for the person who (sometimes unintentionally) goes from the lowest position possible in society to being the most highly coveted society figure as Thea does.  Still, being the Emperor Domitian’s mistress isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and suddenly all of the separate paths of the narrative start to collide.  It was interesting to see how each person Kate Quinn gave readers an insight into took part in the plot, even Lepida (in her own way).  On the surface some of these characters are simply archetypes but Kate Quinn gives them so much depth that you barely notice.

This is a really good novel considering it was a debut novel and I can’t wait to read the rest of Kate Quinn’s Rome series.

I give this book 4.5/5 stars.

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